Bankruptcy Law

Lawyer steps aside from representing controversial litigator in his personal bankruptcy

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A bankruptcy attorney representing Paul Hansmeier, a Minnesota lawyer who has sparked controversy due to his litigation tactics, removed herself Tuesday from his personal Chapter 7 case.

Attorney Barbara May said she takes pride in representing clients other lawyers don’t want, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She told the newspaper that her request to step aside from Hansmeier’s case is only the fourth time in 35 years of practice that she has sought to withdraw from a bankruptcy case.

She did not specify a reason for her withdrawal from representing Hansmeier, but cited her duty of fairness and candor to the court.

Hansmeier, whose practice currently focuses on suing businesses under the Americans with Disabilities Act, faced $576,000 in sanctions concerning his former practice as of 2014. His former practice involved suing individuals, and obtaining settlements, for alleged porn downloading.

His bankruptcy case was originally filed as a Chapter 13, potentially allowing him to resolve his debts and keep more assets, but the court refused to allow it to proceed. Hence, it was converted to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

An evidentiary hearing is looming, and Hansmeier recently made several filings on his own behalf, the article notes. In a Friday filing, Hansmeier said trustee Randall Seaver and his counsel should be sanctioned and disbarred, and objected to what Hansmeier said was Seaver’s custom of buying a new Mercedes-Benz annually on Christmas eve, the Star Tribune reports.

“It seems contrary to the interests of justice, and frankly revolting, for a Chapter 7 trustee to make millions of dollars off the backs of ‘honest but unfortunate’ Minnesotan debtors,” wrote Hansmeier.

On Monday, Hansmeier filed documents as his own attorney.

In Tuesday’s court hearing, May told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathleen Sanberg that she would work with the court and the trustee to “not have this thing go off its wheels.”

The judge replied: “Unfortunately, I think the wheels have already come off the case based on what was filed yesterday.”

A legal ethics case against Hansmeier is ongoing.

Related coverage: “Lawyer known for porn-downloading litigation hid $178K in closet, trustee suit says”

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