Law & Politics

Why Minnesota Candidates Should Prioritize Affordable Housing

Demand for luxury lifestyle apartments is way up, and investors are pouring money into hot markets like the Twin Cities. Some developers are constructing new buildings, but many are renovating older apartments by freshening up the paint, upgrading the appliances, adding a yoga room, and jacking up the rent.

As a result, affordable apartments are disappearing faster than they can be built or preserved, giving rise to a raft of problems. If people can’t find affordable housing, there are serious negative repurcussions for communities, businesses, and even schools.

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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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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.

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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So You Want to Do Something after the Election …

Here is the Minnesota Secretary of State’s notice of vacancies in state boards, councils, and committees for November 2016 (pdf). There are 74 pages of vacancies for everything from the American Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council to the Noxious Weed Advisory Committee. Most are uncompensated other than expense reimbursement, and many positions have requirements for qualification. But if you want to help with the business of government, there are lots of opportunities.

You can also sign up to receive notice by email when there is a new vacancy.

74% of Minnesotans Decided Who Will Represent 100% of Minnesotans

In the 2008 election (President Obama’s first term), 78% of Minnesotans voted. This year, just 74% of Minnesotans voted. Despite the lower turnout, Minnesota was back on top as the state with the highest voter turnout. The national average was around 55%.

For the full analysis and interactive graphics, see the Star Tribune.