Last night we attended what was promoted as a "community listening session" in Eagan that was meant to engender discussion about racial fairness and how residents of Minnesota's First Judicial District perceive the justice system where they live.
Despite aggressive efforts by the meeting organizers to get the word out, only one of the 25 or so people in attendance was a member of the community who didn't have a tie to law enforcement, the courts, or the corrections system. Unfortunately, as those in attendance acknowledged, coming to such a meeting is a tall order for a lot of the people for whom it would be the most relevant: the growing numbers of minority and working-class residents of Dakota County. On a rainy Tuesday evening, many of those folks are likely to be either working, watching their kids, or reluctant to leave the comfort of home after a long day.
The meeting's organizers (The First Judicial District Equal Justice Committee and the Minnesota Judicial Branch Racial Fairness Committee) are all ears when it comes to hearing from members of the community about how relationships between citizens and the courts can improve. But the people need to speak out on those issues, whether that means getting on the phone to the court office or making times for meetings such as this one. The judicial system has shown its willingness to meet the people it serves halfway.
Minnesota Lawyer will run a more extensive article in its next issue about some of the issues and trends discussed at the meeting.