Since its founding in 1883, the Minnesota State Bar Association and its members have been committed to improving the general community’s understanding and support of, and access to, Minnesota’s strong justice system.
To that end, the MSBA has created the Amicus Society, an affiliated 501(c)(3) organization, whose purpose is to promote and support the provision of legal assistance in civil matters to low-income residents, and to conduct public-education campaigns related to the law, the justice system, or both.
As lawyers, we are deeply concerned that many Minnesotans who don’t fully understand the judicial system – which generally has a lower profile than the political branches – can be led to demonize judges, courts, and attorneys. Such targeting of the third branch of government is harmful to our society and to our democracy. The Amicus Society seeks to heal or avoid that damage by promoting education about the rule of law, and the role of judges, courts, and attorneys, to general-community audiences of both adults and youth.
Such programs include the Lawyers in the Classroom project, which works with schools to offer in-class discussions between volunteer lawyers and students about the law and how the system works, and the Traveling Oral Argument program, which organizes actual appellate hearings before student audiences in schools across Minnesota. Each program helps young people learn about civics, their government, and the legal system, leading some to consider careers in the legal field.
The Amicus Society also supports the popular Mock Trial program, which involves over a hundred student teams from schools throughout the state, coached and supervised by hundreds of volunteer lawyers and judges, engaged in a competition that teaches skills such as analysis, reason, persuasion, and public speaking.
Finally, the Amicus Society supports ongoing efforts to educate adults in the community about the critical importance of fully funding our justice system. In recent years, we have watched with alarm as courthouses across Minnesota have reduced hours and staff, making it harder for residents to access needed services. Public defenders and civil legal service providers alike have been hard-pressed to meet the growing needs of people in our community who need representation. Adequate funding is essential to keeping the courts healthy, effective, and capable of administering equal justice to all.