Retired County Attorney's View: Our teachers walk with us, even when we're the one teaching

From the column: "Our lives are rich with opportunities to learn, teach, please, and persuade for good. I have strived to always remember the path that I have walked. I was never alone."

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin talks to the crowd before swearing in new County Attorney Kimberly Maki outside of the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 29, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“To teach is a necessity, to please is a sweetness, to persuade is a victory.”

— Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)

I have been blessed with extraordinary teachers in my life, beginning with my folks, John and Annette Rubin, both children of immigrants, from Croatia and Ukraine, respectively. My sisters and I were raised in the far western part of Duluth ingrained with values including faith, love, integrity, hospitality, doing our best, and being always mindful of our obligation to work for fairness and justice. My teachers at Riverside Elementary and Morgan Park reinforced these values, as did the life-changing women and men at the College of St. Scholastica.

After graduation from Hamline Law School (now Mitchell Hamline) in December 1977, I began my career as a prosecutor with the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office. My teachers were the experienced attorneys who mentored and guided me; judges; the strong women of advocacy groups, including PAVSA and the Battered Women’s Coalition ( the forerunner of Duluth’s Safe Haven); experienced cops and investigators; and, especially, victims of horrible crimes who I was privileged to speak on behalf of in the courtroom time and again.


In the summer of 1972, I met the love of and greatest teacher in my life. Nance and I married four years later, a week after my first-year exams in law school. Amazed and blessed to think that next year we will celebrate 50 years together. The gift of two remarkable sons, a daughter-in-law, and grandchildren has given us the responsibility and opportunity to be the teachers, even though we still continue to learn from them!

I’ve learned so much in the role of being the teacher, as an instructor in ethics at St. Scholastica and in training law enforcement officers and attorneys at conferences and trial schools locally and across the country. Along with a small group of like-minded colleagues, we taught our community and professionals in our region and state that there was a better way to interview children who had been abused, resulting in the creation of what is now the First Witness Child Advocacy Center.

Without question, music has brought immeasurable meaning, pleasure, and sweetness into my life — and I hope also for those who have been kind enough to listen for the last 50 years! I still find it hard to believe I actually played a song for Nance at our wedding. At bedtime, I would sit on the hallway floor in between our sons’ bedrooms and play until they fell asleep. To this day, arguably the most notable line on my resume is that, in 1995, I was the opening act for The Beach Boys.

I have also enjoyed pleasing through service. This goes back to being the student body president both at Morgan Park and St. Scholastica, where, 10 years ago, I was honored to give the commencement address, the first one ever at the new Amsoil Arena.

And, obviously, I am forever humbled to have been elected and re-elected twice to be our St. Louis County attorney. In 2020, I had the honor to represent all 87 Minnesota county attorneys on the Attorney General/Commissioner of Public Safety Working Group on Police Involved Deadly Force Encounters, resulting in cutting-edge and, I believe, life-changing and life-saving recommendations.

I absolutely loved my time in so many courtrooms and the honor of being the voice for justice, not just for the particular victim in a case but for all of our fellow citizens. I prosecuted thousands of cases, too many of them homicides and sexual assaults, and probably tried almost 300 jury trials. At age 24, I made my first argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The unwavering belief in something greater than self was always my North Star and was something I did my best to instill in the 25 lawyers I hired or promoted during my terms as county attorney. Any success I have achieved to make this world a more just place is undoubtedly due to the dedication and sense of public service and stewardship on the part of the wonderful people I have worked with over the years.

Our lives are rich with opportunities to learn, teach, please, and persuade for good. I have strived to always remember the path that I have walked. I was never alone. I am forever grateful for those who offered guidance, encouragement, companionship, and, especially, love along the way.


Mark S. Rubin announced in August his retirement as St. Louis County attorney. He wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

From left: Mark Rubin, John Schulte and Tony Rubin perform and sing the Christmas carol "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" at the start of the annual CHUM Christmas Eve Vigil to remember the homeless in December 2015.

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