North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

Heather Blackburn ’95 running for Daviess District Court Judge

Heather Blackburn ’95 running for Daviess District Court Judge

JANUARY 18, 2022 | 12:09 AM

UPDATED JANUARY 18, 2022 | 5:34 PM

Heather Blackburn, a local defense attorney, is running for Daviess District Court Judge for Division 3.

Blackburn said she worked in the courtroom of Judge Nick Burlew — who retired from the position in December  — and has been practicing in district courtrooms for 22 years.

“When I first became a public defender, I never expected to fall in love with it,” Blackburn said. “But I enjoyed the ability to work with people, resolving their legal issues while conscious of their personal situations.”

She said Daviess District Court is the one place that is likely to touch the lives of people in all walks of life. She said parties who find themselves in District Court — whether plaintiff or respondent, defendant or alleged victims, and concerned family members — must be treated with respect.

“Judges do that best by assuring that due process is followed, rights are preserved, and that law is applied as it is intended,” Blackburn said. “Quite often, people in district court are in distress, no matter how small or big their cases are. This requires a judge who is firm, courteous, polite, and even-tempered. It is especially important that the actors in the courts — clerks, secretaries, lawyers, bailiffs — are also treated with due consideration. The dockets are long and managing it requires patience and a steady hand.”

Blackburn said she has been “in the trenches of District Court, so I know intimately the nuts and bolts of how it runs, particularly in juvenile, traffic/criminal, involuntary hospitalizations, and guardianship.”

She believes there are things that could use improvement, particularly with dockets being full as they try to catch up from COVID closures. She said keeping the process fair, efficient, and equitable in the age of COVID will require a combination of in-person and remote appearances when necessary.

“I would work with the bar, public defenders, and prosecutors to ensure a system that is fair, efficient, and equitable,” Blackburn said. “Given my years of practice, knowledge, and temperament, I am qualified and ready to serve as a District Court Judge.”

Blackburn was born and raised in Carrington, North Dakota. She graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BA in political science (1991), and a Juris Doctorate (1995). She married Lt. James R. Blackburn in 1994. After graduation from law school, she was a stay-at-home mother with their daughter Samantha Blackburn.

Blackburn returned to work in 2000, when she started working at the Public Defender’s Office in Owensboro. While a public defender, she has worked as a trial attorney in Daviess County and briefly Hopkins County. She has also worked as a juvenile post-adjudication, representing children in both appeals and litigating post-adjudication issues while they are in placement.

“An effective public defender must have a wealth of knowledge, empathy, and a strong sense of public service,” Blackburn said. “I have been fortunate enough to have had this generosity and inclusion reciprocated beyond the courtroom. My husband, James Blackburn, was on active duty military service for 7 years. While he was away, this community responded, embracing my daughter and me. Accordingly, I believe strongly that I have a duty to give back to the place I love, and my family knows what it means to serve.”

Read the original story from The Owensboro Times