State’s First Judge of Hmong Descent Appointed
Sophia Vuelo was appointed to the Ramsey County District Court bench by Governor Mark Dayton on December 18, 2017, making her the state’s first judge of Hmong descent.
Prior to her appointment, Judge Vuelo
was a solo practitioner at Vuelo Law, a special assistant to the Ramsey County Attorney, an assistant public defender for the Second Judicial District, Assistant Rochester City Attorney, and Managing Attorney for Catholic Charities.
Judge Vuelo is on the Board of Directors of the Collaborative Community Law Initiative, and is former vice-president of the Hmong American Bar Association. She earned her BA from the University of Minnesota, and her JD from Hamline University School of Law.
Ramsey County Workgroup Earns Award for Efforts to Improve Housing Court
The Board of Directors of the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) awarded the 2017 A. M. “Sandy” Keith Alternative Dispute Resolution Award to the Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup – a collaborative effort between Ramsey County District Court and housing stakeholders to ensure a fair and effective process for all litigants appearing in Housing Court.
The Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup was established following a series of facilitated discussions held in Ramsey County to address challenges in the rental market that frequently find their way into the Second Judicial District Housing Court. In early 2017, Second Judicial District Chief Judge John H. Guthmann convened a group of relevant stakeholders and potential partners, in partnership with The McKnight Foundation and the National Center for State Courts. One of the goals of the group was to determine the extent to which a problem-solving approach could to be applied to the Housing Court.
As a result of those facilitated discussions, Chief Judge Guthmann appointed the Workgroup on March 31, 2017, to develop strategies and recommendations to strengthen access for landlords and tenants to legal, financial, and social services—before, during, and after the Housing Court first appearance calendar.
The Workgroup focused its efforts on improving understanding of court processes with landlords and tenants, expanding the availability and awareness of mediation services, and increasing coordination with community organizations, such as providing space outside courtrooms for Ramsey County Human Services Emergency Assistance personnel to share information with Housing Court participants.
Ramsey County District Court Hosts Court Interpreter Open House in St. Paul
Ramsey County District Court held a Court Interpreter Open House in St. Paul on the evening of November 15, 2017. Interpreters who interpret in other fields, and all who wanted to learn more about interpreting for the Minnesota Judicial Branch, were invited to attend. Approximately 45-50 people attended.
The evening started with opening remarks and the introduction of staff, judges, and current court interpreters. Judges then shared their experiences in working with interpreters in the courtroom. Numerous court staff and interpreters talked about the need for interpreters not only for the Second Judicial District, but on a statewide level as well. Finally, the Statewide Court Interpreter and Statewide Language Access Program Coordinator gave a presentation on the needs of the courts, and the process to become an interpreter for the courts.
Two courtrooms were open for all attendees to observe live court interpreting demonstrations; one demonstration in Karen and the other in Hmong.
There was a great dialogue about the courts, and many questions were answered. The attendees provided positive feedback regarding the event, and were excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the courts.
Ramsey County Pilots Two New Technologies to Improve Court User Experience
The Second Judicial District began piloting the use of Guide & File in its Conciliation and Housing courts on August 14, 2017. Guide & File is a free online tool that assists self-represented litigants in preparing court forms. Guide & File asks questions of the litigants and provides helpful information along the way. Answers are stored to create the forms necessary for filing. The pilot is being evaluated for statewide use.
The Second Judicial District piloted the use of kiosks to provide check-in services at the Juvenile Court late in 2017. The objectives are to increase the collection of important data, automate the check-in process, and alert justice partners when their client has arrived. Court staff will be meeting with the justice partners to debrief and discuss further implementation of the kiosk check-in services in other divisions of Ramsey County District Court.