Letter: Support additional funding for Minnesota Attorney General’s Office

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

I write this letter in my capacity as the Freeborn County attorney to appeal publicly to our Legislature to provide necessary funding to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office (AG). I am confident that our legislators have our county’s best interests in mind and that they want to help protect us from crime, but they need to act now.

The AG is one of those indispensable assets in the state of Minnesota. Most of us hear about the high profile litigation done by the AG to protect our state, the opioid crisis and other large civil suits. Did you know that the AG assists individual counties with individual criminal cases? The AG has assisted Freeborn County many times before and continues to do so.

A murder doesn’t occur often in Freeborn County, but when one does, the AG can be an excellent resource. The last murder that occurred here was in 2016, and it is true that I prosecuted that case personally, and that a jury convicted the defendant. In that particular case, I didn’t request the AG’s assistance because, frankly, we don’t always need their assistance, but when we do, they are indispensable. We choose the cases carefully that we refer to the AG. We turn to the AG in the cases where specialized expertise and extraordinary resources are needed. That is why providing adequate resources to the AG’s office is so critical. It’s not just an issue at the state level; it affects us directly at the county level.

Currently, the AG is assisting Freeborn County in the prosecution of a case in which I charged a defendant with three counts of attempted murder, and there are a multitude of witnesses and exhibits, multiple law enforcement agencies, and challenging legal issues. The AG has provided a lead prosecutor who has done an excellent job in the case. The AG regularly assists our county with the civil commitment of sex offenders. The AG assists with appellate work by representing Freeborn County’s interests in cases in which convicted criminals or civilly committed individuals appeal the district court’s decision and seek to have it overturned or amended in the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.

Over 20 years ago, the AG had a dozen full-time prosecutors, but over time that number dwindled to one. The current AG shifted resources to increase that number to three, but that’s still only one-fourth of what it used to be. It’s not adequate. Now, the AG is asking the Legislature for help in hiring seven new prosecutors to continue to support counties like ours. The House has agreed but so far, the Senate has not. I know that the AG is ready and willing to do more to help counties, but the legislature needs to act.

There’s a simple solution: give the AG adequate resources to answer the calls for help. If the AG does not get the additional requested funding, the small counties in particular will suffer, especially in the resource-intensive cases where specialized legal expertise is crucial — which tend to be the most serious violent crimes. I urge our lawmakers to act.

David Walker

Freeborn County attorney