Students from Minneapolis Public Schools will spend a half-day at William Mitchell College of Law on Friday, May 16, to learn about the federal court system from prominent members of the Twin Cities legal community. The event is part of the “Open Doors to Federal Courts” program, a program sponsored by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota to build understanding of the federal courts.
The focus of this year’s event will be on Dred Scott v. Sanford, a landmark case from 1857 known as the Dred Scott Decision, where the enslaved Scott sued for his freedom and the freedom of his family. Though Scott was not successful in the case, it set changes in motion for the anti-slavery movement and contributed to the eruption of the American Civil War in 1861.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about a seminal case in our country’s history,” said James Burroughs, executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity for the Minneapolis school district. “This Supreme Court case changed the course of our country’s history and students will get a deeper understanding about the decision and its outcomes.”
Leading up to the event, students from Minneapolis middle schools and high schools have been studying the Dred Scott Decision with Charlie Cree, who worked as a training specialist for the U.S. District Court, as well as members of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association and Urban Debate Program.
On Friday, students will gather on William Mitchell’s campus to watch a historical reenactment of the lives of Dred and Harriet Scott by Mixed Blood Theatre, and to engage with community leaders on the issues surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Students will hear from Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis, Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Judge Kevin G. Ross of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Judge Lyonel Norris of the Hennepin County District Court, Judge Edward Wilson of the Ramsey County District Court and others, and they will have the opportunity to discuss career paths in judicial law.
The program will also include a presentation by Lynne Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott, who will discuss the legacy of courage and freedom left by her great-great grandparents.
“This is the fifteenth year that the District of Minnesota has sponsored the Open Doors program,” said Judge Donovan W. Frank. “It is especially significant that we are working with the Minneapolis Public School District this year, the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”
Judge Frank provides leadership for the national program in Minnesota, which aims to enhance public knowledge and understanding of the federal court system.
“Our goal is to encourage inner city students to pursue careers in the justice system,” said Judge Frank. “In addition, we aim to remind the diverse student body of the Minneapolis public school system of the nation’s commitment to equal justice and to provide hope to all students that they will receive the promise of the Constitution and equal justice under law.”