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Friday, June 20, 2008

Dogs get their day

Will we see a spike in dog-bite cases filed next week? Today is, after all, “Take Your Dog to Work Day.”

OK, it’s unlikely that the annual canine celebration will end up being a boon for plaintiff or defense lawyers. At least I certainly hope that doesn’t happen! In fact, I absolutely love the idea of employees all over the country bringing their furry four-legged friends to spend the day with them at work. Unfortunately, I don’t think that a lot of people participate -- either because their employer won’t allow it, or it’s simply too much of a hassle. I know I didn’t see any dogs on my walk into the office this morning.

I also doubt that many, if any, downtown big-firm lawyers are taking part in the annual occasion -- but perhaps some solo or small-firm attorneys are participating? (I’d love to hear about your experience if you did bring your dog in -- how your co-workers and/or clients reacted, whether the dog behaved, whether you felt more productive?)

People do love their pooches and many would enjoy having them at work -- everyday if they could. The proof? According to a survey conducted by FunStuffForDogs.com, 44 percent of dog owners say they’d give up 10 percent of their salary if they could bring their dog to work. That’s a surprisingly high percentage, even to an animal lover like me.

One caveat to my enthusiasm about this celebratory day: As someone with several feline friends at home (please don’t ask how many), I feel a little let down that there’s no “Take Your Cat To Work Day” …

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boyd Beccue: MSBA should trust voters

As the editor of Minnesota Lawyer, I always enjoy getting letters from readers, even ones I disagree with or that take issue with something I've said or written. I particularly like the ones that take a contrarian approach to "conventional wisdom" because they make us step back rethink the premises under which we operate.

A good example is the letter to the editor we got from Boyd Beccue, which will be appear in Monday's print edition of Minnesota Lawyer. The letter was in response to articles we published interviewing incoming MSBA President Michael Ford and taking a look at a committee the MSBA has formed to monitor judicial candidates' conduct (See "Judicial campaign misconduct? The MSBA will be watching").

For such topics, it's easy to find lots of folks who approve of the State Bar's position. There are, of course, folks out there who disagree, but they often don't want to put their opposition on the record. Mr. Beccue, however, obviously has no such compunctions on this topic and wrote a very strong letter to us outlining his disagreement with the MSBA's view of judicial campaigns.

Whether or not you agree with Mr. Beccue's position, his letter is worthy of consideration. The full text of the letter appears below:

MSBA should trust voters to pick judges

To the editor:

The Minnesota State Bar Association apparently has an issue with the concept of trust. Despite the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [in Republican Party of Minnesota, et al. v. White, et al.], it will have a committee monitor judicial candidates and pressure them to conform to what the MSBA believes is a proper code of campaign conduct. Apparently the MSBA does not trust potential candidates for judicial office, especially challengers, to understand and follow the law and ethical rules governing elections.

Incoming MSBA President Mike Ford speaks of the “Lake Wobegon Conceit” while ignoring the far greater MSBA conceit -- believing that it has all the answers. It appears the MSBA does not trust the people of Minnesota to decide who should be a judge. The MSBA ignores the fact that many people no longer trust lawyers.

Rather than proposing that the citizens of Minnesota give up their right to vote in fair and open elections, the MSBA should learn to trust the voters to exercise their franchise wisely. The mere possibility of a tough campaign does not necessarily mean that the voters will choose the wrong person for the job. If the MSBA could somehow find the courage to trust the voters, perhaps the voters would learn to trust lawyers again.

Restoring public confidence in the bar and trusting the people to select their own judges will do more to maintain public faith and trust in the institution of the law than transferring control over judicial selection to a chosen few.
-- Boyd Beccue

Volunteers needed to assist with search

This just in from the Minnesota State Bar Association:

Keith Kennedy, 25, the son of MSBA member Bruce Kennedy, wandered away from a camp for developmentally challenged adults last Sunday and is still missing. He requires anti-rejection drugs for a transplant, adding to the urgency of the search.

Organizers of the search need additional volunteers to help search for Keith. The search requires many volunteers because it must be conducted by shoulder to shoulder sweeps of the 80 acre camp, including woods and swamps.

The search will go on until nightfall tonight and will start again at first light on Friday. If you can help search, wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts and hiking boots and warm socks and a hat. BRING BUG SPRAY -they've used up all the bug spray in Grantsburg and water.

Please do not call the Sheriff's Office unless you have information. If you can help search, drive directly to the camp; you do not need to call in advance.

UPDATE (Sun., June 22 at 9:57 p.m.): Keith Kennedy found!

Unsung Legal Heroes

Only a few days remain to nominate your favorite support staffer for Minnesota Lawyer's first Unsung Legal Heroes award.

We're currently accepting nominations in the following categories:

• Legal Secretary of the Year
• Law Librarian of the Year
• Legal Marketer of the Year
• Paralegal of the Year
• Firm Administrator of the Year

Our editorial staff will choose the honorees later this month, and a lunch celebration for the award recipients will take place in September.

An online nomination form is available here. Deadline is Friday, June 20. Feel free to contact me with questions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back from Duluth -- kudos to the MSBA

Speaking as one of the 250 or so attendees of the Minnesota State Bar convention who today is easing into an abbreviated work week, I’d like to congratulate the MSBA on a job well done. The accommodations and social events were top-notch, and the CLE seminars were informative and well-attended. Even the stellar weather the MSBA ordered arrived on time.

A special tip of the cap should go to the MSBA staff. As all the attendees can confirm, the folks in the red polo shirts were unfailingly polite and helpful, even as they were scurrying around making sure everyone found their way around the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center during the day and found their way to the food and drink in the evening. Well done!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chief justice supports switch to retention elections for judges

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson came out today in support of the Quie Commission's recommendation that Minnesota switch to a retention system for electing judges. The announcement came during the chief justice's annual state-of-the-judiciary address at the Minnesota State Bar Association's annual meeting in Duluth.

In related news, the Judicial Council yesterday at the MSBA convention voted to set up a group to study the criteria and cost of performance evaluations for judges. Magnuson then said that the bench needs to actively educate the public about judicial elections. "We need to provide meaningful information to people who will be casting ballots," the chief justice said.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A confrontation may be brewing over CHIPS cases

The Judicial Council met all day today at the MSBA convention in Duluth and made two significant decisions:

1. It voted to carve another $550,000 from the court's budget, basically by cutting 2 percent from all court operations across the board.

2. It voted to take two steps in connection with the public defender's recent decision not to represent parents in CHIPS cases: The state court administrator will advise the counties that they may be asked to pick up the tab for court-appointed counsel if they are not doing so already; and a letter will go out to all the chief judges advising them that they have several options when it comes to appointing lawyers for parents--including appointing a public defender or sending the bill to the county, which the county may decide it won't pay. However, in deference to the judge's adjudicative role, the council will not attempt to tie the trial court judge's hands. The council is aware that it may be setting the stage for a showdown on attorney funding and that a lawsuit by either the public defenders or a county may ensue. "It seems to me we have a lot of people spoiling for a fight because they want resolution from [a] court," said Court of Appeals Judge Mimi Wright.

Greetings from Duluth

Hello from the MSBA convention at Duluth. The whole Minnesota Lawyer staff is here, on or his or her way here. The gavel will pass from Brian Melendez to Mike Ford today, and much other business will be done. (Mike's term will start officially July 1.) Last night was about barbecue and boat rides, we had dinner at Grandma's before embarking on a somewhat chilly cruise. Happily, Tiger Woods sank his putt before the boat departed or the party might have been a lot smaller. Many eyes were on the restaurant's big screen tvs and a big cheer went up when the ball went in. Lawyers like golf--who knew?