Walz picks Worthington judge for Minnesota Supreme Court

Two men speak at a press conference.
Gov. Tim Walz listens as his newly appointed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Gordon Moore speaks during a press conference in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday, May 15.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 2:30 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz Friday named Judge Gordon Moore to serve as the next associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Moore, 57, is a judge in Worthington in Nobles County. He’s a former Nobles County attorney and was a special assistant and assistant attorney general under Attorney General Skip Humphrey. He was born in Rochester.

Moore stressed his roots in accepting the appointment.

"It is my hope to bring the perspective that I've gained over that course of time from Greater Minnesota to the court as we address the challenging cases which undoubtedly will be before us," he said.

Moore will fill the vacancy created because of the retirement of Justice David Lillehaug, who has served on the Supreme Court since 2013 and is leaving for health reasons.

“Supreme Court Justices decide some of the most pressing and significant questions of our time, and the feedback from Judge Moore’s peers was resounding: he is a brilliant jurist and a leader in his community,” Walz said. “He has spent his career working hard for the people of Southern Minnesota, and he will bring a fair and respected voice to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”

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A man gestures at a podium.
Newly appointed Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Gordon Moore responds to a question during a press conference in St. Paul.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Moore thanked Walz for the appointment and particularly highlighted his time in Worthington.

“My experience there has given me a knowledge and deep respect for all types of citizens, both the fourth-generation farmer that’s coming into my courtroom, as well as the first-generation immigrant, who has perhaps been here for just a few months, seeking relief. It is my hope to bring the perspective that I’ve gained over that course of time from outstate Minnesota to the court as we address the challenging cases that will undoubtedly be before us.”

Moore is Walz’s first supreme court pick. Of the other current justices, Gov. Mark Dayton selected four and Gov. Tim Pawlenty selected two.

The other finalists for Walz’s pick were Court of Appeals Judges Diane Bratvold and Jeffrey Bryan and Chief Deputy Attorney General John Keller who formerly led the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

Moore’s appointment comes at an unusual time for the judicial branch, with jury trials still on hold due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Moore said he believes caution is needed to get the courts running again.

“I don’t believe we can have fair trials if the jurors don’t feel safe. I don’t think defendants are going to get justice. I don’t think anybody is going to get justice. I think unfortunately we’re going to have a lot of jurors who don’t want to be there, and that can’t happen. We need focus on the facts and the law and not who might be ill in the courtroom.”

Moore was also asked about potential future litigation related to the pandemic and related government orders that might reach the supreme court. He declined to speculate, but he said he believes Minnesota can avoid the divisiveness seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

“I think the court speaks to the state in the most appropriate way when it is a unanimous decision, when there is a one-voice decision,” he said. “And that is what I would seek if such litigation came forward.”