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Dave Olson, Published June 27 2012

Moorhead judge named to Minnesota Court of Appeals

MOORHEAD – Minnesota’s newest member of the Court of Appeals has a long history on the bench, much of it in Clay County.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday elevated Judge Michael Kirk to an opening on the appellate court.

Kirk, of Moorhead, has been a district court judge since 1989, when then-Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed him.

Kirk fills a slot designated for a judge in the 7th Congressional District, replacing the retirement of Judge Roger Klaphake.

Kirk is the fifth Appeals Court selection by Dayton.

Before being named a judge, Kirk served as Otter Tail County Attorney from 1978-1989. He graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1975.

Kirk is the senior judge in the 7th Judicial District. In Clay County District Court, the judge next in line in seniority is Galen Vaa.

Kirk’s vacancy in the 7th Judicial District will be filled by Dayton, who will make his selection from a list of candidates submitted by a state commission.

Kirk said he hopes his spot on the district court bench is filled quickly.

“We’ve had a policy, because of budget constraints, where positions have to be held open for four months,” Kirk said.

“My hope is that perhaps the chief judge can get an exception and get it filled a little sooner than that, especially in the domestic violence court.

“With just Lisa (Borgan) and I handling that court, it would be tough, on her in particular but on the court in general, if we don’t get someone in here fairly soon,” added Kirk, who reflected on a career that has seen its share of high-profile cases.

Among them, the John Rairdon murder trial in Otter Tail County when he was a prosecutor and the Rocori High School shooting case as a judge.

And then there was the civil case brought by a young woman in Dilworth who sued her prom date for standing her up after she had spent money getting ready for the big night.

“That case took on a life of its own,” Kirk said.

“I think almost every teenage magazine in the country was interested in that. One of the lines from my opinion made Newsweek in their quote of the week,” Kirk added.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555