Friday, July 31, 2015

The substance of HF 652 becomes law tomorrow. Bankruptcy debtors finally get a break on fees for removing discharged judgments.

On August 1, 2015, the substance of HF 652 introduced by Rep. Mary Franson becomes law in Minnesota.

I have blogged about this issue before when the bill was first introduced, and I explained the issue:

"The issue is debtors having to pay exorbitant filing fees to state court administrators to remove state court money judgments entered on debts that were already discharged in bankruptcy.  While Minnesota Statute 548.181 Subd. 1 states that this removal of judgments should only cost $5.00 payable to the court administrator, the Minnesota State Court Administrator has taken the position that debtors with "default judgments" against them need to pay the full filing fee for an answer to a lawsuit in addition to the $5.00.  In my home County of Ramsey, this extra fee is $327.00, for a total of $332.00 per judgment to be removed.  If a debtor had several judgments, they could easily be forced to pay $1,000 to $2,000 or more to remove their judgments for debts that have already been discharged by the bankruptcy court."

This bill enjoyed broad-based bi-partisan support from the very beginning.  In the Senate, Sen. John Marty supported the bill and Sen. Warren Limmer introduced the Senate companion bill.  I appeared at a hearing in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee and before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the bill, along with some of my fellow Minnesota NACBA (National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys) members.  While the state court administrator had opposed not charging this extra filing fee, even he came around to support the bill.

The new language that was needed to fix this issue reads as follows:

"The defendant or other adverse or intervening party, or any one or more of several defendants or other adverse or intervening parties appearing separately from the others, shall pay, when the first paper is filed for that party in said action, a fee of $310, except in marriage dissolution actions the fee is $340.new text begin This subdivision does not apply to the filing of an Application for Discharge of Judgment. Section 548.181 applies to an Application for Discharge of Judgment"

I give special thanks to Rep. Mary Franson for introducing this common-sense bill that will benefit so many Minnesotans.  It will mean a lot to a lot of people who can spend their money on their families rather than on more bureaucracy.  Myself and my colleagues have clients who have been waiting for this law to take effect to get their judgments removed so they can fully take advantage of the fresh start that United States Bankruptcy law affords to honest debtors.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluation Program Defendant Fillmore County Deputy Sheriff Michael Hadland Testifies that if a K9 Officer (a cop dog) Ingested Illicit Drugs, He would take it to a Veterinarian

A few days ago I posted the depositions of the Defendants in the Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator Program lawsuit.  In this program, the Plaintiffs were picked up in downtown Minneapolis, taken to a building near the Minneapolis - St. Paul Airport and given powerful marijuana that other police had stolen from kids in a park in Dakota County.

One of the important aspects of this case is the human aspect.  I have wondered where we are at in society where people could be treated this way and the perpetrators of the treatment could be so vigorously defended by the government.  Also, I have wondered if the perpetrators ever thought for a bit about their conduct.  If people are homeless, vulnerable, or have other issues, is it really right or fair to give them drugs and run tests on them?  If people are under the influence of illicit drugs, shouldn't they receive some care or medical attention?  Have the people in the government given any thought about how they would feel if they had a family member or loved one who was homeless, had mental health, or other medical issues and were picked up and given street drugs by the police and had tests run on them?  Given what I have seen so far, no remorse has been shown by anyone in the government for any of this conduct.  Actually, these people have asserted they are immune from any of these claims for this conduct.

Since 9/11, there has been a large increase in the number of law enforcement staff.  I am not citing any specific numbers, but I have worked in the criminal justice system in one way or another for over 15 years, so I am relying on my own observation.  This increase in officials has brought on what I can only describe as a near worship of K9 officers (cop dogs).  For example, Minnesota has a special law regarding the killing of a "public safety dog".  I have also noticed that many K9 officers win a lot of awards, such as this one in Roseville, Minnesota:



I love dogs and own one I bring to my office nearly every day, and I do not advocate for their mistreatment.  However, all of this seems pretty excessive.  As a taxpayer, I have some concern about all of these public resources being applied to awards for dogs.

It seems to me that the law enforcement defendants in the Drug Recognition Evaluator lawsuit likely cared much more about their dogs than they did my clients, the test subjects of the DRE training program.  My hunch about the feelings of law enforcement that K9 officers are more important and valuable than real people, for example, the test subjects in the DRE training program, was correct, as evidenced by the following exchange on pages 36 to 37 of the sworn deposition of Deputy Michael Hadland of the Fillmore County Sheriff's Department, who is also presently a Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator:

Q (by me): "Do you know, what's a canine officer?"

A (Hadland): "An officer that has a patrol dog."

Q (by me): "So if a patrol dog -- if you learned that a patrol dog had
 ingested illicit drugs, what procedures would you
implement?

A (Hadland): "I couldn't answer that. I'm not a veterinarian. I was
never trained in anything to deal with animals like that."

Q (by me): "Would you bring the dog to a veterinarian?"

A (Hadland): "Oh, you bet."

It is not disputed that there were no medical personnel present for the DRE training experiments.  Also, no medical attention was sought for the test subjects, who were given marijuana by the police.  However, if a K9 officer ingests marijuana, by all means, seek medical attention immediately.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Depositions of Drug Recognition Evaluator defendants, drugs used for testing taken from teenagers in a park, homeless targeted, scientific method not understood by certified DRE, official reports falsified

I have posted before on the blog about the civil lawsuit in which I represent Plaintiffs who were picked up by Minnesota law enforcement, driven near the airport, and given street drugs and told to use them.  Subsequently, various clinical tests were run on these Plaintiffs by law enforcement to provide training so these officers could become "Drug Recognition Evaluators."  Each officer needed to have 15 test subjects, and credit could be given for being a recorder for another officer doing the tests.  Myself and co-counsel Alan Milstein took the depositions of several of these defendants wherein they testified under oath.  I have now posted these depositions on my file server for anyone to review, in the public interest.

As an attorney who has done a lot of criminal defense work, in addition to bankruptcy and civil litigation, I have long maintained that the DRE program is nothing but preposterous unscientific charlatanism.  Please understand the opinion of one of these officers can get you arrested and jailed sight on scene.  However, do not take my word for it, here is testimony from one of the Drug Recognition Evaluators wandering the streets and arresting people presently,  Deputy Bryce Schuenke, formerly of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office and now with the Prior Lake Police Department, who holds a "Master of Science in Public Safety" from St.Cloud State University, from page 17 of his deposition:

Q (by me):  "Did you rely on, like, any learned treatises or scientific textbooks during the classroom portion of your training?"

A (Schuenke):  "I didn't use scientific textbooks, no."

Q (by me):  "There's no scientific textbooks used in the DRE training?"

A (Schuenke):  "We had manuals, but I don't know if they came from a scientific source or not."

Q (by me):  "What is an Institutional Review Board?"

A (Schuenke):  "I don't---I don't know."

Q (by me):  "What is a controlled experiment?"

A (Schuenke):  "I am familiar with the term, but wouldn't be able to explain it."

Q (by me):  "What is the scientific method?"

A (Schuenke):  "Again, same"

Q (by me):  "You don't know?"

A (Schuenke):  "I don't know."

I reiterate that this is a person who Minnesota Courts qualify to testify in Court about whether or not someone is under the influence of drugs.  His clinical opinion can land someone in jail very quickly and his testimony used to prove someone's intoxication.
 
These depositions are filled with wonderful information about the Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator Program.  There are many stories in these depositions that are very newsworthy.  One of the overarching themes of this program is that test subjects were given fake names, presumably to make sure their actual participation in this program could be concealed at a later date.  Official DRE logs are replete with fake names and falsified police reports (fascinating how Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman forgot about Minnesota Statute 609.505, falsely reporting crime, in his charging decision relating to the DRE program).  Officers testified under oath at these depositions that they put false names and false events in their official reports.

Another issue that the Plaintiffs were wondering about was the source of the drugs administered to the Plaintiff test subjects for these police experiments.  For such a scientific program that trains officers to put people in jail by waving their hands around and looking at them, one would think there would be very careful controls and dosages for the drugs (I am setting aside for the moment that it is a farce to administer drugs to people and then test to conclude that they are under the influence of drugs).  However, consistent with the entire Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator Program, the method the drugs were obtained is entirely unscientific, and there is no knowledge about what the drugs administered actually contain.  In his deposition testimony, while questioned by my co-counsel, Alan Milstein, Hutchinson Officer explained how the drugs administered to the Plaintiff test subjects were obtained:

From page 15 of deposition of Karl Willers:

Q (by Milstein):  "And there was at least one instance where you gave one of the people you evaluated Marijuana, correct"

A (Karl Willers):  "Yes"

Q (by Milstein):  "Was it only one instance?"

A (Karl Willers):  "No."

Q (by Milstein):  "How many instances were there?"

A (Karl Willers):  "Four or five."

Q (by Milstein):  "And where did you get Marijuana?"


There is a set of questioning from Karl Willers' deposition on pages 16 to 19  that his classmates, Mark Hanneman and Peter Zajac, had obtained the marijuana by taking it from teenagers who were smoking it in a park around Farmington.  Herein lies more of the rigorous science and testing behind the Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator program.

Here are the depositions I have posted, which are all of them:

Karl Willers, Hutchinson Police Department

Bryce Schuenke, Dakota County Sheriff's Office, now with Prior Lake Police Department

Daniel Lewis, Kanabec County Sheriff's Office

Kenneth Willers, DRE with Minnesota State Patrol

Michael Hadland, Fillmore County Sheriff's Office

Nicholas Jacobson, Olmsted County Sheriff's Office

Steve Schultz, Kanabec County Sheriff

Riccardo Munoz, Minnesota State Patrol

These depositions and their contents speak for themselves.  A reading of all of them together leads any reasonable mind to the conclusion that the DRE program is unscientific hocus pocus and its training methods constitute violations of civil rights. Further, the intentional targeting of Occupy Minnesota, the homeless, and other vulnerable populations is made clear in the testimony in these depositions.

I can be contacted at nathan.hansen@gmail.com

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rep. Mary Franson introduces HF 652: A bill that helps a lot of consumer bankruptcy debtors in Minnesota

One of the major parts of my law practice is consumer bankruptcy and litigation in bankruptcy court related to consumer bankruptcy.  I am a member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) and have been for several years.

Bankruptcy is a Federal proceeding that a debtor can bring to absolve themselves of their debts.  At the end of a bankruptcy proceeding, an honest debtor receives a "discharge" order signed by a United States Bankruptcy Judge.  This discharge order absolves a debtor of most debts (there are exceptions to this, but such a discussion is beyond the scope of this post).  For example, credit card debts are generally dischargeable in bankruptcy.

I routinely communicate with my fellow members of NACBA in Minnesota.  These are excellent attorneys with varying political beliefs as diverse as the general population.  For the past few years, a serious issue has been plaguing bankruptcy debtors in Minnesota, our clients.  The issue is debtors having to pay exorbitant filing fees to state court administrators to remove state court money judgments entered on debts that were already discharged in bankruptcy.  While Minnesota Statute 548.181 Subd. 1 states that this removal of judgments should only cost $5.00 payable to the court administrator, the Minnesota State Court Administrator has taken the position that debtors with "default judgments" against them need to pay the full filing fee for an answer to a lawsuit in addition to the $5.00.  In my home County of Ramsey, this extra fee is $327.00, for a total of $332.00 per judgment to be removed.  If a debtor had several judgments, they could easily be forced to pay $1,000 to $2,000 or more to remove their judgments for debts that have already been discharged by the bankruptcy court.  Regardless of political beliefs, almost anyone can run into financial troubles for any number of reasons.

Representative Mary Franson (R- Alexandria) listened to the concerns of Minnesota NACBA members about this common sense issue affecting all kinds of people in Minnesota.  She introduced a bill today, HF 652, to address the bipartisan concerns of NACBA members for their clients.  This bill will prohibit  Minnesota Court Administration from charging these exorbitant filing fees to debtors for filing their applications for discharge of judgments, and keeps the fee at the $5.00 originally set forth by the Legislature.

My fellow NACBA members are absolutely elated that a bill has been brought to fix this injustice that keeps people from getting their fresh start to which honest debtors are entitled.  Bankruptcy is specifically mentioned in the Constitution, so I do mean entitled.  On behalf of Minnesota NACBA members who are my friends and colleagues, our sincere thanks to Rep. Franson for taking a leadership role on this issue.

Please contact your Representative and Senator and ask them to co-sponsor and support this very important bill that will have a very positive effect on Minnesotans trying to get back on their feet.  If you want to know who represents you in the Minnesota Legislature, here is a link to a tool for finding out from the Minnesota Legislature's website.

If anyone has any questions about this issue, please feel free to e-mail me at nathan.hansen@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

US District Court Judge John Tunheim Substantially Adopts Judge Noel's Report & Recommendation in Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator "DRE" Case

Yesterday, March 31, 2014, US District Court Judge John Tunheim entered an order that substantially adopted Magistrate Franklin Noel's Report and Recommendation previously entered in the Drug Recognition Evaluator case brought against police officials who picked up Occupy Minnesota protestors and administered drugs to them purportedly as part of a police training program.  A copy of Judge Tunheim's 32- page order and opinion is located here.  The next step for the Plaintiffs in this case is to amend their complaint.  A proposed amended complaint has been drafted and has been circulated to defense counsel.  If  defense counsel do not stipulate to amend the complaint the plaintiffs will bring a motion to amend the complaint.

This decision by Judge Tunheim is very good for the Plaintiffs.  At some point in the near future the Plaintiffs will be able to engage in discovery so they can learn more about Minnesota law enforcement's Drug Recognition Evaluator program training, including the source of the drugs that were administered to the Plaintiffs.

Nathan Hansen
651-704-9600

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Police Defendants Object to Magistrate Noel's Report and Recommendation in the Minnesota Drug Recognition Evaluator Lawsuit, Claim They Are Immune.

I have used this blog to provide extensive coverage of the lawsuit my clients have brought against Minnesota Law Enforcement Officers who picked them up and administered street drugs to them.  They were subsequently subjected to the police officers' pseudo-scientific tests to determine whether or not they were under the influence of drugs.  Today, the remaining Defendants objected to Magistrate Noel's Report and Recommendation that the lawsuit move forward.  Here is a recap of this blog's coverage of this suit:

Press Release

Motions to Dismiss Brought by the Defendants

Motions to Dismiss and Plaintiffs' Response to these motions

Magistrate Noel Issues Report and Recommendation that Lawsuit Move Forward

The remaining Defendants, have objected to Magistrate Noel's Report and Recommendation that the lawsuit move forward.  The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation can be adopted by the Article III Judge assigned to the case, the Honorable John Tunheim.  If the report is adopted by Judge Tunheim, the Defendants will be able to engage in discovery, that is they will have the ability to ask questions, take depositions and obtain documents related to the Minnesota Drug Evaluator program's experiments that were performed upon them.

In their objection, these licensed peace officers argue that even if everything the Plaintiffs say is true, they are immune and should never have to answer for this conduct.  Magistrate Judge Noel disagreed with this position, in his strongly worded opinion, he stated:  "...the facts of this case smack of arbitrary government action coupled with de minimis legitimate state interest."  (page 15).  The peace officers also argued that the "failure to train" claim brought by the Plaintiffs was without merit and should be dismissed.  Magistrate Noel also disagreed with this, stating:  "In the Court’s view, any law enforcement officer who provides an illicit drug to citizens recruited from the streets of an urban center for the purpose of observing them while they are impaired has not received proper training." (pages 18-19).

The Defendants have requested a hearing before Judge Tunheim.  There is no way of knowing whether this request will be granted or if it is granted when this hearing would occur.  In any event, I will certainly keep this blog updated with any new information.

Nathan Hansen
651-704-9600


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Magistrate Judge Noel Recommends Drug Recognition Evaluator Lawsuit Move Forward

This afternoon a Report and Recommendation was entered in the lawsuit brought by protesters and other people who were picked up by law enforcement officers and given drugs.  After they were given drugs, tests were run on them by the law enforcement officers to allegedly train officers to evaluate the effects of certain drugs.

Last summer, these law enforcement officers brought motions to dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint.  The Report and Recommendation entered by Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel today recommends that this lawsuit move forward with regard to certain Plaintiffs and Defendants, and permits the Plaintiff's to move to Amend their Complaint.  We will be moving to amend our Complaint.  The Defendants have fourteen days to object to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.  The Article III Judge assigned to the case, the Honorable John Tunheim, can adopt or decline to adopt the Magistrate's Recommendation.  If this Report and Recommendation is adopted, the Plaintiffs will be able to move forward with discovery, to hopefully answer questions like:  "Where the officers obtain the drugs they administered to these people?"

This is just a preliminary update.  I will provide more updates in the future.

Nathan Hansen
651-704-9600