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Going from criminal defense attorney to judge, Chuck Halverson is ready

Chuck D. Halverson was sworn in Jan. 25 as a Minnesota's 9th Judicial District judge, replacing Judge David F. Harrington in Walker in Cass County. Submitted Photo

Attorney Chuck D. Halverson, who has worked in a legal capacity for 30 years in Brainerd, closed down his law firm to start his next career path as a Minnesota 9th Judicial District judge.

Halverson was appointed by former Gov. Mark Dayton to replace retiring Judge David F. Harrington in Cass County in Walker. Halverson was sworn in Jan. 25 by retiring Judge David Ten Eyck.

"We've been very close friends since long before he was a judge," Halverson said of Ten Eyck. "Him and I have been very tight. It was his hope that one day we could be judges together. Timing didn't work out that way, but he absolutely was my first choice (to swear me in) although there are many others I have close relations with, but him and I have been friends for a long, long time."

Halverson was excited when he learned he was appointed to be a judge.

"I kind of felt I was one of the stronger candidates, so I thought I had at least a chance," he said. "I had the most experience of (the applicants). (Being a judge) is something I thought about, but it wasn't necessarily a career objective for me. I really enjoyed the work I did and I helped a lot of people. That was one of the things that I would be giving up or at least I would be helping people out in a different manner as a judge. I had to sort that out. It got to the point where I started looking at the other people who would be and the type of experience they have or don't have and a lot of people encouraged me to do it. I always knew I could, but never thought I would have a chance. I wasn't absolutely sure, 100 percent I wanted to and to give up the parts of my practice as an attorney."

Halverson was a solo practitioner at Halverson Law Office, where he primarily served as a defense attorney in criminal cases and general counsel for a bail bond company. Halverson said Ashley Jones, a criminal defense attorney, will move into his law office space and start her own private practice.

In addition to being a criminal defense attorney, Halverson also worked as pro bono counsel in child support, paternity, guardianship, children in need of protection and civil commitment cases. Previously, he was an assistant public defender at the 9th Judicial District Public Defender's Office, an associate attorney at Borden, Steinbauer & Krueger and a judicial law clerk in the 9th Judicial District. Minnesota's 9th Judicial District consists of Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau counties.

Halverson is a member of the 15th District Bar Association and a certified criminal law specialist.

Halverson said growing up he came from a long line of engineers.

"I sucked at math so I had to figure out something else to do," Halverson said. "Law always intrigued me. I got done with college and I had two degrees and neither one was going to get me a job. My dad always said you need to have a trade so I decided I would be a lawyer so I went to law school."

Halverson, who graduated from Alexandria High School in 1979, earned his bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota and his juris doctorate law degree from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

When Halverson got out of law school he thought he would practice corporate law and real estate law and sit in the office and never see a courtroom. He came to Brainerd to serve as Clinton Wyant's law clerk.

"My first day on the job was a first-degree murder trial and that first year on the job I worked there we did three homicide trials, maybe four and a bunch of other stuff," Halverson said. "I started watching people in the courtroom and decided I could do it as well or better than some of them so I started to be more open with the idea of being a courtroom litigator and it's how it played out."

Leaving his law practice, Halverson said he will miss the people the most. Working in criminal law, Halverson always had a client he represented.

"I was working with people and in a capacity to help solve some of their problems," Halverson said. "Sometimes I'd fix some of their problems, so they would never be back in the system. It was those relationships with the client and to be able to help a real live person, was the part about the job I loved the best. And that is the part I won't have anymore as a judge.

"The confidential relationship between an attorney and a client is sacred. It's a wonderful opportunity to break down some barriers and have deep meaningful conversations with people. Sometimes open their eyes to looking at different things and exploring different ways to change and to better their lives ... and I'm gonna miss that."

Halverson said at the swearing-in ceremony, Ten Eyck and Judge Christopher Strandlie spoke about qualities Halverson had to be a good judge. The qualities are having compassion and empathy for people.

"The judicial system is there for people to resolve disputes," Halverson said. "It's a way to peacefully resolve disputes and you need people who care about people to make those decisions. Listening to people's issues and problems is something I have been doing for some time now, and now I will do it in a different capacity."

Halverson said he never would have made it to being a judge without the support of his wife.