100 Years Strong: Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services and the On-Going Pursuit for Equal Rights and Equal Justice
46 Pages Posted: 28 May 2011
Date Written: 2009
As the lead essay in the Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy's symposium issue on "Barriers to Justice: Responding to the Needs of the Low-Income Population in America," our essay provides a narrative account of the history of legal aid in Minnesota. From its humble origins in the basement of a mutual aid society in 1909 to the recent broad based community-lawyering programs for immigrants, the disabled, and those families who were hurt by predatory lending practices at the start of the 21st century, this is an "insiders" legal history concerning the values, people, and public private collaborative practices that comprise many components of equal justice in the state. More specifically, we detail the origins, development, and challenges of the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) - one of the most innovative legal aid programs in Minnesota and the United States. In this regard, the essay ties the historical on-going work of SMRLS to the bold ideas, new directions, and dramatic challenges being encountered by scholars and practitioners of equal justice work in Minnesota and beyond.
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