Attorney Duties

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Chief Legal Counsel 

The County Attorney is the chief legal adviser to the County Board of Commissioners and other County personnel and legal advocate for the county in court cases in which the county is a party.

The County Attorney does not provide legal advice to members of the general public.  Neither the County Attorney nor his staff is able to represent, provide legal advice to, or provide legal services to private citizens. The following is a partial list of the areas considered private civil matters:

  • Boundary line disputes
  • Collection of judgments
  • Conservatorships
  • Dissolutions
  • Landlord/tenant disputes
  • Orders for protection
  • Private covenants
  • Probate
  • Wills
  • Writs of execution

The County Attorney can and will make a referral to a department or agency if they may be able to provide further assistance.

Occasionally a citizen requests that the County Attorney’s Office provide advice or assistance on one or more of the above-mentioned private civil matters.  Often, a citizen feels that his or her taxes pay the County Attorney’s salary and, therefore, they are entitled to such advice. However, the County Attorney’s Office is not a private law firm.  The sole responsibility of the County Attorney’s office is to County government.  By giving our County government proper legal services, each of us, as taxpayers, will benefit.


Criminal Prosecutor

Many states have district attorneys (often referred to as DA’s) who prosecute criminal cases. Here in Minnesota, County Attorneys and City Attorneys prosecute all crimes. Felonies (the most serious crimes, punishable by more than a year in prison) are prosecuted solely by the County Attorney.

Other crimes may be prosecuted by either the County Attorney or a City Attorney depending upon a number of factors. (City attorneys in Minnesota are responsible for prosecuting most misdemeanor violations, which occur within the city limits. For example, the New Ulm City Attorney prosecutes most misdemeanors, which occur within the City of New Ulm, while the Sleepy Eye and Springfield City Attorneys prosecute most misdemeanors, which occur in their cities.)  The Brown County Attorney’s Office also serves as prosecutor for some of the smaller cities located within Brown County, including Cobden and Evan.

In order to charge a crime, the County Attorney must demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe a specific defendant committed a specific crime on a specific date within the county. To convict, the County Attorney must prove those same factors beyond a reasonable doubt.


Juvenile Delinquency

When juveniles violate criminal laws, the County Attorney is solely responsible for prosecuting these matters. The County Attorney will determine what offense has been committed and whether the matter is appropriate to remain in Juvenile Court, or whether the matter is appropriate for Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile (EJJ) status or Adult Certification. Certain offenses committed by a juvenile after reaching the age of 16 are presumed to result in the juvenile matter being certified for adult prosecution (murder being one of the most obvious situations).


The County Attorney is not an Investigator

County Attorney’s do not investigate crimes. Law enforcement officers, such as the police or County Sheriff investigate reports of crimes. During this process, the police and sheriff gather evidence (e.g. statements from witnesses, fingerprints, drug tests, ballistic tests) and submit the evidence to the County Attorney for review and a charging decision. Thereafter, the County Attorney will either decline prosecution or proceed with criminal charges and ultimately a trial or other resolution.


Speaking to Public Groups

Are you interested in knowing more and are you involved in a community or civic group that would be interested in speaking with the County Attorney?  Your County Attorney is available to speak to civic groups on topics relating to the County Attorney’s Office.  Please call our office for more information.