Editor's note: Each week reporter Matthew Guerry shares the life stories of residents of Minnesota or the Dakotas who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-321-4314.
Scott Seiler sent out a flurry of job applications after he graduated from law school in 1993.
"I think there were 64 judges in Hennepin County at the time. And I sent my resume to every one of them," he recalled.
Not long after, one called to tell him to come to his office the following day at 3 p.m. before hanging up abruptly. The judge called back a moment later, having forgotten to introduce himself.
Judge Thomas H. Carey offered Seiler a job as a law clerk on the spot the next day. Seiler called it the best education he ever had.
The episode illustrated Carey's brisk, workmanlike approach to the legal profession, which he practiced up until his death April 15, 2021, at the age of 84. He had been working as a legal advisor for a settlement trust.
Remembered for his intelligence and humor, Carey, of Biwabik, Minn., served as a state district court trial judge from 1986 to 2000. As one of Minnesota's first statewide asbestos litigation judges, he presided over lawsuits targeting manufacturers whose products contained the material at a time when its harmful effects on human health and links to cancer were still coming to light.
Over the course of his judgeship, he was also assigned to civil and criminal courts and to juvenile court.
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Born on March 21, 1937, in Minneapolis, Carey was the son of Howard and Vivian "Bim" Carey and a 1955 graduate of De LaSalle High School. He completed his undergraduate education at what is now Mitchell Hamline School of Law following a tour with the U.S. Army, earning a bachelor of science degree in law, and in 1964 earned his juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law.
In between, he and high school sweetheart Geraldine "Gerry" Helen Killian wed on Sept. 14, 1957. The couple had four children and remained together until his death.
The family's involvement with the law spans four generations. Carey' father and grandfather both served as municipal judges in Virginia, Minn., and his twin brother John was a founding partner of the Sieben Carey firm in Minneapolis, where several more Careys now practice.
Prior to being appointed a judge by Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1986, Carey worked as a civil trial attorney for the Virginia, Minn.-based Trenti and Cope & Peterson law firms. A "true jurist," according to Seiler, Carey brought a love of law and sense of empathy to the courtroom.
The latter was on prominent display during a child sex abuse case that Seiler, who now runs a private practice in Minneapolis, described in an interview. Carey refused to allow the child at the center of the case to testify in open court, even though he was legally old enough to, and asked instead that he be permitted to testify in a separate room on camera.
"The judge said, 'I don't care what the Legislature says,' and put him in his own room to testify, so that he wouldn't have to go through the trauma," Seiler said.
Sometimes tasked with adoption work as a juvenile court judge, Carey loved "creating families," as Seiler put it, and was especially proud of his own. He couldn't help but to brag about his children and their accomplishments at work.
Carey was appointed to a two-year term as chairman of the Minnesota Charitable Gambling Control Board after he retired from the bench and later re-entered the world of asbestos litigation. As part of its restructuring in the mid-2000s, Roseville, Minn.-based construction material company API Inc. established a settlement trust to handle liabilities stemming from its sale and distribution of products containing asbestos.
Carey's transition from arbiter to advocate came easily, according to Robert D. Brownson, a Minneapolis attorney and longtime colleague of the judge's. Carey "had a lot of fun" with the job, Brownson said, and treated others in a collegial and congenial way.
Carey is survived by his wife and children and was predeceased by his three siblings.