Ethics Dunce: Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer

Yes, this is certainly a good use of time, money, and public opprobrium.

The evil miscreant, facing her just desserts!

The evil miscreant, facing her just desserts!

An 86-year-old woman in Minnesota, Margaret Schneider, admits that she voted twice in a primary election, and attributes it to confusion, a memory lapse (she may have early dementia), and maybe believing that her later vote would cancel out her earlier one. The local Jaubert, prosecutor Michelle Zehnder Fischer, is bringing felony charges against Margaret, supposedly because a statute requires her to do so or risk misdemeanor charges herself.

Did I mention that Margaret, in addition to being 86 and having cognitive issues, suffers from Parkinson’s? Throw the wily old bat in the clink!!!!

Zehnder Fischer should save everyone time and trouble by resigning now (rather than waiting to be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail later), since she obviously lacks the judgment and competence to be a prosecutor, and has the backbone of a typical sea sponge. The statute involved requires county attorneys to “promptly investigate” alleged violations or election laws and, if there is probable cause, to “proceed by complaint or present the charge, with whatever evidence has been found, to the grand jury. A county attorney who refuses or intentionally fails to faithfully perform this or any other duty imposed by this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall forfeit office.” The key word here is “probable cause.

This is a criminal statute, and crimes require intent. Nobody, including the prosecutor, appears to honestly believe that there was intent in this case. Michelle Zehnder Fischer pointed an interviewer to a case from the log cabin days of the Land o’ Lakes, saying,”There is, actually, I believe, an 1800s case that states that is you vote twice, it is presumed that you intended to violate the law.”  Was the defendant in that case 86-years-old and bewildered, I wonder?

This is an embarrassingly, indeed an offensively weak excuse for this prosecutor’s lack of fairness and character: the attorney could and should easily conclude under these facts that there is no probable cause…particularly since the only reason Margaret voted twice successfully is that a useless election official didn’t note the notation next to her name that indicated that she had already turned in an absentee ballot….a big “AB.” Meanwhile, Minnesota’s legal ethics rules decrees that “The prosecutor in a criminal case shall: (a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause.”

Schneider says she will represent herself at trial, because she didn’t do anything wrong on purpose, and it was the polling officials who caused the problem. She apparently has faith in the justice system and the intelligence, competence and judgment of those running the legal system in Nicollet County despite the prosecutor’s cruel and irresponsible position.

Yup, she’s senile, all right…


Pointer: ABA Journal

Facts and Graphic: KARE11

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

13 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Zehnder Fischer

  1. Wow. Both my in-laws have/had dementia. It’s very believable that she would send in her absentee ballot and then forget that she did. What an awful story.

  2. The voting process needs to be streamlined. The same method should be used nationwide. A national ID card and registry database would eliminate these errors and mistakes. For the elderly, it might be helpful to assign someone at each location that specifically addresses their concerns.

  3. I’ve long suspected a coup of our government by the elderly. I expected it to be violent though, not devious like writing oneself in several times.

    I’m glad to know we have a caped crusader on our side ready to stand up against the rising tyranny of octogenarians.

    • It’s remarkably similar to the nurse who didn’t want to save the life of the lady at the Assisted Living Community…

      Blind adherence to policy vs independence of thought within a set of a values.

      • The old lady didn’t present that *imminent* of threat and after a 24 hour review process it was determined by several of the most intelligent bureaucrats that this was indeed not a combat situation.

      • If it had been a drone comment but was relevant enough, or sounded relevant enough, for Tex to respond to it, would you have deleted it?

        A thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters…

        • Why would I have deleted it? I only delete the comments of banned commenters, comments that do what I have explicitly warned a specific commenter not to do, comments that blatantly violate the commenting rules, and anonymous comments with fake e-mail addresses.

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