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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
Attorney General Keith Ellison

2020 Diversity & Inclusion: Keith Ellison

Minnesota Attorney General

Generosity and inclusion are the guiding values of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, according to his official online biography.

In practice, Ellison has increased diverse hiring, welcomed affinity bar associations and served on a Federal Bar Association Diversity Committee panel on cultural competency in the legal profession.

Ellison’s July appointment of Luz Maria Frias as deputy attorney general makes her one of the highest-ranking women of color in the Twin Cities legal community.

Minority hiring has risen 15% since Ellison took office in January 2019 through April 2020, the latest data available, and has continued to increase, a spokesman said.

Thirty percent of attorneys and staff are minorities, the spokesman said. According to the American Bar Association, 88 percent of all lawyers are white.

“He is doing a good job of (hiring) and promoting diverse talent to the highest levels of his office in a way that law firms could really learn from,” said attorney Sybil Dunlop, who does diversity and inclusion training.

In July, Ellison’s daylong continuing legal education program on bias and hate crimes drew an online audience of nearly 1,000, building on his continuing efforts to eliminate those offenses.

Ellison added four “diverse and phenomenal” pro bono attorneys to his prosecution team in the George Floyd case, joining attorneys from his office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Dunlop said.

“I think that is going to ensure that, whatever the outcome, we all have trust in the process knowing that he found a great group of people to prosecute it and that greatness includes the diversity of those people,” Dunlop said.

The four are: Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general; former federal prosecutor Lola Velázquez-Aguilu; Jerry Blackwell, who helped secure the posthumous pardon of a man wrongly convicted of rape in connection with the 1920 Duluth lynchings; and Steven Schleicher, former federal prosecutor and assistant attorney general.

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