Representative MattersPrint PDF
Briggs and Morgan has a long history of providing pro bono legal services to low-income individuals in Minnesota in a wide variety of legal areas, ranging from landlord-tenant issues to asylum cases to obtaining orders for protection to prevent domestic violence. Over the past five years, Briggs also has been at the forefront of assisting Minnesota Courts in meeting the ever increasing burdens placed on the judicial system. These efforts include:
- Federal Bar Association Pro Se Project. Briggs is a charter member and frequent participant in FBA Pro Se projects, an initiative of the Federal District of Minnesota to obtain attorneys to represent pro se litigants in federal court cases in which the Court believes that an attorney would enhance access to justice for the parties. Briggs has participated in this program since it was initiated, handling well over ten cases. Briggs attorneys Michael Wilhelm and Mark Schroeder were awarded “Distinguished Pro Bono Service” awards by Chief Judge Michael Davis for their work on one of these cases. In the FBA Project 2013 Year End Report, Briggs was praised for its “consistent willingness to place challenging Pro Se Project cases within the firm” and praised attorney Scott Flaherty for doing “an outstanding job” in taking the court’s first referral to the pilot Early Settlement Conference Program, in which he “right off the bat, demonstrated the potential success” of that program.
- Hennepin County Pro Bono Mediations. Briggs is one of five law firms that mediates in forma pauperis cases from Hennepin County District Court, and appeals involving indigent litigations from Conciliation Court. Each mediation takes about three hours and Briggs' attorneys have mediated well over 80 cases thus far. Each participating attorney is certified as a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral.
- Ramsey County Mental Health Court. The Ramsey County Mental Health Court, presided over by Judges William Leary, John Guthmann and Teresa Warner, is a diversionary court for recidivists with diagnosed mental illness. The goal of the program is to make sure participants get the mental health services they need to successfully function in society. Results of the program have been impressive: graduates have spent less time in jail and are less likely to commit new crimes than comparison populations. The court meets twice a month and has approximately 25 participants. Briggs attorneys represent these participants at court hearings—each taking a three-month rotating shift. Briggs attorneys Michael Wilhelm, Knapp Fitzsimmons and Alan Maclin received the 2013 Minnesota Justice Foundation Outstanding Service Award – Private Practice Attorneys Award for their service with this Court.
- Hennepin County Public Defender Appellate Program. Briggs Shareholder Jon Schmidt developed a program with the Minnesota State Bar Association in which private attorneys take over cases for appeal tried by the Public Defender’s Office. Matt Johnson, chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, said: “The impact on courts with a project like this is significant. The public defenders are responsible for a majority of the direct appeals in criminal convictions, and they are an important part of the judicial system, When that office is running smoothly, it benefits the courts because it helps us process our cases more quickly and efficiently.” Since its inception in 2012, 15 Briggs attorneys, including Claire Joseph, have handled more than 30 appeals, complete with oral arguments at the Minnesota Court of Appeals through this program. Two cases handled by Briggs attorneys have gone to the Minnesota State Supreme Court. A number of experienced Briggs appellate attorneys, including former Associate Supreme Court Justice Sam Hanson, provide supervision and guidance on these cases. In 2013, Jon Schmidt received the Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award, in part, for his work on this project.
Briggs’ commitment to providing legal services to low-income individuals, nonprofit and community organizations, and public interest causes stems from the firm’s inception. Our diverse provision of pro bono services aims to meet what we consider to be our highest professional obligation and we strongly encourage our attorneys to contribute at least 50 hours of pro bono services each year. Last year, 75% of Briggs and Morgan attorneys volunteered 6,000 hours of their time to various agencies and programs which serve the disadvantaged.