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We move up the river -- always
through enchanting scenery, there being no other kind on the
Upper Mississippi. ... The majestic bluffs that overlook the
river ... the shining river, winding here and there and yonder,
its sweep interrupted at intervals by clusters of wooded islands
threaded by silver channels; ... distant villages, asleep upon
capes; and ... steamers vanishing around remote points.
--Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
Highway 61 follows the river and
bluffs north from Winona. Barges pass through Lock and Dam #5
near Minnesota City, and negotiate a tight turn near Minneiska.
Tundra swans and other waterfowl gather in the Weaver bottoms.
Eagles soar near Reeds Landing. Sail boats and fishermen navigate
Lake Pepin. In fall Lake City's maple trees show spectacular
color and roadside stands display locally grown apples. In winter,
when the river freezes over, eagles fish open water and rest
on the ice. In spring the river rises and spreads across the
People ask about the commute from Winona to the Twin Cities,
assuming travel is a burden for an outstate Bar president. I
have enjoyed the drive and the interludes for observation and
It has been a busy and productive year for the MSBA. Much of
what we did reflects the values we bring to our profession, and
the strength of our membership.
Civil Legal Services. Substantial progress has been made
on our goal of securing increased funding for civil legal services
in Minnesota. Legislative funding remains unresolved as this
is written, because of the budget stalemate. However, a large
and committed constituency for legal aid produced unprecedented
support in the Legislature for stable and increased funding.
Several financial institutions have acted to improve yields
on IOLTA accounts. An endowment fund has been created and a
fund-raising campaign is being planned. There remains a large
unmet need for legal aid to the disadvantaged, but the profession
is committed to meeting it, through publicly funded programs
and pro bono service.
Diversity and Bias Elimination. Important work is being
done by the MSBA Diversity Committee and by the Minority Bar
Summit, a periodic gathering of leaders of the MSBA and specialty
bar organizations. Together, we have taken positions on bar
admissions testing, racial profiling legislation, and educational
opportunities. And today more nearly than ever before the leadership
of the MSBA reflects the diversity of our membership and of the
people we serve.
Lawyers for Habitat. This spring the MSBA sponsored construction
of a house through the Twin Cities Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
The house, on St. Paul's East Side, is nearing completion.
Lawyers are contributing 800 volunteer days and $40,000 to the
project, which will provide a home for one family, and will contribute
to meeting the Habitat goal of eliminating poverty housing and
making decent, affordable shelter for all people a matter of
Judiciary. The MSBA provided support for the efforts
of the courts to secure adequate legislative funding. The MSBA
Civil Litigation Section, with support from judges, secured the
adoption of a statewide judicial evaluation program. The MSBA
was involved in judicial elections, conducting a plebiscite of
members on contested elections, filing amicus briefs in litigation
challenging rules on candidate conduct, and participating in
public debate on the role of political parties in judicial elections.
We plan to convene a forum on judicial selection this October.
Program Review. The MSBA underwent an ABA operations audit,
focused on governance, staffing and communications. The MSBA
staff conducted an internal examination of communications, looking
at the information we disseminate and the ways we communicate.
Our Governance and Finance Committee reviewed all MSBA programs
and activities to identify objectives and measure effectiveness.
Technology. The MSBA continues to use developing technologies
to improve its operations and communications, and to help members
improve their practices and serve their clients. Internet-based
practice aids, known as FILE programs, are being developed by
staff and sections; the first, covering family law, is scheduled
for imminent launch, and several more will be online soon. The
Legal News Digest, an online service, has become a popular
source of current news summaries linked to more comprehensive
coverage. It facilitates rapid dissemination and frequent updates
at modest cost.
Mentoring. Development of a program for mentoring and
skills training remains in the planning stage. There appears
to be a strong consensus that such a program is valuable, and
a planning group has made progress in defining its elements.
Convention. This Bar year will conclude with an outstanding
annual convention, scheduled for June 20-22 at St. Paul's River
Centre. The business agenda includes proposed rules for multidisciplinary
practice, a proposal to increase the limit on client security
claims, reports on state and federal judiciaries and Ethics 2000,
and a presentation by the Great American History Theater. Featured
speakers include Julian Bond, David Gergen, William C. Moyers,
Jesse Ventura, and Mark Yudof. Meetings and seminars will focus
on important topics, such as racial profiling, judicial appointments,
and chemical dependency. An abundance of CLE programming will
be offered. Social events include the Welcome Barbecue at Como
Park, an excursion on the Harriet Bishop, the President's
Reception, Kids' Party and Social at the Science Center, as well
as golf, biking, and all the cultural and commercial resources
of the metropolitan area.
It has been an honor and a pleasure to share these and other
activities with you. I appreciate the guidance of previous leaders,
the support of current members, and the promise of capable successors.
Kent A. Gernander is president
of the MSBA. A general practice and trial lawyer in the Winona
firm of Streater & Murphy, P.A., he is a graduate of Harvard
College and of the University of Minnesota Law School.