The University of St. Thomas Law Journal invites the community to attend our fall symposium. The event will be held online via Zoom.
George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, sparking global protests and civil unrest. In partnership with the University of St. Thomas Racial Justice Initiative and Minneapolis NAACP, the University of St. Thomas Law Journal will convene a symposium to examine how lawmakers and the legal profession have responded – and should respond – to demands for change in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death. Through dialogue among legislators, academics, and legal practitioners, the symposium will facilitate discussion about systemic racism and our roles as advocates for equal justice, with forward-looking initiatives.
Speakers and panelists included:
HON. MARK W. BENNETT (RET. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE)
Director, Institute for Justice Reform & Innovation, Drake University Law School
Judge Mark W. Bennett is Director of the Institute for Justice Reform & Innovation at Drake University. His areas of expertise include Federal Civil and Criminal Litigation, Implicit Bias, Federal Sentencing, Trial Advocacy, and Justice Reforms and Innovation. He received a JD from Drake University Law School. He is a retired U.S. District Judge and a Law Instructor at Drake Law School, University of Iowa College of Law, Nebraska College of Law, University of Hawaii William S. Richardson College of Law, Assistant Professor of Law Enforcement Administration, Western Illinois University and Visiting Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Criminal Justice Program, University of South Dakota. His private law practice specializes in employment law and discrimination, First Amendment litigation, civil rights and civil liberties litigation, federal criminal defense, and representation of licensed professionals in ethics issues).
Judge Bennett has presented at more than 500 CLE programs in 38 states and several foreign countries, and trained more than 2,500 state and federal judges on implicit bias across the country. His published work include Looking Criminal and the Presumption of Dangerousness: Afrocentric Facial Features, Skin Tone, and Criminal Justice, 51 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 745 (2018) and Judging Implicit Bias: A National Empirical Study of Judicial Stereotypes Beyond Black and White, 69 Fla. L. Rev. 63 (2017).
Partner, CEO and Chairman of Blackwell Burke P.A.
Jerry W. Blackwell is the founding partner, CEO, and chairman of Blackwell Burke P.A. He earned his J.D. in 1987 from the University of North Carolina School of Law. He is an experienced trial lawyer, and is a frequent presenter on winning trial strategies and how to communicated complicated legal, scientific, and business issues to jurors. He is a founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. He was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to serve as an at-large member of the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Appointments in 2011. He served two terms. He has received numerous awards and honors, including Minnesota Attorney of the Year.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS
Professor, Harvard Kennedy School; Director, William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice
Cornell William Brooks is Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations and Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also Director of The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the School’s Center for Public Leadership, and Visiting Professor of the Practice of Prophetic Religion and Public Leadership at Harvard Divinity School. Brooks is the former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights attorney, and an ordained minister.
Brooks was most recently visiting professor of social ethics, law, and justice movements at Boston University’s School of Law and School of Theology. He was a visiting fellow and director of the Campaign and Advocacy Program at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics in 2017. Brooks served as the 18th president of the NAACP from 2014 to 2017. Under his leadership, the NAACP secured 12 significant legal victories, including laying the groundwork for the first statewide legal challenge to prison-based gerrymandering. He also reinvigorated the activist social justice heritage of the NAACP, dramatically increasing membership, particularly online and among millennials. Among the many demonstrations from Ferguson to Flint during his tenure, he conceived and led “America’s Journey for Justice” march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C., over 40 days and 1000 miles.
Prior to leading the NAACP, Brooks was president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where he led the passage of pioneering criminal justice reform and housing legislation, six bills in less than five years. He also served as senior counsel and acting director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities at the Federal Communications Commission, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, and a trial attorney at both the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the U.S. Department of Justice. Brooks served as judicial clerk for the Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Brooks holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal and member of the Yale Law and Policy Review, and a Master of Divinity from Boston University’s School of Theology, where he was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. He also holds a B.A. from Jackson State University. He is a fourth-generation ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Cynthia Conti-Cook is a tech fellow, working with the Ford Foundation’s Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice team to help build grantees’ capacity to respond to the expanding use of surveillance technologies against immigrant communities, as well as the potential use of technology to criminalize people who seek or aid abortions. Cynthia’s work at Ford also includes supporting the mass incarceration team’s efforts to help the field leverage technology to advance police accountability, and to help the team better understand and respond to algorithmic bias in bail, sentencing, and parole considerations.
As a civil rights litigator and public defender, most recently at the Legal Aid Society of New York, Cynthia led class and individual civil rights federal and state actions, bringing impact litigation on a range of policy matters. She also pioneered a first-of-its-kind public database (CAPstat) that tracks misconduct by New York City police officers, providing a critical means of transparency to an issue that has historically been shrouded in secrecy. Her work on CAPstat has been featured in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and El Diario, and is being replicated by other public defender offices across the country.
Cynthia served as a 2018-19 Data & Society fellow, working on a variety of topics related to surveillance and the intersection of technology and social justice.
Partner, Greene Espel PLLP
Sybil Dunlop earned her J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School. She is now an Attorney at Greene Espel. She is a passionate advocate with first-chair trial and arbitration experience. She represents Fortune 100 companies as they navigate disputes with contractors, clients, and business partners, including post-transaction disputes involving net working capital or post-closing adjustments. She also represents clients before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. In addition to her litigation practice, She is a national leader on Diversity & Inclusion issues. She helped found Greene Espel’s Diversity & Inclusion practice, which helps workplaces design and implement Diversity & Inclusion programs. Minnesota Lawyer selected her as one of its Diversity & Inclusion Honorees in 2018, and the Hennepin County Bar Association awarded her its Excellence Award for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in 2019. She serves on the Infinity Project board, an organization dedicated to increasing the gender diversity of the state and federal bench.
COREY L. GORDON
Partner, Blackwell Burke P.A.
Corey L. Gordon is an experienced trial lawyer whose practice includes products liability defense, class action defense, toxic and environmental torts litigation, commercial litigation, appeals, and other complex litigation. Mr. Gordon is a frequent speaker at national CLE programs. His recent presentations have addressed class action defense, food flavorings litigation, junk science, and successful approaches to Daubert motions and jury trials.
Gordon has served on the Circus Juventas Board of Directors, on which he served as chairman, the Bet Shalom Congregation Board of Trustees, on which he served as President, and the boards of directors of Jewish Family and Children’s Service, the Minnesota Humane Society, the Jewish Vocational Service, the Minnesota Folk Festival, the Minneapolis Federation for Jewish Service, and the Ethnic Dance Theatre. He has also served on the Advisory Boards for Torah Academy and RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Previously, Mr. Gordon was a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P. and a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Minnesota.
FR. DANIEL GRIFFITH
Wenger Family Faculty Fellow and Chaplain of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Fr. Daniel Griffith was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2002. He is a 1997 graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, and serves as the inaugural Wenger Family Faculty Fellow of Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Fr. Griffith teaches courses in Catholic Social Teaching and Law, Jurisprudence, and with Professor Shea, a new course in Restorative Justice. Fr. Griffith also serves as Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis. In addition to his other assignments, Fr. Griffith was recently appointed Archdiocesan Liaison for Restorative Justice and Healing.
REP. LESLIE HEROD
State House of Representatives, 8th District, Colorado
Representative Leslie Herod was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the Colorado General Assembly. Since then, she has passed 68 bills, addressing criminal justice reform, mental health, addiction, youth homelessness, and civil rights protections. Some of her signature work includes: ending cash bail for minor offenses; de-felonizing drug possession; giving every Colorado newborn a $100 college kickstarter account; providing free menstrual hygiene products to inmates in Colorado’s prisons and jails, and; passing a comprehensive police accountability bill following the highly public murder of George Floyd, and the nationwide movement that followed. In addition to winning reelection in 2018, Herod championed a ballot initiative - Caring for Denver - that raises $35 million annually for mental health and substance abuse treatment and services for children and adults. Herod is the Chair of the House Finance Committee, Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Chair of the Committee on Legal Services, and the Chair of the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus.
Professor Emerita, Touro Law Center
Eileen Kaufman is Professor Emerita at Touro Law School, having served as Touro’s Vice Dean from 1996-2000. Professor Kaufman served as Co-President of the Society of American Law Teachers, Reporter for the NY Pattern Jury Instructions Committee, chairperson of the Bar Admission and Lawyer Performance Committee of the American Association of Law Schools, co-chair of the Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar of the New York State Bar Association, and currently serves as a member of the New York State Bar Association Task Force on the New York Bar Exam and on the Board of Directors of the Tibet Justice Center. Professor Kaufman has published primarily in the areas of civil rights, women's rights and human rights. Professor Kaufman is the recipient of the 2004 Ruth G. Schapiro Award of the New York State Bar Association. She has also repeatedly received Touro Law Center's Professor of the Year Award and Touro’s Public Interest Award.
REP. RENA MORAN
State House of Representatives, District 65A, Minnesota
Representative Rena Moran is the Chair of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives. In 2010, Rep. Rena Moran became the first African American to represent District 65A. She represent the St. Paul communities of Rondo, Frogtown, Summit-University, Thomas-Dale, Midway, a portion of the North End and Cathedral Hill.
As a legislator, she has focused on protecting children in the child welfare system, strengthening schools, reducing educational disparities, and fighting for affordable housing, economic opportunity for all, and women’s rights.
Rep. Moran formerly served as House Deputy Minority Leader and is the current Chair of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus and the United Black Legislative Caucus. She holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Southern Illinois University and was recently the Director of Prevention Initiatives and Parent Leadership at Prevent Child Abuse MN dba Minnesota Communities Caring for Children. Rep. Moran is a graduate of the Bush Foundation Fellowship, Humphrey Policy Fellowship, and Henry Toll Fellowship.
On a national level, Moran serves as Executive Secretary of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), Midwest Region Coordinator for the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL), and as the Minnesota State Director for both the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WILL) and the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL). She is a proud mother of seven and grandmother of eight.
President, Minneapolis NAACP
Leslie Redmond is a public speaker, civil rights advocate, and strategic problem solver. Leslie is a Washington DC Native. At the then age of 25, she became the youngest President of Minneapolis NAACP. She is also the founder of the Don’t Complain, Activate campaign
Leslie stood on the front lines after the unjust killings of Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Justine Damond, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. She was one of the “Louisville 87” that was arrested for demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. Leslie also gave a ground-breaking speech during the George Floyd protest that gained national attention and shifted the narrative from “looting” to “uprising.”
Leslie received her BA in Political Science and minor in African Studies from Barry University in Miami, Florida. She recently received her JD/MBA from the University of St Thomas School of Law and is a licensed attorney. Leslie previously served as a Policy Research Associate at the Minnesota Attorney General Office. Website: LeslieRedmond.com. Social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook @LeslieERedmond
Executive Director, International Center for Transitional Justice
Fernando Travesí is the Executive Director of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). He has over 20 years of international experience in transitional justice, human rights, and rule of law, working for both international organizations and NGOs. Prior to joining ICTJ in 2014, he was the Director of the UNDP Transitional Justice Basket Fund in Colombia. He also served as UNDP Senior Justice Advisor in Tunisia after the Jasmine Revolution. In Nepal and Colombia, Travesí held regional responsibilities with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to protect civilian populations affected by the armed conflict, including documenting violations of international humanitarian law, detention visits and managing the dossier of missing and disappeared. He also worked in Sierra Leone, as Country Director of the Spanish Red Cross, where he led Red Cross’ projects on rehabilitation of child combatants and children affected by the war. Prior to that, he worked for the NGO Movimiento por la Paz, as Regional Director for the Balkans leading a crossborder program on access to justice for refugees, displaced people, and returnees and as Country Director in Albania during the Kosovo war.
Travesí is a Lawyer who also completed post-graduate specialized courses in international public law and practiced in Spain mostly on criminal, immigration and civil issues. He also holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution and negotiation from the University Pontificia Javeriana of Colombia that awarded him with the Annual University Honor Medal for Academic Merits. He is a recognized novelist and playwright, winning awards such as the Spanish National Prize of Theater.
DR. YOHURU WILLIAMS
Distinguished University Chair, Professor of History and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative, University of St. Thomas
Dr. Yohuru Williams is Distinguished University Chair and Professor of History and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas. He received his Ph.D. from Howard University in 1998.
Dr. Williams is the author of Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthersin New Haven (Blackwell, 2006); Rethinking the Black Freedom Movement (Routledge, 2015); and Teaching beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies(Corwin Press, 2008).
He is the editor of A Constant Struggle: African-American History from 1865 to the Present Documents and Essays(Kendall Hunt, 2002), and is co-editor of The Black Panthers: Portraits of an Unfinished Revolution (Nation Books, 2016), In Search of the Black Panther Party, New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement (Duke, 2006), and Liberated Territory: Toward a Local History of the Black Panther Party (Duke, 2008).
He also served as general editor for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History's 2002 and 2003 Black History Month publications, The Color Line Revisited (Tapestry Press, 2002) and The Souls of Black Folks: Centennial Reflections(Africa World Press, 2003). Dr. Williams served as an advisor on the popular civil rights reader Putting the Movement Back into teaching Civil Rights.
Dr. Williams has appeared on a variety of local and national radio and television programs most notably ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Aljazeera America, BET, CSPAN, EBRU Today, Fox Business News, Fresh Outlook, Huff Post Live, and NPR. He was featured in the Ken Burns PBS Documentary "Jackie Robinson" and the Stanley Nelson PBS Documentary "The Black Panthers." He is also one of the hosts of the History Channel’s Web show "Sound Smart." A regular political commentator on the Cliff Kelly Show on WVON, Chicago, Dr. Williams also blogs regularly for the Huffington Post and is a contributor to the Progressive Magazine.
Dr. Williams' scholarly articles have appeared in the American Bar Association’s Insights on Law and Society, The Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, The Black Scholar, The Journal of Black Studies, Pennsylvania History, Delaware History, the Journal of Civil and Human Rights and the Black History Bulletin.
Dr. Williams is also presently finishing a new book entitled In the Shadow of the Whipping Post: Lynching, Capital Punishment, and Jim Crow Justice in Delaware 1865-1965 under contract with Cambridge University Press.