Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Kevin Short discusses the different kinds of law he practices.
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I started as a – I’ve been a criminal defense lawyer, here in 2014, for 27 years, but for the 9 years before that, that I was a law school graduate, I was a federal law clerk for 2 years and I was a state court prosecutor for 7 years, and by accident, during the time that I was a state court prosecutor, I was in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in St. Paul, and I was asked by my boss if I would be willing to go over to the city of Minneapolis and prosecute two Minneapolis police officers who had been indicted for breaking the rib of a young man who was cuffed and laying on the street and shouting at the police.
I did that. I tried those two cases against two of my great heroes in the practice of criminal law, Joe Friedberg and the late Doug Thomson, who was a great lawyer, and Joe is a great lawyer, and it was a formative experience for me. I enjoyed being in trial with those guys. I had known them both a little bit before that, and I realized that prosecution of police officers turns everything on its head. The whole case is inside out. The dynamics are different in ways that was very interesting to me.
And so when I went into private practice as a criminal defense lawyer not long thereafter, I started to defend police officers who had been accused of crimes, and I tried a couple of cases and won them both, and thought, “This is fun. This is a change of pace. It’s interesting. It’s challenging. It’s a whole new set of dynamics. It keeps things fresh,” and I enjoyed it.
Eventually, there was a panel that was started so that police officers who need to hire a lawyer, either because they shot someone or because they were accused of some misconduct while wearing the badge, would not have to hire their own lawyer, and I had been on that panel for more than 20 years. In the first few years, there wasn’t that much work, but as almost every police agency in the state has signed up for that, I’m doing more and more police work, and I enjoy it. I enjoy going to the scene of a shooting and finding out, “What happened here? Why did the officer feel like he needed to use deadly force? Why did he feel like his life and the life of his fellow officers or the life of the other citizens – ” and sometimes it’s a domestic situation – “were in danger? What led to the use of it?” It’s fascinating.
When I was a prosecutor, I one time – the senior prosecutor in the office, I asked him, “Why have you been doing this so long?” He’d been doing it for about the same length of time I’ve been doing it now, and he was probably about my age now, and I said to him, “Why have you been doing this so long?” And he said, “Kevin, when I read a set of police reports on a case, on a murder, or whatever it is, and I read ’em again, and I read ’em for the third time, it’s like looking into the eye of a rattlesnake. I can’t take my eyes off it. It’s fascinating.” And I already felt that way about what I was doing, and I have been blessed to feel that way about what I’ve been doing over all these years.
I don’t make as much money as some of my friends – law school classmates who are representing corporations and wealthy people, but my job is a lot more interesting, and I have found representing police officers over the years, whether they – it’s a critical incident, either a shooting or a car – a high-speed chase, or whether it’s an accusation that they did something wrong, are interesting, and I feel like I’m helping people, and I feel like I’m doing what I wanted to do when I went to law school.