Appealing Appeals Applied, On Lines & Inner Nets, Publicly Recorded

A Daughter’s $80,000 Facebook Post

From the “Think Before You Post” File

Secrets Suck

A daughter violated the confidentiality clause in her father’s Settlement Agreement with a braggadocio posting on Facebook. Inevitably, the young lady’s post eventually drew the attention of the defense counsel in the employment discrimination case.

 “Mama and Papa … won the case against Gulliver,” she wrote referencing the  the employer. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Broken Promise

The trial court did not find the post a breach of the agreement. However, on appeal to Florida’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court stating, “[B]efore the ink was dry on the agreement, and notwithstanding the clear language … mandating confidentiality, [he] violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do.”  Apparently, the daughter had 1200 friends on the site so there was no claiming it was a private message or not intended for public consumption.

Unambiguously Expen$ive

After finding the terms of the agreement clear and unambiguous, the Court held:

In this case, the plain, unambiguous meaning of … the agreement between [the father] and the school is that neither [he] nor his wife would “either directly or indirectly” disclose to anyone (other than their lawyers or other professionals) “any information” regarding the existence or the terms of the parties’ agreement.

They disclosed it to their daughter and she disclosed to at least 1200 other people on-line with the Facebook post. This is a real expensive way to learn the internet is a public forum. It also is an expensive way to find out how easily a confidentiality agreement is breached.

Read the appellate decision here and more info from the news story is below.

MKT

Daughter’s Facebook boast costs former Gulliver Prep headmaster $80,000 discrimination settlement – Schools – MiamiHerald.com.

 

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Discovered on Demand, Legally Educated, Publicly Recorded

MNCIS–Minnesota Court Information System

Court Records–More Than You’d Think

Minnesota Trial Court Public Access websites, mote commonly known as “MNCIS,” (Minnesota Court Information System), are a powerful and cost-effective tool for discovering information on anyone involved in the Minnesota trial court system. MNCIS has docket information for Minnesota civil and criminal court cases, judgment records and court calendars. All of these records can be used to determine if an individual has existing, unpaid judgments, is being sued, or has been sued, if there is a criminal court case open, at least one that has resulted in a conviction or guilty plea, if there has been a divorce, child custody case, adoption, name change, probate proceeding and what time and where a court appearance is through the court calendars, and other information.

Free (taxpayer funded) on the Internet

Although MNCIS on the web (Click HERE for Access) is not reliable enough for comprehensive searches and should not be used as your only criminal background check tool (more to come, but in the meantime enjoy this try www.mncriminals.com instead, technically still “free” but slowly and surely being overrun with ads and pay options) it can tell you if a warrant is out for someone. You only need to know the person’s name, but not necessarily even the correct spelling. When performing a search by Party name, try checking the box for Soundex-a  “sounds like” search in English for use when you do not know the proper spelling of a name).

Privacy Concerns

Although you used to be able to get more information, privacy concerns have restricted some data available over the internet on MNCIS, However, when one hand taketh the other hand giveth: A lot of the records that are not available on the web version of MNCIS can be obtained by going to a courthouse and using (for free) the court’s public access computer terminals.

As a non-exclusive example, you can get some home addresses this way with a just name search if the person has been through the court system in a civil or criminal matter. On the web-based MNCIS, you cannot get pre-conviction records (“innocent until proven otherwise”). But at the courthouse you can get the  pre-conviction records for criminal, traffic and petty misdemeanor cases. Likewise, the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law, prevents MNCIS on the internet from displaying information on harassment and domestic abuse cases, but these records can be obtained at the courthouse.  

Garbage In Means Garbage Out

There are errors, people have the same names, records are not always reliably entered or available and the search engine in MNCIS makes you appreciate Google on a whole new level. The current civil court case records are pretty reliable and accurate but be careful of how much you relay on any single source of public data always confirm the information through another source. Or three if possible.

MKT

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Litigation of Business | Business of Litigation, Publicly Recorded

Locating Assets–BANKRUPTCY RECORDS

United_States_Bankruptcy_Court_SealInformation Available

Bankruptcy court filings probably contain more financial information on a debtor than any other source.  Of course, they are only available if a debtor has previously filed for bankruptcy protection with one of the U.S. District Courts. Depending on the type of bankruptcy filed, the debtor may still keep possession of the assets after her/his case is closed and is no longer subject to any legal restrictions on collection activity.

Commonly disclosed information on bankruptcy filings includes the following nonexclusive items:  last four digits of the SSN, addresses, real estate locations and values, bank account location and information, motor vehicle information, general value of assets owned, specific information about other debts (secured or unsecured), personal property and its claimed value, etc. In a Chapter 11 or 13 (sometimes Chapter 7 too), such as, the debtor may have gone through the bankruptcy process and kept the some of the assets through a restructured payment plan, by reaffirming the debt or through other means. In large quality/quantity asset cases it can be well worth your time to further investigate and find out if the debtor still owns any of the listed assets.

Access to Information

A Creditor can gain access the records for Minnesota bankruptcies via the bankruptcy court’s web site at www.mnb.uscourts.gov. Minnesota’s bankruptcy courts were one of the first in the nation to offer online access to its records.  You can now gain access to nationwide records through Public Access to Court’s Electronic Records-PACER- see http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ and a fee per page is charged for access. The website provides free tutorials to help get you started on your bankruptcy filing research: Click here to start…

With or without the video tutorials, it is a fairly easy site to navigate, you will only need Adobe Acrobat Reader (available for free download with a link from the Court’s website).  You may search by case number, social security number or the debtor’s name. Subject to per page fees. Everyone should check it out and see what they can find about a corporate or individual debtor who has previously filed for bankruptcy protection (or neighbor or friend (current/former or even a family member).

Happy Researching!

Free PACER Training

25 Years Later, PACER, Electronic Filing Continue to Change Courts

New Fee Schedule (04/01/2013)

MKT

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Publicly Recorded

Locating Assets–MOTOR VEHICLE AND DRIVERS LICENSE RECORDS

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truckInformation Available

Drivers License information, full name, past and last known addresses, physical description, date of birth, etc.  Motor Vehicle registration information provides year, make, model, liens on vehicles, number of vehicles owned.  Obviously, all of this information can be extremely valuable for levying on a debtor’s property.  However, some savvy debtors will not keep that information current or will place assets in other people’s names.   Nonetheless, it may be quite valuable in locating a debtor or debtors’ assets. 

Access to Information

Motor vehicle and drivers license records are maintained and may be accessed (subject to the following restrictions) from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Driver and Vehicle Services Division:

 

Driver and Vehicle Services
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

651-296-6911 (8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

 

 motor.vehicles@state.mn.us

www.dps.state.mn.us/dvs

Restrictions on Access

·       Record Request and Explanation of Intended Use form.

Record requests may be made by applying in person at the Driver and Vehicle Services office in Saint Paul (address above), or by mail. Access to computer records is also provided by remote, private computer connections (i.e., not on the Internet) for businesses that have authorized access. Upon receipt of a Record Request and Explanation of Intended Use form (see https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/forms-documents/documents/recordrequestform.pdf‎) the division will determine if the applicant is authorized to receive the requested information.

·       Applicable Law

Permitted uses pursuant to the governing privacy laws that are directly applicable to motor vehicle and drivers license information are contained in THE DRIVERS PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT (18 U.S.C.S. 2721) (“DPPA”) and Minnesota Statutes, Sections 168.346, 171.12 subd 7 , and 171.12 subd. 7a.  Fortunately for debt collectors, there are two exceptions to the privacy laws which apply.  They may be summarized briefly as follows:

You may access and use the information in connection with any proceeding (including arbitration) in any court or government agency, or before any self-regulatory body, including investigation in anticipation of litigation. Must furnish court information or specifics related to potential litigation.

and

You may access and use the information to verify the accuracy of information about a person who provided the information to you (or to your client) but only if the information is used to recover on a debt against the person or to pursue legal remedies against the person for fraud.

Both exceptions are valid under the Minnesota statute and the DPPA. Both exceptions may be successfully argued to access the information by debt collectors, creditors’ counsel or an individual/corporate entity collecting a debt on its own behalf. However, awareness of abuse of the privilege to access this information has, rightfully, led to tighter controls and more watchful monitoring of the uses of the data. Let’s keep it for all, use it only when legit!

KSTP reporter Kolls claims driver’s license info snooped, files lawsuit

 

Politics in Minnesota-Mounting data-privacy lawsuits threaten to swamp governments

Anne Marie Rasmusson’s settlement haul now over $1 million

 

MKT

 

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Litigation of Business | Business of Litigation, Publicly Recorded

LOCATING ASSETS–COUNTY PROPERTY RECORDS

moneyhouse

Information Available

County property records may contain information on the existence, location and value of debtors’ assets. A creditor may also obtain copies of recorded documents through paper documents and microfilm imaging. Commonly found nuggets of information include the owner’s name and mailing address, date deed was recorded, last sale price, tax value, property use, tax amount, mortgage and other secured interests, etc.  Understandably, this can be precious information for a creditor.

Currently, there is not a “one stop” website to obtain this information (Westlaw and Lexis do provide subscription based nationwide computer databases).  Accordingly, searches of public records must be done in each county where a debtor may own real estate.

On-Iine Access to Minnesota County Records

One web site that bills itself as a “portal” or directory, provides nationwide contact information for property records.  The address for the web site is www.netronline.com and you just click on the state and you’ll get a full listing of contact information for each state’s county.  There are also links to official state web sites, and those Tax Assessors’ and Recorders’ offices that provide retrieval services of public records over the Internet.  

Most all of Minnesota’s counties are providing Internet access to their property records.  Each county individually designs and provides this service so each county’s website has varying information at varying costs.   Please visit www.netronline.com for a comprehensive listing on each county’s contact information.  Of course, you can always just “google” [state name county name] and “property records”.  Which, 9 times out of 10, will point you in the right direction to find a place to refine your search  within easily narrowed confines to get to the records you need.

MKT

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Discovered on Demand, Legally Educated, Litigation of Business | Business of Litigation, Publicly Recorded

LOCATING ASSETS–MINNESOTA BUSINESS FILING RECORDS

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Information Available

Businesses are generally required to maintain some records with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office in order to enjoy the legal benefits of being a corporation or for an out-of-state company to lawfully conduct business in Minnesota.  Sole proprietors also commonly file assumed names or “doing business as” information with the Secretary of State’s office.   Secured creditors also file various secured interest documents, which may provide information regarding any liens or other secured interests in a debtors’ property.  As is true for all public record information, business-filing records are only as accurate and up to date as what was provided to the government.  That being said, a great deal of identification, location and ownership information may be obtained from the Secretary of State’s records.  

Access to Business Registration Information 

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office is located at: 

Minnesota Secretary of State

180 State Office Building

St. Paul, MN 55155 

And may be contacted by the following means for business registration information:

Phone: (651) 296-2803, Toll Free: 1-877-551-6767 Office Hours: 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.

www.sos.state.mn.us 

A simple phone call or visit to their website will obtain information about a registered business.  Information available includes proper entity name, registered addresses for service of process (if provided), persons registered to accept service of process (if provided), business location, type of entity, good standing status, year of formation, filing numbers, etc.  All of this information may provide valuable information in locating debtors and their assets.  It is also helpful for properly effecting post judgment remedies.

Access to Secured Transaction (UCC) and Tax Lien Recordslocked money

UCC filings and tax lien filings may provide a wealth of information about particular debtors’ location and assets.  Those records are maintained by the Secretary of State’s office and are accessible in person, by mail or on the Internet.  All manners of access have a minimal processing fee associated with the documents’ retrieval, photocopying and mailing. 

The Minnesota Central Filing System is a combination of the Secretary of State’s office and 80 individual county satellite offices.  Certified searches and inquiry searches (UCC-11 requests form available at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/uccd/ucc11.pdf) can be requested from any county filing office or the Secretary of State’s office. The results provided are inclusive of all county offices.

In order to do a fully comprehensive search, it is recommended creditors’ counsel does not only rely on what is provided by the State.  A much better practice is for creditors’ or their representatives to conduct their own search of the State’s records.  The main point is to run differing name variations searches on the same company.  Of course, this may be done by driving to the Secretary of State’s office, or via its website for a yearly access fee.

MKT

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Attorneys & Lawyers & Counselors, Discovered on Demand, Litigation of Business | Business of Litigation, Publicly Recorded, Technically Lawful

Blog Cheating a/k/a The INTRODUCTION TO LOCATING ASSETS

I’m going to post some stuff I already have written. It is interesting and topical for this blog; maybe even educational. But it will be recycled (at least for me–that’s the cheating part). The first version was written circa 2003, updated every year or two, with the last revision in 2010.

I know this is highly unusual, but tonight I will post the part called INTRODUCTION and then the next section BUSINESS FILING RECORDS. If I don’t lose all my readers, we can progress from there. I’ll watch the analytics.  Without further ado, here comes the title (the INTRODUCTION is right after that part):

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Post Judgment Creditors’ Rights

Uncovering Assets

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

PUBLIC RECORDS

Information is the oxygen of the modern age.

Ronald Reagan (b. 1911), former U.S. President. (London, June 14, 1989).

A.            INTRODUCTION 

Locating, retrieving and analyzing debtors’ assets is one of the most important aspects of successfully collecting a debt. Finding debtors’ assets can be difficult, time-consuming, expensive and not always fruitful.  But finding debtors’ assets is the first step in successfully collecting a debt.  Since many debtors hide assets or deny the existence of assets, it is generally a wise practice to dig up some information from public records prior to contacting a debtor.  Accordingly, this guide is designed to provide a method that may be utilized to provide a creditor or a creditors’ agent/representative an effective and economical way to find debtors’ assets.

Just like anything else, locating debtors’ assets can be done in a variety of ways, including physically going to governmental record depositories and researching and copying any asset information uncovered.  Some agencies even provide a great deal of information with just a phone call.

Computer assisted public record access and research has greatly expanded in recent years. It may be done via private and governmental pay subscription, computer-based systems. A couple of private service providers are Westlaw (www.westlaw.com) and Lexis-Nexis (www.lexis.com). Both of these providers are expensive, but for any firm collecting numerous debts it is an invaluable resource. 

Governmental Internet websites are rapidly expanding what information they provide. Many of these websites still provide information for free, but it appears there is a definite trend to charge (usually minimally) for access to the information via the Internet.  

The following is not an exhaustive discussion on access and research into Minnesota’s public records. It does discuss a few valuable resources for locating debtors’ assets and how to obtain that information via computer, telephone, mail or the good old “going down to the courthouse.” It is written as a primer for finding public record information.   

 

More to come.

MKT

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