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Neo, Beiers appointed new judges in Northeastern Minnesota

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Leslie Beiers and Theresa Neo have been appointed as Northeastern Minnesota’s newest judges, Gov. Mark Dayton announced Friday.

The new judges will replace Dale Wolf and Heather Sweetland, two long-serving Sixth Judicial District judges who retired last month.

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Beiers, a senior assistant St. Louis County attorney, will take over Wolf’s seat in Carlton County. Neo, a prosecutor in the Duluth City Attorney’s Office, will take over Sweetland’s seat at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth.

“Leslie Beiers and Theresa Neo have spent their entire legal careers pursuing the cause of justice in our communities,” Dayton said in a statement. “Their extensive experience in our criminal justice system, and their personal commitments to the advancement of important civic causes, make Ms. Beiers and Ms. Neo uniquely qualified for these important positions. I am confident they will be outstanding judges.”

Beiers and Neo were two of four finalists recommended to the governor by the Commission on Judicial Selection. Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nathaniel Stumme and public defender Jill Eichenwald were also in the running.

There is no immediate timetable for the new judges to be sworn in.

BEIERS: A RETURN TO CARLTON

Beiers tried her first case in front of a jury 20-odd years ago in Carlton County. Just a few years out of a law school, Beiers had a four-year stint as an assistant Carlton County attorney in the early 1990s, handling criminal, civil, child protection and mental health cases.

“It kind of feels like I’m closing the circle 20 years later,” she said. “I’m thrilled to go back to Carlton County.”

Beiers is a native of Langdon, N.D. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota and stayed there to earn her law degree three years later.

Before going to Carlton County, Beiers worked for federal Magistrate Judge Patrick McNulty in Duluth and the Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota.

In 1995, she came back to Duluth as an assistant county attorney, first prosecuting juvenile cases and later adult felony cases. During Melanie Ford’s stint as county attorney, Beiers served as criminal division head. In 2012, she moved to the civil division, where she now represents the sheriff and assessor, and handles workers compensation issues.

Since 2011, she has also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney, occasionally representing the government in federal cases.

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin recalled encouraging Beiers to come to Duluth.

“She’s got a tremendous work ethic and a relentless commitment to excellence,” Rubin said. “The people of the district are fortunate because of her great deal of experience in so many different areas of law. I’m sure that’s something that must have impressed Gov. Dayton, too.”

Beiers, who was also a finalist for judge in 2008, said she’s always wanted to serve on the bench.

“I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve always been in public service,” she said. “I’ve practiced in almost all areas, and I want to remain in public service. I think I have a lot to offer.”

Beiers lives in Duluth with her wife, Linda Krug, who is president of the Duluth City Council. Krug also serves as a member of the statewide Commission on Judicial Selection, but recused herself from consideration of Beiers.

NEO: FAMILIAR FACE IN DULUTH

As an assistant city attorney, the cases Neo prosecutes don’t often make the headlines or the grab the public’s attention.

But Neo is a familiar face at the St. Louis County Courthouse. She’s responsible for prosecuting all levels of misdemeanor crimes and traffic violations that occur within city limits.

“When you think of crimes, you think of the murders and the really horrendous crimes that get on TV,” City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said. “But the bulk of the work of the court system is the little stuff: DWIs, traffic tickets, minor consumptions — all those little things that really affect quality of life.”

Neo has been with the city attorney’s office since 2009. Prior to that, she served as a staff attorney for the Indian Legal Assistance Program and the Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women.

A graduate of Metropolitan State University and the Hamline University School of Law, Neo is also a past president of the 11th District Bar Association.

During her tenure with the city, Neo has been responsible for several programs geared at resolving low-level criminal cases in the city.

In 2011, she created the Damiano Diversion program, which allows first-time offenders to clear their records by working at the Damiano Center. She was also one of the coordinators of the “Warrant Workout” program, which has allowed people with warrants for minor crimes to walk into court on specified days and resolve their cases.

Neo couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon, but Johnson said she has had a major impact during her time in the office.

“Theresa being selected as a judge by the governor is a loss for our office and a win for the Sixth Judicial District,” he said.

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