First Judicial District

First District Case Filings Data

First Judicial District Domestic Violence Coordinating Council Holds Annual Conference 

The First District Domestic Violence Coordinating Council addressed trauma at its 2018 domestic violence conference. The Council is comprised of law enforcement, court personnel, probation officers, judges, attorneys, and other interested parties who are committed to educating and coordinating initiatives that discuss domestic violence as it relates to the court system and its various judicial partners.
Two sessions offered at the conference specifically addressed trauma:

Surviving the Trenches 

Research confirms that constant exposure to the pain and suffering of others can come with a price for professionals who spend a significant part of their day listening to, reading about, or otherwise observing traumatic material. KSL Research presented on identifying early warning signs of burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma, which can improve resilience and promote healthy coping, as well as minimize the impact of cumulative stress. This training brought together the latest research on the neurological process of trauma with simple, realistic techniques that can improve personal well-being and professional longevity. 

Organizational Trauma 

Tragic events, high-profile cases, external pressures, and public scrutiny can take a collective toll on any agency. Like individuals, organizations too can become traumatized from critical incidents or chronic repetitive stress. Left unattended, workplace toxicity slowly develops, creating atmospheres of cynicism, negativity, embitterment, and mistrust. However, an exciting body of research emerging in health psychology presented at the session suggests that although traumatic events can be difficult, they can also bring people together, enhance empathy and compassion in the workplace, improve performance under pressure, and even render a workforce stronger and more successful. 

Brittany Schneider, wife of slain Lake City Police Officer Shawn Schneider, shared her story of how domestic violence changed her life when her husband was shot and killed while bringing a victim to safety during a domestic violence call. 
Le Sueur County Treatment Court Visited by Senator Klobuchar

On March 29, 2018, the judge, court staff, and county officials who lead the Le Sueur County Treatment Court were visited by United States Senator Amy Klobuchar at the Le Sueur County Courthouse for a roundtable discussion. Three Treatment Court graduates were also in attendance, and Associate Justice Barry Anderson attended on behalf of the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

Le Sueur County’s Treatment Court offers defendants who qualify an opportunity to recover from addiction rather than going to prison. 
Le Sueur County Treatment Court Presiding Judge Mark Vandelist explained to Senator Klobuchar the various steps of the Treatment Court process during the discussion, pointing out that the majority of drug issues the county deals with involve methamphetamine. 
The Treatment Court began operations in 2015 after receiving $100,000 in funding from the Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners and a three-year $300,000 grant from the federal government. Senator Klobuchar stated she would continue to work towards obtaining funding for sustaining grants for treatment courts. 

Goodhue County Awarded Federal Grant to Establish Treatment Court

Goodhue County was awarded a federal grant in 2018 in support of the Goodhue County Adult Treatment Court, which became the 62nd operational adult drug treatment court in the State of Minnesota.

The County applied for funding from the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant in June 2018. The Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant, in the amount of $499,469, and covering the years 2019 to 2022, allowed the County to establish the Goodhue County Adult Treatment Court in early 2019 and serve individuals who have a substance abuse disorder. In addition, the Grant funded a full-time drug court coordinator, intensive outpatient treatment, and frequent drug testing.

“This is fantastic news for Goodhue County,” said Goodhue County Judge Douglas Bayley at the time. “The Goodhue County Treatment Court will have a positive impact on public safety at the same time as it offers a real helping hand to our community members struggling with addiction. Receiving this federal Grant was the result of a huge team effort. We also have widespread community support for a treatment court. I look forward to getting the Goodhue County Treatment Court up and running.” 

Scott County Plans to Expand Facilities

A space study in 2016 and 2017, and an expected 50,000 additional residents in Scott County by 2040, indicated a need to expand Scott County facilities, including the Scott County Justice Center. Planning for the expansion began in 2018, and construction, which is expected to last several years, will begin later this year.

The space study specifically identified the need for new courtrooms and security, and the renovation of the Justice Center, expected to cost $6.2 million, will also include a buildout of the jury assembly room. 

McLeod County Courthouse Hosts Student Government Day, Celebrates Expansion

Students from McLeod County schools spent April 17, 2018, at the McLeod County Courthouse as part of Student Government Day.
In the recently renovated second floor courtroom, the students met with First Judicial District Judge Jessica Maher, First Judicial District Judge Jody Winters, and Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson, formerly of Hutchinson.

Justice Anderson presented the County a dedication on behalf of the state in recognition of the courtroom improvements that made it ADA-accessible and more secure as part of a $7.54 million expansion to the McLeod County Courthouse and Jail.

Goodhue County Sponsors Children and the Law Day

Goodhue County hosted local groups of fifth-grade students again in 2018 for an annual day that has become known as Children and the Law Day. 
The Day started with providing students with an overview of the judicial system and educating them about jury duty. A deputy sheriff then talked to them about how important safety is in the courthouse. The students then received a tour of the entire building and individual courtrooms, followed by a mock trial where local attorneys volunteered their time in a case involving whether or not a student had stolen a candy bar from the town grocery store. The students took on the roles of judge, jurors, attorneys, and court staff during the mock trial. 

Children and the Law Day is an opportunity to connect with young children, educate them on one of the three branches of government, and perhaps even inspire them to consider a career in the justice system.

Warrants Quashed at Scott-Carver Project Community Connect

The courts in Scott and Carver counties participated in Project Community Connect (PCC) on September 12, 2018, at Canterbury Park, where several warrants were quashed without arrest and court dates were rescheduled. 

This was the first time the courts participated in PCC, a program in its ninth year designed to give Carver and Scott county residents experiencing poverty and homelessness an opportunity to access programs, resources, and job opportunities. PCC is a joint venture between Scott County, Carver County, and the Community Action Partnership (CAP) of Scott, Carver, and Dakota counties. 

Scott and Carver counties had more than 5,000 active warrants combined at the time of the event, and Scott County Judge Christian Wilton and Carver County Judge Eric Braaten were on hand to meet with more than 10 individuals who wanted their warrants quashed. The meetings took place in a makeshift courtroom designed to offer some privacy. 

The courts received praise from the individuals served as they were able to avoid arrests. The event also assisted the courts and law enforcement by clearing out some warrants from their files.

Dakota County Holds Warrant Resolution Day

On November 17, 2018, Dakota County District Court, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Department, Dakota County Social Services, Dakota County Probation, the County Attorney, city prosecutors, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and La Asamblea de Derecho Civiles (Civil Rights Assembly) hosted a “Warrant Resolution” event at Crossroads Church in Eagan. The event offered anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant an opportunity to meet with justice system officials and take steps to resolve his or her case. 

Visitors to the event were able to speak with consulting attorneys and prosecuting attorneys, and arrange to pay any outstanding fines. Representatives from the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety were also present to assist attendees. Both Spanish and Somali interpreters were available at the event. 

Key elements to the event’s success included its publicity, the timing of holding it on a weekend, the event location being close to public transportation, and the fact that defendants could resolve warrants without having to serve jail time. 

Arriving defendants first checked in and met with a public defender. The public defender worked out a resolution to the charge or probation violation with the appropriate prosecutor and probation officer and then appeared before a judge to put the agreement on the record. Defendants left with copies of the orders resolving their outstanding warrants. Many were vocally appreciative and relieved that their warrants were quashed and their cases resolved. 
There were 10 court administration staff, three judges, two court reporters, and three supervisor/event planners, including a judge and court staff from Ramsey County to handle warrants from that County. In total, 80 outstanding warrants were handled. This included eight from Washington and Hennepin counties, 15 from Ramsey County, and 57 from Dakota County. 

Chief Judge Messerich Receives District Judges Association Award

First Judicial District Chief Judge Kathryn D. Messerich was awarded the Minnesota District Judges Association (MDJA) President’s Award in 2018 for her service to the Association and the Minnesota Judicial Branch, including her 14 years of participation in and leadership of the Civil Jury Instructions Committee (JIG). Chief Judge Messerich has served as chair of the Committee since 2012. 

“I am honored by this recognition,” said Chief Judge Messerich. “The MJDA Civil JIG Committee regularly reviews and updates the current changes to civil law, and with the input of the civil bar, publishes jury instruction guides that assist jurors in applying the facts to the law in civil lawsuits. I share this recognition with my fellow judicial Committee members and our reporters, Professor Michael Steenson and Peter Knapp.” 

Chief Judge Messerich has served in the First Judicial District since April 2004, and is chambered in the Dakota County Judicial Center in Hastings, Minnesota. She sits on the Minnesota Judicial Council, which is the administrative policy-making authority for the Minnesota Judicial Branch. 

Before her appointment to the bench, Chief Judge Messerich worked as an attorney and shareholder with the Minneapolis law firm of Halleland, Lewis, Nilan, Sipkins, and Johnson from 2000 to 2004. She was an associate general counsel for Allina Health System in Minnetonka from 1997 through 1999, an associate attorney and shareholder with the Minneapolis law firm of Bassford, Lockhart, Truesdell and Briggs from 1991 to 1997, and an associate attorney with the Minneapolis law firm of Lommen, Nelson, Cole and Stageberg from 1987 to 1991. Chief Judge Messerich earned her juris doctorate degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul in 1987, her master of science degree in maternal-child nursing in 1984, and her bachelor of science in nursing degree from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, in 1979.

Heidi Carstensen and Holly Bohlken Receive 2018 Minnesota Association for Court Management Awards

The Minnesota Association for Court Management (MACM) announced the recipients of its 2018 awards at its annual meeting in September. Heidi Carstensen, Dakota County Court Administrator, received the Distinguished Service Award, and Holly Bohlken, Dakota County Court Operations Supervisor, received the Early Career Excellence Award.

The Distinguished Service Award was established to recognize MACM members who have distinguished themselves through their records of service to the profession in leadership roles, outstanding service to the community and courts, and demonstrating leadership by improving the administration of justice and delivery of public service through the application of modern management techniques. Carstensen has worked in Dakota County District Court for almost two decades in a variety of positions and leadership roles. She has been on numerous state, district, and county committees. She is an Institute for Court Management Fellow through the National Center for State Courts, which is an advanced professional development program for court executives. 

The Early Career Excellence Award is intended for an early career member who has demonstrated some or all of the following – achievement in the courts through obtaining a high level of knowledge in a short period of time; is a quick learner and a valuable resource to others; diligently performs with dependability and consistency while working to achieve success; and outstanding leadership by considering stakeholders when making decisions. Bohlken has been with Dakota County District Court since 2008, presently supervising the criminal division in Hastings. Still in the early stages of her career, Bohlken has demonstrated forward-thinking leadership, a positive attitude, and unwavering dedication and commitment to the court system. She also serves on many district and local committees and workgroups. 

“The First District should be very proud that our judges and staff continue to be recognized for their leadership and achievements, as well as their dedication to the citizens of Minnesota,” said Brian Jones, First Judicial District Administrator.

MACM has more then 350 members throughout the Minnesota Judicial Branch, and is committed to the enrichment of its members through professional growth and development opportunities, promoting advancements and innovation in court administration, and partnering with other professionals working to improve the justice system in Minnesota.