Two Cook County residents among finalists to be next North Shore judge
WTIP file photo

Two Cook County residents among finalists to be next North Shore judge

The Commission on Judicial Selection announced Oct. 3 that it is recommending three candidates for consideration to fill a vacancy in Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District. Two of the recommendations, Molly Hicken and Tyson Smith, are Cook County residents.

A decision on who will be the lone judge serving on the North Shore is expected in the near future, potentially by the end of the month. The vacancy occurred following the retirement of Judge Michael Cuzzo. The seat will be chambered in Cook and Lake counties.

The candidates are:

Molly Hicken: Hicken serves as the Cook County attorney, where she is the county’s chief prosecutor and legal advisor. She was previously an assistant county attorney in the office. She helped found Cook County’s hybrid treatment court and serves on the advisory council for the Cook County Minnesota Restorative Justice program. She is vice president of the board of directors for the Minnesota County Attorneys Association and is a member of both the Rural Justice Collaborative and the Beyond Big Cities initiative of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution.

Tyson Smith: Smith is a managing attorney at Smith Law, PLLC in Grand Marais, where he is a general practitioner and takes cases in most major practice areas. He was previously an associate attorney at Bernick Lifson, P.A. practicing primarily in civil litigation. His community involvement includes volunteering as an emergency responder for Cook County Search & Rescue and as a member of the Grand Marais Lions Club.

Steve Hanke: Hanke is an attorney for the City of Duluth, where he practices civil law and prosecutes criminal matters. He is also an adjunct professor in the Human Behavior, Justice and Diversity Department at the University of Wisconsin – Superior. His community involvement includes volunteering with the Minnesota State Bar Association as a high school mock trial judge, as well as with the Duluth Area Family YMCA and the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association. He also serves as the president of the 11th District Bar Association and as a board member for the Damiano Center.

In August, the office of Gov. Tim Walz officially announced the retirement of Judge Cuzzo.

The lone judge who serves on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Cuzzo was set to retire Oct. 2.

Cuzzo served as the judge in Cook County and in nearby Lake County, with the county seats in Grand Marais and Two Harbors, respectively. He has been the judge in both counties for more than 12 years. Cuzzo was first elected for the 6th Judicial District in 2010.