“Information Wants To Be Free”
Stewart Brand circa 1984
WASHINGTON The Supreme Court will soon join other federal courts in making briefs and other filings available electronically, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced Wednesday. The changes will come “as soon as 2016.”
Chief Justice Roberts explained the court’s approach to technological change saying that judges had a special obligation to move more slowly than the rest of society.
I suppose it takes time to realize the benefits and then decide it is best to change and catch up with the rest of society, but the federal district courts have been using online electronic filing with public accessable court records online for over a decade. PACER (Public Access to Electronic Court Records) began in 1988 (library terminal access only) and was available on the World Wide Web in 2001.
Although PACER is outdated and charges a ridiculous fee of .10 a page, Minnesota’s courts are still trapped somewhere in the 1980s with absolutely no online access to court filings available to the public. There is no electronic access to actual court filings available (as opposed to the currently available online records, which are limited to only court dockets via MNCIS or just the “index” or “Table of Contents” of a case’s filings–you can see something was filed but not what that something actually is!) unless you go to a public terminal at a courthouse.
I have yet to hear a worthwhile reason that supports restricting access to public records to only courthouses rather than making them readily available to all via the internet (and for free-unlike PACER). Maybe it is to encourage people to visit their local courthouses on more than a only-when-legally-mandated basis?
The rest of the SCOTUS NY Times story can be read via this link Supreme Court, in Big Leap, Plans to Put Filings Online – NYTimes.com.
FOR MORE RECENT PUBLIC RECORDS NEWS SEE:
Tampabay.com “The governor took the state’s public records tradition in a new direction as he used taxpayer …”
- Public records battle expected to resume at Nevada Legislature
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Appleton Post Crescent–Jan 3, 2015 “The question also impacts the public records law, which permits authorities such as the courts to charge only ‘the actual, necessary and direct …”
You’ve received a warrant by fax or email saying a federal law enforcement officer or an attorney for the government wants to arrest you. Charges may be for money laundering or bank fraud, or missed jury duty. To avoid arrest, the warrant says, send money.
Read more here . . .
“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” ― Peter F. Drucker, Getting Started
Every new venture is as unique as the people trying to start it up and each new business has its own distinct needs and challenges. One thing they all have in common is the people who are willing to take risks.
There are few universal truths in anything , but one that runs through all businesses, is to make sure your personal assets are not at stake. In order for a new business to have the best chance of succeeding, it must start with a rock solid foundation that allows it to take risks and hopefully reap great rewards. In case the risk does what it is inclined to do, there must be built in protection for the risk-taking owners’ personal assets. The key to that protection is to form a business entity to run under before the first Open sign is hung.
Some for You & Some for Me
Most people that call me about starting up a new business already understand that running it as corporation (Inc.) or a limited liability company (LLC) is what they must do to protect their personal assets. If the business is organized as a corporation or LLC, the possibility of the owners being personally responsible for the business’s debts and liabilities is much diminished. The best way to build in this protection is to take advantage of the liability shields authorized under state law. These laws, usually statutory, authorize the creation of a separate legal entity to conduct business through that will bear the burdens that may befall. On the flip side, the Inc./LLC also bears the benefits, which the government is happy to see created since it gets to relieve you of some of the burdens of those benefits, i.e., taxes.
The owners of a corporation or LLC can be protected from personal liability for the business’s debts as long as the business is formally organized, operated and maintained under their state’s laws governing businesses. This personal liability protection is commonly called a “liability shield” or “corporate shield” and can be extremely valuable if the new business does not do well.
For instance, if a business has one deal go wrong at the worst time possible (when else does it happen?) it could be financially ruinous to the company. It may force the business to file for bankruptcy. Or if things are bad enough, two or more creditors could file petition for an involuntarily bankruptcy against your company, forcing your business into bankruptcy court so the creditors would have a better chance of recouping what they are owed (at least some). Under either of these scenarios, if the liability shield has been maintained so it is intact and enforceable, your business’s creditors would be unable to get a judgment against the you as the owner personally. This helps to encourage people to take chances and start businesses, something the government sees as a valuable to society.
Doing it for Themselves
A number of businesses I represent seem to be increasingly formed without a lawyer’s assistance. Especially by anyone who has been involved with the ownership of an incorporated/organized small business (or LLC) before. In law school, my Corp Prof explained how you only had to fill out a few lines on a postcard, check a couple of boxes and then pay a fee to form a Minnesota corporation, I was flabbergasted! (Yeah, I said a postcard. And flabbergasted. At the time, the form was the size of a large postcard. And the State didn’t have many decent or useful websites either. I don’t have any excuse for flabbergasted).
For a single owner just going out and doing her own thing, forming a corporation or LLC in Minnesota is easy and can be done without a lawyer. In fact, the page, “Starting a Business or Nonprofit” at the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, that has some great information for startups, only mentions the word “lawyer” once, the same number of times it uses “accountant.” If you have the right forms from the Secretary of State, a link to the business filing website and a credit card that is about all you will need (You can use your checkbook, a stamp and a paper application, but it is on 81/2” X 11″ paper—larger than a postcard).
Multiples Need Counsel
If there is more than one owner, I always recommend getting an attorney involved. Usually to make sure the new business gets an operating agreement, control agreement or a buy-sell agreement in place right away that will define the owners’ mutual rights and responsibilities and address how any future disputes will be addressed and handles (a business prenup). After all, business partners get along great when they are broke and just opening the doors to an exciting, promising and unknown future. The fussing and feuding never starts until after they taste some success, want more and ain’t gonna share. Once that point is reached, it can be impossible to agree on anything, let alone how to resolve any disputes like the one going on now!
Here are some more resources to help you startup your Minnesota business so it has a solid foundation and you can feel a bit better about the risks you want to take.
Governmental Resources With More Information
Organizing. Planning. Financing. Licensing. Hiring. Managing. Growing.
The Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development’s Division’s Small Business Assistance’s website maintains a handy directory of license and permit information. SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE” also puts put out numerous helpful publications for the new business, including an awesome book everyone thinking about starting a business in Minnesota should have, and it is even more awesome as a digital download: “A Guide to Starting a Business in Minnesota.” Simply essential.
The Three Ds:
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR & INDUSTRY affectionately called DOLI (pronounced “Dolly”)(Worker’s Compensation & Trades Licensing for Boiler operators, Building officials, Contractors, Electricians, Elevators and more!); and last but not least:
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE (Licensing info for Banks, Credit Unions, Insurance, Securities, you know “commerce” stuff).
Now go forth and start your own business! (and if you get sued, I know this guy that’s a business litigator . . . I think this is that lawyer’s website).
After spending five months locked up for contempt of court, an Alabama blogger was released from the Shelby County jail on March 26, 2014. Roger Shuler writes and publishes a blog on Alabama law and politics called “Legal Schnauzer.” He had been accused of defamation and was ordered to stop writing about a prominent Alabama attorney, Robert R. Riley, the son of a former Alabama Governor. Mr. Riley was rumored to be planning a run for Congress at the time.
SHUT UP, SHULER!
Mr. Shuler asserted he was never personally served with the Court’s “gag order” and had continued writing about the potential future congressman. Mr. Shuler’s posts alleged Mr. Riley was having an extra-martial affair and impregnated a local lobbyist named Liberty Duke (can’t make this up). Mr. Riley filed a Petition with the Court and requested Mr. Shuler and his wife be locked up for violating the Court’s Orders by continuing to post defamatory statements.
Shortly after Mr. Shuler was jailed in late October 2013, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), a non-profit legal assistance organization, sent a letter to the presiding Judge. The RCFP’s letter requested The Honorable Claude D. Neilson to reconsider his decision that censored and confined the blogger. The RCFP argued Mr. Shuler’s jailing for contempt of court was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Prior Restraint is when the government makes you shut your mouth before you can even open it–more descriptively called “Pre-Publication Censorship.” The RCFP’s letter succinctly laid out the law for one of the most egregious types of censorship and First Amendment violation:
The Supreme Court has never upheld a prior restraint, or a government prohibition on speech. In Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, it found these bans on speech presumptively unconstitutional and called them “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.” 427 U.S. 539, 558-59 (1976). See also Near v. State of Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697, 713 (1931) (calling prior restraint “the essence of censorship.”) The Supreme Court has speculated that prior restraints may only be allowed to prevent disclosure of information that would provide troop locations in wartime or “set in motion a nuclear holocaust.” Id. at 716.
MORE TO COME
The blogger’s wife had to take down the blog posts to spring Mr. Shuler out of jail. Mr. Shuler writes well, but I’ll tell you, his posts about the alleged illicit affair were not as torrid, dangerous or inflammatory as an actual nuclear holocaust.
Shuler plans to sue.
- More from ThinkProgress here
- And RCFP here
- And from Alabama’s Best Community Newspaper, The Shelby County Reporter, here
MKT (is me)
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
Information is the oxygen of the modern age.
Ronald Reagan (b. 1911), former U.S. President. (London, June 14, 1989).
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.