This month marks my 25th anniversary of becoming a Minnesota District Court Judge chambered in Sibley County. For a quarter of a century I have had the privilege of serving the citizens of the First Judicial District as a trial court judge.
I intend to take the next year or more to reflect on the honor I have had to aid in the administration of justice for the citizens of Sibley County, the First Judicial District and the State of Minnesota. I expect that I will write about some interesting cases I have considered. I will write about serving on the Conference of Chief Judges, the governing body at the time of the third branch of government. I will relate several of my “nickel speeches” on jury service, education, child custody and juveniles using tobacco. I will reflect on the thousands of miles I have driven as a part of my job when the docket was clear in Sibley County and I was needed to help out elsewhere.
I will tell of my mentors on the bench, of applying to succeed Judge Kenneth Bull when he retired, of receiving the call from the Governor and the day the oath of office was administered to me. I’ll relive the frightening and yet exciting day I first presided over cases involving real people and real issues. And I will recount the continuing challenge to remember that, after so many years it may be just another day at the office for me, yet it is the most important day in the lives of those appear before me.
I’ll talk about second chances and people who have used up all their chances and need to go to prison – or to a mental institution.
I’m writing this mainly for myself, though I hope my grandchildren will find it interesting at some point. I hope that you, too, may find some hints of what it is like to be a trial court judge in what has been described as the worst system of Justice in the world – except for all the others! I hope to convey the tedium of hearing routine cases week after week and the huge sense of accountability when faced with a decision that will alter the course of the lives of the people I’m dealing with, or, perhaps, set a different course for the law in this State.
Let me know what you think of this effort and if there is something about the life and work of a trial court judge that may interest you. Thanks for reading this. I’ll be back next week with a piece on how I applied to become a District Court Judge.