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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The top 10 Minnesota legal news stories of 2007

Although completely unscientific, here are my picks for the "Top 10" Minnesota legal news stories of 2007. Even a cursory glance demonstrates that it has been a very interesting year for legal news here in the Gopher State. We at Minnesota Lawyer have enjoyed keeping you up-to-date with our newspaper, blog and website – and look forward to bringing you even more valuable information in 2008. In the meantime, have a happy and safe New Year.
1. The legal wrangling around the 35W bridge collapse, including efforts to get access to the site, start a victims’ compensation fund and represent victims pro bono;

2. Filling judicial seats, including the appointment of a new Minnesota Supreme Court justice (Christopher Dietzen) and the addition of a badly needed new three-judge panel for the state’s overworked Court of Appeals;

3. A Hennepin County jury awards $130 million to local dentists in their lawsuit against a Massachusetts company that administered the business side of their practices;

4. The once-venerable Minneapolis law firm of Rider Bennett closes its doors forever and subsequently declares bankruptcy;

5. The U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear the appeal of the multi-billion-dollar verdict in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case, much to the chagrin of the Minneapolis firm of Faegre & Benson, which has been representing plaintiffs in the case for nearly a generation now;

6. The debate about judicial-election reform, from the Quie Commission issuing its much-anticipated report to the split in the legal community that still exists about how to proceed;

7. The Minnesota Supreme Court recognizes a cause of action for negligent credentialing against hospitals that grant doctors operating-room privileges;

8. Technology and the law: from the courts' introduction of online trial records to the establishment of new legal blogs and other Web-based legal information sources (including the Minnesota Lawyer blog and other new online journalistic ventures);

9.* The controversy at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, including the employees' unionization attempt and the decision of Mike Hatch to resign his deputy’s post and find a job in private practice;

9.* The controversy at the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, culminating with the decision of Rachel Paulose to resign her post and take a job at main Justice in Washington, D.C.

*Denotes a tie


Anonymous said...

Thank you. Those of us at the Minnesota AG's Office who have been working on the union organizing effort since last year thank for your part in exposing the environment at the office. As you may know, we obtained signatures from a majority of the attorneys in the office. Notice was given to AFSCME in May, who in turn notified the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS), and the Attorney General. There was reason to believe Lori would voluntarily agree to recognize the staff's desire to bargain. After all, she ran as an endorsed DFL candidate, proclaimed her support for labor unions and the right to bargain, and one of her first acts as an elected official was to march and speak at the Pioneer Press labor rally. Unfortunately, the BMS was not able to secure any cooperation from the AG's Office, despite several conversations at the deputy attorney level. Basically, Lori refused to acknowledge the majority voice.
Fortunately, her refusal does not end the organizing effort.
Presently there are two parts of this effort taking place simultaneously. The first is submitting a "petition" to the BMS, asking for representation by AFSCME and for a meet and confer with the AG. Given that over 45 attorneys have left the office since the 2006 election, we are asking veteran attorneys to resubmit their signatures and new attorneys to meet with veteran attorneys to discuss how the office is to comply with Minn. Stat. 8.31, how the office environment has changed, why there is a need for job security and then to consider signing a union card. Having a majority of the attorneys supporting this petition will demonstrate to BMS that we have a strong movement in the office and that BMS can activate its authority to demand answers from Swanson. The second is the overarching goal of changing PELRA. The large number of petition signatures will help demonstrate to the legislature that a change in PELRA is both needed and wanted.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little disappointed that the "controversies" at both the US Attorney's Office and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office ranked only 9th. While the buzz seems to have quieted down at the US Attorney's Office, with the departure of Rachel Paulose, the saga continues at the Minnesota AGO, with nary a peep from the media. According to the internal voices (as I read them on the agunion.blogspot.com website) Ms. Swanson is actively campaigning internally to bust up her own employees' unionization efforts! The fact that a union-endorsed, labor advocate can get away with that is disgusting to say the least. Keep up the pressure through your reporting efforts and your blog! Citizens have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.