To acknowledge Women’s History Month, the law library wishes to note two significant achievements in Minnesota court history. The first was in 1991 when Minnesota was the first state in the nation to have a majority of women on its state supreme court.  The second achievement is happening now in 2021, when the state’s five appellate and executive courts now have women holding top positions.

In 1991, Governor Rudy Perpich appointed Sandra Gardebring to the Minnesota Supreme Court.  She joined three women on the court:  Justice Rosalie E. Wahl; Justice M. Jeanne Coyne; and Justice Esther M. Tomljanovich (see above photo).  With a seven-member court, the four women comprised a majority. While this majority wasn’t maintained continuously over the intervening years, the current Minnesota Supreme Court also has a majority of women:  Chief Justice Lorie Gildea; Justice Margaret H. Chutich; Justice Natalie Hudson; and Justice Anne K. McKeig (see photo below).

Minnesota State Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea was recently joined by Judge Wendy S. Tien in a chief judge role.  Chief Judge Tien leads the Minnesota Tax Court, effective March 17. However, other chief judges have been selected over the years to lead various courts.  Now the state’s five appellate and executive courts are all led by women. They include:  Court of Appeals Chief Judge Susan Segal; Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings Chief Judge Jenny Starr; and Minnesota Worker’s Compensation Court of Appeals Chief Judge Patricia Milun.


Find accurate information at the law library.

Computers and books coexisting in the Ramsey County Law Library
Computers and books are a few examples of the resources at the law library.

Are you concerned or confused about information spread through social media?  If so, remember that you can contact a public law library for accurate legal information and authoritative resources. 

Public law libraries have staff who are experts at finding accurate, legal information.  Public law libraries are open to everyone – you don’t have to be a lawyer, law student, or judge to use the public law library.  We have access to a variety of print and online resources, and they are available to all library users. 

That means, if you have questions about the Governor’s Executive Order about masks, or you want to know about the CDC’s order regarding evictions, or if you are interested in knowing what happens when a candidate dies before an election, or are looking for recent laws passed by the legislature regarding financial relief for Minnesota businesses, visit your public law library. 

Moreover, law librarians can help you evaluate information to determine if it comes from an authoritative source, if it has been authenticated, or if it is an official legal document.  Law librarians can also make sure you are using the most current information available.

Don’t be confused by disinformation from questionable websites.  You have a right to access government information, including access to the basic materials necessary for legal research.   Visit your local public law library and be informed!


Due to the Governor’s order 20-99 and Chief Justice Gildea’s order to limit in-person activity in Court facilities, the law library is implementing temporary guidelines to maintain a safe environment for everyone. 

  • Only 5 patrons are permitted in the library at one time.  Patrons must wear masks. 
  • All patrons must sign in and indicate their time of arrival.
  • One-on-one assistance is limited due to social distancing requirements.  Please be prepared to work independently.
  • Patrons needing a library computer will be assigned one of three available computers.
  • There is a one-hour limit for computer use, or thirty minutes if others are waiting.
  • Patrons not needing computers may use a table for one hour.
  • Library staff will retrieve needed print items for you.  Please leave print materials on the table as they need to be quarantined after your use.
  • Patrons must use the law library for legal research purposes.  General Internet searching, YouTube, or social media access is not considered legal research.  If library staff observe that you are not doing legal research, you will be asked to leave the library.

The library will continue to schedule Housing/Conciliation Court Clinic and the Criminal Law Clinic appointments for phone consultations.  Please call 651-266-8391 to set up an appointment.

These restrictions are effective November 30, 2020 to February 1, 2021 and are reflective of library restrictions in the metro area, pursuant to the Governor’s order and the order of the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding the pandemic.  Other law library policies and procedures remain in effect.

Stay safe everyone!


Nellie Francis and the right to vote

Picture of Nellie Francis

Nellie Francis, photo courtesy of The Appeal newspaper, via, circa 1921


Please join us (virtually) for a CLE to learn about Nellie Francis, a key activist in the suffragist movement in Minnesota.  Dr. William D. Green of Augsburg University will speak on her remarkable life and achievements.

Thursday, October 1, 2020
12:00 to 1:00 p.m.
1.0 Elimination of Bias Credit
FREE for all attendees
This event is virtual only.

Ms. Francis was born in Nashville in 1874 and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota with her family when she was 11.  She was interested in civil rights at an early age, and won a high school speech contest when she spoke on the topic of  “the race problem,” which she described as one that existed entirely in the minds of white Americans.  After graduation, she was heavily involved with her community, as she was an excellent vocalist and sang in the community, was a teacher at her church, and helped get money for a new organ for the church from Andrew Carnegie.  In addition, she was very active in promoting the civil rights of African Americans and had met many prominent Black leaders, such as W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington.

To learn about her activities relating to women’s suffrage, please register for the CLE this Thursday.

Registration information at the Ramsey County Bar Association CLE Calendar.  A flyer about the program is located here.





Need help paying rent? Fund$ are available!

Neighborhood House

Landlords, are you struggling because your tenants can’t pay?

Tenants, are you worried about how to pay your rent when jobs are scarce?

Ramsey County residents, if you have been impacted the pandemic and are having problems paying your rent, please know that there is financial help available to you!   Neighborhood House, in conjunction with Ramsey County, connects renters to funding sources so that tenants can stay current with their monthly payments.  There is still plenty of money available.

For information, contact Shellie Rowe at Neighborhood House at 651-789-3689 or



Critical Race Theory

Three new books on Critical Race theory have been added to the Ramsey County Law Library.

Three new books on Critical Race theory have been added to the Ramsey County Law Library.

Critical Race Theory (or CRT) is defined by Britannica as “the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour.”

This week’s blog features two books about CRT.  They are scholarly works that offer a deep dive into the topic.  These rigorous studies of CRT provide a “radical and challenging perspective that reveals how racism shapes the everyday reality of the world; from law courts and prisons, to the economy, schools, media, and health care.” (David Gillborn, Professor, University of Birmingham, UK)

Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, (New York University Press, 2017), describes CRT as comprising activists and scholars who question the foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory and neutral principles of constitutional law.  Seen as fostering a movement, CRT builds on previous movements (critical legal studies and radical feminism). The book gives an introductory overview that includes criticism from both the left and the right.

Another book that the law library has on CRT is called Race and Racialization: Essential Readings.  The second edition of this title was published in 2018 and is a collection of scholarly essays describing race and how racial tensions intersect with gender, economic status, ethnicity, and sexuality.  The essays are not limited to views from the United States, and in fact, many of the pieces describe these issues occurring in Canada and other countries to show that difficulties with racism are not unique to the United States.

The book is organized by sections, each dealing with a different perspective on racism: colonialism, institutional racism, ethnocentrism, privilege, marginalization, and resistance.  The essays span decades of research and discussion on race.  The first essay in the book, which proposes that racism is not biologically inherent in people but is a learned behavior, was written in 1931.  The essays at the end of the book are much more current as the last essay examines the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement in Toronto.

This week’s blog also features a scholarly work that examines the philosophy of race and race as phenomena.  Race as Phenomena: Between Phenomenology and Philosophy of Race is edited by Emily S. Lee (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).  The book is a collection of intellectual, well-researched essays that are written by important contributors to the field.  The essays “examine persistent questions within philosophy of race, from how to conceptualize race to the lived experience of blackness and whiteness.”  (Introduction)  The work includes essays that describe race consciousness as phenomenologically understood, the black body and the phenomenology of being stopped, and seeing like a cop.

These books are available at the Ramsey County Law Library.

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory (Third Edition): An Introduction, New York: NYU Press, 2017.

Race and Racialization:  Essential Readings, 2nd Edition, Tania Das Gupta, Carl E James, Chris Andersen eds., Toronto: Canadian Scholars, 2018.

Race as Phenomena: Between Phenomenology and Philosophy of Race, Emily S. Lee, ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.





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.


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.





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.