Article Page Right Side Ads Text Area
Judge Karen Janisch has been on the bench for just six months. She is having fun, and admits she is still learning.
Janisch completed intense training—referred to as judicial “ride-a-longs”—to become familiar with her new role as a judge. In her first 30 days, she shadowed judges in
“Having a bench as deep as the
Janisch is now developing her own style, and is fortunate to have the Hon. Jeannice Reding as her mentor to guide her along the way. Janisch is on a general criminal assignment for her first year.
“All crime, all the time,” said Janisch, “it’s a good assignment to have.”
She presides over all stages of misdemeanor criminal cases, and specially assigned felony cases. She has enjoyed getting to know, and working with, the criminal law attorneys.
Prior to her appointment by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Janisch worked in his office as general counsel from 2003 to 2009. In this position, she provided the governor with legal advice on any issue that came across his desk or was part of the operation of the governor’s office. This could involve matters concerning the governor’s emergency response powers, executive order authority, legal issues surrounding pandemic flu planning, data practices and recordkeeping practices, compliance with ethical standards, office policies and procedures, review of proposed legislation, bill review and veto procedures, or the governor’s initiatives and executive orders. Janisch also served as the liaison between the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office on legal issues impacting the governor’s office or other state agencies.
As general counsel, one of the most rewarding experiences for Janisch was working on a case the tobacco companies brought against the state asserting that increasing the fee on cigarettes violated
Janisch grew up in
Janisch majored in government at the
“I’m not one of these people who grew up always saying, ‘I’m going to go to law school, that’s all I want to do,’” said Janisch. “My decision was a little bit more by default.”
She attended law school at the
After law school, Janisch clerked for Idaho Supreme Court Justice Byron J. Johnson, whom she describes as a fantastic judge. Returning to
“People don’t go into education to get rich. They’re doing it because they actually believe in wanting to educate kids. So you have a group of clients who—for the most part—never really had ill motive, which was nice,” said Janisch.
It was also at Rider Bennett where Janisch met Tim and Mary Pawlenty. She and Mary shared an assistant, and their offices were next door to each other.
“Out of the blue,” she said, Governor Pawlenty asked her if she would become his general counsel. Janisch was excited by the new opportunities this position would offer, but she was also concerned about her family situation: her husband, Dan Tschida, also a lawyer, had just left
For Janisch, the most difficult part of her latest role change is transitioning from an adversarial to a neutral decision-making role. She no longer has a client, which presents a major shift in thinking. Still, Janisch says she will not miss litigating.
“I had six years in the governor’s office to get over ‘missing’ litigation,” said Janisch. “It is really interesting and rewarding to see a different type of litigation, criminal litigation. It’s just that now you see it from a different perspective and you have a different role.”
Janisch sees her responsibility as a trial court judge to guard the legal process, apply the law to the facts of a case, and protect the rights of those who appear before her. Janisch is enthusiastic about her work as the decision maker, although she readily admits that she does not presume to always be the expert. She expects the attorneys who appear before her to be prepared and respectful; she has the same expectation for herself. Janisch believes that attorneys should be allowed the opportunity to put their cases forward on their theories and that the court, to the extent appropriate under the governing rules of procedure and evidence, should be respectful of allowing the attorneys to present their cases. Her ideals and goals will guide her judicial actions. Attorneys should look forward to appearing before Judge Janisch.
1992: J.D., University of Minnesota Law School, magna cum laude
1987: B.A., College of St. Benedict
2003-2009: General counsel to Gov. Tim Pawlenty
1999-2003: Partner, Rider Bennett Egan and Arundel
1993-1998: Associate attorney, Rider Bennett Egan and Arundel
1992-1993: Judicial law clerk to Idaho State Supreme Court Justice Byron J. Johnson