This year’s recipient of the Kathy Swanson Outstanding Service Award is Judge James Dehn.
Judge Dehn served on the bench in Isanti County, Minnesota, for 30 years, retiring in June 2017. In 1993, he became the first judge in the nation to put multiple-repeat DUI offenders on the home pre-trial electronic alcohol-monitoring program. More than 10,000 repeat offenders per year are placed on this program in Minnesota. Judge Dehn’s innovative pre-trial and sentencing techniques, such as staggered sentencing, gained him national attention and coverage from many publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. He developed one of the nation’s longest DUI/bar tracking programs (20 years) which led to a community—bar partnership and the SafeCab program. Isanti County ranks number one in the state in the reduction of DUI arrests, with a decrease of more than 65 percent in the last seven years. The county is now on track to reduce DUIs by 74 percent this year compared to 2006.
Judge Dehn frequently testified before the legislature and initiated many changes in DUI law. He is an adjunct faculty member of the National Judicial College and has taught nationally on the topic of creative sentencing for more than 20 years. He has also actively promoted DUI traffic safety measures among judges in Minnesota and nationwide.
Judge Dehn’s county has received support for its efforts from the Minnesota TZD program, and during his career, Judge Dehn brought thousands of high school students into his courtroom to observe and discuss the criminal justice system. He also runs an annual anti-drinking slogan and poster contest for middle school students as part of his outreach.