Dayton appoints Roseville lawyer to Minnesota Court of Appeals

Peter Reyes, Jr. will start his judgeship on the Minnesota Court of Appeals next week. Reyes will be the first Latino to serve on any appellate court in Minnesota. (submitted photo)

Peter M. Reyes, Jr. speaks at the MHBA Presidential Fiesta in 2012; a highlight was celebrating his becoming the first Minnesota member to become president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. (submitted photo)

Reyes had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama in 2012. (submitted photo)

Peter Reyes will be the first Latino to serve on the court

Gov. Mark Dayton announced the appointment of Peter Reyes, Jr. as a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals last month. Reyes, along with District Court Judge Denise Reilly of Long Lake, Minn., were appointed to fill two at-large seats on the court following the retirement of the Honorable Thomas Kalitowski and the Honorable Terri Stoneburner on April 1.

“Judge Denise Reilly and Mr. Peter Reyes will be outstanding additions to the Minnesota Court of Appeals,” Dayton said in a press release.

Reyes, a Roseville resident, has had a distinguished legal career, which Dayton described as being “very impressive.” Until this week, Reyes was a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, where his focus was on intellectual property law and litigation in state and federal court. Prior to his partnership at Barnes & Thornburg, Reyes held posts as a senior intellectual property lawyer at Cargill, Inc. and associate at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi.

He is also the former president of both the Minnesota Bar Association and the Hispanic National Bar Association. Additionally, Reyes serves on the Board of Trustees for the William Mitchell College of Law, where he earned his J.D. with honors in 1997.

First Latino on any appellate court

Reyes will officially start his judgeship next week and looks forward to the opportunity.

“It was very humbling being selected and I’m honored Governor Dayton has faith in me,” he said. “I do view this as public service and I plan to do my very best to serve the community.”

The soon-to-be Honorable Reyes will also be the first Latino to serve on any appellate court in Minnesota. He’s been a trailblazer before. He was the first person from his family to graduate college and was the first president from Minnesota to helm the Hispanic National Bar Association.

However, he admits this latest appointment is of special significance to him.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “It is very significant for the Hispanic community. Even though we have made a lot of progress, more needs to be done.

“I think it’s important to have someone in the judiciary to reflect the greater community.”

Reyes said his initial focus would be learning the court of appeals processes.

From there, he’ll be one of the authorities who makes sure lower courts are operating fairly.

“It’s an error-correcting court. Our job is to make sure that what has been done at the district court level has been done correctly,” he said.

Living the American dream

Reyes, 49, was born in St. Paul and grew up in Inver Grove Heights, but has resided in Roseville for the past 15 years. He and his wife Mary, 49, have three daughters and two grandchildren together.

He recalls meeting Mary on the first day of classes his freshman year at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. They were both science majors and had a lot of classes together as undergraduate students. Mary Reyes now works as a pharmacist.

Her mother and father, Sherman and Alice Miller, have lived in Roseville since the mid-1960s where they raised a family. The Miller family was overjoyed when they heard about their son-in-law’s recent appointment to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“He’s a remarkable and very kind individual who is very objective and highly analytical,” Sherman Miller said. “He will be a tremendous judge.”

Reyes’ parents, Carmen and Peter Reyes, two sisters and most other family members also still live in the metro area.

Although Reyes was born and raised in the Twin Cities, his grandparents on both his mother and father’s side emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 1920s.

“They really imparted on me the importance of giving back to the community,” he said. “I want to make sure I give back to the community in any way I can.”

With an already loaded schedule, Reyes still finds time to give back to the community. He enjoys mentoring youth through his membership in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Hispanic Advisory Council and through YMCA reading programs. He also speaks to law students at his alma mater the William Mitchell College of Law where he is on the Board of Trustees.

“I really am living the American dream and I want to make sure other people have the same opportunities that I have had,” he said.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

An error-correcting court

The Minnesota Court of Appeals was created in 1983 and is comprised of eight judges representing each of the state’s eight congressional districts and 11 judges serving in an at-large capacity. The court of appeals is described as an error-correcting court, reviewing appeals from the final decisions of trial courts, state agencies and local governments. 

Court of Appeals decisions are the final ruling in the majority of appeals, which average around 2,400 per year. The law mandates the court to issue a decision on an appeal within 90 days after oral arguments.


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