New to the Bench: Hon. Luis Bartolomei
Thursday, March 1, 2012
by: Maria K. Langsjoen
Hon. Luis Bartolomei
Ms. Langsjoen at Kroll Ontrack in Eden Prairie through Special Counsel and is interested in international business law. She obtained her L.L.M. from Trinity College Dublin and her J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
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“The place where conflicts come to die.” With these dynamic words, newly appointed Judge Luis Bartolomei describes his courtroom’s purpose.
Bilingual in Spanish and English, Bartolomei keenly felt the need to advocate for others early in his career as a law student, interning at the 8th Judicial District Public Defenders Office, under the direction and mentorship of Chief Public Defender Tim Johnson. “He really took me under his wing and encouraged me to follow my instincts and my sense of justice. In many ways I found my purpose there.”
However, his first memories of the legal profession came from watching his mother complete law school in his native Puerto Rico. “I remember her studying into the night, reading books that seemed incomprehensively thick to a 9-year-old.” He recalls a field trip when “She took me to one of her classes. I remember the professor asking a question and I thought that I knew the answer. I raised my hand, but he wouldn’t call on me. Mom never took me back to class again. Now, as a former law student, I understand why.”
His desire to be an advocate was also sparked by his parents’ decision to move to Minnesota from Puerto Rico when he was growing up.
“In my teens, my parents decided they were going to give their sons a better shot at a good education and left everything they knew behind—their friends, family, work, and language. They took a huge gamble and decided to start over in the mainland United States. I would say that the gamble paid off.”
Nevertheless, it was during his internship, Bartolomei stresses, when “I got in touch with the reason I went into law.”
After graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School, Bartolomei spent several seminal years at the public defender offices of the Minnesota third and tenth judicial districts. “I was introduced into the profession by working with these great advocates. To this day they have influenced the way I see my clients.” Recalling these times, Bartolomei explains with relish: “These were my formative years. They set the tone for the rest of my practice, the way that I approach problems, and the way that I view my role in the system—a role that I don’t see will change a great deal as a judge.”
After working for a number of years in public defense, Bartolomei became curious. “I wanted to see what it was like to work on the civil side,” he explained. Still maintaining his theme of defense while at Selmer & Associates, he recounts that he learned some very important things, not only about his role in the system but also about the practice of law in general.
“I understood the business of law, and how it is an entrepreneurial pursuit. Not only is it a vocation and a means to help people sort out their problems; it is also a business,” said Bartolomei. “It is there that I became acquainted with the billable hour, something that I had not seen before. I also came to know what it was like to represent some terrific corporate clients, a real departure from what I had done until then.”
However, Bartolomei notes that, just like his public defender position, a constant theme through his work at Selmer was to “help people solve their problems. That aspect of practice did not change.” Once at the University of Minnesota, as an attorney with the Office of Student Legal Service, he returned to helping individuals. “I’ve been so fortunate to be able to pursue what drives me and to maintain a great deal of fidelity to what brought me to the law in the first place.”
As expressed by Bartolomei, his only specific goal on the bench is to be an agent of civility and justice.
“My theme will be to listen to people, and to help them in any way I can to put their troubles away and move on…with civility,” promised the new judge. It is important to him that everyone that steps into the courtroom will have the sense that they were heard and treated fairly. “Not everyone’s going to be happy when I make a decision,” he recognized. “But I want them to walk out knowing that they were treated in a fair, courteous, and respectful way. If I can accomplish that, I will have done my job as far as I see it.”
Bartolomei plans to use the teaching skills he acquired while working at the University of Minnesota Student Legal Service, William Mitchell College of Law, and Hamline University. These will serve him well on the bench, he predicts. “I spent a lot of time trying to explain complex things to students and clients, many of whom are from different parts of the world. I’ve had to communicate plainly, and do away with the legalese and technical language for years. I think those skills will translate well to the bench.”
Translating his desire to help people in need to his new role, Bartolomei’s theme of action includes allowing those in court to truly be heard. “Pleadings should be interpreted and procedure should be followed in a way that allows the party who wants to have their day in court to have it.” A companion to this idea, and “[p]art of what a good judge should do is to validate a person who needs to have their day in court, who needs to have their matter resolved in what should be the place where conflicts come to die.”
In the end, Bartolomei believes in a fusion of talents: “What I have done in my practice no matter where I’ve worked—developing quick connections to people and being able to relate to them—is going to be very important on the bench.”
Bartolomei intends to give parties this chance using his ability to connect with people. “This approach really helps disarm the conflict.” Memorably, he also notes, “Being a competent trial judge is a bit like being a jet fighter pilot.” From the bench one has to be aware of many different dynamics simultaneously.
As a man who started as an advocate, Bartolomei is determined as a judge to listen to people, hearing their problems, while helping them to put those problems away and move on; all done with the key concept of civility.
Bartolomei expects counsel to come before him prepared. An attorney once told him that “a lawyer has to earn respect and build a reputation one case at a time.” Paying homage to this idea, counsel in Bartolomei’s court should advocate well for his or her client and should never “turn-off” on a client. “The lawyers that I respect the most are the ones who are faithful advocates of their clients and that’s what I hope to see from the bench. Make objections clear and concise…and come to the courtroom with an understanding that I’m here to help and to listen. Upon that I will build my reputation as a judge.”
As to placing special memorabilia in his chambers, Bartolomei has a few ideas on the subject. For instance, he will bring a collection of mementos from students and other individuals in Student Legal Service while he was at the University, and very possibly a University of Minnesota Goldie the Gopher banner. “To take a piece of the U with me,” he announced.
Additionally, he likely will populate his chambers with pictures of his family. Finally, as an amateur astronomer, the new judge will bring some of his own pictures of the night sky. “It puts things in perspective and centers me in a good way.”
Taking his new position head-on, Bartolomei vows: “Never been a judge before, but I’m going to take the same spirit that I brought into advocacy and do with it the best I can because this is an opportunity like no other in life.” Preparing to resolve conflict with civility above all, he will continue to meet and connect with people from any background when on the bench in the name of helping others to move forward.
We welcome him to his new post.