Judges mark ‘historic’ ceremony

Published 3:28 pm Sunday, June 12, 2016

As Judge Christa Daily first donned her robe in the Mower County Jail and Justice Center Friday, it represented a rare transfer of power.

That transfer wasn’t just to a new judge. It was from one Minnesota judicial district to another.

Third Judicial District Chief Judge Jeffrey Thompson presided over Daily’s investiture on Friday, and he recalled the historic process that brought Daily’s judge position to Mower County and the Third Judicial District.

Email newsletter signup

“While every investiture is historic, it is important for me to note that today’s investiture is a special milestone for the Third District because of how this 24th judgeship came into being,” he said.

Traditionally, the state Legislature creates new judgeships, but Thompson noted such action is rare — the last new seat came to the Third District in 2002.

Thompson described how the Minnesota Judicial Branch traces workload and case needs for counties and district, and Mower and the Third District have long been under judged.

Since Mower County Judges Jeffrey Kritzer and Kevin Siefken took the bench in June 2014, the judge need hasn’t dropped below 2.7 judges for a quarter, and it’s often been as high as three judges.

Thompson attributed the need to things like a growing population, the local economy and high case loads, while adding the Destination Medical Center in Rochester will likely drive the need throughout the Third Judicial District.

To address the need, the Minnesota Judicial Branch took a creative approach.

Daily’s position was created in an uncommon way: The Minnesota Supreme Court moved retiring Referee JoAnne Yanish’s position in the Second Judicial District to the Third Judicial District and converted it into a district court judgeship.

“This is the first such transfer and conversion to my knowledge and in my memory,” Thompson said.

Thompson thanked Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and the Supreme Court for their decision, calling it an example of government working the right way, and he thanked the Second Judicial District Chief Judge Teresa Warner, as her district voted unanimously to vacate its referee position.

“Never have I been more appreciative of the ability of the judicial branch to serve the people of Minnesota and the cause of justice,” he said.

Daily becomes the third Mower County judge and 24th in the Third Judicial District.

“We will finally be at full strength,” Thompson said.

With the recent high caseload in Mower, other district judges have traveled to Mower County a few days each week. Once Daily settles into her job, Thompson has said she, Kritzer and Siefken could occasionally help out in Olmsted County courts.

Minnesota’s Third Judicial District consists of Mower, Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca and Winona counties.