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Clark takes oath, receives judge's robe

Michelle Clark, newly appointed judge for Douglas County District Court, Seventh District, hugs Mark Hansen, a retired judge for the same district, after her oath of office ceremony June 21. Clark's family held the Bible while she took the oath, including her husband, Jim Harrison, and their children, Madison and Morgan Harrison. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 2
Douglas County District Court's newest judge, Michelle Clark, receives her judges robe from her parents, Larry and Ruth Clark, during the Program of Investiture. The program was held June 21 at the Douglas County Courthouse. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 2

Judge Tim Churchwell gave a heartfelt welcome to Michelle Clark at a ceremony for the newest Douglas County District Court judge.

The Program of Investiture took place at the Douglas County Courthouse Thursday, June 21.

At the beginning of his speech, Churchwell explained that the word "investiture" is Latin and means to dress in a robe at a formal installation.

Clark not only took an oath of office during the ceremony, she received her judge's robe, which was presented to her by her parents, Larry and Ruth Clark. While taking the oath, Clark placed her hand on a Bible held by her husband, Jim Harrison, and her two children, Morgan, 13, and Madison, 9.

Churchwell, who worked with Clark when she was an attorney, said during his opening remarks that she would be working with the "best staff in Minnesota."

"They are professional, patient, helpful and will gently tell you when you screw something up," he told her, giving her a big smile.

In speaking directly to Clark, Churchwell acknowledged that although her head was probably swirling, he had every confidence in the world that she would be patient, that she had the humility it takes to be a good judge and that she had a desire to serve.

He shared a quote with her from Henry Ward Beecher that read, "Compassion will kill more sins than condemnation."

Churchwell advised Clark to trust in her own abilities and if she ever finds herself in quandary, she should take a look left, then take a look right and she will probably find an answer. He was referring to both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney.

Judge Mark Hansen, who has known Clark since she was 12 years old, swore her into office.

"When Michelle called and asked me to swear her in, I was shocked and honored," Hansen said. "I taught an omnibus class and apparently I had an effect on her and she decided to go to law school. I am truly honored that I had that effect on her."

He added that he had every expectation Clark would make a great judge.

After she was sworn in and given her robe, Clark thanked her parents for raising her to believe in herself and making her believe she could be anything she wanted, or almost anything. Her dad cautioned her against becoming a bricklayer, because "that was hard work."

She thanked her husband's family and said she has been a part of their life since she was 16 years old, when she started dating Jim.

She also thanked Hansen and said that during his omnibus class, she got to play the role of a judge.

"Wow, just wow! What an opportunity I had to make a difference," she said.

Continuing her list of thank yous, Clark praised all of the lawyers and support staff she has worked with and said she felt blessed to find herself in the legal community in Douglas County. She said nobody ever told her to just figure things out on her own or said they didn't have time to help her.

"Just like the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' it takes a village to train a lawyer," Clark said.

A former lawyer she worked with, Tom Reif, once told her that people deserve representation and that it's a difficult process. He said justice is important.

"That's all I can hope for, to serve the public as an instrument of justice," Clark said. "That's why I am here."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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