Thursday, June 1, 2023
Submitted Photo With her family watching, Debra Groehler raises her right hand to take the oath of office and officially  become the new judge for the Dodge County District Court.Photo by Karen M. Jorgensen Current and senior judges found themselves in an unusual location for the swearing in of Judge Debra Groehler as they sat in the jury box for the proceedings.Photo by Karen M. Jorgensen Judge Debra Groehler took her place on the bench last Friday after being sworn in as the new Third Judicial District Judge for Dodge County. She replaces Jodi Williamson who retired at the end of February and now assumes the title of senior judge.

Debra Groehler sworn in as District Court judge

Debra Groehler was officially sworn in as Dodge County District Court judge last Friday in the court chambers in Mantorville.

Third Judicial District Judge Joseph Bueltel of Steele County conducted the formal ceremony. In his opening remarks, Bueltel pointed out that there had been three such ceremonies in the past couple of months and that Groehler is the fourth new judge in the Third Judicial District.

The average tenure on the bench for a District Court judge is eight years, he said, and all the judges “hit the ground running.” No doubt, he said, Groehler has the same qualities is also feeling excited, proud, and a little anxious.

“Those filling the courtroom after today,” he added, “may not be feeling the same way as the friends, family, and colleagues are now.”

Minnesota courts have a longstanding food reputation, he said, and judges have the opportunity to protect the rule of law.

“Welcome to the Third District,” he said to Groehler.

“It is my honor to be here to honor you,” Paul Peterson,of the Minnesota State Bar Association told Groehler.

“We need to celebrate days like today,” he said. “Today is about our incredible system of justice. The community needs to support the judges. We are lucky to live in a society where we have the rule of law.

“When judges are criticized in the public sphere they cannot answer. The local community needs to support this institution.”

“Your honor,” he concluded, “thank you for your service.”

Groehler comes to the bench from the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office and County Attorney Mark Olson said he and Groehler had worked together professionally years before she joined the County Attorney’s Office.

Over the years, he said, Groehler began to realize her heart was in public, rather than private, practice of law and she joined the county attorney’s office 11 years ago. She became a leader in child protection issues, Olson said, adding he almost had to talk her into applying for the judge position.

She will master all the practice areas and is excited to become a part of Dodge County, he said.

Following there was the presentation of several gifts, including a gavel from the other Third District judges, which wasn’t really in the gift box because it had not arrived in time. Former Dodge County judge and now Senior Judge Jodi Williamson also presented Groehler with a special “One is the Loneliest Number” t-shirt from the judges of the five Third District Courts with only one judge.

With that Groehler, surrounded by her family, officially took the oath of office.

Taking her position on the bench for the first time, Groehler said that she was “not going to lie. I was afraid of Judge Wiliamson” as an attorney. “She will be a tough act to follow.”

“I am really looking forward to meeting everyone in Dodge County,” she said. “I’m excited to work with the Drug Court team. It’s humbling and I ask for your support in the weeks, years to come.

Prior to her appointment as judge, Groehler was the managing attorney in the Civil Division of the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office where she supervised a team of attorneys handling child protection, adult protection and juvenile delinquency cases.

Minnesota’s Third Judicial District encompasses Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, and Winona counties.

Photo: Photo by Karen M. Jorgensen Debra Groehler poses with her husband, Paul, after being sworn in as judge.


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