Dayton fills Court of Appeals openings

Published 1:14 pm Saturday, December 5, 2015

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton named his human services commissioner to a spot on the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday, leaving a vacancy at the top of the state’s largest agency.

Commissioner Lucinda Jesson was named to one of two vacancies on the Court of Appeals, joining the bench with Tracy Smith, deputy general counsel at the University of Minnesota. The pair will replace Natalie Hudson, who was named to the Minnesota Supreme Court earlier this year, and the retiring John P. Smith.

Jesson had led the state’s mammoth Department of Human Services since 2011, when she joined Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. The department has been involved in some of the most controversial pieces of state government, ranging from MNsure and public health programs to the state’s sex offender program, which is embroiled in questions about its constitutionality.

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After five years leading a department with 6,200 employees, she told staff in an email last week that it was the right time to pursue a long interest in being a judge.

Her background in law includes teaching at Hamline University and stints as deputy in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and for the state attorney general. In a statement, Dayton thanked Jesson for her “outstanding service.”

“I am certain she will bring the same measure of excellence to the Minnesota Court of Appeals as she has demonstrated during her service at the Department of Human Services,” he said.

It’s unclear when the governor will name a successor for the position.