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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Friends to the Court

Back in February, our most recent past president, Brent Routman, discussed a concept that was aptly named the “AMICUS Society.”  The concept was, from my understanding, the brainchild of Chief Justice Gildea and past president Lew Remele and envisioned an approach whereby attorneys, as a profession, can become true “friends to the court.” The underlying concept is that we can be friends to the court by supporting the justice system through two separate but related tiers of effort.

Grass Roots Efforts

To start with, the AMICUS Society is developing a grass roots lobbying effort so as to better educate and inform our legislature about the necessity for and importance of the justice system. It also teaches that without significant efforts to preserve our justice system, it will be only a matter of time before Minnesota will face the issues of a state without a strong, fair, and impartial justice system.  A number of specifically selected volunteers will be asked to do some local lobbying, targeting specific legislators who understand the importance of a strong and solid justice system.  It will be through this specific grass roots lobbying effort that the AMICUS Society’s interests and concerns will be communicated directly with legislators.

The second focus of the AMICUS Society will be a grass roots education effort in our communities.  This will start with a coordinated effort to accurately explain to the movers and shakers in our communities the value of the third branch of government. It may also include efforts to reeducate voters about the importance of the rule of law and how unique and fortunate our society is to currently have a solid and stable justice system. A key message for all will be to point out that without a concentrated effort on the part of the legislature, our justice system could be in jeopardy.  By communicating this message in our local communities, we then have a number of supporters who can influence their representatives and senators.

Action Needed

How often do we hear about a backed up court calendar?  How often do we hear complaints on the length of time it takes to get a criminal matter resolved, and how much longer it takes to get a hearing date on a civil matter? I am not saying that we do not have a solid justice system, but our system could be more solid and we in the legal profession need to take steps to reinforce the judicial system and give it the solidity it needs. If we are already hearing complaints, then think of the issues that will arise if we cannot ensure that our justice system grows in strength and stability.

Individuals will be less likely to have timely access to the system where they can redress disputes. Not only will individuals suffer, but so too will businesses, as they also will not have timely access to a system to resolve their disputes. Not having a strong and vibrant justice system will affect the economy and it can affect our entire society.

It is unfortunate that our judicial system faces these problems, but with the AMICUS Society the Minnesota State Bar Association can preemptively address these issues. The AMICUS Society is no longer a concept but an operating program which the Bar Association is fully supporting.  On August 16 Chief Justice Gildea hosted a reception for all of the founding members of the AMICUS Society.  The reception was well-attended by many supporters of the program, including attorneys, judges, and other law-related professionals.  Chief Justice Gildea and other speakers described for those in attendance the various ways in which they can play an important role in this program and the importance of the program to the judicial system. If you’re still reading and haven’t already reached this conclusion, you too can play a vital role in the AMICUS Society.

What to Do

First, if you have not signed up for 1000 Supporters, please do.  It’s fast, easy, and painless; simply go to 1000supporters.org.  All you need to sign up is your name, email address, and your legislative districts. If you have not memorized these, there is an application at the website that will give you that information.  Next, contact Janny Grice at the Bar Association, jgrice@mnbar.org, and ask to have your name included as a member of the Society.  That’s all you need to do to become part of this exciting opportunity.

In the near future, all involved will receive some general talking points and some basic information to relay to your community leaders.  All of the underlying information will be supplied to all volunteers.  There is no financial obligation; all we ask is that you agree to donate five hours of your time annually. You, as a volunteer, will determine how that time is used.

I would like to be considered a friend to the court.  I can be considered a friend to the court by volunteering to discuss with leaders in my community the importance of the rule of law and the importance of supporting an effective and solid justice system at the grass roots level.  You too can be a “friend to the court.” Volunteer and join the AMICUS Society today.

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Robert F. Enger

Bob was president of the Minnesota State Bar Association from 2012-2013. A son of northern Minnesota, he serves as Supervising Attorney for Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, based in Bemidji, and is the first legal services attorney to serve as MSBA President.