Civil law

The Civil Division provides legal counsel to Hennepin County government. The county is the largest local government in Minnesota and has a $1.6 billion dollar annual budget.

Attorneys provide legal advice and representation to the Board of Commissioners, County Administration, the Sheriff's Office and other county departments on employment, contracts, litigation defense (torts), real estate taxes and issues related to property, and legal matters related to health care.

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Representing the county board

Civil attorneys provide legal advice to the seven elected Hennepin County Commissioners and County Administration.

The County Board enacts ordinances, approves resolutions and contracts, and makes policies. The County Attorney’s Office provides legal counsel to the County Board regarding all matters that come before the board and ensures that County Board actions comply with Minnesota’s laws. This includes advice on county ordinances, Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law, First Amendment issues related to county property, litigation advice, and specific County Board actions.

Protecting taxpayer interests

Taxes pay for necessary functions such as maintenance of county roads, the sheriff’s department, county parks, garbage disposal and the prosecution of criminals.

To protect the county's legal interests, civil attorneys provide regular training for county staff on liability reduction, contracts and procurement, and data practices issues.

Torts

The civil division works to preserve those taxpayer funds by defending the county against lawsuits as well as proactively seeking debt collection and appearing in bankruptcy and conciliation courts on both state and federal levels.

The torts team responds to civil claims and lawsuits filed against the county and its employees in state and federal court. On average Hennepin County litigates approximately 60 cases a year in state or federal court.

An example of successful litigation helped preserve the the Midtown Greenway. Xcel Energy was ordered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to bury a transmission line, rather than run it overhead along the Midtown Greenway. The added costs will be shared by all of Xcel’s customers rather than only its Minneapolis customers.

Property

The real property team represents the county in property tax appeals, condemnation matters and other property related matters. 

Attorneys handle property tax petitions where property owners, commercial or residential, contest county-assessed values and/or classifications. Usually, people file a tax petition either because they think their property has been valued too high or because they think their property is exempt from property taxes. In these cases, attorneys represent the county assessor’s office or the assessors in the cities of the county. Nearly all of the cases are resolved without going to trial. Often, the person bringing the petition dismisses it. Sometimes there is a negotiation and the property valuation is reduced. When more expensive properties such as shopping centers pay their fair share, each individual homeowner can pay less.

Civil attorneys also help establish conservation easement agreements. Landowners who wish to establish a conservation easement should contact Environmental Services.

Hennepin County Environmental Services - Conservation services

Environment@hennepin.us
Phone: 612-348-3777

Contracts and employment

Contracts

Civil attorneys provide legal advice to county departments. They draft and negotiate contracts with outside vendors for goods and services. The county enters into more than 2,500 contracts every year. With county employees located in more than 100 buildings, these attorneys work regularly with property services on such issues as negotiating purchase agreements and leases.

Notable contract work includes

  • Target Field
  • Public-private partnership agreement for the Target Field light rail station and public plaza
  • Grants for superfund clean up through the Environmental Response Fund and other sources

There is also a Prevailing Wage Officer who helps ensure that employees working on county-funded contracts are paid the wage to which they are entitled.

Employment

Hennepin County is the largest local government in Minnesota, employing nearly 7,200 employees.

The employment team provides legal advice and representation to the Human Resource department and all other departments with respect to employment, labor, and worker’s compensation matters.

Health

The health team provides legal representation to the Hennepin County Medical Center, NorthPoint, Hennepin Health, and several other health-related departments within the county. This representation includes all types of health law as well as defending HCMC and other medical providers in medical malpractice cases.

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