A Virginia attorney who represents indigent clients in family law and juvenile court cases is the newest judge on the Iron Range.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced he has appointed Robert Friday, director of advocacy for Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota, to the 6th Judicial District bench.
Friday, 48, will replace Judge Terrence Aronson, who retired in November, and will be chambered at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia.
"I'm very humbled and honored that the governor thought I'd be a good fit for the bench and allow me to continue my service here on the Iron Range," Friday said in a phone interview.
Friday was born and raised in Philadelphia, moving to Minnesota to attend college. By coincidence, he said, much of his family also has migrated to the Duluth area. Friday earned his bachelor's degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and his law degree from William Mitchell College of Law, where he served as associate editor of the Law Review.
Friday has a business background, having worked as a client services manager at United Health Care and owning his own small business. As an attorney, he worked as a solo practitioner and an associate at Minneapolis law firm Lindquist & Vennum.
"I don't have a good short answer," Friday said of his diverse work background. "Law has always been a passion of mine, but at times we need to pull away to find our true calling. And today, Gov. Dayton gave me the greatest opportunity of my life."
In his current position, Friday manages the legal work of his firm, provides legal education in the community and works with the Volunteer Attorney Program in Duluth.
He said joining the Legal Aid Service is what drove him to a legal career focused largely on children.
"There is no other area of law that impacts a community more than family law," Friday said. "Other than minor criminal charges, the most likely reason someone is going to interact with the court system is family issues. Our children are our future, and we need to protect the best interests of our kids."
Friday also serves as president of the Range Transitional Housing board and is a member of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a nonprofit providing free support and resources to Minnesota lawyers, judges, law students and their immediate family members who are affected by addiction, mental illness and other issues.
Friday was among three finalists for the position recommended to the governor last month by the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection. Also interviewed this week were Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Sharon Chadwick and Hibbing attorney Jaclyn Corradi Simon.
"Mr. Robert Friday has a strong record of legal service on behalf of Minnesotans, working hard throughout his career to deliver justice to those in need," Dayton said in a statement. "I thank Mr. Friday for agreeing to continue his service to the public as a District Court Judge for Minnesota's 6th Judicial District."
Aronson primarily handled family law, child protection, probate and other civil matters during his 16 years on the bench. Friday is well-versed in those same areas, but he said it'll ultimately be up to Chief Judge Sally Tarnowski of Duluth and fellow Virginia judges Gary Pagliaccetti and Michelle Anderson to determine if he'll take on the same role.
It is only the second judicial appointment Dayton has made on the Iron Range - but also the second in just over six months, with the region's long-serving judiciary seeing a significant turnover.
Dayton in July selected Anderson as the first woman to serve as a district court judge at either the Virginia or Hibbing courthouses. She was picked to replace Judge James Florey, who Dayton earlier elevated to the state Court of Appeals.
Friday will join Anderson and Pagliaccetti, a judge since 1989, at the Virginia courthouse in the coming months.
The 6th District includes St. Louis, Carlton, Cook and Lake counties. Judges must live within the district and appear on the ballot in all four counties.