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Attorneys of the Year: Geri Sjoquist

Solo attorneys are the unsung heroes of the legal world, getting along in small offices and usually taking small cases. But all that work can sometimes lead to big things.

St. Paul attorney Geri Sjoquist recently handled a potentially landmark case of first impression that addressed the remedies available to same-sex parents of a child conceived through assisted reproductive technology after the breakup of their relationship. The complexity of such a case would normally earmark representation by a nonprofit or by the pro bono arm of a larger firm. But Sjoquist took it by herself — which is no surprise to those who know her.

Before becoming an attorney, Sjoquist volunteered as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, as a guardian ad litem and as a custody evaluator.

“My focus and concern have always been directed towards the vulnerable and powerless in our society,” she said, “How we actually treat those in our communities who are voiceless speaks volumes about who we really are.”

Sjoquist began with the premise that the rules must be applied equally to all parents regardless of gender or marital status because all children’s relationships with people whom they view as their parents deserve to be protected. “Important constitutionally protected interests are at stake.”

The U.S. Supreme court has said that “children have a core, constitutionally protected interest in preserving the emotional attachments they develop with adult parent figures from shared daily life.”

Sjoquist took the case to trial and won the case on the merits. The possibility of appeal still exists but Sjoquist’s tenacity dictates that she is ready for whatever develops. “I have no idea why that case walked into my office,” she said. “Absolutely everyone told me I didn’t have a case. I refused to accept that.”

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