North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

Ellen E. Tholen ’89 announces bid for Itasca County Attorney

Tholen announces bid for County Attorney

Grand Rapids Herald Review

July 17, 2022

U.S. Army veteran Ellen E. Tholen is announcing her candidacy for Itasca County Attorney. Tholen received her law degree from the University of North Dakota in 1989 and has been an actively practicing attorney in Itasca County for over 32 years. Tholen obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University in 1986 after completing her three-year tour of duty with the United States Army in 1983 as a military police officer. Tholen was honorably discharged and received the Good Conduct Medal and Army Achievement Medal. 

Tholen primarily grew up north of Chisholm in Balkan Township, graduating from Chisholm High School in 1975. Upon graduation, Tholen worked at Hanna Mining Company for 4 years, now known as Keetac, as a truck driver and heavy equipment operator. Tholen has three daughters, one granddaughter and another one on the way.

“The county attorney has more power than any other position in the county. The county attorney has discretion to bring charges, not to bring charges and what charges to bring. These decisions need to be made fairly, equitably and in a timely manner,” says Tholen. “Experience in understanding statutes and application of the law to each situation is necessary to ensure accountability. Integrity, common sense, and life experiences are an integral part of ensuring there is no abuse of process in making decisions that can result in the loss of liberty, reputation, or both. I appreciate the power the position holds and the leadership skills necessary to ensure the effective operation of the County Attorney’s Office. My experiences in life, law enforcement, and as an attorney with years of courtroom experience has prepared me well.”

Tholen believes collaboratively working with other agencies such as Law Enforcement, Support Within Reach, Elder Circle, Advocates for Domestic Peace, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Itasca County Health and Human Services, Human Resource Officers, Probation, and other agencies is necessary to effectively serve the community. Additionally, she says working with outside agencies that have expertise and are willing to review challenging decisions for the office, should be welcomed, not dismissed. Additional training in the areas of mental health, release options for non-violent offenders pending trial and charging practices would also be beneficial.

“Transparency is the key to accountability,” continued Tholen. “We need to create and foster trust within the community. I believe collecting and reviewing data, including case outcomes, is an efficient way to evaluate the performance of the County Attorney’s Office. We need to show data by publishing it on the Itasca County Attorney website. The current website contains very limited information on the roles of the County Attorney’s Office and no data or statistics. For example, the public should not have to individually make data requests to find out how many Child in Need of Protection cases were opened, case outcomes, or to determine how many jury trials the office handled in any given time period. This data is crucial in determining the number of staff necessary to handle caseloads.”

One of Tholen’s goals would be to have information easily available for the public so they could see how their elected official is working for the community. Additionally, she would like to ensure steps are taken to create a Veterans Court that was discussed four years ago. 

“A true open-door policy needs to include working with the victims and concerned citizens. Decisions made by the County Attorney affect victims, offenders, and public safety. These decisions need to be made fairly, equitably and in a timely manner.” 

According to Tholen, seeking justice for all means ethical prosecution and compassion for the victims that is driven by the desire to do the right thing with community safety at the forefront. 

“When I am elected, I will ensure these core values will drive the future decision making made by the Itasca County Attorney’s Office. We need to work together for the common good to ensure safety, peace, and order in our great community.”

Ellen Tholen can be reached at 218-999-7707, or on Facebook Ellen Tholen for Itasca County Attorney.

Read the original story from the Grand Rapids Herald Review