SMSC Lawyer Is First Native American Appointed To State Appeals Court | Prior Lake News


Sarah Wheelock, lawyer for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community, will become the first Native American judge to sit on the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Wheelock was appointed by Governor Tim Walz to fill the post left vacant by Judge Carol A. Hooten as she retires. The seat is designated for a resident of the Second Congressional District, according to a press release from Walz’s office and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

“During her tenure as legal counsel to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community and tribes across the country, Ms. Wheelock has repeatedly shown that she is a dedicated public servant committed to advancing the common good,” said Walz. “She is well prepared to join the Court of Appeal.”

Flanagan said she was thrilled with the appointment due to Wheelock’s extensive legal experience.

“Sarah Wheelock is a brilliant legal scholar with a deep understanding of the laws of the land,” Flanagan said in the press release. “Her life experience, her long-standing service to her community and her extensive legal experience provide her with a unique perspective that will be invaluable in her new position. I am delighted with his appointment.

Casey Matthiesen, president of the American Indian Bar Association of Minnesota, said Wheelock’s appointment to the state’s court of appeals was a historic moment.

“The American Indian Bar Association of Minnesota celebrates Sarah Wheelock’s historic appointment to the Court of Appeals,” said Matthiesen. “With this appointment, American Indians now serve at all levels of the state judiciary. Sarah Wheelock is an exceptional lawyer, and we are confident that she will serve on the bench with distinction. “

good direction’Wheelock, who received his BA and JD from the University of Iowa, is currently legal counsel for SMSC in Prior Lake. Previously, she worked as an assistant professor at Mitchell Hamline College of Law and as an appellate judge for the White Earth Band of Chippewa Court of Appeals. His experience includes litigation in tribal, federal and state courts, as well as economic development and financial work.

Wheelock is a member of the Meskwaki Nation (federally recognized as the Sac and Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa where she was born and raised). She is a member and past vice-president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association, a member of the National Native American Bar Association, and a member of the Federal Bar Association. She previously served on the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection. Her community involvement includes serving as Director of the Board of Directors of the Division of Indian Work, Deputy Director of Twin Cities Native Lacrosse and Chair of the American Indian Parent Action Committee for the Prior Lake-Savage School District.

Regarding her nomination, Wheelock said she was thrilled to be able to represent her community.

“It’s amazing. I’m still dealing with this moment. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since the announcement came out. So many people have reached out and been incredibly supportive and positive and it really is. how exciting I think it would be for anyone in their careers, “said Wheelock.” I’m just an individual so I can’t speak for all indigenous people but I think it is important to be the first aboriginal on the ground, and with my appointment we now have an aboriginal person who sits at all three levels of the state justice system.

“It’s important because the state of Minnesota has 11 tribes and we are part of the communities here. We are part of the fabric of the people who make up Minnesota and it is important that the courts reflect that, reflect the people they serve. It is a step in that direction. “

Wheelock said she hopes she can make people proud while continuing to serve the community.

“In terms of history, it’s also exciting. It’s always sinking, ”Wheelock said. “All I can hope for is that I will make people proud that people know that I am grounded and interested in pursuing a life of service, which I think I have done with my career over the past 17 years. last years. I practiced.

and objectivesWheelock said she has always been an overachiever since she was a young girl. She graduated from her high school as a major and dreamed of practicing medicine before moving on to law.

It was at this point that Wheelock applied to the University of Iowa, the only university she applied to, and was accepted on the first try.

“I think I even applied after the deadlines all passed because I was really hesitant about what I really wanted to do and walked in,” Wheelock said. “I only applied in Iowa and the rest is history.”

After graduating from college and working with different law firms, Wheelock said Minnesota had always been her home away from home and decided she and her family would move.

“I was here (Minnesota) for five years and then we went back to Iowa to raise our young children. We returned to Iowa for about eight years, but we really missed it here. Once the kids were a bit older we intentionally made the decision to come back here, ”Wheelock said. “I will never forget coming home for my first day of work in the Shakopee community. It was like I was finally really coming home. Minnesota is definitely our home and this is where we want to end up raising kids. “

Wheelock and her husband Barry recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary and have two children. The family is also currently welcoming a foreign student this year.

Wheelock has said now that she is appointed a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, she has a lot of goals that she would like to set for herself.

“As a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, I hope to lay bare my skills in cases brought to court and be the person who continues to fight for justice and set an example for others,” she declared. “I’m really interested in mentoring the next generation of lawyers and judges and people who want to work for a better world. I hope I can do the kind of work that really leaves a legacy, that people really feel heard in our justice systems and really cultivate people’s trust in our courts and in particular the court of appeal. This is my dream, this is my hope and this is my goal.


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