An Iron Range native who has served as a public defender, assistant county attorney and treatment court leader has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the 6th Judicial District bench in Carlton County.
Amy Lukasavitz was selected Wednesday by Gov. Tim Walz to replace Judge Robert Macaulay, who retired last week after 26 years.
"I'm very excited, and probably a little overwhelmed right now," Lukasavitz told the News Tribune shortly after receiving a call from the governor. "It's so wonderful to have worked as both a public defender and as a prosecutor. I've had such tremendous support along the way and I'm eager to start this next chapter."
Lukasavitz, 48, has handled juvenile delinquency, truancy and estate recovery matters in her current job in the St. Louis County Attorney's Office, where she has played an active role in establishing diversion programs for minors facing low-level offenses or chronic truancy.
"She is an outstanding lawyer and an even greater human being," St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said. "She will bring some really balanced experience to the bench. She is comfortable in the courtroom, which is so critical, and her litigation experience is really going to help."
A graduate of Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, Lukasavitz didn't immediately gravitate toward law, instead receiving a fine arts degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth and establishing her own theater company before going on to the Hamline University School of Law.
Upon graduation, she served as the first coordinator for the South St. Louis County DWI Court, building the program alongside Judge Shaun Floerke — which she called "an amazing way to cut my teeth in the justice system."
Luksavitz went on to represent parents in child protection cases and served seven years in the public defender's office, where she joined the drug and mental health treatment court teams and much of her caseload focused on clients deemed to have "severe and persistent mental illness."
"You get to see redemption," she said of the work. "You don't always see that in the justice system."
Drawing on her theater experience, Lukasavitz has volunteered her services to help prepare actors to participate in crisis-intervention training for area police officers. She's also been active in the Volunteer Attorney Program and the Duluth Playhouse.
Lukasavitz, recently a finalist for an opening on the Duluth bench, was selected by Walz from a list of recommended candidates that also included Nicole Bettendorf-Hopps, a managing attorney in the local public defender's office, and Clarissa Ek, a child support magistrate for the 6th District.
“Ms. Lukasavitz is an experienced lawyer, whose previous work as a prosecutor and public defender will allow her to serve the people of Carlton County well," the governor said in a statement. "Ms. Lukasavitz is uniquely prepared to step into this role, and I look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish on the bench.”
Lukasavitz said she's no stranger to the Carlton County Courthouse, having tried many cases there as a public defender, working with the specialty courts and taking on some conflict cases as a prosecutor.
When she is sworn in at a yet-to-be-determined date, Lukasavitz will join a colleague she knows well: Judge Rebekka Stumme. They worked together in both the public defender's office and St. Louis County Attorney's Office.
And with both judgeships soon to be occupied by women, she will be part of an entirely female-led justice system in Carlton County that also includes County Attorney Lauri Ketola and Sheriff Kelly Lake.
"I think that's really cool," Lukasavitz said. "It's very inspiring."