Wietzema to serve as Fifth District JudgeWORTHINGTON — Christina Wietzema, an attorney with the public defender’s office in Worthington, has been tapped by Gov. Mark Dayton for the Fifth District judgeship in Cottonwood and Murray counties.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Christina Wietzema, an attorney with the public defender’s office in Worthington, has been tapped by Gov. Mark Dayton for the Fifth District judgeship in Cottonwood and Murray counties. Her investiture, or swearing-in ceremony, is slated for 2 p.m., Nov. 21, in Cottonwood County.
Wietzema has spent her entire 19-year law career in Worthington, and while she worked primarily in Nobles County, she’s also well familiar with other courtrooms in southwest Minnesota. She was a finalist for the district court judge seats earlier this year in both Worthington and Luverne.
As one of three new judges named to the Fifth Judicial District this year, Wietzema will take the place of retiring judges Bruce Gross and David Christensen, who worked in Cottonwood and Murray counties, respectively. Her chambers will be in Cottonwood County, where the caseload tends to be larger than that of Murray County.
Wietzema is excited about her new role and, while she said in some ways you can never prepare enough to be a judge, she is ready for the next step in her career.
“It’s certainly an honor. It is something that I expect is going to be a challenge like all new jobs at first,” she said. “It’s hard work and long hours, and being a public defender is pretty good training for that. In my job, I’ve had to deal with some serious issues.
“Judges have to make decisions all the time; and they’re not easy decisions,” she added.
A native of Pierz, where she grew up on a small dairy farm, Wietzema knew by age 12 that she wanted to pursue a career in law.
“It just sounded like a great job,” she said. “Although I’d never met a lawyer or been in a courtroom.”
After graduating high school in the spring of 1986 in a class of 100 students, Wietzema attended Concordia College, Moorhead, where she double-majored in political science and communications.
She then earned her juris doctorate from Hamline University School of Law in 1993.
Just one week after taking the bar, she started her career with Bernardy and Scholl, a Worthington law firm no longer in existence. During the four years she was there, she worked in general practice and did some public defender work as well.
By 1997, Wietzema moved into the public defender’s office full time to work in criminal law. In addition to working on adult cases involving misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and felonies, she works with juveniles in delinquency matters and children caught up in child protective service cases.
“It’s very busy and I like being busy,” she said. “It involves being in the courtroom all of the time. Some other areas of law aren’t like that.”
As a judge, Wietzema will still be in the courtroom a lot of the time, but her caseload will include more variety once again.
“Although the district court calendar, a big part of its caseload is criminal, there are lots of other types of cases too,” she said. “That will be one of the nice things about being a judge.”
Wietzema was selected for the judgeship after submitting an application and completing the judicial selection commission’s interview process.
In early October, she was named as one of three finalists for the Fifth District post, and then completed an interview with Gov. Dayton at the Minnesota Capitol.
The announcement of her appointment was made Oct. 23.
“I was excited,” Wietzema said. “It was something I was hoping to get.
“I just hope I can do a good job and that people who appear in front of me will feel like they’ve been heard and they were treated fairly,” she added.
Wietzema’s investiture is by invitation only, and while she’s invited many of her colleagues from the area, her family will be in attendance as well, including her parents, one of her two younger brothers, her husband, Todd, and two sons, Zach, a seventh grader, and Tyler, a fifth grader.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.