The District Court Show on You Tube!

Some of the episodes of The District Court Show (30 minutes each) are on YouTube, including the Tenth Judicial District Self-Help Center.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Lawyers: Stop filing the mean-spirited, irrelevant affidavits from your clients!

Not infrequently we judges see affidavits that mostly  say that the affiant is a reasonable person and if it weren't for the mindless, hateful, and irrational opposing spouse this case would settle.  Please stop filing these!   They waste the court's time, are irrelevant, and may subject you as the lawyer to sanctions.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Total War by Affidavits Not Helpful to Determing What Result is in a Child's Best Interests

Recently in this space I discussed the obligation of MN lawyers to consider proportionality in filing motions in family matters.  (MN Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 1)  The same applies to the affidavits supporting motions.  At the risk of "beating a dead horse" (sorry, horse lovers) I once again am suggesting to family lawyers that they exercise appropriate professional discretion in the volume and nature of affidavits filed with the court.

Just because your client emails you 10-20 statements from everyone on their Christmas card list, as well as dozens of pages of nasty e-mails and text message exchanges with their spouse, or ex-spouse, or their child's other parent, does not mean you have to attach all of them to an affidavit.  Judges abhor, and I mean ABHOR, this practice.  You are doing your client's case no good.

Motions for summary judgment in MN civil cases have a page limit of 35 pages.  We need a similar limit in family motions.  It could be a reasonable number like 100 pages, including all attachments.  Your motion is not the only one the judge is hearing that date.

In general, mutually-assured total destruction in a nuclear exchange of dozens of nasty affidavits not bearing on the parent-child relationship does nothing but harm your client's case and could result in sanctions.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

DANCOs Not Modified By Stipulated Modification or Dismissal of OFP or HRO

To begin with definitions:

DANCO    Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (a criminal conditional release order)

OFP            Order for Protection (civil order)

HRO            Harassment Restraining Order (civil order)

In March I participated in a panel at a family law seminar.   Since many family lawyers are not fully-versed in criminal procedures, we discussed the pitfalls which occur when family lawyers agree to modify or seek modification of an HRO or OFP without considering an existing criminal DANCO.   If a civil motion is brought and granted, that does NOT modify the DANCO.   The Prosecutor in the criminal case is entitled to weigh in on whether the DANCO should be modified or vacated, even if the victim desires that it be.  Family lawyers cannot expect that every judge will allow their client (the victim) to intervene in a criminal case and make a motion to modify the DANCO; that is because the victim is not a party in the criminal case.  Lawyers need to have frequent detailed conversations with their clients to make certain they understand all of these distinctions.  Frequently people prohibited from contact with the victim as a result of a DANCO are arrested for violating the DANCO because they thought or were allegedly told by the victim that the OFP or HRO had been dropped.

"No contact" means no contact in any way except as explicitly allowed in a court order.  This includes contact in person, by any means of communication (such as social media) or through third parties.

Friday, 24 March 2017

MN Lawyers Must Consider the Minnesota Rule on Proportionality Before Filing Motions

Rule #1 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

It is the responsibility of the court and the parties**to examine each civil action to assure that the process and the costs are proportionate to the amount in controversy and the complexity and importance of the issues..."

**I conclude that this requirement extends to the parties' lawyers.

While I shouldn't be, I continue to be amazed at the petty disputes that parties and their lawyers are including in motions involving more serious issues such as custody, parenting time and contempt.  Since I cannot ethically comment on recent cases before me I will comment by analogy to the types of things I have seen as disputes:

"My former spouse won't send Johnny's soccer clothes back to me washed after practice so I have them for the week he is with me."

"I want Johnny's dad to pay for all of his violin lessons even though I agreed to pay for half of them in the divorce agreement.  I can't afford them now that I help support my new husband's kids."

"Yes, I agreed in the divorce settlement to go to mediation for any disputes and to pay half, but I don't like that agreement any more.  I can't afford mediation."

Here is probably the most ridiculous one I ever observed.  While an attorney waiting for a hearing, I watched 2 attorneys argue whether Johnny (the 12 year old certainly bound for MLB as a first round draft pick)  should play baseball on a team coached by his dad, or a competing team in the next suburb coached by his step-dad.

Really, you can't make this stuff up.

Lawyers: consider that your strong argument on a major issue may be diminished by the petty matters you throw in to your moving papers.

Ex-spouses Who Fail to Cooperate on Tax Filing Can End Up Paying MORE (yes, more)

An excellent article in the March 24 Wall Street Journal describes how former spouses who fail to cooperate regarding tax filings can find themselves with adverse consequences.  The IRS discovered that in one year there were $10 billion dollars more in spousal maintenance deductions reported by obligors than that reported as received by obligees.  So regardless of the animosity between ex-spouses, failing to report spousal maintenance as received will result in severe penalties from the IRS upon the recipient.  I cannot link this article at present and you probably cannot access the full article online unless you are a subscribed.  It may be worth picking up a copy or looking for it at your local library and actually reading a paper copy of a newspaper as we did 40 years ago.

Friday, 10 March 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Rules on "No Impeachment" Rule Where Juror Makes Clear Statement of Racial Bias

Here is recent U.S Supreme Court decision holding that the "no impeachment" rule as to jury deliberations must give way to inquiry by the trial judge when a juror has made a clear statement of racial stereotyping or animus.