Gov. Tim Pawlenty named Dietrich to the bench Wednesday morning in Marshall. Dietrich will replace Judge George Harrelson, who retired earlier this year.
Dietrich will serve one year and will be up for election in November 2009. Dietrich has been the Redwood County Attorney since 1997.
She was the assistant county attorney from 1995 to 1997.
As Redwood County Attorney, “Dietrich handles a diverse and wide array of cases including criminal cases and many civil cases...her experience is significant,” Pawlenty said.
“We look for judges that are not only learned, but folks with life experience,” Pawlenty said.
A selection committee interviewed several candidates for the judge position and recommended Dietrich for the position.
“I am truly honored to be selected...,” Dietrich said. “It’s a grave responsibility and I did think long and hard before I applied.”
Dietrich has worked on a number of high profile criminal cases, including murders, while county attorney.
Dietrich said those cases required her to prioritize cases in her office because other work needed to be completed while the high profile case was being tried.
Local lawyers Rene Diebold and David Sturrock, also a Southwest Minnesota State University professor, were members of that committee.
“Michelle was an impressive candidate from the start,” Sturrock said. “The committee was very comfortable in recommending her to the governor.”
Dietrich also has the right temperament and other qualities to be a judge, Pawlenty said.
“She is a wonderful choice,” Harrelson said. “She has a good judicial demeanor. She never gets flustered.”
Harrelson said Dietrich’s extensive criminal court background will be an asset to the court.
“A great majority of the work we have...the vast majority is criminal and juvenile cases,” Harrelson said. Dietrich’s criminal experience will complement Judge Lee Bush who has more experience in civil and similar cases, Harrelson said.
Patty Amberg, the Redwood County District Court administrator, has worked with Dietrich for several years.
“She is very sharp, organized and very, very intelligent,” Amberg said. “She does an excellent job as a county attorney.”
Amberg said Dietrich would be similar as a judge.
At 38, Dietrich will continue a history of younger lawyers being appointed to judicial seats in the 5th District, Sturrock said.
That’s a good tradition because it provides continuity on the bench for several years, Sturrock said.
“Michelle is a worthy addition to that tradition,” Sturrock said.
Dietrich said she was younger when appointed as county attorney, and took the job as a challenge and was determined to give it her all. She views the judge’s position the same way.
“I will give it everything I’ve got,” Dietrich said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Two other local lawyers were among considered for judge — Cecil Naatz, the chief public defender in the 5th District Marshall office, and private lawyer Mike Cable of Marshall, the former Lincoln County Attorney.
Photo by Rae Kruger
Gov. Tim Pawlenty, back, listens as Michelle Dietrich speaks Wednesday after being named judge for Lyon County District Court in the 5th Judicial District.