Jerry Blackwell on Selection Committee Appointing First Hmong Judge in Minnesota


Continuing his commitment to diversity in the courtroom, Blackwell Burke founder Jerry Blackwell was part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Judicial Selection Commission that recommended the appointment of Minnesota’s first Hmong judge, Sophia Vuelo.

“It’s important in a system of justice that the judges that get appointed reflect the ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity of our state as a whole,” Blackwell said, during a recent interview on KARE-11 for a report about increasing diversity in the courtroom.

Vuelo’s appointment is the latest chapter of an increasingly diverse bench in Minnesota. Under Dayton’s watch, the number of judges of color has increased 93 percent. The number of female judges has increased 35 percent and the number of Hispanics on the bench has gone up 84 percent.

But, as Blackwell notes, it’s not only about diversity. It’s about excellence.

“We only look for highly qualified candidates, and from a pool of highly qualified candidates the commission recommends a set of them for the governor,” Blackwell said. “It’s important that the outcomes are just, and that the system itself also appear to be just.”

In addition to Vuelo, Dayton has appointed Natalie Hudson, a black woman; Ann McKeig, the state’s first Native American judge; and Margaret Chutich, Minnesota’s first openly gay judge.