Home / Features / Breaking the Ice / Breaking the Ice: Attorney seeks ‘introspective look’ at criminal justice
Tamara Cabán-Ramirez
Tamara Cabán-Ramirez

Breaking the Ice: Attorney seeks ‘introspective look’ at criminal justice

Name: Tamara Cabán-Ramirez

Title: Owner, Cabán-Ramirez Law Firm

Education: B.A., Latin American studies, Spanish, and political science, University of Minnesota; J.D., Hamline University School of Law

Attorney Tamara Cabán-Ramirez, a member of the state’s Conviction Review Unit’s advisory board, hopes the unit will take “an introspective look at how the justice system functions in Minnesota” given its disproportionate effects on racial and ethnic minorities.

Having activists join attorneys on the board will “amplify the voices of the community,” she said.

“This is not a save-all, but it allows for a conversation to occur, and having community members be part of the conversation is key,” said Cabán-Ramirez, a solo practitioner focusing on immigration and criminal defense cases.

The unit is to identify, remedy and prevent wrongful convictions.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cabán-Ramirez serves as Deputy Regional President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and co-chairs its Special Committee on Puerto Rico and ImmiGRANT Defense Fund Task Force.

She is past president of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association and serves on its Judicial Endorsement Committee.

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Talk to me about Puerto Rico; visiting, going to the beach. Talk to me about the kids. We will talk for hours.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid because I wanted to be a poet, I wanted to be an author. Gabriel García Márquez was one of the inspirations. He was not a lawyer, but he studied law and then became a journalist. In my mind then, the thought was if I want to be a García Márquez I have to go to law school.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” “Writers and Lovers.”

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: Being micromanaged. I need space to make decisions. That’s hard to deal with when you have children because they micromanage you constantly.

Q: What’s the best part of your work?

A: Seeing positive results in the community, particularly in the last four years because the anxiety and uncertainty were so high for the community and the attorneys.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: The frustration when the system doesn’t meet the clients’ needs.

Q: What’s a favorite activity away from work?

A: The kids and I go on adventures. Exploring, going camping, exploring new cities, trying new things. I encourage them to research what they would like to try next.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do there?

A: Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. On a night without a moon, a dark night, you go kayaking in the lagoon and can see the Bio Bay from your kayak. It is absolutely magical. These microorganisms are like neon blue.  Every time you paddle, the movement lights them up so it looks like fairy dust at night.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge whom you most admire? Why?

A: Locally, (the late) Manuel Guerrero, who was my mentor. Justice Sotomayor, being of Puerto Rican descent, bilingual, the first Latina, having a criminal prosecution background, having an understanding of our community and the need for representation, that she continues to remain engaged with the community through her books. We had the honor to meet her when she came to Minnesota. Her presence and experiencing her energy and the way that she talked to the students and to the children, I was so inspired.

Q: What’s a misconception that others have about your work as an attorney?

A: That it’s all about the money and we don’t care about the client. The things that keep me up at night are my clients and making sure that I’m doing the best work that I can do to achieve their goals and to protect their rights.

Q: What’s a favorite novel, movie or TV show about lawyers or the legal profession?

A: “My Cousin Vinny.” It’s all about that cross[-examination].


Like this article? Gain access to all of our great content with a month-to-month subscription. Start your subscription. 

About Todd Nelson

Leave a Reply