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New Duluth judge praised for compassion, fairness

Judge Theresa Neo (center) receives her judge’s robe from her wife, Theresa Bobula (left), and mother, Davetta Pomahatch, during her investiture ceremony Friday afternoon at the St. Louis County Courthouse. Neo is the newest Minnesota 6th Judicial District judge. (Clint Austin /

Theresa Neo said she didn’t know how to file a petition when she moved to Duluth 12 years ago. On Friday, she became Minnesota’s 6th Judicial District’s newest judge.

Neo, who Gov. Mark Dayton appointed to replace longtime Judge Heather Sweetland, who retired in April, was sworn in at the St. Louis County Courthouse by Chief Judge Shaun Floerke. As an assistant attorney in the Duluth City Attorney’s Office, Neo has been prosecuting traffic cases and petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes since 2009.

“I will strive always to remember that the people who appear before me, and those who work beside me, have their own stories that may not be visible,” Neo said. “I will work hard to be patient, kind and respectful.”

Neo is a graduate of Metropolitan State University and the Hamline University School of Law.

Before coming to the Duluth City Attorney’s Office, she was a staff attorney for the Indian Legal Assistance Program and the Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women.

Neo remained engaged in humanitarian causes after she joined the city office. In 2011 she created the Damiano Diversion program, which lets first-time offenders wipe their records clean by volunteering at the Damiano Center. She also was a coordinator for the “Warrant Work-out” program, which sets aside days for people with outstanding warrants for minor crimes to have their cases resolved in arraignment court.

Neo is a former president of the 11th District Bar Association. She will work at the courthouse in downtown Duluth.

At the courthouse on Friday, Floerke publicly extolled the new judge’s virtues.

“I’ve seen you in every context treat people with respect, dignity, compassion and fairness,” Floerke said. “When people leave your courtroom, they will have a sense of justice deep in their heart and their soul because of who you are and how you carry yourself.”