Aug 06, 2021

My book published in Dec 2020 titled “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System” describes my experiences (along with my comments and opinions) about interactions with and observations of various components of the justice system such as police officers, lawyers, law firms, judges, and the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (LPRB). Here are some of the questions that truly puzzled me:

  • How do lawyers get evaluated for how they performed in a specific case? How does a law firm evaluate one of their lawyers? Can a firm truly evaluate a lawyer’s performance without any feedback from the client?
  • What really is the role of a Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board? Is the board supposed to try and understand a client’s issues or is the board there basically to defend a lawyer? Isn’t it important for the Board to make sure clients feel somewhat satisfied with the Board’s evaluation of a complaint?
  • Isn’t it critical that police officers take utmost care when talking to one individual about another individual? Do they understand that what they say about someone can be misunderstood or misinterpreted possibly causing significant issues?

Probably the most concerning are the issues and situations described specifically about interactions with the legal community. What I experienced here with the legal community is something that likely happens every day all over this country. That is why it is not surprising why the general public often express negative opinions about lawyers and law firms. Why is it that the legal community of lawyers, law firms and boards are okay with this negative image of lawyers? Why are they okay with being known as one of the most untrustworthy professions in the country? Specifically, why are the “professional responsibility” boards across the country okay with this image of the profession?

Jul 30, 2021

My latest book titled “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System”, describes an actual defamation case and how it got started and what happened and everything learned that can be extremely helpful to many average Americans. The story includes several different matters that bring up questions about where things are in terms of our justice system. The book describes the author’s experiences (along with his comments and opinions) about interactions with and observations of hotel employees/managers, police officers, lawyers, law firms, judges, and the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (LPRB).

It all got started when I submitted a complaint to a hotel regarding what I considered to be unprofessional conduct on the part of an employee of the hotel. I have worked for hotels before and I am aware that hotels are typically extremely concerned about customer satisfaction – a guest is always encouraged to bring up any issues to the hotel management. So the question is: does the hotel management do anything about a complaint or just ignore it? Most hotels, I believe, take any complaints seriously and follow up on it and make appropriate recommendations, if necessary. However, in this story, it appears that a complaint to the hotel manager might have been the thing that got everything started.

This hotel employee eventually complained to the police against me most likely because of the complaint I put in against her. It would not have bothered me a lot if she had complained about any valid concerns, but she had included some untrue statements (as per the police report) and that cannot be acceptable. However, is there anything one can do to fight back against this? Well, that is the key issue in this latest book.

Jul 22, 2021

In my latest book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System” I talk about my utmost surprise at the way my lawyer and his firm viewed the summary judgment loss. They did not want to take any responsibility at all – instead they believed that the judges (i.e., the trial judge and the 3 appeal judges) were all wrong. Here is an excerpt from my book:

I find this very interesting. This is like a football game when a referee makes a call – the coach does not like the call and challenges the call (which is like an appeal) – the referee then reviews the replay in association with other senior officials and comes back to confirm the call – but the coach and the players continue to blame the officials for losing the game for them!

They really need to move on from blaming the officials and start looking at themselves to take some responsibility for the loss and figure out what they did wrong and what they could have done better to win the game. It was clear that neither my lawyer nor his firm was going to take ANY responsibility for the loss. My lawyer was not only a part of my team, he was the leader, but yet, he was not going to take any responsibility for losing my case.

We thought that the managing partner of the law firm will take some responsibility for not being able to help me in this lawsuit. We were not expecting that he would say that “we screwed up badly”. But we were expecting that he would say something like, “I am really sorry that we were not successful in this lawsuit. We really felt that we had a reasonable shot, but in the legal world, pieces don’t always fall the right way. Maybe there are some things that could have been done differently, but I can assure you that we did our best in trying to win this for you. Sometimes there are judgment calls involved and it’s not always easy to predict how the calls will work out”.

Some comments like that would have given us the feeling that at least they were taking a measure of responsibility. Instead what we got was an extremely strong defensive stand and that was disheartening”.

Jul 09, 2021

In my book “Minority Viewpoint”, I talk about my experience with the Minnesota Lawyers Responsibility Board. The following is an excerpt from my book:

“Around the end of February 2019, we received a letter from the Board informing us that the appeal was reviewed and it was determined that no investigation will be done on this matter. It was noteworthy that this letter from the Board was a very short one – only 3 or 4 sentences long.

The Board Member, who evaluated our appeal, was Virginia Klevorn. Virginia was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing District 44A. She basically stated that there was no clear and convincing evidence of a violation of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct and therefore they were closing the Board’s file on this case. It was interesting that they did not want to get into any kinds of details about why they thought my complaints and further clarifications did not provide the necessary evidence for the Board to initiate an investigation.

For example, it would have been useful to know why the information we provided supporting our views of my lawyer’s performance on this case is not regarded as “clear and convincing evidence” by the Board, or why the details we provided about the information (such as summary judgment issues) that I needed to know before giving my consent to move forward with the case is not considered to be important enough by the Board to have violated the MN Rules of Professional conduct. I believe that it was reasonable for me to expect some explanation, but their short letter did not include any of that“.

Apr 29, 2021

The following are some more guidelines from the “MN Rules of Professional Conduct” document that we found in the MN Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (LPRB) website:

  • Informed consent requires that each affected client be aware of the relevant circumstances and of the material and reasonably foreseeable ways that the conflict could have adverse effects on the interests of that client.
  • A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
  • Clients normally defer to the special knowledge and skill of their lawyer with respect to the means to be used to accomplish their objectives, particularly with respect to technical, legal, and tactical matters.
  • A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers.
  • A lawyer should maintain a professional, courteous, and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system.

As I describe in my book “Minority Viewpoint”, I was certain that because of the guidelines displayed on the LPRB website, our complaint will at least be investigated to see if my lawyer’s actions or inactions were appropriate. But they decided not to investigate at all. I was disappointed to find out that the LPRB thought that our complaint (and the subsequent appeal) was not worthy of an investigation.

Apr 23, 2021

In my book “Minority Viewpoint – my experience, as a person of color, with the American Justice System” I describe our interactions with the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (LPRB). We sent them a complaint based on the following comments from the “MN Rules of Professional Conduct” document that we found in the MN LPRB website:

  • Lawyers must provide a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explain their practical implications.
  • The lawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the client or other person possesses information reasonably adequate to make an informed decision. Ordinarily, this will require communication that includes a disclosure of the facts and circumstances giving rise to the situation, any explanation reasonably necessary to inform the client or other person of the material advantages and disadvantages of the proposed course of conduct and a discussion of the client’s or other person’s options and alternatives.
  • A lawyer need not inform a client or other person of facts or implications already known to the client or other person; nevertheless, a lawyer who does not personally inform the client or other person assumes the risk that the client or other person is inadequately informed and the consent is invalid.
  • In determining whether the information and explanation provided are reasonably adequate, relevant factors include whether the client or other person is experienced in legal matters generally and in making decisions of the type involved.
  • A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
  • The client should have sufficient information to participate intelligently in decisions concerning the objectives of the representation and the means by which they are to be pursued.

I sincerely felt that based on these guidelines, I had a valid complaint for the LPRB.

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!!!!!!

© 2017 - Sumi Mukherjee
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