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Manahan accepts new post with county

When Jim Manahan graduated from Harvard and began practicing law, the rights of crime victims were not part of the legal conversation. Through the diligent efforts of organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and battered women’s advocacy groups however, Minnesota became a leader in providing services to those who had been harmed by the criminal behavior of others. Now, every county attorney’s office in the state employs a victim/ witness advocate. Manahan just accepted the post in Lake County.

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Manahan comes to his new role with over 50 years of legal experience. He has practiced family law and criminal defense since 1962, and is one of few attorneys certified to represent clients in both criminal and civil court. After retiring from full time practice several years ago and moving to Silver Bay with his wife, Cristina, Manahan said he is happy to be working with clients again, although in a different capacity.

“I like being in court and helping people, either defending them or advocating for them,” he said.

The role of the victim/witness advocate is to ensure that those directly harmed by crime, are afforded their rights and get the help they need throughout the legal process. Although these services seem like little enough to ask of the justice system, they were not routinely offered until just 30 years ago.

“It used to be that when a crime was committed, the victim had no rights. The law was focused on protecting the rights of the alleged criminal – the right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer, the presumption of innocence, the right to a speedy trial,” Manahan said, “the victim was just another witness to the alleged crime.” Not so now. There are numerous rights and services victims can expect, including the opportunity to present a victim impact statement to the court.

Manahan was with a local woman who presented her statement recently.

“Most people aren’t used to standing up in court,” he said, adding that it can be a particularly daunting prospect for a victim, but he offered her some needed encouragement and she was able to stand up and speak her piece. “She’s the one who did all the work…all I did was encourage her, but that was what she needed.”

Manahan is also a writer for the Lake County News-Chronicle, offering his perspectives on legal issues in his Legal Learning for Lake County column. His affiliation with newspapers didn’t begin on the North Shore, however, but in his hometown of Madelia, Minnesota, where his family owned a newspaper for generations. After graduation from Harvard with his bachelor’s degree he was faced the decision to pursue a graduate degree in journalism or go to law school.

“I decided to let the fates decide,” he said. An acceptance letter came from the prestigious law school and he began career that has spanned decades, now benefiting crime victims in Lake County. For more information about crime victims’ rights in Minnesota, visit the Lake County website at{86CECE1E-496D-4903-A1E7-1D780F399905}