MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Gov. Tim Walz appointed Judge Gordon Moore to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Friday morning.
The seat is soon to be vacated by Justice David Lillehaug, who served on the court since 2013 and announced last year he intends to resign in July 2020. He has early-stage Parkinson’s disease, and said he wanted a more flexible schedule to allow he and his wife time to travel and enjoy outdoor physical activities.
Walz highlighted the respect Moore, 57, has from his peers.
“He is a brilliant jurist and a leader in his community. He has spent his career working hard for the people of Southern Minnesota, and he will bring a fair and respected voice to the Minnesota Supreme Court,” Walz said. “Justice Lillehaug has served the court with distinction. His retirement will leave a prominent absence on the bench, and his contributions to the judiciary and legal community will be deeply missed.”
Moore has more than 30 years of legal experience. He is currently serving as a judge in the Fifth Judicial District, in Nobles County. Before that, he was the Nobles County Attorney.
He has also worked in private practice and he served as an assistant attorney general under Hubert Humphrey III. He grew up in Rochester, graduated from Mayo High School, got his bachelor’s degree at Carleton College in Northfield, met his wife and got married in Mankato, and got his law degree from the University of Iowa.
“During my career as a lawyer, county attorney, and district court judge, I have continuously strived to pursue justice while maintaining the highest ethical standards the legal profession requires. Assuredly, I will continue doing my utmost to ensure the Minnesota judiciary continues its proud tradition of providing impartial justice for all,” Moore said.
The governor said Moore will likely be sworn in Aug. 1.
The three other finalists were Minnesota Court of Appeals Judges Diane Bratvold and Jeffrey Bryan, and Chief Deputy Attorney General John Keller. Walz said his desire to bring some geographical diversity to the state’s highest court was a factor in his decision.
Moore alluded to Worthington’s struggles with COVID-19. The JBS pork plant there is the site of one of Minnesota’s biggest workplace coronavirus outbreaks. He said his experience in Worthington has given him “a knowledge and deep respect for all types of citizens, both the fourth-generation farmer that’s coming into my courtroom as well as the first-generation immigrant who’s perhaps been here for just a few months, seeking relief.”
Minnesota’s courts are also struggling with COVID-19, which has disrupted normal operations and put many proceedings on hold while forcing others online.
Moore said he’s hoping Minnesota can avoid a flood of litigation over COVID-19, noting the ruling Wednesday by the conservative-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court that overturned Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order.
“My hope that consensus could be reached and cooler heads will prevail, and that frankly we won’t have some of the scenario that’s occurred in Wisconsin, which has been terribly divisive,” Moore said. He added that the Minnesota Supreme Court, in contrast, has been “a model for this nation of impartiality and collegiality.”
Five of Minnesota’s seven current justices were appointed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the other two were appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but the high court generally has avoided bitter ideological splits. Walz noted that more than 70% of its decisions are unanimous.
Moore said Minnesota’s courts need to be “very cautious about resuming normal operations” amid the pandemic, noting that they’re embarking on a pilot program to test how to reopen safely as the state gradually lifts its stay-at-home restrictions.
“I don’t believe we can have fair trials if the jurors don’t feel safe,” Moore said. “I don’t think defendants are going to get justice, I don’t think anybody’s going to get justice.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)