Hundreds of diverse Twin Cities high school students know about opportunities to work in the federal justice system, thanks to Rebecca Baertsch and Theresa Anderson.
The judicial assistants to Judge Donovan Frank and Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel, respectively, have coordinated the Minnesota version of the Open Doors to Federal Courts for the past 18 years. Baertsch organized and ran the program for its first 14 years, staging mock trials and job fairs in the courthouse. She recruited diverse volunteers from the FBI, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other federal justice roles to share their experiences with students.
Baertsch also suggested that Frank tell students about his childhood on a farm and that federal Judge Michael Davis tell them how he was raised by a single mother.
“It was to give them hope and some expectations to dream,” Frank said.
Noel took over Davis’ responsibilities for the program three years ago and asked for Anderson’s help.
“She basically would organize those things, and all I had to do is show up and talk out loud,” Noel said.
Anderson began coordinating the program after it moved from the U.S. Courthouse in St. Paul to individual schools in 2014. She takes the court’s outreach efforts very seriously, Noel said.
“In this instance, it’s high school students and other community people who are interested in learning about what the court does and what opportunities there are within the courts,” he said.
Frank met Baertsch while he served on the Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force on Racial Bias in the Judicial System in the 1990s and she worked as judicial assistant to Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page. Frank was impressed with her “unusual knowledge of diversity issues and reaching out to the public” and hired her away, with Page’s blessing.
Baertsch’s work on Open Doors was “above and beyond” her regular duties, according to Frank.
“She was for all those years the go-to person, and diversity was always the number one priority,” Frank said.
Anderson continues to coordinate Open Doors, although judicial responsibility passed last year to Magistrate Judge Kate Menendez. While Anderson and Baertsch acknowledged all the volunteers, Anderson said more needs to be done.
“As important as it is for the volunteer lawyers go to the classrooms and inspire them, it’s equally as important for the law firms and chambers to recruit from a diverse background,” she said.