Fall 2020 Newsletter

MJF Voting Project

This Fall (2020), the Minnesota Justice Foundation has partnered with law students Yemaya Hanna (UMN), Hannah Stephan (UMN), Brooke Trottier (UST) and Alexandria Yakes (UMN) to design four non-partisan lessons that middle and high school classroom teachers can host law students who will virtually come into their classrooms to present information to their students about Voting and the 2020 Election.

Here are the lessons they can choose for their classrooms:

Who is on the Ballot/Learning about Policies

  • What do Federal and State Governments do for me?
  • Who is on the ballot?
  • How can I learn about the candidates?
  • How do elected officials impact young voters?
  • How can I learn about issues that are important to me?

Contemporary Issues in Voting

  • Brief history of voting
  • Why should I care about voting rights?
  • Contemporary threats to the right to vote
    • Felon disenfranchisement
    • Closing polling locations
    • Purging of voter registration lists
    • Voter Fraud – Mail In Voting/Early Voting
  • Fact Check: Election 2020

Voting in Minnesota/How to Vote/rights surrounding voting

  • Registration
  • Voting
    • When and where can I vote?
    • Voting in person – what happens? What can I wear/say/do?
    • What does a Minnesota ballot look like & how does it work?
  • Rights Surrounding Voting
    • Same-Day Registration
    • Early/Absentee Voting
    • Photo ID Debate
    • Federal Voting Rights/Constitution

Summary Lesson (primer on all 3 of the above lessons)

The law students designing the curriculum will also train in law student volunteers to deliver the content to the middle and high school classrooms in a manner that is exciting and engaging to the young students. For those of age, MJF hopes that the youth will vote in the 2020 Election and beyond. For those younger than voting age, we believe that their enthusiasm and knowledge may spur their parents and other adults in their lives to vote!

Summer Fellows/PILF/PIC

Despite the unprecedented challenges our state and legal community have faced during the COVID pandemic, MJF was incredibly successful in connecting students with summer opportunities and adapting to new working environments. During Summer 2020, we’ve had law students provide valuable support in Government, Legal Services/Aid, Immigration, and Environmental Advocacy at the following agencies through our Summer Fellowship Program:

Erin Abramovitz at the Children’s Law Center

Hannah Stephan at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) — Housing

Yastril Nañez at Central Minnesota Legal Services

Morgan Twamley at Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

Brenda Pfahnl at SMRLS — Immigration

Zoe Psiakis at Anishinabe Legal Services

Nicole Slusher at Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota

Ashley Meeder at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) – Housing

Max Tsai at MMLA Family/Govt Ben

Sarah Snebold at Legal Aid Services of Northeastern Minnesota

Kayla Billett at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Mirissa Joi at American Civil Liberties Union — Minnesota

Haley Eustice at SMRLS — Mankato office

Hannah Kass at MMLA — Disability Law Center

Jordan Ziehr at Legal Assistance of Olmsted County

Cat Rios-Keating at Appellate Public Defender’s Office

Cecelia Burke at 10th District Public Defender’s Office — Washington County

Marisa Tillman at Standpoint

Hannah McCallum at SMRLS — Economic Justice

The University of Minnesota Law School MJF Student Chapter was able to provide Public Interest Clerkships (PIC) to Alena Carl, who worked at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and Tim Miles at the 1st Judicial District Public Defender’s Office in Dakota County. At Saint Thomas School of Law, Berina Altshuler was awarded a full Public Interest Law Fellowship (PILF) for her work with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City.  Berina is working on COVID-related projects. The St. Thomas MJF Student Chapter was also able to award Eva Kendrick with a half-PILF for her work with VLN (family law and housing areas). Mitchell Hamline School of Law was able to award funding to Jackie Rodriguez, so she could spend her summer working full-time at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Indiana.

Each of the students, named above, provided invaluable contributions to their communities and MJF is excited for their futures in the legal field. MJF remains committed to the goal of linking law students with opportunities to assist attorneys in meeting the legal needs of the low-income community. We, here at MJF, are thankful for all of our summer fellows, clerks, and volunteers.

Navigating Public Interest

Every year, the Minnesota Justice Foundation hosts a program called Navigating Public Interest (“NPI”) for incoming law students before the start of the fall term. During NPI, students learn about MJF and its programs, Minnesota’s public interest law community, and how they can get involved in law-related public service. Due to the pandemic, this year MJF’s NPI programs were offered remotely via Zoom. Students met the MJF staff attorneys, shared their reasons for wanting to become attorneys, and familiarized themselves with MJF’s website and volunteer offerings. MJF also hosted three separate panels of practicing attorneys who have dedicated their careers to public interest work.

Panelists included:
Judge LaJune Lange, International Leadership Institute
Evangeline Dhawan, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Evan Gelles, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Mary Georgevich, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Chuck Gerlach, Stearns County Attorney’s Office
Christy Hall, Gender Justice
Kathy Klos, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Mike Vraa, HOME Line
Mary William, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Julia Zwak, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid

These professional panelists discussed their career paths, their passion for public interest work, the skills and qualities that are important to develop as an attorney working in public interest, and the role of the law in addressing societal issues such as access to justice and racial justice.

Each NPI session also included a panel of current law students who spoke about their volunteer experiences, how they are involved in the law school community, and how they balance volunteer work with other obligations.

Lastly, at the end of the NPI program, students had the opportunity to start volunteering right away on a remote project called Mapping Prejudice. Through Mapping Prejudice, volunteers identify and map racially restrictive covenants in historical property deeds. The data set from this project can then be used by advocates, policymakers, and activists in the area of housing justice.