New to the Bench: Hon. Jacob Kraus


New to the Bench: Hon. Jacob Kraus

What inspired you to become a judge?

For me, it’s simple – I want to make a difference and help solve problems. We have all seen what a positive difference a good, kind, hardworking, and fair judge can make in a case and for litigants. I will work as hard as I can to be that person.

Being a public servant is very important to me. My extended family includes those who served in state and city government, and as policymakers and organizers. I am honored and humbled to be a judge, and really enjoy public service.

What was your career path before becoming a judge?

I have a mix of public service, private practice, criminal law, and civil law experience. About 20 years ago, I was a law clerk in Ramsey County District Court. My first job after law school was at Faegre & Benson LLP, where I litigated trade secret, noncompete, and franchise cases. After that, I was an Assistant Attorney General in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, where I managed the Consumer Protection and Human Services Divisions. Most recently, I was a Senior Assistant Hennepin County Attorney in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, where I supervised a trial team in the Child Protection Division and prosecuted serious felony cases in the Adult Prosecution Division.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from many excellent attorneys. While I have enjoyed every place I have been, I am very happy to be back in St. Paul.

What do you think is the most pressing issue facing our judicial system today?

Depending on the area we are working in, many issues could be the most pressing one:  Racial disparities, mental health, chemical dependency, violent crime, the backlog of criminal cases, e-discovery, the use of remote hearings, and access to justice – just to name a few. Since I am starting on a criminal rotation, I am very interested in working on many of those issues – and especially racial disparities.

How have you adjusted to a hybrid working environment for a judge?

Since I came from a county attorney’s office where we had been using remote technology during the pandemic, I am comfortable with the court’s technology for remote and hybrid calendars. Because I started in April, I have been able to be in person at the courthouse every day, which makes learning a lot easier. If you’re in the courthouse and want to stop by, you can find me in Chambers 850.

Because the pandemic forced us to try some things that we might not otherwise have tried, I hope that we can incorporate the lessons we learned into our practices going forward – especially when we talk about making court as accessible as we can for the people we serve.

What's been surprising for you since taking the bench?

I was surprised by the sheer amount of work by court administration and staff that goes into a new judge starting. I really appreciate everyone who has figured out the logistics, training, calendar assignments, and mentoring that make for a successful transition. As those of you with heavy courthouse practices know, the courthouse is filled with dedicated, hardworking public servants.

What's your favorite thing to do outside of work?

My favorite thing to do is spend time with my family. We have two kids in elementary school, so time outside of work is filled with sports, activities, playdates, coaching, playing with our dog, and other fun. We love being outside, and we’re looking forward to a fun summer.

What is a book, movie, TV show, or podcast you'd recommend?

I have two book recommendations – Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor’s Fight for Fairness, by Laura Coates, and It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, by Colin Powell. Ms. Coates and I were summer associates together, she is a great writer, and her experiences are compelling. I was recently part of a class where we got a copy of General Powell’s book, and it’s a great read.

Most of my TV watching is Minnesota sports, so I guess that means I like tragic endings.