This week, after 23 years as a judge at the Beltrami District Court, Benshoof retires from a career that he says has made sense to him.
"The purpose a judge has brought into my life will be very difficult to replace," said Benshoof. "Get up in the morning and know that I will try to do the best for other people." . I know that when I retire I will try to look for something that will replace this kind of purpose. "
Paul and his wife Jody also plan to spend more time with their two sons, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. His son Galen, his wife Teresa and their 2 year old Maya; together with son Sam and his wife Laura all live in the twin cities.
Benshoof, 68, grew up in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota and studied English at Carleton College. His older brother was a lawyer in Los Angeles, his uncle was a district attorney. His cousin was a lawyer in New York City. But Paul wasn't sure if he wanted to follow this path.
He got a job, saved some money and took a year off to travel in Europe.
"In the summer of 1975, I worked on a dairy farm in Norway for almost two months and found that I was unable to do such demanding physical work," he said. “At that point, I decided that the law might be a better option for me. The irony is that Jody is the daughter of a dairy farmer who only spoke Norwegian until he went to school as a child. Talk about ironies in life. "
Paul and Jody moved to Bemidji in 1978 after completing law school at the University of Minnesota. He worked as a lawyer for 19 years and was appointed judge at the 9th Judicial Court in 1997 by Governor Arne Carlson. He replaced the judge James E. Preece, who had reached the mandatory retirement age.
"I came to the law and didn't necessarily think it was my fate to become a judge," said Benshoof. "I liked the connection I had with my clients (as a lawyer). But in the end I decided to throw my hat in the ring to consider it a replacement for Judge Preece. I thought I could have a greater impact on people's lives, knowing that judges see a lot more people every day than lawyers probably do. "
Of course, he couldn't have imagined what court proceedings would look like during a pandemic. Since March 23 of this year, the courtrooms have been empty and the proceedings are taking place on computer screens. Many cases, such as eviction measures, had to be continued at the order of the governor.
"There's only a huge backlog of work that we couldn't do," said Benshoof. “More recently we have been able to do some work remotely. It's so different to process cases and practice justice when I'm just a head on a computer screen. In this way, however, we were able to do some work. I don't know when, if any, we'll have a courtroom full of people for their hearings or possible legal proceedings. Video technology will be with us for a long time and maybe years, if not permanently. "
Benshoof was honored last fall by Pollen Midwest and AARP as one of 50 people over 50 who have made significant contributions and successes in their communities. He was recognized for his work at the Beltrami County Domestic Violence Court, the county child justice initiative, and his advocacy for the hearing impaired.