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A clerkship at Halberg Criminal Defense sealed Christina Zauhar’s commitment to a criminal defense practice. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Finding humanity, giving voice in criminal defense

Name: Christina Zauhar

Title: Attorney, Halberg Criminal Defense

Education: B.A., English and sociology, Hamline University; J.D., Hamline University Law School

Christina Zauhar, an attorney at Halberg Criminal Defense, grew up with family conversations about crime and criminal justice.

Such talks, stemming from her mother’s work as jail administrator for the Carlton County sheriff and her grandfather’s as a Duluth police detective, fueled Zauhar’s interest in becoming a lawyer.

A clerkship at Halberg Criminal Defense sealed Zauhar’s commitment to a criminal defense practice.

“I really appreciate the humanity of this type of work,” Zauhar said. “I work directly with people and not with a corporate entity. I’m not sitting behind a computer all day.”

Zauhar also likes working as a team with the nine other attorneys in the state’s largest criminal defense firm on cases ranging from DWIs to homicides.

Criminal sexual conduct cases have become a focus for Zauhar. The firm often brings her in on those and other cases that are likely to go to trial, Zauhar said.

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

A. Introduce yourself. If you have a dog we can strike up a conversation with telling stories about our pups. I love to talk about my dog.

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

A. I almost exclusively read fictional crime novels. Apparently I can’t get enough of crime stories in my life.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. People who don’t use a calendar. It makes me very anxious when people don’t have anywhere to keep track of dates or important appointments. People who over-apologize, which is hard in Minnesota because there’s a lot of people who like to apologize.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. The humanity of my job and helping people through really difficult situations. I get to work with people and I get to be in court often.

Q. Least favorite?

A. The same as my favorite part: Working with people. It can be very draining to constantly interact with people who are in a highly emotional, stressed-out state of mind or situation.

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

A. I like to be active and outdoors. I grew up in the Duluth area. I love going to our family cabin, north of Duluth. I like going on runs, I like hiking, skiing, anything active and outdoors.

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

A. I grew up in Esko, a small town outside of Duluth. Unless you want to hang out with me at my grandpa’s house we’d probably go to Duluth.

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

A. Groundbreaking women lawyers: Sandra Day O’Connor, first female justice on the United States Supreme Court.  Janet Reno, first female attorney general. Rosalie Wahl, first female Supreme Court justice in Minnesota. Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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

A. The number one question I am asked by non-lawyers especially is how do I represent someone if I know they’re guilty. The answer is that being a criminal defense attorney is not at all about representing only people who you believe are innocent. It’s about advocating for an individual who is accused of a crime and is up against the immense power of the government, the state. Everyone, no matter what they’re accused of, no matter how heinous that is, deserves to have a voice and a chance to be sure their constitutional rights are protected.

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

A. “Better Call Saul,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Practice,” which I grew up watching with my mom. During the holidays, “Miracle on 34th Street.” For books, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” For work, I do a lot of driving so I listen to a ton of podcasts. Some crime podcasts that I follow are “Serial” or “Dirty John.”

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