Why the Attorney General Can Refuse to Defend the President (or Governor)

In my interview with Ryan Winkler, who hopes to be the next Minnesota Attorney General, we spent a fair amount of time talking about what an attorney general does and the attorney general’s unusual position in the executive branch. This is particularly interesting in light of recent events.

After President Trump issued his executive order on border security and immigration, it was almost immediately challenged in court. But the acting US Attorney General, Sally Yates, refused to defend the executive order (which meant the Department of Justice would not defend the order). She explained that she was “not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with [her] responsibilities, nor [was she] convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

Some condemned Yates for her decision while others lauded her for it. In any case she was quickly fired. However, Yates’s decision was not all that unusual.

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Interview with Ryan Winkler, Candidate for Minnesota Attorney General

Ryan Winkler is running for Minnesota Attorney General in 2018. I’ve known Ryan since my last year of law school at the University of Minnesota. I had just started one of the first student chapters of the American Constitution Society, and Ryan was starting one of the first chapters for practicing lawyers.

Soon after, Ryan entered the Minnesota House of Representatives as a DFLer from Golden Valley, and served from from 2007 to 2015. In 2015 he left the legislature to support his wife’s career when she took a job in Belgium. Since then, Ryan has been going back and forth between Belgium and Minnesota, and he will obviously move back in time for his campaign.1

I haven’t kept in touch with Ryan since I graduated law school, but I saw him do plenty of good work in the Minnesota legislature. And since it is really early in the 2018 race, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reconnect and interview Ryan.

We spent about an hour talking about what a Minnesota Attorney General does and what kind of attorney general Ryan intends to be, including how he would use the office to prevent the wealthy (and others) from hiding behind “wall of privilege.” We discussed the role the Minnesota Attorney General could play in resolving complaints like those of the Black Lives Matter movement, and how a state attorney general could stand up to unconstitutional actions by the federal government under President Trump.

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  1. Ryan does not intend to challenge the current Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, but she is widely expected to run for governor in 2018. 

When Debt Collectors Call About the Rent

This post originally appeared on ConsumerLawyer.MN with the title “Debt Collector Calls About Rental Debt.”

Debt collectors and landlords go together like peanut butter and jelly. When a landlord has a dispute over rental debt or damage to a rental property, a landlord will frequently turn to a debt collector.

Many times, the debt collector either misrepresents the amount of the debt or what can happen if you don’t pay it. If you have been contacted by a debt collector about rental debt, here is what you need to know.

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Evidence of Assignment: Why Debt Buyers Have Proof Problems

Assignment is the foundation of the debt-buying industry, and the industry is built on sand. Or a swamp. Because assignment is also the industry’s weak spot, and the reason why most—if not all—debt-buyer lawsuits should fail.

Debt buyers must prove they have the right to collect a debt. To do this, it must show an unbroken, valid chain of assignment back to the original creditor. Most debt buyers cannot do this.

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Served By a Debt Collector? What To Do Next

Getting served with a debt collection lawsuit is one of the more upsetting things that can happen to you. When a process server hands a summons and complaint to you (or to someone you live with who can accept service), it means a debt collector is dragging you into the legal system.

And while getting served with a debt collection lawsuit is not fun, it is not the end of the world. In fact, that summons and complaint—legal process—provides rights to both parties to the case. Which means as a defendant in a debt collection lawsuit, you now have access to tools to defend yourself.

Let’s take a look at the first few parts of a lawsuit to try to dispel the fear and misunderstanding.

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Supreme Court v. Zombie Debt Collectors

Noting that Midland buys old debt it knows is not legally recoverable because of various state laws preventing collection after a number of years, Sotomayor asked, “Apparently, you collect on millions of dollars of these debts. So is that what you do?”

Yes. Yes it is.

This is a conversation every consumer lawyer has had many times with clients. No, you don’t owe the debt any more. Yes, they can still collect it. Yes, that’s fucked up. Apparently the Supreme Court just learned about zombie debt, and a few of the justices, at least, seem to agree that it’s pretty fucked up.

The decision in Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson should be out in June.

Current Balance vs. Payoff Amount

Payoff amount and current balance are related but not equivalent terms.

Current balance means the amount you owe according to your statement. The next day, you will owe more. In other words, if you are trying to pay off a credit card and the statement says your balance is $514, you may not be able to bring your balance to zero and satisfy the debt by writing a check for $514. Instead, you would need to contact your lender to find out your payoff amount.

Payoff amount is how much you would have to pay to satisfy the debt. It is not the same amount as the current balance on your statement—at least not for long.

The difference between the current balance according to your statement and the payoff amount is crucial when you are ready to pay off your debt.

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How Not to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

This article is a list of defenses that do not work. If you would rather find out what you should do, click over to “Served By a Debt Collector? What To Do Next.”

Most debt collection lawsuits are handled by overworked and unsympathetic debt collection attorneys. With that in mind, focus on your best defenses to the lawsuit. Here are some of the weaker defenses, which you should avoid.

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“The Governor,” a Cocktail for Erin Murphy

Recently my wife and I hosted a fundraiser for Erin Murphy, who we are excited to support in the 2018 race for Minnesota governor. So I made a cocktail for the occasion, “The Governor.” It turned out really well.

“The Governor” is basically a ginger Old Fashioned. Ginger like Erin. Also like Erin, it is quite strong. If you have a fundraiser for Erin you should definitely have “The Governor” on hand, but it’s worth drinking any time.

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Drug Testing Welfare Recipients is Pointless

There is a pernicious myth that welfare recipients are spending their dole on drugs. It is just that: a myth. And it’s pernicious because it redirects taxes that could be put to better use to pointless drug-testing programs.

Here’s the most recent case in point. Michigan did a pilot program and tested 443 welfare recipients and turned up—wait for it—zero drug abusers.

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