Mitchell Hamline Professor Colette Routel has been named to the bench in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
The appointment, announced Thursday by Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, was one of two made to fill vacancies in the Fourth Judicial District that will occur with the retirements of Judges Margaret Daly ‘81 and Kathleen Sheehy. Routel will resign from Mitchell Hamline to take the post, which is chambered in Minneapolis.
Routel is “a brilliant lawyer who brings a unique perspective with her many years of experience as an attorney, tribal court judge, and law professor,” said Gov. Walz, in a statement. “I am confident that Ms. Routel will serve the people of Hennepin County with distinction.”
Routel first came to Mitchell Hamline as an adjunct professor at Hamline University Law School for two years in the mid-2000s. She later joined the faculty of William Mitchell College of law in 2009 as an assistant professor. She became a tenured professor in 2014, and most recently served as co-director of Mitchell Hamline’s Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Colette Routel on the bench,” said Lt. Governor Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation. “She has demonstrated her deep commitment through her work at Mitchell Hamline by teaching and developing the next generation of leaders who can go out and change the world for the better.”
A nationally known expert in federal Indian law, Routel has testified before Congress on legislation relating to tribal recognition and land issues, and has been active in court cases across the country on behalf of Indian tribes and tribal interests.
She’s written or co-written eight amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years, including a brief discussed this year during oral arguments in the case United States v. Cooley. The Indian Law Impact Litigation Clinic that she founded has litigated and won several cases in state and federal courts on behalf of Indian tribes.
“I’m honored that Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan have given me the opportunity to serve the state in this new role,” said Routel. “Over the past 12 years, I have been inspired by the Native and non-Native graduates of Mitchell Hamline who’ve gone on to represent tribal nations. I look forward to seeing the program continue to grow with the energy and direction of our alumni.”
“And I hope one of them considers coming to Mitchell Hamline to fill my position.”
Since 2015, Routel has served as an appellate judge for the White Earth Nation. Earlier this year, she was named a pro tem judge for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community in Minnesota.
Routel has a Bachelor of Music degree from Ithaca College and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.
“This is a bittersweet day for Mitchell Hamline,” said President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki. “We’re sad to lose such an important part of our faculty, but we’re also so proud and confident Judge Routel will be a fair and effective jurist who will continue to be an example for our students.”
Routel is the latest of several members of the Mitchell Hamline faculty who have been named to judgeships in its history:
- Professor Angelique EagleWoman, the other co-director of the Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute, is currently an associate justice on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Supreme Court. She served previously on several tribal courts.
- Former Professor Sarah Deer currently serves as chief justice for the Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals.
- Former Hamline Law Professor Mary Jo Hunter serves on the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Court. She was previously the first Chief Justice ever elected to the tribe’s Supreme Court, and she served as a judge for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and as an appellate judge for the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe.
- Eric Tostrud was Distinguished Practitioner in Residence for several years at William Mitchell, then Mitchell Hamline, before being appointed a federal judge in 2018.
- Lucinda Jesson, formerly a faculty member at Hamline University School of Law, was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2016.
- Former Hamline Law Dean Raymond Krause was named to the Minnesota Tax Court in 1998 and later a Chief Administrative Law Judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings.
- Linda Gallant was a clinical instructor when the judges of Hennepin County District Court hired her as a Referee in 1993.
- Jack Davies, who also served as a state legislator for many years while teaching at William Mitchell, was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1990.
- Adjunct professor John Jacobson served on the tribal court of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community in Minnesota from 1988 until May 2021.
- Bernie Becker remained on the William Mitchell faculty after being appointed a part-time federal magistrate judge in 1986.
- Rosalie Wahl was the first woman faculty member at William Mitchell and was directing the school’s clinical legal education program when Gov. Rudy Perpich named her to be the first woman on the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1977.
- Harry Blackmun was an adjunct professor at a Mitchell Hamline predecessor school, St. Paul College of Law, when President Eisenhower named him to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1959. Blackmun was later a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.