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Joshua Williams

Attorneys of the Year: Joshua Williams

Gained landmark settlement for alternative school students 

It was a case that several other lawyers passed up before it was taken on by Joshua Williams, a Minneapolis attorney known for his civil rights and employment law practice.

Students at an alternative public high school in Minneapolis for pregnant and parenting teens routinely received instruction from teachers who were either unlicensed or under-licensed. News of that practice at Broadway High School surfaced after an audit by the Minneapolis Public School District.

It violated state law, and a group of then-current students reached out to several local lawyers to help them seek redress from the school district.

Williams was convinced he could win.  In 2012 he sued the school district under Title IX, asserting the statute required classes for pregnant and parenting students to be equal to classes for non-pregnant and non-parenting students. Even though this rule seems intuitive, this case appears to be the first time a lawyer has advanced this theory of liability, Williams said.

After months of contentious negotiations, Williams won a $409,934 class-action settlement from the school district, a vindication of the rights of hundreds of students who earned credit in courses taught by unlicensed and under-licensed teachers. In late December of 2013, Hennepin County District Court Judge Laurie Miller approved the settlement between the School District and certain students who attended Broadway High School between 2008 and 2011.

“I am honored and humbled,” William said about the recognition, adding, “It was a privilege to represent the plaintiffs and their individual rights.”

The school district also agreed to pay the Williams’ firm’s legal fees on top of the award to the plaintiffs.

Williams called the Broadway settlement “a landmark, a one of a kind” and a vindication for the plaintiffs, typical of the cases that are in the sweet spot of his law firm’s practice.

“I take pride in utilizing the legal system to hold businesses, industries, governmental entities, and individuals accountable for their unlawful conduct,” Williams notes on his website. “My passion for advancing justice and vindicating the rights of the disenfranchised and those who were denied a fair shake is the driving force behind this firm.”

Williams said he takes most cases on a contingency fee basis and handles only those he believe would win if they were to go to trial. “I am accustomed to betting on myself and my clients.”

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