When Esther Mulder was seven months old, she moved to the Minneapolis area with her mother to be near family. Her mother suffers from mental illness and needed the help of relatives to raise Mulder. She immediately was entered into the foster system and spent much of her childhood bouncing from her mother’s home to foster homes.
In sixth grade, she began seeing Anoka County Judge Steve Askew twice a year for seven years. Askew would make decisions on her case, either keeping Mulder with her mother or placing her in foster homes. Mulder used her struggles at home as motivation.
Once she began high school, she focused intently on school. She played the viola in the school orchestra, joined the swimming and diving teams, beat the boys in push-ups in gym class, and worked at Dairy Queen to begin saving money for college. Her hard work all paid off and she attended Gustavus Adolphus College on a full-ride scholarship, where she majored in political science.
After graduating, Mulder spent three years teaching and coaching swimming in a middle school through Teach for America. “On a whim,” Mulder took the LSAT and applied to Harvard Law School. She thought she could serve the same population of at-risk youth she was while teaching, but in a different capacity. She thought it was a joke when Harvard admissions called her. It wasn’t.
She indeed was accepted to Harvard Law School, where she graduated in 2014, logging more than 2,000 hours of pro bono legal work along the way. She has since moved back to Minneapolis to work in the county’s public defender’s office. “I love my clients,” Mulder recently told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “There are some heartbreaking stories. But I identify with underdogs. I was an underdog.”
Back home, she regularly communicates with her mother, who lives in a supervised living arrangement, visiting her every other Saturday. When given the opportunity, she found someone who had recently practiced law in Anoka County and asked for Askew’s contact. Mulder emailed Askew immediately, thanking him for the decisions and handling of her case.
Askew’s response was that of a proud grandfather. He always saw the potential in her, he says, laughing, adding that she now has more “spiffy” credentials than him.
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
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