Laura Nelson Olmstead - Apollo, 1996

Posted by Communications Department on 5/25/2016

Laura Nelson Olmstead Apollo Alumna Laura Nelson Olmstead always aspired to be a judge.  Starting June 1, her dream is coming true.  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton just appointed Nelson Olmstead, a ’96 Apollo graduate, to the Second Judicial District Court of Minnesota.

Nelson Olmstead attributes much of her learning to her mentor, Honorable Judge Kathryn Quaintance of the Fourth Judicial District Court of Minnesota. Nelson Olmstead clerked for Quaintance out of law school, leading to her appointment to the bench.

Quaintance says of her former clerk, “She is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She is down-to- earth, a good communicator and fun to be with.”

Quaintance explains that Nelson Olmstead has always wanted to follow in the judge’s footsteps. They both practiced at the same law firm and both worked with Advocates for Human Rights.

“There was a running joke that she [Nelson Olmstead] would run against me and replace me because she was doing all the work,” Quaintance laughs.

Looking back on her education, Nelson Olmstead contributes much of her enthusiasm to “Boots” Roland Froyen, her high school language arts teacher at Apollo.

“He has a mind like a steel trap. He remembered everything!” says Nelson Olmstead.

She also remembers Steve Girth, another language arts teacher. He was an advisor for the literary journal.

Nelson Olmstead reminisces, “He would sit with you to plan out next steps and where you wanted to be.”

She believes it just shows how fantastic the Apollo teachers are.

“The staff were so invested in us,” remembers Nelson Olmstead.

Her education continued with a year at the College of St. Benedict’s and then to the University of Redlands in California. After graduation, she moved back to acquire her law degree from the University of Minnesota.

One of her reasons for moving back to Minnesota was the university and its reputation for law school, political activism and human rights. Being a judge incorporates all those reasons. 

The life of a judge can vary depending on where you live. If the area is big enough, the judges are divided out by law: criminal, civil, family/juvenile, etc. . . . In Nelson Olmstead’s case, she could hear 70 cases in the morning and then hear motions and arguments in the afternoon.

However, today a lot of states and counties also want judges to be engaged with the community.  Judges may be expected to be out in the public at various events to put a positive “face” on the judicial system.

“If you’re in court,” says Nelson Olmstead, “you’re already having a bad day.”

Nelson Olmstead sees herself as a judge for a long time to come. She encourages younger generations also to chase their dreams. Her advice: reach out to the folks in the community who are already in the field. Go talk to a lawyer if you want to be a lawyer or an engineer if you want to be in engineering.  In her experience, community members (like herself) are always happy to take the time to give a sense of what’s it like to walk in their shoes.