A former U.S. Attorney during the Bill Clinton administration, David Lillehaug, has been appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said he appointed Lillehaug, currently in private practice at Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis, because of his work on “some of the most complex legal and constitutional questions of our time.”
Dayton cited his work on the rights of Minnesota’s religious institutions under a “conceal-carry” firearms law; his challenge of then-Gov. Tom Pawlenty (R) on a state spending issue and representing the governor on constitutional issues during a 2011 state government shutdown.
Lillehaug’s name has come up recently for his role in a disputed deal between the Justice Department and the city of St. Paul, Minn., that has drawn Republican ire and is overshadowing the nomination of Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez to become Secretary of Labor.
Perez gave an interview to House congressional investigators last week about his role in helping to broker what Republicans have called an improper “quid pro quo” to drop a Supreme Court appeal.
In his statement, Perez said he spoke with Lillehaug about the possibility of the city withdrawing its 2011 petition for Supreme Court review of a case called Magner v. Gallagher. It was Lillehaug who suggested that in exchange for the city dropping its appeal that the Justice Department decline to join a False Claims Act fraud case against the city, Perez said in the statement.
Lillehaug declined to comment on his role in the matter, directing all inquiries to current St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing.
Lillehaug served as the U.S Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He later provided legal counsel during Dayton’s 2010 recount battle against Republican Tom Emmer.
Lillehaug also guided Democratic Sen. Al Franken in his 2008 recount effort.
Lillehaug will replace Justice Paul Anderson, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in May.
“Upon taking the bench, like other lawyers who have joined this marvelous court, I will leave behind the world of advocacy and swear an oath to be fair and impartial,” Lillehaug said in a statement after being nominated.
He previously clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Harry MacLaughlin, a former member of the Minnesota Supreme Court. After, he moved to Washington, D.C. and eventually worked for Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign.