SMRLS Insider: Spring 2019
Celebrating 110 years of providing access to justice!
A Message from the CEO
Celebrating SMRLS' 110th Anniversary

We are excited to announce that SMRLS celebrates its 110th anniversary this year. W e have seen incredible growth since our humble beginnings in 1909. In the early days, SMRLS (then known as Legal Assistance of Ramsey County) typically only handled family law, social security, and landlord-tenant cases for clients in Ramsey County. Today, SMRLS is the largest provider of legal aid in Minnesota, closing more than 9,000 cases annually and serving an additional twenty thousand low-income people through community outreach and training opportunities.
We are commemorating our anniversary by sharing the memories of some of SMRLS' longest-serving volunteers and staff on our website. Stories will be posted throughout the year at . I encourage you to visit this webpage each month to learn about our history, told by the people who know SMRLS best. If you wish to share your story, please contact .
What's New at SMRLS?
Brett Olander Named New Board President
Long-time SMRLS supporter and Board member, Brett Olander , was named the new SMRLS Board President in March 2019, succeeding Matt Benda . Mr. Olander is an attorney at Olander Law Group in
Minneapolis. He specializes in Mediation, Arbitration and Civil Litigation related primarily to Torts, Insurance, Commercial Litigation, Securities, Serious Personal Injury and select Family Law matters. Brenda Devlin is taking Mr. Olander's previous position as First-Vice Board President. Click here to see the full list of the SMRLS Board of Directors.
SMRLS' Benefits Unit Name Changed

In February 2019, SMRLS' Benefits Unit adopted the new title, the Economic Justice Unit . This firm-wide name change reflects the full range of issues the unit handles. In addition to handing public benefits cases, the Economic Justice unit also handles human services and department of health licensing disqualifications, criminal record expungements, utility terminations, shelter evictions, and various consumer-related matters, including the prevention or cessation of wage garnishments and bank account attachments.
Save the Date
Social Justice Uncorked!
Social Justice Uncorked returns to Target Field on Thursday, June 6 . Our annual fundraiser features wine, spirit and beer tastings, upscale food, exciting raffle prizes, and a live auction with exclusive items. Registration opens in mid-April. Visit to learn more .
Volunteer Attorney Program
Criminal Expungement Clinic
The Volunteer Attorney Program hosts a quarterly Criminal Expungement Clinic at the St. Paul Central Office. During the clinic, eligible clients receive legal advice and work with volunteer attorneys and law students to complete their petitions. Volunteer attorneys coach clients on what to expect when they attend their hearing. Clinic participants do not need to worry about one of most crucial steps of the expungement process – service. After the clinic, SMRLS staff file and serve the petition for participants. Participants then have the tools need to appear at their motion hearing on their own.

Without the Criminal Expungement Clinic, these clients would be unable to find housing and employment opportunities. By attending the clinic, they can now pursue opportunities that were previously closed to them due to their criminal record. For more information or to refer a client to the clinic, please contact Sarah Pherson, Metro Volunteer Attorney Coordinator, at
In Case You Missed It
2019 Lawyers on Ice
SMRLS kicked off its 110 year anniversary in style on January 28, 2019 at the 17th Annual Lawyers on Ice hockey event at the Xcel Energy Center. Four teams with a total of six dozen players competed for the traveling trophy in this highly anticipated event. Team 4 ( Sponsored by Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner ; Larson King ; Gallatin Law Office ; Rogosheske, Rogosheske & Atkins ) repeated as champions for the second consecutive year. Click here to read more.
New Federal Bar SMRLS Admittees
SMRLS Agricultural Worker Project (AWP) attorneys Jessica Grosz and Colin Laffey (pictured right) were admitted to the Federal Bar for the District of Minnesota on February 7, 2019 at the Federal Courthouse in Saint Paul. This admission allows Jessica and Colin to file claims for their AWP clients in Federal Court.

"I was honored to be admitted to the Federal Bar before Judge Susan Richard Nelson," Colin says. "I feel confident that this admission will allow me to deliver effective and strategic legal representation to SMRLS' clients."
Awards and Recognition
We are excited to announce that the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) will confer its 2019 Bernard P. Becker Awards to three SMRLS staff members at the MSBA Assembly on April 26! Learn more about each honoree below.

Steve Wolfe , former Metro Region Sr. Leadership Attorney

Steve is receiving the 2019 Legacy of Excellence Award in honor of his stellar career as a long-time legal aid attorney dedicated to protecting the interests of disadvantaged low-income people.

Jocylyn Poehler, Lead Family Law Attorney for the SE Region

Jocylyn is receiving the 2019 Emerging Leader Award in recognition of her steadfast and growing leadership to ensure effective access to the courts and other forums of justice for family law clients.  

Georgia Sherman, Supervising Legal Secretary in St. Paul

Georgia is receiving the 2019 Advocate/Staff Award for her legacy of commitment, compassion and professional services to SMRLS' clients and staff throughout a career spanning more than 40 years.
Follow SMRLS on Social Media
Celebrating 110 years of providing access to justice!
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services | (651) 228-9823 |