Governor’s merit selection panel recommends Court of Appeals candidates


July 19, 2023 

Contact: Claire Lancaster




Governor’s Merit Selection Panel Recommends Court of Appeals Candidates


[ST. PAUL, MN] – Earlier this year, Governor Walz asked a merit selection panel to solicit applicants, review candidates, and recommend finalists for appointment to the Court of Appeals. The merit selection panel includes the chair and at-large members of the Commission on Judicial Selection as well as leaders in the Governor’s Office.

The panel announced today that it is recommending six candidates for consideration to fill the upcoming vacancies on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The vacancies will occur upon the retirement of the Honorable Denise D. Reilly and the Honorable Lucinda E. Jesson, who both serve in an at-large capacity.

Keala Ede: Keala Ede serves as a judge in the Fourth Judicial District in Hennepin County. He previously served as an assistant federal defender in the Office of the Federal Defender in Minneapolis and as an assistant attorney general in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office. Ede was also a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Steven H. Levinson of the Hawai'i Supreme Court. His community involvement includes volunteering for the Fourth Judicial District Court Equal Justice Committee, the Minnesota State Bar Association's Effective Advocate Trial Skills Course, the McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court, and the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association Scholarship Committee.

JaPaul Harris: JaPaul Harris serves as a judge in the Second Judicial District in Ramsey County. He previously served as a judicial referee in Hennepin County, presiding over housing, harassment, juvenile, and civil commitment matters. Harris also serves as the chair of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Juvenile Rules Advisory Committee. Harris’s community involvement includes serving as co-chair of the Ramsey County Youth Justice Transformation Initiative (formerly JDAI), as chair of the Equal Justice Committee for the Second Judicial District and various statewide committees, and as a member of the board of the Volunteer Lawyers Network.

Sarah Hennesy: Sarah Hennesy is the chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District and is chambered in St. Cloud. She previously practiced as an appellate public defender in Iowa, as a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, and as a staff attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in St. Cloud. Hennesy also serves as chair of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the General Rules of Practice. Her community involvement includes speaking at Minnesota Women Lawyers Association and other legal organization events, volunteering as a judge and coach for mock trial teams, and working with local schools to help students learn about the judiciary.

Veena Iyer: Veena Iyer is the executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. She was previously a shareholder at Nilan Johnson Lewis and an Equal Justice Works fellow at Legal Aid Chicago. She was also a law clerk for the Honorable Natalie Hudson on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Honorable Susan Burke on the Fourth Judicial District, and Honorable Matthew Kennelly on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Iyer’s community involvement includes serving on the Board of Regents of Augsburg University, the Community Advisory Board of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, and the board of Portico Healthnet.

Jon Schmidt: Jon Schmidt is a principal attorney at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. He was previously a shareholder at Briggs and Morgan. He is a past chair of the MSBA Appellate Section and established a pro bono program in which private attorneys represent indigent clients on behalf of the Minnesota Public Defenders’ Office. Schmidt’s community involvement includes serving on the advisory committees for the Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure and the Rules of General Practice. He also volunteers at his children’s school, theater, and sporting activities, and as Hennepin County’s representative on the Advisory Board of the Attorney General’s Conviction Review Unit.

Kate Swenson: Kate Swenson is a partner at Greene Espel and chairs the firm’s Ethics Committee. Swenson was previously legal counsel to the 2011 Minnesota Special Redistricting Panel and served as a judicial law clerk for the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Her community involvement includes providing pro bono representation to people seeking asylum, serving as an officer of the Public Law Section Council of the Minnesota State Bar Association, serving as a board member of the Minnesota Justice Foundation, and mentoring law students.

For more information about the judicial selection process, please visit the Governor’s Judicial Appointments webpage