IRON RANGE — Andrew Peterson, an attorney in Virginia, has been named to replace the longest serving district judge on the Iron Range.

Gov. Tim Walz appointed Peterson to fill the soon to be vacant judgeship in the Sixth Judicial District County Court in Virginia, according to a state press release. This was Walz’s first judicial selection on the Range.

“I am honored to appoint Andrew Peterson as a district court judge in the Sixth Judicial District,” Walz said in a statement. “He demonstrates remarkable well-roundedness in both his legal career and community involvement that will serve the people of St. Louis County well.”

Since 2017, four out of five judge seats have changed hands in the Hibbing and Virginia courthouses. In the latest exchange of powers, Peterson, who was twice considered for judicial openings on the Range, will replace retiring Judge Gary Pagliaccetti, who was appointed to his post three decades ago. Virginia attorneys Bhupesh Pattni and Bruce Williams both interviewed for the vacancy.

Currently, Peterson is an attorney and shareholder of Cope & Peterson Ltd. in Virginia, where he represents clients in civil litigation, criminal law, real estate, business law and municipal law. He previously served as a law clerk for Minneapolis-based Sieben-Carey Personal Injury Law Firm.

Peterson has been involved in the Volunteer Attorney Program, Range Bar Association, Domestic Violence Court Exploratory Committee, Virginia Educational Fund, Quad Cities Rotary Club, Minnesota Association of Justice and other organizations.

As for the longtime judge, Pagliaccetti began his career working for the St. Louis County Attorney’s juvenile, welfare and criminal divisions in 1980, before joining a private practice from 1983-89. Between 1987 and 1989, he was an assistant public defender. Hibbing born former Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed him to the bench on July 1, 1989. He was re-elected in 1990 and every six years since.

Pagliaccetti has presided over high-profile cases such as the trial for Donald Blom who was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Katie Poirier in 1999. He also served as Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial District from 2000-04 and Assistant Chief Judge from 1996-2000 and then again from 2012-16. He announced his retirement in early July. His current term is set to expire in January 2021.

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