The 2020 Leadership Awards Luncheon Keynote Speaker, Judge Pamela Alexander
Judge Alexander’s call to the legal profession began courageously at the age of twelve when she testiﬁed in court as a witness to the rape of her best friend. Judge Alexander’s courageous and exemplary career has continued as she consistently and relentlessly pursues her most central value as a judge and a person: equal justice for all. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Judge Alexander was the youngest of six children, however in her career she captured a number of “ﬁrsts.” Judge Alexander was the ﬁrst in her immediate family to graduate from college, receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Augsburg College and was the ﬁrst in her family to attend law school, receiving her Juris Doctorate Degree for the University of Minnesota School of Law.
After beginning her legal career as an attorney for the Trust Department of First National Bank, she left and pursued the career she was meant for as a criminal defense lawyer for the Legal Rights Center where she had clerked while in Law School. Judge Alexander later moved to the criminal division of the Hennepin County Attorneys Ofﬁce and became the ﬁrst African American female prosecutor in the State of Minnesota. In 1983 Governor Rudy Perpich appointed her the ﬁrst African American female Judge in the State of Minnesota, Judge Alexander served as a Hennepin County District Court Judge from 1983 to 2018 with a brief hiatus from the bench from 2008-2013 when Judge Alexander served as the President of the Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice where she focused on criminal and juvenile justice policy reform. Judge Alexander was re-appointed to the Hennepin County District Court in 2013 by Governor Mark Dayton, where she served in the criminal and juvenile divisions of the Court until her retirement in 2018. In the 1990 case State of Minnesota versus Gerald Russell, Judge Alexander was the ﬁrst Judge to issue an opinion acknowledging the unconstitutionally of the crack cocaine laws and the disparate and irreparable effect it had on communities of color, a decision later upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court and nearly two decades later the US Congress ﬁnally took action on this draconian law. Judge Alexander was also one of the ﬁrst Judges in Hennepin County to advocate for the collection and analysis of race data to ensure that all persons who interact with the Minnesota criminal justice system are receiving fair and equal treatment and outcomes. This was one of the many recommendations issued by the Minnesota Racial Bias Task Force where she served as the Chair of the Criminal and Juvenile section of the task force. Judge Alexander furthers her commitment to justice and community by being involved with a number of boards and educational institutions.
She has served as a member of the Minneapolis Foundation Board of Trustees, the Children’s Defense Fund Juvenile Judges Leadership Council, the Minnesota Supreme
Court Equal Fairness in the Courts Committee, the Black Community Crusade for Children, the Way to Grow Board of Directors, Governor Dayton’s Council on Community and Police Relations. Judge
Alexander was also an adjunct Professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School and Mitchell Hamline School of Law, she also serves as a mentor and section leader at the University of Minnesota
School of Law. Judge Alexander has received numerous community service awards because of her social justice reform work some of the highlights being the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Justice Award, the David Graven Public Service Award, the Woman of Courage Award from the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, the 2007 and 2017 University of St. Thomas Award for Outstanding Teaching, the
Proﬁles in Courage Award from the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, the Pioneer Award from the Cultural Wellness Center and the Sabathani Community Leadership Award. Judge Alexander
lives by these words: Law is living and changing, we have to live and change with it. Having said that we must be ever mindful of the lives
we are impacting. Given who we see, what we see, it is incumbent upon those who are in this position to diligently work towards equal justice for everyone.
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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission
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