This photo of the U.S. Supreme Court was taken by Thomas Hawk in 2014.

The U.S. Supreme Court.

In the recent landmark decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that existing civil rights law protects gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination.  In short, an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

Bostock, along with Altitude Express, Inc., et al. v. Zarda et al., as Co-Independent Executors of the Estate of Zarda, and R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al., was brought before the Supreme Court because of a split in the Courts of Appeal.  The Seventh and Second Circuits held that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Moreover, the Sixth Circuit agreed with the EEOC that Title VII protections also applied to transgender persons, too.  On the other hand, the Appellate Court in Bostock followed precedent set by an earlier case in the Eleventh Circuit that held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not protected under Title VII.  The three cases were consolidated and heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall of 2019.  The opinion, which was delivered on Monday, June 15, 2020, was authored by Justice Gorsuch, and joined with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas, filed a dissenting opinion, as did Justice Kavanaugh.

The opinion, though quite long, states the conclusion concisely at the start:

Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender.  The answer is clear.  An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.  Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.

If you want to read more about Title VII actions, the Ramsey County Law Library has a substantive employment law collection with several treatises focusing discrimination.  Representing Plaintiffs in Title VII Actions, Fifth Edition, by Robert E. McKnight, is a one-volume loose-leaf title that covers all aspects of litigating a Title VII case.  This title covers prohibited practices, such as disparate treatments, harassment, retaliation, failure to provide reasonable accommodations, and more.  It proceeds to explain pre-litigation charge filing, the litigation process, and remedies.

Another title that would be of interest is Employee Dismissal Law and Practice, Seventh Edition, by Hank Perritt, Jr.   This two-volume set covers these topics:  Employment at will, statutory protection against discrimination based on characteristic, discrimination based on conduct, procedural issues for statutory discrimination, downsizing, arbitration, contract theories, tort theories, special problems of public employment, proof and procedure, employer personnel problems, and wrongful dismissal legislation.  This title has an extensive look at the appellate decision in Zarda (mentioned above) as well Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75 (1998), which held that sexual harassment in the workplace between members of the same sex is prohibited under Title VII.  You can guarantee that both of titles will be updated soon to reflect the decision in Bostock!

In support of Pride Month, the Law Library is displaying a few titles that discuss and explain LGBT rights and the law.  We are expecting a few new books to come in soon, including a new book due in at the end of June titled Law and the Gay Rights Story: The Long Search for Equal Justice in a Divided Democracy.  We hope to see you in the Law Library soon.  Happy Pride Month!

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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
651-632-3870
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
651-266-7400
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: https://www.vlnmn.org/ce

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

 

 

 

 

 

SRLN Story Map

The Ramsey County Law Library is one of many public law libraries that assist the self-represented litigants (SRLs) across the country.  Strengthening services and programs for SRLs are valued public law library goals.  The map displayed here is one of several that convey data regarding law library services to SRLs.  Comprehensive survey results, including graphical displays, contact information, and interactive “story maps” are available at this link: https://arcg.is/1LfmT5 

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

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

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

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

 

Addicted Lawyer

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

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

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

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

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

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Stay warm, everyone!

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

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

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

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

Other shelter and warming options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Don’t forget to vote!

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

Early voting has started

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

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

Take the time to vote

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

Know your candidates and issues!

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

Need assistance with voting?

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

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

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

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

 

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