Monday Morning was to have been the time for argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court in the Rucker case against attorney Steven Schmidt and the now-defunct Twin Cities law firm of Rider Bennett LLP. Argument has been rescheduled (though the rescheduled time is not evident on the Court’s calendar online).
The lawsuit arises in the context of a divorce, a valuation of a business in connection with the divorce, alleged fraud by the ex-husband, and whether a suit against the ex-husband’s lawyer and law firm would be barred under the doctrine of res judicata because of an earlier suit against the ex-husband. In other words, in light of the contractual relationship between legal counsel and client, is the case against counsel barred by an earlier adjudication against the client?
The Court of Appeals decision in favor of the plaintiff (Judges Stauber, Stoneburner, Schelhas) is here. After a review of Minnesota law and the law of other states, the Court of Appeals relied on “a common-sense conclusion that the judgment that husband committed fraud on the court does not decisively demonstrate that attorney committed fraud.”
The case involves an “all-star” cast of characters: well-known litigators Lew Remele (for Rider Bennett), Joe Anthony (for Steven Schmidt), Bill Skolnick (for plaintiff Katherine Rucker), before Hennepin County District Court Judge Denise Reilly.