'Common man's attorney' appointed to appeals court

Larry Stauber got the phone call he was hoping to get Monday night when Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty informed the Duluth lawyer he was his choice to take a seat on the state's second-highest court -- the Court of Appeals.

Larry Stauber got the phone call he was hoping to get Monday night when Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty informed the Duluth lawyer he was his choice to take a seat on the state's second-highest court -- the Court of Appeals.

"I said, 'Thanks. I accept,' '' Stauber said in a phone interview from St. Paul on Tuesday. "It was a very cordial, informal discussion.''

Stauber, 61, is a popular courthouse figure in Duluth and has cordial, informal discussions with a lot of people outside the courtroom. He's now taking on the scholarly job of researching, writing and issuing legal opinions from the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul.

"Being on the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court is simply the epitome of a legal practice, as well as judicial service and service to the community,'' Stauber said.

Stauber, Duluth lawyer Sean Quinn and State District Court Judge John P. Smith of Nevis were the three finalists out of 11 people who were interviewed to take retired Judge R.A. "Jim'' Randall's seat on the 19-judge court. Pawlenty cited Stauber's experience with civil law as a private practitioner and with criminal law as a part-time public defender.


"His professional background along with his service to his community and country will make him a well-rounded addition to the Court of Appeals," Pawlenty said.

Stauber said Pawlenty asked him during an interview earlier this month why he would want to leave a successful law practice. "I said it was the one job I would certainly like because of my experience and coming in the later stages of my legal career,'' he said. "I think I have the broad experience and wisdom necessary.''

Mike Lien, Stauber's law partner for nearly 25 years, said his friend and colleague is well prepared to do the job.

"I think his strongest attribute is the fact that he's just a common man's attorney,'' Lien said. "He's handled divorce cases, probate cases, real estate cases. He's handled such a wide variety of cases for 30 years. He has no judicial experience, but a ton of private practice experience. I think that balances the court.''

Stauber is a 1965 graduate of Proctor High School. He earned bachelor's degrees in political science and social studies/history at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He then went into the Army in 1970 and served as an infantry officer at Fort Benning, Ga., and with the Army Criminal Investigation Command in Heidelberg, Germany. After being discharged from the service in 1974, he went to Chicago Kent College of Law and earned his law degree in 1977.

Stauber spent 28 years of his 30-year law career working part-time for the public defender's office representing people who can't afford a lawyer. Much of that work was done representing juveniles in child protection and delinquency cases.

"He was very popular with clients, an excellent interviewer of clients, and his one-on-one skills with clients were also just excellent,'' said Fred Friedman, Northeastern Minnesota's supervisor of public defenders. "He's also definitely inclined to try to keep the government off people's backs. ''

Stauber's wife, Cindy, is executive director of the Scott Anderson Leadership Foundation and couldn't attend Tuesday's ceremony at the Capitol because she was involved with a leadership forum held Tuesday for 72 high school students from the Duluth area.


But Stauber's daughter, Leah, 27, was able to attend. She just completed her first year at William Mitchell Law School.

The Staubers also have a younger daughter, Erin, 25, who has spent three years teaching school in rural Mississippi.

Stauber expects to take his seat on the Court of Appeals in late August or early September. He said he will commute to St. Paul from his home in Pike Lake until he and Cindy make a family decision on where they will live. The position will pay an annual salary of $137,552.

Mark Stodghill covers public safety and courts. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at . The Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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