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!


For the next generation

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi.



The last book that we’ll review
Is called Antiracist Baby.
This book, like the others in our series,
Is available at the Law Library.

Although this is a children’s book
The lessons also apply to adults
Kendi has written nine suggestions
For readers to review and consult.

The illustrations are colorful
Reflective of our universe
The lessons within gently explain how
To appreciate cultures that are diverse.

We pass these lessons on to our children
So that they can help transform
Our society to one where antiracism
Is not unexpected or rare, but the norm.

Kendi explains that we all make choices
Some are bad, while some are good
We can learn from our mistakes, and make
Better choices in adulthood.

The final pages pose questions for parents
To start the conversation,
To teach their children to be antiracist
And to practice antiracism.

Ibram X. Kendi has some excellent advice
For raising the next generation.
Let’s help build a world that is antiracist
With this book as our inspiration.

Ibram X. Kendi, Antiracist Baby, New York: Penguin Random House, 2020.  Illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky.


A Woman’s Voice

Her Voice in Law, now available at the Ramsey County Law Library

Her Voice in Law, now available at the Ramsey County Law Library

Her Voice in Law:  Vocal Power and Situational Command for the Female Attorney, by Rena Cook and Laurie Koller, Chicago, IL: ABA Publishing, 2020.

This very interesting and practical book is about a woman’s voice and how it resonates during trial.  An attorney’s voice is a powerful tool – it is how she connects with the audience, tells the client’s story, and convinces the jury to favor her client.  The book walks through the techniques women attorneys can use to improve their vocal skills, use these skills to be better advocates in court, and then apply these skills when communicating with clients and colleagues.

In the five chapters of this books, each one addresses a different aspect of how a woman can improve the quality of voice and subsequently, improve her presentation in court.  The first chapter address the physical aspects of speaking and projecting.  The following chapters discuss emotions and tone in her voice that can be used to capture and hold the interest of the audience.  One chapter discusses body movement and body language to supplement what her voice, words, and emotions are trying to convey.  Finally, the authors point out that these techniques are applicable to non-work situations as well.

The premise of this book is that it isn’t just the content of the spoken word that is important – her speaking voice is important, too.  The book presents so many practical strategies for improving one’s voice – this book is highly recommended to everyone who is interested in improving their oral communication skills.

This book was recently added to the Ramsey County Law Library and is available for check out.









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.





Where there is racial indifference, racism thrives

Locking Up Our Own and the New Jim Crow are available at the Ramsey County Law Library.

Locking Up Our Own and the New Jim Crow are available at the Ramsey County Law Library.

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)

This Pulitzer Prize winning book closely examines race relations in Washington, D.C. from the sixties through the nineties and describes parallel stories from locations outside of D.C.  The stories explain how Black America supported schemes that resulted in high incarceration among Black people.  The reasons include early Black opposition to the decriminalization of marijuana and surging gun possession due to Black views that guns were needed for collective self-defense. These, and other factors described by the author, laid the foundation for how drug addiction and crime have assailed Black America.

In the second half of the book author Forman describes the consequences of decades-old systems that result in mass incarceration of Black people.  Drug sentences and mandatory minimums, the crack epidemic, the War on Drugs, aggressive police strategies (and pretext policing), and the disparate social and economic impacts of incarceration all factor into the disparagement of Black men.

In his epilogue, Forman describes a decline in crime after 2014 in Washington, D.C., but it leaves in its stead a devastating impact on the Black community.  He concludes that mass incarceration is a system that was “constructed incrementally, and it may have to be dismantled the same way.” (p. 238)

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (Tenth Anniversary Edition, The New Press, 2020)

If Forman’s book describes the history of mass incarceration, Michelle Alexander’s book provides an incisive and rigorous study of the criminal justice system’s impact on current Black America.  In fact, in Locking Up Our Own, Forman references Alexander’s book and states it “played a crucial role in providing advocates with a framework for understanding, and a rhetoric for criticizing, the War on Drugs.” (p. 220)   Alexander explains how and why a disproportionate number of Black men versus White men are incarcerated.

In her introduction to the tenth anniversary edition, she states that the 2010 work (the original edition) is even more relevant today due to the passage of time and predictability of patterns that she identified earlier including: the establishment of a caste system derived from mass incarceration; its collateral consequences; and economic and social exclusion.  Alexander states that this system is “invisible to the naked eye but functions nearly as effectively as Jim Crow laws once did.” (page xxvii)  For change to occur, society must address mass incarceration. Alexander also notes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s warning that racial indifference fosters a culture in which racism thrives.

You can find these books, as well as the other books in our summer reading series at the Ramsey County Law Library.


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



Systemic racism: It isn’t just one system

The Condemnation of Blackness and The Color of Law.

The Condemnation of Blackness and The Color of Law.


The Condemnation of Blackness by Khalil Gibran Muhammad is a scrupulously researched book that documents statistics, “scholarly papers”, and discourse through American history to try and answer the question: How did we come to think of race, and specifically African Americans, as synonymous with crime?

His book examines decades of effort by researchers and social scientists who influenced popular thinking to conclude that the troubles associated with African Americans – poverty, crime, reduced lifespan, were the result of the inherent inferiority of Blacks to their White counterparts. This research became widely accepted because it appeared to be based on neutral and unbiased statistics. However, while the statistics themselves might have been neutral, the specific selection, interpretation, and subsequent conclusions certainly were not. Fredrick Hoffman, one of the first researchers to publish such a biased report linking excessive criminal behavior to Blacks, expressed this idea by stating that crime would increase “until the negro learns to respect life, property, and chastity, until he learns to believe in the value of personal morality in his daily life…”

Hoffman’s book and those by other social scientists pushed the narrative that increased policing was necessary to deal with the “criminal activity” of Blacks. And while these original reports were written more than a century ago, the attitudes and inherent biases that were fostered are still evident today. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated the Ferguson Police Department for the killing of Michael Brown. In defending itself, the department claimed that the community problems were not the fault of the police department, but rather “reflect a pervasive lack of ‘personal responsibility’ among ‘certain segments’ of the community.”

Similarly, Richard Rothstein explains in The Color of Law, that local governments, as well as state and federal government agencies used flimsy excuses (that Black families wanted to live in Black neighborhoods, that they couldn’t afford to live in pricier areas, segregation was a way to limit criminal behavior) to create segregated neighborhoods in cities. These methods to create segregated neighborhoods varied. In cities where new construction created new neighborhoods, contractors received subsidies and tax relief for building White-only neighborhoods. Public housing was built to intentionally segregate mixed neighborhoods. Real estate agents worked with cities to redline neighborhoods that restricted who could purchase houses. Banks refused to fund loans to African Americans.  And so on.  Unfortunately, the result perpetuated a system that actively promoted separation of the races supported at all levels of government.

An area that may be of particular interest to readers is in the very last section of the book.  Here, the author answers frequently asked questions about his research and conclusions.  Many questions were about his research and the historical context (“Why did leaders whom we consider liberal promote segregationist policies?” and “How can I remove a restrictive covenant from my deed?”), but other questions are more provocative, and unfortunately, very familiar: “Don’t Black people have to take responsibilities for their own lives? Isn’t the real reason why [they] can’t escape the ghetto is that so many are single mothers who can’t or don’t raise their children properly?” His answers to these questions are thoughtful and well-reasoned, and one of the many reasons why you should read this book.

If you are interested in seeing how these restrictive covenants have been applied closer to home, the University of Minnesota project, Mapping Prejudice is an interactive map of Minneapolis that displays properties with racially restrictive language in the property deeds. The time-lapse map shows the gradual increase of properties with restrictive covenants from 1910-1955, and an interactive map allows the user to zoom in on specific lots and see the actual language included on the deed. The project is the first-ever comprehensive visualization of racial covenants for an American city.

Both of these books can be borrowed from the Ramsey County Law Library.  Hope to see you soon!

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, crime, and the making of modern urban America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019.

Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America, New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017.




It Takes Moral Courage to Do the Work

So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo  and The Myth of Race: The Reality of Racism:  Critical Essays by Mahmoud El-Kati

So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo and The Myth of Race: The Reality of Racism: Critical Essays by Mahmoud El-Kati


So You Want to Talk about Race, by Ijeoma Oluo (Seal Press, 2019)

Ijeoma Oluo directly challenges white people in this commendable book about racism.  She offers a clear discussion of race from a Black perspective.  She also looks beyond race and the factors that contribute to inequality—what race looks like in the context of dominant white society and how we are all products of a racialized society.  This, states Uluo, “affects everything we bring to our interactions.”  She describes how ineffectively white people perceive how Black people are impacted personally, economically, and politically by a racist society.  Oluo personalizes her experience with examples that offer clear understanding of racist behavior.  With a specific chapter for white people entitled “I Just Got Called a Racist, What Do I do Now?” Oluo’s simple response is “do the work.”  At the same time, she offers concise explanations that foster change and understanding.

The Myth of Race: The Reality of Racism:  Critical Essays, by Mahmoud El-Kati (Papyrus Publishing, 2014)

In his short book of essays, author Mahmoud El-Kati, a former history professor at Macalester College, states that “racism is prejudice plus power.”  This definition offers a platform for action, dialog and the ability to change power relationships.  El-Kati embellishes the definition with historical context (including the origins of white supremacy), theories that explain the deconstruction of “race,” and the idea that “race” is actually a false concept that is legitimized by power.  The power of “race,” under this scenario, sanctions the right of exploitation of one group over another.  El-Kati states that to get rid of “race,” the myth of racism should be a critical part of our educational curricula and a part of teacher training.  He also emphasizes that the myth of race cannot be solved “unless there is a healthy dose of the scarcest commodity in America — moral courage.”

These books are available at the Ramsey County Law Library.



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.