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Judge Michelle Anderson
Judge Michelle Anderson

Breaking the Ice: New judge brings ‘minister of justice’ mindset

Name: Michelle Anderson

Title: Judge, 6th Judicial District

Education: B.A., psychology, University of North Dakota; J.D., University of North Dakota School of Law

Newly appointed 6th Judicial District Court Judge Michelle Anderson expects her practice of approaching court as a “minister of justice” will help her adjust to serving on the bench.

Anderson got the “minister of justice” advice from a mentor in a prosecutor’s office where she clerked while in law school.

“I can’t say for certain how that will look when I have to apply it in those difficult decisions, especially related to criminal law, but I feel like I did take that special responsibility seriously, so that might make it easier,” Anderson said.

Anderson, whose chambers are in the Virginia courthouse, leads the treatment court, which handles both drug and DWI cases. She had worked in that court as a prosecutor in the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office. Anderson also has been in private practice.

Serving on the bench became a family affair for Anderson with the recent appointment of her cousin and law school classmate, Judge Annie Claesson-Huseby, in the 9th Judicial District.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I think I am an approachable person. Simple eye contact, a smile and an introduction are a great start to any conversation.

Q. What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A. My cousin and fellow district court judge in the 9th Judicial District, Annie Claesson-Huseby, and Mark Brickson at the University of North Dakota School of Law. Both encouraged me to apply to law school when I was considering various graduate-level degrees. I was convinced a juris doctorate would lead to the broadest and most varied opportunities.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. Brené Brown: “Daring Greatly,” “Rising Strong,” and “Braving the Wilderness.”

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Negativity.

Q. What are your most favorite and least favorite aspects of being an attorney or judge?

A. Whether a lawyer or judge, there is an opportunity to help people. As a judge, when resolving conflict for persons who appear before you, you allow them to move on with a different direction.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. Spending time with family and friends and watching my children participate in their extracurricular activities.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I would encourage whoever visits to take note of the new [U.S. 53] bridge in Virginia as they drive into town. It is the highest bridge in Minnesota and quite impressive when seeing it the first time. I would take them to the Locomotive Park in downtown Mountain Iron, which overlooks the oldest iron ore mine on the Range and is an introduction into the deep history of mining in our area. We would hike at the Laurentian Divide, and visit one of the many lakes afterward. Depending on the season, we could golf or ski at Giant’s Ridge.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most? Why?

A. The Honorable Gary Pagliaccetti. I had the privilege of clerking for Judge Pagliaccetti following graduation from law school and now chamber across from him. He has always brought professionalism and collegiality to the forefront. The patience and integrity he brings to the bench have never wavered. He’s been a great mentor in my short time on the bench.

Q. What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney or judge?

A. That because of the title you are an expert in all areas of law.

Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?

A. Natural Harvest Food Co-op [in Virginia].

Q. What, if any, is your favorite depiction of the law, the legal professional in popular culture?

A. “Bull.” My undergraduate degree is in psychology. The jury system is an integral part of our justice system. While working as a prosecutor and presenting cases to a jury, I learned the significance of jury selection. In a basic sense, I think the series highlights the importance of our jury system.

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