March 11 2015 001As Minnesota becomes more complex and diverse, administration of justice necessitates people having access to language-appropriate legal resources. For instance, Minnesota law provides that court interpreters be appointed for persons involved in criminal proceedings, property forfeitures or mental health commitments who cannot speak or comprehend the English language. (See Minn. Stat. §§ 611.30 to 611.34.)  But the process of making law multilingual is never easy or complete. Both the Minnesota Statutes and Court Rules are only released in English, which means any translation of them risks compromising their intended meaning. The MN Courts website is also only available in English, even though its Self-Help Center offers limited access language links in Spanish, Hmong, and Somali. Certain court forms are available in additional languages including Cambodian, Lao, Oromo, Russian and Vietnamese. (Note: The forms themselves must be completed in English, and court interpreters cannot help with this.)

For other non-English self-help options, LawHelpMN offers their helpful legal information resources in varying degrees in a number of languages. Brochures for SMRLS (Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services) state that they offer interpreters for their patrons that speak Hmong, Laotian, Somali, Russian and Spanish. Speaking of self-help, do you know someone who is interested in attending our weekly Housing and Conciliation Court clinic but needs an interpreter to communicate with the lawyer? Contact us the week before they plan to attend so that we can arrange an interpreter. Do you know someone who doesn’t speak English well but has an upcoming appearance in district court? Or does your own district court case depends on testimony from your dear grandmother who doesn’t speak English? In these cases, contact the district court clerk ahead of time so that they can arrange a court interpreter. (Fluent or not, your cousin cannot serve as granny’s court interpreter.) There is no cost for this service.

Are you a judge or an attorney handling a new case that might possibly call for an interpreter? Additional resources to help you are available at this page, including an interpreter jury trial guide and handy “bench card” guides specifically for judges. Here you can also find referrals to the appropriate court rules regarding the appointment of interpreters in court. (Ex: See MN Rules Civ. Pro 43.07) You may also want to be aware of the Code of Professional Responsibilty for Interpreters in the Minnesota Court System.

Are you fluent in another language and interested in becoming a court interpreter? Read about the Minnesota Court Interpreter Program to learn how to get started!


IMG_9482The combination of the holidays, the weather, and professional demands are challenging enough for the best of us.   In addition, you may find that personal problems are pushing you dangerously close to your own Coach Yeo meltdown moment.  Let us give credit to the Wild head coach for reminding us that we all have our breaking points (staged or not).  Before you reach yours, consider the options to get a handle on your stress.

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) provides “free, confidential peer and professional assistance to Minnesota lawyers, judges, law students, and their immediate family members on any issue that causes stress or distress.”  Their services include up to four free counseling sessions through their counseling partner organization DOR & Associates (DOR).  For more hands-on help, a multi-session workshop “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” will begin on January 20, 2015.  DOR will also be presenting a stress-management webinar on January 20, with opportunity to “learn to recognize and manage stressful situations, practice relaxation techniques, and understand the benefits of making the mind-body connection.”  These two events are both presented on the front page of the LCL website.


Job ApplicationAfter months of waiting, Minnesota’s new criminal expungement law takes effect January 1, 2015. This new law will give Minnesota judges statutory authority to seal criminal records covering a broader range of circumstances than were previously available. This is significant considering that according to the Council on Crime and Justice, one in four Minnesotans has a criminal record.  MPR posted an article which helps illustrate how a well-meaning person might wind up with a criminal record and why he or she might benefit from expungement as a tool to get back on track.

For Ramsey County residents with prior criminal convictions or arrests, there has never been a better time to attend a local expungement workshop. In addition to the Court-sponsored workshops that take place on the second and fourth Thursday of each month workshops in the Law Library, workshops are also available on the Third Friday of each month at the Rondo Outreach Library.  Starting in February, workshops will also be available the first Friday of each month at the Arlington Hills Library and Community Center.  See this poster for handy reference to all the workshops.

Take a look at the law and see how it has been expanded.  This article from the Bench and Bar of Minnesota helps explain the legal foundations of the new expungement law, as does this practice tip sheet from Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN).


Courtroom 050If you are an attorney with a major hearing or trial coming up in the 2nd Judicial District, do you have your game plan ready as far as the courtroom technology you intend to use?  Will you have all of your exhibits properly saved and ready to display electronically?  Will you be presenting a PowerPoint slideshow for the jury?  Will you be directing all of this from your own portable laptop or will you bring an assistant to do this?  Do you have other presentation needs to plan ahead for?

You would do well to read the Courtroom Technology Resources page for the Second Judicial District at the Minnesota Courts webpage.  For your laptop, VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort connections are available, but you should bring your own cable.  Certain equipment can be borrowed from the Court (such as DVD players or projectors).  Make these reservations at least a week in advance with Court Administration.  The Court does not furnish laptops, and only wireless guest internet access is available (under MJB Guest).  Note that the Court staff is also not available to serve as your tech support, other than for those items supplied by the Court.  If you still have questions, prepare a list of them regarding your presentation needs and ask your judge’s clerk about the technology setup in your particular courtroom.  Do this at least a week in advance of your appearance.  For added peace of mind, ask if you can come to the actual courtroom ahead of time to set up a “dry run” and see if everything works.

Even though they are not directly applicable to Minnesota state district courts, it may be helpful to consult the Courtroom Technology Manuals for the Minnesota Federal Courts.  At the very least, they can help you draft a list of questions to ask your judge’s clerk.  If you are still concerned about the possibility of unforeseen technical problems, being able to present your case on a simple dry erase board is always a reliable backup.  You can also come up to make a quick print-out or photocopy as needed in the Law Library for 15 cents per page.


file4451297827276Despite his professional reputation (including an outstanding judge award from the state’s District Judges Association) and the popularity of his Pendleton Updates blog, Judge Alan Pendleton found himself under the regulatory microscope last week.  He now faces discipline from the Board on Judicial Standards for failing to maintain a proper residence in his Anoka County jurisdiction.  He allegedly had sold his Anoka condominium in November of 2013 and moved into his wife’s Hennepin County residence to be closer to their children, and stayed there until August.  While the details of his domicile seem like a tiny blip on any measure of judicial wrongdoing, it is a reminder of the regulations that Minnesota judges must comply with.   With a Robert Downie Jr. movie and a (now-cancelled) NBC sitcom casting fictional light on the lives of judges, it is especially timely to look at the subject of judge regulation.

It is also not unusual for the Law Librarian to encounter library patrons who believe that the judge in their particular case has acted improperly (or at least very unfairly).  If someone feels that their particular judge has truly stepped out of the official line, they may want to consult the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct.   If this convinces them that their judge has indeed acted improperly, they may wish to contact the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards and file a complaint.  Finally, the Minnesota State Law Library offers an extensive (and growing) collection of information-rich LibGuides, including this one on judge regulation.  Also consider this interesting article from the University of St Thomas Law Review that looks at judicial misconduct.  In addition to its examples of judges stepping out of line, it provides a scholarly look at why we all depend on an ethically sound judiciary.


IMG_1426“…[D]edicated to the Training & Education of the Minnesota Trial Bench and Attorneys,” the Pendleton Judicial Training Updates is a website which allows a person to get a judge’s point of view on a myriad of legal issues and situations.  Essentially, this website is a collection ofupdates,” or short, concise, and easy to read tips that every judge and attorney should know.  Even laypeople can appreciate the chance to understand what the judge knows, and likely expects the attorneys to know.  As an example, look at Judge Pendleton’s short-and-sweet guide to contested child support contempt hearings.

Anoka County Judge Alan Pendleton has an extensive background in teaching, and has established this website platform for educating judges, attorneys, and others.  An online subject matter index and table of contents make Judge Pendleton’s archives a breeze to use.  A lawyer or litigant would be hard pressed to find a resource this short and sweet, and on target with Minnesota law.  Don’t just take the Law Librarian’s word- Massachusetts lawyer Robert Ambrosi of Law Sites recently reviewed Judge Pendleton’s training blog and was just as impressed.  So look over these updates before your next in-court judge encounter and see if you don’t find yourself just a bit more prepared (and confident).


5091914[1]No lawyer can have an answer prepared for every zinger of a question that pops up when a client calls.  Zingers like:  “[M}y ex is stealing money from my son’s bank account,” or “my grandmother’s life savings were just wiped out by her investor-boyfriend,” or even “the cops just showed up at my home with a search warrant.”  These examples show why it’s critical to be able to find a quick a summary and cite for the authoritative case or controlling statute.   That’s where the new edition of this handy tool from Minnesota Continuing Legal Education comes in.  Answers to these and other questions are supported by references, commentary, and recommended readings.   Also provided is a chapter on the delicate ethics of answering legal questions at cocktail parties. (Hint: It may be better to excuse yourself and go get another drink instead.)

With Minnesota-specific answers provided by and for local practitioners, this book can be your lifeline or your entry point.   This reference tool cannot be checked out, but if a client just threw a surprise zinger at you while you are at the Court House, swing up to the library to read the quickest answer available.   Of course, this legal 9-1-1 manual can provide helpful information to lay people as well.


file000891404027Last week’s post touched on “mothering” by folks who may not technically be mothers (or fathers), and how this can give rise to third party actions for custody or visitation of children involved.  The alternative custody and visitation area of law is certainly not as clear-cut and established as is the parental custody area.  It is good news that parties and potential parties can now seek advice and assistance (including forms) from the Ramsey County Family Court Self-Help Center, but people might still have questions and need more information.  What can a person expect in such a court action?  What kind of parenting realities does a non-parent seeking custody have to be aware of?  Fortunately there are a few resources to help with these informational needs. 


Understanding-the-ADA-Goren[1]Most of us fortunate enough to live without the challenge of a disability may be unaware of what is contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S. Code § 12101 – 12103) and how it applies to a disabled person’s life of work, travel, and education.  Unless their practice specifically addresses it, attorneys are apt to be similarly unaware.  ADA consultant William Goren claims he wrote Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ABA 2013) specifically to address what he considered to be the shortage of legal materials  devoted to making the ADA understandable.  The new Fourth Edition  goes into some of the new complexities of recent disability claims.    This book includes new expanded topics, including discussion of how ADA relates to sports and the Rehabilitation Act, use of negligence action as an alternative legal remedy, and improved checklists and forms.  It also offers expanded guidance on legal remedies and determining whether or not one has legal standing.

People wanting to file their own ADA claim with the Department of Justice can do so directly at the ADA website.  More legal information to assist those with disabilities is available at or at For job accommodation questions related to the ADA, see, a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

John M. Butler

John M. Butler

The Law Librarian was taken aback by last spring’s case of the Missouri man who was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1984 and couldn’t get released until this year for want of a DNA test. Beyond the sad story of the court worker who lost her job for helping the sister of this man obtain helpful documents needed to draft the successful motion for the DNA test that ultimately freed him, is the fundamental reality of how key DNA evidence is to modern law, not the least of which include determination of guilt and innocence. Suffice it to say that most legal professionals are not scientists, and thus need helpful information from people who are. To meet this end comes a leading expert on DNA, John M. Butler of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He is the author of three books which explain DNA information and make the necessary connections to legal practicalities that legal professionals need. All three are available for check-out at the Law Library.

  • Forensic DNA Typing (2d ed. 2005) – Now in its second edition, Butler charts the history and development of DNA in criminal forensics with a text that caters to all audiences. This book examines the science of current forensic DNA typing methods by focusing on the biology, technology, and genetic interpretation of short tandem repeat (STR) markers, which encompass the most common forensic DNA analysis methods used today. Ten new chapters have been added to accommodate the explosion of new information since the turn of the century.
  • Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing (2009) – This book presents the step-by-step DNA analysis process beginning with collection of evidence at a crime scene to the statistical interpretation of the results. Also included are brief discussions of such news worthy topics as victim identification from the 9/11 attacks, the identification of the remains of the Romanovs, and the O.J. Simpson case. New applications, such as genetic genealogy and tracing domestic pet hairs to perpetrators, are also detailed. Its clarity and extensive list of online resources and study aids makes the subject accessible to lawyers who need enough cursory information to understand and speak to jury, law enforcement, crime scene investigators, legal professionals and government/legal policy makers.
  • Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Methodology ( 2011) –  This book contains up-to-date coverage of essential topics in 9780123745132_p0_v1_s260x420[1]this important field and citation to articles and internet resources. The book builds upon the previous two editions of  Butler’s internationally acclaimed Forensic DNA Typing textbook. This book provides the most detailed information written to-date on DNA databases, low-level DNA, validation, and numerous other topics including a new chapter on legal aspects of DNA testing to prepare scientists for expert witness testimony. Over half of the content is new compared to previous editions.

DNA technology has changed (and continues to change) many modern plot lines, considering its role in the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, identification of the remains in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and revelation that Thomas Jefferson fathered a child by one of his slaves. Thanks to DNA, you will never see a great old movie like this one get rehashed for modern audiences.