Many a wrongdoer has stood before a Ramsey County district judge and resolved not to have to stand there again. Some, no doubt, have done a better job keeping those resolutions than others. But when judges make resolutions -- and this is, after all, the season of resolutions -- just what do they resolve to do? We asked some judges how they plan to change come Jan. 1. Their responses have been edited for, ahem, brevity.

"I want to work on my poker face," said Judge John Van De North. "It will help me if I ever start playing poker but it'll also help me when I'm on the bench and people come up with these amazing excuses. (One I always liked was, 'I stole the money to pay my court fines.')

"Another thing I want to remind myself to do next year is to always ask the bride before the wedding ceremony begins whether I have sentenced her to prison in the past. I have been surprised to find out at the end of the ceremony that I should have recognized the woman when she said, 'The last time you saw me I was all dressed in orange [jail uniform].' "

"I am going to make some," Judge Kathleen Gearin said when asked about resolutions. "One is to try to get into better physical shape. I do play tennis pretty regularly and I do a few exercises every day but I need to do more. I need to do more brisk walking to build up my endurance."

And what else? "To use more vacation time. The lawyers would probably love that, too."

Judge William Leary III, who said he's often accused of being too serious, resolves to "avoid coverage of bad judges presiding over celebrity cases."

"My New Year's resolution is to exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week," said Judge Elena Ostby (who didn't know Gearin had the same idea). "It's a big one, but given the type of job I have -- it's a sedentary job and tends to be fairly stressed at times -- I need to do it."

"I have the job of my dreams," said Judge Rosanne Nathanson. "My real resolution is to get up every day and remember how lucky I am in every way ... being appreciative in every way."

Judge Joanne Smith vows "to find a way to have more fun in my life ... to seek a better balance between work and play and ... to seek more peace and harmony with the people who come in front of me and my colleagues."

Judge Margaret (Peg) Marrinan resolves "not to meddle in courthouse decorations and music." That, of course, demands a story. According to the judge, six or seven years ago, somebody in the County Board's office decided that red poinsettias were a symbol of Christianity and should be banned from the courthouse's holiday display. White poinsettias were substituted. "It looked so, well, bland would be a kind word," the judge said.

So Marrinan and two of her colleagues pooled their money and bought gigantic red poinsettias. "They looked like trees," she said.

"I rolled up to the courthouse in the dead of night, thinking I'd just sneak them in," she said. "But I got caught.

"The next day, it looked great, with these red trees and white poinsettias."

Red poinsettias are scattered around Memorial Hall, the courthouse lobby, this holiday season, by the way.

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551