Amid Cuts to Minn. Courts, Free Legal Help Saturday

Updated: 08/20/2013 7:09 AM By: Mark Albert

Amid "devastating" budget cuts to "overwhelmed" federal courts across the country, including in Minnesota, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is holding a free legal clinic Saturday to dispense much-needed advice to those who can least afford it.

"We hope that everyone that needs help will come," said Ellen Longfellow, a civil rights attorney at CAIR and the organizer of this year's second-annual clinic.

The event Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be held in the parking lot of the Masjid An Nur mosque at 1729 North Lyndale Ave in Minneapolis. The clinic is part of the larger, nationwide "Day of Dignity" events; the Minneapolis one will offer medical aid, clothing, haircuts, food, the legal clinic, and more.

The clinic will offer free advice on legal issues such as housing, family law, civil and human rights, immigration, wills and trusts, criminal, among other areas.

CAIR is also asking for more attorneys to volunteer to help staff the clinic.

"If people don't have access to the court system or other administrative remedies," explained Longfellow in an interview Monday, "they're going to give up and it's going to condone the type of actions that are going on, because people will not be afraid that anyone's going to hold them accountable."

The clinic will be held just days after the latest warning from Minnesota's top federal judge that severe federal budget cuts, known as the sequester, are negatively impacting justice.

"If I look angry, I am," Davis told reporters Friday when he warned that court layoffs could be imminent if the next round of sequester cuts take effect Oct. 1 as planned, slowing civil and bankruptcy cases, as well as corporate disputes.

"For the third branch of the government, which is such a small part of the budget, when you do across-the-board cuts, it is devastating," Davis said.