Albert Lea lawyer named Mower County judge

Published 3:57 pm Friday, May 9, 2014

AUSTIN — An Albert Lea lawyer has been named a judge in Mower County.

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Kevin Siefken to fill a judicial vacancy in Mower County, part of the 3rd Judicial District. He named Jeffrey Kritzer to a second vacant judgeship.

They will replace Judges Donald Rysavy and Fred Wellmann, who both retired but are working as senior judges.

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“Jeffrey Kritzer and Kevin Siefken are both outstanding civic leaders with extensive legal experience,” Dayton said in a press release. “They are highly-regarded in their respective legal fields and in their communities. I am confident Mr. Kritzer and Mr. Siefken will serve the people of the 3rd Judicial District with excellence and integrity.”

Kritzer said he’d be proud to be appointed as a judge in Mower County, where he’s worked as a lawyer for several years. He praised the local justice system and courts leaders for their teamwork.

“This is a great county,” Kritzer said. “This has been a great county to practice law in.”

Siefken echoed those sentiments. While he has been based in Albert Lea since 1995, he’s excited to work in Mower County, where he previously worked as a public defender. He’s been in touch with Austin officials already and said he’s seen many familiar names.

“It’s going to be great,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Both men voiced their excitement for the opportunity, and they were relieved the process, which started in February, has come to a close.

“It’s a long process; I really felt a tremendous sense of relief,” Kritzer said of when he heard the news.

Both men thanked Dayton and the Commission on Judicial Selection for the opportunity.

“I really aspire to live up to their expectations,” Siefken said.

Through their past practices, both Siefken and Kritzer said they believe they bring a vast experience in several areas of the law that will help them as they take the bench.

Kritzer, 46, is a partner at Austin’s Baudler, Maus, Forman, Kritzer & Wagner, where his practice focuses on municipal law, employment law, commercial litigation, estate planning, and criminal prosecution for the cities of Austin and Mantorville.

Previously, he was a corporate attorney for Hormel Foods Corp. and an associate attorney for Alderson, Ondov, Leonard, Sween & Rizzi. Kritzer serves on the board of directors and executive committee of the Development Corporation of Austin and is a former member and chairman of the Austin school board.

Siefken, 43, is president and shareholder with Albert Lea’s Christian and Peterson, where his caseload includes family law, criminal, civil litigation, child protection and civil commitments.

He also serves as special assistant Albert Lea attorney and previously was an assistant public defender for the 3rd Judicial District. He worked as a public defender in Austin in the mid- to late 1990s.

Siefken is an advisory board member of the Albert Lea Salvation Army, the president of Habitat for Humanity Freeborn/Mower, an agency representative to the United Way of Freeborn County and a volunteer attorney with the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services.

Both men will take time to close out their practices and transition their clients to different attorneys before taking the bench.

The other two finalists for the openings were Erin Felten, an attorney and shareholder at Owatonna’s Patton, Hoversten & Berg, and Eric Woodford, a team lead attorney in the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office.