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New to the Bench: Judge WIlliam Koch
Kevin Lindsey
Friday, November 16, 2007
by: Kevin Lindsey

Section: Spotlight/Profiles

Judge William Koch.

Kevin Lindsey, Contributing Author. Mr. Lindsey is with the law firm of Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson practicing in the areas of employment and health care.

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In speaking with Judge William H. Koch (pronounced “Cook”), one can not help but feel that he is thoroughly enjoying the experience of serving as a Hennepin County District Court judge.  Judge Koch enjoys making sure all of the people that come before the court have a real opportunity to be heard and shown respect.  One can also not help but sense that he feels fortunate to have enjoyed each and every stop along the way to his appointment to the bench.  “I have enjoyed everywhere that I have been in my career.  I am very fortunate to be able to honestly and candidly say that I never left a job because I was unhappy.”

Very few district court judges coming to the bench have as broad a background as Koch.  In appointing him to the Hennepin County District Court, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, “Bill has a unique combination of experience as a prosecutor in the Major Crime Section with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a complex business litigator with two civil law firms, and a military defense lawyer.  His broad-based background will be an asset as a district court judge.”

When asked what tips he has for lawyers who appear before him, Judge Koch advised that lawyers “need to remember their audience, focus their arguments, and stay away from boilerplate arguments….  Lawyers need to thoroughly know their case,” he added, “and do their best to educate the judge such that the judge can have faith in [them].”  Koch further stated that it is vitally important for lawyers to be honest in their dealings with the court: “Too often lawyers are afraid to admit a weakness….  Lawyers should seek to deal directly with the weaknesses in their case as opposed to allowing their opponent to highlight all of the problems.”

Judge Koch was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, a village of approximately 25,000 people.  He grew up in the Southeastern Pennsylvania town of West Chester.  He recalls honing his advocacy skills at the dinner table in which discussions about events of the day and public policy would result in encyclopedias and reference books being brought out by siblings.

Judge Koch attended college on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and received his undergraduate degree from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, in 1985 with a double major in civil & environmental engineering and public policy studies.  He fondly recalls cheering on the basketball coach Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils as an undergrad.  Koch earned his juris doctorate degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1988. 

Judge Koch began his career as a prosecutor for the U.S. Air Force and as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Maryland from 1988 to 1990.  In 1991, he moved from the prosecutor’s side of the table to the defense side, serving as the area defense counsel for the U.S. Air Force at the Andrews Air Force base in Maryland.  In his capacity as area defense counsel he was responsible for a region that encompassed 12 bases in seven states.  While Koch was beginning his legal career, his wife, Laurie, also a member of the Air Force ROTC, was finishing medical school.

In 1991, when his wife began her surgical residency as a hand surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Judge Koch entered private practice with the law firm of Leonard Street & Deinard in Minneapolis.  He practiced in the commercial law department, working on complex business litigation matters.  In 1997, Koch became a shareholder at Leonard Street & Deinard.  In attempting to balance the demands of family and practice, he became one of the first shareholders to utilize the firm’s paternity leave policy. 

In 1997, Koch left Leonard Street & Deinard to join the Sacramento, California law firm of Downey, Brand Seymour & Rohwer because the Air Force needed Laurie’s services at the Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.  He was an attorney and partner with the mid-sized California law firm from 1997 to 2000. 

In 2000, feeling the need to come back to Minnesota, Koch and his family returned to the Twin Cities where he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis.  Koch worked in the Major Crimes Section where his prosecutorial duties included handling counterfeiting, environmental, immigration, white-collar, and anti-terrorism matters.  He was and remains deeply impressed by the caliber of people working in the government agencies supporting the U.S. Attorney’s Office such as the FBI and Customs, Fish & Wildlife, and Equal Protection agencies.

Judge Koch feels very fortunate to be able to volunteer at his children’s school, where  he currently serves as the president of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association.  He also coaches basketball and football with the Bloomington Athletic Association and basketball, soccer, and flag football with the Southdale YMCA.  Coach Koch enjoys connecting with his players and seeing the kids having so much fun that they want to come back again next year.  Koch keeps himself in shape by participating in triathlons, which he began doing to celebrate turning 40.

The Koch family enjoy many outdoor and water activities.   They like spending time on the water whether the means of travel is kayak, canoe, or boat.  The Kochs also hike, camp, and fish—no great fish stories from the judge, although his son has caught a barracuda.  

Judge Koch is very involved in the legal community as well.   He currently serves as a mentor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, and has also found time to serve as a moot court judge for the Minnesota State Bar Association High School Mock Trial Competition, the University of Minnesota Law School Civil Rights Competition, and National Hispanic Moot Court Competition.



1988  J.D., George Washington University School of Law

1985  B.S., Duke University


2007  Judge, Hennepin County District Court

2000-2006  Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Minnesota

1997-2000  Attorney and Partner, Downey, Brand Seymour & Rohwer

1991-1997  Attorney and Shareholder, Leonard Street & Deinard

1988-1990  Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Maryland

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