BEST SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCY (1998)
It was lawyers at the Neighborhood Justice Center who recently defended Juan Garcia, accused of joining four women in a drug-related robbery. It's also NJC attorneys who are handling several cases involving elderly Southeast Asian shamans charged with possession of opium, a substance used in their culture for medicinal purposes and in religious ceremonies. To these folks it's all the same: Defendants don't have to be sympathetic to gain representation here, they just have to be in need. For 25 years the Center has provided free criminal defenders to some 1,200 indigent residents of Ramsey, Washington, and Dakota counties. And their tireless efforts don't end in the courtroom: Attorneys work closely with minority communities in the tri-county area and speak to any group that will have them about legal and civil rights issues. Once clients have had their day in court, NJC staffers continue to serve as advocates to help address whatever problems landed them there to begin with.