Pine County will now have three judges chambered at the courthouse for the first time in the county’s history. The county currently has two judges, the Honorable Krista K. Martin and the Honorable Heather M. Wynn. Until 2001, the county had only one judge chambered.
Gov. Mark Dayton on January 10 appointed Patrick W. Flanagan to Minnesota’s 10th Judicial District to chamber at the Pine County courthouse. Flanagan will replace Sharon L. Hall who served as an Anoka County judge from 1993 until her retirement on December 31. Her position was moved to Pine County after her retirement due to the need in Pine County.
Flanagan has been a solo practitioner at Flanagan Law Office and a part-time assistant public defender in the 10th Judicial District from Hugo. He has handled criminal defense, family law and civil matters and is a past Mower County Attorney. He has represented indigent clients in federal court as part of the Federal Criminal Justice Act Panel. Flanagan is a professor as well, teaching criminal justice though the University of Phoenix Master’s Program. He also coaches sixth-grade football and basketball in Mounds View. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse and his juris doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law.
Judge Flanagan has worked at the ground level implementing drug courts while working for Anoka County and stated the opioid addiction, causing the majority of the out-of-home placements, is not isolated to Pine County.
When asked about the opioid epidemic in Pine County, Flanagan responded, “Those struggles (opioid abuse) are going on throughout the state and nation. A lot of things stem from drug addiction, and we need to make sure the children are best served.”
When asked about the options of upholding sentencing guidelines or utilizing drug courts, Flanagan responded, “Everyone needs to be held accountable for actions, and each person has their own circumstances. There are people who are addicted or are drug dealers. Each case needs to be handled individually; there are sentencing guidelines, and we will do what the law allows.”
He said his position will be split between Pine County and neighboring counties, but primarily used here. “Pine County is set at 2.7 judges, and there is a need for .3 judges in neighboring counties. So there will be some traveling.”
Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson expects the appointment to be a good fit for the county. “I believe that the best generals are the ones who have been engaged in direct combat many times on the battlefield before becoming leaders. Similarly, the best judges have had to stand in a courtroom and fight difficult cases as a lawyer. Judge Flanagan has this direct experience and is not the type of judicial appointment who has simply dabbled in different legal areas to build a resume.
“Rather, he has a deep understanding of criminal law and courtrooms. This experience is a perfect fit for our county where we have many criminal cases.” Frederickson added that lawyers have a higher level of confidence in decisions from experienced judges. “This reduces our need to rely on resources to appeal cases that are not based upon sound principles or stray out of bounds into the province of the other branches of government. I feel that Judge Flanagan’s contribution will be substantial.”
“I believe his background gives him an understanding and respect for the work of prosecutors in rural jurisdictions,” added Frederickson. “This background also gives him thorough knowledge of how county government works in general, especially with respect to the executive and legislative branches of government. I’ve litigated cases against Judge Flanagan, and I’ve found that he’s been a professional and worthy opponent. We’re excited to have him in Pine County.”
Pine County Administrator David Minke said that the courthouse was designed to chamber three judges, so no changes will need to be made to the physical space. “We have also had the benefit of a visiting judge on occasion, so that at times, the courthouse has functioned with three judges,” added Minke.
Regarding the interview process with Gov. Dayton, Flanagan stated, “There were a number of people in the room. The governor is very pleasant. He is very concerned that the community has what it needs.”
In Gov. Dayton’s search for judicial candidates, the Commission of Judicial Selection called for candidates with the following qualities: integrity, maturity, health (if job related), judicial temperament, legal knowledge, ability, experience and community service.
“Working within Minnesota’s judicial system and in private practice, Mr. Patrick Flanagan and Ms. Karin McCarthy have demonstrated their strong commitments to justice in our state,” said Dayton. “I thank them both for their continued service to Minnesotans, as District Court Judges in Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District.”
Also appointed to District 10 courts on January 10 was Karin L. McCarthy who will replace Judge B. William Ekstrum and will chamber at Anoka in Anoka County. Ekstrum, first appointed judge by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2005, retires on January 31.
“I look forward to serving the people and honored to have the opportunity to come to Pine County,” added Judge Flanagan.
Flanagan will be sworn in at a 3 p.m. ceremony February 23 at the Pine County courthouse.
Impact on Attorney’s Office
When asked about the impact on the Pine County Attorney’s Office, Frederickson said he anticipates more court days added with additional strain on his office but stated the service and high level of motivation for fighting crime will not change for his staff.
“When I started here in 2015, there were about two to three days a week for court. Our prosecutors had a good balance between court and office days. Office days are important because preparation is key to courtroom success,” said Frederickson.
“Shortly after I started, the courts quickly observed that the caseloads were skyrocketing because of the work of the sheriff’s office and the county attorney’s office. In response, the courts added court days so that there was court every day. This resulted in less office time for my prosecutors. The courts also started using retired judges to cover the additional court calendars.
“I believe with an additional judge, they will split the calendars so that our prosecutors are running among three courtrooms every day. Unfortunately, Pine County does not have the resources to add the additional staff that I need. Judges and courtroom staff are funded by the state, not the county, so there is a much larger pot of money for their resources.”
In comparison, Chisago County has three judges with nearly twice the staff of Pine County’s Attorney’s Office and lower case numbers.
About our other judges
Judge Martin was appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura in November of 2001 and elected in 2002, 2008, 2010, and 2016. Her current term expires in January 2023. Martin graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1987 obtaining her B.A. and later earned her juris doctorate at the University of Minnesota in 1990.
Martin was a solo practitioner from 1997 to 2001, assistant public defender (part time) for the 10th Judicial District from 1997 to 2001, was a partner at Bina, Holm and Martin from 1995 to 1997, managing and staff attorney for Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota from 1991 to 1995, and an associate at Hanft, Fride, et al from 1990 to 1991.
Her professional memberships and activities include the Volunteer Attorney Program, Pine and Kanabec counties; Pine County Advisory Committee; Mille Lacs Band Circle Sentencing Committee; and Board of Directors for Legal Aid Service of Northeast Minnesota.
Judge Wynn was appointed in October of 2016 by Gov. Dayton and her current term expires January of 2019. She obtained her B.A. at Bethel College and juris doctorate at William Mitchell College of Law.
Prior to her chambering in Pine County, Judge Wynn was Assistant Kanabec County Attorney, a solo practitioner and an associate attorney at Bjerke Law Offices in Pine City. Her professional and community activities include Board of Directors, Pine Habilitation and Employment, Inc.; volunteer judge, Minnesota High School Mock Trial Program; former member, Board of Directors, Pine City Chamber of Commerce; and former volunteer attorney, Ask an Attorney Program.
The Minnesota 10th Judicial District is one of 10 judicial districts in Minnesota. It encompasses Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Pine, Sherburne, Washington and Wright counties.