Crime, Law and Justice

Sally Tarnowski, longtime Duluth judge, dies

A profile image of a judge.
Judge Sally L. Tarnowski
Minnesota Judicial Branch

A longtime district court judge in northeast Minnesota has died.

State court officials said Judge Sally Tarnowski died Monday while on vacation in Florida. She was 63.

Tarnowski was a St. Louis County judge based in Duluth. She was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2007. From 2016 to 2020 she served as the chief judge for the Sixth Judicial District, covering four counties in northeast Minnesota.

“Judge Tarnowski approached her work with tenacity and dedication,” Sixth District Chief Judge Leslie Beiers said in a news release. “Her loss will be deeply felt by all of us in the Sixth District, and by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.”

Tarnowski worked on a number of initiatives in the Duluth area, including establishing a dedicated mental health court and improvements to family court. The Duluth News Tribune reported that Tarnowski, a longtime Duluth attorney before being appointed to the bench, also oversaw the Duluth Indian Child Welfare Court.

State court officials did not offer any details on Tarnowski’s passing. Funeral services are pending.

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