SEO - Search engine optimizationUpdate (September 26, 2018): Here we go again. In the linked complaint, another law firm charges Findlaw with fraud, among other causes of action, for promised web-based marketing help that fell far short of the law firm’s expectations.

Minnesota Litigator has fielded off-line calls from lawyers dissatisfied with Findlaw’s services more than once (website design, SEO marketing services, internet attorney marketing services, and social media engagement services).

Too bad these lawyers and law firms did not find our posts through a google search BEFORE hiring Findlaw (let alone before suing it).

One has to wonder what kind of due diligence these lawyers and law firms did before committing big money for Findlaw’s SEO optimization, etc. (The Friday & Cox law firm claims to have paid nearly $300,000 and Findlaw counterclaims for an additional $36,000+.)

Did these lawyers and law firms require that Findlaw meet any concrete goals? Did they require any assurances or commitments at all as to any results of Findlaw’s work? Did they seek and obtain references or testimonials from other law firms that used the same products? Did they seek competitive bids?

If you’re curious about what distinguishes supposed “good” search engine optimization, take a look at Friday & Cox’s specific complaints about Findlaw’s work for the law firm (Complaint, Para. 16, a-v). (And ask yourself, as between Findlaw and the law firm, which is responsible for these alleged short-comings?)

Many lawyers are driven, smart, and accomplished in their field (that is, lawyering) but are bad business people. In our view, Findlaw is one of the best at exploiting this vulnerability.

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Update post (September 21, 2018): Notch another successful prediction for Minnesota Litigator as Prof. Kristin Naca has lost her lawsuit against Macalester College on Macalester’s motion for summary judgment, discussed (and predicted) below. We also covered the case here and here.

The opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz (D. Minn.) granting Macalester’s motion includes some stinging criticism of Plaintiff’s counsel, as well, which comes as no surprise given the history of the case and the lawyer.

Before turning to the facts underlying the parties’ dispute, the Court pauses to note that it has been unusually challenging to determine whether Naca’s version of events is supported by evidence in the record because of two unfortunate tendencies of her counsel: First, he frequently asserts facts in his briefs with no record citation or with a citation to something that does not support the assertion (and may, in fact, be completely irrelevant to the assertion). Second, he often cites to the record in a manner that does not match the manner in which he organized his evidentiary submissions, making it difficult (and occasionally impossible) to locate the document or part of a document to which he is ostensibly referring.

In some small but persistent number of cases, it seems as if lawyers think they can bamboozle a court simply by making assertions and adding citations that have no relevance to the assertions. Courts and adversaries are not bamboozled, of course, but they are greatly burdened by the task of ferreting out the fallacies. There appears to be no remedy for genuine costs that this kind of lawyering imposes except for what the Judge did in this case, which is to impose a reputational penalty.

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Scribe

Old School Large Format Printer

Ambassador Press, Inc. (“Ambassador”) is a Minnesota-based printing company that went to Durst Image Technology U.S., LLC (“Durst”) to buy a large format printer.

As Ambassador discussed the potential purchase with Durst, Ambassador was very concerned about the potential risk of “print head” failures (and the delay and added expense that they would cause, particularly when the printer aged out of its two-year warranty). Ambassador repeatedly sought reassurances on this point when it discussed the potential printer purchase with Durst.

In response to Ambassador’s concerns, Durst boasted relatively low printer head failure rates and suggested that somewhat higher failure rates, when they occurred, were due to misuse or poor maintenance practices by the purchasers. But Durst related that, “For printers with more than one year in service, one unit had no print head replacements, two units had one replacement, and three units had two replacements.”)

Ambassador, relying on these representations, bought the Durst printer. “Ambassador alleges that the printer has thus far required 54 replacement print heads, only 11 of which were covered by warranty. Ambassador claims to have paid over $260,000 for the 43 heads that failed after the warranty expired.”

On these facts, do you think that Ambassador has a viable fraud claim against Durst?

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Photo by Jonathan Rotondo-McCord

Update (September 14, 2018): The posts below recount the unfortunate trajectory for Minnesota lawyer, Todd A. Crabtree, and this week, the sentence was meted out for the perceived wrong-doings.

One, in particular, caught our eye: Mr. Crabtree is found to have improperly notarized his own document.

Query: in a transaction between A and B in which A is a notary, why can’t A and B both sign the document and A swears and attests as a notary that the signatories are who they say they are?

Why can’t notaries notarize their own signatures on documents?

Notaries typically perform a few different steps when notarizing a document. They verify the signer’s identity, watch as the signer signs the document, and lastly the notary places his or her official seal on the document (note: some states do not require seals). The final seal placed on the document verifies that the notary checked the signer’s identify and watched as he or she signed the document.

Isn’t the notary in a position to know if the notary himself signed the document?

The rationale for prohibiting notaries from notarizing their own documents is that requiring a third party to notarize supposedly “add[s] another layer of security to the document.” The requirement bakes a third-party witness into the transaction. This, of course, is an extremely thin layer of security but an additional layer nonetheless. (Co-conspirators are a dime a dozen and notaries do not vet the transactions they notarize for signs of fraud, duress, or other wrong-doing, they just verify the identities of the signers).

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In Salon of Rue des Moulins, (La Fleur blanche), by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1894

If a person allegedly misappropriates copyrighted material, the copyright holder may sue the misappropriator for copyright infringement.

If the material is pornography, is the accused infringer entitled to additional protections because pornography consumption is widely viewed as private and embarrassing?

Apparently, the answer is, “Yes.

According to his lawyers, Mr. Greg Lansky, an owner of Strike 3 Holdings, LLC is a “three-time [pornographer/] director of the year,” and, according to his lawyers, Strike 3’s motion pictures “are among the most pirated in the world.”

(Also, according to Strike 3’s complaint, Mr. Lansky “has been dubbed the adult film industry’s ‘answer to Steven Spielberg.'” (Who did the dubbing? His lawyers? His proud mother? And what question did Mr. Spielberg ask to which the porn industry’s answer was supposedly, “Mr. Greg Lansky” (at least according to the anonymous dubber)?)

The issue of the legality of Strike 3’s subpoenas of internet service providers to identify accused infringers has been addressed repeatedly in the U.S. district court for the district of Minnesota and the results have not been consistent. The linked decision is Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank (D. Minn.) weighing in.

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As connoisseurs of 1970’s British ridiculousness know very well (indeed, some by memory): THINGS END BADLY WHEN YOU SELL CHEESE THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE.

Unfortunately, Minerva Dairy seems to have missed that lesson.

North Central agreed four times to buy cheese from Minerva Dairy. North Central agreed to buy the cheese (at a set price, quantity, and delivery date). Minerva agreed to sell the cheese (at the same price, quantity, and delivery date). Four times.

Minerva managed to make only one cheese shipment. Three out of the four times, Minerva was apparently cheeseless. North Central refused to pay Minerva for the one shipment, however, because of Minerva’s failures on the other three orders. Minerva’s cheese lapse allegedly caused North Central damages as it hurried and allegedly paid a premium to buy cheese elsewhere to cover for the cheese it had been expecting from Minerva.

Minerva sued North Central in Ohio for North Central’s failure to to pay for the one consummated cheese delivery and Minerva won that round.

North Central, in turn, sued Minerva in Minnesota for Minerva’s failure to deliver the cheese on the other three deliveries.

In defending against North Central’s claim in Minnesota, Minerva argued that there had never been any contracts between North Central and Minerva for the sale of cheese.

Who comes up with arguments like this (and why)? (Some people just like to argue and get paid money to, apparently.)

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The linked decision this week of the Minnesota Court of Appeals is of interest in at least two ways. First, we have posted at great length about the tendency of Minnesota courts (state and federal) to give attorneys’ fee petitions “haircuts” but we were happy to see the linked decision in which the district court paid the full sum claimed and the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the full fee petition.

And we’re talking $217,209.11 in lawyers’ fees, not chicken feed. Minnesota trial lawyers would be smart to review the decision to see how the law firm, Morrison & Sund, handled its billing so that its fee claim withstood the attacks by the other side.

But the case is also a fine example of an occupational benefit of trial lawyers (as opposed to an occupational hazards, of which there are also many): humility. At least most trial lawyers should, over time, deeply appreciate the quality of humility.

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We recently discussed the complex relationship between art and money but, as complicated as that is, it is nothing compared with the relationship between love and money.

As many of us know from personal or professional experience, intra-family money battles give off volatile, highly combustible, and, sometimes, even seemingly intoxicating fumes, that addle, torture, and obsess normally (more or less) rational minds.

We recently stumbled across the professional malpractice lawsuit brought by Mr. Allen Schreier against a law firm and an accounting firm over their roles in the administration of Mr. Schreier’s parents’ trusts. The lawsuit was recently removed from state court (Nobles County) and it is now pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Schiltz, J., presiding). This complaint might be useful for Minnesota Litigator readers to share with their colleagues who do trust and estate work as a cautionary tale.

The 26-page complaint seems primarily focused on a few contentions: (1) Mr. Schreier believes that his brother got a sweetheart deal on farmland rental from the family trust, to Mr. A. Shreier’s disadvantage (as a beneficiary of the family trusts) (See Compl. Paras. 46-50); (2) the professionals (a law firm and an accounting firm) allegedly screwed up on a tax issue (a “Q deduction”) to the detriment of the family trusts (See, e.g. Compl. Para. 11, 74-79); and (3) the professionals (a law firm and an accounting firm) allegedly shut out Mr. Shreier from communications although, since he was a co-trustee, they had an obligation to communicate with him  (See, e.g. Compl. Para. 96-98). There is certainly more to the complaint but these points stand out (and highlight the challenges of trust administration with warring factions).

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Every year since 1894, as we head into coming school year, the United States of America has celebrated American workers.

These days, there are persistent, ubiquitous, and dire warnings that their days are numbered.

It seems that our jobs are less threatened by low wage off-shore workers, so feared over the past 30-40 years, than they are threatened by computer scientists and programs that they create to do away with the need for people — with their pesky family demands, illnesses, and other human failings — for countless jobs from astronauts to truck drivers.

Lawyers are far from immune from the threat of obsolescence. If you want to fight a parking ticket in the U.K. for example, from now on, you will probably go to this website before you will call a U.K. solicitor. And worldwide, you will probably take care of many legal matters via similar applications (forming companies, drafting wills, negotiating contracts, etc.).

So, take Labor Day off! Celebrate a day off and celebrate that you have a job (assuming you are one of the lucky ones). In years to come, the bitter irony is that many of us will not have the luxury of a job nor the treat of a day off.

Catrina Johnson called the police because her teenage son was out of control and she feared for her physical safety. The police arrived. Her son, unfortunately, was unable to gain control of himself even after the police came to the scene. The police had to restrain and handcuff him forcefully.

In the struggle to restrain young Johnson, Minneapolis Police officer Robert Heiple felt a sharp pain in his leg. He erroneously concluded that Ms. Johnson had kicked him.  So he arrested her and she spent three days in jail. (The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently allowed her lawsuit to go forward claiming a deprivation of her clearly established constitutional rights.)

(Congratulations to Ms. Johnson and her lawyer, Mr. Peter J. Nickitas! (Some of our coverage of Mr. Nickitas has been less laudatory, which goes to show the importance of repetition, persistence, and tenacity for success in the practice of law.))

Going back to Ms. Johnson, hypothetically, if Ms. Johnson’s employer fired her for being absent for work for those three days in which she was jailed because a police officer erroneously thought she had kicked him, would she be entitled to unemployment benefits?

Or should she have been barred from unemployment benefits based on “absence due to encarceration” (if she had sought them)?

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