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Jay Quam, age 44, was sworn in as a judge of the Fourth Judicial District on Oct. 2, 2006. In announcing the appointment, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, “Jay has been able to balance a professional career as a well-respected litigator with a private-sector law firm with an impressive amount of volunteer legal work helping the less fortunate. He will bring an incredible amount of intellect, energy, and compassion to the position.”
Judge Quam grew up in
After graduating from law school in 1988, Quam joined the law firm of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., where he practiced for 18 years. Quam enjoyed a broad general litigation practice, encompassing both large and small civil disputes. In addition to civil litigation, Quam handled criminal defense cases. Through his significant pro bono work, Quam also gained experience representing clients in family, juvenile, housing, and other types of cases. At Quam’s swearing-in ceremony, John Koneck, president of Fredrikson & Byron, praised Quam for being the type of attorney who truly cares about each client. This sentiment was echoed by Jim Dorsey, a shareholder at the firm who also remarked on Quam’s “outstanding ability to relate to and communicate with a broad variety of people.”
“Jay has been a leader both in the firm and in our community in promoting pro bono and public service generally,” noted Jim Baillie, a shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron, and past president of the HCBA and MSBA. Throughout his career as an attorney, Quam devoted significant time to providing pro bono legal services, averaging about 150 hours per year over the past decade. Specifically, Quam provided pro bono services to low-income individuals through his firm’s pro bono program, as well as through Volunteer Lawyers Network, Legal Access Point, Catholic Charities/Branch III Homeless Shelter, and
Yet Quam’s “compassion went beyond providing direct pro bono services to people of limited means,” observed Pamela Wandzel, the pro bono/community service coordinator at Fredrikson & Byron. Quam inspired others to get involved and leveraged community resources to provide opportunities for more lawyers and law students to provide pro bono services. Quam “was the one who conceived the idea of using summer clerks for pro bono work and he carried that through the Supreme Court process to allow their temporary admission to practice for pro bono cases” under the Student Practice Rule, according to Baillie. Wandzel noted that Quam was “instrumental in formalizing and formulating our pro bono program.” Additionally, Quam launched the summer associate program/student attorney program for the Volunteer Lawyers Network, served on the board of directors for Volunteer Lawyers Network as well as Central Minnesota Legal Services, and helped establish the Minnesota Justice Foundation Partner Program. In recognition of his extraordinary commitment to pro bono service, Quam received the Minnesota Justice Foundation Outstanding Service Award for attorneys in private practice in 2001 and the Fredrikson & Byron Distinguished Service Award in 2003.
Quam’s devotion to community service also includes a long-standing interest in mentoring young people. He coached
Robert Boisvert, a shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron who has known Quam for 17 years, shared the following assessment with the Commission on Judicial Selection: “He cares deeply about others, is generous, enthusiastic, and hardworking, and has an abiding commitment to friends, colleagues, clients, and the community. Jay’s helpful nature, coupled with his likeable and friendly personality and unflappable demeanor, would make him a respectful and respected jurist.”
Family is also extremely important to Quam. Quam is married to Kristi Carlson, who is also an attorney. Quam and Carlson have two children: Annika, age 7, and Erik, age 3. Quam is close to his parents, John and Mary Quam, and his two brothers, Steven Quam, who is a shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron, and Jeff Quam, who lives near
Now in his first year as a judge, Quam is assigned to the criminal court calendar. Prior to this assignment, Quam did manual labor through the Sentence to Serve program and spent a night in a cell block at the county workhouse, knowing that these were two of the dispositions he would soon have to consider imposing at criminal sentencing hearings.
Quam recalls that when he received the telephone call from Governor Pawlenty informing him of the judicial appointment, he felt like his “life’s dream had been realized.” But as the time grew closer to the swearing-in ceremony, Quam says that he began to recognize that his life’s dream was not as much about becoming a judge, but what he would actually do as a judge. Likewise, while the flurry of accolades was much appreciated and humbling, Quam realizes that what others will eventually conclude about his service as a judge in 10 or 20 years is what will really matter. If “what is past is prologue,” as Shakespeare put it, then the judiciary and citizens of Hennepin County will undoubtedly be well served by Judge Quam’s legal acumen, creativity, and compassion in the coming years.
2006: Judge, Hennepin County District Court
2005-present: Adjunct Professor, St. Thomas School of Law
1996-2006: Shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
1988-1996: Associate, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.