In the most recent issue of the Ramsey County History magazine, Ramsey County Chief Judge John H. Guthmann’s piece on Clara Anderson is one of the featured articles. In this well-researched article, he describes the circumstances that led up to Ms. Anderson’s case, clearly explains the legal arguments that supported her case, and then outlines the changes to the law after she lost her final appeal in the Minnesota Supreme Court in the late spring of 1948.

Long-time readers might remember this bit of Ramsey County history from a previous blog post, but here is a quick reminder of who was Clara Anderson, and why her case is so interesting. Ms. Anderson started as a waitress at the Frederic Hotel in St. Paul, MN in 1936. In 1940, she changed jobs, and was then identified as a bartender at the same hotel. Her salary increased dramatically; as a waitress she received $45 a month (plus tips), but as a bartender, her pay increased to $200, with her room, board, and meals included.

When World War II ended and men came back from the war, they found that many of the jobs at home were being performed by women. Bartender unions, many with “male-only” membership requirements, pressured governments across the county to ban women from the lucrative bartending positions so that their male members could step into these jobs. The St. Paul City Council, with the strong encouragement of the St. Paul’s Bartender Union Local 287, passed Ordinance 8604 which prevented women (except for the owner’s wife) from tending the bar.  Understandably upset at the prospect of losing her job, Ms. Anderson sued the City of St. Paul.

We encourage you to read Judge Guthmann’s article to find out more about the case, and what happened afterwards. (Hint – eventually, St. Paul amended Ordinance 8604 in 1970.) In addition to the excellent research, the article has many pictures showing pictures of the judges, attorneys, and parties in the case, as well photos of historical downtown St. Paul. And a small plug for the law library: There is nice picture of Judge Carlton McNally, who was the first judge to weigh in on Ms. Anderson’s case. The portrait is part of the Ramsey County Law Library’s Judicial Portrait collection.




Although the law library is closed to the public, we still want to celebrate National Library Week with our annual book raffle. During our closure, volunteer attorneys continue to provide housing, conciliation, and criminal defense clinics via phone. As a small token of appreciation, the library raffled off 2 books–each going to one of our prize-winning volunteers. The library continues to provide email and phone reference and curbside book pickup for attorneys. Please call the library at 651-266-8391 for more information.

This year, we have two excellent books, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  Just Mercy is the memoir of Bryan Stevenson, civil rights attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization based in Montgomery, Alabama.  Mr. Stevenson has argued and won many cases, including a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that bans mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger.  His book was recently adapted into a major motion picture.

Astronuts  by Jon Scieszka is the second book in our giveaway.  Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) is an award-winning children’s book author, and has sold over 11 million books worldwide.  Astronuts is the start of a new series for children, and is illustrated by Steven Weinberg.  Mr. Weinberg was inspired by the art made available by The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  The Rijksmuseum has digitized and made their entire collection available to the world with no copyright restrictions.

We hope you are all reading interesting books and are staying safe during this time.





We’re still here to answer your questions!



Photo by Aleix Ventayol on Unsplash

While the state is under the Governor’s Stay at Home order, the law library is still available to help you with your legal research questions. The physical space is closed, and staff is working from home, but there are still many ways that we can help you:

Phone Reference: We are able to take calls between 8:00-4:30, Monday through Friday. We have access to some resources at home, including Westlaw, and are happy to answer your questions. We can also provide referrals to legal aid and other places for lawyer referrals. Remember, legal services are considered to be an essential service.  Please call us at 651.266.8391.

Email Reference: Our email is, and we are also monitoring that and answering questions as they come in.

Referrals: We can also provide referrals to legal aid, bar associations, and other organizations for lawyer referrals. Remember, legal services are considered to be an essential service. Many attorneys are still working and taking calls, even they are not at the office.

Clinics: Our Housing and Conciliation Court Clinic is on Tuesdays, and our volunteer attorneys are still available to talk to clients by phone. If you call 651-266-8391 on Tuesday after 12:30, we will set up an appointment for you to speak to one of the clinic attorneys.

Our Criminal Defense Law Clinic is also available to talk to law librarian patrons. Please call the law library on the first and third Thursday of the month, and a librarian will schedule an appointment for you.  651.226.8391.

Our Criminal Expungement Clinic is temporarily closed, but watch this space and we’ll let you know when it is up and running again.  However, the Volunteer Lawyers Network is available to answer your expungement questions.  See what they can offer on their website.

Hang in there, everyone.


March is Women’s History Month

Her Honor



This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which legalized a woman’s right to vote.  In Minnesota, 1922 was the first year that women could run for office in the Minnesota legislature, and four of the eight women candidates who ran for office won.  In the book Her Honor:  Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement author Lori Sturdevant provides intriguing and interesting facts about the twentieth century women’s movement in Minnesota:

  • The Minnesota Women’s Suffrage Association agitated for the full enfranchisement of women for forty years before achieving success.  The organization morphed into the Minnesota League of Women Voters.
  • Cornelia “Coya” Gjesdal Knutson—12 years Rosalie’s senior—was born on a farm in North Dakota.  Despite family struggles, she rose to political significance by financing her own campaign for election to the U.S. Congress, which she won in 1954, becoming the first woman in Minnesota to do so.  Sadly, her 1958 re-election bid failed due to false statements made about her family life and troubled marriage—attributed to her DFL colleagues and husband.  Coya Knutson was a victim of the inherent sexism of her time.
  • Rosalie Wahl went to law school by financing her own way; her family was well-established by then, and yet she gave birth to a fifth child while in law school.  Overcoming many obstacles, defeats, and triumphs, Rosalie became the first woman justice appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1977.  Her appointment came amidst Minnesota’s politically active feminists maneuvering for political office.
  • After her appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Justice Wahl “viewed her role as helping her colleagues see justice from the bottom up—that is, from the vantage not only of women, but also of disadvantaged people of all kinds, including those accused of serious crimes.”  In 1987, the “Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force for Gender Fairness in the Courts” was established; it was headed by Justice Wahl.
  • Justice Wahl retired from the supreme court on August 31, 1994.  She involved herself in community service, including leadership training for young women.  She lived to see more women take on leadership roles in Minnesota: Kathleen Blatz was elevated to first woman Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; Amy Klobuchar was elected Minnesota’s first woman U.S. Senator; and DFLer Betty McCollum was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since voters sent representative Coya Knutson home in 1958.

Her Honor:  Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement is available for check-out from the Ramsey County Law Library.











The consequences of having a criminal record can stay with a person long after time in prison is completed. Oftentimes, these crimes occurred years ago and are not a reflection of who the person is now.  Even so, having a criminal record can prevent a person from getting a job or housing, can be barred from obtaining licenses in certain professionscan be denied the right to vote, or own a gun, and more.

Expungement is the legal process of sealing a criminal record. An expunged criminal record will not be accessible to the public.  Sealing a criminal record can make it easier for you to find housing, get a job, and obtain certain types of job-related licenses.  In Ramsey County, you have many resources for getting help with expungement. Here are a few of them.

Ramsey County Criminal Expungement Clinic

The Ramsey County Law Library hosts a criminal expungement clinic every 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month. The clinic is run by the Ramsey County Court Self-Help Center, and it is staffed by a volunteer attorney from Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) and local attorney volunteer Dan Shapiro. Shapiro is a long-time volunteer for this clinic, and he is also a regular volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. “Everyone deserves a place to live, and everyone deserves a second chance,” he said.

Dennis Lee Lamar Bell, Jr. is making copies of his expungement paperwork at the Ramsey County Law Library.
Dennis Lee Lamar Bell, Jr. is making copies of his expungement paperwork at the Ramsey County Law Library.


One clinic attendee who is making the most of his second chance is Dennis Lee Lamar Bell, Jr., who is working to get his record cleared. He attended the clinic to start the paperwork for getting the expungement process started, but really, he had been working on getting his expungement for much longer than that. After consulting with the volunteer attorneys at the clinic, Mr. Bell spent several hours in the library filling out his forms, making copies of pictures and documents, and getting testimonials from others to show the court how he is not the same person as he was when he committed the crime.

To assist and support clients who are completing court forms, it is the policy of the Ramsey County Law Library to honor current, signed, fee waiver forms. Litigants with a signed fee waiver can make to make photocopies of their paperwork at no charge.

Ramsey County Criminal Expungement Clinic
2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month
1:00-3:00 p.m.

Ramsey County Law Library
15 West Kellogg Blvd
1815 Court House
St. Paul, MN 55102

Call 651-266-8391 for more information.

Ramsey Criminal Defense Law Clinic

While the Criminal Expungement clinic is on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays, on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month, the Ramsey County Law Library holds its newest clinic, the Ramsey Criminal Defense Law Clinic from 1:00 – 3:00 in the afternoon. While the attorneys at this clinic do not have time to walk you through the whole expungement application, they can answer questions about the process, and they can review your case to see if you qualify for expungement.

They can also answer other criminal law questions, too, like, what you should do if you missed your hearing, how to prepare for your trial, how to get copies of dashcam video, and how to subpoena witness or documents to support your case. Each client can spend up to half an hour to talk to the attorney about their legal issue, and they can definitely answer your expungement questions.

This clinic is staffed by volunteers based in the Twin Cities Metro area who have experience representing clients in Ramsey, Washington, and other counties in the Twin Cities metro area.

Ramsey Criminal Defense Law Clinic
1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month
1:00-3:00 p.m.

Ramsey County Law Library
15 West Kellogg Blvd
1815 Court House
St. Paul, MN 55102

Call 651-266-8391 for more information.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office as well as the Washington County Attorney’s Office will help you to determine if any offenses in your criminal history can be expunged. If you apply through the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and you qualify for expungement, you won’t have to fill out any paperwork and you won’t have to pay any fees to get your record expunged. In fact, the County Attorney’s Office will see to the process for you. As Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said,

Prosecutors are ministers of justice. Therefore, it is our legal and ethical responsibility to help rehabilitated people who have paid their debt to society to remove the scarlet letter of a criminal conviction and the barriers it creates to accessing jobs, housing, education and other necessities in life.

Since October when the program first started, hundreds of people have applied to see if their record could be expunged. With limited staff able to review the requests, there is a small lag time from when a person applies to be considered to when they hear back from the County Attorney’s office.

Informational sessions at the St. Paul Public Library

If you are interested in learning more about the expungement process, but are not quite ready to start the process, two branches of the St. Paul Public Library host informational sessions for patrons once a month. At these sessions, volunteer attorneys from the Volunteer Lawyers Network will start with a brief presentation about criminal expungement in Minnesota. Afterwards, you can meet with volunteer attorneys who can answer your brief questions and who may also be able to connect you with other attorneys or clinics for further assistance. The locations and times for these clinics are:

Saint Paul Public Library – Arlington Hills Community Center
1200 Payne Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55130
1st Friday of each month – noon (12:00 pm)

Saint Paul Public Library – Rondo Community Outreach Library
461 N. Dale St
Saint Paul, MN 55103
3rd Friday of each month – noon (12:00 pm)

A listing of all criminal expungement clinics in the metro area is on the VLN website here:

Expungement can remove significant barriers to employment and other areas, and assist non-incarcerated Minnesotans to secure employment, self-sufficiency and stability.






If anyone sees the new Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman,” they will find an answer to one of the greatest missing person questions of all time: “What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?”  The film revisits one of the most corrupt periods in labor union history.  In 1967, Hoffa, who was president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), was targeted by U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and he received a jail sentence (or “going to school” in felon parlance) for numerous offenses.


Hoffa’s misdeeds included misuse of pension funds, racketeering, bribery, jury tampering, and mail and wire fraud.  His actions epitomized an era of organized crime culminating in the government’s response in 1970 with passage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.  Hoffa’s political ambitions for regaining the IBT presidency are what got him killed, according to the film.  It appears this conclusion is likely but still debatable.

The IBT after Hoffa fared poorly, as far as government scrutiny is concerned. Probably the most important Civil/Rico labor racketeering case in history happened in 1988/89 in U.S. v. IBT when the federal government seized temporary operational control of the Teamster’s Union under a consent decree to settle racketeering and corruption charges.  The legal action was brought by none other than Rudy Giuliani, who was then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  Court supervision of the Teamster’s ended in 2015 with a 5-year phase out agreement that should end this year.

The term “white collar crime” was coined by Edwin Sutherland in a 1939 speech to the American Sociological Association. In the past decade, white collar crime included corporate and/or government sector offenses such as bank, securities, and tax fraud, commodities and health care fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and bribery. These exploits are certain to continue, with the additional appearances of obstruction of justice and election fraud crimes on the horizon.

The 6-volume title White Collar Crime owned by the law library is available in both print and online formats, provided by Thomson Reuters. The book covers all the topics mentioned here (and more), and it provides strategies for both the prosecution and defense, trial and evidentiary issues, ethics, attorneys fees, sentencing, and sample materials.  You can view the table of contents for this title via this link.  Better yet, come visit us in the law library and come use the book in person.

White Collar Crime

Criminal Law and Procedure volumes of Minnesota Practice.

Criminal Law and Procedure volumes of Minnesota Practice.


We have some good news to share!  The Ramsey County Law Library is now hosting a criminal defense law clinic on the first and third Thursdays of each month.  The clinic was officially approved by the Law Library Board of Trustees at its December meeting.

The clinic is held in the law library, and attorneys start seeing clients at 1:00.  At the clinic, people can spend up to a half an hour with a criminal defense attorney to get advice about any kind of Minnesota criminal issue.

Clients interested in talking with an attorney just need to show up to the library.  Everyone is seen on a first-come, first-served basis.  Just sign in at the reference desk, and library staff will escort you to the attorney when it is your turn.  Clients will receive up to half an hour consultation with the attorney.

The clinic started in November with volunteer attorneys coming in and serving clients, though the clinic was not widely publicized.  Through word of mouth advertising and publicity by court staff, a few people found their way up to the law library and the clinic.  As the clinic is open to all Minnesota residents, volunteer attorney Steven Coodin encourages people to come to the law library if they have questions.  “Everyone has the right to counsel so come and see us!”

The clinic is open to any Minnesota resident with a criminal law issue relating to Minnesota state law.  There are no residential or income restrictions.  However, if you are represented by a private attorney or a public defender, you unfortunately cannot come to the clinic.

For more information, please contact the Ramsey County Law Library at 651-266-8391.







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.