On two dates in March 2019, the students of Maslon UPLIFT—diverse groups of seventh and eighth graders from Columbia Academy and St. Louis Park Middle School—presented criminal mock trials before actual Minnesota Judges, culminating their six-month legal institute experience. Columbia Academy UPLIFT students presented their mock trials at Maslon LLP on March 14, and St. Louis Park Middle School UPLIFT students presented their mock trials and the University of Minnesota Law School on March 19.
Launched in September 2017, Maslon UPLIFT was created to serve middle school students who reflect the rich diversity of the Twin Cities. After a successful launch at St. Louis Park Middle School, the six month UPLIFT program expanded to include Columbia Academy in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. 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.
1. Judge Edward Toussaint and UPLIFT Students from Columbia Academy 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. Palmer, a manslaughter case involving pranking people to make videos of them. Attorney volunteers, including Maslon's Cooper Ashley, Marty Fallon, Terry Newby, Julian Zebot, Kevin Rockwell, Mike Sheran, Evan Nelson, Mary Heath, and former Maslon attorney Wayne Moskowitz served as coaches. To lend authenticity to the experience, students presented their final trials before actual Minnesota judges, including Retired Court of Appeals Judge Edward Toussaint, Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu, and U.S. Magistrate Judge David Schultz—a former Maslon attorney.
2. St. Louis Park Middle School Students During Trial
"Minnesota has one of the largest achievement gaps between white students and students of color in the country,” stated Catherine Ahlin-Halverson, director of Maslon UPLIFT. “It is critical that we find a path towards equitable educational opportunities for all students. That is why we founded Maslon UPLIFT—and seeing the engagement, enthusiasm, and achievement of our UPLIFT student participants is deeply gratifying.”
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.