Diversity, inclusion and student outreach are hallmarks of the mission of the U.S. District Court bench in Minnesota, which has been led in part in those efforts by Judge Franklin L. Noel. Noel retired on Aug. 31, 2018, after a remarkable 29 years as a magistrate judge in Minnesota.
Although he obviously was involved in thousands of cases over that time, he will also be remembered for his outreach efforts. One was the Freedom Riders traveling exhibit, which came to Minnesota in 2014 to commemorate the 1961 bus rides promoting integration in segregated states.
In 2015, Noel began to lead the court’s Open Doors to Federal Courts program for high school students. That year, the program celebrated the life and career of Justice Thurgood Marshall with visits by attorneys, judges and law students to 75 classrooms in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington. More than 2,000 students gathered at an assembly at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where they saw an excerpt of the play “Thurgood.”
In 2016, the Open Doors program celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, again with programs at Mitchell Hamline and a panel discussion. Close to 1,000 students participated in the program. In 2017, examination of the Reconstruction Amendments continued with a screening of the film “American Denial” and a panel discussion.
Noel has also served as a liaison to the Pro Se Project, operated by the Federal Bar Association and the District Court. The project brings volunteer attorneys and clients together, which has many altruistic goals but is also very helpful to the court, Noel said.
Noel plans to continue teaching and writing in his retirement, but also to concentrate on travel and becoming a grandfather for the first time.