This fall, residents of Scott County and other county residents in similar election cycles will be asked to vote for the office of County Attorney in their home county. For many, this is an office that you hear little about, and that gets little attention between elections. We thought it would help to provide a little information on the role of the county attorney in Minnesota to aid voters as they make their selections this fall.
- In Scott County, the County Attorney and the Sheriff are the only elected officials that are elected by the whole of Scott County, not from a smaller district within the county.
- The county attorney is the lead prosecutor for felony criminal cases occurring in Scott County. Think the “DA” or “District Attorney” on your favorite legal show on television. In more populous counties, including Scott County, the actual county attorney is not likely handling many actual cases in court because of their other duties. However, they do set the tone, hire the deputy prosecutors, and are responsible for the management and oversight of prosecution.
- The County Attorney provides advice to the County Board on the legalities of decisions and actions. This role is key: it can prevent the County from being sued for making decisions that are contrary to Minnesota law.
- The County Attorney and their staff are responsible for advising and counseling all county agencies. This includes public works, the Sheriff’s department, human resources, health and human services, administration, etc.
- In many ways, the County Attorney oversees a medium-sized public law firm that provides a variety of services. For that reason, they hire skilled and experienced assistants to handle the varying areas of the caseload.
- The County Attorney assists in drafting and enforcing county ordinances.
- The County Attorney attends all county board meetings to be available to advise the board as needed.
- The County Attorney provides contract review services for all county contracts to make sure the interests of the county are protected as it enters into contractual relations with third parties.
- The County Attorney provides training and guidance to help assistants in criminal prosecutions.
- Along with the Sheriff, the County Attorney is a key law-enforcement officer in the county.
These roles are varied and complex and require the ability to manage people and tasks on a day to day basis. In many ways, the position of county attorney is more important than a county board seat. It is both a staff position, and an elected position.
If you’re not sure who you should vote for county attorney in your county this fall, ask a lawyer you know. Lawyers tend to interact regularly with the county attorneys office and can give you some good insight into who they think is right for the job, and why.