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Staff growth helps Clay County Attorney's Office find work-life balance

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton, left, and Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger hold a news conference in 2014 at the Moorhead Law Enforcement Center. Dave Wallis / The Forum

MOORHEAD — The Clay County Attorney's Office added two lawyers to its staff in 2017. According to Clay County Attorney Brian Melton, the move has helped workers there strike a better balance between work time and private time.

"We still work weekends at times, but you don't want to be doing that every single weekend," he said.

Melton said he maintains a caseload along with the other 10 attorneys in his office.

For now, the two attorneys brought aboard this year — Matt Spielman and Cecilia Knapp — are assigned mostly traffic cases and some DWI and domestic assault cases.

In addition to those two attorneys, Melton said he and seven other attorneys in his office focus primarily on criminal matters.

Three other attorneys in the office focus on juvenile matters and civil work, including providing legal advice to the county board of commissioners and other county offices.

Melton said prior to hiring Spielman and Knapp, he had not added a criminal attorney to his office for close to eight years.

"There was definitely a need to add some people," Melton said, adding that a rise in the office's caseloads has largely been a result of growth in the area's population.

In particular, he said his office has seen a marked increase in the number of civil cases it handles, particularly commitment cases involving mental illness and addiction.

Growing the staff, Melton said, does several things: it puts the right amount of effort into the right amount of cases and it better allows attorneys to spend time in court as well as in the office preparing cases.

It also makes it more possible for workers to take the time off they have coming to them, according to Melton.

"Some of those (things) were starting to be impeded. I think we were at a point where we had to have those individuals to make sure we were keeping a fair balance," he said.

Dave Olson
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