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Attorneys of the Year: Katherine McBride

Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society

Kate McBride studied to be a teacher and spent time as a radio news reporter before studying law. She never lost her passion for disseminating information, but now it’s about the Minnesota judicial system.

A partner in the Minneapolis law firm of Meagher & Geer, McBride co-chairs the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society’s education committee with Anna Horning Nygren of Lockridge Grindal Nauen. Since 2009, the committee has worked with teachers to develop four programs to educate Minnesota students about the third branch of government.

A set of lesson plans on judicial decision-making, judicial impartiality and the differences between judges and legislators has reached classrooms throughout the state. Due to the committee’s work, the society began to sponsor up to two $500 prizes annually for students who take on “Minnesota Law and Courts” as their topic for Minnesota History Day.

The committee also launched an essay contest for high school seniors. With financial support from the Minnesota State Bar Association, the American Board of Trial Advocates and others, the committee awarded the first seven $500 scholarships in 2013.

Now it is working on producing a video about all three branches of Minnesota government in action. The video will follow the “Ted Foss Move-Over Law,” a statute passed in 2002 requiring motorists to move “a lane away” from any authorized emergency vehicle stopped on or next to the roadway. The phrase “a lane away” became the center of a dispute over whether a traffic stop was valid. After the state Supreme Court ruled that the phrase “a lane away” means “the lane next to,” the legislature amended the phrase to state “the lane farthest away.”

“Civics education is very important to me,” McBride said. “I think that it’s crucial to a thriving democracy to have an informed electorate. Even when people have some familiarity with the executive or legislative branches, it’s not usually true of the judicial branch.”

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