A group of eighth-graders from St. Louis Park Middle School and Columbia Academy Middle School presented criminal mock trials before Minnesota judges as part of Maslon UPLIFT: Legal Institute for Teens March 10-11 at the University of Minnesota Law School and Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Launched in September 2017, Maslon UPLIFT is a legal pipeline program created to serve middle school students who reflect the diversity of the Twin Cities. The after-school mock trial program is taught by volunteer attorneys, who have spent much of the academic year instructing students on key criminal law and practice concepts.
The program aims to help diversify the profession by offering students engaging opportunities to learn from volunteer attorneys about the legal profession, criminal justice, and the court system. Participation in the program helps students build confidence, develop analytical and speaking skills, foster long-term vision and create a framework to pursue academic excellence in high school.
This year’s participants were assigned to teams representing either the prosecution or defense in the criminal case of State of Minnesota v. Coco “Pibb” St. Clair, which involves a first-degree murder prosecution.
Both programs began with a law school-hosted presentation “From Middle School to Law School – Charting Your Path to the Legal Profession,” featuring law school faculty and current students.
“Minnesota has one of the largest achievement gaps between white students and students of color in the country,” said Catherine Ahlin-Halverson, director of Maslon UPLIFT. “This threatens the strength and prosperity of our state. It is critical that we find a path towards equitable educational opportunities for all students.”