My favorite part about the conversations with potential new clients who say, “If we win this case, you’ll be able to retire…,” is when I ask the potential new clients if I am the first lawyer they’ve spoken to.
“Well, I have spoken to one or two…”
“Who?” I ask. They’re reluctant. I coax: “I am just curious. You know I know quite a few lawyers in town and, you know, maybe I just, it would, you could, you know…” (I trail off because I really have nothing to say.) This may or may not signal some kind of vague suggestion that I will know if they lie to me, that I have other means of finding the information out that I am asking of the potential client.
Update (April 9, 2014): Some people feel more strongly than others about asserting what they believe to be their legal rights. Mr. Jay T. Nygard (“Radio Personality at Green Power Hour, President at Minnesota Wind Technology, President at Go Green Energy”) has prevailed in his latest appeal of his latest property dispute. He might warrant a dedicated blog for his numerous recent contributions to Minnesota civil litigation?
Local TV News Personality: Tim Sherno
1992 independent presidential candidate, Ross Perot, conjured up the metaphor of a “giant sucking sound,” the sound of jobs and dollars that, in Perot’s view, would be “sucked” South of the border to Mexico if the U.S.A. passed the North American Free Trade Agreement ( or “NAFTA”).
NAFTA passed and it turns out that Perot might have been right.
There is another “giant sucking sound” going on right now in Minnesota civil litigation — it is the sound of money being sucked from public coffers of Minnesota cities, towns, municipalities, and from the state of Minnesota itself to plaintiffs’ lawyers and folks like the pictured Tim Sherno thanks to claims being brought under the federal Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act (or “DPPA”) and the state of Minnesota’s apparently abject failure to train public employees as to permissible access to Minnesota drivers’ license records.
Robert Burns, 1759-1796
In 1785, Scotsman Robert Burns’ plow ran over a mouse’s nest, causing the poet to give some thought to our intertwined lives unwittingly upsetting the lives of others. ”The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley,” he wrote. Over the years, we have revised the line to say, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Nowhere is this more true than in civil litigation. A straight-forward action to enforce unpaid promissory notes appears to have spawned a whole new lawsuit claiming conspiracy, for example.
Update (April 7, 2014): One of my worst experiences in my nearly twenty years of practice was having a client held in contempt for a supposed discovery violation (a subpoena’d third party) under circumstances where neither the client nor its counsel (me) had engaged in any improper conduct at any time. The contempt order was by a U.S. magistrate judge but U.S. magistrate judges’ powers to hold parties or their lawyers in contempt are limited by law. That power is generally (if not exclusively) reserved for U.S. district court judges (or “Article III judges”). The punishment imposed, however, was de minimis so the client, to my frustration, elected not to object the contempt finding to the district court.
Recently U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen (D. Minn.) reined in U.S. Mag. Judge Franklin L. Noel (D. Minn.) when he stepped out of bounds to take a whack at lawyers in the “A.F. Holdings”/Prenda Law Firm extra-slime-vaganza. (The case is described more fully in the post and linked attachments below.)
Mag. Judge Noel found that the Prenda lawyers had committed fraud on the court. Judge Ericksen sustained the objections to Mag. Judge Noel’s order, finding that he did not have the authority to issue it and, even if it were a “report and recommendation” for action by the district court, the acts considered “a fraud on the court” did not actually meet the definition of a fraud on the court.