The Little Things Matter

You may have been following the criminal case against Jeronimo Yanez – he’s the St. Anthony police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year. Yesterday, his attorneys asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reverse the Ramsey County District Court’s decision not to move Yanez’s trial to a different county. You can find the document, a petition for a writ of mandamus, here.

I’m not familiar enough with the case to be able to opine on the merits of the petition. What caught my eye, though, are some small errors that make a big difference. For example, the caption of the filing (the top of the first page) starts out with a goof. Minnesota Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure 120.01 provides that “[t]he petition shall be titled ‘In re (name of petitioner), Petitioner,’ followed by the trial court caption . . . .” Thus, the case name in the petition should read “In re Jeronimo Yanez, Petitioner, State of Minnesota, Plaintiff, vs. Jeronimo Yanez, Defendant.” Further down on the page, Mr. Castile’s first name is misspelled “Philado.” On the next page, “sheer” is misspelled as “shear,” and one sentence reads, in part, “the incident . . . has since been constantly report in the Twin Cities news media.” There are other errors scattered throughout the document.

When lawyers are in court, especially in appeals, we’re advocates, and it’s our responsibility to advocate as hard and as well for our clients as we know how. Much of that advocacy is usually done in writing. No matter how good the argument, though, it’s difficult to advocate effectively when the writing isn’t top-notch. It’s just hard to take as seriously a memo or brief that looks bad and reads badly. That means that well-formatted, carefully proofread filings aren’t a luxury – they’re essential. This isn’t a novel observation – courts sometimes even issue sanctions for writing issues. But poorly drafted filings persist.

This post isn’t meant as a criticism of Officer Yanez’s attorneys, all of whom are well-known and well-respected defense lawyers. They’ve got a lot of balls in the air on this case and are undoubtedly crunched for time. Even so, criminal defendants in the appellate system usually need all the help they can get, and this petition doesn’t make Officer Yanez’s case as forcefully as it might have. That’s a big deal when you’re talking about an appeal from a key motion in a case that could send him to prison.

We’re typically not filing documents that we expect more than a handful of people will ever read. Even so, our goal is always that every document that leaves our office – filings, letters, notices, what-have-you – is as close to perfect as possible.

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Not Guilty!

GavelThis week we received the decision in Liebow & Liebling, PLLC’s first criminal trial: not guilty.

We’re proud of this result, the work it took to get there, and that people charged with crimes continue to turn to us. We’re looking forward to more success inside and outside of the courtroom on behalf of our clients. But most of all, we’re happy that our client can move on with his life without an undeserved criminal conviction on his record.

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David Liebow Admitted to Practice Before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

A photograph of the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri
The Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri

We’re excited to announce that David Liebow has been admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit! The Eighth Circuit is the federal court of appeals covering Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The court is based in St. Louis, Missouri and also has a location in St. Paul, Minnesota at which it regularly hears cases. David is also admitted to practice before the Minnesota Supreme Court (and all other Minnesota state courts) as well as the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

David’s admission to the Eighth Circuit now allows the attorneys at Liebow & Liebling, PLLC to represent clients in federal criminal cases beginning in Minnesota wherever those cases may lead, including in appeals to the Eighth Circuit and to the United States Supreme Court.

Tina Liebling is also admitted to practice before several courts, including Minnesota state courts, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.

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David L. Liebow Honored as Super Lawyers Rising Star

Photograph of David L. Liebow
David L. Liebow

We’re very excited to announce that Liebow & Liebling, PLLC attorney David L. Liebow has been honored by being named to the 2017 Super Lawyers Rising Stars list of Minnesota attorneys!

According to the the Super Lawyers website, “Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.”

Only 2.5% of Minnesota attorneys are named to the Rising Stars list. Attorneys are eligible for that list if they are forty or younger or have been practicing for ten years or less. The list a “credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.” (You can learn more about the multiphase selection process, which is based on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement, here.) Super Lawyers is one of the few attorney rating services which is well-regarded and widely-known by attorneys themselves. Few Greater Minnesota attorneys are named to the list, and David is the only Rochester criminal defense attorney named to either the Super Lawyers or Rising Stars list in 2017.

“It’s very gratifying to be recognized for my past work on behalf of my clients,” David said. “2016 was an exciting year, with an acquittal at trial on a felony case and a Minnesota Supreme Court argument, and I’m looking forward to continuing to represent with passion and skill criminal defendants and others in 2017 and beyond.”

David practices criminal defense, appellate law, and family law throughout southeastern Minnesota.

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Security Matters (Even Though You Might Not Think About It)

Padlock and Chain
Our security is better than this.

When you hire a lawyer, you get a lot you may not realize. You have – or at least should have – just hired a person who will abandon their Ferrari to get to your hearing on time. You have – or should have – just hired someone who does everything in their power not to let anything get in the way of representing you. But the flip-side of that is that you’re putting your faith in your lawyer’s choices. Some of those choices are obvious things like how they’re going to approach your case – those your lawyer should be discussing with you, and if he or she didn’t, you’d probably notice. Some, though, you’re likely never even to stop and really think about, even though they’re very important. Today, we invite you to think about your lawyer’s security when it comes to how he or she stores or uses your case file, including your personal information. Law firms are targets, and they’re too often not hard ones to breach.

If you were to break into the average lawyer’s office tonight, what would you find? The odds are that you’d have unfettered access to the paper copies of many hundreds or even thousands of cases. They’d likely contain very sensitive information – anything from Social Security numbers to confidential memos to tax returns to notes on privileged conversations. You could copy them, walk off with them, destroy them, or alter them. Perhaps even worse, many law firms’s security protocols are so lousy that, if you were to sit down at a computer, it could be unlocked and you’d have access to all of the office’s electronic data. And for many law offices, it wouldn’t even take breaking into their actual office: many firms don’t have strong electronic security protocols and have their own servers on-site, often poorly maintained and with out-of-date software which make them vulnerable to being hacked. Further, many lawyers don’t digitize their full client files, or if they do, they don’t back them up adequately – meaning that if, say, their law office burned down, information in their files would be gone for good.

Our commitment to securing your information is one of the many things that set us apart from other lawyers. We use strong physical and technical safeguards for our clients’ information. While for obvious reasons we don’t discuss on the internet our physical security safeguards, consider what client information you could access if you did manage to break into our office. The answer is that there wouldn’t be much. We are almost completely paperless – on an average day, we have only a few sheets of paper regarding our clients’s cases in our office, with everything else digitized. Our technical safeguards, meanwhile, are state-of-the-art. Our data storage provider uses strong encryption both in motion and at rest and our files are regularly backed up onto a different, off-site system (also with strong security). We require strong passwords and multi-factor authentication to access client data. Our mobile devices that can access client information are similarly protected. Our systems are such that, if our office burned down today, we’d be able to continue our work with little to no interruption. And we have administrative safeguards as well – policies that ensure that we maintain our ability to prevent improper access to our data and to respond to it.

Providing great legal services to our clients doesn’t start with the decisions we make about their cases. It starts with the systems we have in place to allow us to do our best work by focusing on our clients and allowing our clients to have confidence in us.

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