May 28, 2006
climbs legal ladder
By Mark Stodghill
Some fulfill the promise they show in their early
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Return to Minnesota
Did he have any doubt about whether he was prepared for or belonged
"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
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
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
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."