Judge Kappelhoff has served on the Hennepin County bench since 2016. He has spent the bulk of his extensive and diverse legal career in public service, including working as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice, public defender, and a law professor. Judge Kappelhoff is active in the community where he enjoys meeting and volunteering with community groups, and frequently participates in community-based events, conferences, and legal education programs.
Before his appointment to bench, Judge Kappelhoff served as an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School where he was the Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic and spearheaded the creation of the Minnesota Law Public Interest Residency Program, an innovate professional development program for law students. He also developed and taught the law school’s first-ever course on Human Trafficking.
Judge Kappelhoff served several years as a federal prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he prosecuted human trafficking, hate crimes, and law enforcement misconduct cases. While at the Justice Department, he held a number of senior leadership positions, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Criminal Section, where he oversaw the enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws. He also played an instrumental role in the Department’s efforts to secure passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, co-chaired the Attorney General’s Advisory Group on racial disparities in federal sentencing, and created the Civil Rights Division’s groundbreaking Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, a specialized-unit of prosecutors dedicated to prosecuting human trafficking cases. During his tenure at the Justice Department, he oversaw the federal investigation in Ferguson, Missouri, for which he received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the Department’s highest honor for employee service.
Before joining the Department of Justice, Judge Kappelhoff served as a state public defender, where he represented adult and juvenile clients charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses.
Judge Kappelhoff was born and raised in Minnesota, the middle son of five boys. He grew up in Anoka and is a graduate of Anoka Senior High School. He earned his undergraduate degree from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and graduated from American University, Washington College of Law. He and his wife, Cynthia, live in Minneapolis.