Denfeld News

May 28, 2006
Duluth News Tribune

Duluth native climbs legal ladder
By Mark Stodghill

Some fulfill the promise they show in their early years.

And some keep fulfilling it.

Patrick Schiltz grew up in Piedmont Heights, graduated from Denfeld High School, the College of St. Scholastica and with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

He was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and worked for one of Minnesota's most prestigious law firms -- Faegre & Benson -- before returning to academia at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he was named Professor of the Year in 1999. He left Notre Dame in 2000 to help found the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.

"Without question, his legacy (at St. Thomas) is he's the person most responsible for building the law school," said Thomas Mengler, dean of the St. Thomas Law School.

Schiltz is about to take another step in his illustrious law career.

During ceremonies Tuesday at the United States Courthouse in Minneapolis, Schiltz will be sworn in as the 33rd federal judge in Minnesota history. It's a lifetime appointment at a current annual salary of $165,200.

He will serve as one of seven federal judges in Minnesota, succeeding Judge Richard Kyle. His chambers will be in St. Paul.

Schiltz was nominated for the judgeship by President Bush on the recommendation of U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, R-Minn. His nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in April.

Schiltz is "supremely qualified" to be a federal judge, Coleman said by phone from his Washington, D.C., office. "He brings the personal qualities and intellectual qualities that make him unquestionably qualified. And I think he has a deep and profound respect for the Constitution."

Schiltz, 45, declined a face-to-face interview with the News Tribune. He requested that questions be submitted to him via e-mail and he responded in kind.

Perhaps he didn't want to take a chance on a publication not getting his part of the story right. His Denfeld High School yearbooks from 1977 and '78 -- his junior and senior years -- spell his last name two different ways in their indexes and both are wrong.

Those in this nation's top legal circles know how to spell Schiltz's last name.

Working His Way Up
Working 80 hours a week for a Supreme Court justice wasn't the toughest job Schiltz ever had. He said that distinction goes to the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway, where he worked as a laborer during the summer of 1979.

"The work was brutally hard and numbingly boring," he said.

The future judge also worked as a busboy and dishwasher at Perkins Family Restaurants, as a door guard, usher and ticket taker at the Duluth Arena, as a pizza maker at the old Orange Bowl in the Miller Hill Mall and as a laborer for the St. Louis County Highway Department.

Schiltz's interest in law, politics and government grew while taking classes taught by Marv Heikkinen at Denfeld High School. He said Heikkinen may have been the best teacher he ever had.

Heikkinen, now semi-retired after 38 years of teaching, remembers Schiltz well.
"This was an exceptional kid, and he will make a fine judge," Heikkinen said. "He's a student of law and he's a great human being -- very articulate and intelligent."

Schiltz said Dukes Knutson, currently a physical education teacher at Denfeld who also works with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was another "fantastic" teacher who made a lasting impression on him.

Knutson taught a journalism class Schiltz was in and was adviser of the student newspaper of which Schiltz was editor-in-chief.

"It was apparent from the outset that not only was he intellectual beyond his years, but he had the 'nose for news' that I was trying to develop in my students," Knutson said. "He questioned, he analyzed, he probed. And he formed strong opinions. Pat was never one to shy away from sharing his thoughts on virtually any topic, and he'd come out on top of any debate because he was always so well-versed in his knowledge and his ability to support an opinion."

While at Denfeld, Schiltz was president of the Duluth Youth Council, a member of the school's curling team and worked as a teen correspondent for the Duluth Herald afternoon newspaper. He also was a foreign exchange student to Indonesia.

From there he went to St. Scholastica. He served as speaker of the Student Senate and as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper. He graduated summa cum laude and went on to Harvard Law School.

Return to Minnesota
Did he have any doubt about whether he was prepared for or belonged at Harvard?

"Absolutely," he said. "I was about the only person I knew who did not come from a wealthy or powerful family and who had not gone to an elite college. I remember vividly that, during my first class, my hand shook so badly that I had trouble taking notes."

That hand must not have been shaking too long. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law.

After clerking for Scalia, Schiltz said he turned down "huge money" at law firms in New York City and Washington, D.C., to return to Minnesota, where he practiced law for eight years in Minneapolis with Faegre & Benson, Minnesota's second-largest law firm.

At Faegre & Benson, Schiltz spent much of his time defending clergy sexual misconduct lawsuits against religious organizations and counseling religious organizations about preventing and responding to reports of clergy sexual misconduct.

He often had to represent his church clients against their own insurance companies when the companies declined to defend lawsuits or the companies "insisted that the churches play hardball or otherwise act in objectionable ways," he said.

Schiltz said he also drafted policies and procedures for dealing with reports of clergy sexual misconduct. He presented dozens of seminars to religious and lay leaders about the need to remove dangerous pastors from ministry, to treat victims with compassion, and to be open and honest.

He worked on about 100 lawsuits and was consulted by religious leaders on approximately 400 cases that did not result in litigation, he said.

While at Faegre & Benson, Schiltz worked on a series of antitrust actions brought against the National Football League, a lawsuit that arose out of a fight for control of the Minnesota Vikings, and two lawsuits that arose out of an attempt by the owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves professional basketball team to sell the team to a group of investors in New Orleans.

He represented the Minneapolis Star Tribune in actions to force the government to release information to the public.

After he made partner at Faegre & Benson, he gave up his partnership and his share of a multibillion-dollar judgment to become a professor of law.

Schiltz said Faegre & Benson was a great firm and he was treated well, but being a big-firm lawyer was not for him.

He departed for a teaching position at Notre Dame School of Law from 1995-2000.

A Brilliant Teacher
Patricia O'Hara, dean of the Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Ind., said Schiltz was an outstanding member of the school faculty as a teacher and a scholar.

When asked why she thought the Notre Dame Law School graduating class of 1999 selected Schiltz as the school's Professor of the Year, O'Hara didn't hesitate.

"He's brilliant," she said. "He has an ability to present complex material in a lucid and understandable fashion. He challenged students, and he has a great sense of humor."

O'Hara said Schiltz devoted much time to thinking and writing about the balance between family and professional life.

"He has a keen sense of ethics," she said. "He's written extensively about ethical issues, and he's a wonderful husband and father. I think his horizons are unlimited."

Schlitz's wife, Elizabeth, is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. The couple has four children.

Schiltz's parents continue to live in Duluth. His father, Earl, is a former city of Duluth director of employee relations. His mother, Kathleen, worked in the psychiatric unit and retired as head nurse at Miller Dwan hospital.

"They are both wonderful people; they are the single greatest blessing I have enjoyed," Minnesota's next federal judge said.

One of the articles Schiltz has written -- "On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy and Unethical Profession" -- is assigned in law school classrooms around the country.

Schiltz was about to receive tenure at Notre Dame in 2000 when he left to become the founding associate dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

"He literally built the law building and played the most dominant role," Mengler said. "He worked with the architects in designing what is a fabulous building in downtown Minneapolis. He's responsible for hiring the first group of eight faculty. We have a powerful mission of faith, ethics and professionalism, and Patrick helped shape our mission and vision."

Schiltz was about to be offered the deanship at St. Thomas Law School but took himself out of the running so the job could go to Mengler, whom he had nominated and whom he thought would be better for the school.

"The best decisions that I have made were considered foolish by just about everyone I knew," Schiltz said. "On each of these occasions, everyone told me that I was nuts. Yet I have had a remarkably fulfilling career, and now I am a federal judge, maybe the best legal job in America."

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