Alumni Interrogatory: Judge Elise Larson '12
Minnesota Court of Appeals
Elise Larson ’12 became the newest judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals with her appointment this past summer. She previously served as the Water Program Director and senior attorney at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA). She served as an adjunct professor at Minnesota Law, where she taught environmental law and supervised the Environment and Energy Law Clinic. She was also a law clerk for Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, U.S. District Chief Judge John Tunheim ’80, and Judge Myron Bright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Is being an appellate judge a long-held or more recent ambition?
I had the privilege to clerk for three judges who instilled within me the desire to be a judge. A judge’s pursuit is to promote justice and the rule of law. Appellate court judges ensure our processes are fair, that parties feel heard, and that society has confidence in our democracy. To me, there is no higher professional calling, and I am so excited to serve Minnesota in this role.
How do you think that your time at MCEA helped prepare you for this new role?
MCEA trusts its lawyers and empowers them to be leaders. Trusting me, investing in me, and believing in my success are tremendous gifts I received from MCEA. Further, at MCEA I practiced almost exclusively appellate law and administrative law and developed an expertise that will aid me on the court.
As a specialized practitioner in environmental law, how do you feel about moving to a court of general jurisdiction?
While I recently worked at MCEA, I have had a diverse practice. I clerked at three courts of general jurisdiction, and in private practice, I litigated shareholder disputes, tax appeals, trademark infringement actions, insurance disputes, as well as prosecuted misdemeanor trials. I believe my experience has prepared me to serve on the bench.
You have been an adjunct professor at the Law School since 2019. What inspired you to teach, and will you continue in this role?
I love the work I have done with the Law School. I was blessed with amazing mentors from the Law School who have helped me to achieve my professional goals. Through my teaching experiences, I have been able to give back and mentor the next generation. While I am taking this year off, you will undoubtedly see me back in a classroom in the future.
What was a favorite experience you had at Minnesota Law?
I’m going to acknowledge that TORT was my favorite activity. I enjoyed connecting with classmates who had similar interests in music and theater. I also appreciate the skills and friendships I developed serving on the Minnesota Law Review.
What advice would you offer to a law student or young lawyer who one day hopes to be appointed to the bench?
Be a law clerk. There is no better way to see if you like the challenge and pace of the job. Clerking changed my life in fundamental ways, and I encourage all law students and young lawyers to consider serving as a law clerk.
How do you like to spend your free time?
You can usually find me outside with my husband hiking, cross-country skiing, or spending time on the lake.
What are a few interesting items one might see on your desk or hanging on your office wall?
My college beanie, a rubber duck, and a wall hanging that says “Even Mother Nature Loves Maroon and Gold.”