Effective July 1, 2015, most documents filed with the Minnesota Judicial Branch will no longer require a notarized signature. As a result of the changes to the statute and court rules, most documents signed by clients represented by VLN volunteers no longer need to be notarized. Read more >>
Volunteer attorneys who do not normally practice in Conciliation Court may be unaware that there are two different processes for vacating default judgments entered in Hennepin County Conciliation Court, depending on the amount of time that has passed since entry of the default judgment. This month’s tip provides step-by-step suggestions for how to draft motions to vacate default judgments for each process.. Read more >>
As more legal services clinics are co-located at social services agencies and schools, there are also greater opportunities for social workers and attorneys to collaborate to meet their client’s goals. While there are concerns raised with such collaborations, there are also tremendous benefits: for the client, the attorney and the social worker. January’s Tip of the Month focuses on the benefits of such collaborations and provides specific examples of when such collaborations are particularly helpful. This tip also identifies limitations and potential pitfalls of such collaborations and how they might be overcome. Read more >>
Effective August 1, 2014, the jurisdictional cap on the amount of a claim that can be filed in Conciliation Court is increasing from $10,000 to $15,000. The limit of $4,000, still applies to claims that involve a consumer credit transaction1. Whether or not this increase will result in more attorneys filing cases in Conciliation Court remains to be seen, but now is an appropriate time for any attorney thinking of practicing in Conciliation Court to brush up on some of the major differences between Conciliation Court and District Court. Perhaps most importantly, and something of which many attorneys may not be aware, is that Conciliation Court has its own unique set of practice rules, separate from District Court rules.
In 2012, there were 12.6 million new victims of identity theft in the United States—about 1 in 20 consumers. Anyone can be a victim, but certain groups are often more adversely affected because they have access to fewer resources with which to take action for protection.
Individuals must be vigilant in opening their mail, keeping track of finances and monitoring their credit cards. Fifty percent of consumers found the fraud themselves by monitoring their bank statements, and credit scores instead of being notified of the fraud by a bank or card issuer.
If a client seeking advice from you has been a victim of identity theft, there are four steps they should consider taking. Not all victims will need to take all four steps.
First, contact credit reporting agencies.
1. Obtain credit report
Everyone is eligible to receive one free report from each of the three major credit
reporting agencies once every 12 months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or
calling (877) 322-8228.
Instead of requesting all three reports at one time each year, space out requests every
four months. Each report will have slightly different reporting information, so it’s
important to request each report. The three major credit reporting agencies are:
a. Look for indicators of identity theft: accounts client didn’t open, activity on
dormant accounts, erroneous personal information, or credit inquiries from
companies client didn’t contact.
b. Get fraudulent or inaccurate information removed by writing to both the credit
bureaus and the credit issuers following the instructions provided in the credit
3. Place a fraud alert on credit reports by contacting one credit reporting agency, which
will alert the other two. The fraud alert will ensure that the lender takes additional steps
to verify that the client has authorized the additional credit line, credit limit etc.
a. There are two different types of fraud alert: initial, which is good for 90 days and
renewable, and extended, which is good for 7 years. In order to qualify for an
extended alert, client must have filed an identity theft report (see step three). A
fraud alert can be canceled at any time.
b. Consider a credit freeze, which prohibits the agencies from releasing credit
reports or scores without consumer authorization.
Second, contact the fraud department of companies where the identity thief has committed fraud
1. Ask a fraud investigator to close the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently, and request a closure letter.
2. Ask for thief’s application and transaction records.
3. Send written dispute including an identity theft affidavit (see below).
4. If collection agencies are involved, contact them: request the amount of debt and the
creditor’s contact information, and dispute the debt.
Third, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission
1. Submit a report using the FTC’s online form: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or
by calling 1-877-438-4338.
2. Save the complaint reference number.
3. Whether the client submits a fraud report online or by phone an “Identity Theft Affidavit” will be created from the information provided.
a. If submitted online, print the Identity Theft Affidavit that will be available at the
end of the report.
b. If submitted over the phone, a representative will provide a password and email
a link to print the affidavit.
Fourth, file a police report with local police department or with the police in the community where the identity theft took place
Minnesota law requires police to write reports for identity theft victims. (Minn. Stat. §609.527, subd. 5)
1. Request an appointment for an in-person report filing.
a. Bring to the appointment:
i. A copy of the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit
ii. Any other proof of the theft
iii. A government issued photo ID
iv. Proof of address (lease agreement, utility bills, pay stubs)
2. Request a copy of the official police report.
3. Attach the Identity Theft Affidavit to the police report in order to create the “Identity
Theft Report”. Keep a complete copy.
a. Request an extended alert on client’s credit report.
b. The report can also help to get fraudulent information permanently removed from credit report and prevent a company from collecting a fraudulent debt.
When determining how to help clients sued by creditors in District Court, consider whether they are judgment proof, pre- or post-judgment, and have any meritorious defenses. The below chart provides suggestions from experienced volunteers for next steps. Also consider your client’s financial situation and debt load; if bankruptcy is an option, it could eliminate the need to fight multiple court battles or maintain permanent vigilance for garnishment notices. Read More>>
Starting September 1st 2012, e-Filing will be mandatory for many types of general civil cases in the Second and Fourth Judicial Districts. E-Filing is the filing of court documents through a computer based system. The system used in the Second and Fourth Judicial Districts is called Odyssey File & Serve (OFS). Attorney and government agencies must be registered in order to use the e-Filing system by the effective date. Volunteer attorneys working on housing or family cases will be required to e-File and e-Serve cases starting on this date. At this time, pro se parties will not be required to use the e-Filing system.
Before e-Filing and e-Serving, all attorneys are encouraged to complete training offered by court administration. At trainings, information will be provided regarding how to register for and use the OFS system. The Courts’ website lists available in-person and online trainings. This tip provides information about how the changes will affect attorneys representing VLN clients.
Access and Registration
In order to register for an account, see each district’s website. You will find information regarding trainings, registration, and frequently asked questions.
Direct questions about registration to the courts.
Each VLN volunteer will need to register through his or her firm or individually, but notthrough VLN. Each firm needs a firm administrator, who will be responsible for creating and managing the firm’s account. The firm administrator should attend e-File training with court administration. Once the firm administrator attends the training, he or she should go to the OFS website and select “register now” to begin the registration process.
In the OFS system, VLN clients should be treated the same as an attorney’s personal clients. VLN is not the firm for each volunteer when they are e-Filing a case on behalf of a VLN client. While VLN will have its own account, is solely for VLN staff attorneys.
The OFS system is not a case management system. It is the system that will be used by the Second and Fourth judicial districts to process court filings and service. For example, documents will only be viewable on OFS for 30 days. Attorneys should continue to maintain their own case management files.
Any document that is submitted through the OFS system will be reviewed by court administration before being forwarded to the assigned judicial officer. This process can take up to one business day. If there is an error in filing, such as filing the documents in the wrong case, not paying the filing fee, or filing in the wrong county or division, it will be rejected. For information regarding rejected filings, see the Courts’ website.
The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure and Minnesota General Rules of Practice have been amended to include e-File rules. A copy of the amended rules can be found at: http://www.mncourts.gov/Documents/0/Public/Clerks_Office/ADM108011- 05242012.pdf
E-Service will not replace personal service. The initial filing of the complaint will still need to be done via personal service. E-Service is to replace service by mail and facsimile on represented parties. See amended Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 5.02 (b).
E-Filing and e-Serving a document will not require an affidavit of service. The record of e-Service on the system shall constitute proof of service. See the Amendments to Minnesota General Rules of Practice Rule 7.
Fee waivers are still available for e-Filing documents.
o In the Fourth Judicial District, you must obtain an IFP order signed by the appropriate signing judge for civil and family cases, or by the housing referee or clerk for housing cases. You must then scan the IFP order, upload it to OFS, and submit it with your filing.
o In the Second Judicial District submit the IFP and proposed order with your filing through OFS. The court staff will present the IFP to a judicial officer for approval. If the IFP has been denied, the court staff will notify you.
As a volunteer attorney representing a VLN client, you will not need to use a credit card. Because you are representing the client on behalf of VLN, a volunteer attorney program based upon indigency, the client will likely qualify for a fee waiver. When OFS prompts you for payment, select the waiver account option, and submit the IFP order.
There are extra fees associated with e-Filing and e-Serving. Tyler Technologies, the provider of the OFS system, automatically assesses a $5 credit card convenience fee and a $3 e-Service fee. The $5 credit card convenience fee is only charged for documents that have a statutorily required filing fee. The $3 e-Service fee is charged anytime the e- Service function is used. A signed IFP order will waive these costs.
Address any questions regarding fees and fee waivers to court administration in the judicial district where you will be filing.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has new forms for “Responding to a Civil Lawsuit” at www.mncourts.gov/Default.aspx?page=513&category=45. These forms may be useful to pro bono attorneys at brief advice clinics and for unbundled legal services. The forms include an Answer, Affidavit of Service, and Instructions. The instructions strongly advise pro se parties to get legal advice.
The Minnesota Court’s Self Help Center website includes additional materials explaining the civil lawsuit process at www.mncourts.gov/selfhelp under the Civil Actions topic. Included there is the booklet “What to Expect as a Self Represented Plaintiff or Defendant in a Civil Trial” covering the steps in a trial, settlement, burden of proof, evidence basics, and other topics.
Directing clients to these resources before or after a consultation may help prepare them for meeting with you, and reduce the time you spend explaining basic information.
Submitted by Susan Ledray, Fourth Judicial District Pro Se Services Manager