Cover photo for Joel William Sutcliffe's Obituary
Joel William Sutcliffe Profile Photo

Joel William Sutcliffe

July 5, 1948 — November 7, 2023


Joel William Sutcliffe

Joel William Sutcliffe, 75, of Edina, MN, passed away on Tuesday, November 7th, 2023 after a valiant battle against cancer.
Joel was born on July 5th, 1948, to Joseph and Frances Sutcliffe in Minneapolis, MN. He was raised in south Minneapolis with 4 siblings, Susan, Jay, Jeffrey, and Kevin.
After high school Joel joined the United States Army during Vietnam. He then went on to college at Antioch Communiversity in Minneapolis, MN and subsequently attended William Mitchell Law School where he obtained his Juris Doctorate.
Joel started his legal career working as a law clerk for Hennepin County District Court Judge Diana Murphy. When Judge Murphy was appointed to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, she took Joel along as her law clerk.
Following his federal clerkship, he went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney, handling high profile federal and state cases, obtaining a not guilty verdict in a complex homicide case.
In 1991, Joel joined the Hennepin County Public Defender's Office where he worked until he retired.
In 1996, he was asked to be one of the original attorneys working in Hennepin County Drug Court, the first drug court established in Minnesota and the second largest drug court in the nation at that time. A vastly disproportionate percentage of defendants were young people of color. The defendants’ trust that they would get fair treatment in the courts was about as low as it could get. Judge Kevin Burke credits Joel for being instrumental in turning that perception around.
Finishing his career in Hennepin County Juvenile Court, Joel handled delinquency and child protection cases, which was difficult and heartbreaking work.
His gruff exterior, masking a tender heart of gold, won him friends on both sides of the counsel table, as well as on the bench. His clients knew he would give his absolute best for them. And he did.
In retirement Joel enjoyed having weekly coffee dates with his former colleagues, taking occasional road trips to various locations in the US, and spending time with his family – especially his beloved Nicco.
Joel was predeceased by his parents, sister Susan, and brothers Jay and Jeffrey. He is survived by his brother Kevin (Angela) and many other family members and friends who will miss him dearly.
Interment will be at Fort Snelling at 9:30AM on Tuesday, November 21st . In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Lung Cancer Research Foundation in his honor.

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Past Services


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Starts at 9:30 am (Central time)

Fort Snelling National Cemetery

7601 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55450

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