Minnesota State Bar Association, Hennepin County Bar Association, Ramsey County Bar Association, and Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association Statement on George Floyd

On Monday, May 25, 2020, video footage circulated of the violent killing of George Floyd in an incident involving Minneapolis police officers. In the video, a Minneapolis police officer is seen kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over five minutes, while Mr. Floyd repeatedly states, “I can’t breathe.” We write today to join in the grief and anger over the fact and manner of Mr. Floyd's death, to pledge that his death will be honored and not forgotten, and to commit ourselves to the continuing effort to bring justice to the fore, for Mr. Floyd and his family and friends, of course; but also for our shared community. The Minnesota bar associations, and the legal profession itself, are dedicated to the Rule of Law, equal justice for all, and the dignity and sanctity of human life.

More than just an isolated incident, Mr. Floyd’s killing highlights an ongoing problem. In a state and country devastated by the deaths of Black and Brown people at the hands of police officers, drastic changes are needed in our approach to public safety. The Minnesota State Bar Association, Hennepin County Bar Association, Ramsey County Bar Association and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association support the equal administration of justice for all, and to that end, envision a Minnesota where law enforcement personnel are held to a standard of treating all individuals with dignity. 

Just as the legal profession is charged with promoting and delivering the principles of equal justice in our communities, the police must promote and deliver the principles of equal justice and administration of justice for all people. Acts of misconduct against people of color reduce the public’s trust in police, the police force and the administration of justice. If a Black man in south Minneapolis can be brutally choked by law enforcement, whose motto is to protect with courage and to serve with compassion, no individual should feel safe.  

The Bar Associations call on Governor Walz and all other public officials and law enforcement agencies across the state to actively confront the systems and cultures within their police departments that have repeatedly allowed people of color to be brutalized and killed.

The Bar Associations also recognize that the rule of law needs to protect us all and must exist at all levels of our justice system. We support the lawyers, judges and other court personnel who will work on all sides of this issue to ensure that the constitutional rights of all involved are respected and justice is achieved. 

The Bar Associations envision a state where no person must fear the police and where arrest and use of force by law enforcement are last resorts, not first options. The peace and well-being of our community relies on trust in our system of justice. We pledge to participate in the healing that must come after the events of the past week, and to lift and support the voices and actions of others working toward the goals of equal access to justice and equal administration of public safety for all people. The Bar Associations further renew their commitment to their vision of being leaders in achieving equal justice for all.

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is always available to assist lawyers, judges, law students and their family members who are struggling. For free, confidential assistance, call 651-646-5590 or 1-866-525-6466. Please also remember the MSBA's SOLACE program, which exists to help members who are experiencing hardship. Learn more about getting, and giving, help through SOLACE.

In the coming days, the bar association websites will list opportunities for our members to work toward the changes called for in this statement or provide assistance to those suffering after the events of the last week.

This statement reflects the position of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Hennepin County Bar Association, Ramsey County Bar Association and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. It does not necessarily reflect the position of the national Federal Bar Association. Board members affiliated with the judicial and executive branches of the federal, state and local governments did not participate in the issuance of this statement.