Duluth Judge Sally Tarnowski dies during Florida vacation

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 9:49 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 9:50 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: As the community continues to mourn the loss of Duluth Judge Sally Tarnowski, new details have emerged surrounding the judge’s sudden passing.

Family members told the Star Tribune Judge Tarnowski was hit by a car while on a run in Venice, Florida Monday morning.

We are working to obtain more information from Venice Police.

Officers there did confirm they responded to a crash that morning.

They say a man driving a truck hit a woman who was then airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.

Police say she later died during surgery.

Authorities in Florida are still investigating, and no charges have been filed at this point.

Back in Duluth, flowers, candles and more line the front steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse.

Judge Tarnowski served as the Chief Judge of the 6th Judicial District from 2016 to 2020 and most recently was a St. Louis County Judge in Duluth.

She’s being remembered as a champion of justice, especially when it came to the mental health treatment court.

There is no word on funeral plans as of yet.

TUESDAY UPDATE: The community continues to pour out their grief and sympathy as they remember Judge Sally Tarnowski who died Monday.

Flowers, candles, and high heels with written messages in them lay at the steps of the St. Louis County courthouse in Duluth as people added to a memorial in her honor.

“She was an amazing woman,” said St. Louis County Attorney Kim Maki. “She cared so much for the people who came into the courthouse whether they were in the criminal realm, in the social services realm, or even in a civil case. She cared about listening to what they had to say. She listened attentively and so people felt heard, even if she ultimately didn’t decide in their favor. So that’s what she’s going to be remembered for, is her genuine care for people.”

Maki hopes the initiatives that Judge Tarnowski pioneered during her tenure can continue seeing progress in St. Louis County.

“There’s still so much more work to do in the area of mental illness, substance abuse, and even in the child welfare area,” said Maki. “There are great people in the system already, but it’s going to take a really long time for someone to be able to step into her shoes and to have the influence that she did. She was such a unique person and such a caring person that her loss will be felt for a very long time.”

There is still no word on the cause of death.

Funeral services are still pending.

DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Duluth Judge Sally Tarnowski died Monday, March 6 while on vacation in Florida.

Judge Tarnowski served as the Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial District from 2016 to 2020. She most recently served as a St. Louis County Judge in Duluth.

“All of us within the Minnesota courts community are devastated by the loss of Judge Tarnowski,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. “Beyond her exemplary service to Minnesota, Judge Tarnowski was a vibrant person whose commitment to justice shined through in everything she did.”

Among her many accomplishments, Judge Tarnowski championed mental health treatment court, which offers offenders a pathway out of the justice system by completing a treatment program to stop the behavior that led them to court. She also supported early neutral evaluation in family court, which facilitates prompt dispute resolution for custody, parenting time, and financial matters.

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