Celebrate National Pro Bono Week Minnesota Style

The last week in October offers a special opportunity to celebrate the value of pro bono work by participating in Minnesota's activities as part of National Pro Bono Week. The ABA's country-wide effort, highlighting local action and celebration, promotes recruitment of volunteers, recognition of the efforts of current pro bono volunteers, and seeks to increase support and collaboration. Pro bono plays a vital role in closing the justice gap by helping to increase the number of low-income individuals who can get legal advice at crucial moments.

As part of the local celebration, the Minnesota State Bar Association is hosting “Beyond Status: Meeting the Legal Needs of Today’s Immigrants.” The CLE will take place on Tuesday, October 24th at midday, hosted at the offices of Stinson Leonard Street. Presenters include pro bono attorneys and legal aid staff who will discuss ways they serve immigrant clients in housing, employment, public benefits, DACA and preparedness matters. Immigration is continually in the news, but the legal needs of immigrants extend beyond status. Noting the need for this topic, moderator Emily Good of Legal Services State Support, said “because of their status, their language, their race, immigrants’ legal problems can be amplified and complicated.” Registration for this event, as well as a full schedule of events around Minnesota for the week, are available on ProJusticeMN.org.

SMRLS Produces Healthcare-Legal Partnership Informational Video

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) has produced an informational video about its exciting new healthcare-legal partnership with Bethesda Family Medicine Clinic in St. Paul. At the clinic, doctors work with SMRLS attorneys to address their patients health-harming legal needs. In the video, SMRLS attorneys Meghan Scully and Rebecca Dodson explain how healthcare-legal partnerships work, and the benefits to clients. Doctors and clients also share their experiences of the partnership's personal and community impact. Read more about this holistic approach that is "Putting Health Back in Healthcare."

Legal Services Advocacy Project Publishes Annual Session Summaries

The Legal Services Advocacy Project (LSAP) is pleased to present its 2017 Session Summaries. These summaries cover the specific changes to Minnesota law made by the 2017 Legislature in a wide range of legal areas most relevant to low‐income and financially‐fragile Minnesotans and those who serve them. The summaries are divided by area of substantive law, and contain contact information for the lead LSAP attorney in that area. Staff is still working on the health and disability law section, so check the link for updates in the next few weeks. Read the summaries.

Bilingual Paralegal Among Minnesota Lawyer's 2017 Unsung Legal Heroes

Maria Patino.jpg

Maria Patino, bilingual paralegal/intake specialist with MMLA - Willmar, has been named a 2017 Unsung Legal Hero by Minnesota Lawyer.  The Unsung Legal Heroes award honors law office employees who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty, often behind the scenes. This award is reserved for the state’s most talented and dedicated legal support professionals.

Honorees are nominated by colleagues, supervisors, and peers, and chosen by a panel of prior winners of the relevant award. This year, Unsung Legal Heroes and Up and Coming Attorneys, are recognized in a special publication by Minnesota Lawyer, profiling each honoree. Read more about Patino, and view the entire digital edition of this special publication.

Registration Commences for October Statewide Conference!


State Support is excited to announce that registration opens today for the 2017 Legal Services Statewide Conference: Connecting With Our Community.  The conference will be held at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN from Wednesday, October 25 to Friday, October 27, 2017.  Conference-goers can expect to learn more about innovative service delivery models, how to better serve our diverse client populations, and how effective self-care translates into more sustainable and effective advocacy. Attendees can earn up to 13.75 hours of Minnesota CLE credit, including standard, elimination of bias, and ethics credits.

Zoua Vang, storyteller, strategist, and advocate, will officially kick off the conference with a special keynote presentation, "Our Community, Our Stories," on Wednesday evening, October 25. Vang's personal story inspires and profoundly illustrates why what we do matters. As a professional advocate, she will help us understand how to share and celebrate the work we do on behalf of clients every day.

On Thursday morning, October 26, the community will come together for a conversation between the two newest associate justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justices Margaret Chutich and Anne McKeig will discuss their backgrounds and respective journeys to the bench, and share some reflections about their first years on the Minnesota Supreme Court. The conversation will include their thoughts on access to justice issues and legal aid's role in Minnesota's civil justice system and the delivery of legal services.

A highlight of this year's offerings will certainly be a one-of-a-kind interactive session led by The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2). Described by the Star Tribune as "CSPAN being swarmed by the cast of SNL," The Theater of Public Policy explores big ideas using improv comedy.

To register for the conference, and find out more about breakout sessions, speakers, and social activities, visit our conference page and click on the Register tab. Then, just select your participant type. Please encourage your colleagues to register - in 2015 the conference attracted over 200 attendees!  See you at Arrowwood! 

ProJusticeMN: Brand New Design and Intuitive Features


State Support is pleased to announce a brand new design and custom features for its dedicated professional community website. Freshly redesigned, ProJusticeMN curates content specific to the site’s two primary audiences: the legal aid community and volunteer attorneys. Here are some of the great new custom features on the mobile-responsive site:

  • A new design for the Case Placement Tool that highlights the estimated time commitment, the skill level needed to assist with the case, which skills are developed, and whether the organization posting the case offers mentorship, free training, and/or malpractice insurance.
  • New Library functionality allows you to quickly and easily navigate the library folders and offers new search and filter capabilities.
  • The Calendar features a new user-friendly design and improved search filters.

If you're not yet a member, join us today! If you have questions or feedback about the site, contact Jennifer Singleton at jsingleton@mnlegalservices.org. We'd love to hear from you!

Equal Access to Communication

Legal Aid 1.png

Legal Aid's Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) is a vital resource for those whose rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act are in peril. Upholding equal access to communication is one of the hallmarks of MDLC's work. In a recent case, an MDLC client was denied access to routine bank transactions because his credit union changed its policies about accepting IP relay calls for deaf customers, making his access far more difficult than that of hearing customers.

"It's a pleasure to represent a client who is willing to speak out for their rights," said staff attorney Rick MacPherson, counsel on the case. "One person's willingness to enforce the law can bring about equal access for others who are deaf to the services and benefits everyone else enjoys." Read the full article in Attorney at Law magazine.

Sneak Peek: Conference Schedule 2017 Online Now!

With the official launch of registration only one month away (Sept. 6), State Support is excited to unveil a sneak peek at the wide array of sessions planned for the Legal Services Statewide Conference in October. This year's conference, "Connecting With Our Community," provides conference-goers with up to 13.75 hours of practical and meaningful CLE credit, along with the annual awards banquet, and opportunities to network and relax with statewide colleagues. On Thursday evening, October 26, the conference itinerary will feature a special screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary 13th. Named for the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the film was directed by Ava DuVernay and is a Netflix original documentary. It takes an in-depth look at the racial inequality in the United States prison system, focusing on the criminalization of African Americans and the prison boom.

If books are more your style, join your colleagues on Wednesday evening, October 25, in a thought-provoking conversation about Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling memoir, Just Mercy.  A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice, Just Mercy will engage our minds and inspire us to continue pursuing justice for all.

Start planning your personal itinerary now, and join us at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center October 25 - 27, 2017.  Look for the official registration invitation in your inbox, or check SCHED for registration links starting on September 6. See you at the conference!

SMRLS Now Offers Free Legal Help to Scott County Crime Victims

Kevin Jonassen, Staff Attorney, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

Kevin Jonassen, Staff Attorney, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

With a two-year Department of Justice grant, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) now participates in the Minnesota Crime Victim Legal Services Project. Along with its project partners, SMRLS is helping create the resources needed to provide wraparound legal services to victims of crime in Scott County, one of only three sites in the state offering services through the pilot program.

The program's attorney, Kevin Jonassen, provides free assistance to crime victims needing help with such things as referrals to other programs, legal advice, and legal representation, if needed. The program can also assist with reparations, restraining orders, housing issues, ID theft repair, divorces, and other issues. It also seeks to address barriers that keep people from accessing the legal system after being victimized. Read more about this cutting edge program.

Central Minnesota Legal Services Rolls Out New Website Experience


Central Minnesota Legal Services (CMLS), a provider of civil legal services to low-income persons in 21 counties in central Minnesota for more than 40 years, recently rolled out a new and improved website for its clients. The new site offers streamlined and easy to use navigation, along with the ability to apply for legal aid online. Visitors can find available legal clinics, the kinds of cases CMLS takes, and what to expect when making contact with legal aid for the first time. The website design team included Amanda Sauber, supervising legal assistant; Jessica Mastaller, volunteer attorney coordinator; and Terri Thorson, managing attorney.

"CMLS is excited to launch our new user friendly and mobile friendly website.  As the first stop for information for so many people is now the web, our redesigned website will help our clients, pro bono attorneys, and the public find information about CMLS more easily," said executive director, Jean Lastine. Visit CMLS at www.centralmnlegal.org.

SMRLS Clinic Honored with Inaugural Interfaith Progress Award

Jessie Nicholson, Executive Director - Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

Jessie Nicholson, Executive Director - Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) and its new Power Up Legal Clinic partners, the Twin Cities Cardozo Society and Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, were the inaugural recipients of the Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul’s Interfaith Progress Award this past May. The Interfaith Progress Award recognizes organizations and programs whose work involves new, renewed, or expanded frontiers in interfaith cooperation, and addresses compelling community needs through interfaith partnership.

The Power Up Legal Clinic was started in 2016 when Morning Star’s Pastor Walker realized that many of his church members were approaching him with legal concerns. The clinic provides free, walk-in legal services to members of the broader community, as well as the church.

The mission of Interfaith Action is to “unite the people, resources, and voice of the faith community to build a more just, safe, and livable East Metro for all.”  Read more about the clinic's dates and hours.

Big Ideas and Improv Comedy Featured at 2017 Statewide Conference

The 2017 Legal Services Statewide Conference: Connecting With Our Community, will offer the great mix of camaraderie, meaningful CLE, and relaxation conference goers have come to expect, as well as some new twists. Chief among them, a one-of-a-kind interactive session led by The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2). Described by the Star Tribune as "CSPAN being swarmed by the cast of SNL," The Theater of Public Policy explores big ideas using improv comedy.  T2P2 improvisers use comedy to act out hard-to-digest concepts with the goal of helping us think more deeply, and in a fresh, engaging way about the issues we encounter daily and the policies impacting our work.

The conference will be held at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN from Wednesday, October 25 to Friday, October 27, 2017.  Stay tuned here for more session and special guest details, a sneak peek at our full conference schedule, and the official launch of conference registration in early September.

Federal Fair Housing Case Brings Meaningful Outcome for a Family #WeAreLegalAid

Anne Robertson, staff attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, splits her time between the Housing Discrimination Law Project and the Disability Law Center.  In a recent case, she championed the cause of a single mother who was subjected to egregious treatment by her landlord based on having minor children in her household (familial status).  Not only did the landlord enforce a lease provision stating that children were not allowed to play in the common areas or around the building – with a financial penalty – the landlord physically assaulted one of her children on two occasions.  With Robertson at her side, the client reached a substantial settlement, and influenced policy changes, including a provision that the landlord must report on compliance with familial status law for the next four years. Special thanks to Justin Perl for litigation support. #WeAreLegalAid

MDLC’s Anne Henry Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Anne Henry, longtime access to justice advocate and staff attorney with the Minnesota Disability Law Center, will retire this fall and her career-spanning contributions were recognized last month with a lifetime achievement award from the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD).

Henry was commended as a disability community champion, and her tireless commitment to the cause was celebrated. She commented on the impact of her work with MNCCD both professionally and personally, and encouraged other advocates to stay the course. "This meaningful recognition is definitely shared with all my colleagues, disability advocates, and clients. Positive changes for persons with disabilities are the result of conscientious efforts by the many committed people with whom I have been privileged to work during my tenure at the Disability Law Center," Henry said.

An editorial by MN-CCD Board Chairman Randall Bachman was published earlier this month. Read Henry’s courage has been an asset to the disability community on ACCESS Press.

Minnesota Disability Law Center Receives 2017 Public Policy Recognition Award

Pamela Hoopes, Legal Director

Pamela Hoopes, Legal Director

Arc Minnesota recognized the work of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) with its annual Public Policy Recognition award on May 25th. The award honors individuals or groups whose efforts in disability law and/or disability policy have benefited individuals with disabilities and their families. The Minnesota Disability Law Center has helped thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities achieve better lives. MDLC was celebrated for its advocacy and legal work – work that protects the rights and services of people with disabilities in Minnesota.

Arc Minnesota’s presentation lauding MDLC included its activities and successes over the past four decades, and Luther Granquist, former staff attorney; legal director Pamela Hoopes; and current staff attorneys Bud Rosenfield and Dan Stewart were all cited for their contributions to the organization’s work. Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s retiring executive director Cathy Haukedahl, and retiring attorneys Anne Henry and Patricia Siebert were also recognized for their distinguished service to the agency.

The Minnesota Disability Law Center is the designated protection and advocacy system for Minnesota and addresses the unique legal needs of Minnesotans with disabilities. The center provides free legal assistance to individuals with disabilities statewide on civil legal issues related to their disabilities. All individuals with disabilities are eligible to receive help, regardless of age or income level.