Governor Mark Dayton announced Tuesday that he has appointed longtime MNAPABA member and former MNAPABA President, Nicole J. Starr, to fill one of two current vacancies on the bench in Minnesota's Second Judicial District. Ms. Starr (formerly Kubista) was appointed along with Sara R. Grewing to fill vacancies on the bench created when the Honorable Paulette K. Flynn and the Honorable Gregg E. Johnson retired earlier this year, according to the Governor's office. Ms. Starr will be chambered in St. Paul.
In a news release issued Tuesday, Governor Dayton said, "Ms. Sara Grewing and Ms. Nicole Starr will bring diverse experiences and very impressive skills to their new roles in the Second Judicial District.” Governor Dayton continued, “Both women are extremely accomplished, and have shown exemplary commitments to public service. I have great confidence that Ms. Starr and Ms. Grewing will serve the people of the Second Judicial District with excellence."
Ms. Starr is an Assistant Public Defender in the Second Judicial District Public Defender’s Office, where she specializes in forensic science. She is also of counsel at Hellmuth and Johnson, PLLC, and previously served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Katherine D. Roe in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District and the Honorable Justice Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob in the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Ms. Starr earned her BA from the University of Minnesota and her JD from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Ms. Starr served as MNAPABA President from 2009-2010 and is a current member of MNAPABA's Advisory Board.
"We congratulate Nikki Starr in her appointment to the Second Judicial District," said Irene Kao, president of MNAPABA. "Ms. Starr is highly qualified, and selected from a very competitive field. Her appointment is significant for the Asian Pacific American legal community."
Kao added that MNAPABA has been actively engaged in identifying, cultivating, and supporting Asian Pacific American attorneys who have an interest in serving on the bench.
Daniel Lew, fellow MNAPABA Advisory Board Member and Minnesota's Sixth Judicial District Chief Public Defender, welcomed the news and noted that Ms. Starr is the first Asian Pacific American appointed to the bench in Ramsey County by a Minnesota governor, notable since Ramsey County is home to Minnesota's largest Asian Pacific American community.
"It's few days when you can say an appointment is: tremendous for the APA community; historic for citizens of Ramsey County and a joyous day for Nikki, her family and spouse," Lew said. "Today is that day!"
The Honorable Gail Chang Bohr retired from the bench in Ramsey County earlier this year and went on senior status. Senior Judge Bohr, the first Asian Pacific American to serve on the bench in Ramsey County, won her seat through a judicial election.
"The Governor is to be congratulated on two excellent appointments, Nikki Starr and Sara Grewing," Senior Judge Bohr said Tuesday. "In particular, the appointment of Nikki Starr to the Second Judicial District shows the Governor's recognition of the changing demographics in Ramsey County and the importance of the community seeing itself reflected in its judges."
Ms. Starr is also an active member of the Minnesota Lavender Bar Association (MLBA). With her appointment to the bench, Ms. Starr becomes one of fewer than ten out LGBT judges in the state, according to Lousene Hoppe, co-chair of the MLBA.
"We heartily congratulate Ms. Starr for her appointment to the Ramsey County bench and to Governor Dayton for his selection of a highly-qualified candidate," Hoppe said. "A bench filled with judges of diverse experiences and perspectives is highly important to the LGBT community, and Ms. Starr's appointment moves Minnesota further toward that goal."
Please stay tuned, MNAPABA will have more information on Ms. Starr's appointment to the bench and reactions from MNAPABA members.