A Brainerd man's tireless work in the face of overwhelming pressure earned him the recognition of his peers this week.
David Hermerding, who manages the Crow Wing County public defender's office in Brainerd, was honored as a 2003 Minnesota Lawyer's attorney of the year. He was one of 15 attorneys recognized. Hermerding accepted the award, represented by a crystal statue, Tuesday at a dinner in Minneapolis.
"It's very nice, but it belongs to everyone who works in the public defender's system -- for everyone who works so tirelessly, particularly to the staff here," Hermerding said. "It is really very nice and humbling."
Kristine Kolar, chief public defender for the Ninth Judicial District, said Hermerding was a perfect spokesman to accept an award on behalf of the public defender's system. And she said the honor bestowed on him was rare.
"To have Dave, in and among all of them, to have him recognized for his monumental feats that go unnoticed was well deserved," she said. "To have a public defender recognized in this group does not happen. ... The work that the public defenders do often goes unnoticed in the legal profession that tends to focus on these multimillion dollar verdicts as gauges of success.
The 14 other 2003 honorees named by Minnesota Lawyer are:
* James L. Baillie, Minnesota Bar Association president, Fredrickson & Byron, Minneapolis.
* John M. Dornik, Hennepin County Bar Association president, Mackenzie & Hallberg, Minneapolis.
* Susan E. Gaertner, Ramsey County attorney.
* David J.F. Gross, Faegre and Benson, Minneapolis.
* Valerine M. Jensen, William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul.
* John D. Kelly, Hanft Fride, Duluth.
* Kirk O. Kolbo, Maslon Edleman Borman & Brand, Minneapolis.
* Martin R. Lueck, Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, Minneapolis.
* Roger J. Magnuson, Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis.
* Judith M. Rush, Roseville.
* John P. Sheehy, Meshbesher & Spence, Minneapolis.
* Michael W. Unger, Rider Bennett, Minneapolis.
* Mary R. Vasaly, Maslon Edleman Borman & Brand, Minneapolis.
* Terry L. Wade, Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, Minneapolis.
"I'm really proud of him."
A few hundred people and several Minnesota Supreme Court justices attended the event. Honorees included many who were noted for winning multimillion dollar award settlements and who worked at law firms with familiar multiple names. Others had honoree write-ups that focused on their overall service.
Hermerding was honored as one "who has tirelessly labored to keep the office running despite overwhelming caseload pressures, budget cutbacks and staff reductions," Minnesota Lawyer reported.
For Hermerding the ability to enjoy the award came as a momentary relief in his overall concern about the public defender's system in the state.
"As wonderful as this award is the public defender's office will lose $7.8 million" in the coming months unless something happens with the Legislature, Hermerding said.
With the funding loss comes more staff cuts across the state, longer waits in courtrooms and more pressure to prioritize cases, he said.
"It's just going to be catastrophic," Hermerding said. "For whatever joy this gives me, I look toward the coming months with trepidation. So for me this moment's done and I have to look forward to the next four months (when the second year of the biennium goes into effect) and keep hoping something is going to happen."
Minnesota Lawyer is a weekly newspaper covering Minnesota's courts and legal community.
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