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.

 

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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.

 

 

Prostitution (Location, Location, Location…)

IMG_2767For one unlucky Michigan man, what happened in St. Paul didn’t necessarily stay in St. Paul.  This week the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that a Ramsey County District Court judge erred in planning to dismiss the case involving a Michigan man who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor prostitution.  Last year in St. Paul, the man had responded to an online ad and offered an undercover officer money to have sex with him.  The judge sentenced him to a day in jail, a year of probation, and ordered him to complete the Breaking Free educational program and pay $1,081 in fees and fines.  Over the prosecutor’s objections, the judge ruled that the guilty plea would be vacated and the misdemeanor charge dismissed if the defendant completed probation and remained law-abiding for two years.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the sentencing arrangement ordered by the District Court was similar to a “stay of adjudication,” which can’t be ordered by a judge over the objection of the prosecutor unless “there is a clear abuse of prosecutorial discretion in charging.”  A St. Paul City Attorney told the press that “vacate-and-dismiss” sentences have been routinely sought in prostitution cases, stating that the effect of such dismissals diminishes accountability among defendants and make it seem like a crime didn’t happen.   Yet the judge in this case stated that such “vacate-and-dismiss” resolutions are common agreements in Ramsey County suburban municipal courts, and it would be unfair to hold those who commit the same offense in St. Paul to a different outcome.

This decision sparks questions about possible uneven enforcement of prostitution laws across Ramsey County, and further beyond.  One can appreciate the logic of the judge in seeking to apply the statute evenly across municipalities of the District, rather than encourage an “urban versus suburban” model of enforcement.  One can also appreciate the City Attorney’s argument that the statute has to be applied as it as written, with accountability of the defendant considered.  This is noteworthy considering this old case from the Minnesota Supreme Court which reflects a time when law enforcement typically went after “johns” and not prostitutes.   For more about the history of prostitution in St. Paul, consider reading Controlling Vice: Regulating Brothel Prostitution in St. Paul, 1865-1883 (Ohio State University Press 1998), which is available at the State Law Library.

 

Edwin Ames Jaggard (1859-1911)

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Edwin Ames Jaggard was born on June 21, 1859 in Altoona Pennsylvania.  He graduated from Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) in 1879, and received his Bachelor of Laws from the University of Pennsylvania in 1882.  He came to Minnesota that same year, and joined the St. Paul law practice of Young & Lightner.  In 1890 he married Anna May Averill. He was elected to the Ramsey County District Court in 1898.  He served as a district judge for one term, and was then elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1904.

A reputable legal scholar, Jaggard was a lecturer on medical jurisprudence at the St. Paul Medical College.  He went on to lecture at what is now the University of Minnesota Law School for 19 years, where then-Law School Dean W.S. Pattee stated that Jaggard was one of the most popular professors of the department.  He was also the author of several treatises on torts and taxation, including the familiar Jaggard on Torts.  The last work he did on the bench was the opinion of the court in the case of Keever v. City of Mankato (113 Minn. 55) establishing that a city is responsible for the quality of water it furnishes to its citizens.

Judge Jaggard was known as a popular and generous man, whose Christmas gift recipients list contained roughly three hundred names.   A post-mortem tribute tells of him placing his overcoat on the shoulders of a homeless person one cold day, and forgetting about it.   He was also an avid outdoorsman.  He was known to go fishing in the Mississippi River at the end of his workday, and commented favorably on the quality of the aquatic life therein.

He served as Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court until his death on February 13, 1911 from heart failure while on a trip to Bermuda.  He was only fifty-one years old.   It was thought that his body was weakened due to a case of ptomaine poisoning (or just food poisoning).

Sources:

  • “His death was unexpected:  Demise of Judge Jaggard of Minnesota Court,” The Bemidji Daily Pioneer Feb. 15, 1911, p. 4
  • “Hobbies of Judges,” Saint Paul Globe, May 25, 1902, p. 30
  • History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota, Legal Publishing and Engraving Company (1904)
  • “A man named Jaggard,” St. Paul Dispatch Feb. 20, 1911,
  • “Death of jurist regretted by all,” St. Paul Pioneer Press Feb. 15, 1911,
  • Proceedings:  Memory of Associate Justice Jaggard, 113 Minn. R. 1-10 (1911)
 

The Rising Mississippi

Some of the best views in town of the rising Mississippi River are available at the Law Library.  Pay us a visit and check it out!

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Summer Motorcycling – Start Seeing Safety Tips

DSCN3806For Minnesotans who wait all year to hit the highways and byways on their motorcycles, June is the golden month.  Unfortunately, news of late would indicate that this June has also been the deadly month for motorcyclists.   In the last several weeks, we have read reports of multiple motorcycle deaths  on Minnesota streets and highways.  True, one could argue that there are more people riding motorcycles nowadays that must be accounted for in these numbers, but the death numbers themselves still remain.  The question becomes what can  one do when riding to avoid becoming one of these statistics.

Yes…as the popular bumper sticker states, four-wheel vehicle drivers should start seeing motorcycles while they are driving instead of reading the newspaper, putting on mascara, talking on the phone, text­ing, writing, eating, etc.  But being seen is far easier if one remembers to wear proper high-visibility clothing.  In Minnesota, motorcycle helmets are optional for those at or over the age of 18, but obviously a rider who chooses to wear one improves his or her odds in a collision.  Next, to state the obvious make sure you are in fact properly licensed.  Also, know exactly what the rules of the road are for cycles – the Minnesota motorcycle safety manual is available online for brushing up.  Finally, a cyclist can always benefit from a motorcycle safety class.

Here is an interesting old case from the Minnesota Supreme Court which looks at the classic arguments for and against motorcycle helmet mandate laws.

 

On Becoming a (Legal) Father

the new babies 514_peEveryone knows that being a father is complicated.

From the tasks of teaching a child right from wrong (or even just safe from unsafe), explaining the injustices of life, and protecting them from the myriad of dangers grow more numerous every year, the job of a hands-on father is not a small one.   Unmarried fathers not currently involved in their children’s lives but wishing to “get in on the game” with all of its challenges and rewards are likely have questions that need answers.  Like, does a guy have to prove he is the father to have any voice in his kid’s life?  What exactly are the rights and responsibilities of a father under Minnesota Law?  Is a guy totally at the mercy of the child’s mother and what she wants?   A good source of information for questions like these is the Unmarried Fathers’ Guide to Paternity, Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support in Minnesota.

Briefly, the first task an unmarried father faces is to make his paternity been legally established, because he does not have a right to any custody or parenting time until it has been.  (See Minnesota Statute §257.55 for information on presumptive fatherhood and §257.63 regarding evidence related to paternity.)  If paternity gets determined by a hearing, the court will then decide custody, child support and parenting time based on the best interests of the child (just like in divorce).  In cases where paternity is established by a Recognition of Parentage form as opposed to a paternity hearing, a father has no automatic right to custody or parenting time unless he specifically goes to court for them.

If you think you may be the father of a child born to a woman who is not your wife, but paternity has not yet been established by a Recognition of Parentage form or court order, you can register with the Minnesota Fathers Adoption Registry no later than 30 days after the child’s birth. This way you can be notified if a Petition for Adoption of the child is ever filed in a Minnesota court.   This is so you can take part in the legal adoption proceedings and seek to establish legal paternity if you so choose.  Albeit not a perfect process, compare it to how few options an unwed father had at the time of this groundbreaking case.

 

Legal Research in International Law

CAP INTL SERIESYou may not need to research international law on an everyday basis in your law practice, but when it comes up you will appreciate a logical starting point.  That is where International Law Legal Research (Carolina Press) comes in.  This is a “concise yet comprehensive” tool meant to be accessible for beginners and more experienced researchers alike, with each type of search tool and search strategy covered in detail with explanations to provide background comprehension.  This book gives you an idea of how non-concise the area of international law is, and lets you chart your research course with as few obstacles as possible. Read more about this book here. If you think you might be interested, this book is available in the Law Library.

Mary Ann E. Archer, retired Associate Director of the Warren E. Burger Law Library at William Mitchell College of Law, is co-author of this book.

 

Don’t Drive Drunk from Danger

file000451376418Last week the Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited ruling in the matter of a woman who lost her driver’s license after driving while drunk to flee her abusive husband.  Jennifer Axelberg had a BAL of 0.16 percent when she drove less than a mile from her drunk and abusive husband. He had her cellphone, and she didn’t think she could outrun him on foot. She drove off only after he smashed the car’s windshield and climbed onto the vehicle.  In the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, the Court weighed the public safety risk posed by a drunken driver against the danger faced by a domestic violence victim, and concluded that Minnesota’s implied-consent statute §169A.53 contains no so-called necessity defense.  Check the Supreme Court Opinion page to read this opinion (A12-1341).

In his dissent, Justice Page wrote that the Court’s decision implied “that the necessity defense is unavailable not only in cases of domestic abuse, but also in cases in which a victim’s seeking refuge from a violent physical or sexual assault or kidnapping, and the court’s decision thus discourages those individuals from seeking shelter in a motor vehicle as well.”  Recognizing the quandary that the Statute and the Court’s decision may put victims of domestic abuse in, Justice Lillehaug wrote in his dissent that “the Legislature may wish to consider further measures to protect the next Jennifer Axelberg.”  Indeed, both Axelberg’s attorney and the executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women see hope in this decision that the Legislature will recognize the need to adapt the implied consent statute to allow for exceptions like fleeing danger in the not-so-distant future