Stearns County Attorney’s Office Civil Division: Low Profile, High Impact
ST. CLOUD -- Sifting through every word of a 20-year investigation is right in the wheelhouse of the Civil Division of the Stearns County Attorney's Office.
Handling the civil matters happening in the legal system of Stearns County, the civil division has a lower profile than the other arms. Yet they have a huge impact on how the county operates.
Right now they're in a legal fight over the Jacob Wetterling file. It centers around the conflict between Minnesota law and Federal law regarding privacy.
Lotte Hansen is the Chief of the Civil Division. She says the lawsuit involving the file has her division going through every word over thousands of pages.
"Really review every single page, to see whether there's information on each page that wouldn't be considered public. Information we'd redact to protect someone's identity."
County Attorney Janelle Kendall says the conflict in state and federal law comes from what each law "presumes", privacy, or publicity.
"Under federal law, which has a presumption of privacy, and state law, which has a presumption of publicity."
More than half of the file could have originated with the FBI. This includes cases where someone was questioned by a Stearns County Deputy but had an FBI agent present during the questioning.
Besides the Wettling File, the civil division handles things like Condemnation, Tax Appeals, Environmental Enforcement and Child Support Collection. Essentially, if you have legal interaction with Stearns County that's not criminal, odds are it's handled by the civil division.
The division has six attorneys and one paralegal.
Wednesday, WJON will take a look inside the Juvenile Division of the attorney's office, headed by Matthew Engelking.