Sarah Becker, Zenaida Chico, Connie Flattum, Jennifer Guzman, Paula Kruchowski-Barrette, Timothy Richards, Heather Robertson and Jennifer Saunders
Criminal Division, City Attorney’s Office
City Attorney Susan Segal and Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng in the Criminal Division nominated the Criminal Division Appeals Team for making the City safer by defending criminal convictions and police arrests:
“There have been 10 members of the Criminal Division Appeals since its creation in 2009. These individuals have collectively contributed between 1,000 and 2,000 hours, including many evening and weekend hours of their own, toward their work on this team. Appeals team members perform their work in addition to, and not in place of, their regularly assigned duties. Through their hard work and willingness to assume this additional responsibility, the City has prevailed in more than 80 percent of its appellate cases since the formation of the team. As a result, the goal of making the City of Minneapolis a safer place is being achieved.
“Since the formation of the team, its handful of members have worked together to defend criminal convictions and police arrests in more than 50 cases at Minnesota's Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The team's defense of these convictions and arrests, which in many cases involves victims and in most cases involves offenses such as drunk driving that endanger the safety of Minneapolitans, has served to make our streets and neighborhoods safer and to provide victims with needed reimbursement for medical bills and stolen or damaged property.
“During the past two years, members of the Criminal Division Appeals Team worked together in a true team effort to protect the rights of prosecutors in a court case that had statewide impact. The end result was an important victory for prosecutors at the Minnesota Supreme Court in August. In this case, State v. Olson, a Minneapolis prosecutor was preparing to try a case against a man who drove his car in Minneapolis with an alcohol concentration that was nearly twice the legal limit. On the eve of trial, the arresting officer, a Minnesota State trooper, contacted the prosecutor and told him for the first time that the trooper would be unavailable for trial. Unable to proceed to trial because of the trooper's last-minute notice, the prosecutor asked the court to continue the case. When the court denied his request, he was forced to dismiss his case.
“The prosecutor recharged the case and the driver challenged the prosecutor's authority to do so. When the district court agreed that the prosecutor had not acted in bad faith when he dismissed the case, and therefore, that he permissibly recharged the case, the driver appealed that ruling. Paula Kruchowski-Barrette conducted extensive legal research and wrote a thorough brief defending the City prosecutor at the Court of Appeals. Members of the appeals team helped by reviewing and editing her brief and by conducting a "mock" practice argument to prepare Kruchowski-Barrette for her oral argument. Connie Flattum and Jennifer Guzman, paralegals who assist the appeals team in addition to their regularly assigned duties, supported Kruchowski-Barrette in the filing and service of her brief. When the Court of Appeals sided with the driver, team member Jennifer Saunders appealed that ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the court agreed to hear the case.
“Saunders worked exhaustively in collaboration with many of the other team members to conduct extensive research and to write a comprehensive brief in support of the City prosecutor who dismissed and recharged the case. Team members helped Saunders conduct research, assisted Saunders in editing her brief and repeatedly drilled Saunders to prepare her for an oral argument before the Supreme Court. Our appeals team paralegals were again instrumental in getting the brief filed and served.
“Most every member of the team contributed to this effort. The result was a victory at the Supreme Court that affects every prosecutor in Minnesota. While Saunders led the charge, she could not have succeeded without the support of her teammates.”
Published Nov 1, 2016