Our blog has moved, and is new and improved.

You should be automatically redirected in 3 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Federalist Thoughts

More happenings on the U.S. attorney front, with the revelation that the Department of Justice maintained spreadsheets containing the names of U.S. attorneys (and U.S. attorney candidates) with a special check-off area noting if they were members of the Federalist Society. Minnesota's new U.S. attorney, Rachel Paulose, had a check next to her name.

The Federalist Society -- a group for conservative lawyers -- has gotten a lot of bad P.R. lately. I saw one press article refer to it as a "secretive" society. I can only speak to my experience with the Minnesota chapter, but these folks seem to be a generally astute set of lawyers and law students who just happen to be conservative in philosophy. I hear -- though cannot confirm -- that some of these folks have actually gone on to live productive lives.

That said, Sen. Amy Klobuchar touched on my major concern, which is that the importance of membership may have been overemphasized. It certainly is not a qualification for being a U.S. attorney -- only an indicator of a conservative outlook. It would be ridiculous to make it a litmus test for service as a U.S. attorney, just as it would be ridiculous for a Democratic administration to make membership in the ACLU a litmus test.

NYC lawyer jumps off Empire State Building

Here's a sad item reported by the Associated Press:

A man jumped to his death Friday out the window of a 69th-floor law office in the Empire State Building.
Police responded to the New York City landmark shortly before 3 p.m. after a 911 caller reported seeing a severed leg -- covered in a gray sock -- on the street below. The rest of the body was recovered from a setback on the 30th floor.
The tragedy in the 102-story building closed portions of the busy Midtown Manhattan street while the investigation continued.
Police identified the man as Moshe Kanovsky, a lawyer in his 30s.
More than 30 people have committed suicide at the Empire State Building since it opened in 1931. The skyscraper reaches 1,454 feet to the top of its lightning rod. ...

I attempted a Google search of the lawyer's name to add a little about him to this report, but all I came up with was that he was on a list of candidates who passed the February 2003 NY bar. It wound up being an ironic juxtaposition -- the joyous occasion of passing the bar and the tragedy of his death are the only remaining vestiges of him left on the Internet.

In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers to aid lawyers who are grappling with depression and other issues.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Women In Islam

Minneapolis Legal Aid attorney Imani Jaafar-Mohammad spoke at the Women’s Human Rights Series at Briggs and Morgan in Minneapolis on Tuesday, April 10, on “Women’s Rights in Islam."

The standing-room only event is scheduled to be repeated on Monday, April 23. The William Mitchell College of Law graduate told the group that it is important to differentiate between religion and culture, and that the religion of Islam recognizes gender equity while preserving gender identity.

Many of the conflicts in the world today are not compelled by Islamic religion or the Quran, she said. Jaafar-Mohammad advocated a return to traditional Islamic practices as a solution to ideological conflict.

Pictured with Jaafar-Mohammad (center) are Briggs and Morgan attorney Jeffrey Keyes and Cheryl Thomas of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.

Judge Randall bares his mind

Court of Appeals Judge R.A. “Jim” Randall vented his frustration with the Minneapolis Police Department in a 16-page dissent in a case released earlier this week, State v. Thoreson.

The defendant had been convicted of misdemeanor prostitution after a Hennepin County District Court judge refused to dismiss the case on the ground that police misconduct violated the defendant’s due process rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Randall disapproved of the police officer’s investigative techniques, which included inducing the woman to disrobe completely in the front seat of his unmarked squad car.

Randall thought the woman didn’t commit a crime by taking her clothes off without accepting money for sex. He called the police conduct “somewhat egregious.” Arrest her, if you must, but do not “make sport” with her, said the judge.

Randall is no stranger to a well-turned phrase as the following excerpt from his dissent illustrates:

“Respondent argues that asking a strange woman to take off all her clothes and go naked in front of a strange man is a ‘legitimate’ police tactic. Respondent argues this is so because ‘good girls won’t do that but bad girls will.’ Looking back, at my age, perhaps I did miss part of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Maybe there never was a senior prom where, after the midnight close of the official school gym dance, the party continued until the wee hours of the morning at some neighboring park by a lake where drinking and swimming, bathing suits optional, were varsity sports du jour. Maybe nobody was ever 19, went to college, went to fraternity and sorority parties, and in a large group both male and coed, ceremoniously ‘mooned’ their school’s arch rival football team as it drove into the parking lot or, for that matter, tried to moon their arch rival’s entire student body until the college president sent security in. Funny how the memory is affected. Funny how life imitates art.”

Hmm ... It’s good to get the naked truth from a judge.

When media are in need of mediators

With the two major general circulation dailies in the Twin Cities locked in a lawsuit with each other, whom can we count on to objectively cover it? Ever since Par Ridder and a merry band of his followers defected from the Pioneer Press to the Star Tribune, this story has been mushrooming. Then the inevitable lawsuit was filed yesterday. Check out:
-- Pioneer Press sues Star Tribune, seeks ouster of publisher in the Pioneer Press (and the much more charged Pioneer Press accuses ex-publisher of fraud, theft published today); also
-- Star Tribune sued over publisher in the Strib for the defendant's point of view.

I love the way each of the papers started its headline with its own name. I will go out on a limb and say the Strib/ Pioneer Press legal match up will get a lot of ink.

Meanwhile, Par's laptop continues to be a major player in the controversy, with the Pioneer Press claiming that he copied all the files on it before tuning it over. Personally, I think the laptop contains all those missing e-mails about the U.S. attorney firings that the administration maintains were irretrievably deleted -- along with detailed schematics of the UFO kept in Area 51 and the truth behind the Kennedy assassination. Why else would they be fighting so vehemently about whether the information on it was misappropriated?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Marshal Law (Suits)

USA Today has a piece today advocating for allowing soldiers to sue for noncombat related injuries that are the result of negligence. ("What our soldiers really need: Lawyers")

"If members of Congress truly want the best for our troops, they should start by giving them the same legal protections that the members themselves enjoy. No one is asking for Congress to treat our soldiers as high-value VIPs, but simply full-valued citizens with the same protections as the people they are defending around the world." writes George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley.

I think it is an interesting proposition. I suppose opponents of the proposal would argue that negligence lawsuits would be disruptive to the military chain of command. However, Turley makes a good case that absolving military personnel of negligence liability for their acts has some undesirable consequences.

High Court affirms murder conviction

The Minnesota Supreme Court just upheld the premeditated murder conviction of a man involved in a shooting death.

The high court found that, even though there was no evidence of motive, evidence that the defendant was armed, walked purposefully to where the victim was standing shot the victim in the head at close range and immediately fled the scene was sufficient to sustain the guilty finding.

The decision is State v. McArthur.

From the classroom to the courtroom

There is an interesting piece in the Pioneer Press about a lawsuit over religion in public schools. It seems like these religious suits have really proliferated in recent years. I wonder if that means as a society we are getting more religious or less. Perhaps it just means that we are getting more litigious. In any event, here is a snippet of the article for your perusal:

St. Paul schools in fight over free speech

By Shannon Prather
Pioneer Press/ April 11, 2007

Boys Scouts troops and Little League teams try to boost their ranks by handing out fliers in St. Paul public schools. Church youth groups want in on the action.

The Greater St. Paul Area Evangelicals sued St. Paul Public Schools this week, contending a district rule barring religious fliers violates First Amendment free speech rights.

The district acknowledges it bans materials of a sectarian nature. But administrators' main concern is the church group's flier asks parents to take their children out of class each week, a school district attorney said.

The lawsuit is among the latest controversies over free speech in public schools.

Click here for more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Law is (sometimes) having to say you're sorry

The Associated Press had an interesting follow-up piece on the controversy surrounding the decision of three of U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose's deputies to step down from their leadership posts.

Paulose apologizes to staff in wake of resignations

By Frederic Frommer
Associated Press/ April 10, 2007

The U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Rachel Paulose, apologized to her staff this week for "her mistakes" in the wake of the self-demotions of three of the top prosecutors in her office, her spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Sen. Norm Coleman, who championed Paulose's nomination last year, told her he was "deeply disappointed" to learn of the resignations, and Rep. Keith Ellison called on Congress to look into the matter.

Paulose's spokeswoman, Jeanne Cooney, said Paulose met with her assistant U.S. attorneys on Monday and had an all-office meeting Tuesday.

"At both of those meetings, the U.S. attorney took responsibility and apologized for her mistakes," Cooney said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "She also said something to the effect that she pledged to do better as we move forward. She asked employees to remain focused on our mission and our service."

For the full article, click here.

R.I.P. Rider

It's sad to see Rider Bennett go the way of Popham Haik, which dissolved in 1997. There is an interesting piece on the Popham Haik implosion that I found with a Google search. The article -- which ran in the Business Journal on June 27, 1997, is entitled: Dissolved firm teaches start ups. The piece delves into the lessons learned from the breakup by the many spin-off firms from the dying oak that was Popham.

With the demise of a quality firm like Rider Bennett, one wonders what future mid-sized general practice law firms have in the scheme of things. Was this unavoidable? What will the lessons learned of the inevitable Rider Bennett spin-offs be? Hopefully the Rider Bennett partners won't get involved in the kind of acrimony that accompanied the dissolution of Doherty Rumble & Butler a few years ago.

In any event, I would like to send out my regards into the blogosphere for the latest mid-sized firm to bite the dust. Whether it is law-firm Darwinism that killed it or something else, it will be missed in the legal community. R&B had a sterling reputation and its untimely demise is unfortunate on many levels.

Good luck to all its lawyers and support staff in securing a new gig. And if you do start a spin-off, make sure to get Minnesota Lawyer subscriptions for all your lawyers! You can click here to subscribe. ;0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bye, Bye Rider Bennett

The Minneapolis law firm of Rider Bennett has announced that it will be dissolving and closing its doors effective May 31.

The 91-attorney general practice firm has been a fixture in the local legal community since its founding in 1960. Among the firm's prominent alumni are Gov. Tim Pawlenty and First Lady (and former District Court Judge) Mary Pawlenty.

We will provide full coverage in our print edition.

May I please use your operating room?

The Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments on whether to allow lawsuits against hospitals for negligently granting physicians privileges to use their operating rooms. The arguments look decent on both sides of this one, so it's tough to say who will prevail.

Here is a link to the Minnesota Lawyer article that we ran this week: http://www.minnlawyer.com/story.cfm?ID=29767. (Password required.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Collaborating with the enemy?

Lawyers USA, Minnesota Lawyer's national sister publication, ran a very interesting article this week on collaborative law. Collaborative law has its roots here in Minnesota, so it is very relevant to Minnesota attorneys. Here is the start of the article:

Collaborative law hits a snag

By Dick Dahl
Lawyers USA, April 9, 2007

Collaborative law has grown steadily in popularity since Minneapolis divorce lawyer Stuart Webb first introduced the concept in the 1990s.

But since Feb. 24, practitioners and supporters have been buzzing about an unwelcome development. On that day, the Colorado Bar Association issued an ethics opinion concluding that collaborative law is unethical per se.

Collaborative law is a dispute resolution method in which lawyers and clients for both sides vow to resolve a matter without litigation. If negotiations fail, the lawyers (and their firms) must withdraw from the case, and the clients hire new counsel to take the claim to court.

The 2,000-member International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) in San Francisco reports that collaborative law is widely practiced, and increasingly, legislatures and courts are adopting rules encouraging its use. In February, the American Bar Association formally embraced the concept with the creation of the Collaborative Law Committee of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section.

But Ethics Opinion 115 may put all that at risk. The opinion by the state bar's ethics committee states that collaborative law's characteristic "four-way agreements," pacts signed by the parties and the lawyers resolving to negotiate a resolution in a non-adversarial fashion, violate the state's Rules of Professional Conduct.

It said that that collaborative agreements create a duty between a participating lawyer and the other lawyer's client, and this obligation runs afoul of state Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7(b) regarding conflicts of interest.

The committee also found fault with another aspect of four-way agreements: the signed commitment by lawyers to discontinue their representations if the parties decide to go to court.
"Because the disqualification agreement invariably interferes with … independent professional judgment in considering alternatives and forecloses courses of action for the client and the collaborative law practitioner, it violates Rule 1.7," the opinion said.

The full text is available to Lawyers USA subscribers. (Click here to subscribe.)

Minnesota Lawyer is exploring the potential impact of this ethics opinion locally in an upcoming piece for our print edition. Let us know if you have any thoughts.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all our blog readers!