I want to thank the PATCH for the opportunity to reach more citizens of Lake County so they will understand the importance of choosing the right candidate for State's Attorney in November.
I believe that the office of state’s attorney is one the most important in state government because it has the power to ensure that everyone in the county—victims, witnesses and defendants—is treated with the justice and fairness to which we’re all entitled.
As state’s attorney, I will lead a team that will be fully committed to investigating and prosecuting not just certain areas of crime, but rather all types of criminal conduct—from traffic violations to felonies, guaranteeing that these crimes are prosecuted vigorously according to the law.
I will also improve the process for investigating wrongful convictions, which not only harm the wrongly accused, but leave the perpetrator on the streets and can cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits.
Here are just a few of the specific innovations that I will make as state’s attorney:
- Streamline the process for communicating with and counseling victims of crimes. The state’s attorney’s office has a staff of highly trained legal professionals, administrators and counselors who will be put to better use on behalf of victims so that these victims can receive help and support when they need it the most.
- Work more closely with law enforcement in the investigation of crimes and gathering evidence. The state’s attorney’s office should be involved even before an arrest is made, so that there’s no question that criminal cases are being properly handled from start to finish.
- Appoint a Case Review Panel to review old cases and convictions. This panel will consist of diverse members of the legal community—retired judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement—who will review past cases in order to properly uphold the law. This would be a volunteer position, leveraging an incredible pool of legal talent—at no additional cost to taxpayers.
- Create a Public Integrity Unit to investigate and prosecute crimes involving official misconduct, public corruption and fraud. When it comes to government impropriety, there will be zero tolerance.
- Expand the Cyber Crimes Division to combat the increase in computer-related crimes, especially financial identity theft and preying on children via the Internet. As technology changes and cyber criminals become more sophisticated, we must become more vigilant and aware of the damage that these types of crimes can cause.
- Restructure the Civil Division of the state’s attorney’s office and maximize the use of in-house resources. The state’s attorney’s office has more than 150 outstanding, experienced staffers who need to be fully utilized, as opposed to outsourcing numerous cases to private law firms. This approach will save taxpayer dollars and will improve morale among the office staff.
- Enhance the training process for in-house staffers on everything from traffic through felony. It’s vital that the state’s attorney’s office stays current on the latest changes in the law, forensics, science and laws of evidence, etc. We will add a number of additional training courses to be conducted by in-house attorneys, many of whom teach law and trial advocacy, and stay current on these issues—at no additional cost to taxpayers. A mentoring program would also help newer and less experienced attorneys by teaming them up with veteran staff attorneys.
- Change the promotional structure and career paths for office staff. I believe that promotions should be based on skills, abilities and actual results, not just on tenure.
- Open up the lines of communication between the state’s attorney’s office and the public. While I believe criminal cases should be tried in the courtroom and not in the media, the people of Lake County have a right to know what’s happening in the office. Open and regular communication between the office and the media will ensure that the public stays informed, particularly where high profile cases are concerned.
--Mike Nerheim, Republican Candidate for Lake County State's Attorney.