City of Duluth
Several of his heroes, who were dedicated to public service, and a year’s clerkship with Judge David Minge, convinced Nate LaCoursiere that he wanted to use his legal training to serve the public. So when he accepted a job as Duluth’s assistant city attorney, he had to jump right in.
Duluth was embroiled in a struggle with a new scourge: synthetic drugs. Drugs like synthetic cannibinoids and bath salts have similar effects to drugs like LSD and methamphetamines, but street chemists tweak their chemical makeup to stay one step ahead of regulators.
Jim Carlson had been selling them for three years at The Last Place on Earth, a head shop he owned in Duluth’s Old Downtown district. Carlson’s buyers were creating a massive public nuisance and some were ending up in the emergency room.
“There were nearly 3,000 calls for police service [to the area] in a 12-month period,” LaCoursiere said.
Two years, three city ordinances and eight civil and criminal lawsuits in state and federal courts later, LaCoursiere helped city leaders and police close the store for good on July 19, 2013.
He had four years of litigation experience at Duluth firm Hanft Fride before joining the city attorney’s office. He also started a litigation technology project to update the city’s use of technology in the courtroom, using PowerPoint to present expert testimony in the LPOE trial and subsequent annexation trial between Duluth, Proctor and Midway Township.
“Today’s jurors expect information to be instantly packaged, and I think it’s important for attorneys to keep up with those expectations,” he said.
He refuses to take too much credit for the successful closure of The Last Place on Earth. “It’s an honor to receive this award, but it’s hard to accept without recognizing all the public servants who were on the front line of this issue and have refused to back down for the last four years,” he said.