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, 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.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Top Divorce Mistakes Regarding Real Estate in Minnesota

Here is a link to a MN Judicial Branch article about mistakes that may not occur to parties or even attorneys.  We judges still see petitions and divorce decrees with no legal description to real estate.  It could be the grounds for a malpractice claim.  Frankly it is simple laziness not to put the legal description of real estate in the petition.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

"You Can Pay for Your Kids to Go to College, or Your Lawyer's Kids, But Not Both"

When practicing family law I frequently heard a now-retired Minnesota judge tell my client and their spouse or ex-spouse precisely that.  I have often repeated that phrase in the courtroom at the end of a contentious hearing, sometimes over rather simple matters that most rational-thinking adults would resolve rather than spend more money asking the black-robed Solomon (which we judges are not) to resolve.  Recently I repeated that phrase and, as usual, both parties were nodding their heads "yes" in agreement.
So what got in the way?  Ill will?  Control?  Spite?  Hard to know.  The bottom line is you may not have any money left to send your teenaged child to college if you spend your resources on litigation.  And don't count on the other party being ordered to or actually paying all or a portion of your attorneys fees.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Mediated Agreements Are Binding in Minnesota, Whether Written or Verbal and Recorded

In 2 separate decisions the Minnesota Court of Appeals has held that signed agreements reached in mediation are binding on the parties.  In Ferguson, 2016 WL 4065594, the court stated, "It would undermine the ENE (Early Neutral Evaluation) process if no evidence of any settlement reached in an ENE process could be admitted into evidence at a later hearing in a dissolution proceeding."

 A similar result was reached in Tornstrom, 2016 WL 6826258 reported last week.  In that case the parties reached a settlement after 8 hours of negotiation, with assistance of their attorneys, and the agreement was audio recorded.  Thereafter the wife refused to sign a written stipulation.  The court found that all of the elements of a binding contract were met.

Unfortunately this type of dispute is quite common as litigants reaching an agreement either succumb to "buyer's remorse" or discuss the settlement with family or co-workers and are told they got a raw deal or bad advice from their lawyer.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Bloomberg Reports on the Devastation of Divorce in or Nearing Retirement

Here is a link to a timely article on the impact of divorce on the large baby boomer population, something I have observed for many years as a lawyer and a judge.  It is often reported that many people in or approaching retirement face many risks due to insufficient saving over the years and the impact of health problems.  These problems are exacerbated by a divorce in one's 50's and 60's and beyond.