Highlighting Some of Northern Michigan’s First Female County Prosecutors

In Northern Michigan, seeing women in law enforcement roles, especially criminal defense, can be rare.

Sara Swanson and Noelle Moeggenberg currently serve as the prosecuting attorneys for Benzie County and Grand Traverse County.

“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, I don’t really remember a time when that wasn’t my plan in life,” said Swanson.

Moeggenberg first started out in Journalism, before switching to study law.

“I liked the research and writing and I like looking at both sides of a problem,” said Moeggenberg.

Working on some of the most brutal cases their counties have seen in recent years, they say empowering victims is the greatest reward.

“When they go into a court room, that is their chance to be in a safe place and to say ‘this is what happened to me, this was wrong’ and to hopefully get some dignity and control back,” said Moeggenberg.

What’s most significant is that both women serve as the very first female chief law enforcement officers for their counties.

“I think anytime you’re the first female to do something, the stakes are just a little bit higher for you,” said Moeggenberg.

Swanson says while women face less obstacles than they did several decades ago, they are still working in a very male-dominated field.

“Criminal law, I think in general—women are underrepresented for sure,” said Swanson. “I can tell you, most of my adversaries, criminal defense attorneys, are definitely male, so we do need to see some more young women in that profession.”

But they both agree that things are heading in the right direction.

“I think things have changed a lot fortunately, so that we do have things like flex time so that you can have a career and a family at the same time,” said Moeggenberg.

They also encourage more girls to look into law and offer to extend job shadows and advice.

“They can come watch us in court, we can show them the day-to-day, what we do and find out if it’s something that they’re really interested in,” said Swanson.

Moeggenberg says their field can be intimidating to some women, but that every prosecutor deals with the same kinds of challenges in each case.

“I think as a female, you just have to be a little bit more prepared, always a little bit more ready and certainly that confidence just comes with time,” said Moeggenberg.