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Courtroom friends call it quits together
October 8, 2017

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To some, working next to and with the same person for 22 years may seem like it could cause an issue. But not for this well-known dynamic duo of Faribault County.

Both Judge Douglas Richards and court reporter Orv Terhark will be taking their leave from the Faribault County courtroom beginning Nov. 1.

The two have been working together since Judge Richards became the Faribault County District Court judge back in 1995, and even before that, Richards and Terhark knew and worked with each other while Richards was an attorney.

"We've been known as the judge and his shadow," shares Richards. "Court reporters are actually considered to be employees of the judge. So, usually, when you see a new judge, you will see a new court reporter."

And, as both will tell you, over time, not only did their credibility of competent employees grow, so did their friendship.

Terhark has been working as a court reporter and freelance stenographer since he graduated from the Stenotype Institute of South Dakota in 1968.

"When you are a freelance stenographer, you have to take an oath when you go to court," explains Terhark. "When I was 20, I legally could not give my oath because I wasn't 21 yet, which is how old you have to be to take the oath in the court. So I would actually have to find a notary to take my oath before I could go do my job."

At the Stenotype Institute of South Dakota, Terhark remembers the amount of effort it took to graduate from the school, as he watched classmates drop like flies due to not being able to keep up with the proficiency needed to become an official stenographer.

"Eighty percent of people who started never made it," he remembers. "You had to stenotype at least at 140 to 160 words per minute, and most people just couldn't do it."

Terhark was not one of those students. He says at one point in his career, his stenotype software recorded him at 300 words per minute.

"But Judge Richards does a great job of slowing down the record for me," says Terhark. "It's difficult when two people are talking at once, or mumbling, or when there are sound-alike words like 'on supervised probation' or 'unsupervised probation'; 'paternal' and 'maternal.' You have to get it right the first time."

Richards earned his undergraduate degree at Hamline University and earned his degree in law at the William Mitchell College of Law. Once he became an attorney, he spent the majority of his time as an attorney here, in Faribault County. And in 1995, he became a Judge of District Court.

Looking back, Richards and Terhark recall a number of interesting cases they had to deal with including several medical malpractice suits, construction lawsuits regarding rather large buildings, arson with odd fire sources, and even agriculture equipment that does not adhere to the law.

They even tried a murder case that went to jury.

"It's pretty amazing that we did that," says Terhark. "And it went to trial."

"Yes, and it was the only one, thankfully," adds Richards.

"When I first moved here to Blue Earth, I was a freelance court reporter and I had to work on condemnation cases for the state of Minnesota with regards to taking farmer's land away to make room for I-90," said Terhark. "I guess that shows my age a little."

The pair even recall beginning a few cutting-edge projects in their time at the helm.

"We were one of nine counties in 1998 to start the early pilots of our Chips (Child In need of Protective Services) initiative, and we were also one of only 10 counties in the state of Minnesota to pilot the paperless initiative. Now we've been paperless for years," says Richards.

Throughout the years, the pair has seen and heard many cases. While Judge Richards made the decisions, Terhark made the dictations.

"Judge Richards has always had remarkable patience," Terhark reflects of his friend. "It was important to him that all litigants had equal and ample time to be heard no matter how hectic our schedule might be."

"It was always important to me to have Orv as a sounding board of sorts. When it came to decision making, I have to make the sole and exclusive decision. And in times where I needed the record read back to me, ver batum, to refresh or verify something, Orv was able to clarify things for me. That was critical."

To say the least, the two knew each other well. And over the years, the two had gotten to know each other's children, and grandchildren. They attended each other's children's sporting events and activities. The pair have even traveled with their wives together.

"We went on a trip earlier this year in June and I keep trying to get Orv to go on a cruise, but he won't go," smirks the judge of his friend and comrade.

The two even travel together for work-related events such as driving to neighboring counties for cases. While some would rather not share a car with their co-workers, these two would have it no other way.

The pair both agree that coming to work at the Faribault County Courthouse was never a bore and always a privilege.

"We have had the honor of working with a great group of people. The comradery between the attorneys and staff has always been pleasant," says Terhark. "I love coming to work. There is always a variety, it keeps you interested and not a day goes by I don't learn something new."

"Vicky (Driscoll) rocks. She is a wonderful asset to the department and she has an excellent relationship with the administration and the staff. Our whole staff is first class," says Richards. "We are lucky enough to work in a place where everyone genuinely likes each other."

While the administrative staff and attorneys are just a few of the things the duo will miss about their jobs, there are a few things they may not miss at all.

"I sure won't miss the 2 and 3 a.m. calls for search warrants and detainers," laughs Richards.

"And after 40 plus years, I'm looking forward to not putting on a suit and tie every morning," says Terhark. "And I'm sure my wife is looking forward to getting her share of the closet space back."

As for their upcoming retirement, their plans are fairly simple: family time and travel. And, of course, the two friends say they plan to continue their friendship.

They even have a joint retirement reception planned for Oct. 20 from 2-4 p.m. at the Faribault County Courthouse.

"I sure hope Orv still comes and talks with me over coffee in the morning," says Richards, who will be serving as a senior judge status for a while longer, just not at full capacity.

"I think we will finally have time to golf," suggests Terhark to his friend.

"Yeah, we'll have all afternoon to do it now," echoes Richards.

The two, who fondly call each other best friends, plan to continue traveling with their families together and staying friends.

"I think we've become so close because we're relatively the same age and have the same interests," says Richards. "It's not very often you get to work with your best friend."

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