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People & Practices: Dec. 13, 2021

The Minnesota County Attorneys Association elected new leadership and bestowed special honors on several respected members during its annual meeting Dec. 1-3:

Mark Metz

Mark Metz


Mark Metz, Carver County Attorney, was elected president. Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer was elected president-elect, Cook County Attorney Molly Hicken was elected secretary, and Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman was elected treasurer.

“It is an honor to lead the MCAA and its members. I look forward to working with our members and our partners in improving the quality of justice and supporting their efforts to protect the rights and safety of people in Minnesota.”

Metz has served on the MCAA Board of Directors since 2014 and was first elected Carver County Attorney in November 2010.


  • Wadena County Attorney Kyra Ladd was awarded the MCAA Award of Excellence. This award honors an individual who has engaged in activities that show a high level of dedication, professionalism, and commitment to public service and the public practice of law by demonstrating extraordinary leadership, initiative, or innovation in the performance of their duties. Ladd has been the Wadena County Attorney since April 2006. She is a member of the MCAA Board of Directors, serves as co-chair of the MCAA Education Committee, is on the Educational Foundation Board, and is a member of the newly formed MCAA Governance Committee. Ladd also serves as the MCAA representative on the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Committee, and served as representative of the MCAA on the Criminal Sexual Conduct Working Group which prepared a report to the Legislature regarding recommended changes to the criminal sexual conduct statutes.
  • Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen received the MCAA Johnson Distinguished Service Award. This award honors an MCAA member who has demonstrated a history of significant leadership, and whose activity has increased public awareness of the office of County Attorney.

Nelsen was first elected Mower County Attorney in November 2006 and has served continuously since then. She joined the MCAA Board of Directors in 2011 and now also sits on the MCAA Governance Committee. She was the president of the MCAA Board in 2019 during which she led the organization with hard work, dedication and a quiet confidence. She was a member of the MCAA Executive Committee for five years, and served for a number of years as the MCAA representative on the Violent Crime Coordinating Council. She also serves with distinction on the MCAA Education Foundation Board and the MCAA Education Committee.

  • Chief Deputy Ramsey County Attorney Ann Ploetz received the MCAA Professional Achievement Award. This award is presented to an Assistant County Attorney who has dedicated significant time and skill to the advancement of the profession.

Ploetz started working in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in 1985 as a law clerk. After graduating she was hired and assigned to the juvenile delinquency division. She moved to the area of Civil Commitments and to the Child Protection team, where she helped develop how the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office responded to the major state law and policy changes to county involvement in Sexually Dangerous Persons and Sexual Psychopathic Personality cases that occurred in Minnesota after the well-publicized murder of Dru Sjodin. In recognition of both her leadership and subject matter expertise, Ploetz was promoted to Assistant Director of the Human Services Legal Division, over the areas of Child Protection and Civil Commitments. In 2017, Ploetz was appointed as Chief Deputy County Attorney, a newly created position with responsibility for managing the Human Services function, including Child Support, Civil Commitments, Child Protection and Youth Justice and Wellness. She has served as part of the Ramsey County Senior Management Team, including a leadership role in the County’s Racial Equity Leadership Team.

Ploetz will be retiring from the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office after over 35 years of public service.

  • Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nora Sandstad and Assistant Sherburne County Attorney Jennifer Pim received the MCAA Professional Achievement Award. This award is presented to an Assistant County Attorney who has dedicated significant time and skill to the advancement of the profession.

Sandstad and Pim are recognized for their hard work and dedication in helping MCAA secure the passage of the 2021 forfeiture reform legislation.

Forfeiture reform has been an issue that has been brought up at the State Capitol for many years. Some of the previous proposals would have abolished civil forfeiture altogether. The MCAA has consistently opposed the specifics of those proposals and both Sandstad and Pim dedicated numerous hours preparing the details of MCAA’s opposition and presenting them to various legislative committees. Before the 2020 legislative session, led by the MCAA, stakeholders engaged in a novel process involving a mediator. Sandstad and Pim were actively involved in this process which included law enforcement representatives and forfeiture reform advocates. The end result was the compromise language that was eventually passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.

  • Legislative Counsel Nancy Haas received the MCAA Public Service Award. This award honors an individual who, in their public service, has demonstrated the values of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

Haas has been MCAA’s legislative counsel for many years and has been a well-respected voice for the association at the Legislature. Various bills regarding forfeiture reform have been brought to the Legislature in prior sessions. These bills would have eliminated civil asset forfeiture and mandated only criminal forfeiture. The MCAA, with Haas’ leadership, was able to successfully oppose these bills. Before the 2020 legislative session, Haas came up with the novel idea of bringing together all stakeholders to engage in a process involving a mediator to work on forfeiture reform legislation. Her efforts led to extensive negotiations between defense attorneys and justice reform advocates, prosecutors and law enforcement stakeholders in Minnesota. The negotiations took place over several months in 2019 and 2020 and resulted in the forfeiture reform legislation that was enacted in 2021.


Cassandra Bautista

Cassandra Bautista

Sieben Edmunds Miller PLLC announces the addition of attorney Cassandra Bautista to the firm’s criminal defense team. Bautista began her career as an immigration and criminal defense attorney in St. Paul, representing clients throughout Minnesota. She spent the next phase of her career as a prosecutor for multiple cities in Dakota County before returning to criminal defense at Sieben Edmunds Miller. Bautista will use her fluency in Spanish to serve the Spanish-speaking community in Minnesota. She earned a J.D. from University of St. Thomas School of Law where she was a President’s Scholar. She received a B.A. in Legal Studies, Latin American Studies, and Spanish from Hamline University in St. Paul.


Faegre Drinker has announced the promotion of 28 attorneys to the firm’s partnership, including seven in Minneapolis, effective Jan. 1. The new partners are members of 11 of the firm’s practice groups in nine offices across the United States, with more than half reflecting diversity in terms of race and gender.

“This year’s partnership class represents our focus on developing top talent, advancing diversity and inclusion, and providing clients with the best and brightest,” said Faegre Drinker Co-Chairs Tom Froehle and Andrew Kassner in a joint statement.

The new Minneapolis partners are: Lauren Barron, Private Client; Andy Krafcheck, Real Estate; David Merritt, Intellectual Property; Kate Middleton, Business Litigation; Samantha Rollins, Labor & Employment; Rachael Dettman Spiegel, Product Liability & Mass Torts; Ryan Woessner, Corporate.


From left: Josh Feneis, Sara Wilson, Lauren Nuffort

From left: Josh Feneis, Sara Wilson, Lauren Nuffort

Lommen Abdo has announced the addition of two shareholders, Josh Feneis and Sara Wilson, and one new board member, Lauren Nuffort.

Josh Feneis is an experienced litigator who has represented a wide array of clients in his family law practice as well as large real estate disputes and business litigation for small businesses and large corporations. He has been recognized as a 2021 Rising Star by Minnesota Super Lawyers.

Feneis graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. and graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota School of Law with his J.D.

Sara Wilson brings a unique perspective to her practice, stemming from her prior career in the arts. Her transactional practice brings her clients needing assistance with the sale, leasing, financing, and development of real estate, as well as litigating estate and trust disputes and more. She is also a board member for the Metropolitan Regional Arts council and the Ballet Co. Laboratory.

Wilson received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, a J.D. at the William Mitchell College of Law and graduated from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota with a Master of Public Affairs.

Lauren Nuffort is a civil litigator, practicing mainly in the areas of insurance law, insurance coverage disputes, transportation law, professional liability, and construction law. She is also the co-editor of the Minnesota Insurance Law Deskbook and is actively involved in the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association (MDLA).

Nuffort graduated magna cum laude from the St. Lawrence University with a B.A. and obtained her J.D. at the William Mitchell College of Law. She volunteers in the winter through Allina Health Courage Kenny teaching children and adults with disabilities how to ski with the use of adaptive equipment.

Merchant & Gould P.C., a national intellectual property law firm has announced its new International Trade Commission (ITC) Group, specializing in Section 337 investigations before the ITC and expanding the firm’s capabilities at a critical time in our global economy.

The ITC Section 337 Investigations Group, which will sit within the firm’s Litigation Practice, serves all clients, regardless of industry, and handles both patent and non-patent issues (trademark, trade dress, false advertising and trade secrets) under Section 337.

Section 337 litigation is considered a specialty within the broader field of intellectual property and unfair competition litigation, encompassing all types of IP and unfair competition claims.  Cases typically blend traditional IP issues, such as patent, copyright, trademark infringement and trade secret misappropriation, with trial practice and administrative procedure — requiring an interdisciplinary mix of IP law experience, litigation skills and regulatory proficiency, as well as economic and financial knowledge.

The firm’s specialized, ITC-focused Washington, D.C.-area team will steer the ITC Group, while working with attorneys across Merchant & Gould’s seven offices to tap into the firm’s diverse and global Litigation Practice.

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