Minnesota-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney will no longer lend its attorneys to help prosecutors in Minneapolis in misdemeanor cases following the death of George Floyd.
The roughly 500-lawyer firm, which is headquartered in Minneapolis and has offices around the world, announced late Tuesday that it is ending its misdemeanor prosecution program. The firm has assisted in the prosecution of misdemeanor cases by the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office through the program for more than 40 years.
The firm’s decision comes after nationwide outrage and protest following the death of Floyd while being taken into Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
“Dorsey & Whitney shares the sadness and the outrage expressed throughout Minnesota and the world over George Floyd’s killing, as well as over the long history of such injustice,” said managing partner Bill Stoeri in a statement.
Studies have demonstrated that misdemeanors disproportionately impact members of the black community, which was an important factor in the firm’s decision to end its involvement in Minneapolis prosecutions, the firm said in a statement.
“We must be part of the solution, and that means concrete action to assist the community and a re-examining of our own programs and practices,” Stoeri said.
The firm will place a greater emphasis on pro bono work, with its diversity & inclusion and pro bono chairs leading a collaboration within the firm to provide legal services to communities affected by current civil unrest.
Beyond legal work, the firm will look to volunteer in a non-legal capacity in communities around the Twin Cities and its other offices. Stoeri said the firm will also look inward, aiming to make progress on the legal industry’s own problem of diversity and inclusion.
“We also know it has not been enough,” Stoeri said. “Law firms, including ours, need to reevaluate their approach and not rest on the status quo.”
In a statement, Minneapolis City Attorney Erik Nilsson called Dorsey’s move to stop participating in his office’s program “an unfortunate decision, but one that I respect.”
“The partnership proved beneficial to both the Dorsey law firm and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office for more than 40 years,” he said. “This office will continue to seek justice for victims, enforce public safety and lead on issues of crime justice reform.”