Judge, First Judicial District

Chief public defender
First Judicial District

Assistant public defender
Second Judicial District

Staff attorney
Hyatt Legal Services

Assistant Scott County attorney

Staff attorney
Southern Minnesota Legal Services

B.A., Brandeis University, 1979
M.A. in Social Work, Barry University, 1980
J.D., University of Minnesota, 1983

Ujamaa Place
Executive Council
2017 to present

MSBA Criminal Law Certification Board
January 2008 to present

PEER Court Judge
September 2013 to present

Douglas K. Amdahl Inn of Court
September 2010 to the present

President of the Inns of Court

Minnesota State Judicial Trial Skills
Training Program – 2011 to 2016

Past Chair, First Judicial District
Equal Justice Committee – 2017 to 2015

Minnesota District Judges Association
2001 – present

Minnesota State Bar Association
2008 – present

First District Bar Association
2008 – present

Minnesota Supreme Count Advisory Committee
on General Rules of Practice – 2007 to 2014

Dakota County Bar Association
2005 – present

Minnesota Supreme Court Jury Task Force
April 2000 to January 2003

High School Mock Trial Attorney Coach
Eastview H.S
September 1999 to January 2003

South St. Paul Restorative Justice Council
Fall 2000 to Spring 2002

Judge Joseph T. Carter

Joseph T. Carter is a First Judicial District judge for Dakota County, Minnesota. He was appointed to in January of 2001, elected in 2002 and 2008, and re-elected in 2014. Judge Carter received his B.A. degree from Brandeis University in 1979, his M.A. degree in social work from Barry University in 1980, and his J.D. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1983.

A Personal Statement from Judge Carter

I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as a District Court Judge in the First Judicial District of Minnesota since 2001.  The First District is made up of seven counties: Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, LeSueur, McLeod, Scott, and Sibley.  It is a large and diverse district.  I marvel over our great Minnesota court system, and all the dedicated people who work to make it the best judicial system in the country.  The citizens who appear in my courtroom, and court staff who serve the citizens tirelessly inspire me to do my best work every day.

I am a hardworking judge who works to ensure that fairness and justice prevail in every court proceeding I handle.  I know that litigants, whether represented by an attorney or not, expect me to look at their cases with compassion, wisdom, and fairness.  They want me to see them as an individual, to truly hear what they have to say, and to do my best to give them a just legal decision, whether it is a criminal, family, or civil case.  To each person who appears before me, their case is important to them, and it is important that I listen compassionately and decide wisely.

Prior to becoming a judge, I worked in a wide variety of legal fields.  I first practiced as a legal aid attorney helping people in civil cases who could not afford a lawyer.  I worked as a prosecutor in the Scott County Attorney’s Office and later as a public defender in the First Judicial District.  After an extensive screening and interviewing process, I was appointed to the bench in 2001.  Since that time, I have presided over all types of cases: criminal cases ranging from minor traffic matters to major felonies, and every variety of civil cases, from divorces to personal injuries and contract disputes.  The attorneys who appear before me know that I will listen, that I will consider all of the evidence, and that I will be fair and impartial to all concerned.

My career has been focused on helping people.  After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, I earned a master’s degree in social work before attending law school at the University of Minnesota.  I have served on many committees throughout my career, including the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the General Rules of Practice to help develop rules regarding cameras in the courtroom.  

Currently, I work with many of the high schools in Dakota County as the Peer Court Judge, which is a diversion program, in conjunction with the Dakota County Attorney’s Office. In Peer Court, high school students recommend sentences for other high school students who have committed minor criminal or traffic offenses.  The program has been very successful and has changed the trajectory of the lives of many students for the better.  In 2018, I served as president of the Douglas K. Amdahl Inn of Court, and I remain an active member of the Inn.  I am a member of the Minnesota Bar and Dakota County Bar Associations.  I also serve on the Advisory Board of Ujamaa Place, a nonprofit organization committed to African American men navigating inequity, poverty, and the criminal justice system.  The main goal of the program is to connect the young men with meaningful and gainful employment through developing job skills.

On a more personal side, I enjoy golfing and playing bridge.  I have adult children who are leading successful careers and lives, and I recently became a proud grandfather.  My granddaughter, who is 18 months, recently learned to say “grandpa,” which brightens my every day.

I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the First Judicial District and the State of Minnesota.

Judge Carter with his partner Nissa Hilaire.