Bench + Bar of Minnesota

Commission on Judicial Selection recommends 7th Judicial District candidates to Gov. Walz


May 6, 2022

Claire Lancaster



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


[ST. PAUL, MN] – The Commission on Judicial Selection announced today that it is recommending three candidates to Governor Tim Walz for consideration to fill a vacancy in Minnesota’s Seventh Judicial District. The vacancy occurred upon the retirement of the Honorable Jay D. Carlson. The seat will be chambered in Moorhead in Clay County.

Michael Leeser: Mr. Leeser is an assistant county attorney in Clay County, where he prosecutes adult criminal and juvenile cases. He is a member of the Clay County Drug Court and Clay County Veteran’s Court teams. Mr. Leeser was previously an attorney with Lies, Bullis & Hatting and an assistant city attorney for the City of Wahpeton, North Dakota. He was also an adjunct professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he taught a course on the introduction to law for the Healthcare Administration program. His community involvement includes serving as Vice President of the Clay County Bar Association and as a board member of the City of Moorhead Economic Development Authority.

Mara Rausch: Ms. Rausch is the Managing Attorney of the Seventh Judicial District Public Defender's Office in Moorhead. In her role, she supervises attorneys and staff in Becker and Clay counties, and she represents clients in adult criminal proceedings. Ms. Rausch previously spent time in private practice, where she represented clients in criminal matters and parents and children in child protection (CHIPS) matters. Her community involvement includes serving as a participant on the organizing committee for the Becker County DWI Court. She previously served as President of the Clay County Bar Association and as a member of the Clay County Domestic Violence Court committee.

Greta Smolnisky: Ms. Smolnisky is a district court referee in the Seventh Judicial District, where she handles the family court calendar. She was previously an assistant public defender in the Seventh and Eighth Judicial Districts, and an attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. Ms. Smolnisky also spent time in private practice, where she represented clients in immigration, family law, civil commitment, appellate, and probate matters. Her community involvement includes serving as a trainer for the State Public Defender Sentencing Advocacy Program. She also volunteers as a judge for the Minnesota State Bar Association Mock Trial competition.

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


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