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But it was the 2011 government shutdown that got her thinking that she’d accomplished her career goals and was ready to move on.
“I was pretty exhausted after that,” she said of the shutdown.
At the time, Gearin urged the legislative and executive branches to resolve the budget impasse, which she described as “a game of chicken” with people’s lives.
St. Paul City Council Member Chris Tolbert clerked for Gearin during many of those difficult cases, including the unallotment decision.
“In making that decision it … was a challenge to the governor, and she knew she was going to be in a political storm,” he said, adding that she wasn’t swayed or cowed by prospective reactions.
Her tenacity was apparent early on, said St. Paul attorney Russell Jensen, who practiced law with Gearin’s uncle, longtime attorney Robert Gearin, and Ramsey County Judge Margaret Marrinan, who went to undergraduate school with Gearin at the College of St. Catherine in the 1960s.
“She was always very engaged and well-read,” Marrinan said of the collegiate Gearin, who earned a history degree in 1967.“I’m really going to miss her, and we’ve clashed on a number of issues.”
The chief judge serves as a guide on administrative issues in district court, overseeing the budget, representing the court to the County Board and public and handling appeals on some motions while also presiding over their own cases. Even if Gearin disagreed with someone, she always heard them out, unlike some chief judges who had been “heavy-handed,” Marrinan said.
Gearin plans to spend the first week after retirement helping train climatologists at William Mitchell College of Law, her alma mater, to better communicate at legislative hearings and in court. Her plans beyond that include more skiing and tennis, traveling the United States and continuing the teaching she has done for years.
Gearin also plans to play golf more, a passion that has perhaps equaled her love of the law.
“We’ve played many a round of golf together, and we were pretty even until the last few years when I started to beat her, and we haven’t played for the last month when she beat me,” Warner said with a laugh.
“Kathy doesn’t go down easily.”
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708