mortarboardThe fate of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) remains in limbo. Last year Federal District Court Judge Donovan Frank ruled that the Program constituted unconstitutional confinement.  More recently, the Judge Frank ordered specific changes to the program, but the State appealed this ruling and the Program continues as usual.

Recent news has cast light on some of the program’s candidates for “graduation” if you will. Of note, Oliver Lenell Dority has served at the MSOP for roughly 20 years, and will soon be provisionally discharged.  Dority was sent to prison in 1995 after pleading guilty to raping two women. He was civilly committed to the program in 2009.  Since he will be settling in St. Paul, the Police Department held a public meeting this week for residents to ask questions. Similarly, Christopher Coker of Minneapolis has sought release to a halfway house following his commitment to the MSOP fifteen years ago.  He was originally convicted for the rapes of three teenage girls in three incidents over 1991 and 1992.  Recently the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a special panel which concluded that Coker should be released to a halfway house in light of his treatment progress, despite conflicting reports submitted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services stating that Coker wasn’t ready for this step. In an unpublished decision written by Chief Judge Edward Cleary, the Court of Appeals concluded it was permissible for the panel to give increased weight to the positive report presented by Coker’s primary in-house therapist.

Created in 1994, the MSOP presents a phased-treatment program, implying that offenders can “graduate” if they successfully complete their treatment. So what exactly does it take to graduate from the program?  Among its numerous policies, the MSOP offers a general outline of its graduation standards (See Phase III on deinstitutionalization and reintegration).  In addition, news articles reveal Dority’s lawyer stating that he cooperated in the program and was never sent back to lower levels, and security guard testimony that Coker had been on over 30 chaperoned visits outside the facility without incident.  Over the two decades of MSOP’s existence, very few participants have ”graduated,” and these were all provisional discharges.  (None have been released outright.)  Interestingly, the provisional release rate has picked up in recent years, perhaps indicating a new commitment on MSOP’s part to holding up the program’s ”graduation” ideal.  (Pressure from a federal court might do that, subsequent appeal filings aside.)  The dilemma might simply be that while citizens are understandably concerned about the possibility of a sex offender living in their community, no sex offender can be asked to do the difficult work of changing themselves without some hope of eventually regaining at least some of their freedom.


Hugo O. Hanft

Judge Hugo O. HanftHugo O. Hanft was born in 1871 in St. Peter, Minnesota to Oscar and Anna Hanft.  Oscar was a tinmaker, and died when Hugo was only six years old.  Young Hugo attended school in New Ulm.  Graduating at age 16, he desired admission to the University of Minnesota Law School, but was too young.  Instead he enrolled in the German-American Teachers’ Seminary (Miwaukee), and graduated from there in 1889. He then taught at the Peru, IL High School until 1894, where he served as principal his final year. He finally enrolled in the University of Minnesota Law School, and graduated in 1896.  He was admitted to the Minnesota Bar that same year.

Hanft served as assistant Ramsey County attorney in 1896 under Pierce Butler.  The following year he went into private practice, and returned to the University of Minnesota to receive his masters in law degree.  He left his practice in  1898 to serve as First Lieutenant in the Army during the Spanish-American War.  Upon returning he married Laura Holly, and they had one child, Hugo Holly Hanft. He resumed private practice until his election to the Saint Paul Municipal Court in 1906.  He served as a municipal judge until he was elected as a Ramsey County District Judge in 1914, where he served from 1915 to 1943.  Judge Hanft also presided over the sensational 1917 case against Frank Dunn for the murder of his separated wife, which resulted in Dunn being found guilty and spending the rest of his life in prison. ( This story is captured in the popular book Murder has a Public Face: Crime and Punishment in the Speed Graphic Era, by Larry Millet.)   Hanft was also a candidate for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice in 1924. He finally retired from the Ramsey District Court bench in 1943.  Hugo Hanft died in 1949, preceded by his wife, Laura, who died in 1931.

As a judge, Hanft was very protective of youth, but was otherwise a “hands-off” guy as he understood the role of government.  As a municipal judge he was concerned about the effects of alcohol, “penny parlors,” and dance halls on the young, as well as what he thought was lack of proper parental supervision.  He thus inaugurated “compulsory economy” as a municipal judge, requiring young men charged with drunkenness to put portions of their income in savings, and to pay their parents for room and board.  As a district judge he continued to protect youth with his long-term campaign against alcohol ”bootleggers.”  Conversely, in 1928 he denied the right of state agencies to control the financial policies of the University of Minnesota.  In 1934 he also struck down state income tax as unconstitutional, only to see it reinstated by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Reed v. Bjornson et al. (253 N.W. 102).


The Law Librarian extends special thanks to the George Latimer Central Library.  Their collection of historic newspaper clippings from the Pioneer Press and Saint Paul Dispatch were invaluable in locating the information presented here. 



The OFP Comes of Age

file000388004075When it comes to the real-world application of a domestic abuse order for protection (OFP), the need for speed cannot be overlooked. This is why it was special news last week when the Minnesota Judicial Branch integrated OFP data into the Court Information System. It assists law enforcement by making OFP data immediately available to the BCA and FBI as soon as it goes into the Court Information System. Before this update,  courts transmitted these orders to law enforcement twice a day, so it was typically hours between a judge’s signing an OFP to cops on the beat having access to its existence. Likewise, the new system allows law enforcement to instantly report when an OFP has been served.  This new integration project began in the Ramsey District Court early last year, but now covers all Minnesota jurisdictions.

While this may not sound like a big development in itself, it is considering where domestic abuse law was in Minnesota not so long ago. Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act (MN Stat. §518B.01), which introduced the Order For Protection, was only adopted in 1979This article from the University of Minnesota Law School tells how a victim might not have any recourse prior to the OFP without filing for divorce (thus assuming she was married.)  The Act itself was groundbreaking in that it required police to make an arrest in cases where there was probable cause to believe an assault had occurred, but it was still far from perfect.  This 1989 Report of the Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force for Gender Fairness in the Courts (chaired by the late Honorable Rosalie Wahl) reveals that even ten years after their introduction, OFP’s were seldom enforced due to judges’ attitudes (and probably also the limits of information technology) of the time. It also reveals that one seeking a protective order then might actually have to pay a filing fee or get an in forma pauperis (which they don’t now).

This news aside, domestic abuse remains a troubling problem in our community.  If you need immediate help, contact Ramsey County Domestic Abuse/Harassment Office or Bridges to Safety.


Restorations in Progress

Giant lightThe huge, high-tech light pictured on the right is not part of a hospital- at least not in the traditional sense. This is one of the tools that one can see when they visit the Midwest Art Conservation Center (MACC). We paid a visit last week, where the last installment of our judge portraits were getting their state-of-the-art restoration treatment. This visit provided us a rare opportunity to see our judges up close, even under the microscope! The details of the portraits, including the canvases, varnishes, brush strokes, are simply unbelievable!  We also witnessed the painstaking process of cleaning each portrait, with hand-rolled cotton swabs. (Keep in mind that years of “smoking” had left a yellow-brown film on all of the gentlemen.)

Another interesting detail as to the history of the portraits was revealed during our visit. See the photo below taken on the back of a particular portrait indicating that Brewer entered it in the 16th Annual Exhibition of the Art Institute back in 1930. Is it possible that this was in fact the first of the portraits, which led Brewer to paint most of the others?

We would like to extend a huge thank you to Chief Conservator David Marquis and the other MACC staff for allowing us to visit the restoration in progress. Their informative explanation of the restoration process was most enlightening.  Until the portraits return to our walls, enjoy these pictures from our visit.



Entry tag from 1930 Art Institute exhibition

Entry tag from 1930 Art Institute exhibition

close-up of canvas

Close-up of canvas and Judge Wilkin’s spectacles

Judge Sanborn on easel

Judge Sanborn “on the stand”



Questions of Guilt and Innocence

Inside a PrisonMuch discussion has resulted from the ten-segment Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, which focused on the convictions of Wisconsinite Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey.  While this riveting documentary didn’t address all the evidence involved in this real-live case, it did spark troubling questions about the criminal justice process itself: How precise is our system of determining if one is guilty or innocent? How safe is our criminal justice system from possible corruption and bias at the local level? How much of our system is fueled by a human need to believe that the dangerous people are safely locked up and cannot harm us?  And are remedies like the appeals process or habeas corpus adequate for such justice errors?These are not mere abstract questions, for doubts and mistakes regarding guilt and innocence have existed for as long as criminal justice has. The trial and evidence leading to Minnesota’s first individual execution left major doubts as to the convicted’s guilt. As DNA technology emerged, many criminal convictions were found to be erroneous, including Avery’s earlier conviction.  Most wrongful convictions, however, involve non-DNA factors.

Avery’s situation is not cause for Minnesotans to feel smug and safe in their own state from justice failures like wrongful convictions. The case of Richard Dzubiak was one of a St. Paul man convicted of killing his mother by pushing her down the stairs. It later came to light that the original forensic report had been misread, and that the victim had in fact died from a fatal self-inflicted dose of antidepressants. Dzubiak then filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea and receive a new trial, which was granted and resulted in his acquittal.  Another St. Paul man, Sherman Townsend, was charged with burglary of a Minneapolis residence on the word of the real burglar.  While Townsend was in prison serving the resulting sentence he received as part of a plea bargain, he met the actual burglar who was serving time on a different offense.  Fortunately this actual burglar stepped forward this time and testified that he had in fact committed the burglary, which led to an agreement between Townsend and prosecutors to have Townsend’s sentence commuted.  (It should be noted here that Townsend was an ex-con when the burglary occurred, which likely weakened his bargaining position with prosecutors.)

If you want to read more on the history and theory of wrongful convictions, consider these titles available at the Minnesota State Law Library:  Examining Wrongful Convictions: Stepping Back, Moving Morward (2014) by A. Redlich, et al., and False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent (2011) by Jim and Nancy Petro.  Also check out the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School If you or a relative has experienced what they believe is a wrongful conviction, know that challenging it is not a small legal task. You are strongly encouraged to work with a lawyer when exploring what possible post-conviction remedies you may have.  You can find a criminal lawyer through the Ramsey County Bar Association, or through the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Also consider contacting the Minnesota Innocence Project.


file0001711542405The first thought of many litigants who lose their case in Minnesota District Court is to appeal the decision. After all, the judge and jury got it all wrong as far as they are concerned. Indeed, sometimes a court DOES get it wrong, and appeals courts exist for this very reason. But self-represented litigants can be unpleasantly surprised at what an appeal requires, especially in terms of their time and energy. Before you decide that appeal is the answer to your unfavorable judgement, here is the very least of what you should be aware of.

1. Filing an appeal is expensive. The filing fee for an appeal in Minnesota is currently $550.  One must ask if this is really for it for minor adverse judgments, like a traffic violation. Of course, you may apply for a fee waiver, which may or may not be granted.  Further, if you lose on a civil appeal or the Court determines your civil appellate claim was frivolous, you could be ordered to pay costs for the opposing side.

 2.  For civil cases, you must also determine if your case is appealable Not every decision or judgment is technically eligible for appeal under Minnesota law. Best to read Rule 103.03 of the Minnesota Rules of Appellate Procedure.

3. Not every case has grounds for appeal, or merit. Filing an appeal is not a “do over” of the case, and mere dissatisfaction with the decision is not a legal basis to challenge a decision.  You also cannot bring new arguments, evidence, or witnesses into your appeal.  Read more about this on the MNCourts webpage.

4. There are time limits for when you can appeal. Civil appeal time limits might be governed under Rule 104.01 of the Minnesota Rules of Appellate Procedure, but not always.  Criminal judgments have appeal time limits of their own.  Start with Rule 28 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure if you are trying to determine yours.

5. Preparing an appeal involves much more than simply filling out the forms. Much of the extensive research and paperwork you must do is toward the requirement that you prepare a written argument, or brief for your appeal.  (Most practicing attorneys will tell you they spent significant time researching and writing their first appellate brief in law school, and you likely will as well.) We have some appellate brief samples you can see here in the law library, plus this Libguide on appeals from the State Law Library offers online samples as well.

This all said, for pro se litigants who believe they have grounds for an appeal and want to pursue one, there are some additional resources which can help. The Courts webpage offers answers to basic questions on both civil and criminal appeals.  An excellent written guide for pro se litigants filing an appeal is this one from the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project.  Finally, the Minnesota State Law Library has recently started an appeals clinic, where attorneys can help you with questions including applicable deadlines, filing forms, and brief writing.



file1701261140831Have you completed your holiday travels for the year? Were they as smooth and predictable as you hoped? The following year might be an interesting one for Minnesota air travel, and not necessarily for reasons relating to the weather. Most people prefer to handle airport security details as quickly as possible and then be en route to their destinations. Next year could conceivably be more complicated, however, in the event that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides a driver’s license is no longer enough for airline passengers to clear security in some states, most notably Minnesota.  In these states, drivers licenses have not complied with federal standards as established by the Real ID Act (enacted in 2005).  Basically, the standards of the Act require more stringent proof of identity than currently on a standard Minnesota driver’s license, so as to eventually allow users’ information to be shared in a national database.    Not everyone is on board with the DHS plan, however.  Privacy experts, civil liberty organizations and libertarian groups fear the law would create something like a national identification card.  According to the map shown, travelers can circumnavigate Minnesota’s noncompliance with an “enhanced” driver’s license.  This is no doubt why thousands of Minnesotans have recently applied for such an enhanced license.  The Department of Motor Vehicles can tell you about getting such a license. You can also check out this DHS page to read more about the Real ID Act and where travelers stand on using their drivers license for airport security.

The timing of this coincides with a recent Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) policy mandating electronic screening for “some” passengers, who were previously allowed to opt out of the scanner with a standard pat-down.  According to the TSA, the scanner technology offers superior “threat detection capabilities for both metallic and nonmetallic threat objects.” In other words, the scanners can catch weapons hidden in clothes that a pat-down might miss.  This predictably raises questions, such as why are they not simply mandating the scan for everyone? And which passengers are the “some” which will still no longer get to opt for the pat-down as opposed to submit to the scanner?

The law of airport security and its constitutional implications may not come up every day, but a couple of law review articles touch on this touchy subject. Check out The Post-TSA Airport: A Constitution Free Zone? recently published in the Pepperdine Law Review.  Also see Enhancing Security while Protecting Privacy: The Rights Implicated by Supposedly Heightened Airport Security from the Michigan State Law Review.


Divorce – Baby Steps to Big Steps

Woman walking awayMaybe after much thought, you have finally decided that you are ready to file for divorce. You expect that this will a big project, especially having seen how extensive the initial paperwork can be. You might also be feeling that you just need to get through the busy holiday season before you take any real steps.

First, be aware that the MNCourts online I-CAN system can help you streamline the preparation of your initial divorce filing. It does this by allowing you to type in information as prompted, and then by storing it and then formatting it into your own personalized petition papers to file.  Do you manage to find unscheduled bits of downtime during your busy holiday season? If so, here’s a suggestion for getting your divorce preparation underway:  Simply download or print out the Fast Facts worksheet from the I-CAN page, and then fill in the blanks provided for information such as addresses, birthdates, account numbers, etc. as your time permits.  Later on when you are less busy, you can take this written information you have prepared and sit down to enter it into your electronic I-CAN account.  Alternatively, you can get your new I-CAN account set up through your email, ready to access again at your convenience.

When you have your divorce initiation paperwork completed and printed out, you will want to make an appointment with the Ramsey Family Self-Help Center to go over these documents with their staff and make sure they are complete for filing.  There are other tools which can help you prepare for your upcoming divorce.  For instance, The Scott County Law Library offers a free divorce workshop every fourth Saturday of the month for those who might like some assistance with the I-CAN system.  If you are concerned for your safety, you may also want to consult the Ramsey Family Domestic Abuse/Harassment Office.

Good luck as you look ahead to 2016.


Weed for What Ails You

Cannabis leafThis year Minnesota joined 21 other states and adapted the Theraputic Research Act so as to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana.  Though the legislature was originally concerned about the medical side effects of chemotherapy for cancer, the final Act allowed nine qualifying conditions into the marijuana medicinal use program, including cancer; seizures including epilepsy; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis and other disorders that cause severe muscle spasms; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; HIV; AIDS; and Crohn’s disease.   Earlier this month however, the medicinal use exception under the Act was widened to include “intractable pain.” Specifically, this means pain that “cannot be removed or otherwise treated.”  For recreational use, however, ”cannabis” remains illegal in Minnesota.   (See this map indicating which states allow legal use of medical or recreational marijuana.

This is still pretty newsworthy, considering the historical/legal/cultural roller coaster that marijuana has experienced in our society.  According to this timeline, the cultivation of hemp was encouraged in our nation’s early years for practical uses such as making rope. But the cultural climate had changed considerably by 1936, when the propaganda film Reefer Madness was produced to warn young people about the dangers of a life built around recreational marijuana use.

So if you or someone you love is experiencing what they consider to be intractable pain, is this the green light to light up?  Not exactly. To be covered under the Act, both a patient and their physician are required register with the Department of Health.  Meaning, a patient will first need to convince their physician that their pain indeed meets this “intractable” threshold.  Also, they will have to wait until August 2016 to actually receive the marijuana for use.  For more information about Minnesota’s medical cannabis program, please visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s medical cannabis website.

We don’t want your research of state marijuana laws and regulations to be intractably painful.  Start with these two Information Briefs from the Minnesota House Research Department: Medical Cannabis: A Guide to the Minnesota Law and Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act.  An emerging legal issue on this topic is the question of how an employer needs to accommodate a worker’s medical marijuana use, as highlighted by this interesting article in the December issue of Minnesota Bench & Bar written by University of Minnesota Law student Richard Sharp.  Additionally, some recent CLE’s available in the library address this particular issue:

  •  Public Sector Labor & Employment Law Manual 2015 – “The New Medical Marijuana Law – Implications for the Public Sector Employer and Employee” by T. Jacobson & T. Louris (MN-CLE)
  • Employment Law Handbook 2015– “Clearing the Haze of Marijuana in the Workplace” by S. Ballard (MN-CLE

The Judge Portraits Identified

Restored portraits await return to wallsAs countless people surf the web every day, it behooves the Law Librarian to actually list the judges of the historic portrait collection on our walls. It’s always exciting for us when a visitor to the library (or our blog) points out a portrait as being of their deceased relative.  So as we near the completed restoration of all the portraits, we want to encourage people with connections and memories to come forward and share them with us.

So, here they are (in alphabetical order):

Charles Bechhoefer (1923-1931)
John W. Boerner (1923-1949)
Hascal Russel Brill (1875-1922)
Kenneth Gray Brill (1929-1954)
George Lincoln Bunn (1897-1911)
Frederick Miles Catlin (1913-1921)
William Daltin Cornish (1890-1893)
Royden Smith Dane (1947-1959)
Frederick N. Dickson (1911-1921)
James J. Egan (1891-1897)
John W. Graff (1959-1974)
Archie L Gingold (1960-1978)
William Sprigg Hall (1867-1875)
Oscar Hallam (1905-1912)
Hugo O. Hanft (1915-1943)
Charles C. Haupt (1917-1922)
Marshall F. Hurley (1959-1960)
Edwin A. Jaggard (1899-1905)
William Louis Kelly (1887-1923)
Charles D. Kerr (1889-1897)
Olin Baily Lewis (1897-1929)
Gustavus Loevinger (1931-1955)
Carlton F. McNally (1924-1959)
James C. Michael (1915-1946)
Richard D. O’Brien (1923-1939)
Grier Melancthon Orr (1903-1930)
Charles E. Otis (1889-1903)
E.C. Palmer (1858-1864)
John B. Sanborn (1922-1925)
Orlando Simons (1875-1890)
Arthur A. Stewart (1946-1961)
Levi M. Vilas (1889-1891)
Richard Ambrose Walsh (1931-1938)
Howard Wheeler (1930-1931)
Wescott Wilkin (1865-1891)
John Willey Willis (1892-1899)

We are also interested in information related to the artists, including Edward V. Brewer and James L. Artig