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Glasrud's rise to judicial bench starts in a newsroom

New 8th Judicial District Court Judge Charles Glasrud (seated center) and his mother Barbara and wife Deb Economou listen to words of advice from Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson before Glasrud is sworn in on July 15 at the Stevens County Courthouse.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Charlie Glasrud's early career ambitions centered on journalism, and he was working at a newspaper following college when he and a friend there decided to give law school a try.

That decision began a professional journey that, for now, has culminated in Glasrud's swearing in as an 8th Judicial District Court Judge last week.

Glasrud received his robe surrounded by his wife, Deb Economou, and his mother, Barbara.

"The decision to pursue a legal career grew on me slowly over the years and I became comfortable with it," Glasrud said.

Glasrud leaves a successful private legal practice and his elected office as Stevens County Attorney. He also served several cities in the area.

Glasrud earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College in 1977 and his Juris Doctor degree from Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1981.

Glasrud came to Stevens County as Assistant County Attorney in 1984 and is in his 21st year as the elected County Attorney.

Glasrud had some trepidation about his career path at first.

"Lawyers are not held in high regard," he said. "If you think about it, your success is often tied to other people's failure. When you start, you think you're going to be more respected. A lot of people say, 'Aren't you paid to go in and lie?' No, my responsibility is to present an alternate theory about what happened. But I found I could work on it and find the job fulfilling, and as time went on I found it more and more fulfilling."

Glasrud knew he wanted to be involved in criminal prosecution.

"I was interested in the challenge of trying to have someone be accountable, where appropriate," Glasrud said. "It's not that you enjoy seeing them punished, but you want to see that people are accountable for what they do."

It's a process that, at least to a degree, gave him insights into what serving as a judge could be like.

"Lawyers are trained to see from both sides," Glasrud said. "It helps when you are trying to come to a resolution to a case -- trying to find out what people are going to get out of it."

Glasrud dedicates a significant amount of time and energy to pro bono legal activities, as well as other volunteer work in the community.

Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota has recognized his efforts by awarding him the Advocacy Achievement Award.

Glasrud also is a past president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

Those experiences helped convince him that he was worthy of pursuing a spot on the bench.

"Over the years, when a spot would open up, I'd think about applying for it," he said. "I'd think maybe, but there are a lot of things about what I'm doing that I like and I didn't feel I was ready. But now, at 55 years old and with 24 years in the County Attorney's Office, I felt I had things to offer."

It might seem to be a natural, seamless transition from attorney to judge, but, as Glasrud said with a laugh, "I've had a haircut every month of my life but I don't know how to do it."

Judges have a much more difficult job during a trial, he said.

Lawyers prepare for their cases and come in to present it. Judges have to absorb the testimony from the two sides while also acting as "a referee," Glasrud said.

"To do that effectively and show people respect when they come to court, that's a tough challenge," he said. "It's a big job."

Glasrud's work with the Minnesota County Attorneys Association prompted a keen interest in delivering services in rural areas, which comes with many challenges.

"I want to continue that work," he said. "I want to help preserve the quality and access to justice out here and do it as intelligently as possible with the tools that we have."

And while the former cub reporter is confident in his abilities, he admits the task in front of him is cause for nervousness.

"It's a new challenge," Glasrud said with a smile. "It certainly shakes me out of my comfort zone."