Mark Ireland '92

Sara Jacobson

“For the people who knew me at Minnehaha--if they had to guess back then--they would probably say that I would be the one in in jail instead of the one putting people in jail,” says Ireland facetiously.  After college and law school, Mark became an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Minnesota and practiced law for ten years in the Twin Cities, then became a State District Court Judge in Ramsey County. 

Essential Skills

“The greatest gift Minnehaha gave me was the ability to write. On television and in the movies, lawyers and judges are always in the courtroom. I do a lot of writing.”  One of his most significant experiences at MA was working on the school newspaper and yearbook.  Through that work, he honed his writing, interviewing and communication skills that he used in college, in law school, as a lawyer, and now for the past nine years as a judge. “Learning to write was a huge gift.  At a lot of schools kids are just taking multiple choice tests. To write well differentiates you from everyone else. It is a real skill.” 

Opportunities Aplenty

Mark also loved playing soccer for coaches Karl Peterson and Herr Kauls, who were both influential and supportive of him. Mark is thankful for the size of Minnehaha -- it gave him an opportunity to be involved in multiple things at the same time like sports and theatre, which was very different from the larger schools in the Twin Cities. “I was a weird kid and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with a lot of different things which was very beneficial going forward.” 

Life Beyond MA

After Minnehaha, Mark went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and then Law School at the University of Minnesota. After private practice and working at the Attorney General’s Office, he left and started a non-profit program that helped neighborhoods that were being affected by predatory lending and the resulting foreclosure crisis. He got to know a lot of people in the community and throughout St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

There was an opening for a judge in the 2nd Judicial District.  A friend called and said he should run for the position; it was an open seat and not an appointment from the governor.  Mark laughed at his friend, then told his wife, and she laughed at him.  He then talked to another friend about it and he encouraged him to run. Both friends were on different sides of the political spectrum.  Mark figured that if he could get these two folks to support him that were from two political parties then maybe he should do it.  “So I ran, and got elected!”   He ran largely on the platform that a judiciary shouldn’t be a political arm but should be non-partisan.  He is currently serving as a District Court Judge, where he presides over everything from the St. Paul petty court traffic calendar to murder trials.  He has been the lead judge presiding over cases involving abused and neglected children as well as the county’s drug court program. Recently, he became the head of the Juvenile and Family Division, working with complicated and difficult cases dealing with divorce, child custody, child abuse and neglect, and juvenile crime.

“I think people would be either lying or have a dead soul if they didn’t think that this was a difficult job. I’ve handled serious criminal sexual conduct cases, murders, and hundreds of child protection cases. Those are tough emotionally.  At the end of the day, your job is to provide a forum for the cases to be heard and then ultimately, make the best decision that you can.  You learn how to cope with it and figure out how to continue to be balanced and healthy.” 

To The Students

What would Mark share with current students?  “Start something.  The world is not perfect. The school is not perfect.  Your community is not perfect.  Don’t wait for other people to solve problems. Do it yourself.  Everyone has gifts and talents.  There are lots of angry people talking about things in our society right now.  Unfortunately, there are very few people who are actually doing something about it.  Our world requires more action, living out our faith and values in the community.”

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