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Clay County judge remembered for presiding over war crimes trials in Kosovo

FARGO—Kathleen Ann Weir, a former Clay County District Court judge who helped Kosovo rebuild its justice system after a civil war, died Sunday, July 31, at her Fargo home, according to an obituary. She was 74.

Weir served as a local judge for about 17 years before going to Kosovo in 2004 when the country was dealing with the aftermath of ethnic violence that erupted following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Weir spent five years in Kosovo working for the United Nations as a trial judge and as a member of the Kosovo Supreme Court. She presided over a number of war crimes trials, an experience that instilled in her a deeper appreciation for the U.S. Constitution.

"We need to strive very, very hard — always — to protect our Bill of Rights so that we do not end up with the kind of oppression that happened at Kosovo," she told The Forum in 2010.

Defense attorney Kenneth Kohler said he first appeared in Weir's courtroom when he was a Clay County prosecutor. He remembered her as a well-respected judge with a professional demeanor.

"She was very experienced, very in control of the courtroom. She knew what she was doing. In fact, I learned a great deal from her," Kohler said.

Moorhead attorney Peter Karlsson recalled a case in which he strongly disagreed with Weir's rulings and he made his opinion plainly known. But years later, when the two were at the same funeral, they managed to set aside their differences and sit together as friends, Karlsson said.

"She didn't hold grudges," he said. "I think, personally, we liked each other."

Karlsson said Weir sometimes gave defendants who weren't a threat to public safety the chance to be set free without bail, even if they had a poor record of making their court appearances. "It was an example of her good heart," he said.

Weir was born in southern Minnesota in 1942, and she graduated from Murdo High School in 1960, according to her obituary. She married Clifford Anderson in 1961, and they had a son named Kevin Anderson.

Kevin Anderson, who lives in Tomball, Texas, said his mother was raised on a farm and loved gardening, riding horses and skiing. In her later years, she suffered the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, which limited her activities, he said.

Anderson, 53, said his mother died from natural causes, but the exact cause is not known. "She died in her sleep peacefully," he said.

Weir graduated from the University of South Dakota Law School in 1973. During her legal career, she settled income tax appeals for the IRS and practiced law in Moorhead. After returning from Kosovo, she opened her own mediation and arbitration service, which focused mainly on family cases.

"She was totally into the law and justice, and was very influential in all of our lives in terms of being fair," her son said, adding that she believed "the government has to be fair to everybody, not just certain groups."

Weir is survived by her son and two granddaughters. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at the Boulger Funeral Home in Fargo.