Cass County Board: County attorney Strandlie offers annual report

BACKUS--County Attorney Christopher Strandlie thanked the Cass County Board "for being easy to work with" when he began his annual report to the board Tuesday.

BACKUS-County Attorney Christopher Strandlie thanked the Cass County Board "for being easy to work with" when he began his annual report to the board Tuesday.

"It just doesn't happen overnight," he said, referring to the open line of communication he has had with the board.

Cass was a pilot county in 2015 for adopting the state switch from paper to electronic case filing and assumed more duties as a result of the state's changed mandates for child protection about the same time.

E-filing has meant county attorney employees now enter much of the data court administration employees used to enter into court records, Strandlie said.

The county board authorized funding one additional attorney and one more clerical position for the county attorney's office in 2016. Local property tax levy dollars paid for some of the added cost.


The attorney's office bills health, human and veterans services for time spent on child protection and other human service-related issues. Therefore, state funds the county receives toward child protection also can pay for some of the added attorney costs.

One assistant county attorney now works half of each day at the health, human and veterans services building.

Because the county attorney processes civil and criminal cases and does human services issues cases, his staff now uses about eight different, new computer programs, at least one of which requires 42 different steps to enter data for a single case.

Different state agencies developed the different new programs for their own use, but these programs do not allow cutting and pasting between them. Attorney employees often have to re-enter the same data in more than one program.

Strandlie said the state association of county attorneys now is being consulted for suggestions on how the state agencies can better streamline and interconnect their software.

Some of the glitches could not be anticipated, he said, adding he expects the programs will get improved.

Strandlie told the board Tuesday the number of new criminal cases here has been fairly stable, but the number of cases involving a victim has risen sharply.

His office assisted 515 crime victims in 2013 and 580 in 2015.


The number of child protection cases has jumped from about 42 in 2014 to 115 in 2016.

Because the population is aging, the number of guardianships and conservatorships has jumped from about 10 a year in 2013 and 2014 to 25 in 2016.

Civil commitments for people who are mentally ill or chemically dependent or developmentally delayed rose from 20 new cases in 2013 to 50 in 2016.

There also is an increase in civil commitment of criminal offenders determined to be incompetent to stand trial. Those are up from about two in 2013 to 20 in 2016.

The number of sexually dangerous or sexually psychopathic personalities jumped from about three a year to nine last year. These are people who have served a sentence for a crime and the county attorney may refer them to be held indefinitely for treatment at the state's Moose Lake facility.

Strandlie and his assistants made 7,800 appearances in court in 2014, but that number increased to about 12,000 in 2016. In one recent case, there were 12 hearings to cover the same issues usually handled in only five hearings, Strandlie said.

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