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Friday, December 28, 2007

Hennepin County’s pest problems persist

Earlier this month, Minnesota Lawyer revealed that the Hennepin County Government Center was having a problem with mice. Now, it appears, the county is having a problem with employees.

A pest control company was called when the mice woes surfaced, but it couldn’t start its extermination efforts until January because there would be too much food in the building during the holidays for the aggressive plan to be effective. Apparently, some Government Center employees couldn’t wait.

The employees’ efforts at self-help apparently spurred a five-page memo from the county on the “pest control initiative.” The memo stated in part: “Employees are asked to take their products home immediately or they will be thrown out during the cleaning. It’s important to point out that it’s not acceptable for employees to take pest control action into their own hands, as there are guidelines and procedures that need to be adhered to.”

Being the animal lover that I am, I do feel somewhat sorry for the little critters, who are completely unaware of their impending fate. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll get out while they still can. On January 3, the “cleanup” begins.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thank you...

Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations for our Attorneys of the Year awards celebration.

Your response has been the best yet, and while more nominations makes it harder to choose just 15, it reminds us of the outstanding talent, passion and pride here in Minnesota's legal community.

Look for our announcement of this year's Attorneys of the Year honorees in early January.

Thanks again!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A valuable shield protects your right to know

Minnesota's seldom-tested shield law has taken a couple of interesting shots in recent weeks.

Earlier this month it was revealed that KMSP reporter Tom Lyden had two months of cell phone records seized by St. Paul police as part of an ongoing investigation into whether a Ramsey County sheriff's deputy leaked private data to Lyden. The data was later determined to be public, and the investigation was dropped after protests from First Amendment advocates.

Then, on Tuesday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals struck down a ruling ordering a reporter to give prosecutors unpublished notes from an interview with a man who shot two police officers before killing himself.

Every first-semester journalism school student is taught the importance of shield laws, but few reporters are ever called on to invoke the law in response to a request that they reveal their sources. Media members in Minnesota are fortunate to be covered by the Minnesota Free Flow of Information Act, which provides a greater level of protection for reporters by requiring that three strict standards are met before disclosure is compelled by the court. The fact that the two recent shield law squabbles went the way of media outlets should be a relief not only to journalists, but to everybody who values transparency and disclosure from government entities.

Monday, December 24, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS from Minnesota Lawyer

and thanks for reading us!

The day before Christmas (Hennepin County)

The following is Minnesota Lawyer Editor Mark Cohen's column for this week, which we are making available to our blog readers as a special extra. This holiday poem was inspired by the rodent situation at the Hennepin County Government Center. Happy holidays!

‘Twas the day before Christmas and through the courthouse
Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse
The exterminator won’t arrive ‘til the New Year
So rodents run amok without any fear

The judges don’t let their feet touch the floor
Keeping them suspended eight hours or more
Their quivering clerks look from side to side
Hoping against hope for a piper that’s pied.

Beads of sweat drip from prosecutors’ faces
Fearful defense lawyers keep losing their places
Every bailiff unlatches the safety on his gun
Mice may be small, but they certainly can run.

Suddenly out in the lobby there arises a great clatter
An army of tiny paws start to pitter and patter
Chief Judge Lucy Wieland dashes out in a flash
To go to the Capitol and beg for more cash

Everything is locked tight when she arrives in St. Paul
Nobody’s done much there since the start of last fall
When what to Wieland’s startled eyes should appear
But Tim Pawlenty sporting his gubernatorial hair.

“We need more funding now to save us from mice!”
And to emphasize her point Weiland repeats it twice
Pawlenty gives her a long and sympathetic sigh
Speaking softly, but firmly, as he re-adjusts his tie.

“I want you folks to know that I feel your pain,
But I’m running late for a meeting with John McCain”
Into his car the governor quickly takes flight
Giving a wink and a nod as he drives out of sight.

Wieland walks sadly back to the Capitol lot
Only to find her car’s been towed from its spot
While most workers leave early on Christmas Eve
Tow truck drivers don’t give anyone a reprieve.

The chief judge takes a bus back to her court
She is now near the end of a workday that’s short
She finds the building’s now been completely overrun
Life’s a rat race, and it’s the mice who’ve won.

Wieland pulls out her cell and can be heard to say
“I need a book delivered, that’s right, right away”
And what book does she order? Oh please!
The answer is obvious — “Who Moved My Cheese?”

So the mice will continue to make merry ‘til ‘08
At which point they’ll meet a much darker fate.
Hennepin workers, I’m sorry to make light of your plight
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night!

Mark A. Cohen can be reached at (612) 584-1531, or by e-mail at mark.cohen@minnlawyer.com. He offers in advance his most fervent apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, who deserves much better for his classic 1822 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”