E.G. lawyer is new Wright County magistrate

EAGLE GROVE – Just a bit more than two months after her appointment as Wright County magistrate, Dani Eisentrager is settling into her new role and helping operations run smoothly.

Eisentrager, who has been a private practice attorney in Eagle Grove since 2006, has been Wright County magistrate since Aug. 1.

As the only magistrate judge in Wright County, Eisentrager said she’s on call 24/7.

“My responsibilities include handling initial appearances for all defendants charged with a crime within 24 hours of their arrest,” Eisentrager said. “I also handle substance abuse and mental health commitments for the county, small claims and search warrants.”

She became interested in the magistrate’s position after wanting to work more with criminal cases.

“When I initially started practicing law I took a lot of court-appointed work with defendants,” she said. “I had gotten out of that for quite a bit, but this seemed like a good transition to compensate for that part of the practice I wasn’t doing much of.”

In her law practice, works mainly in family law.

“It doesn’t really conflict with my duties as the Wright County magistrate,” she said.

She was interested in being a magistrate because she didn’t have to stop practicing law due to her appointment.

“The magistrate is a part-time position and it doesn’t prevent you from still having a law practice,” she said.

Although she’s only been magistrate a short time, Eisentrager has already been making changes to help streamline the court process. One way is by introducing technology into the courtroom.

“I normally do appearances in person, but if I can’t make it to Clarion (where Wright County Magistrate Court is held) we’ll do it over FaceTime,” she said. “The jail has an iPad and I use my iPhone and we hold the hearing that way.

“It’s handy because I get to personally see them and talk with them and do the appearance that way instead of driving all the way to Clarion,” Eisentrager said.

In addition, Eisentrager holds court regularly every Thursday afternoon.

The most challenging cases she has had to deal with involve mental health and substance abuse committals. She deals with them frequently, she said, and didn’t realize how many there were until she became a magistrate.

“I was shocked to realize it was such a huge problem,” she said. “They often occur late at night and just dealing with whether to commit them or not is challenging. It’s a balancing act. What do you do here and what’s the best thing to do?”

Still, Eisentrager said she enjoys the experiences and challenges of being Wright County magistrate.

“It’s definitely a learning curve,” she said. “I’m learning lots of new things and figuring out how I’m going to do everything. I’m getting into that groove of how I’m going to do that.”