Susan M. Robiner
Originally published in the July 2007 issue.
Author: Marlene Garvis
Susan M. Robiner realized her dream of becoming a judge on July 17, 2006. It was on this date that Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced her appointment to the Hennepin County District Court bench. In so doing, he remarked that “Susan has a reputation as a smart and successful attorney in a complex area of law who has risen to leadership positions within her law firm” and that “she also has a demonstrated commitment to public service and will bring her empathy for others with her to the bench.”
Judge Robiner is a lifelong resident of Minnesota, the youngest of six and an identical twin. After high school, she left Minneapolis for Northfield, Minn. and four years later graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Carleton College in 1981. She left the state to attend law school at Georgetown University where she received her juris doctor degree in 1985. While a law student, Judge Robiner was an Articles and Notes Editor of the American Criminal Law Review.
After law school graduation, Judge Robiner returned to Minnesota and joined Leonard, Street and Deinard, first as associate from 1985 to 1993, and then as a shareholder from 1993 to 2000 and from 2001 until her appointment to the bench in 2006. During 2000-2001, she was a partner at the Sprenger and Lang law firm in Minneapolis.
During her 20-plus years at Leonard, Street and Deinard, she gained a wealth of experience as a trial lawyer. Immediately prior to her appointment, she was chair of the firm’s Intellectual Property and Information Technology Department, with her practice focusing on the highly technical practice areas of copyright, trademark, and trade secret litigation. She also served as the Litigation Division’s professional development chair, responsible for designing and implementing the division’s attorney training program.
Her litigation practice also included employment law and counseling, where she handled multiple discrimination and harassment cases as well as counseled clients on all aspects of employee relations.
As a lawyer and now as a judge, Judge Robiner has been an active member of the bar as a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee for the Rules of Civil Procedure; Hennepin County Bar Association Speakers Bureau; Minnesota State Bar Association Labor and Employment section; Minnesota Women Lawyers student and attorney mentoring committees; Minnesota Justice Foundation; American Bar Association Intellectual Property and Labor and Employment sections; and the American Intellectual Property Law Association. She has also been an adjunct professor with the University of St. Thomas School of Law, and has served as a faculty member for many programs of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
As an involved community member, Judge Robiner volunteers at the Minneapolis Jewish Day School and at Mount Zion Temple. She also teaches skiing for the Blizzard Ski and Snowboard School as a PSIA Level 3 ski instructor (the highest certification level in the Professional Ski Instructors Association). Every Saturday from November through February, she teaches children from 6 years to 16 years old. Interestingly, Judge Robiner is a second-generation instructor for Blizzard, as her father took her and her five siblings on the same ski trips when they were growing up. She is passing on this tradition by teaching for Blizzard and bringing along her children. Judge Robiner refers to her teaching as “a bit like Little League without the parents on the sidelines….”
Now, almost a year into her new role, she remains delighted with her new career: “I have a palpable sense of serving my community every day, and I am proud to be a member of a bench that is strong and self-critical, and that always asks the tough questions—what are we doing wrong, what are we doing right, and how can we improve.”
Judge Robiner is married to William Robiner, and has three children, Eli, 15 years; Sonia, 13 years; and Noah, 10 years old. Her family enjoys an assortment of team sports, summer vacations, beginner golf, hardcore skiing, and, because of her husband’s New York roots, Broadway shows on Broadway itself and other Big Apple pleasures.