Bench + Bar of Minnesota

Commission on Judicial Selection recommends 1st Judicial District candidates to Gov. Walz


August 21, 2023 

Contact: Claire Lancaster



Commission on Judicial Selection Recommends First Judicial District Candidates to Governor Walz


[ST. PAUL, MN] – The Commission on Judicial Selection announced today that it is recommending five candidates for consideration to fill two vacancies in Minnesota’s First Judicial District. The vacancies will occur upon the retirement of the Honorable Mark C. Vandelist and Honorable Tim D. Wermager. The seats will be chambered in Shakopee in Scott County and Hastings in Dakota County.

Adam Johnson: Adam Johnson is the deputy county administrator for Rice County, where he serves as a legal advisor to the county administrator and the county board on a wide variety of civil and operational matters. He was previously chief assistant for the Rice County Attorney’s Office, where he was primarily responsible for criminal prosecution of felonies including domestic assault, criminal sexual conduct, and murder. Johnson’s community involvement includes serving as an American Mock Trial Association judge, volunteering at legal aid clinics provided by Legal Assistance of Dakota County, and serving as the Fifth District Bar Association representative to the Minnesota State Bar Association. Additionally, Johnson has previously volunteered at Worthington Dollars for Scholars, Feed My Starving Children, and Volunteers Enlisted to Aid People.

Lauren Johnson: Lauren Johnson is an associate attorney with Melchert Hubert Sjodin, PLLP, where she specializes in family law, orders for protection, and child protection matters. She previously served as an assistant county attorney for the McLeod County Attorney’s Office, where she focused on criminal prosecution and child support. Johnson also worked as a staff attorney with the Autism Advocacy & Law Center, where she represented families with special needs. Her community involvement includes serving as a board member of the ISD 110 Foundation and as president of the Eighth District Bar Association. Johnson has also volunteered with Lutheran Social Services.

Krista Marks: Krista Marks is an assistant public defender in the Fourth Judicial District Public Defender’s Office in Hennepin County. She was previously a staff attorney and expungement program director at the Neighborhood Justice Center, where her work centered around community advocacy. Marks’s community involvement includes volunteering at her son’s school and Neighbors, Inc., which is a local non-profit that provides food, clothing, and other services to those in need in her community.

Kelly Staples: Kelly Staples is a solo practitioner primarily practicing family law, including domestic abuse and harassment cases. She also serves as court-appointed counsel for Dakota County, where she represents parties in child support contempt and paternity matters. Staples is also a conciliation court referee for Dakota County District Court. Her community involvement includes serving as a volunteer and board member for Legal Assistance of Dakota County and Momentum Dance Project. She has also volunteered as a mock trial judge with the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Aaron Winter: Aaron Winter is an assistant attorney general at the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, where he represents the Minnesota Department of Human Services in civil litigation and civil commitment proceedings. He previously served as an assistant attorney general in Tennessee, where he represented the state in criminal appeals and federal habeas litigation. His community involvement includes coaching his son's soccer team and high schoolers in speech and debate.

For more information about the judicial selection process, please visit the Governor’s Judicial Appointments webpage.


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