Mike O’Connell was named Outstanding County Attorney of the Year at the Kentucky Prosecutors Conference Thursday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington.
The award, presented by the office of the Attorney General to only two of the Commonwealth’s 120 county attorneys each year, comes as part of the annual gathering for the state’s prosecutors for training in the aid of their public service. Bobbi Jo Lewis, the Anderson County Attorney since 2003, was also honored this year.
“I am humbled that my peers serving as county attorneys across the state feel that the good work we do in Jefferson County should be recognized,” O’Connell said. “This award belongs to the people of this community and to the assistants and staff in my office who pursue justice every day.”
A lifelong Louisvillian, Mike O’Connell graduated from St. Xavier High School and and later Xavier University in Cincinnati. He obtained his law degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1974 and became a civil trial attorney, as well as an assistant Jefferson County Attorney.
In 1980, he was appointed and twice elected to the Jefferson District Court Bench where he served until 1987, at which time he was appointed and then elected to the Jefferson Circuit Court.
In 2008, O’Connell was appointed Jefferson County Attorney. He was elected in 2010, re-elected in 2014 and will run for re-election again next year.
During his time as Jefferson County Attorney, he has introduced restorative justice practices in juvenile court and started a pilot project for restorative justice in the adult division of Jefferson District Court. He actively worked for passage of a Senate Bill 40 in 2016 that established a pilot project for opening Family Courts in the state.
Under his leadership, his office continues to be on the forefront of prosecutions in the areas of drunk driving and domestic violence—operating specialty units in those areas and a 24-hour Domestic Violence Intake Center. In addition to its work as prosecutors in Jefferson District Court, the Jefferson County Attorney’s office also serves as the legal representative for Louisville Metro Government and helps to collect more than $65 million each year in child support for families in Jefferson County.
O’Connell is heavily involved in efforts in addressing the role addiction plays in our legal system. His office has been instrumental in forming and supporting the Jefferson County’s Drug Treatment and Veterans’ Treatment Courts, and he has supported the use of Casey’s Law in Kentucky, which allows parents, spouses and others to seek the court’s assistance to order their loved one into treatment for drugs or alcohol.
Mike is a past board member of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Beacon House, Catholic Charities and Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Commission.
Mike and his wife Ellen celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary in June. They have three children, Annie, Michael and Matt, and two grandchildren, Emily and Drew.