8/4/2014 3:54:00 PM Publisher's Column
We are here for you
I almost decided not to run the column last week about the magazine article, "The Keystone Cops of Dodge County Minnesota Meets Who Framed Rodger Rabbit," because I thought it might be construed as support for the article. The publisher had been trying for a long time to draw attention to the article, including running a large ad in the Dodge County Independent. He had said as far back as February that the plan was to send the magazine to every postal patron in Dodge County but had not revealed who was responsible for that plan. The week before my column ran, he and others had notified media that it would be delivered to every postal patron in Dodge County the next week. I figured they must want publicity if they were notifying media and sending Facebook notice to the entire world.
Imagine my surprise when I returned to my office Wednesday afternoon and found an email from the publisher complaining about my column.
In some of the letters the publisher of the magazine sent to news media, Publisher Steve Krueger said there would be a monetary prize if anyone could find something in the article that was not accurate. If he backs up that offer, he will probably go broke.
There is a flow chart on page 10 of the magazine where Krueger lists the names and positions of nine officials and only four of them are correct. He erroneously lists Paul Kiltinen as city attorney in Claremont and Hayfield, Brian Weber as Dodge County Prosecutor and Melanie Leth as Dodge County Prosecutor, and Weber and Leth as West Concord City Attorney. This flow chart he calls, "an accurate depiction of the onslaught of unethical use of the legal system..."
Mark Rahrick is Claremont City Attorney. Rod Peterson is the city attorney in Hayfield. Gary Remine is the Dodge County Prosecutor and Scott Riggs is city attorney in West Concord. One has to question how accurate the bulk of information in the article may be when even the cast of characters isn't accurate.
There are many accusations made in the article that seem to reflect more a misunderstanding of how the system works than that there is corruption in the system. In nearly every case that goes before a judge or judge and jury in the courtroom, there are two sides going in with each side having its own idea about what the judge or judge and jury should decide. When the decision is not what they expected, litigants often believe there was something crooked going on, but that is seldom the case.
Attorneys are hired to represent clients, whether in civil or criminal courts. It is their duty to represent the interests of their clients. It is not their duty to judge their clients or their clients positions. When they do a good job of representing their clients, the opposing party often views them as having been unethical.
Prosecuting attorneys have the difficult task of representing the state, which is us, in criminal court using evidence they have gathered with the assistance of law enforcement. As in most court cases, there are questions that must be answered by a court decision. Sometimes the accused is convicted, sometimes they are acquitted. Those who are convicted often view the prosecutors as unethical.
Even when they win in court, some people feel afterward that the attorney who represented the other side or the prosecuting attorney had ulterior motives for taking action against them in the first place. They have a hard time understanding that the attorneys were just doing their jobs.
On occasion, attorneys are reprimanded when cases go to appeal. This happens in both civil and criminal cases. It does not necessarily mean that an attorney has been dishonest or unethical. It usually means the attorney made a mistake or was overzealous in representing a case.
There are, of course, situations where there are real problems in law enforcement or a legal system. It is important to identify those problems and get them corrected. That is one of the important jobs of the press, but it means citizens who see a problem should contact local media and report what they know. We will investigate, but we will not make sensational claims about people who are just doing their jobs.