September 2020

Bench/bar initiative to improve legal access for low-income Minnesotans

The Minnesota Judicial Branch has launched a new initiative, the Civil Justice Subcommittee, charged with increasing the number of low-income and disadvantaged people receiving civil legal assistance as well as reducing barriers to access in Minnesota state courts through collaborative projects of the Judicial Branch and the MSBA. The subcommittee functions as part of the court’s existing Committee on Equality and Justice.

During its first year, the subcommittee will focus on (1) expanding the successful housing court clinic model, which primarily serves low-income tenants, to one or more jurisdictions in greater Minnesota; (2) increasing pro bono recognition and outreach while exploring court projects to streamline pro bono representation; and (3) providing education to the bench and bar regarding the 2018 amendments to Minn. R. Civ. P. 23, which modify distribution of residual funds in a class action.

The MSBA members appointed to the Civil Justice Subcommittee are Jennifer Thompson, MSBA president-elect; Christopher Pham, a shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron; Drew Schaffer, executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid; Dori Streit, executive director of Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota; and Sherri Knuth, MSBA access to justice director. Schaffer and 4th Judicial District Judge Juan Hoyos will serve as co-chairs of the subcommittee.

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