What is next for Paul Hansmeier?

By drvandalia ¹

Paul HansmeierPaul Hansmeier

So what is next for Paul Hansmeier? (For some reason, I really don’t care about John Steele anymore. Perhaps someone else can take up the role of following Steele’s path toward being in the custody of the Attorney General.) There is the criminal investigation, a couple more sanction cases making their way through the courts, and of course his bankruptcy proceeding. However, next on deck is likely his attorney disciplinary hearing in Minnesota.

The Minnesota case is currently being reviewed by a referee (a retired judge) appointed by the MN Supreme Court. His report is due before 29 July 2016. Since a Fifth Count was added to the complaint, the referee will likely take all the allowed time, or might even request an extension. After that, there are a number of additional steps and hearings before a final decision is reached by the MN Supreme Court. So you might think the whole thing will be on the back-burner for another year or two. If so, keep reading.

If the referee recommends disbarment — as the Office of Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility (OLPR) requested — his license is suspended immediately. So even though it may be another year before he is officially disbarred, his license could be gone (effectively for good) in the next month or two. Now either the referee or the MN Supreme Court could cancel the automatic suspension while the decision is pending. I have checked a number of cases where MN lawyers have been disbarred, but that information was not readily available. So I can’t say for certain that there is not a practice of automatically granting stays on the suspension, but according to the regulations, if the referee recommends disbarment, the license is normally immediately suspended.

So what happens when his license is suspended? Or if it works its way through and the MN Supreme Court officially disbars him? The real effect will be on his new racket of filing ADA suits. Upon suspension (or disbarment) an attorney must notify his clients, the other party’s attorneys and the courts within 10 days. Then he must make arrangements for his clients to receive their “case files.”

As anyone who has followed this saga for a while knows the relationship between “Prenda” and their clients has been, shall we say, interesting. There is no reason to think that the relationship between Hansmeier and his clients in the ADA cases is any different. if he is suspended, his client would be free to select any other licensed attorney to continue these cases. Wouldn’t that be a slap in the face, if after all this work, another attorney steps in and reaps all the benefits (i.e., money)? Or, if the relationship is how we suspect that it is, there may be another attorney who is ready and willing to step in and take over these cases. Hmmm, I wonder who that might be?

(Let me introduce another general legal principle: Anyone can represent themselves “pro se”, even if they are a disbarred attorney. However, only a validly licensed attorney can represent another person — or a corporation. Remember all Hansmeier’s work to set up all those intertwined corporations? If he is disbarred (or suspended), he cannot represent them, even if he is the sole owner. So, as usually happens, that may come back and bite him in a big way.)

If an attorney is suspended, in Minnesota, he can still do legal-type work, as long as it is basically “behind the scenes” stuff, and is under the supervision of another MN licensed attorney. If the suspended/disbarred attorney over-steps here, both are liable for even more discipline. To keep an eye on this, any such arrangement must be reported to the OLPR. So back to my earlier question, who might be a licensed MN lawyer who could take over those ADA cases and keep everything “in house?” Padraigin Browne, of course.

So she takes over as attorney, and he provides the background work, under “her supervision,” of course. In a number of states, it is not permitted for a suspended lawyer to work for his former firm, with former colleagues, or for family members since it is felt that they would not exercise true supervision. In MN, there is no such rule. However, the OLPR would likely keep a very close watch on such an arrangement.

In summary, there is a good chance (it is by no means certain) that Hansmeier’s law license may disappear for good in July. If it does, then his ADA “clients” become essentially free agents. Do any of the old-timers remember the story of Eric Dickerson driving the Corvette provided by Texas A&M boosters to school at SMU? if he is suspended, his work on the ADA cases will suddenly become much more visible to both other attorneys and the courts and who knows where that will lead. If Browne takes over, I am certain OLPR will keep an incredibly close watch on both of them, and Hansmeier has traditionally not done well in such situations.

So what will happen first? The administrative suspension of his law license upon the recommendation of the referee for disbarment? Or an indictment? The dark-horse candidate would be his bankruptcy being dismissed.





¹ [SJD] This opinion was initially posted as a comment. In my view, this commentary deserved a greater exposure, so I made a blog post out of it with author’s consent.

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22 responses to ‘What is next for Paul Hansmeier?

  1. Could his wife Browne step up and take on his ADA cases, sure she could. Would she? I dont see it, and here is why: Hans reputation was already circling the bowl and on the way to flushville with the Prenda cases and all the sanctions and media attention that Hans and Steele got from their porn trolling suits.

    Browne while she has some stigma from being associated with the Groupon objection scheme, but really that seems to be the dirt on her shoe if you will. So if you look at in that light not so bad ( I know, I know…. your sitting there saying ” But she is married to Paul Hansmeier” ” that is like trying to get the dog doo off your shoe after you tracked it all over the house…cant be done ” )

    So okay we have the Groupon thing and being Paul Hansmeier’s wife…as any good lawyer would say ” your going to have to look past this “. So why would Browne risk her reputation to take on Paul’s ADA cases not to mention all of the bad publicity Hans created in MN with his ADA suits.

    I predict we will see some junior lawyer who is having a hard time chasing ambulances and tired of living in mom and dad’s basement get his Craigslist ad answer and Hans signs him on to be the face of his ADA suits much like they did with Gibbs and Hans can continue on collecting settlements while controlling this behind the scene like was done with Prenda by Steele and Hans

    I dont see Browne wanting to get more doo on her shoe than she has now. That would be my take on it or maybe that whatwas that other entity was that started to pop up in the MN ADA cases was , the new front firm… my opinion of course

  2. Love is blind.

    She did have a good job as a patent attorney with a reputable law firm (Shumaker & Sieffert). According to her Linkedin profile, and her depositions in the bankruptcy case, she lost that job in late 2015. This was roughly the same time as the Groupon stuff came out. We don’t know exactly what happened, but it is a fact that “reputable” law firms do not like having their names (or their associates) involved in questionable cases. There was no real reason for her to be involved in the Groupon case, yet she chose to do so and had to have known that there would be consequences for her legal career. So she was certainly susceptible to Hansmeier’s schemes even at a time when they were a lot less desperate and she still had a good job.

    Again, according to the deposition, she is currently doing “document review”, which is the legal equivalent of working for McDonalds. If (when) he loses his law license, their only significant potential source of income goes away. There is a decent chance that their bankruptcy case will be dismissed, leaving them with no protection from creditors. So if she was willing to get involved with his scheme when things were going relatively well, it is very likely she will do so when things are desperate.

    If they made smart decisions, she would likely still be a patent attorney, and he would have spent the last decade chasing ambulances without his license under threat and having filed for bankruptcy.

    Or to put it far more simply: If “Prenda” and its associates ever did the reasonable thing, I would not be writing this comment.

  3. I wasn’t aware that Mrs Hans was doing work beneath her and that she lost her previous gig doing patent law. The timing is coincidental with the Groupon objection ( doesn’t that make one wonder, oh to be a fly on the wall for that conversation )

    Well at least she was smart enough to use her maiden name, maybe that McDonald’s application wont get rejected when she applies. Well doing document review I am sure brings tears to her eyes reminding her of her days back when she was interning student doing that very same.

    I am sure the students who are in their second year of law school doing document review along side her dont snicker behind Browne’s back at the sight of a fully licensed lawyer who was once doing IP Law at all.

    Well there could be a slight possibility that could happen that Browne would sign on, but I still think this would be beneath her guess time will tell.

  4. Ms. Browne has discovered to her detriment that when you go to sleep with the dogs, you wake up with fleas. Things aren’t quite as bad for her as they are for Hans, she did not file bankruptcy since the sanction debts are his alone, but she is fighting that pesky trustee that wants her to return what is left of the shoebox full of money as a preferential transfer, even if it comes out of her end of the condo sale. I don’t see her winning on that point as anyone who has ever looked a Title 11 knows that this was a preferential transfer.

    Like Gibbs, perhaps she is not beyond redemption. She has a small child to support and if Paul is in the slammer she will have to do better than doc review to keep things together, at least in the style to which she has become accustomed. We can only hope that she behaves the way a child does when they witness their sibling getting spanked for something they were about to do and think better of it.

  5. Prenda’s Unholy Trinity do seem to deserve their other halves. Paul’s other half… well, this article has gone on at length about her. Shari Duffy, on the other hand, behaved in an consistently shameless manner, bragging about an extravagant lifestyle funded by her husband’s intimidation scheme. Word was on the street that she was looking forward to a divorce (while enjoying all the perks of being married to a dirtbag), and regularly posting “advice” such as the following:

    Tip of the day..

    Be very strategic when making friends, especially in college. Pick ones from different parts of the country and different nationalities and those with large families if possible. Family gatherings where you invite yourself to their homes are always better with a crowd. Always offer to travel with them and encourage your parents to pay for it and use the “I need more culture and experience argument” to get those plane tickets paid for. Lastly, marry men older than you so that you have time to enjoy your friends later in life. Since women outlive men you can look forward to seeing them in your golden years. My best friend is slated to inherit a villa in when I am old and grey we can tend to the vineyard and snicker at sunset.

    Have a great Weekend!

    s. duffy

    Honestly, classy posts like these speak for themselves.

    • Now I know why Duffy drank himself to death…..he wanted to.

      I hope there are liens on his estate from here to Timbuktu.

    • Shari has taken her own advice and appears to have another “older man” in her life.

      To BTCG – all of their properties ( rental and residence) had been in foreclosure for years prior to Duffy’s passing. Rumored they had collected rents from their tenants for years but didn’t pay the mortgages??

      What Shari did get was an Aug 8th divorce that didn’t’ quite jive with how divorces are decree’d in Illinois. With Paul passing on the 10th, she was not responsible for any of his debts as they were no longer married, so that was a parting gift. I wonder if favors were called in by Paul.

      Outside of perhaps insurance polices or hidden assets, I don’t know what sort of an estate remained, or that Shari would benefit, though her daughters might have been left with something.

      • I do recall quotes that were pasted from Shari’s page claiming moments of poverty due to the divorce/debts, to the point where the poor dental hygiene of her kids resulted in more costly expenditures. Seems though that despite her gold-digging ways and shady past she’s made it as an event planner for people willing to overlook her faults so the privileged can rub shoulders.

        Duffy does seem to have come off best out of all this – he drank himself to a demise before he could be held accountable and his planned-to-be ex-wife is living off the fat from his ill-gotten gains. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hansmeier and Steele end up pointing the finger at Shari, under the belief that either the courts wouldn’t go after her or to make sure she gets hers after Duffy passed on the baton.

  6. In the irony of ironies, it has been reported elsewhere that Paul’s dad, Gordon H. Hansmeier, Rajkowski Hansmeier Ltd., was appointed chair of the Seventh District Bar Association’s Ethics Committee by the Minnesota Supreme Court. One has to wonder whether Paul is a turn in the other direction for the family or whether this is a case of like father like son.

    • I have known Gordon Hansmeier for over thirty five years. Martindale Hubble has rated him AV, which means his peers consider him to be very good at what he does and very ethical. In my years of practice in Central Minnesota, I have never heard a whisper against him. I am appalled at his son’s behavior.

      • I don’t personally know any of the principal’s in this case. However, I will agree that I have found that there is little correlation between parents and their children. I have known absolute scum who have produced offspring who are great people, and also the other way around. And of course many cases of “like begets like.” It is a bit suspicious that there are two brothers apparently involved in this, but I have known plenty of parents who despair about their children. In the normal course of events, I would not have made a comment about his wife, however, it appears both from the “Groupon” case and the bankruptcy proceedings that she has decided to support Paul Hansmeier in a way that cannot simply be excused as “marital fidelity.”

        In the absence of direct evidence to the contrary, I have no reason to doubt “Small Town Lawyer.”

  7. Brown was involved in hiding large amounts of cash from the bankruptcy trustee. She might escape getting even a light slap on the wrist by the bar, but a reputable law firm isn’t going to risk that being brought up with every case.

    I find it shocking that Paul is still practicing law. And disturbing that adding another count would further delay his license suspension.

  8. I know it is considered bad form to reply to your own post, but here are a few very quick thoughts in response to Hansmeier’s “stipulation” (read “settlement”) of his MN Lawyer Discipline case. A lot of this may not make sense if you are not familiar with today’s details, but I have been travelling since 4 am and I will try to write a more detailed post this weekend.

    First, “suspension with no ability to petition for reinstatement for 4 years” is in practice not that different from disbarment. The public generally believes that if a lawyer is disbarred, his “license” is gone for good. However, that is not the case. In every jurisdiction I have ever heard of an attorney may apply for reinstatement even if he is “disbarred” (or more technically his license is annulled.) Now, it takes a very rare individual for this to be successful. I believe his chances of having his license reinstated after this suspension are about the same as they would be if he was actually disbarred.

    Second, Hansmeier hired the specialist attorney who has the best reputation in dealing with MN disciplinary cases. If this was the best he could do, then that is not good for Hansmeier. (Big surprise.)

    Third, the timing of this is very interesting. Late Friday before the 4th of July weekend is the absolute best time to drop bad news and hope that no one pays attention to it. There is absolutely no chance that the timing of this was an accident. Which means there was deep strategy involved. Which gives us something to think about.

    Fourth, go back to paragraph #2. Hansmeier has quickly settled suits over his bankruptcy petition, and has settled this case. This is not the personality we have all come to know and love. Is he trying to save money because he knows he will have huge bills in the near future from a different type of attorney?

    Finally, the impact of all this on his MN ADA cases will be absolutely fascinating. This is technically outside of the scope of this site, although I believe it can fit the wider theme of “abuse of the courts for personal gain.”

    Before I go to sleep, I will say that all the evidence suggests something big is going on behind the scenes that we are not yet aware of. Again, how the ADA cases play out in the next couple of weeks will tell us a lot.

    • Thank you for the insight. I thought about writing a short post, yet hoped that you would chime in instead. Will be happy to post anything you want to offer.

      This is definitely a newsworthy development, and indeed the Friday-before-a-long-weekend timing loudly asks for publicity Hansmeier tries to avoid.

  9. I am selling a house that Paul Hansmeier wants to buy. We have signed a PA and have gone through the property inspection but was not able to agree upon the inspection items to be fixed. As soon I as we found out who this guy was we cancel the PA but Paul will not cancel. He is paying all cash and we are wondering how he can do if he is in bankruptcy. We have hired a lawyer to serve him a “declaratory cancellation” but have yet to hear a response. Does anyone know what else I can do to convince him to cancel? I do not want to sell to him not knowing if his money is good, or he can sue me down the road even after closing.

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