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1st Judicial District, Seat 20: Gravely v. Messerich

Minnesota Lawyer Staff//October 12, 2012//

1st Judicial District, Seat 20: Gravely v. Messerich

Minnesota Lawyer Staff//October 12, 2012//

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Mr. Gravely did not respond to Minnesota Lawyer’s request for information.

Kathryn D. Messerich


Date of Birth: August 9, 1957

Education: William Mitchell College of Law, J.D., 1987; University of Minnesota, M.S., Maternal Child Nursing, 1984; Northern Michigan University, B.S., Nursing, 1979

Employment: Judge of District Court, First Judicial District, chambered in Dakota County, Hastings, appointed March 9, 2004, elected 2006; Halleland, Lewis, Nilan, Sipkins & Johnson, shareholder, 2000 – 2004; Allina Health System, associate general counsel for litigation, 1997 – 2000; Bassford, Lockhart, Truesdell & Briggs, shareholder, 1991 – 1997; Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, associate,1987 – 1991; University of Minnesota Hospital Attorney, law clerk,1985 – 1987; Critical care registered nurse, 1979 – 1986

Professional Associations: Minnesota State Bar Association; Dakota County Bar Association; First District Bar Association; Eighth District Bar Association; Academy of Certified Civil Trial Specialists Minnesota; American Board of Trial Advocates; Wisconsin State Bar Association; Minnesota Board of Legal Certification; Supreme Court Advisory Committee General Rules Committee, chair, 2010 – present; First Judicial District Executive Committee, 2005 – present

Past Associations: Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association, president, 2001 – 2002; Hennepin County Bar Association, Fourth District Ethics Committee, 1993 – 2004, chair 2003-2004; Defense Research Institute; Minnesota Women Lawyers; American Health Lawyers Association; Minnesota Board of Continuing Legal Education

Community Activities: MSBA Mock Trial Program, coach and judge; Metro Area Veterans Council, Volunteer Stand Down Judge; Mentor for University of St. Thomas Law School, 2004 to present; Volunteer instructor for local police department Citizen’s Academies; Volunteer for “Feed My Starving Children”

Interests: Gardening, mountain biking, hiking, cooking, skiing, piano, reading and daily dog walking with her two dogs

Family: Husband, Jeff Messerich


Why did you opt to become a judge?

I applied for a district court judgeship in 2004 because I wanted to serve the public. I spent 17 years as a trial lawyer in private practice which provided my with a wealth of experience about the court system and the manner in which judges can have a profound impact on people’s lives. I went to law school with the goal of using my nursing background to work in public service, with an interest in the child protection system. I never lost this interest during the time I worked as a civil litigator and serving as a district court judge has allowed me to do this work on my juvenile rotations.

What is the most important personal quality in a judge?

It is a combination of personal factors – patience, integrity, maturity, ability to listen, tenacity, diligence and a sense of fairness.

Why should voters select you rather than your opponent?

I have 25 years of experience in the legal system. I have been an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and William Mitchell College of Law, a trial skills instructor for new judges and a mentor through the University of St. Thomas School of Law. I have substantial trial experience as a lawyer and a judge. I have been a Certified Civil Trial Specialist with the MSBA for 18 years. I have worked hard, and continuously to learn new ways to efficiently yet effectively do my work. My life experience includes having worked as a critical care nurse for seven years prior to my legal career. I have handled every type of case that comes before a district court judge from conciliation court to first degree murder cases. I am dedicated to doing my job to the best of my ability. I never forget that the case in front of me is the most important case to the people whose lives will be affected by my decision.

What have been some of your accomplishments while serving on the bench?

I am a presiding judge in Dakota County Felony Drug Court and our Family Dependency Treatment Court. I am Chair of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the General Rules of Practice for District Courts where I oversaw the adoption of the “Cameras in the Courtroom” pilot project and the new Rules of Family Court Practice. I have served on the First Judicial District Executive Committee since 2005 at the request of the Chief Judge. I am a Fellow candidate in the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center— Resource Judge Program (ASTAR), which will allow me to serve as a resource judge to the Minnesota Judiciary on scientific issues. I also served on our District’s Resource Management Committee prepare for potential funding cuts. I was one of six judges in Dakota County who started a pilot project to test Early Case Management in family law cases. I have served on the District Judges Association Civil Jury Instruction Guide Committee since 2004.

Other than financial resources, what are the major issues facing the court you sit on?

Funding cuts to justice partners such as law enforcement, social service and county budgets, probation services, county attorneys and public defenders, chemical dependency treatment services.

How can those issues be realistically addressed?

Anytime one part of the system is cut, there is an impact on the ability to provide timely access and resolution of court cases. There needs to be collaboration on the best ways to keep the services and flow of information current so that cases are heard and resolved, public safety is insured and constitution rights are vindicated. The Judicial Council has been active in these efforts but it must also be done on the local level to insure that cases at all stages of adjudication are heard and dealt with in a timely manner.

Do you have any suggestions/ideas about the day to day operations of the court?

In a multi-county district, scheduling judges and cases is always a challenge. We have a skilled and dedicated court administration staff and we are constantly working to schedule more efficiently. We also need to revisit juror compensation and scheduling to insure that we do not unduly burden citizens who are called for jury duty.

What should the court do to promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary?

Transparency, outreach and education. A small part of our population has interaction with the court system but that interaction touches some of the most important areas of people’s lives. As judges, we need to talk about the importance of our work and the constitutional framework that makes us different from legislators and other elected public officials. The public needs to be confident that the judiciary remains nonpartisan, unbiased and free from undue influence from outside sources.

What else would you like voters to know about your candidacy?

I am dedicated to my job and am always seeking ways to do it better. I believe that it is important to listen carefully to the people before me, to apply the law to the facts and to issue a decision without delay. I will continue to work hard to be a good judge and to help improve the administration of justice in the 1st Judicial District.

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