Attorneys of the Year: John Choi
Posted: 2:40 pm Mon, February 25, 2013
By Liz Wolf
Ramsey County Attorney
When John Choi announced his 2010 candidacy for county attorney in Ramsey County, he held a press conference at a low-income housing complex in St. Paul. Choi’s family lived there when they emigrated from South Korea when Choi was 3.
He was elected and took office in 2011 after working a decade in private practice and serving four years as St. Paul city attorney under St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. While in private practice at Kennedy & Graven, Choi rose to partner by age 30.
“It was hard to give up everything I had worked so hard to achieve in those 10 years,” says Choi, regarding his move to public law. “I had to walk away from a shareholder’s status. … But it was an opportunity to do public service and serve my community.”
As city attorney, Choi led an office of 70 employees with an $8 million budget. “That’s where I really found my passion for the criminal justice system and public law,” he says. “I accomplished a lot of good things there. That got me thinking about running for county attorney.”
Choi now leads an office of 325 employees with a $38 million budget. Since taking office, he has created initiatives and built partnerships to improve victim safety, increase offender accountability and intervene in the lives of children at the first signs of trouble
He took a leadership role among other metro-area elected county attorneys to revamp prosecution policies regarding juveniles trafficked as prostitutes. “We no longer treat these children as offenders but as victims of crime,” he says.
When issues came up relating to how the
St. Paul Crime Lab handled narcotics cases, Choi and his counterparts in Washington and Dakota counties took decisive and transparent action to assure that justice was served for the affected defendants.
“Part of the role of a prosecutor is being a minister of justice and making sure that the public is fully informed about what’s going on through transparency,” he says.
Among other initiatives, Choi established a pilot program using GPS technology to keep victims of violence safer and better hold offenders accountable for violating no-contact orders, and he helped form the East Metro Crime Prevention Coalition.