Mitchell Hamline professor Brad Colbert ‘85 is one of six people being recognized by the Minnesota Justice Foundation. The organization is honoring Colbert with its Legal Services award for his years of work to increase access to justice for people impacted by incarceration.
“For years, Brad has provided important direct services while inspiring countless students to go forward into their careers and work toward access to justice for all,” said Anna Beadle, executive director of the Minnesota Justice Foundation. “The impact he’s made in our legal community through 30-plus years of teaching and mentoring clinic students is immeasurable.”
The award recognizes Colbert’s work as director of Mitchell Hamline’s Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP) Clinic, founder of the Reentry Clinic, and the law school’s partnership with All Square and The Legal Revolution on the “Prison to Law Pipeline,” which came to fruition this year with the acceptance of the first two presently-incarcerated students at Mitchell Hamline – a first for any ABA-approved law school in the country.
Colbert supervises students in the LAMP Clinic, who provide legal services to indigent inmates of state correctional facilities in a variety of civil legal areas. Students in the Reentry Clinic provide legal and other assistance to women who are in the process of leaving prison and reentering the community.
During COVID, Colbert worked with attorneys and students to help more than 300 incarcerated people apply for conditional release, given their susceptibility to the disease. Recently, Colbert was part of the legal team that successfully sued to stop the state from re-incarcerating 18 of those people.
“In the LAMP and Reentry clinics, Professor Colbert gives so many students their first glimpse into the reality of our justice systems,” wrote Professor Natalie Netzel ’15, co-director of Mitchell Hamline’s clinical program, in nominating him. “He has noted to me that students often come into the clinic with preconceived notions about who their clients will be, and it is a formative experience when they go to the prison for the first time, meet their first client, and observe the client’s humanity firsthand.
“They realize that people who are incarcerated are real people deserving of care, compassion, and zealous advocacy – something that’s happened with hundreds of students over the years.”
In many ways, Colbert’s work culminated this year with the Prison to Law Pipeline program that accepted its first incarcerated students, though Colbert is also quick to note the work of Professor Jon Geffen, director of the Reentry Clinic, and all the people who work at All Square alongside Emily Hunt-Turner and Maya Johnson.
“I’m truly and deeply honored by this award,” said Colbert. “But I mostly feel lucky that I’ve been able to work with such wonderful people throughout my career – the folks at the public defender’s office and the people here at the law school – staff, faculty, my students, and my clients.
“It’s been a great gig.”
In addition to Colbert’s award, the Minnesota Justice Foundation also recognizes one student each year from each of Minnesota’s three law schools. The Mitchell Hamline student being honored this year is Marilys Solano.
Awardees will be honored at the foundation’s 40th anniversary celebration on September 28.