Apr 15, 2021

One of the lessons I learned from the true story I describe in my new book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System” is that a defamer may have legal privileges if they slander your name from their place of work or if they slander you to people in law enforcement. In this story the defendant was damn lucky to have slandered my name from her place of work and also to persons in law enforcement!

As we learned in the worst of ways, both of these methods of operation brought tremendous advantages to my defamer. Because the defamation occurred from her place of work and in the course of her supposed ‘job duties,’ the defendant became eligible to have her legal expenses covered by the hotel’s insurance company.

As explained previously, this was a huge factor which enabled her to file expensive motions (including summary judgment and motion to compel) and ultimately prevail against me. Most likely, she would not have been able to do so if she had been defending herself with a private attorney. And of course because she defamed me to persons in law enforcement, we also needed clear evidence of malice to survive summary judgment.

Not to say that the latter could not have been overcome if, as per my understanding, I’d had a more experienced attorney with regards to defamation… one who might have known that it was necessary to show clear evidence of malice to overcome the qualified privilege and survive summary judgment. Regardless, it might have been a whole different story if defendant had committed slander out in the community instead of from work and to regular citizens rather than to the police.

Apr 08, 2021

One of the reasons why I wrote my latest book titled “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System” is to share the lessons learned that many average people may not be aware of. One of these lessons is that it is extremely difficult to successfully sue a lawyer for malpractice. What I understood is that barring blatant misconduct that is wild and outrageous, most claims such as mine against my lawyer will likely get thrown out of court in the summary judgment phase. The lawyers are keenly aware of their powerful advantage over us.

Besides the summary judgment reality, most people who need to sue a lawyer already suffered a loss and don’t have the means to afford to pay an expert to strengthen their case. Unless you have slam dunk evidence against your former attorney, few if any malpractice lawyers will take your case on a contingency basis.

It seems to me that prevailing in the legal system is often based on how much money you have to play with. It is hence, again, my reason for believing that lawsuits are for the wealthy and privileged. Folks like us ought to try and avoid them if at all humanly possible!

This lesson also reiterates the importance of not poorly choosing a lawyer should you decide that you have to take legal action. If you make a bad choice as I feel that I did, you’re going to be stuck with the consequences.

There’s no remedy available after the fact (not even with the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board), as my case illustrates in the harshest of ways!!!!!!

Apr 01, 2021

Unless you are blessed with fighting a case on a preferred contingency basis, lawyers for businesses or companies will work harder for their client than your attorney will work for you.

This point was made crystal clear in the tragic true story described in my latest book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”. The defendant’s legal team worked for the hotel’s insurance company. They were hired by the insurance company and were accountable to the insurance company for prevailing in this matter. They needed to do an excellent job so the insurance company will continue to come to them for their other cases. As a result, they were aggressive advocates for their client and gave her a commendable defense.

On the other hand, I believe, that the lawyer and the law firm I hired felt no similar sense of accountability to me, whatsoever. I felt that there was a stunning difference between the quality of representation the defendant received compared to what I received.

Without a contingency arrangement in place, my lawyer was going to be paid a whole lot of money… regardless of his actual performance. And unlike defendant’s lawyers’ commitment to the insurance company, my lawyer and his firm couldn’t have cared less how I felt about the job they had done, after the matter concluded. At the time I decided to file, I was expecting to sue the defendant as an individual. I was blindsided by the hotel’s decision to become involved in the matter! But once they did, I believe that they gave the defendant far better representation than what I believe I received from my lawyer and his firm.

Mar 25, 2021

Most lawsuits are going to be horrendously expensive. This is one of the key points discussed in my book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”. Many law firms will not take a case on a much preferred contingency arrangement – meaning where you only pay once your lawyer has won a settlement and then your lawyer gets a portion of your settlement. My lawyer’s firm refused the contingency option to us right from the start. That immediately should have tipped me off that they didn’t believe I had a great shot of prospering in this matter, even though in words they had told me that I had a ‘good claim.’

A contingency arrangement also ensures that your attorney will put in his or her finest efforts, as they will NOT be getting paid unless YOU are getting paid! But many may not agree to a contingency option which would benefit the client. There may of course be exceptions to this rule, such as if you have overwhelming, slam dunk evidence against your opponent; if you were physically injured in an accident; or perhaps if it is a wrongful death lawsuit. The contingency option seems to become more likely under those circumstances. If you are not a celebrity or do not have a special connection with someone at a law firm, you should expect to pay your legal fees out of pocket… just as we did.

Following my experience with the legal system, I have come to conclude that lawyers and lawsuits are primarily for the wealthy and privileged. Had my father and I received a better estimate of the actual costs and expenses involved, I can almost guarantee that I WOULD NOT HAVE FILED THIS LAWSUIT!!!!!!

Mar 18, 2021

One of the things I learned from the case I describe in my latest book (Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System) is that it is not advisable to try to judge a judge’s behavior.

This was a lesson I had originally learned during my unemployment benefits hearing back in the summer of 2010. Sadly, it was reinforced again in this defamation lawsuit in April 2018.

At the earlier unemployment hearing – detailed in my third book about workplace bullying – the judge had grilled me with questions and even made statements indicating he could understand my ex-employer’s position on the issues. Yet, as it turned out, that same judge eventually ruled in my favor!

And, in the story in my latest book, during the appeal hearing of the summary judgment decision, the judges appeared to take the defendant’s lawyer to task and seriously question the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in her favor. It was enough to fool my lawyer into fully believing that I would likely prevail. But as it turned out, I did not win in the second case.

If you should ever find yourself involved in legal action, it is wise not to judge a judge’s behavior. I can tell you from my real life experiences, their behaviors may not match with their rulings!

Mar 12, 2021

In my latest book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”, I have described how a lawsuit can negatively impact the person bringing the lawsuit.

I had filed a lawsuit to teach the defendant a lesson and to restore my harmed reputation. Little did I realize that in declaring war on my opponent, I was also declaring war on myself! I had no idea as to the true financial costs of legal action; the tremendous distress of depositions; the motions your opponent’s lawyer can file or the claims they can level against you. In doing so, they added plenty of insult to the initial injury. So often during this lawsuit, I felt as though I WAS THE ONE BEING SUED!!!

I had no idea that the courts would allow defendant’s lawyers to use a lot of unrelated info against me in this lawsuit. I was taken by great surprise when defendant’s lawyer filed the motion to compel a forensic examination of my communication devices; as well as the subsequent discovery requests seeking unlimited access to documents from every employer or organization I have ever been associated with! Though my lawyer made efforts to counter these attacks, I had no clue that the lawyer of the person you are suing can hassle you with demands for so much irrelevant information. And according to the rules of a lawsuit, it was perfectly OK for them to do so!

It was good to find out at the end that the appellate judges eventually didn’t focus on all those irrelevant discussions promoted by the defense lawyers. But all those irrelevant discussions do have an impact on you. And if the case was allowed to go to a jury trial, such irrelevant information could have negatively impacted some of the jurors.

There’s a saying that all is fair in love and war. It seems the same applies to a lawsuit. Be forewarned it could be as awful or worse on you as it will be on the person(s) you are suing!

Mar 04, 2021

There is a lot that can be learned from what happened in my tragic true story that I describe in my book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”. When the defamation occurred in March and June of 2016, I felt so harassed and violated that I couldn’t wait to get started with legal action. I think that was a huge, huge mistake. The defamation I endured had a two year statute of limitations during which I could potentially file a lawsuit; meaning I had until spring of 2018 to carefully explore ALL my options. I should have taken the time to learn more about the issues involved and then make a more informed decision about filing the lawsuit.

 

I also should have talked to as many different lawyers as humanly possible before deciding on any one person to hire. If I had taken the time to talk to 10-20 different lawyers, I might have learned many more things that could have helped me make my decisions. I also could have taken the time to do my own research on defamation cases via reading library books or looking up cases online. That would have made me much more well-prepared to initiate and follow through with the law suit. That would have also allowed me to ask the right questions to dig out the necessary information from my lawyer.

 

Should you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, I recommend you think hard and research extremely well before deciding to venture down this unpredictable path. Unless you are rich and famous, you should consider a lawsuit to be a windy road with signage stating: “VISIBILITY UNCLEAR AHEAD: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!”

Feb 25, 2021

In my book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”, I discuss the interactions I had with the MN Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (LPRB) about the performance of my lawyer. I was really disappointed in the way LPRB handled the issue.

The document titled “MN Rules of Professional Conduct” published by the MN LPRB clearly makes the following statements:

“The lawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the client possesses information reasonably adequate to make an informed decision”.

“A lawyer who does not personally inform the client assumes the risk that the client is inadequately informed and the consent is invalid”.

“Whether the information and explanation provided are reasonably adequate, relevant factors include whether the client is experienced in legal matters”.

“Informed consent requires that each affected client be aware of relevant circumstances and of the material and reasonably foreseeable ways that the conflict could have adverse effects on the interests of that client”.

All these statement indicate to me that I had a valid complaint. Is it wrong of me to expect the board to explain to me why my appeal (with detailed clarifications) did not fall within the categories described above? The letter written by Virginia Klevorn (who reviewed my appeal) literally consisted of 4 sentences. Why was there no response at all to our polite request to have more information as to how they viewed my complaint? At a minimum they could have at least responded to my letter.

I honestly believe that the LPRB needs to be more open and responsive if they are to truly uphold the standards of this critically important profession.

Feb 18, 2021

In my new book titled “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”, I discuss the issue of what can a client do if he/she believes that there were a number of errors and omissions on the part of their lawyer. After being dissatisfied with my meeting with the managing partner of the law firm, I decided to take my complaint to the MN Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (LPRB).

However, I was truly disappointed with my interactions with the MN LPRB, not because they decided not to investigate my complaint, but because of what I perceive as their lack of adequate communication to me,  the person who made the complaint, and also because of their apparent lack of willingness to truly understand what the complaints were all about.

At least their first response to my complaint was 3 pages long (more than just a couple of sentences). However, after reviewing their response it was clear to me that in a number of areas they failed to truly understand what I was complaining about. I was specifically disturbed when I noticed that my complaint about “lack of adequate information for informed consent” was viewed by them as “poor communication”!

After their first review of my complaint, it seemed to me that on a number of issues the board’s understanding was not what I had intended to communicate. The board never called me to understand my complaint better. There was no phone interview or an in-person interview. So I decided to file an appeal which is allowed by the board. The response came back from Virginia Klevorn, who had apparently reviewed the appeal. Unfortunately the response back was only a few sentences long and was most disappointing. I believe it was reasonable for me to expect a longer and more elaborate explanation of why my complaints were not investigated further.

Feb 12, 2021

How does a lawyer’s performance get evaluated – this is one question that I discuss in my new book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”. What can we do if we feel that the performance of a lawyer did not meet our expectations?

As I discussed in the book, I had decided (based on advice from a number of other lawyers) to have a meeting with the managing partner of the law firm to discuss the issues. I was happy when the law firm agreed to set up a meeting with the managing partner. But it appeared to me that the managing partner was not open to understand my complaints; in fact, I felt that he was primarily focused on defending his lawyer on each of the issues. I would think that a law firm would expect the utmost professionalism and competence from their lawyers. Then why wouldn’t they want to hear and understand what the clients think of their lawyers’ performance?

That brought up a question for me – how do law firms really evaluate the performance of their high-priced lawyers? I am not aware that there is ever a survey sent out by a law firm about how a lawyer performed for his/her client. Most service industries send out surveys to collect information about their performance. Some clinics these days send out surveys to find out how their doctors do on a regular basis – why don’t the law firms do that? What are the law firms afraid of?

I find it very difficult to understand why critical feedback from clients don’t seem to be welcomed by the law firms. Is it possible that the key performance criterion for a lawyer is how much money the lawyer is able to bring in, at a high rate of profit, irrespective of how he or she performs for the client? If that is true, then that will certainly determine the driving forces as to how a lawyer acts and performs, because performance management guidelines drive the behavior of the professional.

The bottom line is that welcoming and honoring detailed critical feedback from the clients will improve trustworthiness of the legal community.

© 2017 - Sumi Mukherjee
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