The Hon. JaPaul Harris ’00 Appointed to Minnesota Court of Appeals

The Hon. JaPaul Harris, a 2000 graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Education (SOE), has been appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals by Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. Harris fills a vacancy left by the Hon. Jeffrey M. Bryan, recently appointed to the US District Court for the District of Minnesota by President Joe Biden L’68.

Judge JaPaul Harris headshotBefore his accession to the Court of Appeals, Judge Harris served as a judge in the Second Judicial District in Ramsey County, MN. He previously served as a judicial referee in Hennepin County, MN, presiding over housing, harassment, juvenile, and civil commitment matters, and as an attorney for the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, Minneapolis School District, and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services.

Currently serving as Chair of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Juvenile Rules Advisory Committee, Harris’s community involvement also includes serving as Co-chair of the Ramsey County Youth Justice Transformation Initiative, as Chair of the Equal Justice Committee for the Second Judicial District, and as a board member of the Volunteer Lawyers Network and the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts.

Harris recalls that after taking his bachelor’s degree from SOE, he fully intended to teach, “but at law school I discovered my passion for juvenile law, which connected to my education degree.” Harris says he found his education degree useful in the Mitchell Hamline School of Law law school “because it helped me to understand different learning styles and preferences, which I have found useful when speaking to young people.”

“At law school I discovered my passion for juvenile law, which connected to my education degree.”

“Through my student teaching I also saw and understood some of the disparities we see in society,” Harris adds. “Later in my career, I connected to education through my work for Legal Aid, where I worked on education law, such as making sure students got individualized education programs.”

Young people looking for a career in law tend to think they have to take a traditional undergraduate pre-law path, such as studying policy, politics, or history. “I found my education degree made me uniquely situated to be successful in law school,” Harris observes. “It helped me understand my interests, such as breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, and it has given me an ability to communicate my decisions clearly and connect with people so they can internalize what I am saying to them and so they can move forward.”

Speaking of Judge Harris’s appointment, Governor Walz says, “I am honored to appoint Judge JaPaul Harris to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He is an experienced judge with a diverse practice background who has consistently worked to build trust in the courts. Whether by guiding parties through housing court as a judicial referee or assisting low-income families as a legal aid attorney, he has always been committed to helping those who need it the most.”

“Still waters run deep,” says the Hon. Natalie Hudson, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. “Judge Harris is an intellectually gifted jurist whose wisdom, incisiveness, and depth of character will bring a thoughtful, measured voice to the Court of Appeals. The Governor could not have made a better choice.”