John R. Tunheim (’80) Becomes Chief U.S. District Judge

July 8, 2015

John R. Tunheim (’80) has succeeded Michael J. Davis (’72) as chief judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. Under federal law, the judge who is most senior in service within a district is designated as the chief judge and serves as the court’s chief judicial officer for seven years. The leadership change took effect on July 1. Judge Davis will remain with the court as a senior judge.

Judge Tunheim has served with the U.S. District Court since 1995. Born and raised in Newfolden, Minn., he graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead and worked as a staff assistant to Senator Hubert H. Humphrey before enrolling at the Law School, where he served as president of the Minnesota Law Review. After graduating cum laude, Tunheim clerked for U.S. District Judge Earl Larson (’35) and worked in private practice. He was appointed Minnesota’s solicitor general in 1985 and its chief deputy attorney general in 1986, a post he held until his appointment to the federal bench. From 1994-98, Tunheim chaired the Assassination Records Review Board, the independent agency charged with overseeing the collection and release of records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Tunheim has also served on numerous judicial conference committees, including the Committee on Court Administration (as chair) and the Project Steering Group for the Next Generation Case Management/Electronic Case Files system.

In 2010, Tunheim was presented with the University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award, conferred on alumni who have attained unusual distinction in their chosen fields and have demonstrated strong leadership at the community, state, national, or international level. He has taught federal and state constitutional law as an adjunct faculty member at the Law School, and is a current member of the Board of Advisors.

John Tunheim (’80)
John Tunheim (’80)

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