Punishment gone too far?

September 17 2014 005

This week the newswires lit up with the controversial news of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson being indicted in Texas on a child injury charge that resulted from what a grand jury saw as Peterson’s overboard discipline of his four-year-old son.  Many fans (and non-fans) stood by Peterson, stating that they were likewise disciplined by corporal means growing up.  To be sure, Peterson’s case specifically involves injuries on the child which were the result of Peterson “switching” him with a tree branch.  In his statement, Peterson admitted that discussing his case with a psychologist helped him to realize that there may be better alternatives in disciplining his kids, but also to his belief that the hard-line physical discipline approach his family took in bringing him up was a factor in his success.  Another report of Peterson’s extreme discipline of a different son surfaced this week, and at last note the Vikings have barred Peterson from the team.

In every state in the country, a parent can legally hit their child as long as the force is “reasonable.”  Minnesota’s Malicious Punishment of a Child statute (§609.377) prohibits the use of “unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances.”  It is a felony if the punishment results in “great” or “substantial” bodily harm.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals has held that bruises are not necessary to indict a parent/caregiver under this statute.   In Ramsey County, if you witness a case of what you believe is child-punishment-gone-too far, you may decide to contact Child Protection Services.  More information is also available through the Minnesota Department of Human ServicesHere is  also an interesting article from the Minnesota Bar Association on the Malicious Punishment statute.


Condominiums – Ups and Downs

September 10, 2014 003Downtown St. Paul continues to be a hot residential address for Ramsey County.  There’s no denying the convenience and the cultural amenities of downtown living.  Even though the rental market is sizzling, many of the residences in downtown St. Paul are owner-occupied, most often as condominiums or other planned communities.

While condo dwellers seldom have to contend with lawn mowing and flooded basements, they must contend with parking availability and association boards.   Attending your association’s board meetings can do much to make you an informed homeowner.  If you have a point of contention with your board, you might want to start by consulting the Uniform Condominium Act at MN Stat. §515A and the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (“MCIOA”) at MN Stat. §515B.  (Other details of Minnesota condominium law are codified in MN Stat. §515.)  You might also consider reading either Working with Your Homeowner’s Association: A Guide to Effective Community Living (Sphinx 2003) or Condo Owner’s Answer Book: Practical Answers to More Than 125 Questions about Condominium Ownership (Sphinx 2008).   There is also this handy information sheet from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.  Serving on a condo board can sometimes be a thankless task, so show your board some basic courtesy when you raise your issue, or consider volunteering to serve on it yourself.

Have you recently joined your homeowners association board and find yourself a bit overwhelmed? CONGRATULATIONS for being willing to serve your community in this fashion.  Now, see if your organization belongs to an organization like the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association (MMHA), which is “a state-wide, non-profit trade organization…[that] promotes the highest standards in the development, management and maintenance of rental and owner-occupied multi-housing.”  Membership in an organization like this can help you with resources including information archives, legal forms, and even question-and-answer hotlines.  (Dues typically depend on the size of your organization.)  Are you a local tenant living in a condo unit, or a condo unit owner that is having trouble with your tenant?  You can always check out our Housing and Conciliation Court Clinic and discuss your situation with a volunteer lawyer.


Oscar Hallam (1865-1945)

Oscar Hallam

Oscar Hallam

Oscar Hallam was born on a farm near Linden WI in 1865, the youngest of seven children.  In 1892 he married Edith Lott.   He received his bachelors degree from University of Wisconsin in 1887, and his law degree from that institution in 1889.  Shortly thereafter he moved to St. Paul and took up the practice of law.   He was appointed to the Second Judicial District in 1905.  From there he was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1912.  He served on this bench for ten years until he resigned in order to run for the United States Senate in 1924. Following his defeat in the primaries, he returned to the practice of law in St. Paul.

Hallam was Dean of the St. Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell College of Law) from 1901 to 1941, and from thereafter as President of the college until his death.  His 23 year stint as dean was longer than anyone else’s in the school’s history.  Under Hallam, the college also gained its ABA accreditation in 1938.   A respected figure in criminal law, in 1926 he served as Chairman of the Minnesota Crime Commission.  During this time he helped originate the State Department of Criminal Apprehension and the Board of Parole.  He also served as Chairman of the Section on Criminal Law of the American Bar Association.  He authored much-cited Some Object Lessons on Publicity in Criminal Trials, 24 MN Law Rev. 453 (March 1940).  This article details the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptman, who was ultimately convicted of the abduction and murder of the Lindbergh baby.

Hallam wrote a series of sketches about his youth which were published in the Minnesota Historical Society periodical.  (27 MINNESOTA HISTORY 2 (June 1946)) In his Bloomfield and Number Five sketch, he describes his parents’ immigration to the United States, and his own growing up years.  Oscar Hallam died on September 23, 1945.  Oscar Hallam even has a Wikipedia page devoted to him.

Other Sources:

Douglas R. Heidenreich, With Satisfaction and Honor:  William Mitchell College of Law 1900-2000, (William Mitchell College of Law 1999).

Proceedings in Memory of Association Justice Ingerval M. Olsen and Associate Justice Oscar Hallam, 220 Minn. xxix (1946)


Criminal Expungement Workshop at Rondo


Criminal Expungement has long been an issue of special focus for the Ramsey County Law LibraryA recent article in the Wall Street Journal adds more fuel to the fire for why this is an important issue in our community.  The article reports that ccording to the FBI, authorities have made more than a quarter billion arrests in the last 20 years, with one out of every three adults on its database.  Arrest alone can hinder efforts to land a job, a loan, or an apartment.  Were you arrested as part of a youthful college protest decades ago?  It can still leave lasting consequences your criminal record. Much of these massive arrest numbers are the result of action taken against what seemed like an out-of-control crime wave in the late eighties and early nineties.  Fortunately crime has decreased since then, but unfortunately the same can probably be said about economic security.  Modern security, after all, increasingly depends on having a job, a home, and a credit history.

The Law Library continues to be the location for expungement workshops held on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.  Now the Law Library is assisting in a new partnership with Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) and the St. Paul Public Library to present expungement workshops at the Rondo Outreach Library.  The inaugural workshop will take place on Friday, September 19 from noon to 3:00 p.m.  Read more about VLN expungement workshops here.


file6251297827365 This week the Minnesota Supreme Court limited law enforcement’s ability to search and seize personal possessions.  The opinion in Garcia-Mendoza vs 2003 Chevy Tahoe held that constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure also applied to Minnesota civil matters, and not just criminal ones.  Similarly, the ruling in State v. Rohde determined that police had illegally impounded and searched a properly parked vehicle.

Both cases involved drugs found while searching vehicles whose impoundments were later found to be illegal. The exclusionary rule under U.S. Supreme Court rulings has long held that illegally-obtained evidence obtained cannot be used criminal proceedings (see Mapp vs. Ohio(1961)).  The Minnesota Supreme Court had not previously extended the exclusionary rule principle to Minnesota civil matters such as vehicle forfeiture.  (Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to take property allegedly connected to a crime. See Minnesota Statutes §§609.531-5319.)  Until recently in Minnesota, authorities could use civil forfeiture even if a person was not convicted.

The Court particularly pointed to the Minnesota Constitution in its Garcia-Mendoza decision, which states that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”



Cops in the News


Even though temperatures have been moderate, this is turning into a long, hot summer for police officers.  Cops seem to be headlining the news everywhere.  These headlines include a local officer slain in the line of duty, as well as the community anger following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Department of Justice is currently subjecting police tactics to a sweeping review.  Here in the Ramsey County vicinity we are seeing everything from a community mourning a fallen officer to an officer under scrutiny for allegedly running a red light last spring.

No question that law enforcement is a tough dangerous job that every safe and thriving community depends upon. Citizens owe it to their communities, however, to be aware of police practices and to report cases of law enforcement gone awry.  Also, being pulled over and ticketed is an experience that happens to many summer motorists this time of year.  If you have recently received a traffic ticket that you feel was undeserved, read information about contesting your ticket in Ramsey County, or come up to the Law Library to see Beat your Ticket  (Nolo 2013).  For more extensive research into the legal aspects of police misconduct, come up to the Library and peruse Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation (Thompson Reuters 3rd).  If you have witnessed or experienced a case of local law enforcement going beyond the scope of its authority, you may choose to file a complaint with the City of St. Paul, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, or even  the U.S. Department of Justice.


5091914[1]No lawyer can have an answer prepared for every zinger of a question that pops up when a client calls.  Zingers like:  “[M]y ex is stealing money from my son’s bank account,” or “my grandmother’s life savings were just wiped out by her investor-boyfriend,” or even “the cops just showed up at my home with a search warrant.”  These examples show why it’s critical to be able to find a quick a summary and cite for the authoritative case or controlling statute.   That’s where the new edition of this handy tool from Minnesota Continuing Legal Education comes in.  Answers to these and other questions are supported by references, commentary, and recommended readings.   Also provided is a chapter on the delicate ethics of answering legal questions at cocktail parties. (Hint: It may be better to excuse yourself and go get another drink instead.)

With Minnesota-specific answers provided by and for local practitioners, this book can be your lifeline or your entry point.   This reference tool cannot be checked out, but if a client just threw a surprise zinger at you while you are at the Court House, swing up to the library to read the quickest answer available.   Of course, this legal 9-1-1 manual can provide helpful information to lay people as well.


Jesse the Plaintiff

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (Minnesota Historical Society)

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura
(Minnesota Historical Society)

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has had his day in court, which culminated yesterday in a judgment and large award in his favor.  In an 8-2 verdict Tuesday in U.S. District Court, the jury found Ventura had been defamed by late Navy SEAL-turned-author Chris Kyle in the 2012 bestsellerAmerican Sniper,” and awarded him more than $1.8 million for his reputation and for “unjust enrichment.  The money apparently wasn’t the big win of the day for Jesse, who expressed relief that his “reputation is restored now.”

Defamation is a tough tort to tackle. The classic requirements of proving a defamation case are spelled out in the case of New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254 (1964).  A plaintiff must show: 1. The statement or communication was defamatory; 2. That the statement or communication was false; 3. That the statement or communication referred to the plaintiff; and 4. That the statement or communication was published.  Public figures must also prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.” For Ventura, this primarily meant proving three things: That Kyle’s story was defamatory, that it was false and that Kyle knew it was false or published it with serious doubts about its veracity.  For more information on defamation, here is a helpful page from the Nolo website that sums up the tort in simple terms.   Here are also some of the most timeless Jesse quotes in case you find those more interesting than his lawsuit.


July 23 2014 002

Many guests who come to the Law Library ask about our judge portrait collection, and comment with admiration on the late Edward V. Brewer’s masterful painting style.  With Brewer’s reputation, it is not surprising that the other portrait artists seem to suffer by comparison.  The prime case in point is that of artist James Artig, who painted the portraits of Judge Carlton McNally and Judge Marshall Hurley.  The Law Librarian would like to shed some light on the late Mr. Artig, and hopefully pay some credit to his artistic legacy.

James Lonsdale Artig was born in 1921.  Reading this obituary of Judge McNally’s daughter Catherine, we learn that she was married to Artig, and that together they had five children.  We can see that the portrait of Judge McNally was dated 1960, and know that it was painted by his son-in-law.  The Hurley painting is not dated, but given that Hurley served from 1959-1960, it is safe to say it was painted within the same time frame.  It is highly possible, though not certain, that Artig landed this portrait gig through family connections. James and Catherine Artig divorced in 1973, and he died on February 28, 1991.

Artig’s artistic style cannot be fully appreciated from these two judge portraits.  In contrast to Brewer’s delicate brush strokes and subtle lighting, Artig’s artistic style featured stronger lines and heavier use of white pigments.  It turns out that Artig built his reputation on painting rugged outdoor scenes and wildlife.  Serving trays painted by Artig depict moose, antelope, and other wildlife.  See also this painting done for the Hamm Brewing Company, which features a bright outdoor scene of sailboats under a summer sky.  So to judge Artig simply on two judge portraits is to really underestimate his strengths as an artist. If you have additional information regarding artist James Lonsdale Artig, please share it with us!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the past couple of years, downtown St. Paul has become a much busier place.  There are more cars, more bikes, more walkers, more dogs, more intercity buses, just…MORE.   The result is more and more traveling bodies trying to navigate within a limited network of streets and sidewalks, alleys and intersections.  On top of this has been the confusion generated by multiple construction sites and the operation of MTC’s Green Line.   What might have been your predictable driving route or crosswalk just a year ago is now fundamentally changed.  Hopefully much of this confusion is only temporary and travelers of all types will better know where they stand next summer.   Unfortunately, we also continue to read about Minnesota pedestrians who trusted crosswalks at their peril.  Drivers will also tell about being illegally cut off by pedestrians darting out in front of them.

It is important to be aware of Minnesota’s pedestrian and crosswalk laws, but the basic infrastructure itself is still open to question.  After all, how well can drivers see pedestrians crossing streets?  How useful is stopping for a pedestrian at a crossing if other cars blow around you into the path of the pedestrian?  How is using a crosswalk with its infinite variables safer than jaywalking in the middle of a block with only two directions of traffic to check for?  Or how fair is waiting patiently for a walk signal and realizing too late that you failed to press the “beg button” hidden behind a tree?

If you feel a complaint about a specific traffic problem is justified, you cmay file one with the City of St. Paul, or with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  If you feel you have been unjustly ticketed, you may want to explain your case to a Court Hearing Officer.   Most of all, everyone needs to do their part by BEING ALERT, which might mean simply turning off the phone while driving or turning off the portable music when beginning to walk across a street.