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Kevin Burke
Kevin Burke, has been a trial judge since 1984 and is one of the most recognized leaders within the American judiciary. He received the William H. Rehnquist Award in 2003, an award presented annually to the state judge who most exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence

Kevin Burke, District Court Judge


Kevin Burke is a District Judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota.  He is one of the most recognized leaders within the American judiciary.  Judge Burke was elected for four terms as Chief Judge and three terms as Assistant Chief Judge.  During this time he instituted social science studies – and reforms improving – procedural fairness.  From 1991 – 1996 he served as the Chair of the Conference of Chief Judges.  He chaired the State Board of Public Defense, and was a leader in the effort to improve and expand the state’s public defender system.

Judge Burke has been named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the history of Minnesota by Law & Politics magazine.  In 1996 he was named a Toll Fellow.  The Toll Fellowship identifies emerging state leaders from all three branches of government.  In 1997 he received the Director’s Community Leadership Award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  In 2002 the National Center for State Courts awarded him the Distinguished Service Award.  In 2003 he was selected as the William H. Rehnquist Award recipient by the National Center for State Courts.  The Rehnquist Award is presented annually to a state judge who exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness and professional ethics.  He was awarded Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine in 2004.  In 2005 the Minnesota Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates named him Trial Judge of the Year.  The American Bar Association named him Judicial Educator of the year in 2010.

Judge Burke teaches at the University of Minnesota and University of St. Thomas law schools.  For many years he served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute’s Reflective Leadership Program.  He has been a speaker in 38 states as well as Abu Dhabi, Canada, Egypt, Mexico, China, India and Ireland regarding improvement in judicial administration and court leadership.

Judge Burke has authored numerous articles, and is the co-author of two American Judges Association White Papers, “Procedural Fairness:  A Key Ingredient in Public Satisfaction” and “Minding the Court:  Enhancing the Decision-Making Process.”  He presently serves on the Board of the Institute for the Reform of the American Legal System.  He is a past Board member of the National Center for State Courts and the American Judicature Society.

Areas of Expertise

  1. Fairness in Courts
  2. Court Leadership
  3. Case Management
  4. Performance Management in Courts
  5. Dealing with Self Represented Litigants
  6. Judges and the Media
  7.  New Judge Training
  8.  Minnesota’s New Felony DWI Law
  9.  Strategic Litigation for Public Lawyers
  10.  The Role of the Judge in the Courtroom
  11.  Minnesota Evidence
  12.  Cross Examination
  13.  Ethics and Bias in the Courtroom
  14.  Alternative Dispute Resolution
  15.  Demonstrative Evidence

Teaching and Consulting

  • University of Minnesota Law School, Adjunct Faculty Member; 
    • Legal Writing, 1986-1991
    •   Trial Practice, 1992-present
  • University of St. Thomas Law School, Adjunct Faculty Member
    • Criminal Procedure, 2003-present
  • National Center for State Courts, Court Executive Development Program
    • On-Line Instructor-Judicial Independence, 2001-2004
  • William Mitchell College of Law, Adjunct Faculty Member, 1977-1997
    • Trial Skills, Advanced Trial Advocacy
    • Cross Examination Skills, Basic Lawyer Skills
  • University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
    • Reflective Leadership Program, 1986-1990
  • Lecturer and Consultant with court systems in 38 states, federal courts  and in Abu Dhabi, China, Canada, Egypt, Ireland, India and Mexico on judicial training, court management and court leadership

Selected Articles

  • “Minding the Court: Enhancing the Decision Making Process,” International Journal for Court Administration, February 2013
  • “McGovern and His Daughter Terry:  What We can Learn,” MinnPost, October 22, 2012
  • “Minding the Court:  Enhancing the Decision Making Process, American Judges Association White Paper,” October 2012
  • “Leadership Without Fear,” Future Trends in State Courts 2012, Williamsburg, VA; National Center for State Courts, 2012
  • “A Vision for Enhancing Public Confidence in the Judiciary – Commit to Fairness in Court,” Vol. 95, No. 6, Judicature, May/June 2012.
  • “Judicial Independence; The New Threat From Within,” Vol. 95, No. 5, Judicature, March/April 2012, co-authored with Steve Leben.
  • Attorney Specialization,” Vol. LXIX, No. III, Bench&Bar of Minnesota, March 2012, co-authored with Sudha Rajan.
  • “Creating a New Generation of Courts,” Vol. 47, Issue 4, Court Review, 2011, co-authored with Brian Ostrom and Roger Hanson
  • “It is All About the People Who Work in the Courthouse, Future Trends in State Courts 2011 Williamsburg, VA; National Center for State Courts, 2011.
  • Just What Made Drug Courts Successful,” Vol. 94, No. 3, Judicature, November-December 2010.
  • “Just What Made Drug Courts Successful?” Vol. 36, No. 1, New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement, Winter 2010.
  • “The Evolution of the Trial Judge from Counting Case Dispositions to a Commitment to Fairness,” Vol. 18, No. 2, Widener Law Journal, 2009.
  • Understanding the International Rule of Law as a Commitment to Procedural Fairness,” Vol. 18, Issue 2, Minnesota Journal of International Law, Summer 2009.
  • “Procedural Fairness: A Key Ingredient in Public Satisfaction,” Vol. 44, Issue 1/2, Court Review, 2007-2008.
  • “An Opportunity for Leadership is Lost,” Vol. 55, No. 3, Drake Law Review, Spring 2007.
  • State v. Dettman: The End of the Sentencing Revolution or Just the Beginning?” Vol. 33, No. 4, William Mitchell Law Review, 2007.
  • “Moving from Court Management to Court Leadership,” Vol. 21, Issue 1, Court Manager co-authored with Michael LaBrosse.
  • “Another View of Local Legal Culture: More than Court Culture,” Vol. 20, No. 4, Court Manager, Winter 2005-06, co-authored with Frank Broccolina.
  • “Judging the Courts,” Vol. 48, No. 3, State News, March 2005.
  • “A Judiciary That Is as Good as Its Promise: The Best Strategy for Preserving Judicial Independence,” Vol. 41, Issue 2, Court Review, Summer 2004
  • “The Tyranny of the “Or” is the Threat to Judicial Independence, Not Problem-Solving Courts,” Vol. 41, Issue 2, Court Review, Summer 2004
  • “A Court and a Judiciary That Is as Good as Its Promise,” Vol. 73, No. 1, The Hennepin Lawyer, January/February 2004
  • “A Court and a Judiciary That Is as Good as Its Promise,” Vol. 40, Issue 2, Court Review, Summer 2003
  • “Transforming the District Court,” Vol. 72, No. 1, ­The Hennepin Lawyer, January 2003
  • “The Hennepin County Drug Court:  A Progress Report,” Vol. 69, No. 5, The Hennepin Lawyer, May 2000.
  • “Drugs and the Legal System,” Vol. 72, No. 1, Spectrum, The Journal of State Government, Winter 1999.
  • “That was Then; This is Now,” Vol. 62, No. 5, The Hennepin Lawyer, May/June 1993.
  • “Doing the System Justice: Toward the Creation of a More Healthy Judiciary,” Vol. 7, No. 1, Law & Politics, April 19, 1992.
  • “New Chief Judge Eyes Courtroom Changes,” Vol. 62, No. 2, The Hennepin Lawyer, Nov/Dec 1992.
  • “Misconduct on the Bench, or . . . What to do With Judges Who are Cantankerous,” Vol. 49, No. 4, The Hennepin Lawyer, Mar/Apr 1992.
  • “Chief Justice A.M. ‘Sandy’ Keith,” The Hennepin Lawyer, Mar/Apr 1991.
  • “State on New Course for Sentencing: ‘Just Desserts,’” Vol. 6, No. 6, Minnesota Trial Lawyer, Sept/Oct 1981.
  • Public Defender Trial Lawyers Manual, published October 1979 by Minnesota Public Defenders Association and Hennepin County Public Defenders Office through L.E.A.A. grant.
  • “DWI – A New Law – An Old Approach,” Vol. 48, No. 2, The Hennepin Lawyer, Nov/Dec 1978.

Honors and Awards

  • Judge William H. Burnett Award, American Judges Association, 2012
  • Judicial Educator of the Year, American Bar Association Judicial Division, National Conference of Specialized Court Judges, 2010
  • Mission Award, presented by Wayside House for support for helping women recover from substance abuse, 2009
  • Named One of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the History of Minnesota by Law & Politics Magazine, 2007
  • Trial Judge of the Year, Minnesota Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, 2005
  • Governing Magazine Public Official of the Year, 2004
  • National Center for State Courts William H. Rehnquist Award, 2003
  • Hennepin County Bar Association Judicial Professionalism Award, 2003
  • National Center for State Courts Distinguished Service Award, 2002
  • Lifetime Achievement Award.  Presented by H.E.A.R.T. for leadership in the cause of freedom for people afflicted with chemical dependency, 1998
  • U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation,       Director’s Community Leadership Award, 1997
  • 1996    Toll Fellow, Selected by the Council of State Governments as one of the future leaders of state government
  • David Graven Public Service Award.  By the Minnesota State Bar Association and presented to the lawyer who best exemplifies the high standards of the profession in combination with a commitment to   public or community service, 1995
  • Jack Young Excellence in Corrections Award presented by the Minnesota Association of Community Correction Act Counties, 1994
  • Award of Merit presented by the Society of Professional Journalists for distinguished service in the field of freedom of information, 1993

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“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Frederick Douglas

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