Remembering and celebrating Judge Sally Tarnowski: Fierce, fun, and fabulous footwear

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The Lake Superior Ballroom was filled with many in the judicial system on Thursday, as they said their goodbyes to Judge Sally Tarnowski.

The judge died back in March while on vacation in Florida. She was 63-years-old.

Along with being an esteemed officer of the court, known for her compassion and innovation, she was also an athletic prankster who loved the Vikings, the lake, and her friends.

Memories of the Duluth East grad made people laugh and smile, even as they grieved.

Judge Leslie Beiers, Chief Judge for the 6th Judicial District, shared, “If another judge was using her courtroom to try a case, you might find a plastic spider peeking out from under a monitor. Or a rubber rat. I don’t know where she’d buy this stuff.”

Her robe, name placard, and some of her beloved high heels lined a table in front of the ballroom.

Tarnowski was sworn in during a snowstorm in 2007. Her friend, Judge Krista Martin, was supposed to do the honors at an investiture. But she couldn’t drive up, due to the weather. Still, Tarnowski found Judge Heather Sweetland in the courthouse, and got sworn in anyways.

“Sally would not be deterred. She wanted to get to the business of judging. She was born to do it,” Martin said.

During Mental Health Court, she helped mend wounded lives. “She was incredible,. She changed my life and altered my course for the better,” shared Chris Dunker, a court graduate.

Tarnowski also worked hard to improve the outcomes for Native families, by starting the Indian Child Welfare Act Court.

Bree Bussey, from that court, said, “She’s an example from my perspective of what happens when a person decide to be the change.”

Judge Rachel Sullivan mentioned how important Tarnowski was in mentoring other women on the bench.

Link to the obituary: