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Lauri Traub and her family have two dogs, Atticus and Thurgood. (File photo)
Lauri Traub and her family have two dogs, Atticus and Thurgood. (File photo)

Breaking the Ice: Public defender back ‘where heart has always been’

Name: Lauri Traub

Title: Managing attorney, Minnesota Office of the Public Defender, 3rd Judicial District, Rochester

Education: B.A., business administration, University of St. Thomas; J.D., Hamline University School of Law

Lauri Traub’s part-time jobs as a stay-at-home mom with three young children included driving a FedEx truck in Green Bay.

When the time was right for her family, which had moved around the Midwest to accommodate her husband’s work, Traub finally went to law school.

Traub realized her goal of becoming a public defender, twice earning Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year honors for her work with the Minnesota Office of the Public Defender.

The first award cited Traub’s defense of Brian Fitch, who ultimately was convicted of killing Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick. The second involved Traub’s work with public defender colleague Christine Funk that resulted in the closing of the St. Paul police crime lab.

After some time in private practice, last fall “returned to where my heart has always been” as managing attorney of the Office of the Public Defender’s 3rd Judicial District office in Rochester.

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

A: Ask me about my kids because they’re all three brilliant.

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

A: I read a book by Alex Kotlowitz, “There are No Children Here,” about two boys growing up in the Horner projects in Chicago. We were moving to Chicago and I was interested in juvenile justice.

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

A: The latest by Alex Kotlowitz, “An American Summer,” where he chronicles a summer of gun violence in Chicago.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: I hate when people don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your” and “there,” “their” and “they’re.”

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

A: Mentoring new and younger attorneys. Their enthusiasm, their wanting to look at different ways to look at a case and their energy are incredible.

Q: Least favorite?

A: I have a client in prison right now that I truly believe is innocent and that’s hard to live with.

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

A: We have two dogs, one named Atticus. This summer Atticus was lonely so we contacted the shelter where we got him in Hackensack. He was one of 12 born on Christmas Eve of 2017. I said if anyone would be giving up one of his siblings we would take one. My husband is a vet tech and said he would know his sibling. They called and said they had one. So we got his brother this summer. His name is Thurgood. I spend a lot of time with them.

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

A: The judge I clerked for, Judge Edward Lynch. He was so calm, so reasoned and so respected. I learned a lot about being more introspective and more deliberative from him.

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

A: That people are public defenders because they couldn’t get another job. People are public defenders because they want to be because they believe that everyone deserves a really good lawyer. I would put the work of the public defender’s office up against anybody any time, anywhere.

The other thing is, I’m not the only one that gets asked this, my kids get asked this, my husband gets asked this: “How can she represent those people?” Everybody deserves excellent legal representation. We all are one step or one bad decision away from being in the shoes of a lot of the people that we represent.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: Most of them I hate because they make public look really stupid. The only one I like is “Boston Legal.” There are times when you’d like to be able to say some of the things they say in the courtroom but you can’t because it’s not a TV show.

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