William J. Watson - County Attorney
37 NW Second St
Ortonville, MN 56278
Phone: (320) 839-6197
Fax: (320) 839-6154
The County Attorney is an elected official with a "juris doctor" degree and licensed to practice law in the State of Minnesota.
The County Attorney is the legal advisor for the County Board of Commissioners, and all county departments and agencies. As the legal advisor for the county, the County Attorney serves in a role that is similar to that of an in-house corporate counsel. The County Attorney provides legal advice to the county board and county departments to assist the county in providing many public services, such as child protection and protection of vulnerable adults, defending challenges to property tax values, representing the Family Service Department on welfare appeals, collecting medical assistance liens, and prosecution of welfare fraud cases. The County Attorney drafts ordinances for the county, and is responsible for enforcing all county ordinances, as well as forfeiting property used in connection with criminal activity. In addition, the County Attorney’s office assists the county in buying property; negotiating leases and contracts; and in defending against personal injury, workers’ compensation, employment, civil rights and other lawsuits.
The County Attorney is the chief prosecutor for crimes which occur within a county. Prosecution involves bringing charges against a party, trying the case in court and making sentencing recommendations. The County Attorney prosecutes felony offenses (crimes which carry a penalty of more than one year in prison). Examples of these crimes include murder, sexual assault, drug offenses and child abuse. Misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, which are less serious crimes, are also prosecuted by the County Attorney.
The County Attorney is the prosecutor in all cases involving juvenile offenders. These range from curfew violations to the most serious felony criminal behavior. The County Attorney oversees the diversion programs which allow minor offenders to receive consequences without going to court. These programs are intended to reduce repeat offenses. While a goal of juvenile court is the rehabilitation of offenders, due to public safety concerns, the County Attorney may ask the court to certify the juvenile to stand trial as an adult. Upon conviction, the juvenile could then receive all potential adult sanctions, including a prison sentence.
Victim / Witness Assistance
The County Attorney provides assistance and support to the victims and witnesses who play a vital role in the criminal justice system. This will include advising crime victims of their legal rights and requesting restitution for losses suffered.
Family Services / Child Protection
The County Attorney initiates CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection or Services) petitions to protect abused or neglected children in the county. The County Attorney starts legal proceedings to protect the health and safety of vulnerable adults within the county when they are in need of assistance. The County Attorney also files involuntary commitment actions to provide necessary treatment for individuals who are mentally ill, chemically dependent, or mentally retarded. Whenever federal and cash assistance is paid to families with children, the county attorney brings actions to obtain or enforce child support obligations, or to establish the paternity of a child, in order to obtain reimbursement for assistance and other costs to the taxpayers. In addition, the County Attorney is responsible for prosecution of welfare fraud, and assists with the collection of medical assistance liens.
Pursuant Improvement and Prevention
The County Attorney plays an important role in seeking new laws to strengthen law enforcement, criminal justice, child protection, victims’ rights and other areas. The County Attorney also participates in efforts to prevent or reduce crime in the local communities and statewide.