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Minn. high court visit to include case at the Senior High

Chief Justice Lori Skjerven Gildae is pictured during an interview Friday in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The Minnesota Supreme Court is coming to Willmar.

The justices, including new Justice Wilhelmina Wright, sworn in Sept. 27, are scheduled to attend a community dinner Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Conference Center. The justices will also hear oral arguments Wednesday in an actual case at Willmar Senior High School.

According to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the visit is part of an effort by the high court to reach out to citizens and educate them that the court system is so much more than the criminal cases that grab news headlines. Even if people don't have a case pending with the court system, they need to recognize the courts are involved in a lot of common disputes like landlord-tenant cases, property disputes, divorces and custody matters, plus traffic cases.

"The court system belongs to the people," Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea said during a visit Friday to Willmar. "All five million Minnesotans are our constituents."

Another much less visible task of the court is the key role it takes in the cases of children who are abused, neglected or in need of protection. The court system and human services workers can help those children by processing their cases as quickly as possible through cooperation, she said.

Skjerven Gildea was in Willmar for a Children's Justice Initiative meeting and stopped by the Tribune to talk about the court's upcoming visit and the children's initiative.

The initiative is a collaborative effort by the state Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Judicial Branch, to help social services, court personnel and other key adults focus on cases involving abused and neglected children, helping the child through the situation as quickly as possible and providing the help the children need.

On Wednesday in the Willmar Senior High School auditorium, the court will also hear the Hennepin County case of J.J.P., a young man identified only by his initials because of his juvenile status.

According to the preview of the case from the Judicial Branch and the appeals court decision from January of this year, the young man was adjudicated delinquent in 2002 after committing burglary and theft. His request to expunge all judicial branch records of his delinquency was granted in district court in 2007, but the court's order specifically excluded the records maintained by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

In 2010, J.J.P. was notified by the Department of Human Services that his delinquency barred him from getting a paramedic license. The young man is an emergency medication technician studying to become a paramedic, but his juvenile delinquency history is impeding his career goals.

J.J.P petitioned the court to expunge the records held by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and other executive branch agencies, but the district court denied his petition. The court of appeals reversed that district court order and now the Supreme Court will hear the appeal.

The oral argument will last for an hour. Justices will then participate in a Q and A with students, followed by lunch and classroom visits.

The court began traveling to high schools and law schools in 1995, with the current schedule including a spring visit to a metro-area high school and a fall visit to a outstate high school, plus visits to law schools, Skjerven Gildea said.

The court picks a case to hear before the high school students that is of interest to them, she said. As for the justices, they look forward to visiting with young people.

"It's always invigorating and interesting for us," she said, adding that spending time with smart and energetic high school students "rebuilds your faith in the future."

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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