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Top justice won't pick Minn. Senate lawsuit judges

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Supreme Court Justice Eric J. Magnuson
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson, a member of the State Canvassing Board, has delegated the task of appointing a three judge panel in the U.S. Senate election contest to Justice Alan Page.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

The critical task of picking a three-judge panel to hear a lawsuit over Minnesota's contested Senate race won't be made by the Supreme Court's chief justice.

      A court spokesman says Chief Justice Eric Magnuson is delegating the decision to Justice Alan Page, the court member with the most seniority. Magnuson didn't give a reason for his recusal, but he served on the state board that determined Democrat Al Franken got more votes than Republican Norm Coleman.

      The shift is noteworthy because of Magnuson's background. He was appointed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and aided social conservatives while an appellate lawyer.

      Page has been on the court since he was elected in a 1992 nonpartisan race. He has been mentioned before as a possible Democratic candidate for political office.

      No word yet on how he'll proceed.