Associate Justice Natalie Hudson recently became the first person of color to helm the state’s Supreme Court. (Courtesy Photo)

By Stacy M. Brown,
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent,

(NNPA NEWSWIRE) – Gov. Tim Walz has announced that Justice Natalie Hudson is the new chief justice in Minnesota.

The move makes Hudson the first person of color to lead the state’s judiciary.

Walz praised Hudson’s leadership qualities, ability to build consensus and unwavering commitment, emphasizing that she would uphold the court’s independence.

“I have no doubt that she will excel in this role,” Walz told the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan also emphasized the importance of Hudson’s appointment due to the gender and racial imbalance in the state’s judicial leadership. Only two of the 21 previous chief justices were women, and none was a person of color.

Flanagan told the Star Tribune that she’s urging all Minnesotans to celebrate the milestone, recognizing it as a step towards a more inclusive and representative justice system.

To fill the vacancy created by Hudson’s elevation, Walz introduced Karl Procaccini, his former general counsel, as the newest addition to the seven-member court.

Hudson, 66, will replace Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.

Hudson said she was surprised by Gildea’s retirement and took time to consider the move before deciding to succeed her.

She described the opportunity as a “once-in-a-lifetime” chance.

As chief justice, Hudson will lead Minnesota’s highest court and oversee the judicial branch’s operations across 87 counties and the appellate courts.

Notably, following a recent state Supreme Court decision earlier in the year, she will supervise the introduction of cameras into courtrooms.

Hudson’s distinguished career encompasses public and private practice and academia.

Her academic background includes graduation from Arizona State University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

Hudson has held positions in various legal spheres, from criminal appellate work to civil litigation, and even served as the St. Paul city attorney. Her extensive experience also includes a 13-year tenure on the state Court of Appeals, where she authored over 1,000 opinions.

In a notable 2018 majority opinion, she allowed a school segregation case to proceed.

She joined the state’s Supreme Court in 2015, and during her swearing-in, Hudson emphasized the importance of the judicial system’s treatment of marginalized individuals.

Peter Knapp, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, hailed Hudson’s appointment as a significant positive development for the court and the state. Knapp praised Hudson’s fair and ethical approach to the law, saying he believes in her ability to handle internal court affairs and interactions with other government branches.

He also praised her skill in achieving consensus, citing a prior decision involving a complex family tragedy.

With her steady influence, Hudson is expected to provide continuity during the transition as newer justices join the court. Having won statewide elections multiple times, Hudson will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in January 2027.

“The appointment of Justice Natalie Hudson to lead the Minnesota Supreme Court—the first person of color to hold this highest of positions—is a powerful testament to our commitment to justice for all. Her selection as the next chief justice embodies the spirit of progress,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“From her time as Saint Paul City Attorney through her tenure as Supreme Court associate judge, Justice Hudson has shown dedication to integrity and upholding the principles of our legal system. She is a proven public servant who will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy.”