Diversity in the Bar Association: Then and Now

This photo of the bench and bar of Ramsey County from 1958 was donated to the Law Library by Tom  Boyd.

This photo of the bench and bar of Ramsey County from 1958 was donated to the Law Library by Tom Boyd.

On Monday, September 24, the Ramsey County Law Library and the Ramsey County Bar Association sponsored a CLE entitled Diversity in the Bar Association:  Then and Now.  The CLE featured four speakers: Thomas Boyd, Winthrop and Weinstine, PA;  Emeritus Professor Douglas Heidenreich, Mitchell Hamline College of Law; Paul Nelson, attorney, historian, and author; and Honorable Nicole Star, Second Judicial District.  Preregistration for the program indicated about 20 for this session, but many spur-of-the-moment attendees filled the north reading room.

The program started with Tom Boyd presenting to the law library a photograph of the membership of the Bench and Bar of Ramsey County from 1958.  The photograph was received by John Trojack, Chair of the Law Library Board of Trustees.

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Mr. Boyd then went on to give a brief overview of diversity (and the lack thereof) in the early years of the Bar Association.

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He was followed by Professor Heidenreich, who described how discrimination within the bar association started in the law schools.

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Professor Heidenreich was followed by Mr. Nelson, who continued with brief biographies of four well-known African American attorneys in the early years of Minnesota. Frederick McGheeCharles Scrutchin, William R. Morris, and James Anderson.  (Note of interest, Mr. Nelson is the author of a book about Frederick McGhee, and if you would like to read it, both the Ramsey County Law Library and the Minnesota State Law Library have copies.)

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The session concluded with Judge Starr speaking about her experiences, and she referenced the MSBA Diversity Strategic Plan as a resource for identifying ways to increase diversity and inclusiveness.

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For a better look at the photo of the Bench and Bar presented by Tom Boyd, please visit the Ramsey County Law Library.

 

 

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The last post described some very useful resources that are only available for free if you visit the law library.  But to be fair, we should point out that there are several very useful sources that are only available online.  Every legal researcher should know about these items.

Minnesota Title Standards

The Minnesota State Bar Association has been making their publications accessible through its website.  One of the very useful publications is Minnesota Title Standards.  The standards are edited by the MSBA’s Real Property Law Section, Title Standards Committee, and was originally published in 1949.

Why are Title Standards important?  From the preface:

The purpose of the title standards is to state in concise language how the real property bar views various title problems within the state and indicate how the majority of experienced Minnesota title lawyers would probably deal with such problems as they come up from time to time. … In examining a title, lawyers must identify the appropriate standard for approving or objecting to transfers and encumbrances found in a chain of title. The judgments an attorney exercises will also depend on applying justifiable presumptions as to certain matters and, in particular situations, these presumptions may be strong, medium, or weak.  In this situation, it is extremely beneficial for an examiner to have an indication of how other examiners would treat these problems.

Many of the present State Title Standards were adopted by the Real Property Law Section of the State Bar Association at its annual meeting in June, 1946, and have been reviewed and updated since.  The most recent edition was updated in 2017, and is freely available to everyone on the Minnesota Bar Association, Section of Real Property Law’s web page.

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Minnesota State Register

The Minnesota State Register is the official publication for proposed and final administrative rules, executive orders, agency notices, state grants and loans, state contracts, and more.  Since 2004, the State Register has only been available online at the Revisor of Statutes website (or if you must pay for your regulations, Minnesota State proposed and adopted regulations are on Westlaw; the Minnesota State Register is available via Lexis in their MNSTR file.)

The State Register is the official source, and only complete listing, for all state agency rulemaking in its various stages. State agencies are required to publish notice of their rulemaking action in the State Register.  Approximately 80 state agencies have the authority to issue rules.  If they are contemplating amending an existing regulation or want to implement a new one, the agency must put notices in the State Register.

Why is the State Register important?  If you practice in areas of law regulated by state agencies; if you or your clients bid on government contracts or submit RFPs; if you want to participate in the rule-making process, this is the only comprehensive and updated publication that tracks changes to the administrative rules.

If you would like to read more about the process, the Minnesota Department of Health has written Minnesota Rulemaking Manual: A Reference Book for the Practitioner, edited by Patricia Winget.  Special kudos to her Rulemaking Progress Chart, which explains the process on one page.

In addition, the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes also publishes two books that help understand the rulemaking process:  Rulemaking in Minnesota: A Guide by Paul M. Marinac, Deputy Revisor of Statutes and Minnesota Rules: Drafting Manual with Styles and Forms.

 

House Chamber

House Chamber, Minnesota Capitol Building.

Minnesota House Legislative Research

The Minnesota House of Representatives has a research staff that provides non-partisan research services to all House members.  It was established in 1967 to provide information for representatives so that House members and Committees could make informed decisions as they proposed, implemented, and amended Minnesota law.  The House Research department creates publications and other web-based materials that provide information and analysis for use by all members of the House, other staff, and the public.

In addition, attorneys on the research staff advise the House on legal matters that arise from conducting House business.  The research staff also compile various data, produce tax-related simulation runs, and provide data lookup tools, and in addition, they also summarize pending and enacted legislation.

House Research is nonpartisan. Its services are available to all members of the House. The department strives to be politically neutral and impartial on issues.

 

Minnesota State Law Library.

Minnesota State Law Library.

 

Minnesota State Law Library

One last place that has oodles of useful information for free is found at the Minnesota State Law Library.  The law library staff produce and maintain Library Research Guides on a myriad of topics.  These guides are great for getting the basic information about a particular area of law, including references to statutes, regulations (if applicable), court rules, references to credible websites (Nolo Press, LawHelp MN, legal aid organizations), as well as listings of books (with call numbers) on the topic.  If applicable, it will include links to appropriate forms, as well as suggestions for related topics that can be helpful.

These guides are very useful for attorneys who need quick access to materials on a topic they aren’t familiar with.  For example, a criminal law attorney might be asked by one of his clients if he could help out with a child custody issue; a bankruptcy attorney is contacted by his cousin for information about his workers’ compensation claim.  The guides have all of the primary information necessary to dive into a new area of law.

The most recent library guide is one for self-represented litigants titled, “Representing Yourself in Court.”  This newly updated guide has answers to many of the questions that SRLs have, as well as links to helpful articles and videos, instructions, forms, books, legal clinics, self-help centers, legal referrals by county, and of course, links to county law libraries.

The resources described above are just a handful of places to get accurate legal information for free.  For more suggestions and referrals, please visit us at the law library.  See you soon!

 

 

No, not everything is online yet.

Computers and books coexisting in the Ramsey County Law Library

Computers and books coexisting in the Ramsey County Law Library

 

A recent visitor to the Ramsey County Law Library (RCLL) was amazed at the number of volumes we have here.  “Isn’t everything online these days?” he asked.

Experienced researchers know that not everything is online, and certainly not all legal materials online are free.  RCLL, along with many other County Law Libraries in Minnesota, do offer some very useful materials in print that are not available for free online.

 Course material from Minn CLE.

Course material from Minn CLE.

 

Our collection contains all the deskbooks published by Minnesota CLE, a key provider of educational material for Minnesota lawyers.  These deskbooks are well-written, and give practical, comprehensive information for attorneys.  Best of all, the content is regularly updated and refreshed.  While they do have an online product, it isn’t free.  However, the law library has a standing order for all material published by Minnesota CLE, and we allow attorneys to use and borrow these items for free.

RCLL also is on standing order to receive most course materials that accompany the CLE seminar of the same name.  The course books (easily identified by their blue, three-ring binders) often contain explanations of specific aspects of a topic, or focus on new developments that might not be found in standard treatises.  Here is a bonus – the individual chapters of course materials are listed in the RCLL’s online catalog.  Your search results will pull up the course materials if one of the program handouts match your search!  How cool is that?

Another very useful resource that we have that is not available for free online is Dunnell Minnesota Digest.  This encyclopedia of Minnesota law has an easy-to-understand arrangement (all topics are in alphabetical order), an index, periodic updates, and lots and lots of references to cases.  It is a great place to start your research if you are not familiar with an area of law and you want access to major cases and statutes.  The narrative style makes it a good tool for self-represented litigants, too.  In the law library, this set of books is conveniently located on the shelves at the front reference desk.

 

Prince's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations.

Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations.

 

Physical reference books are still useful, even in the age of Google.  One such tool is Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations.  If you have ever encountered an unfamiliar acronym, abbreviation, or symbol whilst researching, this is the definitive source to help you identify these abbreviations.  This book contains nearly 36,000 terms used in legal encyclopedias, law dictionaries, law reporters, loose-leaf services, law reviews, legal treatises, legal reference books, and citators.  To find this handy reference book, all you have to do is visit the reference desk in the Ramsey County Law Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courthouse

As President Trump interviews his short list of U. S. Supreme Court candidates, various media outlets inundate us with the political overtones and sneak previews of who might be nominated.  The notoriety and long-term significance of a Supreme Court Justice are historic in American government. Even George Washington, in his 1789 letter to John Jay (the first Chief Justice) stated “It is with singular pleasure that I address you as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for which your commission is enclosed….and I have a full confidence that the love which you bear to our country, and a desire to promote the general happiness, will not suffer you to hesitate a moment to bring into action the talents, knowledge and integrity which are so necessary to be exercised at the head of that department which must be considered as the keystone of our political fabric.”

Minnesota has the distinction of having sent three notable men to the U.S. Supreme Court.  They are Pierce Butler (1923-1939), Warren Burger (1969-1986) and Harry Blackmun (1970-1994).  These three Justices also had ties to St. Paul and Ramsey County, according to  For the Record: 150 Years of Law & Lawyers in Minnesota (Minnesota State Bar Association, 1999):

Pierce Butler—although he was born in Dakota County, he moved in 1887 to St. Paul and joined a law firm before being elected Ramsey County attorney in 1893 and 1895.  He maintained a private practice in the law firm Butler, Mitchell, & Doherty. President Warren Harding nominated Butler to the Supreme Court in 1923.

Warren Burger—born in St. Paul, Burger attended the St. Paul College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1931. He joined the St. Paul law firm of Boyesen, Otis, Brill & Faricy.  He was later appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.  In 1969 Richard Nixon nominated Burger to replace Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Harry Blackmun—Blackmun graduated from St. Paul’s Mechanic Arts High School and then attended Harvard.  In 1932 his first job out of law school was with Judge John Sanborn at the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals; Sanborn had been a Ramsey County judge in the early 1920s. Blackmun also served as an adjunct professor at the St. Paul College of Law.  President Richard Nixon nominated Blackmun to the Supreme Court in 1970.

 

 

Keeping Up with Immigration Law

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Many attorneys are aware of the important immigration case Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (559 U.S. 356, 2010) which decided that a criminal defense attorney must advise a noncitizen client about deportation risks should the client negotiate a guilty plea.  The consequences of criminal activity are many and complex.  The book Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity: A Guide to Representing Foreign-Born Defendants by Mary Kramer provides detailed analysis and resources for assisting noncitizens charged with crimes.  The book regularly references two legal sources: The Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC Chapter 12) and the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 8).  Kramer details removal, detention, and deportability circumstances; she also discusses how to fashion a plea to avoid adverse consequences, including visa options for cooperating witnesses.  The section on immigration defense describes waivers and other available relief.

The Waivers Book: Advanced Issues in Immigration Law Practice provides attorneys with exceptions to the rules regarding inadmissibility and removability.  It introduces waivers—from A to Z—and includes waivers for refugees and asylees, and waivers related to unlawful presence.

These two books, as well as the following immigration titles Asylum Primer (2015), Business Immigration: Law & Practice (2017), and Litigating Immigration Cases in Federal Court (2017), were recently added to the law library collection.

 

Happy Law Day!

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Thomas Jefferson called the distribution of power “the first principle of good government.”   More than 225 years later, Hilarie Bass, ABA President wrote, “The phrase “separation of powers” does not appear anywhere in the text of the U.S. Constitution, yet it is likely one of the most important concepts in understanding how the U.S. government is designed to defend the liberties that Americans had fought the Revolutionary War to achieve.”

And today, we celebrate this year’s Law Day Theme, Separation of Powers.

What can you do to celebrate with us?  Here in Ramsey County, the Law Library and the Ramsey County Bar Association will be hosting a CLE on May 3 featuring Hamline Professor David Schultz, who will be presenting, “The Court, the Constitution and Separation of Powers in American Law and Politics.”  Profession Schultz will be addressing why the framers wanted separation of powers along with other concepts, such as checks and balances, to be a feature of American law and politics.  The CLE is at noon, and will be held in Room 40 (in the lower level of the Courthouse), and is free to the general public and Ramsey County Bar Association members.  CLE credit is available.

If you have never been to the Courthouse, one-hour courthouse tours will be available on May 3 at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.  Reservations are not required.  All tours will meet at the base of the Vision of Peace statue. Tours are courtesy of the Ramsey County Historical Society.

More Law Day Resources:

The Ramsey County Law Library has a new book on this topic called, The Supreme Court in a Separation of Powers System:  The Nation’s Balance Wheel by Richard L. Pacelle, Jr.

The President’s Proclamation on Law Day is posted on Whitehouse.gov, and you can learn more about Law Day at the ABA website.

 

 

 
Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright

Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright

As the nation celebrates Women’s History Month, it is only natural to look locally to our own leaders, and see many examples of leadership and integrity. One such woman who exemplifies fairness and respect is Judge Wilhelmina Wright of the Federal District of Minnesota.

For those who aren’t familiar with this incredible woman, Judge Wright started her judicial career as a Ramsey County District Court Judge, appointed by Governor Jesse Ventura. Two years later, she was elevated to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and then in 2012, was selected to become a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice. Four years later when she was nominated to the federal bench, her appointment was remarkable for several reasons: She was the state’s first African-American justice, and she was the only jurist in state history to have served as a state district court judge, appellate court judge and state Supreme Court Justice. And in a time when judicial confirmations are long and messy, her process was very short. From the time she was nominated by President Obama to the final vote in the Senate, it only took 171 days.

Judge Wright’s personal conviction regarding work ethic, sound judgment, and dedication to public service is reflected in her years devoted to serving the public. She embraces these qualities, and has a deep respect for the law, the courts, and all participants in the judicial system. In fact, she has said that, “Fairness, impartiality, respect for the rule of law, and respect for all litigants are fundamental requirements for a judge… Indeed, I have no agenda as a judge other than these values. In my nearly 15 years of service as a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court and as a Judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Ramsey County District Court, these values have been my lodestar, and I give no consideration to whether I agree or disagree with a party.”

To achieve this level of fairness in the Courts, she has said numerous times that diversity enriches the practice of law, and is an integral part of the judicial system. As she said in written remarks to Senator David Vitter during her confirmation hearing process,

In light of the number of highly qualified women lawyers and lawyers of color who are learned in the law and have the ethical and moral fitness to serve as a judge, I believe it would undermine the public’s trust and confidence in the judiciary if there were no judges who are women or judges of color.

We are proud that this learned and honorable judge got her start in Ramsey County.

 

You Asked: We Answered!

Here are a few titles we purchased for the law library in 2017.  The following books were recommended by library patrons.  When patron requests promise to add important content to the library, we try to purchase the material and hope other users will find it helpful as well.  Please contact us if you’d like to borrow any of these books.

30 (b)(6): Deposing Corporations, Organizations & the Government, by Mark Kosieradzki, Trial Guides, LLC, 2016.  The author uses detailed examples, practice samples, and approachable language to provide techniques for depositions and an understanding of FRCP 30 (b)(6).

Pet Law and Custody: Establishing a Worthy and Equitable Jurisprudence for the Evolving Family, by Barbara Gislason, ABA, 2017.  Minnesota native Gislason provides a comprehensive and very valuable review of animal law and pet custody.  The book promises to become a classic in the field.

Minnesota Housing Court Benchbook, by Mark Labine, 2011.  Mr. Labine wrote this book while a housing court referee for Hennepin County District Court.  This concise guidebook contains eleven checklists that define actions needed in court and sample orders for judicial officers.

 

Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court JusticesThe beginnings of Minnesota’s judicial system could hardly be more humble. In fact, its central player was anything but a respected legal figure.

Minnesota was established as a territory in 1849.  Prior to that time there were local justices of the peace in the area, who likely thought they handled local justice needs just fine, thank you.  But the day Minnesota’s territory status became official, President Zachary Taylor appointed David Cooper and Bradley Meeker as justices to the territorial supreme court, and Aaron Goodrich as its chief justice.  Goodrich’s selection was probably a return favor for the campaigning Goodrich had done to get Taylor elected.  Goodrich was a native of New York who later moved to Tennessee.  He likely would never have studied law, but the failure of his family’s bank in 1838 probably motivated him to complete his legal studies while in Tennessee.  He was one of the last members of the Whig Party, and was serving in the Tennessee Legislature when he was appointed to Minnesota’s territorial supreme court.

This ad hoc bench of three justices was predictably informal.  Minnesota territory had been split into three judicial districts, and each of the three justices served as the district judge for one of the districts.  Then, the three together would make up the higher court.  Goodrich presided over Minnesota’s first, or Stillwater district, with St. Paul’s Mazurka Hall serving as the “courthouse.”   This building left much to be desired, as litigants once needed umbrellas due to failure of the leaky roof to keep out a rainstorm.  Apparently Goodrich was also known to nurse a glass of liquor and a wad of tobacco as he presided over his court.  Meanwhile, American House in Saint Paul would serve as the first “judicial center” for the territorial supreme court, but the second and third terms were moved to the local Methodist Episcopal Church. (This interesting article about Goodrich reported that the local gossip was that Goodrich’s relationship with the landlady of American house was more than just business.)

Goodrich himself accomplished little to establish himself as a popular legal figure.  To start, he had been tasked by a commission to prepare a system of codified law for Minnesota, but he was not a fan of either law’s codification or its strict application. (Read his dissent in Dosnoyer v. Hereux 1 Minn. 17 (1950) to understand his frame of mind.)  The result was a loose collection of provisions, one stating that questions not otherwise answered in his written compilation should be resolved by the “ancient statutes.” There was also a general dissatisfaction with him among locals, and subsequent lobbying to have him removed.  Even territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey believed that Goodrich possessed “utter incapacity for his place.”   President Fillmore assumed the presidency in upon the death of Taylor in 1850, and removed Goodrich for what he referred to as his “incompetency and unfitness.”  Goodrich practiced law after his removal, but his most notable client, Souix Indian “Zu-ai-za,” would be convicted of murder and hanged in Minnesota’s first official execution.  He made few friends when he later wrote a book attacking the character and motives of popular historical explorer Christopher Columbus.  Goodrich was also a charter member of the Minnesota Historical Society, however, and one of the founders of Minnesota’s Republican party.

The fact that we expect a certain competence and decorum from our judicial officers may be more than just a craving for fancy formality.  It may have been partly the result of the relatively poor impression made by Minnesota’s first chief justice.  To learn more of this piece of Minnesota history, consider checking out Testimony: Remembering Minnesota’s Supreme Court Justices, written and published by the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society.  Meanwhile you can read this excellent William Mitchel Law Review article.

 

 

 
Minnesota Capitol from Ramsey County Law Library

The Minnesota Capitol is visible from the law library

Last weekend the Minnesota Capitol hosted its open house to celebrate its recent extensive renovation and remodel project yet some might be surprised that the 112 year old building is actually Minnesota’s third capitol.  The history and timeframe of Minnesota’s capitols has some interesting parallels to the history of the Ramsey County courthouses. Each has had three buildings, with the present ones standing apart from the rest for their architectural significance and their longetivity. Similarly, their second buildings are both noteworthy for their short lifespans due to dissatisfaction of their users.  You might recall that Minnesota’s original capitol burned to the ground in 1881.  Built in 1854, it had become a patchwork of expansions by the end of its 27-year life.  The second capitol is the one probably most forgotten, for it served in its original capacity for a rather short time. Indeed, the state began planning the third capital in 1893, only ten years after the second one was dedicated.  The third-and-present capitol was completed and occupied in 1905, leaving the second vacated after just 22 years.  Ironically, this second building served another thirty-plus years as meeting space, storage, and parking until its demolition in 1937. This story of short-lived usefulness is similar to the second Ramsey County courthouse, which at least managed to serve its original function for 43 years before it was replaced and demolished.

Why such a short lifetime for a state capitol?  Granted, it had been hastily built, what with the need to replace what had been lost in the fire. The budget for the new capitol was also very lean and strict, with a misdemeanor penalty for exceeding the budget. (Never mind whether or not the finished project would last through the next generation.) Apparently, it was the faulty ventilation that led the push to replace this nearly-new building so shortly after its construction.  It was also postulated that the second capitol was insufficient in that it was little more than a “glorified county courthouse,” and inadequate to represent the grand state that many Minnesotans felt their state was becoming. (Decide for yourself if the capitol then looked like the county courthouse  located down the street.)

Minnesota’s trial-and-error history of building a capitol that could function and inspire through the ages is all the more reason to celebrate this recent renovation project.  If you missed the festivities, you can always take a tour or check out the excellent restoration photos.  Alternatively, track down the new book Our Minnesota State Capitol by Denis P. Gardner.