[UPDATE: Pioneer Press/TwinCities.com/Duluth New Tribune has the story. Defendant’s getting a free lawyer apparently.]
Lawyers counseling their clients to be careful in how they vent their feelings of animosity or disgust can “bring it home” with this real-life situation: Back in 2001, Defendant Robin Schoenrock had an unkind thing to say about Plaintiff Patrick Longbehn, calling him a pedophile, apparently based on the fact that then 34 year-old Officer Longbehn (then a Moose Lake Police Officer) was then dating a women sixteen years his junior. According to Longbehn and his counsel, the personal and professional ramifications of the defamatory comment were devastating.
The case went to trial in 2003, again in 2005, a third time in 2009, and, this week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals (Larkin, Johnson, Stauber (opinion by Johnson)) found fault with the jury instructions, reversed and remanded for a fourth trial.
Carlton County District Court Judge Dale Albert Wolf presided over the case from the get-go in 2001 and presided over the 2005 and 2009 trials. Among several other determinations that the District Court made at trial that the Court of Appeals took issue with, the trial court included in the jury instructions, “On one isolated occasion…,” a prefatory clause in the first four interrogatories to the jury on the verdict form, which the Court of Appeals found “argumentative and tend[ing] to unfairly minimize Schoenrock’ s conduct and its consequences…”
Going to trial before a Court in the same case for the fourth time when there is reason to believe the Court does not think much of one’s case is an experience that very few trial lawyers can claim and none, presumably, would want.