Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wright County Launches Batterer's Intervention Program; New Statute Affecting DANCO's

Frequently in OFP orders or sentencing orders in cases of domestic assault, the batterer is ordered to complete either an anger management program or a domestic abuse program.  The former is sometimes ordered as apparently there is greater likelihood of insurance coverage than for the latter.  My experience has been that many batterers never complete the program.  Wright County COurt Services is launching a batterer's intervention program consisting of  24 weekly open group sessions of 2 hours each at a cost of $30 each.  The program is facilitated by Central Minnesota Mental Health Center.  Unfortunately, some counties are suspending such programs due to budgetary constraints. 

Effective 8-1-10 Minn. Stat. 629.75 requires that an expiration date for a domestic abuse no-contact order(DANCO) be indicated at sentencing..  It also appears that a DANCO may be ordered even if a jail sentence is executed in a criminal case. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rules Prohibiting Ex Parte Communications.

Ex parte communications from pro se parties and attorneys, particularly in family law cases, are the subject of frequent complaints by judges. Indeed they are our pet peeve.  Recently a pro se party told me in a joint phone conference that an attorney helped write an ex parte letter to me and that the attorney said it was OK since opposing counsel was being copied.  This convinces me that there is considerable misunderstanding about ex parte communications.  Sending a copy to opposing counsel does not make an ex parte letter or email acceptable under the rules.  Judges are prohibited by Rule 2.9 of the Code of Judicial Conduct from considering ex parte communications except in limited circumstances.

 Attorneys are encouraged to review within the Professional Aspirations adopted by the MN Supreme Court, Sec. IV. Lawyer and Judge, Subd. A(6):
       We will avoid argument or posturing through sending copies of correspondence between counsel to the court, unless specifically permitted or invited by the court.

Judges realize that family law clients can be very demanding.  But that does not excuse violating our rules.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Family Appellate Mediation Program

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in September 2008 started a pilot program of mediating family appeals.  According to information provided to district court judges by Judge Klaphake of the Court of Appeals, the goals were to reduce case load, reduce time to disposition, meet challenges of unrepresented appellants (31% of family appeals are pro se) and diminish the court's role in ongoing family conflict.  While mediation occurs, there is a stay of transcript preparation (and cost) and stay of briefing.  Statistics show that since inception, 207 cases were ordered to mediation, with 56 approved for "opt out;" 47 are currently in the mediation process and 101 completed the process, of which 48% settled.  Disposition times have been reduced from 294 days in 2008 to 231 days in 2009, with mediated/settled appeals being dismissed in only 89 days.  Lawyers have reported increased litigant satisfaction with the appellate process and substantial cost savings to their clients.  If you disagree with these conclusions, please post a comment or send me a confidential email.