Human Services head Lucinda Jesson on short list for Appeals Court

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The head of Minnesota's Department of Human Services is on the short list of candidates for a spot on the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Lucinda Jesson, who has led the state's largest department since 2011, is one of four people recommended by the Commission on Judicial Selection to fill two vacancies on the appeals court, Gov. Mark Dayton's office announced Wednesday.

Jesson sent a message to the employees in her department notifying them of her nomination, according to MPR News, telling them she's always been interested in becoming a judge, in part because her father served on the bench as well.

"The time seems right to pursue this opportunity” after leading the department for five years, she added.

The other candidates recommended by the commission are Judge Diane Bratvold of the Fourth Judicial District, Judge Jeffrey Bryan of the Second District and Tracy Smith, deputy general counsel at the University of Minnesota.

The Star Tribune notes that Jesson has served with Dayton from the beginning of his tenure as governor, and it describes her as one of his closest advisers. If Dayton decides to appoint Jesson to the court, he'll need to find a new commissioner to run Human Services, a large and complex state agency.

She's 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.

Prior to joining Dayton's cabinet, Jesson was an attorney in private practice and worked in the Hennepin County Attorney's office and the Attorney General's office, according to the governor's statement. She has also taught law at Hamline University in St. Paul.

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.

Gov. Dayton has the final say in making the appointments, and his office said he will do so after he interviews the candidates over the coming weeks.

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