The Honorable John R. Tunheim
Chief Judge, at U.S. District Court, D. Minn. (Minneapolis, MN)
THE HONORABLE JOHN R. TUNHEIM was nominated by President William Clinton, confirmed by the U.S. Senate and took the oath of office on December 29, 1995. He succeeded Judge Donald D. Alsop, who took senior status. Judge Tunheim was born in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and raised in Newfolden, Minnesota. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1975 and served as a staff assistant to U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. In 1980, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School where he served as President of the Minnesota Law Review. Judge Tunheim served one year as a law clerk to Senior U.S. District Judge Earl Larson and worked in private practice at the St. Paul law firm of Oppenheimer, Wolff and Donnelly. In 1986, after serving for two years as the state's Solicitor General, he was appointed Minnesota Chief Deputy Attorney General and served until his appointment to the federal bench. From 1994 - 1998, he was appointed by President Clinton and served as the Chair of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board, an independent federal agency in charge of declassifying the government records of the Kennedy assassination. For his work in opening government records, he received the 1999 James Madison Award from the Coalition on Government Information. Judge Tunheim has invested a significant amount of time in international rule of law development. His early work in Kosovo helped the United Nations to re-establish and improve the legal system, and ultimately, to restructure the entire judiciary. In 2007-2008, he worked as the principal outside advisor to the process that developed the Kosovo Constitution, including training the constitutional commission, negotiating the final compromises and drafting provisions that established the judicial system, the constitutional court and the intelligence and security sectors. In 2011 – 2012, he directed the process by which the Kosovo Constitution is being amended to allow for the direct public election of the Kosovo President. He continues to assist with the development of the Kosovo Constitutional Court, drafting rules of procedure with the Court, devising a code of conduct for the Court and leading extensive training efforts. Judge Tunheim has also been instrumental in the restructuring of criminal law and procedure in Kosovo, drafting commentary to a new procedure code, and developing a law that enabled negotiated guilty pleas and cooperating defendants. He also developed the highly successful plan to recruit American judges to serve as international judges in Kosovo and he has helped develop cooperative agreements between American law schools and the University of Pristina Law School. Judge Tunheim’s international work also includes extensive efforts in Uzbekistan in recent years and the development of a good relationship with leaders. His fivenine trips to Uzbekistan have helped the country implement important changes in pretrial criminal procedures intended to significantly improve the human rights record in Uzbekistan. He has been involved in a major effort to train all criminal court judges in the Republic of Georgia to implement an adversary system and jury trials for criminal cases and has been working with select criminal court judges on improving the handling of complex criminal terrorism trials. He has traveled to Abu Dhabi to assist the United Arab Emirates in restructuring the subject matter jurisdiction of the courts. He lectures frequently on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has supervised elections in Kosovo and Macedonia. Judge Tunheim has worked on rule of law development projects, not only in Kosovo, Uzbekistan and Georgia, but also in Russia, Montenegro, Jordan, Hungary, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Lithuania, Nepal, and Ukraine. He has frequently hosted foreign judges in the United States, most recently judges from Uzbekistan, Georgia and Kosovo, and has twice taught intellectual property law to judges from the Balkan countries. He also helped develop an extensive course on judicial ethics to be taught at the ABA/CEELI Institute in Prague. Judge Tunheim served from 2005–2009 as the Chair of the United States Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM), a committee with broad jurisdiction for making policy recommendations for the federal judiciary. He served on the CACM Committee from 2000 - 2009. He currently serves the Judicial Conference as one of the leaders of the development of a new electronic filing system for the federal courts. He also recently served as a member of the Executive Committee’s Committee on Long Range Planning. Judge Tunheim was President in 2007-2008 and was a long time member of the Board of Directors of the American Judicature Society, an organization devoted to justice system improvements in the areas of judicial ethics, merit selection of judges, juror comprehension and avoiding wrongful convictions. Judge Tunheim is also a member and former Board member of the Federal Judges Association, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He has also frequently presented at District Judge training workshops for the Federal Judicial Center on the topics of handling terrorism cases and other complex litigation.