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Minnesota has its first American Indian Supreme Court justice

Anne K. McKeig is the first American Indian to be sworn in as a state Supreme Court justice in the United States.

The 49-year-old was appointed to Minnesota’s highest court by Gov. Mark Dayton back in June. When McKeig, a descendant of White Earth Nation, was appointed, she called it a “historic day … for all Native people.”

She’s replacing Associate Justice Christopher J. Dietzen, who retired this summer.

And at Thursday’s public investiture ceremony, held at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, she thanked Dayton for “having faith” in a woman from Federal Dam, saying his appointment shows “great vision and wisdom” because he appreciates the role Native Americans have in the history of Minnesota, according to a news release.

During her career – which includes stops in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, teaching at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and work as a District Court judge –  she’s specialized in child protection and Indian welfare issues, the governor’s office said.

And she was praised for that work Thursday. The Star Tribune says people spoke of her wit, generosity and commitment to the welfare of children.

A female majority

The Minnesota Supreme Court officially has its first female majority since 1991.

McKeig joins three other women who are currently serving on the seven-member Supreme Court. This is only the second time in state history that there’s been a female majority on the court.

Minnesota is joining 10 other states that have female majorities in their top courts.

They are: Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington (which happens to have the most female judges, with six out of nine), and our close neighbor Wisconsin.

(Note: New York and Maryland are weird in that the highest courts are appeals courts. We counted those among the other supreme courts here.)

She’s Dayton’s fourth pick

McKeig is Dayton’s fourth pick for the Supreme Court – the other three were appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

With Dietzen’s exit, coupled with McKeig’s entrance, there will be an ideological shift on the bench, Mitchell Hamline Law School professor Ted Sampsell-Jones previously told the Star Tribune McKeig is more liberal-leaning, while Dietzen was more conservative.

Here’s a look at the other current Supreme Court justices.

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