Amicus briefs are instrumental in providing judges with new information or a different perspective. Andrea Niesen is being heralded for her amicus work influencing state appellate decisions relating to the care of mentally ill and disabled patients. Niesen worked on these matters pro bono for the Minnesota Association for Justice, a group of trial lawyers protecting the rights of injured and accused.
Niesen’s drive to help underserved populations led her to work on a series of cases in 2016 and 2017 involving the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act. This law provides immunity to individuals involved in negligent acts when caring for mentally ill or disabled people. “As I began the amicus work, I noticed a possible misinterpretation of the immunity provision, and knew I needed to advocate for those that could not advocate for themselves,” Niesen said.
The Minnesota Supreme Court emphasized Niesen’s amicus arguments, observing that neither party adequately briefed the alternative statutory interpretation. In a subsequent case involving the same statute, parties took Niesen’s amicus arguments and carried them forward to reach a favorable decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The nominating attorney, Don McNeil of Heley, Duncan & Melander, wrote, “Ms. Niesen should be recognized not only for participating on this matter on a pro bono basis, but more importantly for what her work has done to benefit the least among us.”