Dayton appoints Human Services head, U of M attorney, to Appeals Court


Gov. Mark Dayton has named the head of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services and one of the University of Minnesota's top litigators to fill vacancies on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Dayton’s office announced Friday.

Lucinda Jesson has led DHS, the state’s largest department, since 2011, and Smith has been at the U for the past 21 years. 

The two vacancies were created when Judge Natalie Hudson was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Judge John Smith announced his retirement effective in early February.

Both women are former prosecutors and both worked in the Minnesota Attorney General's office, the Star Tribune reports.

More about Lucinda Jesson

Jesson has served with Dayton from the beginning of his tenure as governor, and she is one of his closest advisers. Dayton will need to find a new commissioner to run Human Services, a large and complex state agency with a $36 billion budget, 6,200 state employees, and state programs serving more than 1 million Minnesotans. 

Jesson has been at the forefront of several controversial issues of late, most notably the legal challenge to the state’s sex offender treatment program, which a judge has ruled unconstitutional.

In a statement, Dayton praised Jesson's leadership of the Human Services Department, saying she has done a "superb" job. "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.”

Jesson's last day in her current position will be Monday, according to the Star Tribune. Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson will run the department until Dayton chooses Jesson's successor.

“Public service has been the cornerstone of my career," Jesson said. “I am grateful for this new opportunity to serve the people of Minnesota.”

More about Tracy Smith

In her current role, Smith represents the U of M in a wide range of legal issues including employment law, constitutional law, antitrust and business tort claims, according to the governor's office. Prior to that, she worked in the Attorney General's office where she handled consumer fraud and antitrust cases as well as criminal appeals.

Dayton said Smith's experience managing an "impressive variety of complex legal issues" have prepared her to be a successful judge on the Court of Appeals.

"Service on the court of appeals is a great privilege,” said Smith. “I am honored to have the opportunity and mindful of the solemn obligation all judges have to the people they serve.

Next Up


Walter Mondale dies at age of 93

His death was confirmed by family on Monday.

National Guard

Man charged in connection to shooting that injured National Guard troops

Four soldiers were inside a military vehicle that was shot at.

Chauvin trial

Walz declares emergency in Twin Cities, bringing in police from Ohio and Nebraska

The governor has asked the Legislature for emergency funding for the additional police.

derek chauvin court - closing arguments

Closing arguments in Derek Chauvin trial: Here's what was said

The jury listened to lengthy presentations from the prosecution and defense.


Man, 55, airlifted to a hospital after hit-and-run in Granite Falls

The passenger in the vehicle told police about the incident.

Minneapolis, unrest

Facebook labels Minneapolis 'high-risk,' will remove posts that incite violence

Facebook will remove posts that call for weapons to be brought to Minneapolis and anything that celebrates George Floyd's death.


After being sued, MyPillow is now suing Dominion Voting Systems

The company's lawsuit claims the voting system suppressed free speech and hurt its business relationships.

Chet Holmgren

Chet Holmgren makes his decision ... and it's Gonzaga

The Minnesota basketball phenom is following the footsteps of Jalen Suggs.

Sarah Glover

MPR News hires NBC's Sarah Glover as new managing editor

The experienced journalist was the first to serve two terms as president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

football play

Watch: Sixth-grader with cerebral palsy makes touchdown in Detroit Lakes

Kale Hannahs' classmates made sure he got a chance to play during recess.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, April 19

The latest from Minnesota health officials.