On Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in courtrooms at the University of Minnesota Law School, the students of Maslon UPLIFT—a diverse group of eighth graders from St. Louis Park Middle School—presented criminal mock trials before actual Minnesota Judges.
Launched in September 2017, Maslon UPLIFT was created to serve middle school students who reflect the rich diversity of the Twin Cities. Led by Catherine Ahlin-Halverson, Maslon Public Interest Counsel, the program offers students engaging opportunities to learn about the legal field, criminal justice, and the court system from volunteer attorneys.
Maslon Attorney and UPLIFT Coach Cooper Ashley Debriefs with Students Following Their Trial
The Maslon UPLIFT student participants were assigned to teams representing either the prosecution or defense in the criminal case of State v. Chung, which revolves around an alleged assault. Attorney volunteers, including Maslon's Cooper Ashley, Julian Zebot, Evan Nelson, Marty Fallon, Terry Newby, and Mary Heath served as coaches. To lend authenticity to the experience, students presented their final trials before current Hennepin County District Court Judge Mary Vasaly and retired Hennepin County District Court Judge Tom Sipkins, both of whom are former Maslon partners.
"Seeing the engagement, enthusiasm, and advancement of our first class of student participants has been deeply gratifying. It was rewarding to see the students empowered by presenting their trials before real judges, in the University of Minnesota courtrooms, and to see the families' investment and pride in the students' hard work," stated Catherine Ahlin-Halverson, Director of Maslon UPLIFT.
Catherine Ahlin-Halverson is a former Maslon partner who transitioned to the role of Public Interest Counsel in 2016 specifically to spearhead Maslon's mock trial program for local students and to serve as a mentor and leader across the firm’s pro bono efforts overall. With more than 60 years dedicated to strengthening both the legal profession and the community, Maslon is proud to stand behind the mission and values of the UPLIFT program.