Archives for November 2007

Getting a Pardon from the Queen of England for a Minnesota DWI

Well, maybe not exactly the Queen; but at least the government of Canada.

I’m no expert in international law, and my license to practice law only extends to the borders of Minnesota. However, I keep hearing stories about people who have received DWIs in Minnesota and who then have trouble getting across the Canadian border. It seems to be especially difficult if one wants to bring a gun and go hunting.

Apparently a DWI which we classify as a misdemeanor is considered to be a felony in Canada. Canadian law will keep a person from being able to enter that country for at least five years from the date of the conviction. After the five years expires, a Minnesotan can apply for “criminal rehabilitation” through a detailed and difficult process that looks to me to be a lot like applying for a pardon. One basically has to prove that probation is over, all fines are paid, all sentences served, and there’s a good reason to believe it won’t ever happen again. Hiring a Canadian lawyer for help with this would probably be a good idea. I understand there are law offices in Winnipeg that do quite a business in this sort of thing.

For a $200 fee the folks at the border station can issue a temporary pass even though the DWI is on the record, but this is up to the border officer’s discretion. There’s no way to know until you get there whether or not you will be allowed to cross the border. Again, I have heard stories about the border agent saying that entering the country was OK, but not with a gun; and don’t plan on hunting or carrying a weapon while on the Canadian side of the border. This can be really bad news for someone who pays big bucks for a fancy hunting trip deep into the Canadian wilderness.

The fact that this problem is out there is yet another reason why nobody in this state should go anywhere near a courthouse without a lawyer. If there is a DWI charge, but it is reduced to Careless Driving, crossing the border isn’t a problem. It’s only if it’s a straight DWI and not reduced to a lesser charge that this problem might arise. So if you should happen to get a DWI in Minnesota, and you are a person who regularly travels to Canada for work or recreation, make sure your lawyer knows about that part of your life – and of course make sure you have a lawyer.

Bankruptcy "Abuse" Wasn’t There; Today’s Falling Stock Market

I am looking this afternoon at an October 15th article in the Duluth News Tribune. A bankruptcy lawyer I know has posted it on a local bankruptcy list serve to which I subscribe. The headline, “Bankruptcy filings are on the rise” is not really news to me. But one of the sub-headings in the article really caught my eye: “ABUSE WASN’T THERE”

The article rehashes how the credit and banking industry had lobbied for passage of the 2005 new legislation on the theory that a large number of people had been “abusing” the bankruptcy system. But then it takes a closer look at the filings under the new law, especially the ratio between Chapter 7s – which is where most of the abuse was supposed to have been happening – and Chapter 13s – which are preferred by the banking industry. They note that the ratio between 7s and 13s is the same now as it was in 1999. That ratio together with quotes from a credit counselor at Lutheran Social Services seems to support the proposition that the perceived “abuse” never actually existed.

In fact, judging by the whipping that some of the banks and credit card companies seem to be taking in the stock market today, it seems clear to me that a great deal of irresponsible behavior – abuse if you want to call it that – was engaged in by the bankers and lenders themselves. At the time of this writing, the Dow is down 192 points; and it’s been dropping for several days in a row. It is my hope that our economy can absorb the shock that is being expressed in today’s market, but I’m not at all sure that we won’t wind up in a recession. If it happens, I don’t think it will be the consumers who will be to blame.

Lawyer buddies and what’s "Of Counsel"?

There are three or four other lawyers with whom I consult more or less constantly. Actually maybe it’s five other lawyers. Two are guys I office with, and the others are people I speak with a lot, usually by phone. I’m reluctant to name them because I don’t want them held responsible in any way for anything that I’ve done; but there are days when I have been temped to ask one or two of them if they would mind if I listed them as “of counsel” on my letterhead and web site.

That “of counsel” designation is something you will run into now and then as you are reading about or looking up lawyers. The meaning as I understand it is a bit vague, but it usually refers to a lawyer who is not an associate or partner, but who is in the same building or general vicinity, and with whom one consults a lot.

My Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term as a lawyer “employed to assist in the preparation or management of a cause, or its presentation on appeal, but who is not the principal attorney of record …” The usage of the term in my experience is much broader and would include lawyers who are around – that is physically present or close by – and with whom one consults; but I wouldn’t expect them to be actually “employed,” since generally there is no money changing hands. Today I ask one of them a question about something, tomorrow one of them may ask me. It’s a fair exchange usually, but not a monetary one.

OK. I’ll admit it. Sometimes it’s not exactly a fair exchange. Sometimes I monopolize the time of my friends to the point that it’s unfair to them and an embarrassment to me. On the other hand, I have done a few things for some of them that could be considered beyond the call of duty; so I think or like to think that in the end it does balance out.

I don’t think I could ever practice law and operate out of an office entirely by myself. It would never work for me. I need other lawyers around; people with whom I can chew over, mull around, run up flagpoles, dispute and otherwise try out ideas.

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