Go to the U of M home page


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Chief Judge Edward J. Cleary (’77) Donates Papers from Landmark SCOTUS Case to Law Library

The Law Library and Riesenfeld Rare Books Center recently received an important archival donation from Chief Judge Edward J. Cleary (’77) of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The donated material relates to R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), a key U.S. Supreme Court First Amendment case—indeed, the first hate speech case ever heard by the court. Cleary, who argued the case from the trial level to the Supreme Court, has generously gifted the library his copies of the petitions, transcripts, briefs, and correspondence related to the case, for preservation and study. The donated collection also includes the annotated typescript and proofs of Cleary’s book Beyond the Burning Cross: The First Amendment and the Landmark R.A.V. Case (Random House, 1994).

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul revolved around the case of a teenager (known in court documents only as R.A.V. and represented by Cleary as an appointed public defender) who was charged under a St. Paul bias-crime ordinance for burning a cross on an African American family’s lawn. The charge was dismissed by the trial court, reinstated by the Minnesota Supreme Court, and ultimately dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a unanimous decision. Under the First Amendment, a government entity may not punish expression on the grounds that it does not approve of the ideas being expressed. In the R.A.V. case, SCOTUS said the St. Paul ordinance could not be enforced because it “prohibits otherwise permitted speech solely on the basis of the subjects the speech addresses.” R.A.V. is the most-cited SCOTUS opinion to come from a case originating in Minnesota in the state’s history. 

At the dinner commemorating the Law School’s 125th anniversary in October 2013, R.A.V. was honored—having been chosen from among 150 cases worked by Law School alumni—as the case that had most helped to shape the legal system. Other Minnesota Law graduates were involved in the case, as well. Michael Cromett (’78) was of counsel to Cleary. Tom Foley (’72) was Ramsey County attorney at the time and represented the appellant at the Minnesota Supreme Court; Foley was also the respondent in the SCOTUS case. Judge Charles Flinn (’65) presided in the juvenile court where R.A.V. first appeared with Cleary. Allen Saeks (’56) joined the amicus curiae briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and represented the Anti-Defamation League. A number of other Law School alumni and professors were involved in the amicus briefs that were filed in support of one side or the other.

Cleary was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Minnesota Gov. Dayton in 2011, after having served as a judge for the state’s 2nd Judicial District (Ramsey County) since 2002. Before that he was director of the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (1997-2002), a lawyer in private practice for nearly 20 years, and an assistant public defender for Ramsey County. In 1996, Beyond the Burning Cross was named the winner of the American Library Association’s Oboler Memorial Award, which honors the nation’s best work on intellectual freedom.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Finals Study Break: Wednesday, Dec. 13

Come out next Wednesday for a study break during finals!  Grab coffee and tasty fresh-baked donuts outside the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center.

When: Wednesday, December 13, 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Where: Outside the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center (N30 - on the sub-plaza past Sullivan Cafe)
What: Coffee and donuts!

Good luck on finals, and best wishes for the holidays from the Law Library!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New Acquisitions: Clarence Darrow Collection

The Law Library’s nationally preeminent Clarence Darrow Collection has recently grown through several notable acquisitions and donations. 

The Library has acquired four volumes of Herbert Spencer’s nine-volume System of Synthetic Philosophy from an online auction held by Sotheby's. The volumes, published in 1890 and 1891, come from Clarence Darrow's personal library. Each volume features Darrow's bookplate and signature. 

Spencer (1820-1903) was an English philosopher and political and social theorist who was enormously influential in his time. He is credited with coining the phrase “survival of the fittest” after reading Darwin. In his 1864 work, The Principles of Biology, Spencer wrote: "[t]his survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called 'natural selection.'" 

In his later essay, "Why I Am An Agnostic," Darrow wrote, "man has always speculated upon the origin of the universe, including himself. I feel, with Herbert Spencer, that whether the universe had an origin - and if it had - what the origin is will never be known by man." It was a good chance that we were able to acquire books that Darrow not only owned, but that he read and that influenced him. Darwin's theory of evolution was at the heart of the famous Scopes Trial in 1925, in which Darrow argued against creationism, and it formed a central part of his pessimistic philosophy. Relatively recently, we also obtained a copy of the Reply Brief and Argument for the State of Tennessee from the Scopes Trial, to complement our copy of John Scopes' lawyers' briefs.

In addition to these volumes, the Library was fortunate to acquire by donation Darrow's personal set of Illinois Reports, formerly held by a law firm in Illinois. Many of the volumes show Darrow’s name on the spine, and a number include underlining in the text.

Finally, the Library has continued to expand its collection of Darrow photographs, spanning his life and career, and has collected another series of public debates and essays that Darrow participated in and penned, particularly in the 1920s, when Darrow was at the peak of his celebrity as a public intellectual and American iconoclast.  

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections, and Mike Hannon, Associate Director for Access Services & Digital Initiatives

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Halloween, Oct 31: Special Rare Books Open House!

All are invited to the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center's special Halloween Open House, next Tuesday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.! 

Come out on Halloween to see spooky treasures from our collection - including witch trials (and other sensational trials) - and pick up free snacks, drinks, and Halloween candy!

Come out in costume and get a picture on our Tumblr page!

When: Tuesday, Oct. 31st, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
Where: Riesenfeld Rare Books Center
What: Rare books, snacks, drinks, candy and costumes!

(The Center is in N30, sub plaza on the hallway past Sullivan Cafe and N20.)

Friday, October 20, 2017

New Donation: Everett Fraser's Books and Notebooks

Recently the Law Library and Riesenfeld Center were fortunate to receive a donation of materials owned by former Dean Everett Fraser (1879-1971). The generous donation of annotated casebooks, notebooks and other books was a gift from Hennepin County District Court Judge Thomas Fraser, son of former U.S. congressman and Minneapolis mayor Donald Fraser (‘48), Humphrey Institute Senior Fellow Emerita Arvonne Fraser, and grandson of Dean Fraser. A legendary figure, Dean Fraser led the University of Minnesota Law School to national prominence from the 1920s to 1940s, and oversaw the Law School's move from Pattee Hall to the newly constructed Fraser Hall in 1929. Dean Fraser’s focus on curriculum reform – culminating in what became known as the “Minnesota Plan” – made him a recognized authority in innovative legal education and the training of lawyers for effective client advocacy and public service. Of particular personal interest in the collection is an undergraduate notebook, from 1901-1903, containing Fraser’s “Autobiography,” a unique record of his life growing up in Canada. The donation also includes the typescript speech Dean Fraser gave at the University of Minnesota to mark the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. Like other former and current faculty members, Dean Fraser's legacy as a scholar and educator lives on in the Law Library's Faculty Collection.

More on Dean Fraser's tenure can be found in the online edition of 'Never Whisper Justice': A Tribute in Photographs to the University of Minnesota Law School, and in Professor Robert Stein's book, In Pursuit of Excellence: A History of the University of Minnesota Law School.

 - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections


Friday, September 29, 2017

Wednesday, Oct. 4: Rare Books Open House

All are invited to the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center's first rare books open house of the semester, next Wednesday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.! 

Come out to enjoy free snacks and drinks, and see treasures from the library's rare books and special collections.

Best of all: enter a contest to win a Supreme Court bobblehead! (The Center has a complete collection, and some will be on display.)

When: Wednesday, October 4th, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
Where: *Riesenfeld Rare Books Center
What: Rare books, bobbleheads, snacks and prizes!

(*The Center is in N30, sub plaza on the hallway past Sullivan Cafe and N20.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Monday, September 18: Constitution Day Donuts!

Come out and celebrate Constitution Day in the Law Library!  

Come and grab donuts and coffee, as well as a quiz about the US Constitution, for prizes.  Don't be ashamed, take a selfie with James Madison!

When: Monday, September 18th, 11 a.m - 1 p.m.
Where: Library Lobby
What: Donuts, coffee, and prizes!

We'll have on display some rare books from the collection, and a sign up for the rare books group also.