Team who worked on Anoka-Hennepin School District bullying case honored as Minnesota Lawyer’s ‘Attorney of the Year 2012’

Anoka-Hennepin School District General Counsel Paul Cady is one of nine attorneys who took part in the Anoka-Hennepin School District Bully Case who have been selected by Minnesota Lawyer as an “Attorney of the Year 2012.” Minnesota Lawyer is an independent newspaper and online resource dedicated to reporting on – and enhancing – the practice of law in Minnesota.

The attorneys who worked with Cady also being honored are Jeanette Bazis and Mark Johnson from Green Espel. Attorneys who represented the government and defendants being honored are: Gregg Brooker and Ana Voss, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Martin Chester and Zachary Stephenson, from Faegre Baker Daniels; and Celeste Culberth, from Culberth & Lienemann.

An 18-year employee of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, Cady said he was surprised to receive the award.

“It’s rewarding because it includes the attorneys who represented all the parties in the case,” Cady said. “That in and of itself is a story of accomplishment; it’s very unique.”

The attorneys worked on a federal civil rights investigation and a lawsuit filed in 2011 by six former and/or current students. The suit said the district did not adequately respond to persistent physical and verbal harassment based on real or perceived sexual orientation. Under a consent decree, the district agreed to: retain a consultant on sex-based harassment to review its policies and procedures; develop and implement a plan for preventing and addressing sex-based harassment of students in middle and high school; enhance training of staff and students on the issue; and retain a mental health consultant to address needs of students victimized by harassment.

Cady said there were highs and lows through the process, but at the end of the day everyone wanted the same result: to have continuous improvement when dealing with the safety of students and having a respectful learning environment where everyone is treated with dignity.

The case was made memorable by the state and national attention it received. For Cady, his team’s goal was to keep the focus local and for issues discussed to reflect the Anoka-Hennepin community.

“As a trained mediator, I was impressed with Judge Rau,” Cady said referring to the judge who presided over the case. “Each side had to stand in the other’s shoes and walk their path to get to our end result.”

From the beginning to the end of the case, Cady was impressed by Anoka-Hennepin’s staff.

“They are committed to providing a good learning environment for students,” he said.

Cady and the other attorneys were honored at an event last Thursday in Minneapolis.