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Retiring Cass County judge says some cases will stay with him for the rest of his days

Having spent his last day in the courtroom, Judge Marquart will say goodbye to the job he has held for the past 18 years following a retirement party set for Wednesday, Dec. 28.

A bespectacled man in a button-down and tie reclines in an office chair and laughs.
Cass County District Court Judge Steven Marquart in is office on Dec. 20, 2022. Marquart is retiring after serving 18 years as a judge.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — When Steven Marquart was first elected a district court judge in Cass County in 2004, his plan was to serve three terms and then retire.

He is sticking to that plan.

Having already spent his last day in the courtroom, Judge Marquart will say goodbye to the job he has held for the past 18 years following a retirement party Wednesday, Dec. 28, at the Cass County Courthouse.

Marquart said what he will miss most about the job is being in the courtroom and being a part of what goes on there.

"I just really enjoyed this job, in all respects," Marquart said, adding that of the many cases he presided over, a handful will forever stand out.

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One involved the murder of Fargo dentist Philip Gattuso in 2009 .

Michael Nakvinda, a handyman in Oklahoma who worked for Gattuso's father-in-law, Gene Kirkpatrick, was convicted of killing Gattuso, and Kirkpatrick was found guilty of paying Nakvinda to kill his son-in-law.

Prosecutors maintained Kirkpatrick wanted Gattuso out of the way so Kirkpatrick could raise his grandchildren after Kirkpatrick's daughter died of complications of surgery.

Both Nakvinda and Kirkpatrick are serving life sentences with no chance for parole.

Marquart said some of the most compelling evidence presented at Kirkpatrick's trial was video obtained from surveillance cameras that helped authorities connect a sports car stolen from Gattuso's home to Nakvinda.

"When I'm on my death bed, I'll remember that trial," Marquart said.

121322.N.FF.MARQUART.3
A retirement gift from Steele County to Cass County District Court Judge Steven Marquart. Judge Marquart is retiring after serving 18 years on the bench.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Marquart is known around the courthouse as "the search warrant king" because of his willingness to be available after hours to law enforcement officers looking for a judge to digitally sign a search warrant .

Marquart, who at one time handled such requests almost exclusively, said the process has been made much simpler, and there are "lots of judges here that are going to be able to do that."

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In retirement, Marquart said he is looking forward to traveling with his wife, Cindy. He said that will include trips to Florida, where they have grandchildren.

Marquart worked in private practice as an attorney from 1979 until 2004, and during those years he said he took on about 300 mediation cases.

He handled about 100 mediation cases while a judge, and Marquart, now 68, said he plans to continue offering mediation services during retirement.

Besides the Gattuso murder case, other high-profile cases Marquart handled as a judge include one stemming from a 2008 incident in Luverne, North Dakota.

In that case, a man was accused and later found guilty of attempting to kill a law enforcement officer by shooting him in the head with a shotgun.

In another case, Marquart sentenced a man to more than 20 years in prison after the man pleaded guilty to killing a woman in 2016.

In that case, a jailhouse phone conversation between the defendant and his grandmother was recorded, and the man could be heard on the recording making threatening statements about a prosecutor and Marquart, the judge who sentenced him.

Marquart said he tried to leave his work at the courthouse when the workday was done each day.

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"You can't bring that stuff home with you. I really try to put that aside, and once a case is done, you try to forget about it," he said.

If You Go

What: Retirement party for Cass County District Court Judge Steven Marquart.

When: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28.

Where: Third floor, west wing of the Cass County Courthouse.

Related Topics: FARGOCRIME AND COURTSPEOPLE
I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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