Last July, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a class-action lawsuit seeking to desegregate Twin Cities-area public schools could move forward, thanks in large part to pro bono representation from a team of lawyers from the Gray Plant Mooty firm.
The parent plaintiffs in Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota argued that the state has enabled racial segregation in the seven-county metro by allowing single-race charter schools and letting families enroll outside their assigned schools and school districts. The result, the plaintiffs said, was that those segregated schools had failed to provide an adequate education to students of color.
For Daniel R. Shulman of Gray Plant Mooty – who worked on the case with Joy Reopelle Anderson, Richard C. Landon and Dion Farganis – Cruz-Guzman was a reprise of a 1995 desegregation case he helped bring against the state. In 1995, Shulman and his son represented the Minneapolis NAACP, asserting similar claims. That case was settled in 2000 largely via the creation of a program called The Choice is Yours, which allowed Minneapolis kindergarten-aged children who were getting free or reduced price school lunches to go to suburban schools, with the state paying for the transportation.
“We hoped that would be a first step toward meaningful desegregation,” recalled Shulman. “The program is still in effect in one form or another, but it turned out that the segregation became much worse.”
About five years ago, Shulman let it be known to people in the community who were interested in segregation that if plaintiffs wanted to sue on the same basis, he would be willing to participate.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the case in March 2017, saying that whether students of color are getting an adequate education is a question for the Legislature, not the courts. A 4-2 Supreme Court opinion reversed that decision.
Also participating in the case were Kathryn E. Hauff of Fox Rothschild; John G. Shulman and Jeanne-Marie Almonor of Alignor; Mel C. Orchard of Spense Law Firm; and James Cook of Law Offices of Burris.