Two judges with deep connections to Mitchell Hamline will step down from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Denise Reilly ’83 and Lucinda Jesson were both named to the court during Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration – Reilly in 2014; Jesson in 2016.
The announcement from Gov. Tim Walz’s office comes as Reilly nears the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges of 70. Jesson noted in her resignation letter that she is not retiring from her professional life. “I will look for opportunities for further service – albeit with a different balance between my personal and professional lives – in the future,” she wrote.
Reilly is a 1983 graduate of William Mitchell College of Law and served nine years on Mitchell Hamline’s board of trustees, from 2012-2022. She was a district court judge for nearly 17 years before being named to the Court of Appeals. In 2009, Reilly was named one of three judges to serve on a panel that heard the trial in the recount of the U.S. Senate election between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. The panel eventually unanimously ruled that Franken won. She has also presented at Department of Justice conferences overseas on the topic of children victims and witnesses in human trafficking.
Jesson taught health law classes as an adjunct professor at William Mitchell while she was in private and public practice before joining Hamline University School of Law in 2006 as an associate professor and founding director of its Health Law Institute. She was at Hamline until 2011, when Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her to lead Minnesota’s Department of Human Services. She is married to longtime professor and former interim dean Peter Knapp. Just last month, Jesson was part of a three-judge panel of the court that heard cases on the Mitchell Hamline campus.
“Judges Reilly and Jesson are the epitome of the kind of public service we try to instill in all our students,” said Mitchell Hamline President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki. “They are shining examples and we’re proud to have such close connections with each of them.”
The Commission on Judicial Selection is accepting applications for both judicial posts and will recommend finalists for appointment to Gov. Walz.