Exciting news!  The law library has recently added PACER to the legal research resources available in the law library.

What is PACER?

PACER, which is an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is an electronic public access service of United States federal court documents. It allows users to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeal, and United States bankruptcy courts.  This service is maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.  The funding to support PACER is derived entirely from user fees.


The PACER database contains federal case and docket information (except for Supreme Court dockets).  Dockets are the equivalent to the roadmap of a case. It tells the user what documents were filed, and when documents were filed for a case.  In addition, PACER also provides access to the underlying documents filed for the case.

Astute legal researchers know that docket information is available via other online databases (Westlaw, for example).  However, the law library’s Westlaw subscription does not include access to federal dockets and filings.  If your legal research requires federal dockets, PACER is your way to access them.

Searching in PACER

The PACER Case Locator (PCL) is a national index for district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts.  Patrons can use this search tool to conduct nationwide searches to determine if a party is involved with any federal cases.  If you know the court where your case is located, you can limit your search to a specific court to reduce the number of results.

You may search by case number, party name, Social Security number, or tax identification number in U.S. bankruptcy courts. In district courts, you may search by case number, party name, or filing date range. And for appellate courts, you may search by case number or party name.

Case information is available in PACER once it has been filed or entered in the courts Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system.

How do you access PACER?

PACER can only be used in the law library.  If you want to use PACER, please contact one of the law librarians, who will log you into the system.  There is no user charge to access PACER at the law library, though regular printing charges (15 cents/page) will apply.

For more information, please come visit the law library!


Tough Cases

Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made, published in September 2018, features essays from U.S. judges who describe the cases that were difficult for them to decide.  Two Ramsey Court District Court Judges contributed chapters to this book, and they were the featured speakers at the CLE hosted by the Law Library and the Ramsey County Bar Association on September 16.

Judge Bohr at the CLE.

Judge Bohr discussing the chapter she contributed to Tough Cases.


In Judge Gail Bohr’s chapter, “A Judge’s Hidden Struggle: Overcoming Judicial Culture” she writes about the difficulties she had as a judge in deciding a custody case.  When asked why she chose this case, she responded,

Family law custody cases in the absence of agreement are difficult because they are high conflict cases, and the judge has to decide who will be the primary custodian and what the parenting time schedule for the child will be, among other things.  Here, the parents did have an agreement, but the 18 month old baby would bear the brunt of that agreement, moving every day from one parent to the other.  Could I, as the decision-maker, over-ride their agreement in deciding the child’s best interests?

While she was deciding this case, her many years of experience as a social worker contributed towards her uncertainty about the custody agreement created by the parents.  Her instincts said that the equitable but unwieldy parenting plan was not in the best interest of the child, though the amicable solution would avoid a trial.  As it happened, life intervened, and the child was placed with her grandparents when both parents were unable to take on parental responsibilities of raising an infant.  Because of this case, Judge Bohr concluded that she could not ignore her life experiences when rendering a decision – and in fact, she needed to rely on those experiences to make the best possible decisions.

But for a completely different kind of case, look no further than the chapter penned by Judge Edward Wilson, who wrote about his experiences serving in Kosovo as part of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  Judge Wilson, along with other international judges, was there to establish a new, workable justice system in Kosovo to fill the vacuum left by the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic and end of Serbian totalitarian rule.

Judge Wilson

Judge Wilson talking about his time as a member of UNMIK.

It was a difficult environment to work in, as there was deep mistrust and hatred on both sides. Because of the enmity and distrust, there was no expectation that trials would be fair, or that the attorneys would be prepared to defend their clients. While UNMIK tried to set up a structure to provide fair hearings, it was hard to overcome the intense antagonism rooted in generations of conflict between the Kosovars and Serbs. Because of this enmity, the local lay people who served as judges on the panels could not be impartial in rendering decisions or determining appropriate punishment.

Although the nascent legal system that he worked with in Kosovo was quite different from the established court system here in Minnesota, Judge Wilson feels that the work he and the other international judges did had a lasting impact on the legal culture of Kosovo. Personally, he enjoyed the experience and learned so much working with other judges from around the world. For anyone who has the opportunity to serve on an international, he strongly encourages you to try it out. Learn as much as you can about the region before you go, keep an open mind, and be prepared to engage with the people and their culture.

While the details and situations that made these cases “tough” for the judges were vastly different, Judge Bohr does see a common thread: “The similarities I see are not so much in the subject matter but in the judges’ inner turmoil as they struggle with the decisions they must make. The book really exposes the humanity of judges as we struggle to arrive at a just and fair decision.”

If you missed their presentation at the Ramsey County Law Library, you will have the chance to see them again.  They will be presenting at a CLE program hosted by the Minnesota State Law Library on November 5 at 1:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Judicial Center, room 230.



Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. (1924-2002)

Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. served on the Ramsey County District Court from 1968-1991.
Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. served on the Ramsey County District Court from 1968-1991.

Otis H. Godfrey Jr. was born in 1924 and was grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He attended Central High School, but later transferred and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy.  During World War II he served in the Army Air Corps as a nose gunner on a B-24 crew in the South Pacific.  After the war, he married Jean Keys in 1946.

After graduating from Yale University he followed his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps into the legal profession.  He studied law at the University of Minnesota Law School, graduated in 1950, and started his legal career as a sole practitioner in St. Paul.

In 1961, Governor Elmer L. Anderson appointed Godfrey to the St. Paul Municipal Court.  Seven years later, he was elevated to the Ramsey County District Court by Governor Harold LeVander to fill the seat left vacant by Judge A.S. Pearson.  Judge Godfrey served on the Ramsey County bench until he retired in 1991.

During those years, Judge Godfrey was an active member of the Ramsey County Bar Association, the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Minnesota District Judges Association, and the International Academy of Trial Judges.  Judge Godfrey served on the Ramsey County Law Library Board of Trustees for 15 years, and he also oversaw the law library remodeling project.

Judge Godfrey was also a leader in his community, and was involved with several organizations.  He had leadership roles with The Loft/Summit University Teen Center, Hallie Q. Brown Center, Martin Luther King Center, Ramsey County Friends of the Park, and the YMCA.  He loved hockey, and he coached youth hockey for 35 years.  He was married to his wife Jean for 56 years, and together they raised seven children:  Otis III (“Tracy”), Carol, Louise, Barbara, David, Paul, and Timothy.  Three of their children, Carol, Paul, and Timothy, are fourth generation attorneys.

Judge Godfrey passed away on July 17, 2002, at his home in St. Paul.  Judge Godfrey’s portrait was donated to the law library by his wife, Jean Keyes Godfrey, and hangs in the law library’s north reading room.

Judge Otis Godfrey served on the Ramsey County District Court from 1968-1991,

Judge Godfrey solemnly surveys the north reading room.

The portrait was painted by Robert Charles Knutson, M.D. who was born in Iowa in 1922, but grew up in Blue Earth, Minnesota.  He graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1947 and specialized in anesthesiology.  He subsequently was a founding partner of Associated Anesthesiologists where he practiced at Miller, St. Luke’s, United, Children’s, St. Joseph’s, and Shriner’s Hospitals until he retired in 1987.  In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Knutson studied classical realism for 20 years at Atelier Lack and created many beautiful landscapes, still lifes, and portraits of family and friends, of which, Judge Godfrey was one.  Dr. Knutson passed away in 2013.


Godfrey, Otis H. (Obituary) St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 19, 2002

For the Record: 150 Years of Law & Lawyers in Minnesota, Minnesota State Bar Association, 1999.

Knutson, Robert Charles, M.D. (Obituary) St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 29,2013.


SRLN Story Map

The Ramsey County Law Library is one of many public law libraries that assist the self-represented litigants (SRLs) across the country.  Strengthening services and programs for SRLs are valued public law library goals.  The map displayed here is one of several that convey data regarding law library services to SRLs.  Comprehensive survey results, including graphical displays, contact information, and interactive “story maps” are available at this link: 

Hopefully, this survey research and analysis will expand SRL services among law libraries by demonstrating best practices for assisting SRLs.  The information also describes important law library services for stakeholders, advocates and the public.  The research was funded by a LexisNexis research grant.

Highlights of the 2019 survey that measured services to SRLs are listed below:

  • Over 70,500 SRLs are served by law libraries in a month
  • Top Five Services Offered by Libraries
    • 98% provide reference and research assistance and instruction;
    • 93% provide publicly accessible space;
    • 91% provide access to online court forms & instructions;
    • 68% offer referrals to social services agencies;
    • 68% create guides and pathfinders.
  • Top Five Technologies Offered by Librariea
    • 94% provide Internet access;
    • 93% provide computer access;
    • 89% provide a copier;
    • 86% provide WiFi;
    • 86% provide computer printing.  Most libraries charge a fee for photocopies (94%) and computer printing (86%).
  • 80% of law libraries have partnerships
    • 60% with courts;
    • 58% with legal aid groups;
    • 55% with bar associations;
    • 47% with public libraries.
  • 23% of law libraries have a self-help center in the library
  • 28% of law libraries have a limited advice clinic in the library
  • 6% of law libraries have an attorney on staff (not a librarian with a dual degree – library science and law—or a librarian with a law degree acting as a reference librarian).  This characteristic defines law libraries at the advanced level of service.
  • 26% of the U.S. population is within a 30-minute drive-time of a public law library that serves SRLs.
  • All (100%) libraries are within a 30-minute drive-time of some portion of low-income populations (defined as incomes below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level).

To learn more about services that county law libraries provide, come visit us on the 18th floor of the Ramsey County Courthouse, or view the full story map at the Self-Represented Litigants Networks website.


What goes up, must come down.

If you have ever been to the Ramsey County Law Library, then you know that a striking feature is the tall windows that look over the Mississippi on one side, and downtown St. Paul on the other.  The tall windows accentuates the open, airy feeling to the law library, with two-story high ceilings in the main reading rooms.  But have you even wondered how the some of the light fixtures and ceiling work is maintained?  Recently, building mechanics Mike Nelson and Jon Dibb were called up to replace some burned out bulbs and a missing ceiling tile.  Here is how they did it.

To replace the missing ceiling tile, Jon and Mike used a scissor lift to reach to ceiling.  Some of the walkways were partially blocked.  Luckily it was a slow morning in the law library, as they had to anchor the lift so it wouldn’t tip over.

Using scissor lift in the law library

Once the lift was secure, the guys could use it to quickly zip up to the ceiling to replace tiles and burnt out bulbs.  The lift is pretty portable, and can be easily moved throughout the library.


The view of the law library from this tall perch is spectacular.


You can get a close-up view of the judicial portraits, too.


Images of judicial portraits of Judges John Willis, Richard Walsh, and Levi Vilas.

An up close and personal look at Judge John Willey Willis and Judge Richard Ambrose Walsh.

For tight areas where it isn’t possible to fit the lift, the guys change the bulbs using a ladder and a lightbulb changer.   This task can get a little tiring considering the law library has ceilings that are 2 and a half stories tall!  The next challenge will be to figure out how to change the bulbs in the chandeliers.  Stay tuned!



While the law library occasionally hosts CLE programs, the one on June 10 was very special.  On that day, the family of Judge Otis Godfrey donated a portrait of the late Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr. to the law library, and his portrait became the latest addition to the law library’s unique judicial portrait collection.

To help celebrate this occasion, Paul Godfrey, one of Judge Godfrey’s sons, and Former Ramsey County Chief Judge Gordon Shumaker shared personal memories of Judge Godfrey.  In addition to the remembrances of Judge Godfrey, Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann talked about several historic cases that were litigated in Ramsey County.

In attendance were many members of Judge Godfrey’s family, including his wife of over 50 years, Jean Keys Godfrey, as well as several of his children and siblings.  Many friends and colleagues also attended this celebration.  Below are some pictures taken at the CLE.


20190610_120242Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann and
Law Library Board chairman John Trojack.


20190610_121602MSBA President Paul Godfrey

The Honorable Gordon W. Shumaker, Former Chief Judge Ramsey County Court and Former Judge Minnesota Court of Appeals

The Honorable Gordon W. Shumaker, Former Chief Judge Ramsey County Court and Former Judge Minnesota Court of Appeals


Ramsey County Judges Adam Yang, Richard Kyle, Jr., and Thomas Gilligan

Ramsey County Judges Adam Yang, Richard Kyle, Jr., and Thomas Gilligan


Jean Keys Godfrey and son.

Jean Keys Godfrey and son.


The family of Judge Godfrey with his portrait.

The family of Judge Godfrey with his portrait.


Steve Kirsch and Bob Murnane.

Steve Kirsch and Bob Murnane.


Attendees of the CLE.

Attendees of the CLE.

Spot the librarians attending the CLE.

Spot the librarians attending the CLE.


Ramsey County Law Library Director Sara Galligan.

Ramsey County Law Library Director Sara Galligan.


MSBA CEO Cheryl Dalby and RCBA CLE & Events Director Sharon Elmore with the portrait of Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr.

MSBA CEO Cheryl Dalby and RCBA CLE & Events Director Sharon Elmore with the portrait of Judge Otis H. Godfrey, Jr.








Addicted Lawyer

The Addicted Lawyer by Brian Cuban offers a personal expose about one attorney’s struggles with addiction.  Cuban describes the “secret life of Brian” which prevailed for too many years and prevented him from seeking help for his drinking/drug problems.  At a recent Ramsey County Bar CLE book talk on Cuban’s story, David Schultz (Hamline U. Professor of Political Science and U of M Professor of Law) led a   discussion about causes for addiction among lawyers.  He also remarked that the younger generation of lawyers is much smarter than their elder colleagues because they seek help.

This book explains what addiction looks like in the legal profession with its many stressors, causing lawyers to experience higher levels of anxiety, depression and problem drinking than in the general population.  In addition to Cuban’s excellent book, recent resources include the following:

  1. Cuban’s book references a landmark study that examined the high incidence of addiction among attorneys,   The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys  Krill, Patrick R. JD, LLM; Johnson, Ryan MA; Albert, Linda MSSW), Journal of Addiction Medicine: January/February 2016 – Volume 10 – Issue 1 – p 46–52.  This study was conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs; it confirmed “a substantial level of behavioral health problems among attorneys and revealed cause for great public concern.” (p. viii)
  2. The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change (2017) is the result of a study by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.  It found that between 21 and 36 percent of attorneys qualify as problem drinkers.  The study concluded that collectively, small steps can lead to transformative change, especially in a demanding profession.  It also focuses on ways to facilitate, destigmatize, and encourage help-seeking behaviors.
  3. At the highest level, Minnesota’s legal community has provided a response to the addiction problem among attorneys with the 2019 “Call to Action” summit hosted by the Minnesota Supreme Court. The summit presented plans for various legal entities—In-House Counsel, Large Law Firms, Public Lawyers, and Solo and Small Firms.
  4. For immediate assistance or for a confidential discussion about substance abuse and/or mental health concerns, Minnesota is fortunate to have Lawyers Concern for Lawyers (LCL).  They can be reached at 651-646-5590 or 1-866-525-6466.

At the conclusion of the CLE/talk about Cuban’s book, one young attorney shared with the group his struggles with addiction. He highlighted the fact that he was able to reach out to others in his firm with very positive results. The attorney continued in his job, has achieved sobriety, and is thankful for the ongoing support the firm provides.

The Addicted Lawyer is available for loan from the Ramsey County Law Library.



Stay warm, everyone!


In this time of extreme cold in Minnesota, we thought we should share tips for keeping safe and warm during these very chilly days.

If you have a home and transportation, some steps you can take to be safe are:

  • Monitor your space heaters and fireplaces
  • Dress in loose layers, and be aware that frostbite to exposed skin can occur very quickly in extreme cold
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car.

Many residents in Ramsey County are not so fortunate. For those who are homeless in Ramsey County, an option might be Ramsey County Cold Weather Hotel Program.  This program is available for homeless families residing in a place not meant for human habitation who are on, or need to be added, to the waiting list to get into Ramsey County emergency shelter. A family must have an unsheltered status within the last seven days and the unsheltered homeless status must be verified by a third-party professional. Any families that are residing in a place not meant for human habitation may contact the Ramsey County Homeless Services office directly at 651-266-7818.

Other shelter and warming options:

The Salvation Army has two locations in Ramsey County that offer shelter from the extreme cold.

Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities is preparing overflow and additional space will be added to the Saint Paul men’s campus at 435 University Ave. E, St. Paul, MN 55130. through Thursday night.

Listening House, a drop-in center located at 464 Maria Ave., Saint Paul, 55106 extended their hours on Wednesday and will be at closing at 2 p.m. On Tuesday and Thursday, they close at 4:15 p.m.

For younger residents, ages 16-24, a safe option is SafeZone Drop-in Center located at 130 E. 7th St., Saint Paul, 55101.  SafeZone will hav extended their hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29 through Friday, Feb. 1.  Safe Zone will serve three warm meals throughout the day and provide youth with extra hand warmers and winter gear throughout the day.

A full list of housing and shelter resources for Ramsey County residents is on the county website here.

It is very cold outside today!  Please pass on this information to those in need.




Into the Judge’s Chamber

Cover photo of "Tough Cases"


Looking for an excellent new book that zooms in on judicial thinking and real world legal issues? Here’s a title you can sit back and enjoy over the holidays—or give to someone as a worthwhile gift—a new collection of essays on important legal cases written by the judges themselves:

Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made

The list of authors includes two from Minnesota. Judge Gail Chang Bohr writes “A Judge’s Hidden Struggle: Overcoming Judicial Culture” regarding a difficult child custody case. Judge Edward S. Wilson writes about his experience with the United Nations mission in Kosovo where he spent a year helping to build and dispense justice in a region torn by violence, war crimes, homicide, and organized crime. Both authors are retired Ramsey County judges.

The book contains thirteen personal essays, and some cover more well-known cases such as Terri Schiavo, Elian Gonzalez, and Scooter Libby. The judicial authors weave together substantive and procedural issues and embellish their storytelling with commentary, analysis, and insights about the parties involved.

All essays are fascinating to read, they describe what judges wrestle with, and they give an idea of the personal impact on the judges themselves.

The book is edited by Russell Canan, Gregory Mize, and Frederick Weisberg and is published by The New Press. The law library has a copy; or you can purchase the book on Amazon for just over $16.00.

Whether you make this a special gift for yourself or someone else, the reader will come away with genuine revelations, a better perspective, and satisfaction with time well spent.


Don’t forget to vote!


The Ramsey County Law Library encourages everyone to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday November 6th. We have collected some interesting information about voting and this election to help ensure that you can participate in this year’s election.

Early voting has started

If you are worried about lines and crowds, early voting may be the solution for you. You can vote early in person, or by mail, though if you haven’t gotten your mail in ballot by now, it might not be the best way to ensure your vote is counted in time. If you have mailed in an absentee or ballot, you can track your ballot via the Secretary of State’s website.

Don’t know where your polling place is? The Secretary of State website has a link for that, too.

Take the time to vote

It is the law that in Minnesota that your employer must pay you for the time you need to vote, if it falls within your scheduled work time. Your employer cannot require you to use personal leave or vacation time (see Minnesota Statutes 204C.04 and 204C.08 subd. 1d).

Know your candidates and issues!

If you want to know who is on your ballot, the Minnesota Secretary of State website is a quick way to find out who you will vote for based on your mailing address. Minnesota Public Radio has provided voting guides for the election in multiple languages  (English, Somali, Hmong, and Spanish).

Need assistance with voting?

If you have a disability or just need assistance at your polling place, you have rights! You can:

  • Ask to sign in orally if you cannot sign your name
  • Bring anyone except for your employer, your union, or a candidate, to assist you while you vote
  • You can ask to use an accessible voting machine that can mark the ballot for you
  • You can fill out a ballot using a Braille keypad or other devices
  • Curbside voting is available if you can’t leave your vehicle
  • You can cask for a replacement ballot if you make a mistake before you cast your vote

And if you need a ride to your polling place, please remember that Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to the polls on election day.

Minnesota consistently  has a high voter turnout. Let’s continue this tradition. Please remember to vote on November 6.