William H. Koch
Fair. Respected. Proven. Non-Partisan.
I believe in an independent
-- Judge Koch
What Do I Think?
-- Judge Koch
Unlike political elections, judicial elections are not generally focused on hot-button issues or controversial matters. According to various ethical rules, candidates for judicial office (and sitting judges) are prohibited from commenting on a number of things. For instance, we cannot comment about an ongoing case. And a judge is disqualified from a case if the judge has made public statements committing the judge to a position about a particular issue or controversy. Most likely, such matters will also never come before a Minnesota state trial court so they are not relevant to the qualifications to be a judge.
What I can talk about--and enjoy talking about--is how our judicial system works. And how it can work better.
I am seldom satisfied with the status quo. I think we can always do better, individually and as a system. I have been committed to being a fair and impartial judge. I "hear" and "see" those appearing in my courtroom. I apply the law evenly and fairly. And I work with my colleagues to ensure the courts in Hennepin County continue to improve and lead.
(Update following the death of George Floyd.)
We cannot "take a position" on the tragic events rocking Minneapolis and the surrounding area. We must maintain our commitment to being a fair and safe place that assures equal access to justice for the fair and timely resolution of cases brought before us. We will always be ready and able to carry out our obligations, particularly as we may be called upon to provide justice during difficult times. That is our mission, and my commitment.
Bill is truly passionate about making connections with the community. For decades, he has dedicated countless hours to area schools and the community. He has worked with students from elementary school through law school, on everything from reading and writing to mock trials, moot courts, and mentoring. He has spoken with community groups across the county, state, country...and internationally. He has trained investigators, lawyers, and judges. He often speaks at community colleges, universities, and law schools. And he volunteers with many community groups.
And it was Bill who created the wildly successful and celebrated annual free Valentine's Day wedding celebration at the Hennepin County Government Center!
(Photo: Star Tribune)
The Bar and the Bench
Supporting the Profession.
Connections make our legal profession unique, and strong. BilI has been very engaged with the Hennepin County Bar Association, serving on the Board of Directors and several committees. He is an active member of the Board of Directors, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Hennepin Lawyer Committee, 1L Diversity Internship Program, Bench & Bar Committee, and Biking Club. He is also a Founding Fellow of the Hennepin County Bar Foundation.
Bill has been elected or selected to serve on many committees to improve the Minnesota justice system. He serves on the Fourth District's Executive Committee and he has chaired several committees, including the Judicial Education Committee. He is currently serving on three statewide bodies: Minnesota District Judges Association, Criminal Jury Instruction Committee, and Judicial Technology Advisory Committee.
Bill started his legal career as a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force as a prosecutor and, later, a defense attorney. When his wife came to Minnesota to continue her medical training, he followed her here and joined a preeminent Minnesota law firm. He was a shareholder focusing his practice in complex civil litigation, including environmental matters. When his wife then served in the Air Force as a doctor, Bill and his family moved to California. He became a partner at the largest law firm in Sacramento. He focused his practice on complex litigation centered around environmental cleanups and patent rights.
When his wife finished her Air Force commitment, they chose to return to Minnesota to raise their two children. Bill joined the United States Attorney's Office and worked in the Major Crimes Division. After seven years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Bill was appointed to the bench by Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2007 (that is the date of the photo). He was then elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2014.
The Stakes are High.
The novel coronavirus impacts every aspect of our justice system. That does not mean justice grinds to a halt. Bill has embraced technology to help respond to the new challenges. New technologies allow the courts to meet the needs of litigants, defendants, victims, and community members. It is not always easy to balance the many competing interests. But with teamwork and a practical understanding of the bedrock principles of our legal system, it can be achieved.
Republic of Georgia (2017)
Bill organized a self-funded trip by Minnesota judges and attorneys to the Republic of Georgia, on Russia's border, to meet with their legal and judicial leaders to discuss the rule of law. In addition to meeting with these leaders, Bill and the rest of the Minnesota delegation met with representatives from the U.S. Embassy and many law students. They gave presentations on issues as diverse as the U.S. Constitution, the American jury system, Minnesota law schools, and related issues. In addition to being well received by the Georgian hosts, the Minnesotans were interviewed on local television. This "classroom" time was combined with official visits with various government officials and to law enforcement facilities.
This trip allowed the Minnesota judges an opportunity to follow-up with several of their Georgian colleagues who visited Minnesota courts a few years earlier.
As part of a self-funded group of Minnesota judges, Bill traveled to Cuba to meet with legal, governmental, and diplomatic officials to better understand the Cuban legal system and to share information about the American judicial system. Although there was less freedom during this trip as there was in Georgia a few years later, the Minnesota delegation was able to make personal connections with members of the Cuban legal community in an effort to increase recognition and understanding of fundamental rights we hold sacred in the United States.
"I will never forget this!"
State v. Big Bad Wolf
Sadie v. King Yertle
"I will never forget this!" is uttered by young and not-so-young, alike.
Bill started doing this when he was a prosecutor at the United States Attorney's Office. The federal judges let him use one of their courtrooms and borrow a robe. A couple of years later, he became a state court judge and had his own courtroom and robe. But the event outgrew even the largest Hennepin County courtroom. Thankfully, Chief Judge John Tunheim of the U.S. District Court has allowed Bill and the students to use the large ceremonial courtrooms in Minneapolis and St. Paul the last few years. The day at the courthouse includes a Q&A session for students and parents over lunch, and a tour of judicial chambers for all.
The Big Bad Wolf of Aesop's Fables and Grimms' Fairy Tales has come to life in a courtroom alongside Dr. Seuss's King Yertle every year for the last 15 years thanks to Bill's partnership with his children's former third- and fourth-grade teacher. Her ingenuity led to matching these students with Bill (originally) and law students (more recently) to train them about the legal system -- all culminating in trials in a real courtroom, with Bill presiding as judge.
The students are very excited to learn about the legal system and to prepare and practice their parts as attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and bailiffs. All of this comes together in a whirlwind day at the courthouse where the students, their families, teachers, administrators, and even school board members have a memorable experience. One class presents the criminal trial, with another class acting as jurors. And then it is switched, with the second class presenting the civil trial in front of the other class.
Judge Koch files for
May 19, 2020
Bill filed at the earliest opportunity for re-election. He has thoroughly enjoyed serving on the Hennepin County bench, and looks forward to another six years.
We hope you will support him with your vote and by telling your friends. Thank you.