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Duluth attorney named court referee

John Schulte

A Duluth attorney has been appointed by the judges of Northeastern Minnesota to preside over small claims and family law cases in St. Louis and Carlton counties.

John B. Schulte, who has been practicing law in Duluth for 15 years, will serve as a court referee in Duluth and Carlton, a position that will allow him to perform some duties otherwise reserved for judges. In the new role, Schulte will handle conciliation — or small claims — matters, along with orders for protection and harassment restraining orders.

As a private practice attorney, Schulte specializes in family law matters, child custody and bankruptcy cases. Since 2009, he has also served as a guardian ad litem, advocating for children in family, child protection and juvenile delinquency cases.

The referee position was created by necessity, with the district’s judges handling an abundant caseload.

“The 6th District has a clear need for additional judicial resources to handle calendars, and having John on board to assist with civil and family matters will be a great resource to the judges in Duluth and Carlton,” Chief Judge Shaun Floerke said in a statement. “John’s abilities and experience as both an attorney and guardian ad litem practicing in the 6th Judicial District make him an excellent choice for district court referee.”

While Schulte won’t be presiding over high-profile felony trials, the Iowa native and University of Minnesota Law School graduate acknowledged that family law and small claims cases bring their own challenges.

“These are very tough, very contentious cases,” he told the News Tribune. “I just hope to make good decisions and help guide people in the right direction, so they can move forward with lives and hopefully find some peace and smoother sailing ahead.”

The 6th Judicial District has 16 judges at six courthouses in St. Louis, Carlton, Cook and Lake counties, and handles more than 59,000 case filings each year.

The referee position is a part-time position — equivalent to three-fourths of a full-time position —and pays $57.88 an hour, according a job posting. The position precludes Schulte from practicing law before any court in the district.

Schulte, who started the job Monday, said he will be working four days a week at the courthouse, and maintain his private practice on the side. As a private attorney, he said he will handle mostly bankruptcy cases, which are filed in federal court.

Schulte and his wife, Kristi, live in West Duluth and have three children.