A big job awaits the next Hennepin County Attorney

Courtesy of Hennepin County Mary Moriarty

Mary Moriarty is prepared to tackle it

As a rookie lawyer working in Hennepin County, I learned an important lesson my first day on the job. From my very first criminal case, I saw the power county attorneys have in our criminal justice system. 

It is county attorneys who recommend bail; it is county attorneys who decide whether a person should face criminal charges and what those charges should be; and it is county attorneys who control the plea deal process, where most cases are resolved. 

Until very recently, prosecutors across the nation have largely used that power to simply uphold the status quo. They cynically claim to be “tough on crime,” but instead they feed a system that often makes crime worse, fails to protect our neighborhoods, and perpetuates racial disparities. Prosecutors are best positioned to lead on meaningful reform, but too often they have failed to use their power to fix a broken system.

Thankfully, the county attorney is one of the only key players in the justice system directly accountable to the people, with competitive elections held every four years. Through this one election, voters have the power to change the direction of our justice system. In Hennepin County, we will be voting for a new county attorney in November 2022. 

After I made the decision in September to run for re-election [as a state legislator] and not to seek the position of county attorney, many have since asked who I will endorse. Here is my answer:

The next Hennepin County Attorney has a monumental task in front of them. And it won’t be easy. Mary Moriarty is the clear choice to be our next Hennepin County Attorney. 

Everyone deserves to feel—and be—safe. That’s as true on the North Side of Minneapolis as it is in New Hope and Rogers. Unfortunately today, that is too often not the case. 

The next county attorney will need to answer urgent calls for reform, help build trust between law enforcement and the community, and respond to the nationwide increase in violent crime that is impacting both suburban and urban parts of Hennepin County. 

This will be a big job. But Mary Moriarty is up for the challenge. Mary understands that most people who go to prison eventually get out and come back home to our communities. That’s why it is not enough to be “tough” on crime. Tough isn’t enough. 

People who commit serious crimes must be held accountable, but we deserve a more thoughtful, effective approach that will help rebuild our communities. Mary gets that. And she will bring a comprehensive approach to addressing violence in our communities that will help keep us safe. 

My professional experience working closely with Mary in the Hennepin County Public Defender’s office early in my career has given me insight into her integrity, character, and ability to lead. 

During her time as chief, Mary managed a staff of 140 attorneys and over 70 support staff including investigators, dispositional advisors, paralegals, IT personnel, legal office assistants, and law clerks. An independent evaluation from the National Center for State Courts stated that under Mary’s leadership as chief, Hennepin County had one of the most highly regarded public law offices in the country. 

The Hennepin County Attorney leads the largest public law office in the state, with over 460 employees handling tens of thousands of adult felony, juvenile, and civil cases each year. Mary’s management experience makes her uniquely qualified to manage this large and vitally important office. 

My personal experience with Mary for almost two decades has shown me that she is exceptionally intelligent, empathetic, approachable, innovative, and extremely hardworking. Mary has a good heart and thick skin. I trust Mary to make tough decisions and be transparent about how and why she made them. 

Mary is not a politician. She is not interested in using the position of county attorney as a platform for higher office. This is the only office she is running for. She will focus on the safety of Hennepin County residents and not any future political ambitions.

We are fortunate to have many great candidates in the race. They are good people and qualified lawyers in their specific practice areas. But when it comes to courtroom experience, public safety, and managing a large public law office, Mary’s resume and track record speak for itself. We need a county attorney who has the expertise and vision to meet this critical moment in our county, state, and country. 

Mary Moriarty is that leader.

Cedrick Frazier is the Minnesota State Representative for District 45A, which includes the cities of New Hope, Crystal, and Plymouth. Frazier also serves as vice-chair of the Minnesota House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy committee.