Susan Nolting Burke
Originally published in the March/April 2005 issue.
Author: Marlene Garvis
Assistant U. S. Attorney Susan Nolting Burke was sworn in on Jan. 5, 2005, as the newest judge in Hennepin County District Court. She was elected in November 2004 to fill the seat vacated by Judge Harvey Ginsberg. Her election marks the first time in Minnesota that a husband and wife serve as judges on the same state court bench.
Judge Burke brings to the bench a wealth of experience as a federal prosecutor. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Minnesota from 1994 to 2004. There, she practiced in the Criminal Division, in the Major and Violent Crime Section (1994-1997), the Narcotics and Firearms Section (1997-2002), and, most recently, in the White-Collar Crime Section (2002-2004). Her leadership was recognized in the Special Achievement Award for Sustained Superior Performance of Duty that she received in 1997, and by her position as the Asian Pacific American Special Emphasis Program Manager from 1995 to 2004.
Prior to being a federal prosecutor in Minnesota, Judge Burke was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, where she conducted nationwide litigation representing the FBI, CIA, U.S. Department of Defense, and other federal agencies, from 1992 to 1994.
Judge Burke was born in Minneapolis and adopted through Children’s Home Society by Earl and Judy Nolting, both of whom are marriage and family counselors. She also has two adopted brothers who, like Judge Burke, are Asian American.
Judge Burke graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Hanover College (Hanover, Indiana) in 1987. At Hanover, Judge Burke was captain of the varsity basketball, volleyball and softball teams. She was an Academic–All American nominee in both volleyball and softball. Judge Burke was named a National Presbyterian Scholar, and she was awarded the Henry C. Long Citation for the Outstanding Senior Woman, which led to her becoming one of Good Housekeeping magazine’s 100 Outstanding Female Graduates of 1987.
Attending law school at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Judge Burke received her juris doctor degree in 1990. While a law student, Judge Burke was on the senior editorial board of the Journal of Law and Politics, on the Board of Directors of the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition, a member of the University of Virginia Trial Advocacy Institute, and the University of Virginia Law School softball commissioner. After law school graduation, Judge Burke returned to Minnesota to clerk for the Hon. Paul A. Magnuson, judge of the U.S. District Court–Minnesota, from 1990 to 1992.
As a lawyer, Judge Burke has been involved in numerous bar and community activities. With her substantial experience in the courtroom, Judge Burke has served on the faculty of trial schools for new and experienced federal prosecutors from all over the country, at the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center. She has also taught trial classes at the University of Minnesota Law School and continuing legal education seminars for lawyers.
Judge Burke has served on the Board of Governors of the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Board of Directors of the Hennepin County Bar Association, and she is president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association–Minnesota Chapter. Her election is the first time an Asian American has been elevated to the bench by election. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association, is a charter member of the Eighth Circuit Bar Association, and has been an active member of Minnesota Women Lawyers since 1995, serving on the Judicial Appointments Endorsement Committee, as well as being a mentor for law students and young lawyers. A member of the American Bar Association since 1991, Judge Burke served as the lieutenant governor of the Fourth Circuit of the ABA Law Student Division, and she was the ABA chapter president for the University of Virginia Law School.
As an active volunteer in the Minneapolis–St. Paul community, Judge Burke’s record includes work for the Minnesota Special Olympics, National Amputee Golf Championship, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Drug Education for Youth Camp, and service on the Andersen Open School Board. She has also been a member of the St. Paul Downtown Community District Council and a fourth-grade Sunday school teacher at House of Hope Presbyterian Church.
Judge Burke believes that “the job of a district court judge is to impartially apply the law to the facts of the case.” Minnesota’s long tradition of mutual respect and civility between the bench and the bar is a tradition that she intends to continue as a judge. Finally, from her perspective as an Asian American, Judge Burke is “keenly aware of the many cultural issues that arise in court” and will work to ensure that the court is accessible to persons of all backgrounds. When asked why she wanted to give up her job as a federal prosecutor where she was considered to be a leader in her profession, Judge Burke’s response was “I have wanted to be a judge for a long time…. I have seen the impact judges have on people’s lives and I want to be able to help.”
Judge Burke is married to Judge Kevin Burke, the former chief judge of Hennepin County District Court. They live in South Minneapolis, with their dogs, Caddy and Mulligan. As this edition of The Hennepin Lawyer went to press, the Burkes were anticipating the birth of their first baby in February.
Welcome to Judge Susan Nolting Burke.
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