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News Item
Minnesota recognizes National Judicial Outreach Week

Posted: Monday, March 2, 2020

Since 2017, the American Bar Association has celebrated National Judicial Outreach Week, a week dedicated to recognizing and promoting public outreach by judges and attorneys. This year, March 1-10, 2020, has been set aside to celebrate this commitment to reaching out directly to the citizens to encourage public trust and confidence. The Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators recently passed resolutions in support of this effort. 
 
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to encouraging public trust and confidence through public outreach. In 2019, judges and court staff reported participating in more than 150 outreach events involving more than 10,000 students and adults. In recognition of National Judicial Outreach Week, the Minnesota Judicial Branch is highlighting some of the many events and activities of both judges and staff. 
 
Supreme Court
The Supreme Court travels to high schools in Minnesota twice a year to hear oral arguments in a real case, answer student questions, and visit with students as part of the Traveling Oral Argument program.  In October 2019, the Court celebrated the 50th in-school program at Fairmont Junior/Senior High School. Since the Supreme Court convened oral arguments in Rochester, in 1995, the school visits have been an important part of the Court’s efforts to improve public understanding of the judiciary’s work. 
 
Court of Appeals
In 2019, the Court of Appeals formalized student group visits to oral arguments by establishing the Class in the Courtroom program. The program opens up the courtroom doors as an educational opportunity for teachers and students to observe oral arguments and meet with the judges at the Minnesota Judicial Center and in several locations throughout Minnesota. More information about the program and how to participate is available on the Class in the Courtroom page on the MN Judicial Branch website.
 
District Courts
The judges and staff of Minnesota’s district courts have long invited students and members of the public to visit local courthouses, and have gone out into their communities to visit schools, community groups, and civic organizations as a way to enhance the public’s understanding, trust and confidence in the judiciary. Beginning in April 2015, district courts across Minnesota began hosting Open Courthouse events, centered on welcoming the public into courthouses to learn more about how judges, attorneys, and law enforcement work together to peacefully resolve disputes and keep our communities safe. These Open Courthouse events continue to occur twice a year in conjunction with Law Day in May and Constitution Day in September. In 2019, the Kandiyohi and Wright county courthouses hosted events.
 
Many district courts have established annual events to honor Law Day, a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day underscores how law and the legal process have contributed to the freedoms that all Americans share. In 2019, district courts in Anoka, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Norman, Roseau, St. Louis, Steele, and Wright counties held Law Day events.
 
In June 2010, the Minnesota Judicial Council, the policymaking body for the Branch, created the Committee for Equality and Justice (CEJ). The mission of the CEJ is to work collaboratively across the Judicial Branch to advance efforts to eliminate bias from court operations, promote equal access to the court, and inspire a high level of trust and public confidence in the Minnesota Judicial Branch. In an effort to connect with community members, CEJ committees in the Seventh Judicial District and Goodhue County District Court hosted community listening sessions in 2019. Members of the public were invited to share their court experiences with and offer feedback to local judges and staff.
 
 
Judicial Branch at the Minnesota State Fair
Beginning in 2018, the Branch joined the Great Minnesota Get-Together with a booth in the Education Building. Judges and staff from all three levels of courts volunteer at the booth to interact with visitors in an effort to break down barriers. Visitors to the booth have the opportunity to put on a robe and take a selfie, learn the location of their judicial district, and walk away with a gavel pencil.  In 2019, more than 40 judicial officers and 72 staff volunteered their time to educate Minnesotans about their court system.
 
 
Speakers Bureau
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has a statewide Speakers Bureau to facilitate speakers, at no cost, to schools, civic, business, and other community groups. Minnesota judges and court personnel regularly speak to school and community groups about the Minnesota Judicial Branch, juvenile justice, how civil and criminal cases proceed, sentencing, and other topics. In addition, judges and justices at the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul host numerous tour groups throughout the year. More information about how to request a speaker for your school or organization is available on the Speakers Bureau page.