Carrott was a trailblazer
When Ann Carrott began her career 38 years ago, gender was a huge issue. There weren't many female lawyers and there definitely weren't many female judges.
But times have changed, and during her last week sitting behind the bench as a Douglas County District Court Judge, Carrott realized as she looked out over her courtroom that everyone — the lawyers, bailiffs, court reporter — were all women.
"There have been changes, although it seems slow," she said. "We still have to pay attention and be vigilant."
As a woman in the judiciary system, Carrott admitted she was in on "a lot of firsts." In fact, she was the first female Douglas County attorney, and the first woman president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.
In 1989, when her son Mark was born, Carrott said it made front-page news because she was the county attorney and she had a baby.
"Times were different then," she said. "That wouldn't make the news today."
In March, Carrott announced her retirement because she said the timing felt right. Her last day behind the bench was Friday, June 8. Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed Michelle L. Clark as a district court judge in Minnesota's Seventh Judicial District and she will be Carrott's replacement.
A look back
After graduating from Hamline Law School in 1980, Carrott served as an assistant county attorney in Morrison County for three years. Law school was not in her original plans, but with life's twists and turns, it is where she ended up.
"I went to college thinking I would be a doctor," she said, laughing. "But my law career just ended up developing because I had an interest in criminal law."
After a three-year stint in Morrison County, Carrott moved to Douglas County where she worked as the county attorney from 1984 to 1996. She then went into private practice and worked at the Swenson Lervick law office for the next decade.
After watching judges for so many years, her interest was piqued because, she said, "I had a desire to be the neutral party."
In 2007, Carrott was appointed a district court judge by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and was elected to the position one year later.
Changes and challenges
In looking back over her judicial career, Carrott said the types of cases have remained the same but that the number of cases has risen dramatically and the complexity of the cases has increased.
"The proliferation of mental health issues dominates in the courtroom," she said. "Also, meth issues seem to permeate into everything and we see it daily in our cases."
The number of disruptive incidents has also increased because of the intense and stressful situations surrounding mental health and/or drug-related issues. As a direct result, she has had to deal with more verbal attacks in the courtroom.
"I've learned not to take it personally," she said. "And frequently, people have apologized to me and to the whole courtroom after an incident has happened."
As a judge, one of the many challenges Carrott faced were cases that involved children. Those are the ones, she said, that were the most difficult.
"The cases involving children stick with you," she said. "And so do the cases involving a significant death or when people are injured and are suffering."
Over the course of the past 11 years, technology has continued to morph and at times presented challenges, but Carrott said, "We have to adapt and change along with it."
When people testify that they talked to someone, that does not necessarily mean it was verbally. It could mean texting, Facebook or Instagram messaging or some other social media communication.
"Sometimes, that can be critical to a case," she said. "Technology changes how we look at evidentiary information and how information comes to us."
Carrott doesn't have any definite plans for her retirement.
"My husband and I like to travel, but we don't have any specific plans," she said, adding that her husband has been retired since she began her career as a judge. "And I am retiring just as my son is starting his MBA at Northwestern."
For the next two years, Carrott said, she will serve as a senior judge and will help out when needed. As a senior judge, she will be assigned to a specific case and won't have to be on call for when a search warrant is needed, a task she said she won't miss.
However, she will miss all the people who work in and out of the courtroom.
"They are all professionals and I will miss working with them on a daily basis," Carrott said.
She said working as a judge has been a privilege — a privilege, she added, that very few attorneys end up having in their careers.
As a judge, Carrott said she has tried to create the best results possible based on admissible information, and that her job was not an easy one.
"I would take the time to look at and read everything regarding a case, whether it was conciliation court or a murder case, so that I could make a rational decision and not just a knee-jerk reaction," Carrott said. "I tried to do the best I could."
When asked if there is one thing she is looking forward to in her retirement, Carrott smiled and said, "I can go see the dentist now in the middle of the day."