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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Heffelfinger headliner at HCBA annual meeting

The Hennepin County Bar Association’s annual meeting next Thursday promises to be a memorable one. The keynote speaker will be none other than former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who has lately been the reluctant subject of media inquiries about the wave of U.S. Attorney departures during the past two years.

In his address, “The Independence of U.S. Attorneys,” Heffelfinger -- who served as U.S. attorney under both George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush -- will discuss a variety of timely issues, including:

-- the appointment process of U.S. Attorneys;

-- the relationship between U.S. Attorneys and the Justice Department, the White House and other branches of government; and

-- the manner in which U.S. Attorneys exercise their prosecutorial discretion.

“I hope to allow plenty of time for questions,” Heffelfinger said. “That could be the most interesting part of the event.”

Now that's an understatement in light of the recent revelation that Heffelfinger -- who has a sterling reputation in the legal community -- may have been on the list of U.S. Attorneys slated for firing when he left his post to go into private practice last year. Heffelfinger has insisted over and over again that his decision to leave was completely voluntary and not a product of pressure from above.

I, for one, believe him -- although I think the fact that his name appears to have been on the list demonstrates how completely ridiculous and arbitrary the list was. (My own pet theory is that the list with Heffelfinger's name on it was, in fact, not the firings list, but Karl Rove's personal errand list. I think the list was instructing an aide to return a Tommy Hilfiger shirt that someone had given Rove for Christmas and everything else was just a big misunderstanding. ...)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Unionizing effort continues in AG's Office

We received an anonymous blog entry today indicating that a majority of attorneys in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office have now signed off on an effort to unionize.

The spokeswoman for the union, AFSCME Council 5, Jennifer Lovaasen, could not confirm the statement. She would only say that "the organizing campaign continues." Lovaasen added that "if there were a union today, there'd be a process to resolve issues relating to working conditions."

Salute the rising leaders of the profession

On Tuesday, May 22, Minnesota Lawyer will have its 7th annual Up & Coming Attorneys Awards luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, starting at 11:30 a.m.

This year we are recognizing 20 outstanding newer lawyers (admitted within the last 10 years) who have stood out from the crowd. This event is an excellent way to network with some of the rising leaders in the profession and to learn about some of their accomplishments. I usually walk away with a good feeling about the legal profession and a sense that the future of the bar is in excellent hands. I am told that a couple of hundred guests have already signed up.

As an added bonus(?) the awards will be presented by the Minnesota Lawyer editorial staff -- the same folks whom I am sure you have already grown to know and love through our postings on this blog. While I would not presume to speak for my esteemed colleagues, I promise to be short and to the point -- or at least 5'11 and in the general vicinity of the point, anyway ...

For more information about the luncheon event, click here. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Heffelfinger (again) says he wasn't told to resign

An update on the U.S. attorney's story. In an article now posted on the Star Tribune's website, "Klobuchar asks for Heffelfinger explanation,"U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said again that he had no idea when he resigned that he had been targeted for dismissal.

"As late as early fall of '05, I had a private meeting with the attorney general related to Native American issues, and [Kyle] Sampson [who compiled the firings list] was present at that meeting," he told the Strib. "Had they had concerns about my performance, [U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales] had the opportunity to raise them and didn't. So I could reasonably conclude that he didn't have a problem with my performance."

Update: Sen. Norm Coleman has joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar and a growing number of other senators in asking for Gonzales' resignation. Hmmm. Wonder if Gonzales has any kids approaching college age ...

McClatchy story mentions local U.S. Attorney's Office

As one of the comments points out in another post, a lengthy story on the U.S. attorney controversy dated yesterday out of McClatchy's Washington Bureau contained the following paragraph near the end:

"A U.S. attorney in Minnesota, who disagreed with the Justice Department on a case involving voting rolls, was asked to resign early last year. "

Former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger has repeatedly said that he was not asked to resign. So far, there doesn't appear to be anything in the local papers about this, which is a bit perplexing if that paragraph is correct and new info has been found. We will see what develops.

Update: 11:16 A.M. --

The McClatchy paragraph was apparently in error. The story on the website now reads: "A U.S. attorney in Missouri, who disagreed with the Justice Department on a case involving voting rolls, was asked to resign early last year."

Now that is what I call a big oops.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A hat trick for attorney/hockey owner?

Readers of Minnesota Lawyer’s Bar Buzz section might have seen the item last week section about Brian Schoenborn , the Leonard Street & Deinard lawyer who was recognized by Minnesota Hockey recently for his legal work on that organization’s behalf.

Congratulations are in order for Schoenborn this week as well. He co-owns a pair of teams in the United States Hockey League -- a "Tier One" amateur hockey league -- and one of them, the Sioux Falls Stampede, won the championship of the 29-year-old league last weekend. Schoenborn’s other team, the Des Moines Buccaneers (last year’s USHL champion), was eliminated in the semi-final round.

Schoenborn, managing partner of LS&D’s St. Cloud office, has been a longtime presence in the 12-team USHL, serving as the league’s legal counsel and fulltime cheerleader as well as a team owner. Despite his recent triumphs, however, we couldn’t get Schoenborn to guarantee a third straight championship for his hockey empire in 2008.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mass. lawyer shot during alleged attack on cop

We don't usually cover news strictly out of Massachusetts, but this little item from our sister publication, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, caught our eye for obvious reasons.

Lawyer is shot in leg after allegedly attacking cop with knife

A criminal defense lawyer who regularly practices in Dorchester District Court was shot in the leg by a local police officer and arrested for attempted murder after she allegedly charged police with a knife. ...

A statement released by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said that 38-year-old Aderonka O.A. Lipede allegedly came at one of the officers with the weapon. ...

And here is my favorite part ...

While the matter is still under investigation, preliminary indications suggest the lawyer was emotionally disturbed at the time of the shooting. ...

Do ya' think?

In any case, click here for more.

Is all news local? It soon may be

The Star Tribune has another article about how it will be retooling its coverage to make it more local. For those not in the the know, those trying to save the general media on Wall Street (or at least those trying to squeeze larger margins out of it) have determined that the magic formula is something called "hyperlocalism" (although I have not heard the folks at the Strib actually use the dreaded "h" word yet).

Wikipedia defines it this way: The term "hyperlocal" is sometimes used to refer to news coverage of community-level events usually overlooked by mainstream media outlets. Of course, if more and more mainstream media outlets are now turning hyperlocal, the definition seems a little disingenuous and self-defeating -- but I will use it for want of a better one.

The hyperlocal trend/idea is why we keep hearing Strib management repeating -- as the editor reportedly did in a newsroom meeting yesterday -- that Bloomington, with about 84,000 residents, is one of the largest cities in the state -- yet there's no Bloomington reporter on staff.

I have seen mention in the Strib on several occasion now that there is no local daily Bloomington newspaper and that the Strib has no Bloomington bureau. Now I have nothing against Bloomington, but I sure am getting tired of hearing it used as an example. Why doesn't the Strib just open up a branch office near the Baby Gap in the Mall of America and be done with it?

McNulty resigns; local tie

No reason to leave the U.S. Attorney story alone. Deputy Paul McNulty resigned, ostensibly for financial reasons, and it has been reported previously that he was considering going back to the private sector. U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose was his senior counsel when she was appointed in Minnesota.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lawyers and unions: Norma Rae, esq.?

With the lawyers in the Attorney General's Office engaged in an attempt to unionize, Minnesota Lawyer's Dan Heilman decided to take a look at the interplay of unions and public sector lawyers. According to the article in this week's Minnesota Lawyer, prosecutors in nine counties belong to unions. The latest to unionize was St. Louis County, which unionized late last year, shortly after a 28-year incumbent County Attorney was unseated by a newcomer.

“It was a hotly contested election in St. Louis County, and I think it woke some people up,” said Eric Lehto, organizing director for AFSCME’s St. Paul-based Council 5. “People knew there would be changes at the top level. There was a high level of seniority that seemed to be shifting. The county attorneys felt the only way they could count on job security was to work toward a collective bargaining agreement. They all completed sign-up cards, indicating their desire to form a union.”

The assistant St. Louis County attorneys are still negotiating the terms of their collective bargaining agreement with the county, said Melanie Ford, who took over as St. Louis County attorney in January. However, their agreement would likely be similar to that between Hennepin and Ramsey counties and AFSCME, which represents about 1.4 million workers nationwide.

A union representative has a nice sum up in the article. “Organizing does seem to be on the rise,” Council 65 Executive Director Steve Preble said. “Lawyers aren’t typically union people, but why not? They’re concerned with a lot of the same issues.”

For more, see "Unionization ‘on the rise’ among lawyers in the public sector." (Password required.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lawyer offers mugged man free representation

The Pioneer Press' Mara Gottfried has had an excellent series of articles on a Minnesota man, Donald Hurd, who got mugged in St. Paul and shot one of the suspects. The story has had a number of interesting twists and turns, including Hurd getting arrested over the incident. One of the latest wrinkles involves a local lawyer.

Jim Meehan, who used to be a criminal defense attorney, contacted the Pioneer Press on Friday and offered to help Hurd, the paper reports.

"I would come out of retirement for him and defend him for free," Meehan, of Minneapolis, told the Pioneer Press. "No jury in America's going to convict him. He's a victim, he's a veteran, he's from out of town, he's older and he seems like a nice guy to me."

For more, click here.