In her role as the lead civil attorney for Stearns County Domestic Violence Court, Riann Miller is used to working with people in desperate need of a helping hand.
That renowned specialty court admits repeat felons charged with felony-level domestic violence. When an offender is assigned to the court, the victim becomes eligible for legal help from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and that’s when Riann Meyer is there to help. Often, victims have been the target of both physical and emotional assault for many years and often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
“There are small wins and big wins,” said Meyer. “Sometimes just keeping somebody in their home is a big win. A lot of return clients have been in chronically abusive situations. Sometimes we won’t have success with someone until the second or third time we work with them.”
Meyer has been with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid for three years. Prior to that she worked for Regional Native Public Defense on the White Earth reservation and also did some time in community journalism around Cass County and Crow Wing County.
“You kind of learn how to be patient and pick up on details when you’re covering city council meetings,” she said. “Those skills come in handy now.”
In her work at the domestic violence court, Meyer has had to tailor her representation to not only deal with the legal issues faced by her clients, but also to address personal concerns, such as loss of income and custody protection issues. At any one time, Meyer is providing advice and representation to close to 80 victims of severe violence.
Fortunately, Meyer has become skilled in working through those issues. “A lot of my clients have barriers that would keep them from getting through the complexities of a court proceeding,” she said.
“I’ve always liked doing public interest work. I think I’ll always work in active litigation with complex cases.”