Chair Maring called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. and drew Committee members' attention to Attachment B (September 14, 2002) - minutes of the January 25, 2002, meeting.
It was moved by Barbara Voglewede, seconded by Pat Durick, and carried unanimously that the minutes be approved.
Legal Education Programs on Gender-related Issues
Chair Maring welcomed Christine Hogan, Executive Director of the State Bar Association, for a discussion regarding further collaboration with the association to ensure that issues concerning gender, diversity, and equity are regular components in legal education programs. She said her hope is that the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Commission, for example, would take the initiative in this area, rather than the Implementation Committee playing a continuing role in suggesting or developing programs. She noted that the Strategic Plan for Judicial Education developed by the Judicial Education Commission includes the goal of identifying bias or perceived bias and incorporating fairness and sensitivity training in judicial education programs as a means of eliminating bias. She suggested the Strategic Plan's goals in this area be shared with those developing programs for lawyers in the state.
Christine Hogan agreed that including bias-related components in legal education programs is an important objective and observed that programs in the past have addressed such issues. She wondered whether gender and bias issues would be better addressed solely through an ethics program or perhaps as a segment of a larger meeting, such as the annual meeting, which typically draws a higher attendance than other programs.
Justice Maring said the key is to include some treatment of bias issues in every program so that it becomes a constant element of education. She said bias issues are particularly relevant with respect to family law.
Christine Hogan noted that the CLE Commission has a role with respect to compliance with CLE requirements, but generally does not develop specific programs. Nevertheless, she said, the Commission does provide funding for certain programs, such as ethics, and the Commission could make it known that it supports incorporating bias-related components in the ethics programs.
Jim Fitzsimmons observed that bias-related criticisms of lawyer and judge behavior seemed to have declined over past years, but there appears to have been a recent resurgence, particularly with regard to the conduct of younger lawyers. He said that for any education program to have a chance at success, it must reach as large an audience as possible. He said the mandatory ethics program is likely a good vehicle for addressing gender and other bias-related issues because all lawyers must complete the program. As a result, he said, greater attendance is more likely.
Christine Hogan said designing an appropriate program would be aided by knowing specifically what kinds of conduct are at issue. Then, she said, the program could offer instruction concerning specific kinds of behavior that is unacceptable.
Justice Maring said one area that requires attention is the treatment of female attorneys in the trial environment, which has been addressed in Minnesota. Barbara Voglewede noted that a video had been developed in Minnesota that includes vignettes describing possible issues encountered by female attorneys in courtroom settings.
Christine Hogan said there are several education programs scheduled for coming months and she would contact presenters to discuss the possibility of including components addressing bias issues.
Barbara Voglewede wondered whether the association's legislative committee has considered reviewing proposed legislation for gender-related issues. Christine Hogan said the committee has not met yet, but will begin reviewing legislation as it is introduced during the 2003 legislative session. Barbara Voglewede emphasized the need to collaborate with the legislative committee in watching for legislation that touches on gender-related matters.
Bar Membership Survey - Law Firm Self-Audit Project
Chair Maring then updated the Committee on recent activity concerning the impending bar membership survey. She said she and Pat Durick had suggested inclusion of several questions related to gender issues. She said the survey now includes several questions concerning gender equity and female practitioners. She recalled the Committee's previous conclusion to suggest that a law firm self-audit project be undertaken and she asked whether the association's Board of Governors might be inclined to wait for the survey results before considering whether the self-audit project should be pursued.
Barbara Voglewede asked whether there were any questions on the survey directed at acquiring simple, empirical data such as the number of women partnerships, the length of the partnership track for women attorneys, and salary breakdowns. Justice Maring said the survey will include questions covering those subjects. In response, Barbara Voglewede said the survey will then likely capture a good amount of the information that would be addressed in a law firm self-audit. She said if the question is whether to proceed with a self-audit program before or after the survey is conducted, she would suggest waiting until the survey responses are received and analyzed.
Justice Maring agreed and said one objective of a self-audit process is to force firms to review their internal practices. She said a survey alone will not accomplish that end, but may provide useful information. She said the Board of Governors could perhaps be informed that the self-audit program is a worthy ultimate goal, but with the acknowledgment that the survey will be important in providing useful baseline data.
In response to a question from Jim Fitzsimmons, Christine Hogan said the goal is to have the survey information reviewed and analyzed shortly after the 1st of the new year.
With respect to the relationship between the survey and a possible self-audit program, Barbara Voglewede said she is apprehensive about an audit being done in response to negative survey results, rather than considering the self-audit as a method of aiding in the improvement of law firm processes. Pat Durick agreed that the self-audit is intended to be primarily an educational process and would not be dependent on anything revealed in the survey. He suggested discussions at the upcoming Board of Governors' meeting should serve to set the stage for the broader aims of a self-audit program.
After further discussion, Committee members agreed Chair Maring should meet with the Board of Governors to discuss the membership survey and underscore the worth of a self-audit program.
STOP Grant - Domestic Violence Benchbook
At the request of Chair Maring, staff provided an update on the STOP Grant application for funds to develop a domestic violence benchbook. He said the grant funding was awarded and efforts are underway to find someone willing to begin drafting work on the benchbook.
Justice Maring said she had contacted Judge Geiger, who regularly revises the Trial Court Benchbook, and invited him to participate in developing the domestic violence benchbook. She said he declined the invitation but supports the project. She said he also emphasized the advantages of having the benchbook separate from the larger trial court benchbook.
Judge Kleven noted that the Northeast Central judicial district had received STOP grant funding to establish a coordinator position for a family court process. She said there may be useful information from that project that could be used in the benchbook.
Justice Maring said that the Council on Abused Women's Services had received a grant under the federal Violence Against Women Act to address a variety of domestic violence and sexual assault issues, including data collection and analysis, training for crisis intervention, and expanding methods of working with parole and probation. She said the Department of Human Services, interestingly enough, had also received a sizeable grant under the supervised visitation and safe exchange grant program. The grant, she said, would fund a two year program to increase supervised visitation and exchange options for families with a history of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
Barbara Voglewede informed the Committee that grant funding for the legal aid clinic at the Law School is not being renewed and other grants are expiring. As a result, she said, the future of the clinic is uncertain. She will keep the Committee advised of the clinic's status.
Action Plan - Continued Review
Committee members next continued their review of "Key Components to Achieve & Secure Gender Fairness in the Courts" - as set out in the publication Gender Fairness in the Courts: Action in the New Millennium.
Chair Maring drew attention to Item 8 regarding mechanisms for handling formal and informal complaints of gender bias. She said an informal complaint process has been established under Administrative Rule 44 and Judge Hagerty, Chair of the Informal Complaint Panel, had recently submitted her first report concerning panel activities. The report is attached as an Appendix. She asked whether there were any suggestions regarding how to increase awareness of the process. She said her sense is that despite all that the panel and Judge Hagerty have done, many within the judiciary are not aware the process exists. She said it is particularly important that court employees know of the process.
Barbara Voglewede agreed it is important that information about the process be widely distributed to employees, including new employees, perhaps during the orientation process.
Jim Fitzsimmons commended Judge Hagerty for her handling of the one complaint in which possible disclosure of the complainant's identity was an issue.
Barbara Voglewede said her concern, demonstrated by the example, is that if the complaint includes specific information that might identify the complainant, then the laudable goal of protecting the complainant's identity might short-circuit information about the complained-of conduct ever reaching the person who needs it. She suggested the process should include some measure that could be taken by the panel to ensure some level of information is provided to the person who is the subject of the complaint.
Justice Maring agreed and said there is a concern that in a small state and judicial system scenarios like the one described in Judge Hagerty's report will occur too often, thereby frustrating the goal of the process. She suggested inviting Judge Hagerty's comments concerning ways of communicating the nature of the problem without so much detail that there is a risk of disclosing the complainant's identity.
With respect to Item 9 regarding gender fairness issues in the judicial nomination, election, performance evaluation, or discipline processes, Justice Maring explained that the Judiciary Standards Committee had submitted a proposed administrative rule establishing a judicial improvement program. She said the rule was recently approved by the Supreme Court, with an effective date of March 1, 2003. She said the program involves surveys distributed to lawyers and court personnel within two years after a judge is elected. The surveys, she said, ask for comments concerning various aspects of the judge's conduct. She wondered whether a question should be included in the surveys concerning whether the judge has exhibited any form of bias. A similar question, she said, is included in the questionnaire distributed to jurors following a trial.
After discussion, Committee members agreed Chair Maring should submit a letter to the Chair of the Judiciary Standards Committee suggesting inclusion of a bias-related question in the surveys.
With respect to Item 10 concerning gender fairness in court employment, Committee members agreed the handbook provided to court employees should be reviewed.
With respect to Item 11 regarding data collection necessary to monitor gender bias in the courts, Committee members agreed it would be useful to review the kinds of data currently collected in areas where bias may be an issue, such as domestic violence protection orders.
Item 12 addresses collaboration with other groups and Justice Maring said there has been positive cooperation and interaction with other groups such as domestic violence advocacy groups, the bar association, the law school, and other court committees. Committee members agreed that collaborative efforts have not been a source of concern.
With respect to Item 13 regarding distribution of the findings and initiatives, Justice Maring suggested the possibility of an article for the Gavel, the association's quarterly publication.
Barbara Voglewede suggested involving more law students in tracking statistics or preparing law review articles. She noted that she and Tara Muhlhauser had been working on ways of publicizing domestic violence statistics because it is important to increase awareness about the level of domestic violence in the state.
Justice Maring wondered whether it is currently possible to identify any correlation between drug abuse and domestic violence. She said the judicial system is likely not collecting that kind of data, but there may be information concerning those involved in drug courts and whether they have committed or been victims of domestic violence.
With respect to Item 14 concerning evaluations to assess the progress of implementation efforts, Justice Maring recalled the Committee's earlier conclusion that such efforts should be part of a long-term plan, rather than a short-term objective.
With respect to Item 15 regarding the possible impact of court planning and reform efforts on gender fairness concerns, Justice Maring noted that the Judicial Planning Committee has submitted several recommendations concerning administrative reorganization of the judicial system. She suggested any implementation of the recommendations should be monitored in light of any gender fairness concerns.
Chair Maring then drew Committee members' attention to the discussion in the Millennium publication of new court initiatives with which implementation committee's should be working (ppg 82-83).
Barbara Voglewede noted the item concerning qualifications and codes of conduct of interpreters and noted that gender-related, as well as cultural, issues have arisen with respect to interpreter services. Jim Fitzsimmons said that, at a minimum, there is a need for a clearinghouse for information concerning the availability of interpreter services.
Following further discussion, Committee members agreed Chair Maring should submit a letter to the Chief Justice suggesting a study by one of the Court's advisory committees of access to qualified interpreters, particularly in light of gender and culture-related issues that may affect accurate interpretation.
Jim Fitzsimmons said another concern is the availability and qualifications of guardians ad litem, many of whom are involved in domestic relations proceedings. Justice Maring noted that training requirements for guardians ad litem are currently addressed by court rule, but she agreed that the availability of adequate training is critical.
Chair Maring asked that Committee members forward any issues that may be of concern or interest to the Committee.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.
_____________________________Jim Ganje, Staff