MABL was founded in September 1995. During its relatively short but storied history, MABL members have served in several legal capacities ranging from service on the Minnesota Supreme Court, Chief Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Chief Judge of the Hennepin County Family Court, federal and state court judges, administrative law judges, magistrates, referees, federal, state, county, and city prosecutors and U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.
MABL members are also well represented throughout Minnesota in private practice, with some members comprising the largest minority-controlled law firm in the Midwest. Members of the organization have been honored as "Up and Coming" attorneys in Minnesota by Minnesota's leading periodical devoted exclusively to lawyers; others have been identified as "Super Lawyers" and "Rising Stars" by other leading publications, as well. In addition, various judges have been recognized for their judicial expertise, their commitment and dedication to service, among other things.
The continuing need to address issues encountered by Black attorneys, other attorneys of color, and minority communities does not disappear. Accordingly, included among the many purposes of MABL are the steadfast convictions of promoting and supporting the professional development of Black lawyers in Minnesota, the education of Black students desiring to enter the legal profession, and the education of Black citizens regarding issues pertaining to the American judicial system.
Article I. Membership
Section 1.1. Classes of Membership.
There shall be three classes of membership in the Association: Regular, Associate, and Student. Regular Membership is available to any attorney who is admitted to practice and is in good standing before the bar of the highest court of any state. Associate membership is available to any individual who is not otherwise eligible for regular or student membership. Student membership is available to any individual enrolled in an accredited law school.
Section 1.2. Participation and Voting.
Regular, associate, and student members of the Association are eligible to participate in all meetings and activities of the Association without regard to class of membership; however, only regular members are eligible to vote in any election of officers and at-large directors of the Association, or on amendments to the Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws of the Association.
Section 1.3. Application for Membership.
Each member shall, as a condition of membership in the Association, complete an application for membership and pay annual dues to the Association.
Section 1.4. Annual Dues.
The annual dues of the Association shall be $125 ($95 for attorneys employed in the public sector) for regular membership, $75 for associate membership, and $25 for student membership. However, the Board of Directors may, in its discretion, reduce the annual dues payment for any attorney applying for regular membership who is employed by a legal services agency, or for any attorney for whom payment of annual dues for regular membership would be a financial hardship.
Article II. Board of Directors
Section 2.1. Composition of the Board.
The Board of Directors shall consist of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Immediate Past President, five other members elected at large by the Association at its annual meeting, and student members selected as provided in Section 4.3, infra.
Section 2.2. Meetings.
The Board of Directors shall meet regularly, and not less than six times each year, at a time and place designated by the President. A special meeting of the Board of Directors may be called by the President, or by written request of three directors.
Section 2.3. Quorum.
The presence of at least five directors at a meeting of the Board of Directors shall constitute a quorum.
Section 2.4. Written Action.
The Board of Directors may act by written action taken in accordance with Section 7.2 of the Articles of Incorporation.
Section 2.5. Student Directors.
Student directors shall not vote, but shall be otherwise eligible to participate in Board of Director meetings.
Article III. Officers
Section 3.1 President. The President shall be the presiding officer of the Association and its Board of Directors; shall be responsible for the implementation of the policy and actions of the Association and the Board; and shall be the public representative and spokesperson of the Association. At the annual meeting of the Association, the President shall present a written report on the progress of the mission and work of the Association during his/her term of office.
Section 3.2. Vice-President. The Vice-President shall assist the President in the execution of his/her duties; shall be the presiding officer at meetings in the absence of the President; and shall perform such other duties as may be directed by the Board of Directors.
Section 3.3. Secretary. The Secretary shall keep a record of the proceedings of the Association and of the Board of Directors, including minutes of their meetings. The Secretary shall keep and maintain the correspondence of the Association and of its officers; shall keep and maintain a full and accurate roster of, and necessary records pertaining to, membership of the Association; shall notify the officers, directors and members of the Association of their respective meetings; and perform such other duties as may be directed by the Board of Directors.
Section 3.4. Treasurer. The Treasurer shall have the custody of all funds of the Association, including dues collected from its members; shall keep full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements in books belonging to the Association; shall cause all funds to be deposited and shall keep detailed accounts, records, bills, and receipts in accordance with applicable law and with the directives of and in a manner authorized by the Board of Directors; shall disburse the funds of the Association as may be ordered by its Board of Directors, taking proper vouchers for such disbursements; and shall render to the Association on an annual basis, or otherwise when its membership or Board of Directors so requires, an account of all his/her transactions as Treasurer and of the financial condition of the Association.
Section 3.5 Immediate Past President. The Immediate Past President shall assist the President in transition activities to ensure a smooth and continuous operation of the Association; and shall perform such other duties as may be directed by the Board of Directors.
Article IV. Elections and Terms of Office
Section 4.1. Elections. At its annual meeting, the membership of the Association shall elect its officers, and shall elect at-large directors for positions with expiring terms on the Board of Directors.
Section 4.2. Nominations. At least thirty (30) days prior to the annual meeting of the Association, the Nominations and Elections Committee shall meet and select one or more candidates for each officer position, and one or more candidates for each at-large position with an expiring term on the Board of Directors. The candidates selected by the committee shall be reported in the notice of meeting sent to members of the Association as provided in Section 6.2, infra. Additional nominations for any position of officer or at-large director may be received from the floor during the annual meeting. No person shall be nominated or elected as an officer or at-large director unless he/she has qualified for membership in the Association, pursuant to Section 1.3, supra, at the time notice has been sent to members of the Association pursuant to Section 6.2, infra.
Section 4.3. Student Director Selection. The Board of Directors shall select one student from each of the accredited Minnesota law schools to serve as non-voting student directors. Nominees for student director positions shall be submitted by the President, after consultation with representatives of the Black Law Student Associations of the law schools. In order to qualify for office, each student director must be a student member of the Association and enrolled in good standing at an accredited Minnesota law school during the fiscal year in which he/she will serve.
Section 4.4. Terms of Office. The officers and at-large directors elected at the annual meeting shall take office on July 1.
Section 4.4.1. Officers. Each officer shall hold office for a term of one year, or until his/her successor is duly elected and qualified.
Section 4.4.2. At-Large Directors. The five at-large director positions shall be divided into two classes such that the terms of at least two at-large directors shall expire each year. Each at-large director shall hold office for a term of two years, or until his/her successor is duly elected and qualified.
Section 4.4.3. Student Directors. Each student director shall hold office for a term of one year, or until his/her successor is duly selected and qualified.
Article V. Vacancies
Section 5.1. Declaration. Upon the resignation, removal, death, or disability of an officer or director, not including the Immediate Past President, the President (or in his/her absence, the Vice-President) shall declare the office vacant, and shall cause a written notice of the vacancy to be sent to the membership of the Association within thirty (30) days. An office shall be declared vacant if an officer, at-large director, or student director is absent for four regular meetings of the board of directors within a single fiscal year. After the third absence, the President or Secretary shall notify the absent officer or director in writing that his/her office will be declared vacant after the fourth absence.
Section 5.2. Election of Successor. If the office of President becomes vacant, the Vice-President shall succeed to the office. When a vacancy has been declared in the office of any other officer or a director, a successor shall be elected by the Board of Directors at its next meeting following the written notice of vacancy; however, if an annual meeting of the Association has intervened, the members attending the annual meeting shall elect the successor if the term of the vacant office has not otherwise expired. The newly-elected officer or director shall perform his/her duties until the predecessor's term expires.
Section 5.3. Removal. An officer or director may be removed from office for malfeasance or gross neglect in performing his/her duties, or for professional misconduct. Notice of intent to remove shall be served on the officer or director upon concurrence of five directors at a meeting of the Board of Directors. However, no officer or director may be removed except upon a vote of a two-thirds (2/3) majority of the members of a meeting of the Association held no earlier than ten (10) days following service of the notice of intent to remove.
Article VI. Membership Meetings
Section 6.1. Meetings. The membership of the Association shall meet at least once a year during the last quarter (April 1 through June 30) of the fiscal year for purposes of receiving the annual report of the President, and of electing officers and directors for the next fiscal year. Other membership meetings may be held at such time and place as may be called by the President, by the Board of Directors, or by petition of twenty-five percent (25%) of the regular membership of the Association.
Section 6.2. Notice. Written notice of a membership meeting shall be sent to all members at least ten (10) days prior to the meeting; however, notice of the annual meeting shall be sent at least twenty-one (21) days prior to the meeting. Notice of membership meetings shall be sent by first class mail, facsimile or electronic mail, and shall state the date, time, place and purpose of the meeting.
Section 6.3. Quorum. The presence of at least twenty percent (20%) of the regular membership of the Association at a membership meeting shall constitute a quorum.
Section 6.4. Presiding Officer. At all meetings of the Association, the President shall preside, or in his/her absence, an officer or director in the following order of preference: the Vice-President, the Secretary, the Treasurer, or the director most senior by age present at the meeting.
Article VII. Fiscal Year
Section 7.1. Fiscal year. The fiscal year of the Association shall commence on July 1 and end on June 30.
Section 7.2. Payment of Dues. Annual dues shall be due and payable on July 1 of each fiscal year. The Board of Directors may strike from the roster of membership any member who shall not have paid his/her dues by October 31 of the fiscal year. The Board of Directors may, in its discretion, pro rate the amount of dues payable by a new member who applies for regular membership after January 1 of a fiscal year.
Article VIII. Committees
Section 8.1. Standing Committees. There shall be established the following standing committees: Nominations and Elections Committee, Finance Committee, and Membership Committee.
Section 8.1.1. Nominations and Elections. The Nominations and Elections Committee shall nominate members for election, in the manner provided in these Bylaws, as officers and directors of the Association; and shall conduct and certify the elections of officers and directors.
Section 8.1.2. Finance. The Finance Committee shall assist the Treasurer in financial planning and reporting, including the preparation of annual budgets and financial reports. The Finance Committee shall also develop and coordinate Association fundraising strategies and activities.
Section 8.1.3. Membership. The Membership Committee shall develop policies and programs designed to increase the membership of the Association, including marketing strategies for the Association.
Section 8.2. Other Committees and Duties. The Board of Directors may establish such other committees, or designate additional duties for standing committees, as are necessary and proper to achieve the mission and work of the Association, and to otherwise assist the Board of Directors in discharging its duties.
Section 8.3. Appointment. The President, with the consent of the Board of Directors, shall appoint a chair and members of each committee.
Article IX. Rules
Section 9.1. Governing Rules. All meetings of the Association, its Board of Directors, and its committees shall be governed by, in the following order of priority: the laws of the United States and the State of Minnesota, the Articles of Incorporation, these Bylaws, other rules of proceedings adopted by the Association and the Board of Directors, and Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised.
Section 9.2. Voting. Except as otherwise provided in these Bylaws, items of action shall be decided by a majority vote of the members present at a meeting. The presiding officer or committee chair shall be permitted to vote on any question. Votes by proxy shall not be accepted.
Article X. Amendment
Section 10.1. Amendments to Bylaws. These Bylaws may be altered, amended or repealed, and new Bylaws may be adopted, in whole or in part, by a sixty percent (60%) majority of the regular members present at a meeting of the Association; however, notice of a proposal to alter, amend, repeal a Bylaw, or to adopt a new Bylaw, must be sent to the membership at least ten (10) days prior to such meeting.
Adopted this 18th day of July, 1995
/s/ Jerry W. Blackwell
/s/ Charles H. Williams, Jr.
1. The bylaws were ratified by the MABL membership on October 20, 1995 after Section 1.4 was amended to provide for reduced dues for regular members employed in the public sector.
2. On September 18, 1997, Sections 2.1, 4.3, and 4.4.3 were amended, and Section 2.5 was added, to provide for the selection of non-voting student directors from the Minnesota law schools.
3. On January 25, 2001, Section 4.2 was amended by adding a fourth sentence requiring officer and director candidates to qualify as dues-paying members of the Association. Also on that date, Section 5.1 was amended by adding a second sentence providing for automatic declaration of a vacancy when an officer or director has been absent from four regular board meetings. Also on that date, Section 6.2 was amended to provide for notice of meetings by electronic mail.
4. On June 29, 2006, Section 1.3 was amended to eliminate the requirement that all members complete a membership application every year. Also on that date, Section 6.3 was amended to change the requirement for a quorum from 25% to 20%. Also on that date, Article VIII was amended to eliminate three standing committees.
5. On June 15, 2017, Sections 2.1 and 5.1 were amended, and Section 3.5 was added, to provide for the inclusion of an Immediate Past President as a member of the Board of Directors.
MABL's Board of Directors
Uzodima Frank Aba-Onu
Mr. Aba-Onu is Legal Counsel for Prime Therapeutics. As Legal Counsel, Mr. Aba-Onu primarily collaborates with Prime’s Human Resources and Real Estate and Facilities teams as a subject matter specialist to assist with compliance, litigation concerns, related rules and regulations, and assuring a transparent and fair work-place environment.
Mr. Aba-Onu graduated cum laude from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, where he currently serves as an adjunct professor teaching employment law. He formerly served as an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and Hamline University. Mr. Aba-Onu is currently the President of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Mr. Aba-Onu is also an appointed member to the Committee for Equality and serves on the Board of Directors for the Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Chapter, and St. Stephen’s Human Services.
Prior to joining Prime Therapeutics, Mr. Aba-Onu was a Shareholder at Bassford Remele. Prior to that, he was an Assistant Attorney General, gaining knowledge on mental health, licensing, and other health care-related matters, as well as the Minnesota Implied Consent Law.
Immediate Past President
Amran Farah is an attorney at Greene Espel in downtown Minneapolis. Amran is an experienced litigator who has a tenacious knack for identifying creative solutions to complex problems.Amran represents and advises clients in an array of subjects, including complex commercial litigation, construction litigation, employment law, and internal investigations. Her construction practice involves the representation of property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and community associations in claims for construction defect and property damage. Amran has litigated in state and federal court, as well as arbitration proceedings.
Before joining Greene Espel, Amran worked at an insurance defense firm providing legal services to clients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. After law school, Amran clerked for the Honorable Franklin L. Noel in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and the Honorable Pamela G. Alexander in Hennepin County District Court.
Beyond her practice, Amran is the past-President of the Somali American Bar Association and the past-Chair of the Council of Minnesotans of African Heritage. Amran also serves on the board of B.R.A.V.E., a non-profit organization focused on the success of young East African girls.
Dana Mitchell is an attorney with more than twenty years of legal experience. Ms. Mitchell's legal experiences include working as an assistant county attorney, adjunct professor, and attorney for the Office of the Monitor, a landmark civil rights case involving Black farmers who sued USDA for discrimination. She earned her M.S.W. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Ms. Mitchell is a former IV-D Bush Fellow. She has been a member of MABL since 1995. She is a volunteer, mentor, ardent proponent of representation, diversity and inclusion, and sponsor of people and ideas. Ms. Mitchell believes in the importance of kindness and service to others.
Abou Amara, Jr.
Abou B. Amara, Jr. is an Attorney with nearly a decade of experience in the legislative, public policy, and political arena prior to bar admission and entering private practice, including serving as a top advisor to the Minnesota Speaker of the House.
Prior to law school, Abou was named by Twin Cities Business Magazine as "100 Minnesotans to Know" as a "Shaper of the Future." During law school, Abou was a two-time National Moot Court individual champion, earning "Best Oralist" at the McGee National Moot Court Competition on Civil Rights and the Evans National Moot Court Competition on Constitutional Law.
Following law school, he practiced employment law at a well-respected twin cities law firm. He now is a Judicial Law Clerk on the Minnesota Supreme Court for the 2020-2021 term.
Born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, Athena Hollins is a 2005 graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She obtained her law degree from the University of St. Thomas in 2011. After practicing family law and estate planning for 3 years, Athena joined the community relations team at Thomson Reuters, where she managed the Eagan campus' charitable giving, pro bono and diversity efforts. Athena transitioned into working with membership associations in 2017, when she was hired by the Minnesota State Bar Association as their Director of Diversity and Inclusion. She currently works with the State Bar, the Hennepin County, and Ramsey County Bar Associations as the Senior Directory of Diversity and Foundations.
Athena is also an adjunct professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, teaching the class component of the renowned mentor externship program.
Athena serves as the board Chair of the Payne Phalen Community Council, and as the board Secretary of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers.
In her spare time, Athena visits her family in Hawaii, quilts, and plays poker with her 6 year old.
Francis Green III is an attorney certified by the Minnesota State Bar Association as a Real Property Law Specialist. He advises and represents the United States Department of Agriculture on land conservation and real property law matters. Mr. Green also serves as a conciliation court referee in Ramsey County. He previously worked in private practice and served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. Mr. Green has served in multiple leadership and community service roles including Board Chairperson of Model Cities of St. Paul, Inc. and Commissioner on the City of Woodbury Planning Commission.
B.A., University of Louisiana at Lafayette
M.A., Public Affairs, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
J.D., University of Minnesota Law School
Lateef is an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney in the Civil Division. He has been with the office since 2014, and previously worked in Community Prosecution and Juvenile Divisions. Lateef hails from Crawford, Mississippi where he resided before attending law school at Hamline School of Law.
In his spare time, Lateef enjoys traveling and cooking with his wife and infant daughter.
Pharaoh Lewis is an attorney at Nilan Johnson Lewis in Minneapolis, with a practice in products/business litigation and transactional matters. Clients have benefited from Pharaoh's negotiation and communication skills, which he honed as a judicial law clerk and extern for Hennepin County District Courts. As a legal intern working for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he further sharpened his legal skills by drafting legal memoranda summarizing the NBA's collective bargaining agreement and uniform player contracts. Pharaoh also gained legal experience learning from corporate in-house counsel as an extern with Target Corporation's law department. Pharaoh received his B.S. and M.S. in Sports Management from Barry University. He went on to receive his J.D. from the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
Pharaoh has been a MABL member since 2015. He fully believes in the mission and vision of MABL and will continue to assist MABL in giving back to the local Black community.
When he's not practicing law, Pharaoh is passionate about sports and cooking. He's a big NBA fan and still plays pickup basketball. His football loyalties lie with New Orleans, his hometown. Pharaoh is also an avid reader and fan of HBO's hit show The Wire.
Jules Porter is a licensed attorney and the founder of Seraph 7 Studios, the first Black woman owned console video game development company. Her company features games with diverse heroes and story lines and a STE[A]M work-study program for local students. Jules earned a J.D. and MBA from the University of St. Thomas, a B.S. in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a seminary theology degree. She is a United States Marine Corps veteran, and is committed to community empowerment and service. Jules is a frequent volunteer speaker at local schools where she speaks to students about various legal, government, business, and STE[A]M topics.
In her spare time, Jules cheers on the Minnesota Vikings, heads over to watch the Minnesota Orchestra, watches thriller and sci-fi movies, and reads books on astrobiology and world history.
Gloria Stamps-Smith is an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney in the Adult Services Department. She represents hospitals, the courts, and social workers in the civil commitment of people experiencing a mental health crisis or struggling with chemical dependency.
Previously she worked in the juvenile unit of the office for nearly fifteen years, prosecuting a range of cases from petty theft to first degree murder. Stamps-Smith graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law and is a proud summa cum laude graduate of Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Ms. Stamps-Smith began her career as the first African American woman attorney in the Minneapolis City Attorney's office. And later became the first African American attorney to work for the Supreme Court of Tennessee's Office of Professional Responsibility. Ms. Stamps-Smith later joined the Hennepin County Attorney's office where she worked in the Juvenile Prosecution Division for 15 years before joining the Adult Services Department.
Ms. Stamps-Smith has received numerous awards for her service during her career. These include the 2019 Hennepin County Bar Association Excellence Award for Mentoring in the Profession, the 2018 Minnesota Lawyer Diversity and Inclusion Award, the 2018 University of St. Thomas Black Law Student Association Attorney of the Year Award, and the 2011 Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers Profiles in Courage Award. And the 2020 Myra Bradwell Award form the Minnesota Women Lawyers.
Ms. Stamps-Smith believes we are here for a reason. And part of that reason is to leave the world a little brighter than we found it by showing grace.
Student Director - Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Ryan is a native of Chicago, IL. Ryan attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for undergraduate school, where she majored in Political Science. Her environment and experiences has ignited her passion for Social Justice. Ryan believes MABL provides her with an opportunity to converse and collaborate with like-minded individuals to create real change. Furthermore, Ryan asserts that serving as a student representative will allow her to communicate with and support more students of color in the legal field.
Currently, Ryan is a 2L at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Long-term, Ryan aspires to practice criminal defense, but is open to practicing in any area of the law that can lead to systematic change.
Student Director - University of Minnesota Law School
Student Director - University of St. Thomas School of Law
Jesse Addo is a 2022 J.D. candidate at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. In the summer of 2020, Jesse joined Fredrikson & Byron via the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP) 1L Summer Rotation Clerkship program. Fredrikson is partnered with General Mills where Jesse received an opportunity to work with the company's in-house counsel.
During his 1L year of law school at St. Thomas, Jesse co-found the Sports, Entertainment and Media Law Society and was an active member in the Black Law Student Association. Jesse will serve as treasurer of both student organizations in his 2L year at St. Thomas.
Prior to law school, Jesse received his undergraduate degree in finance at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. At St. Thomas, Jesse was a captain and a two-time All-American on the football team. Jesse also spent two years as a valuation consultant at Deloitte.