About Judge Burke


Kevin Burke, a Minneapolis trial judge since 1984, is one of the most recognized leaders within the American judiciary. He served several terms as chief judge of the Hennepin CountyDistrict Court in Minnesota, a 62-judge court, where he instituted social-science studies examining—and reforms improving—procedural fairness. Burke coauthored the American Judges Association’s white paper on procedural fairness in 2007. Since then, he and his white paper coauthor, Kansas Judge Steve Leben, have made invited presentations on procedural fairness to more than 2,000 state and federal judges.

Burke received the William H. Rehnquist Award from the National Center for State Courts in 2003, an award presented annually to the state judge who most exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics. He has received many other awards, including trial judge of the year by the Minnesota chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates in 2005; Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine in 2004; the Distinguished Service Award from the National Center for State Courts in 2002; and the Director’s Community Leadership Award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1997.

Burke recently served as president of the American Judges Association. He regularly lectures judges throughout the United States and Canada, and he also teaches at two law schools:  he teaches trial practice at the University of Minnesota law school and criminal procedure at the University of St. Thomas law school.


Representative Publications

“Just What Made Drug Courts Successful?,” 36 New Eng. J. Crim. & Civ. Confinement 39 (2010); “Understanding the International Rule of Law as a Commitment to Procedural Fairness,” 18 Minn. J. Int’l L. 357 (2009); “The Evolution of the Trial Judge from Counting Case Dispositions to a Commitment to Fairness,” 18 Widener L.J. 397 (2009) (coauthored with Steve Leben); “Procedural Fairness:  A Key Ingredient in Public Satisfaction,” 44 Court Review 4 (2007-2008) (coauthored with Steve Leben); “An Opportunity for Leadership Is Lost,” 55 Drake L. Rev. 611 (2007); “State v. Dettman:  The End of the Sentencing Revolution or Just the Beginning?,” 33 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 1331 (2007); “A Judiciary That Is as Good as Its Promise:  The Best Strategy for Preserving Judicial Independence,” Court Review, Summer 2004, at 4; “A Court and a Judiciary That Is as Good as Its Promise,” Court Review, Summer 2003, at 4.



J.D., 1975, University of Minnesota; B.A., 1972, University of Minnesota, political science, summa cum laude; Reflective Leadership Program (1984-85), Ethics and Public Policy Program (1986), University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.


Career History

Assistant Public Defender, Hennepin County Public Defenders Office, 1975-79; Partner, Ranum, Quackenbush & Burke, 1979-80; Partner, Chestnut & Brooks, P.A., 1980-84; District Judge, Hennepin County (Minn.) District Court, 1984-present (Chief Judge, 1992-96 and 2000-04; Assistant Chief Judge, 1989-1992 and 1998-2000; Presiding Judge, Drug Court, 1997-2000).



American Judges Association (president); American Judicature Society (member, Board of Directors, 2004-present); Editorial Board, Justice System Journal (1997-present); Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, University of Denver (member, Advisory Board, 2006-present); National Center for State Courts (past member, Board of Directors, 1995-2001).

3 thoughts on “About Judge Burke

  1. Pingback: Judge Kevin Burke, New President of American Judges Association, Now Blogging | Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

  2. Pingback: Brothers in Law « AZ Attorney

  3. I had the pleasure of visiting Judge Burke’s “experimental” Hennepin County mental health court in the 1980’s when president of the Minnesota Psychiatric Society. The Court’s aim: To restore people with mental and substance use conditions who are in trouble with the law largely because of these issues to (incrementally) earn responsible citizenship and freedom. These fine courts are nationwide. I remember Judge Burke as a creative and inspiring team captain, organizer and mentor.

    Lee Beecher, MD (Em)


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