Minnesota Lawyer Magazine and online news source honored our very own Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson and Assistant County Attorney Michelle Skubitz Thursday, February 16th at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis. Frederickson and Skubitz were honored at the 17th Annual Minnesota Attorneys of the Year awards ceremony because of their work on the Victor Barnard case.
This was a high profile case that stayed strictly legal, according to Minnesota Lawyer Magazine writer Nancy Crotti. "Bloomington criminal defense attorney Marsh Halberg believes trials can favor big-city lawyers in private practice," said Crotti. "Halberg nominated Pine County prosecutors Reese Frederickson and Michelle Skubitz for Attorney of the Year, who opposed him and partner David Risk in this high-profile case."
Fugitive cult leader Victor Barnard faced 59 first and third-degree assault charges for years of raping teenage girls placed in his care by members of his River Road Fellowship. After being charged in Pine County in 2014, Barnard fled to Brazil and fought extradition. He returned in 2016, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony sexual assault, and received the 30-year prison term prosecutors had sought.
"Unlike a typical state case, this one frequently made front-page news and some victims appeared on television. Frederickson and Skubitz could have litigated the case in the media, but kept it strictly legal," said Marsh Halberg.
“There were State Department policy issues and extradition treaties and international law,” added Halberg, who has known the prosecutors for years. “That was certainly a challenge for both sides. … There’s as much good lawyering going on in the outskirts of the state as in the metro.”
At the award dinner, several people commented on the fact that they were nominated by opposing counsel and how well that speaks for the ones being nominated according to Minnesota Lawyer Editor Barbara Jones.
Other winning attorneys were honored for outstanding service in the industry for winning significant cases in the U.S. and Minnesota Supreme Courts, winning releases from prison for their clients, for providing increased access to justice, the vindication of First Amendment and other constitutional rights, and creating and performing notable bar association activities, along with nurturing and caring for other lawyers.