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Pictured clockwise from upper left: Kaleb Rumicho, Megan McKenzie, Robin Benson, Nick Anderson, Emily Parks, Mindy Hexum and Karl Procaccini
Pictured clockwise from upper left: Kaleb Rumicho, Megan McKenzie, Robin Benson, Nick Anderson, Emily Parks, Mindy Hexum and Karl Procaccini

2020 Attorneys of the Year: State COVID Legal Team, Executive Order Drafting Team

When the coronavirus started spreading a year ago, it came with a byproduct that not many expected: the indignant refusal by some to wear a mask, a simple measure that health experts said would stop the virus from spreading.

Gov. Tim Walz issued a series of executive orders limiting social gatherings and recommending that Minnesotans refrain from unnecessary out-of-state travel and self-quarantine upon returning if they do travel.

The Governor’s General Counsel Team was tasked with navigating and advising Walz on the legal aspects of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karl Procaccini, general counsel for the governor, said he and his team weren’t sure how the public would respond to the collective measures meant to protect their health. While compliance rates have been high overall, it’s been necessary for the team to help draft the executive orders.

“We have been as judicious as possible in our drafting, not just to ensure that the orders can withstand legal challenge, but also to foster public acceptance of the measures,” said Procaccini. “We realize that the orders can sometimes feel invasive and that they aren’t always easy. We are all looking forward to the day when they are no longer needed.”

The team built a policy and legal review process for executive orders, working with the state Department of Health and the Attorney General’s Office.

With an eye on consistency, they also consulted with experts to foresee the arc of the pandemic law Walz would enact, ensuring consistency. The executive orders so far have survived every legal challenge brought against them.

“The Attorney General’s Office views each executive order through the lens of a potential lawsuit,” said Procaccini. “This approach has led to strong executive orders that are both justified by the science and legally defensible.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 here.

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