Past Events

See Bar Talk for detailed information about many past events.

Minnesota Chapter Sponsors Screening and Panel Discussion of “Untouchables”

By N. Chethana Perera

On August 22, the Minnesota Chapter sponsored a screening and panel discussion of the film “Untouchable.” The film takes viewers into the lives of those branded sex offenders and those who have suffered sexual abuse. The film tells the story of Lauren Book, who was sexually abused by her nanny for years. Lauren’s abuse was so severe that she may not be able to carry a child full term. Lauren’s sexual abuse drove her father, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Florida, to successfully advocate for the harshest sex offender laws in the country. Lauren’s traumatic experience is then juxtaposed with the lives of sex offenders like Shawna Clouatre. Shawna, a loving mother of two, became a sex offender for life at nineteen when she had sex with a seventeen-year-old. Viewers saw Shawna’s yearning to show her daughter life outside of Oklahoma, and her inability to do so because of thousands of dollars in parole and treatment class fees, and weekly parole check-ins. The film showed Shawna’s fear of a Florida bill passing that takes away the parental rights of any sex offender—a bill that Lauren’s father is lobbying for.

After the film, U.S. District Court Chief Judge John R. Tunheim led a discussion panel with Patty Wetterling, a staunch advocate for child victims whose son Jacob was abducted in 1989, and Professor Eric Janus, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law who studies the boundaries of the state’s ability to protect public safety through the civil commitment of individuals. Wetterling discussed how the classification of “sex offender” has become too broad and should not include people like Shawna. She went on to emphasize how the current laws would not have prevented her son’s kidnapping and sexual abuse. Wetterling discussed how “people forget the goal of preventing further sexual violence” and create punitive laws instead. She further articulated how these punitive laws have the damaging effect of increasing recidivism rates because “points of intervention are taken away.” Professor Janus then explained that, when a sex offender reenters society, s/he needs social support in the form of treatment, a job, and a place to live. Instead, current registration requirements and residency restrictions take those sources of support away. For example, residency restrictions force registered sex offenders out of most cities where they live with their families, have jobs, and seek treatment. Professor Janus concluded the panel with the challenge to change our laws in a way that “respects the pain and damage that sex offenders have done, but also understands the humanity of offenders, and encourages us to think about prevention as a way of respecting that pain.”

43rd Annual Federal Practice Seminar

The Minnesota Chapter’s 43rd Annual Federal Practice Seminar on June 20, 2017 was a success! To see some of the material presented please click here.

Chapter Co-Sponsors CLE Addressing the Sex Trafficking of Individuals with Disabilities

Human trafficking takes many forms, and recent experience shows that it is occurring in our communities, and sometimes in plain sight. On April 4, 2017, the Diversity Committee and the University of Minnesota Division of the Minnesota Chapter of the FBA co-hosted a CLE about the sex trafficking of people with disabilities.

This program featured participants from several perspectives: prosecutors John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, and Tracy Perzel, Assistant United States Attorney; victim advocate Abigail Sterner; nonprofit researcher and advocate Sarah Bessell, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center; and U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank, a tireless advocate of people with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities—and particularly those with cognitive disabilities—are especially vulnerable to human trafficking for several reasons. First, they may experience the world differently and communicate differently than others. Many victims of human trafficking would not self-identify, perhaps because they do not always recognize that the abusive or manipulative behavior toward them could be labeled as trafficking. Individuals with disabilities may have additional barriers that make it harder for them to communicate their situation and receive the help they need. Second, it may be harder for outsiders to recognize the warning signs of trafficking, such as a controlling and dependent relationship with another adult. Third, individuals with disabilities are sometimes targeted because the perpetrator will steal the victim’s Social Security or other benefit payments, while exploiting and abusing the individual.

The participants shared stories of exploitation, prosecution, and even prevention of human trafficking. One key message repeated by several participants was the critical role of bystanders: attorneys, doctors, police, neighbors, friends, and community members. They emphasized that success stories—intervention or prevention—occur when bystanders listen to their “gut reaction” that something is wrong. For example, one participant shared a story that a neighbor requested a police welfare check after hearing suspicious noises from an upper window. The police learned that a woman with a disability was being locked in the upper level of the house and was being groomed to be sex trafficked. The neighbor’s intuition and proactive approach led to an intervention at a critical point. The participants concluded by challenging attendees to be aware of individuals they may come in contact with, to rely on intuition, and to report any suspicions. As the example given demonstrates, a well-timed welfare check can make a critical difference.

Panel participants and organizers. From left to right, Rachel Cardwell, Abigail Sterner, Tracey Perzel, Judge Frank, John Choi, Sarah Bessell, Vildan Teske, and James Soper.

To learn more about recent events click here.

Law Student Award Ceremony

On April 13, 2017, the Minnesota Chapter hosted its annual Law Student Award Ceremony.

(l to r) Judge Donovan W. Frank; Joey Balthazor (Mitchell Hamline School of Law); Judge Steven E. Rau; Hannah Nelson (University of Minnesota Law School); Judge David S. Doty; Judge Joan N. Ericksen; Bridget Duffus (University of St. Thomas School of Law).

42nd Annual Federal Practice Seminar and Mason Memorial Luncheon a Success

On June 21, 2016, the Minnesota Chapter hosted its annual Federal Practice Seminar and Mason Memorial Luncheon. Dean Strang, one of the attorneys whose representation of Steven Avery was documented in the Netflix series Making a Murderer, was the featured speaker at the luncheon.

(l to r): Kelly Laudon, Chief Judge John R. Tunheim, Judge Joan N. Ericksen, Dean Strang, Judge Michael J. Davis, and Dan Hedlund.

2016 Law Student Awards

On Wednesday, April 20, the Minnesota Chapter held its Law School Student Awards Ceremony. Every year, students are selected to receive awards from the Chapter for excellence in the study of federal law and practice. Each award is named in honor of a person who has contributed significantly to the federal legal system in Minnesota. The students are selected with the help of a faculty committee at each law school. Award recipients receive $2,000 and an engraved wooden plaque.

This year the Judge Earl R. Larson Award was presented by the Honorable Patrick J. Schiltz to Caitlin Drogemuller from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. The Honorable Donovan W. Frank presented the Judge Jacob Dim Award to Cha Xiong from Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Kelly Fermoyle, also from Mitchell Hamline School of Law, received the Harry A. Sieben Award, presented by the Honorable John R. Tunheim. The Honorable Ann D. Montgomery presented the Judge Edward J. Devitt Award to Nia Chung from the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Minnesota Chapter has recognized outstanding achievement by law students from the local law schools for over 30 years. The program furthers our mission of encouraging and maintaining high standards of learning and competence in the legal profession.

Article by Tasha Francis

(l to r) Nia Chung Srodoski, Judge Edward Devitt Award Recipient, University of Minnesota Law School; The Hon. Ann D. Montgomery; Cha Xiong, Judge Jacob Dim Award Recipient, Mitchell Hamline School of Law; The Hon. Donovan W. Frank; Caitlin Drogemuller, Judge Earl Larson Award Recipient, University of St. Thomas School of Law; Kelly Fermoyle, Harry Sieben Award Receipient, Mitchell Hamline School of Law; The Hon. John R. Tunheim, Chief Judge of the District of Minnesota

31st Annual Law Student Scholarship Awards

The Minnesota Chapter presented its 31st annual law student scholarship awards on April 10, 2013 at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each year the awards honor a graduating law student for excellence in the study of federal law.

Chief Judge Michael J. Davis presented the Judge Edward Devitt Award to Chris Schmitter of the University of Minnesota Law School; Judge Donovan W. Frank presented the Judge Jacob Dim Award to Amran Farah of Hamline University School of Law; Judge Susan Richard Nelson presented the Judge Earl Larson Award to Terrence Schnurr of the University of St. Thomas School of Law; and Judge Paul A. Magnuson presented the Harry Sieben Award to Lauren D'Cruz of William Mitchell College of Law.

(l to r) Chief Judge Michael J. Davis, Chris Schmitter, Judge Donovan W. Frank, Amran Farah, Terrence Schnurr, Judge Susan Richard Nelson, Lauren D'Cruz, and Judge Paul A. Magnuson

Court and FBA Held Reception to Recognize 2012 Pro Se Project Volunteer Attorneys

March 14, 2013 • Minneapolis Courthouse

The Court and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association (“FBA”) held a reception on March 14, 2013 on the 15th floor of the Minneapolis Courthouse to recognize the volunteer attorneys who generously donated their time to assist Pro Se Project litigants in 2012 as part of the Minnesota Chapter Pro Se Project.

» View the Slideshow

More than 75 people attended the reception including volunteer attorneys, Judges, Rich Sletten, Clerk of Court, Lisa Rosenthal, Chief Deputy Clerk, and other Court personnel. Chief Judge Michael J. Davis, Judges Donovan W. Frank and Patrick J. Schiltz, and Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel personally thanked the volunteer attorneys for their important work on behalf of the underserved of our judicial system and for the significant and positive impact each volunteer attorney makes. To give a bit of perspective on the value of the volunteer attorneys’ work through the Pro Se Project, Judge Schiltz explained that for each hour the attorney spends on a Pro Se Project case, it saves the Court 10 to 20 hours on that case.

Daniel C. Hedlund, an attorney with Gustafson Gluek and board member of the Minnesota Chapter of the FBA, thanked the volunteer attorneys on behalf of the FBA and spoke on the importance of their work through the Pro Se Project – not only in assisting those in need and helping the Court, but also in accomplishing the goals of the FBA. Chief Judge Davis presented the volunteer attorneys with a certificate of appreciation from the Court and commended the volunteer attorneys for generously donating their time in the important and shared quest for equal justice.

Throughout the reception, a slideshow scrolled slides providing quotes from numerous Pro Se Project participants expressing their gratitude. The following quote sums up the tremendous impact volunteer attorneys make in the lives of Pro Se Project litigants:

It is difficult for me to adequately express my gratitude to [the Pro Se Project] and to the Court for the efforts made on my behalf . . . [P]lease extend my gratitude to the Court for the program that made this representation -- and the justice I believe it will secure -- possible.

I am deeply, truly, thankful.

- Pro Se Project Plaintiff

2013 Law Student Reception

February 7, 2013 • Lindquist & Vennum LLP

On February 7, 2013, the Minnesota Chapter sponsored its annual law student reception hosted by the law firm of Lindquist & Vennum LLP to introduce law students to the work of the FBA and to recognize the work of law student groups associated with the Minnesota Chapter. The reception was attended by Judges David S. Doty, Franklin L. Noel, and Jeffrey J. Keyes of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Gregory F. Kishel, and visiting Bankruptcy Judge Anita Shodeen, as well as by Eric Janus, Dean of William Mitchell College of Law. Law students from all four local law schools were in attendance. Minnesota Chapter President Rachna B. Sullivan, along with Karin Ciano and Adine S. Momoh, the Minnesota Chapter’s law school liaisons, gave remarks at the event.

View the Slideshow

Minnesota Federal Judge Receives Paul G. Hearne Award from ABA

The American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights has selected Donovan W. Frank, federal judge for the District of Minnesota, to receive its 2012 Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights. Judge Frank has spent his legal career advocating for the rights of persons with developmental disabilities—"the forgotten minority"—to equal opportunities, equal justice under the law, and equal access, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Judge Frank has long served as co-chair of the diversity committee of the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and works closely with the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. He has received the Luther Granquist Systems Change Award from the Arc Minnesota for making life better for individuals with disabilities. Judge Frank has served on the Board of Directors of the Range Mental Health Center Inc. and the East Range Developmental Achievement Center.


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