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Dakota County Attorney's office restructures

Reduced caseloads and reductions in staff have resulted in a restructuring of the Dakota County Attorney's office.

"We are eliminating our Juvenile and Protective Services Division and combining this work with our Criminal and Civil Divisions," said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. "All criminal prosecutions, including juvenile cases, will now be handled through our Criminal Division and all child/adult protection, commitments (including sexually dangerous persons) and other protective service related work will be handled in our Civil Division."

Backstrom announced the restructuring earlier this month and indicated the planning for the changes began months ago. Several major factors were involved.

"We are making this organizational change due to reduced caseloads in a number of affected areas and some reductions in our staff over the past three years," he said. "Reducing the number of divisions will increase opportunities for cross training of attorneys and support staff, ensure that caseloads can be covered while other staff are on flex or other leaves, and enables us to more easily adjust assignments when caseloads go up or down. It will also help us address the continuing budget challenges we anticipate in these difficult times."

He stressed he has the greatest respect and confidence in the attorneys who have been previously assigned to the Juvenile and Protective Services Division. They have worked hard in the division, he said.

Backstrom noted that when his office was growing in size and part of it was relocated to the Northern Service Center in Mendota Heights, the changes resulted in the expansion of the office's organizational structure. The current economic climate, though, reduced growth in the county's population and reduced caseloads, and a smaller organization structure is necessary. Some of the reduced caseload numbers were in areas being handled by the Juvenile and Protective Services Division.

"We believe this will lead to more flexibility and efficiency as we face these and other challenges in the years ahead," said Backstrom. "Making a more significant and organizational change such as this will also help us reduce the need to make individual attorney and support staff reassignments."