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Friday, January 11, 2008

Billy Martin admitted pro hac vice in Minnesota

It looks as if famed Washington D.C. attorney Billy Martin (a.k.a. William Martin) may be making a personal appearance in Minnesota. He's been admitted pro hac vice to represent (who else?) U.S. Senator Larry Craig. Martin's most recent famous client is Michael Vick, who is now residing in a minimum security prison in Leavenworth Kansas after receiving a longer sentence than prosecutors requested.

Making sense of the dollars

Pay is always a topic that garners a lot of interest. Federal trial judges make $165K; the local U.S. attorney makes $149K; state court trial judges in Minnesota make $129K; the governor of Minnesota makes $120K; and the Minnesota Attorney General makes $114K.

These figures, of course, compare abysmally to what lawyers make in the largest law firms. For example, the Legal Times recently reported that the DC-based firm of Williams & Connelly has raised the starting salary of its new associates to $180K. Not a bad payday for a newly minted 25-year-old lawyer right of law school. And on the Minnesota Greedy Associates board there is a lot of speculation about whether the failure of local big firms to keep pace with national big firms in the salary wars is hurting recruitment and leading to associate attrition.

On the other hand, there are plenty of lawyers working in Legal Aid Offices, Public Defenders’ Offices, line prosecutors and sole practitioners who wouldn’t mind cracking six figures.

I am not sure what any of this says about what we value as a society, but it does make for some interesting contemplation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Legal rules of thumb

Tom Parker of Make Magazine recently launched an online version of his brilliant Rules of Thumb book.

Naturally, there's a section on lawyers — here's a few handy gems I found:

When you don't have much of a case, argue the law.

If you're defending the judgment of the trial court, it is good strategy to make the proceedings and judgment seem boring and obvious.

The sooner a jury returns with a verdict, the more likely it decided for the defense.

The more luxurious the law office, the more likely it serves defendants rather than plaintiffs.


Quote of the week

The Pioneer Press reports that when it asked Minneapolis attorney Thomas Kelly for comment on the appellate brief he had filed for his client, U.S. Senator Larry Craig, Kelly responded:

"Never drive over to St. Paul to have a filing with your puppy in the car. She's barking at every strange sound and smell."

Craig, of course, is seeking to overturn his guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from events that transpired in an airport bathroom. The Pioneer Press article said that Kelly declined to elaborate on the remark.

Meet the ex-Attorneys General (Hey, we don't like that plural either)

The Hennepin County Bar Association is running a panel discussion next week that might be worth checking out -- particularly if you've ever done any work for a big insurer or healthcare company. It's called: "What to Do When the State Attorney General Comes Calling?"

The panelists are two former Minnesota Attorneys General -- Warren Spannaus and Mike Hatch. Spannaus served 12 years as attorney general in the '70s and early '80s and is now retired. Hatch was AG from 1999 to January 2007 . He is now special counsel with the Minneapolis law firm of Blackwell Burke P.A.

Among the questions the two ex-AGs will answer are:

-- What is the best way to handle a request from the Attorney General’s office? Do you run for cover? (Hmmm. I am guessing the answer to this one is "no" ...)

-- How should you respond to a CID (Civil Investigative Demand)?

-- What does the AG’s office expect when they forward a complaint to your client?

The one-credit CLE is Jan. 17 at noon at the HCBA offices. (Click here for more info.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Attorneys seeking Medtronic plaintiffs turn up the heat

Since Fridley-based Medtronic recalled its defective Sprint Fidelis defibrillator leads in October, the company has been bracing for a wave of litigation. It already lost one battle in that arena when a Toronto court ruled that patients in Canada who had the leads installed could join a class action against the company.

Now, though no similar class has been established in the United States, numerous law firms are aggressively pursuing potential plaintiffs in lawsuits against Medtronic. Several have set up websites wooing potential clients, and Houston, Tex.-based firm Pulaski & Middleman has even brought its campaign into Medtronic’s back yard.

Pulaski has begun running TV commercials locally that make seductive statements (although not promises, of course) about what patients with Sprint Fidelis leads stand to gain if they have the firm in their corner. The commercials are loud and persistent, flashing the firm’s phone number repeatedly on the screen and all but screaming the phrase free money at viewers. Attorneys who prefer to practice in quiet dignity are excused for cringing when these ads come on.

Medtronic argued last month before the U.S. Supreme Court that it should be shielded against state product liability lawsuits, arguing that since the FDA approved its medical devices, that should pre-empt patients from bringing suit. Experts believe the decision could be crucial for patients-rights cases in the future.

Any given Tuesday (the NH primary)

It's been a pretty fun primary season to watch so far. And I love it when the pollsters and pundits turn out to be completely wrong, as they were last night.

Figuring there was no better place to witness democracy in action than an Irish pub, I watched the results come in over at O'Gara's in St. Paul. I was amazed at how many people -- particularly young folks -- were there to cheer on their favorite candidate. There was a table full of folks with Barack Obama campaign signs who apparently had the audacity of hope. A group of folks cheered when John McCain gave his victory speech. Another group clapped when the results came in showing Hillary Clinton was in the lead. The air was filled with the same energy and enthusiasm that might have been present at a major sporting event.

It's good to see so much excitement over an election. Even if your favorite candidate doesn't win, it's good to be engaged in the process. That said, I glad I'm not a political pollster. I think 99.9997 percent of them have some explaining to do today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Local firm to argue U.S. Supreme Court case

Local law firm Lindquist & Vennum is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue an interesting case involving tribal court jurisdiction.

In a petition filed by Minneapolis attorney Paul Banker (right), the Minneapolis firm argues that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a civil tort claim between a corporation owned by the tribe and a nontribal bank. The bank is asking the high court to reverse the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Company Inc. In that case, the 8th Circuit held that the tribal court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the corporation’s claims against the bank because of inherent tribal authority to regulate nonmembers’ activities arising out of consensual relationships with tribal members.

The underlying claims arise out of loan and a lease agreement between the parties. The bank sought to evict the corporation from the property in order to sell it. The corporation countered with a suit both to stop the sale, and alleging breach of contract and discrimination. The tribal court jury awarded the plaintiffs $750K plus interest.

Monday, January 7, 2008

High court hears interesting death-penalty case

The Lawyers USA blog (Dicta) has an interesting piece today previewing the oral arguments on an interesting death-penalty case that the U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear today.

The case calls into question Kentucky's use of lethal injection, with defense lawyers claiming it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The defense lawyers are making the argument that because the drugs used paralyze the person being being executed, he or she cannot indicate whether he or she is suffering excessive pain. Click here for more.

Kersten bids adieu to Paulose

Katherine Kersten has a farewell piece to U.S. attorney Rachel Paulose in today's Strib worth checking out.

Not surprisingly, it's a positive look at some of the high points Paulose's tenure. Given that a lot of the press Paulose got here was unduly negative, I cannot begrudge her this one tribute piece. I have no doubt that taxpayers will get more than their money's worth out of Paulose in her new post in Washington, D.C. Whatever managerial issues she might have had locally, she is unquestionably a dedicated, hardworking and highly talented individual.

Vaya con Dios!

Minnesota Lawyer names its 'Attorneys of the Year' for '07

Minnesota Lawyer has released the names of its "Attorneys of the Year for 2007." It's a great group of folks who have done everything from tried a major case to handled a major appeal to excelled at the transactional side of practice. Click here to see who they are.

We have also singled out five individuals for their outstanding service to the profession.

An upcoming special section of Minnesota Lawyer will highlight the accomplishments of these individuals, and a dinner celebration will take place on Feb. 21, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.