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Election 2002: Fillmore County Attorney

Fri, Nov 1st, 2002
Posted in Features

Editor’s note: Attorneys Eric Herendeen and Brett Corson are running for the position of Fillmore County Attorney. The post has been held for the past several years by Matt Opat who is not seeking re-election.The Journal asked the two candidates to respond to an Election Questionnaire. Here are their responses in their own words.

Journal: Inform the readers as to your qualifications and motivation for running for County Attorney.Corson: I believe that I am the best candidate for Fillmore County Attorney because of my legal expertise, integrity, and work ethic. Most people know me as owner/partner of Corson Law Offices in Preston where I have practiced for the last 13 years. In my private practice, I have extensive experience in defending criminal cases, negotiating contracts, establishing child support, performing land transactions, dealing with land use issues and handling other legal matters. I prosecute criminal matters for the City of Rushford and act as Fillmore Township Attorney. I am a former Public Defender for the State of Minnesota. I also have 13 years in the Army Reserve where I am a Command Judge Advocate for a Battalion Commander and hold the rank of Major. I am a member of the 10th Judicial District Bar Association Ethics Committee, State Bar Association, and Federal Bar.I am a lifetime member resident of Fillmore County. I grew up in Preston in a family of eight children. I have been married to my wife Nancy for 16 years. We have three daughters, Natasha, Hannah, and Gretchen. My family and community are very important to me. I want Fillmore County to remain a place that has thriving schools, farms, businesses, and communities. Healthy families, schools, and community organizations are essential components in the fight against domestic abuse, crime, and other matters which must be addressed by the County and County Attorney’s office. Therefore, I have been involved with the Wykoff Lions, Immanuel Lutheran Church and other community groups. I have acted as President, Council member, Tail Twister, Secretary, Sunday School Teacher, and held other offices in these organizations. I am an individual who is a leader and organizer within the community. As County Attorney I will continue to be a leader inside and outside of the Courtroom.Herendeen: I live in Preston with Damita, my wife of 13 years. I graduated from Hamline University School of Law. I also studied Comparative Government and International Law in Norway, at the University of Oslo Law School.From 1994 to 1996, I worked as a judicial law clerk for the Fillmore County District Court, and later was the City of Rushford's prosecutor.I have been Assistant Fillmore County Attorney since 1996. My responsibilities include prosecution of all levels of adult crime, juvenile delinquency and child protection matters, child support enforcement and civil commitments. I work with law enforcement, social services, victims and witnesses to ensure firm, fair and efficient resolution of legal matters.I advise and train law enforcement regarding updates in Minnesota law and best practices in investigation and prosecution of assault cases. I am assisting the Minnesota Attorney General in the prosecution of three methamphetamine-manufacturing cases in Fillmore County. I am a member of the Fillmore County Child Protection Team, the Fillmore County Family Violence Council, the 10th District Ethics Committee, and the Minnesota and Fillmore County Bar Associations.Due to the growing need for legal services, I believe we need a full-time County Attorney, without the conflicts of interest and time constraints created by a private law practice. As County Attorney, I will continue to work full-time, holding offenders accountable for their crimes and making a difference in people's lives.Journal: Discuss the role of county attorney and the key issues facing the court system in Fillmore County. Herendeen: The role of the County Attorney can be divided into four major areas: •Adult and Juvenile Prosecution:The County Attorney is the prosecutor for adult felony crimes, many gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses. Prosecution involves preparing charges, motions and briefs; advising a Grand Jury; conducting trials; making sentencing recommendations; and handling appeals. The County Attorney prosecutes all crimes committed by juveniles within the County. Offenses range from curfew violations to serious felony criminal behavior. The county attorney oversees diversion programs that allow minor offenders to receive consequences without going to court. These programs are intended to reduce repeat offenses. A primary goal of juvenile court is rehabilitation of offenders. Due to public safety concerns, the County Attorney may ask the court to certify a juvenile to stand trial as an adult.•Civil Advice:The County Attorney serves as legal advisor for the County Board and other county officials to assist the county in providing many public services and represents Fillmore County in all civil litigation. The County Attorney's Office cannot represent, or provide legal advice to, private citizens.•Victim/Witness Assistance: The County Attorney provides assistance and support to the victims and witnesses who play a vital role in the criminal justice system. The County Attorney advises victims of their legal rights, including restitution for losses suffered because of crime.•Family Services: The County Attorney initiates lawsuits to protect abused or neglected children and vulnerable adults, and files involuntary commitment actions to provide necessary treatment for the mentally ill, chemically dependent, or mentally handicapped. Reimbursement of public funds occurs when the County Attorney sues on behalf of welfare recipients to enforce child support obligations, or to establish paternity. Parents not receiving welfare benefits may also apply for these services from the County Attorney at minimal cost.Corson: I can offer the people of Fillmore County an attorney who has real legal experience and expertise inside the courtroom. I have prosecuted and defended a multitude of criminal cases. I have litigated numerous civil matters including dissolutions, child support matters, personal injury claims and contract disputes where I have advocated for the citizens of Fillmore County. I can offer the people of Fillmore County real legal experience when negotiating contracts, drafting legal documents and mediating disputes. Most importantly, I am an attorney who believes in justice and who is willing to work hard to accomplish that goal.I will be a County Attorney who remembers that his clients are the people of Fillmore County. The criminal system must first and foremost protect the people of this county from criminal offenders and be supportive of law enforcement. Repeat offenders and individuals who commit serious crimes must be dealt with appropriately. At the same time, we must assist first time offenders with treatment, counseling, or other programs which insure that they don’t commit further crimes.As County Attorney, I will tackle zoning issues which have been in turmoil for quite some time. I will insure that zoning continues to be consistent, comprehensive and fair. Zoning should protect our natural resources and agriculture while still allowing development of adequate housing and industry. We all profit from this approach.The controversy regarding Courthouse improvements and the landfill/waste contract emphasize the need for a County Attorney who can negotiate, review and draft contracts. I have that experience and will work to insure that all county contracts protect taxpayer dollars and public interest.

Journal: What are your thoughts on the space needs of the courts in a remodeled courthouse.Corson: In a remodeled courthouse, it is essential to maintain the privacy of the client and witnesses, maintain security, and maintain appropriate decorum. Therefore, there should be at least two conference rooms located adjacent to the Courtroom. This would allow client/attorney conferences, attorney/witness meetings and other day to day conferences where privacy is necessary. Security of witnesses and courtroom personnel should be maintained by limiting avenues of access to the Courtroom, establishing secure areas, and installing cameras. The Courtroom and surrounding area should also be appropriately furnished and there should be appropriate decorum. This is essential because of the importance of law and justice in a democratic society. We must convey that respect of law to all who enter the Courtroom area.Herendeen:Two issues facing our Court system include a lack of courtroom security and inadequate space at the jail. The court system, including the County Attorney's Office, needs functional space in which to do the work that the Constitution mandates. The courthouse expansion plan must address present and future needs -- it is more economical and practical to complete one remodel now, than to need additional remodeling in 5-10 years.

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