Brainerd attorney Erik Askegaard will fill a vacant Crow Wing County District Court judge's post.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty made the announcement Monday afternoon at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center in Brainerd. Askegaard will fill the position held by Judge John Leitner, who retired May 31.
Askegaard, 49, was one of 13 applicants to the position. Other finalists were assistant Crow Wing County attorney David Hermerding and Bemidji assistant Ninth Judicial District public defender Diane M. Sweeney.
Pawlenty said while considering the judgeship appointment he took into account not only education, credentials and reputation but intangibles such as judicial temperament, demeanor, character, integrity and sense of fairness.
Pawlenty, who as a lawyer once tried a case against Askegaard, said Askegaard showed all those characteristics then and now.
"He's known for having an intelligent approach to legal issues, known for having a calm and thoughtful manner and he's known for having an innate sense of fairness," Pawlenty said. "If you talk to people who have worked shoulder to shoulder with him over the years ... they say he has all the right tools, ability and disposition to be a judge."
Askegaard's first job out of law school was as a law clerk for the North Dakota Supreme Court and he said he'd always thought he'd seek a judgeship at some point in his career but he became busy with his own law practice.
It wasn't until recently, when he started mediating cases, that Askegaard said he started thinking about applying to be a judge. He had applied in 2007, when there were two open judge positions in Crow Wing County.
"I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm very excited, I'm energized to step in and start the second half of my career," Askegaard said. "I'm anxious to get started."
The date of Askegaard's swearing in ceremony has not been set, Crow Wing County Court Administrator Darrell Paske said.
Pawlenty and Askegaard also praised Leitner, who attended Monday's news conference, for his years of service on the bench.
"I can only hope that I can do this job as well as you did," Askegaard said to Leitner. "I'll give it my best shot. You left a big legacy for any incoming judge to live up to."
Askegaard is president of the Askegaard and Robinson law firm in Brainerd, a position he has held since 1991. He was an associate attorney with the Jeffries, Olson and Flom law firm in Moorhead from 1987 to 1991 and a law clerk to North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Herbert L. Meschke in Bismarck, N.D., from 1986 to 1987.
Askegaard earned his law degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1986, and his bachelor of science business administration degree cum laude from the University of North Dakota in 1982.
He is a certified civil trial specialist by both the Minnesota State Bar Association as well as the National Board of Trial Advocacy and is listed on the Minnesota Statewide Alternative Dispute Resolution Roster as a qualified neutral. He is a member of the Minnesota Association for Justice; and the Minnesota State Bar Association, where he is treasurer of the Outstate Practice Section and has been lecturer at numerous continuing legal education seminars.
Askegaard's community activities have included serving as a volunteer coach for Brainerd High School mock trial competitions, a basketball coach with the Brainerd Youth Athletic Association and the YMCA, and foreign exchange student host and a member of the Sunrise Sertoma Club.
On Monday, Askegaard was joined at the judicial center by his wife, Joan; and his three sons, Garth, Gunner and Gus. Also attending the announcement were several of Askegaard's colleagues, state legislators, court officials and law enforcement officers.
He thanked his wife for her patience and understanding during his career, Pawlenty for the appointment and his law partner Chris Robinson, who joined Askegaard in 1992.
"It started off with me teaching things to him but it wasn't very long before I was learning things from Chris," Askegaard said. "I wouldn't be the lawyer I am today and I don't know if I'd be qualified for this (judge's) position if I hadn't had the experience of working side by side with Chris these past 17 years."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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