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More on the Mess in Minnesota

I wrote here last month about the mess in the Minnesota AG's office, involving staff attorneys' efforts to unionize the office of Attorney General Lori Swanson. Now, one of the staff attorneys active in those efforts, Amy Lawler, has been placed on administrative leave. On Monday, Deputy Attorney General Karen Olson sent Lawler a letter notifying her of the suspension, purportedly for failing properly to follow-up on concerns she expressed about the ethics of filing lawsuits she was assigned to handle.

But in a classic case of bad timing, Lawler's suspension came on the Monday following the Friday in which she was quoted discussing the union drive in a piece that aired on Minnesota Public Radio and in an article on the online news site, -- an article that described her as one of only two staffers who would allow herself to be identified. Subsequent reports in the Star Tribune and on say the AG, through a spokesperson, denied the suspension had anything to do with Lawler's union activities or comments to the media and was for the reasons were those stated in the letter.

While we wonder whether anyone in that office has ever taken a labor law course, over at Minnesota Lawyer Blog, Minnesota Lawyer editor Mark Cohen likens the AG's excuse-giving to that line from the movie Casablanca in which Captain Louis Renault says, "I'm just writing the report now. We haven't quite decided whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape." He says Lawler, who is fresh out of Harvard Law School, is "not some sort of a political hack on a vendetta against Swanson, but an idealistic young lawyer who happens to believe in unions." Rather than get tough with the dissenters in her office, AG Swanson should try a much-different approach, Cohen suggests:

What if management actually listened to the concerns she expressed and attempted to address them? What if rather than treating Lawler as the enemy, management treated her as the friend who told it that its zipper was open? That might be a more effective way of diffusing the labor situation at the office than any sledgehammer-approach could ever be.

When I first took note of this story in February, I wrote that it seemed to get stranger every day. In that vein, these latest developments are deja vu all over again.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 14, 2008 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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