Name: Edward Sheu
Title: Judge, 2nd Judicial District
Education: B.A., American history and French, University of Wisconsin-Madison; J.D., University of California—Los Angeles
For 2nd Judicial District Judge Edward Sheu seeking a judicial appointment was a natural step after gravitating toward public interest — “people-minded work” — while in private practice.
Sheu focused on commercial civil litigation for corporate clients as a partner at Best & Flanagan but also was the firm’s pro bono coordinator for more than 10 years. He also represented tribes in Native American child-protection cases.
“I didn’t set out to be a judge,” said Sheu, who received his appointment from Gov. Tim Walz in August 2020. “I didn’t start thinking about it until the last couple of years, though that’s kind of where my heart really lies, in public interest work.”
2nd Judicial District Judge Sophia Vuelo persuaded Sheu to apply when a seat came open in the Ramsey County Courthouse. “She said, ‘You should do this, this is where you belong,’ and that got me to thinking. Best decision I ever made.”
Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A: Lately, it’s been about coping with the pandemic. How are you getting through the day? Just pandemic life, trying to make light of it as much as possible.
Q: Why did you go to law school?
A: My mom kind of instilled in me and my sister the importance of public service with her volunteer work. My father was an immigrant and suffered from a mental illness. There was divorce in the family. I always was in tune with people who faced disadvantages, obstacles put in front of them by no fault of their own, just how they were born and where they’re from. That empathy and compassion were something I carried with me.
Q: What books are you reading?
A: “Prison Baby” by [Minneapolis writer and activist] Deborah Jiang-Stein, about how she was born in prison to a mother who was incarcerated. Dr. Ibram Kendi’s books, I’ve tried to read all of those. [Robin] DiAngelo’s “White Fragility.” Malcolm Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers.” Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”
Q: What’s the best part of your work?
A: Everything I’m doing every day, even if it’s sort of somewhat administrative or ministerial, is really the people’s work, so I feel good about that. There are times where I’ve helped someone get through a tough situation and I’m not going to see them again because whatever happened is resolved and they’re on the right track.
Q: Least favorite?
A: The isolation. I’m here in my chambers with the door closed to keep everyone safe. Even though a lot of people are vaccinated, we’re not able to be in the same room without masks, close by, safely yet. Even before COVID, as a judge, you don’t want to be too friendly. For the appearance of impartiality and neutrality you have to be kind of a little island.
Q: What is a favorite activity away from work?
A: If I’m not working and not with my family, I skateboard. I’ve been a skateboarder for 34 years. I have a private park I go to. Other 47-year-olds and I rent a warehouse, a secret location. It’s athletic, it’s creative. It’s a good outlet.
Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?
A: I’m from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but I’ve lived in St. Paul for 20 years. The farmers market on Saturday or Sunday morning, I’d definitely take people there.
Q: Who is the legal figure you most admire?
A: UCLA professor Cruz Reynoso (who died May 7 at 90). He was my legal ethics professor and had been on the California Supreme Court in the ’80s. He was like one of 10 kids from the middle of nowhere in California and really rose above his station. He and a couple other justices refused to enforce the death penalty in California and were voted out because of it. He knew he was going to get voted out, but he said, I’m not doing this, from a moral/ethical perspective. That was really inspiring.
Like this article? Gain access to all of our great content with a month-to-month subscription. Start your subscription.