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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Report from Washington, D.C.: MSBA lobbies for Legal Aid

Minnesota Lawyer associate editor Barbara Jones, reporting from our nation’s capital, said that the Minnesota State Bar Association delegation participating in the American Bar Association’s Lobby Day had a productive initial round of meetings with Minnesota members of Congress and their representatives.

The MSBA group includes MSBA president Brian Melendez, Minneapolis attorney Sue Holden (past president of the MSBA), Hennepin County District Court Judge Cara Lee Neville, St. Cloud attorney Michael Ford (MSBA president-elect), MSBA staff member Nancy Mischel and Jerry Lane of Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance.

A big part of the lobbying activity has been in support of more federal money for Legal Aid. Nationally, the ABA has called upon Congress to raise Legal Aid funding by $121 million to a total of $471 million. Barbara reports that Minnesota Congress members have so far been generally been very supportive of Legal Aid in the delegation’s meetings with them.

The delegation yesterday met with Congressmen Keith Ellison and Tim Walz. It also met with representatives from the offices of Senator Norm Coleman and Congressman Jim Ramstad. (The ABA recognized Ramstad for his contributions to the justice system at an event last night.)

Barb reports that Walz told the group that equal access to justice is of “paramount concern," and said he will do whatever needs to be done to get legislation through that helps to ensure it.

An interesting side note: Barb reports that Melendez is only meeting with the DFL members of the Minnesota delegation. Melendez, of course, in addition to being MSBA president, is chair of the state’s DFL Party.

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