Russell A. Anderson ’68, Former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Dies at 78

Russell A. Anderson ’68, who served on the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1998 to 2008, the last two years as chief justice, died Tuesday at his home, surrounded by his family. He was 78, and had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in 2017.

Anderson, a native of Bemidji in north-central Minnesota, did his undergraduate work at St. Olaf College before enrolling at the Law School. He earned a Master of Laws degree from George Washington University in 1977. His law career included six years in private practice in Bemidji and four years as county attorney in Beltrami County. Before his appointment to the state’s high court, he spent 15 years as a judge in Minnesota’s 9th Judicial District. He was also a member of the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps in Washington, D.C. After his judicial career ended, Anderson taught evidence at Minnesota Law.

Former Gov. Arne Carlson, who named Anderson to the Supreme Court bench, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that in his time as the state’s chief executive he had made no better judicial appointment, and he praised Anderson’s “intellect, empathy, and integrity.” 

In a statement, Minnesota’s current chief justice, Lorie Gildea, said, “Chief Justice Russell Anderson will be remembered with fondness and respect for his compassion, dedication, and commitment to ensure that every Minnesotan has equal access to justice. While on the court, he led efforts to combat domestic violence, promote problem-solving courts that focus on rehabilitation, and enhance public access to court information. He was also a strong advocate for a fair and impartial judiciary. Russ led with integrity, intelligence, and thoughtfulness, and his judicial career was only paralleled by his many civic contributions. He was a humble leader, a close mentor to me, and an inspiration to many who now carry his lessons of respect and humanity forward in their careers.”

“He had iron in him,” another former Minnesota chief justice, Kathleen Blatz ’84, told the Star Tribune. “He took his work very seriously, but never himself.”

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