Former Hennepin County attorney named ombudsman to serve as confidential resource

| January 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

Former Hennepin County Attorney Thomas Johnson speaks in the Ramsey County Courthouse Jan. 5 following the announcement during a court hearing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Ramsey County Attorney’s Office have appointed him to serve as an ombudsperson to ensure compliance in the archdiocese’s efforts to protect children. Looking on from left is Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Archbishop Bernard Hebda. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

A former three-term Hennepin County attorney has been named an ombudsperson to assist the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ continued efforts to protect children from abuse, the archdiocese announced Jan. 5 during a Ramsey County Court hearing.

Thomas Johnson, a principal attorney at Minneapolis-based corporate law firm Gray Plant Mooty, has agreed to take on the unpaid role. As an ombudsperson, Johnson serves as an independent resource for abuse victims/survivors and for people who may have questions about a situation in their parish or school. Information shared with him is confidential, and he is not required to share it with the archdiocese or Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, he said.

“He reports to no one other than his wanting to be a part of the process and be a resource for anybody in this community, in this archdiocese who has any complaints or needs assistance navigating some issue in respects to something that happened to them or a family member,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.

Johnson was chosen jointly by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the archdiocese, and he felt impelled to assume the role, he said, because of his friendship with abuse survivors, and his work with child sexual abuse victims while serving as the Hennepin County Attorney 1979-1991, including a sex abuse scandal at Children’s Theatre Company and School in Minneapolis.

“I know victims of clerical abuse who are now adults, and I know how much pain and suffering they went through as a result of something that just shouldn’t have happened,” Johnson said. “Certainly, that’s a motivator for me, in terms of whether I can play any role here to help others who haven’t come forward yet, or feel like they’re not getting the response that they should. I think things have changed greatly in the archdiocese but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be perfect, and if I can be of help, … I would very much like to do it.”

Speaking together after the hearing, Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Choi praised Johnson as an appropriate pick for the role. Choi noted that the archdiocese was not required by its 2015 civil settlement agreement with Ramsey County to appoint an ombudsperson until 2020, but it “fast-forwarded that because they recognize that it was really important.”

Johnson can be reached at and 612-632-3207. His contact information is listed on the archdiocese’s website,


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