The Legal Rights Center Announces New Executive Leadership Team, Community Initiatives in Minneapolis
The Legal Rights Center (LRC), a leading community-driven nonprofit law firm, today announced its new executive leadership team and legal rights initiatives in Minneapolis in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.
The LRC provides community-oriented and client centered criminal defense representation, youth restorative justice, and advocacy and leadership in the fight to reform the criminal justice system.
In partnership with community organizations and activists, LRC has been at the forefront of providing legal support for protestors and those doing jail support, direct representation, and know your rights education. Additionally, LRC is providing critical legal expertise to support community accountability for the prosecution of former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane.
The LRC Board of Directors has appointed Sarah Davis as Executive Director; Andrew Gordon as Deputy Director for Community Legal Services; and Lori Saroya as Deputy Director of Advancement and Operations. This executive team has dedicated their respective careers to working alongside diverse communities and brings with it many years of experience providing high-quality advocacy for adults and youth charged with crimes in Hennepin County, as well as youth restorative justice.
SEE: Executive leadership team bios
Sarah Davis: https://www.legalrightscenter.org/sarah-davis.html
Andrew Gordon: https://www.legalrightscenter.org/andrew-gordon.html
Lori Saroya: https://www.legalrightscenter.org/lori-saroya.html
“I am deeply honored by the trust of our communities as I step into my new role, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Andrew, Lori, and all of our staff to bring the community’s bold and compelling vision for the future of the Legal Rights Center to life. At this critical moment in history, the Legal Rights Center is bringing vital legal and restorative justice expertise to our community’s fight for racial equity and system reform. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we will continue our push towards a future that is truly just.” said LRC Executive Director Sarah Davis.
Through the coordinated efforts from members of Black and American Indian activist communities, the LRC was founded as an alternative to the Public Defender’s Office in order to provide high quality representation for people who couldn’t obtain those services elsewhere. More specifically, Clyde Bellecourt from the American Indian Movement (AIM), Syl Davis - Northside Black community activist and executive director of The Way, and labor lawyer/human rights activist Doug Hall, worked together to found a law firm that was by and for the people. The LRC marks its 50th anniversary this year with a renewed vision and urgent drive to meet the increased need for community legal services.
The Legal Rights Center is a 50-year-old community-driven nonprofit law firm. Our mission is to work with our communities to seek justice and promote racial equity for those to whom it has been historically denied. We do this through criminal defense, restorative justice, advocacy, and community education.
The Legal Rights Center has employees and contributors from a variety of different backgrounds, and we invite all our staff and volunteers to contribute to conversations on the topics of racial justice, the criminal justice system, and many more. Omi Strait, summer communications assistant for the LRC, and M. Graciela Gonzalez, volunteer attorney, contributed to this post.
The Justice System in Minnesota is anything but “just” when it comes to punishing people for the smallest of offenses codified in an overbroad Criminal Code and city ordinances. For example, walking your dog on a leash, but without the dog tag required by your city, may result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Indeed, many city codes include a provision stating that it is a misdemeanor offense to violate any provision of the city’s Code of Ordinances.
Of course, the piling of monetary obligations on the working poor is not restricted to a fine and surcharges. There are also Probation fees, the cost of evaluations, programming required by Probation, restitution, etc.
Most low-level offenses settle through plea bargaining and require a defendant to pay a fine. Often, judges allow a defendant to pay the fine with free work for the county, in the form of Sentence to Service, or some other form of community service, or with jail credit for time served; or the fine or part of it can be stayed with conditions. However, state law imposes a mandatory surcharge to every fine ($75 in Hennepin County), and the judges cannot stay, waive or allow an alternative form of payment for the surcharge. More onerous for our clients, nonpayment of a fine or its surcharge often results in suspension of their driving privileges. The result is no driver's license ('DL'), no job, as most people need to drive to their jobs. The state has other options to collect an unpaid fine (intercept tax refunds, pursue a civil action, etc.) The state does not need to deprive someone of his or her driving license to collect an unpaid fine. The following piece highlights the current efforts to redress some of these injustices.
This week at the LRC....
We condemn the shooting of Jacob Blake, and we hope for his full recovery
We assisted protestors in downtown Minneapolis
LRC volunteer attorneys and Minneapolis Youth Congress provided a Know Your Rights training on Thursday at Elliot Park. If you’re interested in accessing this free community legal education, please reach out to Chelsea Schmitz-Gillam for more information and to get a workshop scheduled for you and your community! email@example.com
This week on our social media...
"A Brief Overview (and Critique) of Carceral Feminism as a Response to Sexual Violence"
Written by the LRC's summer communications assistant
As always, please follow us on Twitter (@LegalRightsCtr), Facebook, and Instagram (@mplslegalrightscenter) to stay up to date on the news we share and work we do.
The Legal Rights Center has employees and contributors from a variety of different backgrounds, and we invite all our staff and volunteers to contribute to conversations on the topics of racial justice, the criminal justice system, and many more. This is one such piece from Omi Strait, the summer communications assistant for the LRC.
One of the most common responses I’ve heard to the proposition of abolishing or defunding police and prisons is “What about sexual assault? What is going to happen to the rapists? You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to take away protection for those most vulnerable. You’re not a feminist.” My first reaction to this response is that it assumes that accountability for sexual violence is only legitimate through punitive responses, and therefore that abolition and gender justice are oppositional. However, my understanding of feminism and abolition is that they are both supposed to be liberatory. So how can feminism rely on institutions like the prison industrial complex (PIC), which is incredibly harmful and racist, to fulfill its goals? How did mainstream feminism become synonymous with, and lend legitimacy to, carceral responses to sexual violence?
On Sunday, 29 year old Jacob Blake was shot in the back 7 times, in front of his children, by Kenosha police officers. In a historic summer centered on affirming that Black Lives Matter, once again the police have shown an absolute disregard for Black life. There is no excuse for the officers’ actions. Not complying with the police does not justify shooting an individual in the back, and the violent behavior of these officers stands in stark contrast to the peaceful actions of Jacob Blake, who was simply trying to de-escalate a fight.
Police violence against Black people is not new. Just like in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and so many others, there will be calls to charge and fire the officers involved in the violence against Blake. As this happens, do not allow the police to warp the narrative around this shooting. Do not allow the police or anyone else to justify this violence or diminish this harm by emphasizing any current or past allegations of wrongdoing.
We must use this time to fundamentally change the systems that allow officers to go without accountability for their actions - e.g., police indemnity, the process of charging & prosecuting officers for their crimes, and the actions (or inaction) of those who can influence what policing looks like. Do not forget about those, like Breonna Taylor, whose killers have not yet been held accountable.
We at the Legal Rights Center condemn this and all other acts of police brutality, and will continue to seek widespread change in the criminal legal system. We hope for Jacob Blake’s recovery as he fights for his life, and we stand with him, his family and the community in calling for justice. To support protestors in Kenosha, please consider donating to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund here: https://supportwomenshealth.salsalabs.org/mkefreedomfund/index.html
The Legal Rights Center
1611 Park Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
P: 612-337-0030 F: 612-337-0797
The Legal Rights Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit financially supported by: the State of Minnesota, foundations, local law firms, corporations and individuals. Clients are never charged for our services.