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Friday, November 16, 2007

Minnesota bar shows support for Pakistani colleagues

An estimated 100 people or more showed up for the rally in support of Pakistani lawyers held at the Minnesota Judicial Center on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The demonstration was on one of many such events organized by lawyers and bar groups across the country. Locally, the Minnesota State Bar Association and other bar groups coordinated the effort. In the above shot, Peter Brown of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, addressed the crowd. Also speaking at the rally were: Richard Kyle, president of the Ramsey County Bar Association; Sonia Miller Van-Oort, president of the Hennepin County Bar Association, Kelly Just Olmstead, co-chair of the Lavender Bar Association and Minnesota Sen. Satveer Chaudry, DFL-Fridley.

Paulose fights back

In her first public statement on the allegation that she once used a racial epithet in reference to a subordinate, U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose vigorously denied the charge.

“I NEVER made any such statement. I have told the department so, and the department is defending me against this outrageous and defamatory lie,” said Paulose in an online article posted on the National Review site.

Paulose goes on to add, "The McCarthyite hysteria that permits the anonymous smearing of any public servant who is now, or ever may have been, a member of the Federalist Society; a person of faith; and/or a conservative (especially a young, conservative woman of color) is truly a disservice to our country.”

The article was authored by Powerline blogger and Minneapolis attorney Scott Johnson.

Click here for more.

Free caselaw on the Internet

For all of you lawyers who’ve not yet subscribed to a computer assisted legal research provider due to the cost, it looks like the wait is paying off -- at least as to federal caselaw.

Earlier this week it was announced that all federal Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since its inception will be made available for free to the public.

Fastcase, a legal research provider, has agreed to supply Public.Resource.Org with 1.8 million pages of federal caselaw. It’s expected that Public.Resource.Org will begin making the information available in early 2008. The two companies say that further announcements will be forthcoming on the availability of additional caselaw, including federal district court and pre-1949 appellate decisions.

Currently, lexisONE allows free access to state and federal caselaw, but it only goes back five years. Supreme Court decisions are available back to 1781. Another free caselaw database in the works is Altlaw.org, a pilot project by Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School.
For more information on the new federal caselaw archive, see the press release announcing the project.

MABL scholarship gala Saturday

Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for CNN and writer for the New Yorker, is the keynote speaker Saturday at the Scholarship Gala put on by the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL) Foundation, the Star Tribune reports.

Click here for more.

AG's Office posts help wanted sign (again)

Just as an update on a prior post, I note that the Minnesota Attorney General's Office is again looking for a few good attorneys (or if not that, at least a few mediocre ones ...). Here is the link to the Bench & Bar classifieds in case you are interested in applying. (Hey, you get a retirement plan, holidays off and "more hands‑on legal work on challenging legal issues anywhere else" -- what more could you ask for?)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guilt by least resistance

The path of least resistance may work well for electricity, but not so much for public figures.

In another case of "I pleaded guilty but didn't really mean it," the former executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society says she pleaded guilty to an animal mistreatment charge this week "just to put it behind me," The Forum reports.

Sound familiar? Maybe I'm being simplistic here, but if you don't think you're guilty, don't plead guilty. And if your goal is to "put it behind you," a criminal conviction in the Internet age is pretty much the worst imaginable choice. As Sen. Larry Craig showed us, you can't ever take it back.

I posit three explanations for this type of behavior: 1) They don't listen to their lawyers. 2) They don't have lawyers. 3) They don't grasp how easily information travels these days.

Feel free to add your own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A veteran lawyer crosses over to help immigrants

It’s a testament to the power of the immigration issue that circumstances could cause someone to move from arresting suspected terrorists to helping defend immigrant rights.

Last week’s issue of City Pages contained an interesting story about Mark Cangemi, a former investigator for the Twin Cities branch of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In his role with the INS, Cangemi was involved in the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker” who allegedly helped plan the 9/11 attacks.

Six years later, after facing mandatory retirement from the INS, Cangemi mulled his options and finally landed in an unexpected location: Igbanugo Partners International, a Minneapolis-based immigration law firm with a reputation for its defense of immigrant rights. Cangemi, a 1992 graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, is a partner with the firm.

Crossing over hasn’t been easy for a seasoned attorney used to enforcement and prosecution, but Cangemi’s story is an interesting look at how a twist in one’s career can lead to unanticipated destinations.

Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office Revisited

There has been a lot of back and forth of the Internet and elsewhere about whether or not new U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey will keep on U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose or give her walking papers. There are certainly some in her office -- and a number of partisan blogs -- lobbying for the latter. And indeed, it wouldn’t shock me if that happened. Most politicians do the easiest thing , and let’s face it, it’s much easier to throw something away and get a new one rather than to try to salvage it. We do live in a throw-away culture, after all. But personally I am loath to do that with human beings unless we have to.

My opinion of the situation of the situation at the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office has not significantly changed since last April, when I wrote a column expressing my views on it. At that time I pointed out that while Paulose appeared to be highly intelligent and hard-working 34-year-old woman with a sterling educational and legal background for her age, she was an inexperienced manager who made some managerial missteps due to that inexperience. Those mistakes occurred in a tinderbox environment because the people she was managing included career prosecutors with significantly more age and seasoning. As a result, she definitely suffered some growing pains, or, as former assistant U.S. attorney Hank Shea recently put it, had “a baptism by fire.”

Paulose does seem to be learning, reportedly delegating a lot more and promoting awareness of her office by doing outreach work on the road. The complaints I see circulating in the blogosphere trace back to events six months or more ago. (There are, of course, a number of matters under investigation in the office, and those matters no doubt will continue to be looked into.)

I have no idea what Mukasey will ultimately decide to do about the situation at the Minnesota office. Hopefully, he will examine the facts closely and weigh all the options before rushing to a decision. Personally, I would like to see him continue to give Paulose a chance to show that she has learned something from her experiences. If nothing else, you have to admire her pluckiness for even wanting that chance after the battering she has taken in the media and on the Internet. I can't quite decide if she is highly committed or just plain masochistic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Welcome, MinnPost readers!

Thanks to MinnPost for naming our post on "Diversity and the Minnesota high court" as its "Best of the Blogs" choice today. If you are accessing our site looking for that post, click here.

MSBA, other bar groups to rally for democracy, rule of law in Pakistan

The American Bar Association is organizing a march tomorow in Washington, D.C., where lawyers wearing black suits will gather in defense of their Pakistani colleagues, and call on President Musharraf to restore democracy in Pakistan. Minnesota lawyers are joining this effort.

The MSBA and other law related organizations have organized a demonstration at the Minnesota Supreme Court tomorrow at noon. If you are able to participate, the MSBA asks that you come to the Minnesota Judicial Center to "stand with us in support of democracy and the rule of law."

The MSBA has arranged for buses to take participants from downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul to the Judicial Center. Buses will leave from downtown Minneapolis at 6th and Nicollet Mall at 11:35 a.m. sharp, and from downtown St. Paul at the (Ramsey County Courthouse) 15 West Kellogg at 11:35 a.m.

The buses will return to the same locations no later than 1:30 p.m. If you wish to ride on the bus, please send an email to efarnsworth@mnbar.org.

Source: The above information comes from a release sent out by Minnesota State Bar Association President Brian Melendez.

Happy Anniversary to MJF

Thousands of Minnesotans have been helped by lawyers and law students through the Minnesota Justice Foundation, which celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday with a bash at International Market Square. Former Vice President Walter Mondale will deliver the keynote on “Searches, Seizures, and Spies: The Fourth Amendment.”

The MJF puts law students in legal aid and other poverty law offices for summer clerkships that have amounted to 174,400 hours in the last 24 years. It also matches law students with attorneys so that law students can provide pro bono services during their education. In 2005-2006 its Law School Public Service Program students performed 24,000 hours of service for over 9,000 clients -- work equivalent to that of 12 full-time lawyers.

The event will also honor seven members of the legal community for their exemplary service to low-income clients. One honoree is Timothy Branson, who led a team of volunteer lawyers in a six-year legal battle involving racial profiling at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The case was settled in August 2007 for $20,000, the first time that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has paid to settle a racial profiling case.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone involved with MJF.

Paulose: A perfect storm of news stories

I was just wondering when the beleaguered U.S. attorney Rachel Paulose would be back in the news when I saw that she is the subject of stories today not only in the Star Tribune but also page one of the New York Times and, via the Times, the Wall Street Journal law blog.

The Times reports that Michael Mukasey, recently sworn in as U.S. attorney general, is being urged by U.S. attorneys and prominent lawyers and law professors in Minnesota to make an early visit here. The lawyers urging Mukasey to come here aren’t identified but the article goes on to quote former prosecutors Hank Shea (supporting Paulose), B. Todd Jones (criticizing Paulose) and Thomas Heffelfinger (refraining from comment on Paulose's performance).

Law school dean musical chairs winding down

The great Minnesota law dean scramble is starting to wind down, with two of the three law schools in need of a new head at or nearing the accomplishment of their objectives. It's a big change from just two months ago when three of the state's four law schools were still widely casting their nets -- or so it seemed anyway.

William Mitchell College didn't actually cast its net very far, opting to stay in-house with its choice. On Nov 9, the school announced that one of its professors, Eric Janus, would serve as the new dean. Janus, who is well respected in the state's legal community, had served in the role on an interim basis since last September, when William Mitchell's former dean, Allen Easley, resigned and went on sabbatical.

Meanwhile, it appears that the University of Minnesota Law School will be hiring an outside candidate as its new dean. None of the five recently announced finalists for the post is local. (See the Bar Buzz column in this week's Minnesota Lawyer for the names and backgrounds of the candidates. Password required.) The U of M has been in search of a law dean since May 2006, when former dean Alex Johnson stepped down from the post and became a full-time professor at the school. Two co-deans have been filling the spot on an interim basis until a permanent dean could be found.

Hamline University School of Law, the third local law school in search of a dean, appears to still be at the early stages of the selection process. Hamline's current law dean, Jon Garon, announced a couple of months ago that he would step down as dean at the end of the academic year. Garon, a popular dean who has served in the post five years, said he is ready for change. Because Garon will remain at the captain's wheel until the end of the academic year, there is no reason for the school to rush.

The University of St. Thomas School of Law, on the other hand, is sitting pretty, with Dean Thomas Mengler still appearing to enjoy the post he has held for five years at the still-young law school. In the six years since the UST Law started, it has quickly and successfully weaved its way into the local legal community.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Diversity and the Minnesota high court

Governor Tim Pawlenty will no doubt soon be turning his attention to filling that vacancy on the Minnesota Supreme Court created by Justice Sam Hanson's decision to step down at the end of the year and return to his old firm, Briggs & Morgan. (See story in last week's Minnesota Lawyer, password required.)

The governor -- and whatever committee he chooses to assist him -- will be looking at a variety of factors in choosing a replacement for Hanson. It should obviously be someone who is highly intelligent with a stellar resume and a personalty that will fit well with the rest of the court. No doubt, Pawlenty also wants someone who will not be an activist judge -- whatever that means these days. But what else?

Diversity is probably the biggest other factor that is on the mind of the legal community. With Hanson's departure, the court will be left with one African American justice (who gained his seat through election rather than appointment), two women justices and three justices with the surname of Anderson. There has never been an African American, Native American, Hispanic or Asian candidate appointed to the Minnesota high court -- an odd situation given that there are so many qualified lawyers in each of these groups.

I have no idea who will apply -- or who whatever committee the governor appoints will ultimately recommend -- but I can think of plenty of potential candidates who, not only would add a diverse perspective to the court, but also who are extremely well-qualified. Just to name a few, what about smart-as-a-whip Court of Appeals Judge Mimi Wright or the highly capable and service-minded Hennepin County District Court Judge Tony Leung? What about Bowman and Brooke attorney George Soule, who has done yeoman's work on judicial selection and as an officer at the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association? What about Hennepin County Public Defender Lenny Castro, who was recently a finalist for a seat on the Court of Appeals? And I could go on and on.

The other element to diversity is, of course, the gender composition. Minnesota not long ago was the first in the nation state high court to achieve a majority of women (4/7) -- now we are down to two. There are more well-qualified women candidates in Minnesota than I could ever hope to list here. How about selecting one of them?

I do not think that diversity should be the sole, or even dominant, consideration -- that should be the candidate's qualifications and abilities. However, there are many highly qualified diverse candidates in Minnesota, and a diverse perspective can add much to the court. I hope the governor, who has generally made excellent judicial selections so far, will give give this serious consideration as he mulls whom to put on the high court.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day thoughts

On this Veterans Day Weekend, Minnesota Lawyer blog would like to offer a tip of its virtual hat to the many local lawyers -- past and present -- who have served our nation in the military. We offer special thanks to those who are currently putting themselves in harm's way in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Your sacrifices are not unappreciated. Happy Veterans Day!