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New to the Bench: Judge Tamara G. Garcia
Matthew Frantzen
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
by: Matthew Frantzen

Section: Spotlight/Profiles

Judge Tamara G. Garcia

Matthew Frantzen Contributing Author Mr. Frantzen is an associate attorney with Lind, Jensen, Sullivan & Peterson. He focuses his practice on civil litigation; including commercial transportation, personal injury, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, and products liability.

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Tamara Garcia started honing her legal skills at an early age. She often debated the news and politics of the day with her parents and grandparents in her Tampa, Florida, home. Garcia’s mother would often say to her, “Counsel, I am not on the witness stand and therefore do not appreciate your cross examination.”  Garcia’s parents encouraged her to enter the legal profession because she had a knack for arguing positions.  Although Garcia initially studied biology at college with an eye toward medical school, she ultimately majored in political science and obtained her law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1986.  Looking back, Garcia said, “I guess mom and dad were right.”  When asked why she was drawn to the legal profession, Garcia said, “I always thought it [was] important to use the skills I had, to help in some way if I could, and to feel that the work I was doing was important in that it could make a positive difference in the lives of others.”  

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Garcia’s appointment to the Fourth Judicial District on Feb. 6, 2008, and declared that her “commitment to public service, strong work ethic, and diverse background will be an asset to the Hennepin County bench.”  Although Garcia considers her judicial appointment to be quite an honor, she is quick to point out that she did not travel the road alone. Garcia has been encouraged and strengthened by several individuals throughout her personal and professional life. 

After graduating from law school, Garcia worked as a staff attorney for the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, during which time she gained her first judicial experience and met Judge Edward Toussaint, Jr.  Judge Toussaint taught Garcia how to properly analyze evidence and draft well-reasoned opinions—the hallmark of any respected judge.  In addition, and perhaps most importantly, Judge Toussaint imbued Garcia with a respect for both the judicial process and the parties. 

Garcia entered private practice with the firm Pustorino, Pederson, Tilton & Parrington in 1989, her professional home until hanging out her own shingle in 2000.  During her 11-year tenure at Pustorino, Garcia met her second mentor, the Hon. William Pederson, a judge on the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals.  Garcia worked closely with Judge Pederson for several years while practicing in the area of workers’ compensation, and he taught her to “first consider carefully and then act reasonably and with compassion.” 

In addition to the legal skills she learned from Judges Toussaint and Pederson, Garcia learned valuable lessons “by just being around these two fine men and watching their interactions with people.”  Garcia is excited to learn the ins and outs of being a judge in the Fourth Judicial District from her third professional mentor, Judge Mark Wernick.   

In addition to the judicial experience she gained while working for the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, Garcia served as a workers’ compensation hearing examiner for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and AMERIND Risk Management Corporation.  During her tenure as a hearing examiner that Garcia was able to apply the two big lessons she learned from Judges Toussaint and Pederson—respect the process and the parties and act reasonably with compassion.

Although Garcia acknowledges the impact Judges Toussaint and Pederson have had on her professional life, she gives the lion’s share of the credit for her achievements to her two most important role models, her father and mother.  Her father, Jerry (not that Jerry Garcia she is quick to point out), is a recently retired architect and her mother, Angie, worked as a schoolteacher and principal before retiring.  Jerry and Angie encouraged Garcia and her sister, Heidi, to choose any career path they wanted.  In fact, the decision of whether or not to even have a professional career in the first place never entered Garcia’s mind because she “had never known [her] mother not to work.”  Garcia is grateful for and “will forever appreciate” the “power” of the words of encouragement her parents have given throughout her life.  

Throughout her legal career, Garcia has been actively involved in volunteer and professional activities.  She served as co-chair of the Minnesota Women Lawyers Community Relations Subcommittee from 1995 to 1996.  For four years during the mid-1990s Garcia served as the chairperson of the Awards Subcommittee of the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Diversity Committee and was appointed to serve on the association’s Nominating Committee from 1996 to 1999.  In 1997, Garcia was appointed as an investigator to the Fourth District Ethics Committee, a position she held until 2000.  Garcia also served a one-year term on the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Board of Governors from 2000 to 2001.  Garcia served as a board member for the State of Minnesota Gambling Control Board from 2004 to 2008 and also as a director for State Fund Mutual Insurance Company from 2000 until her judicial appointment in February 2008.  Garcia is a current member of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, Minnesota Women Lawyers, the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Hennepin County Bar Association, and the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, and is a past member of the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association.  Although Garcia had to let some of her volunteer and professional activities go when she was elevated to the bench, she is on the lookout for new ways to serve the community and be a mentor.

When not tending to her professional garden, Garcia spends time with her husband of 22 years (who is also a lawyer) and daughter by playing golf, skiing, reading, and watching baseball and football.  Garcia’s daughter has not yet “expressed an interest in the legal profession” which might be a blessing. Instead of another lawyer, Garcia said the family could use a good plumber, doctor, or accountant.

Garcia has spent the first several months of her judgeship on the criminal rotation, which is new but “interesting and exciting” to her, and she is “enjoying the whole judicial experience” and “focusing on doing my best work.”  Garcia is scheduled to begin a two-year juvenile court assignment in March 2009 and is most excited about the “opportunity to make a contribution to our community.”  Staying true to the lessons she learned from her mentors, Garcia has two goals as a judge: “to have people leave my courtroom and, win or lose, say they were treated fairly and with respect” and “to be the best judge I can be.”  Referring to Justice Joseph Story’s famous quip about the law being a “jealous mistress,” Garcia said, “After 20-plus years in the legal profession, I am still paying her homage, singing her praises, and doing my best to serve her now as a member of the Hennepin County bench.”  With a commitment like that, Garcia will surely exceed the goals she has set for herself.  



1986: J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

1985: Uppsala Universitet, Juridiska Institutionen, Uppsala, Sweden

1983: B.A., University of Minnesota



2000-2008: Private Practice, Tamara G. Garcia, PA

2007-2008: Hearing Examiner (Judge), AMERIND Risk Management Corporation

2000-2008: Board of Directors, State Fund Mutual Insurance Company

1995-2008: Hearing Examiner (Judge), Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community

1989-2000: Partner/Associate, Pustorino, Pederson, Tilton & Parrington, PLLP

1987-1989: Staff Attorney, Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals

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