David Stras and the Minnesota Supreme Court

It’s a rare day when an appointment of an associate justice to the Minnesota Supreme Court gets more attention than the naming of a chief justice for the same court. But David Stras, a University of Minnesota professor, gives the court a pro-unallotment majority.

Stras submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s appeal of a lower court ruling that overturned his unallotment action on the state budget, according to MinnPost.

Some of Stras’ ideological opponents have pointed out he’s only been a member of the Minnesota Bar Association since 2009, but it’s a red herring. He’s was admitted to the DC bar in 2002.

Stras has some impressive credentials, including the fact he’s from the Midwest and still overcame the Harvard/Yale club to clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t asked a question at the Supreme Court in years.

“By the time he gets to oral arguments, a lot of his questions have already been answered,” Stras told SCOTUSblog in an interview in February (listen to the interview). Stras says oral arguments are overblown.

Stras was a guest on MPR’s Midday last year when Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings were underway. During the course of the hearings, he said he was an “agnostic” on the appointment and believed President Obama “could have done much better.”

But it’s his work on Pawlenty’s unallotment case that marks today’s appointment and it’s, perhaps, important to note that the Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the governor’s budget actions when it issued its ruling last week. The tools are in place for the state’s highest court to deliver a victory to the governor should it be asked again to do so.

Gov. Pawlenty lives a charmed life.