Defender of the Law

Defender of the Law

Nnamdi Ajah Okoronkwo was recently appointed to the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office as an Assistant City Attorney. He joins a team of 56 other assistants and is a graduate of Augsburg College. He began his appointment on December 4th 2006.

The job includes eight weeks of training to learn the operations of the City Attorney’s office. The Office is divided into two divisions, Civil and Criminal.  Nnamdi has been assigned to the criminal division. His job entails prosecuting “livability” crimes in the city. Livability crimes range from petty misdemeanors to gross misdemeanors, punishable with up to 365 days in jail. He is alarmed at the high rate of driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases and believes that more could be done to educate the public.
Prior to this appointment, Nnamdi worked as a Civil Litigation attorney at Best Buy, the nation’s number one electronics retailer headquartered in Minneapolis. During that time, he worked through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) to help various individuals under the Best Buy Pro Bono Committee. That initiative was launched in November 2003 and Best Buy was honored for its model pro bono policy the following year at the annual Minnesota State Bar Association convention.

Nnamdi’s Nigerian father, Daniel, moved to Minnesota in the sixties where he met and married Nnamdi’s mother, Mari, at college. He was born on November 6th 1964 and was raised by his mother to work hard and value education as the key to achieving one’s dreams. Nnamdi advises immigrants coming in today, with the intent of getting established in the work force to get a degree right away. Getting a job these days and achieving career success is dependent on one’s network of friends, according to Mr. Okoronkwo. In this light, Nnamdi stays active in the community and attends IgboFest every year. Igbofest is an annual celebration of the culture of the Igbo people of Nigeria that Umunne Cultural Association puts together each August in Minnesota.  Similar festivals are held around the US and Canada at about the same time. He also networks with his fellow Africans. He is aware that people with foreign degrees face obstacles when looking for work and has seen many start their own businesses as a result.

Nnamdi finds his job exciting and unpredictable. He sees quite a few immigrants in court which is concerning to him and he emphasized the need to educate people about the importance of adhering to the laws here since ignorance is not a defense.

He suggested that various cultural organizations should take it upon themselves to educate their nationals on the law and said he would be willing to come into the community to share information. He encouraged everyone to familiarize themselves with the driving manuals and make them readily available to the community. Driving information is available at License Bureaus, but he believes that this information should be brought to the community by placing the brochures in ethnic stores.

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Nnamdi stresses that many people do not realize that misdemeanors, repeated over time, have an adverse effect on one’s employment prospects, ability to obtain federal student loans as well as any federal aid needed to start a business or buy a house.
Nnamdi advises people to get an attorney whenever they get trouble, to ensure the best representation possible. He urged everyone to keep their drivers’ licenses and insurance current to avoid unnecessary charges.

When asked what he hoped to achieve in his new position as Assistant City Attorney in Minnesota’s largest city, Nnamdi stated that he would be in a position to become a well rounded attorney and hoped to do more for the community with the experience he would gain. He has spoken in the past on behalf of a group called Mad Dads, which is a national organization committed to providing a better way of living in minority communities.

Family and Education
Nnamdi is married with two children. His mother believed that he would be exposed to greater opportunities in private school so she sacrificed and paid for his school. He had to take three different buses to get there everyday. At the time, he believed it was way too much trouble, however, in retrospect, he now understands what his mother was trying to do. The sacrifice has obviously paid off and he urges parents to ensure that their children get a good education to increase the options that are out there. Nnamdi is also open to giving advice to anyone thinking about or already in law school.

Mr. Okoronkwo can be reached at the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office 612-673-2010.


About Muzamba Sibajene

Muzamba Sibajene is a general assignment reporter at Mshale. She previously worked with dailies in her native Zambia.      

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