Message from the President

By Judge Susan Richard Nelson

Let me begin by extending a very warm welcome to those of you who have been active and devoted members of our chapter of the Federal Bar Association in the past and to those of you who have just joined this remarkable organization. I am quite eager to share with you my excitement about the coming year. I also want to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of this chapter over the past year.

Before I do so, I want to reflect for a moment about our greater mission. As a chapter, we are profoundly committed to the enduring values of our bar and bench—civility, professionalism, judicial independence, and equal justice for all. We have all sworn to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. In these times, our core mission may be at risk. Any student of history acknowledges that the rule of law is fragile. The strength of our organization lies not only in our heritage of professionalism and collegiality but also our ability to embody and live out these principles, not only through our commitment to diversity and inclusion within our organization but also through our outreach and civics initiatives to educate the community about these core, bedrock principles of democracy. Let’s commit to work together this year to realize this important mission.

The accomplishments of this past year cannot be overstated. Our indefatigable leader, Tara Norgard, has left an important, meaningful legacy that has made us a better, more effective, and more inclusive chapter. Her flagship accomplishment is the work she pioneered on diversity and inclusion at the helm of a blue ribbon Task Force. These are her words:

The Minnesota FBA’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our organization. Thanks to the bold vision and relentless commitment of our past leaders, diversity is a mandate in our Chapter Bylaws, built into our governing structure, and incorporated into all of our organization’s work. In recognition of this important history, and in preparation for the future, in 2017, the Minnesota FBA formed a Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. The Task Force was charged with preparing a strategic plan with specific goals and actions for our Chapter to continue its thoughtful and purposeful approach to diversity and inclusion across our organization. Members of the Task Force came from all areas of our community and dedicated countless hours to this effort with candid discussions, in-depth analyses of our legal and greater community, and critical thinking for our future. The result is an important roadmap to guide our organization in the years to come.
It is my intention to fully implement this thoughtful plan across the organization during 2017 and 2018 and to evaluate its impact at the end of my term. We are all deeply indebted to the exceptional work of this task force over the past year.

We had an engaging series of monthly lunches this past year and look forward to an exciting fall being actively planned by our co-chairs, Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung and Liz Wright. Our first lunch is scheduled for Monday, September 11 with speaker Professor Carol Chomsky (University of Minnesota Law School) about a topic that has garnered a great deal of attention as of late—the 1862 Dakota War Trials and Mankato Mass Executions. On Tuesday, October 10, we will be treated to remarks by FBI Agent Jeffrey Van Nest about the critically important international work of the FBI since 9/11 investigating war crimes in which an American is a victim or perpetrator. On Wednesday, November 8, we will honor Senior Judge Donovan W. Frank, who has taken senior status, and his valuable contributions to the bench and to the community, particularly in the area of disability justice. We will keep you posted on our plans for future luncheons. Consider a season pass for the 2017–18 luncheon season.

Magistrate Judge Kate M. Menendez and Joel Schroeder are already brainstorming new and exciting ideas for our annual seminar. Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz and Ben Kwan will organize and plan our special events. Adine Momoh and Katie Barrett Wiik are busy at work expanding our membership. Vildan Teske and Danielle Mair are looking forward to a busy and full season of programming for the Diversity Committee.

Dustin Massie, Ann Motl, and Sahr Brima will lead our Newer Lawyers Program and continue with our very successful focus on newer lawyers and vintage lawyers. Mike Sawers and Keiko Sugisaka will lead our Grant Committee, and Paige Stradley and Lauren D’Cruz will serve as our Law School Liaisons. Fran Kern, Nathan Louwagie, and Shannon Bjorklund will work tirelessly on our Communications Committee—keeping you well informed and publishing our popular Bar Talk.

Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer and Tasha Francis are planning interesting programming as chairs of our Intellectual Property Practice Group, and Matt Forsgren, Lousene Hoppe, and Surya Saxena will chair our White Collar Crime Practice Group. Tim Griffin, Melissa Wolchansky, and Elizabeth Odette will serve as the chairs of our Mass Tort, Multi-District Litigation, and Class Action Practice Group.

I am excited to announce a new initiative this year—the formation of the Community Outreach Committee. Over the years, the Court and the Diversity Committee have offered a number of opportunities to our Chapter for important and critical outreach. To institutionalize these efforts and ensure that we remain focused on our core mission, I have appointed four co-chairs who are planning an extraordinary series of programs on social justice and civics initiatives with many of our community partners. Thanks to Adam Hansen, Amy Conners, Karen Schommer, and Reggie Aligada for accepting this challenge. We will keep you posted on these exciting opportunities.

I am so proud to announce that our Chapter will be prominently recognized on many fronts at the upcoming National FBA Convention. We are all particularly proud that our Pro Se Project will be featured as a model for effectively managing pro se litigation. Judge Wilhemina M. Wright, Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel, and Tiffany Sanders will make the presentation moderated by David Goodwin.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to be involved or would like to share a suggestion. Welcome again to our new year!

Judge Susan Richard Nelson
Minnesota Chapter President, 2017-18