Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Kelly Mitchell Appointed Chair of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan have appointed Kelly Lyn Mitchell as the next chair of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission. Mitchell, who is the executive director of the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Law School, begins her role as chair this week.

Mitchell, who said she is tremendously honored to be appointed, describes the role of the chair as “providing a clear view of the policy issues Minnesota faces in sentencing, to make sure all voices are heard, and to provide a transparent and inclusive process.” Her priorities include continuing the commission’s work in looking at the potential of establishing probation guidelines and meeting with commission members so they can work together to set the commission’s agenda for the next few years.

Mitchell has served as the executive director of the Robina Institute for the last five years. Prior to joining the Robina Institute, she served as executive director of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission and worked for several years for the Minnesota Judicial Branch as a staff and managing attorney. In these roles, she provided legal support for several Minnesota Supreme Court rules and policy committees, and led efforts to revise the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Minnesota Juvenile Delinquency Rules of Procedure.

An expert in state sentencing laws, Mitchell is the past president of the National Association of Sentencing Commissions (NASC) and has also served on numerous committees, including Minnesota’s Justice-Involved Women and Prison Population Control Taskforces, as well as the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Committee for Juvenile Sentencing of Heinous Crimes. She has written extensively on sentencing law and policy and serves as co-director of the Robina Institute’s Sentencing Guidelines Resource Center (

Mitchell succeeds former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Christopher Dietzen as Commission Chair.

Historically, Minnesota is a frontrunner in the adoption of sentencing guidelines. In 1980, Minnesota was the first jurisdiction to implement state-wide sentencing guidelines drafted by a sentencing commission.  The commission is mandated by statute to promulgate sentencing guidelines to the district court and to make well-reasoned recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature.

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