As all Minnesota litigators know, we are obligated to “meet and confer” with their adversary before bringing a motion before the Court. The “meet and confer” rule has an obvious benefit for court administration as it avoids work for the Court if the parties (or their lawyers, typically) are able to negotiate a solution to their disagreement before bringing a motion.
Minnesota litigators routinely by-pass the “meet and confer” obligation and Minnesota courts routinely ignore the lapse because, under many circumstances, it is widely recognized as a futile formality. For example, if a movant is bringing a long-anticipated motion for summary judgment to kick her adversary’s case out of court, it would seem extremely unlikely that this motion could be averted through a “meet and confer.”
Nevertheless, these “meet and confer” requirements are real and they are really important, as set out in an order this week by U.S. Mag. Judge Katherine Menendez (D. Minn.).
Apparently the lawsuit of Management Registry, Inc. v. A.W. Companies is “a pretty run of the mill commercial dispute that has been needlessly over litigated and stalled on fairly routine issues…,” (here at p. 4) — at least according to defense counsel.
This same lawyer brought a motion to compel, failed to engage in the “meet-and-confer process” (at least as understood by Judge Menendez), and Judge Menendez appears to have personally emailed the lawyers requiring “a meaningful meet and confer through direct conversation.” (emphasis in original) (here at p. 3).
PRACTICE POINTER: When a judge specifically orders you to do something like this, don’t monkey around.
Management Registry, Inc. v. A.W. Companies seems to have destroyed any patience that defense counsel, Mr. Loftus, may have started with and the prospect of more talks with opposing counsel, even after instructed to begin again by Judge Menendez, was intolerable. While he had raised twenty-four issues in his motion, he only agreed to discuss one on the telephone with opposing counsel even after Judge Menendez had expressly ordered “a meaningful meet and confer through direct conversation.”
Judge Menendez denied the defendant’s motion to compel without prejudice, ordering a meet and confer (again). It is possible that other judges would not have been so generous under the circumstances.
A final note: We note that the lead lawyers in Management Registry, Inc. v. A.W. Companies appear to be non-Minnesota lawyers. Lawyers who practice elsewhere in the United States might have subtly different practices, customs, manners, and methods.
In our nearly 25 years of practice, we have often heard Minnesota lawyers refer to so-called “New York lawyers,” and heard tales of conduct by them that, in Minnesota, are simply out of bounds, beyond the pale, or over-the-top. This “tut-tutting” or finger-wagging may be some variant of home-town self-love superiority or part of a larger myth we’re all familiar with: “Minnesota Nice.” But there might be some truth to it.
We might not be able to identify regional or institutional cultural differences with scientific reliability (i.e., how does corporate culture differ between Coke and Pepsi, Target and Walmart, 3M and DuPont, Berkshire Hathaway and KKR, etc. etc.? How do Florida, Illinois, California, Minnesota litigators differ in their interactions with one another?). Nevertheless, many of us have the sense that there are differences and it can matter.
When you litigate here, be nice. It will save time and money.