In late August, 2016, the Minnesota Supreme Court admonished a Colorado lawyer for helping his in-laws regarding a judgment against them by a condominium association. The judgment was about $2,500. The Colorado lawyer corresponded with the Minnesota lawyer representing the association. The Minnesota attorney filed a complaint. The bar and the Minnesota Supreme court held that the communications with the Minnesota attorney by the Colorado attorney about his in-law’s judgment consisted of the unauthorized practice of law. Minn. High Court Scolds Colo. Atty for In-Laws Case. The decision can be found here — Case A15-2078, Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota.
One thing seems clear to me, and that is this: The term “practice of law” does not include the efforts of a Colorado lawyer in trying to help his in-laws by email contact with the lawyer of the condominium association to settle and pay the judgment.
The contacts emanated from Colorado, the work was for the lawyer’s in laws, it was minor amount in question, all the lawyer was trying to do was to settle a debt.
This case poses a real problem for lawyer discipline systems. How was the lawyer to know that his efforts would be defined in Minnesota as a violation of the rules of professional conduct. They do not.
But they do if Minnesota interprets their laws as liberally as it does. The prosecutorial decision seems arbitrary, nit-picking, harassment by the righteous. It is probably also a violation of anti-trust laws – see below. 1 How, one may ask, does this conduct amount to a violation of Minnesota law? Only because Minnesota seeks to preserve the monopoly power of the bar association.
1 Minnesota Statutes 325D.52 ESTABLISHMENT, MAINTENANCE, OR USE OF MONOPOLY POWER.
The establishment, maintenance, or use of, or any attempt to establish, maintain, or use monopoly power over any part of trade or commerce by any person or persons for the purpose of affecting competition or controlling, fixing, or maintaining prices is unlawful.