Austin resident hired as Albert Lea city attorney

Published 9:55 am Friday, October 17, 2008

A private practice attorney who has worked as a criminal prosecutor in Austin and as the city attorney for Spring Valley, Mantorville, LeRoy and Ostrander was hired as the new Albert Lea city attorney this week. Lee Bjorndal, 51, of Austin, will begin his duties Nov. 6, replacing former City Attorney Steve Schwab, who was sworn in as the new Freeborn County District Court judge on Sept. 2.

“Lee brings to us a great amount of experience in criminal and civil law, as well as familiarity with the legal matters inherent to cities,” city manager Victoria Simonsen said. “We’re very excited to have him on board.”

Bjorndal received his juris doctorate degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, his master’s degree from Ohio University and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa.

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After a clerkship in Mower County, he began as a partner in the Baudler Baudler Maus and Blahnik LLP firm in Austin in 1997. The city of Austin works with the firm for criminal prosecution of its cases.

Bjorndal is also active on the Minnesota State Bar Association, the 10th District Ethics Committee and the Mower County Bar Association. He serves as a contributing editor to the Minnesota State Bar Association’s publication “Bench and Bar.”

He and his wife, Judith, have two sons, and he speaks both Norwegian and Spanish.

The selection came after several months of receiving applications for the position and conducting interviews.

Schwab found out in July that he would replace Judge James E. Broberg as the new Freeborn County District Court judge, and shortly after the city posted the position and began accepting applications.

The city received 10 applications and interviewed three finalists, Simonsen said.

“Of the finalists we interviewed, we felt he had the most experience in regard to criminal and civil issues,” she said. “His references were outstanding. He’s had experience here in Freeborn County. Everyone we talked to spoke highly of him.”

She said he is sensitive to the rights of victims, and he’s comfortable working on land issues and other civil issues in regard to contracts.

“We’re just really happy to get someone of his caliber here,” Simonsen said.

For the two-month interim period between when Schwab was seated on the bench and when Bjorndal will begin in the position, the Freeborn County attorney’s office is taking on the city’s criminal cases. Lawyer Amy Wasson has taken on the city’s civil cases through an independent contract.