Wentzell takes his place on 8th District bench
WILLMAR — With friends and family surrounding him, and in front of fellow district judges, Stephen J. Wentzell on Friday swore to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota and became the newest judge of the Eighth Judicial District.
Wentzell was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill the vacancy left when Judge Donald Spilseth retired earlier this month.
"I am energized by the challenges before me and the opportunity I have been given. I am mindful and understand the awesome responsibility I have to make a positive impact on the administration of justice," Wentzell said during his investiture ceremony at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building in Willmar.
The Eighth Judicial District covers the counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Grant, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Pope, Renville, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkins and Yellow Medicine.
Wentzell will be chambered in Willmar in Kandiyohi County.
Before he became a judge, Wentzell served as the First Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney. He also previously held the position of Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney and served as a law clerk for Judge David Mennis.
Wentzell earned his bachelor's degree from Concordia College and his law degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Michael J. Thompson, chief judge of the Eighth Judicial District, said he first met Wentzell about 12 years ago, as they were both starting in their new positions as attorney and judge. As Thompson worked with Wentzell in the courtrooms, Thompson said he found Wentzell to be respectful, fair, knowledgeable, always prepared and trustworthy.
"What he said, you could believe," Thompson said.
Wentzell isn't the first judge in his family. His brother, Michael D. Wentzell, is a judge for the First Judicial District. He was on hand to give his brother some advice, both as a big brother and a fellow judge.
"The robe doesn't make you better, but you can make the robe and what it represents better," Michael Wentzell said. "You exemplify the characteristics of the best judges I know. You will certainly grow into this job, but it is just as important, if not more important, that you stay exactly the way you are."
Stephen Wentzell said as he went through the judicial selection process, three words kept going through his mind — influence, encouragement and inspiration.
"Three words that have led me to this great honor and privilege," Wentzell said.
His family, friends and colleagues have both influenced and encouraged him, while he has taken inspiration from those he meets and sees in the hallways of the courthouses — defendants, victims, attorneys and courthouse staff.
"Inspiration has come to me on almost a daily basis," Wentzell said.
Wentzell said that the court is a court of the people and invited them to bring their controversies, conflicts, pain and suffering. As a district judge, he promised to do the best he could to make sure justice is served.
"We offer to listen, promise to reflect and swear to administer justice fairly and equally to the best of our judgement and ability. That is my promise to you," Wentzell said.