Local judicial nominee also local political donor

class=img_thumbleft>After Patrick J. Schiltz received a nomination to the United States District Court, he thanked Senator Norm Coleman for having forwarded his name to the president for consideration.

"I am deeply honored by the president's decision and by Sen. Coleman's recommendation and look forward to the confirmation process," Schiltz said in December, as quoted in the Star Tribune.

Coleman returned the kind words, sending out a press release that highlighted the St. Thomas law school professor's sparkling resume. "Mr. Schiltz's experience in the law spanning 20 years as a clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, an accomplished attorney in private practice, and a nationally acclaimed professor of law make [sic] him an excellent choice," Coleman said.

Senator Coleman did not add the following: "Over the last five years, Mr. Schiltz has also donated $1,000 to my election war chest."

Before the year 2001, Schiltz made no political donations that show up on the tracking site, whose records go back to 1990. Since then, he backed Senator Coleman four times, and donated $250 to the Bush campaign in July, 2004. Most recently, Schiltz supported the senatorial campaign of Republican Mark Kennedy with another $250 donation.

Despite Schiltz's conservative pedigree (he clerked for Antonin Scalia) and his work defending the Catholic Church against sex abuse litigation, the lawyer seems to enjoy the respect of peers from across the political spectrum. At the time of Schiltz's nomination, no less a source than DFL chair Brian Melendez, speaking unofficially and as a lawyer himself, praised the nominee's intellect and judicial temperament.

"There probably are several very competent qualified individuals in Minnesota to sit on the federal bench," says David Schultz, a professor and lawyer who teaches government and ethics at Hamline, and is an expert in campaign finance. "This [series of donations] is maybe what it took for him to rise above all those other qualified people."

Schultz suggests that Schiltz's giving habits, though common in the case of ambassadorships, are unusual for a judicial nominee. "One of the normal patterns that you might see with some people who are politically active becoming judges is maybe a long history of political activism, which would include contributions," he says. So what does Schultz think the public should make of a high-profile lawyer who bestows his only political gifts on a senator, a potential senator, and the president? "He's investing well to make sure he gets his nomination," Schultz says.

Patrick Schiltz politely declines to discuss his political donations--or anything else--in anticipation of his pending nomination hearings in the senate, which will likely come this spring. "Like all nominees, you are asked not to give interviews or speeches or anything else until after you're confirmed," Schiltz says by phone from his office at St. Thomas.

In any case, newfound wealth doesn't account for Schiltz's relatively recent interest in political largess: The lawyer worked as a partner at the Minneapolis power firm of Faegre & Benson in the '90s before defecting to the more modest halls of academia. It is there--first at Notre Dame and subsequently as the founding dean of St. Thomas--that Schiltz established a reputation in the profession as a leading scholar on appellate procedure. Schiltz is also known as the author of such trenchant essays as "On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession" and "Making Ethical Lawyers."