In a significant victory for landowners throughout Minnesota, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an important decision on July 15, 2020, defining the scope of property owners’ nonconforming use rights and what activities constitute a continuation of those rights.
Joe is a trial lawyer who specializes in fiduciary litigation—representing clients in trust, estate, and closely held business disputes in trial and appellate courts in Minnesota and across the country. He serves as Co-Chair of Fredrikson & Byron’s Trusts & Estates Litigation Practice Group and Chair of the firm’s Recruiting and Hiring Committee.
Trusts & Estates Litigation
- Represented trustee and related entity in proceedings brought in Hennepin County, Minnesota by former trust beneficiaries seeking to overturn Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (“CLAT”) estate plan, $45 million in damages, and operating control of entities worth more than $300 million. After four years of litigation and a 20-day trial, the Court rejected all of the beneficiaries’ claims and entered judgment in favor of clients.
- Served as lead counsel for a charitable trust beneficiary in a four-day trial in Santa Clara County, California Superior Court, and obtained a judgment invalidating a purported trust amendment that diverted millions of dollars to a trustee based on undue influence, as well as award of attorneys’ fees against trustee under California’s Elder Abuse statute.
- Represented estate beneficiary in trial seeking to enforce the provisions of estate plan and damages arising out of improper utilization of corporate assets. Obtained high six-figure damages award for civil theft, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract and order requiring the corporation to pay client’s attorneys’ fees.
- Successfully represented beneficiary of decedent’s IRA in appeal from order voiding change of beneficiary designations under power of attorney. In re Estate of Fashant, 2016 WL 4497530 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2016).
- Represented a university as beneficiary of estate to protect charitable bequest against will challenge. After discovery and motion practice, obtained a settlement which ensured the protection of the bequest for the university.
- Routinely represents corporate and individual trustees and beneficiaries in connection with accounting hearings, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and trust construction disputes.
- Represents corporate and individual trustees, personal representatives, and beneficiaries in probate matters in Hennepin, Ramsey, and across Minnesota.
- Extensive experience representing fiduciaries and beneficiaries in trusts and estates holding closely-held business interests and agricultural assets.
Shareholder & Partnership Disputes
- Represented former CEO and CFO of Fortune 1000 company in shareholder derivative lawsuit and special litigation committee investigation. After the SLC investigation, the Court dismissed all claims against our clients and the other defendants.
- Represented NYSE-listed medical device manufacturer in shareholder dispute arising out contested board election. After extensive discovery and motion practice, including obtaining a court order requiring the opposing shareholders to submit to forensic reviews of their computer systems, the lawsuit was settled on favorable terms.
- Represented northern Minnesota wholesale grower in closely-held shareholder dispute. Obtained partial summary-judgment and resolved remaining claim on favorable terms.
- Defended several public company clients in shareholder class action lawsuits, including expedited pre-closing / merger proceedings.
- Represented landfill operator in significant nonconforming use rights case, AIM Dev. (USA), LLC v. City of Sartell, 946 N.W.2d 330 (Minn. 2020). Successfully obtained decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court clarifying what activities constitute a continuation, rather than an expansion, of a nonconforming use in Minnesota.
- Obtained a seven-figure verdict in a jury trial for veterinary clinic against former employee who misappropriated confidential client information.
- Briefed and argued appeal on behalf of operators of an organic dairy following unsuccessful partition action, resulting in a reversal by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in Neumann v. Anderson, 916 N.W.2d 41 (Minn. Ct. App. 2018).
- Defended Japanese medical device company in international arbitration arising out of the development of the client’s left ventricular assist system. After discovery, the arbitration was resolved on terms favorable to the client.
- Represented operator of nursing home in southern Minnesota in collection action by the client’s primary lender. Defeated expedited motion to appoint a receiver, after which the matter was settled by the parties.
- Represents court-appointed receiver in large Ponzi scheme receivership and fraudulent transfer/ clawback lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.
- Served as Assistant Special Counsel to the Office of the Governor during the 2011 Minnesota state government shutdown. Represented the Office of the Governor in district court and special master hearings. In re Gov’t Shutdown Litig., 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 43, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 44, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 45, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 48, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 59, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 63, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 64, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 69, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 71, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 84, 2011 Minn. Dist. LEXIS 89 (Ramsey Cnty., Minn, 2011).
- Represented subcontractor in its Miller Act lawsuit against general contractor and surety in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Obtained summary judgment against general contractor and surety. United States ex rel. WFI Georgia, Inc. v. The Gray Ins. Co., 701 F. Supp. 2d 1320 (N.D. Ga. 2010). Successfully defended judgment on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. United States ex rel. Capital Computer Group, LLC v. The Gray Ins. Co., 453 Fed. Appx. 905 (11th Cir. 2011).
Pro Bono Representation
- Conciliation court referee for First Judicial District, Scott County, 2017-present
- Volunteer attorney for Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, 2009-present
- Obtained trial victory against insurance company that wrongfully accused client of damaging her neighbor’s property.
Articles & Presentations
PUBLICATIONS & PRESENTATIONS
- Presenter and author on “Trustee Duties,” for The Estate Planning, Probate & Trust Law 50, February 21, 2020
- Presenter, Quirks & Pitfalls of Estate Litigation, 2019 Probate & Trust Law Section Conference, June 10, 2019 and Probate and Trust Disputes – The Litigator’s Guide to the Galaxy, November 28, 2018
- Presenter, The Limits of Fiduciary Discretion (for Litigators and Planners), Probate and Trust Law Section Conference, June 4, 2018
- Presenter, Probate A to Z: Estate Litigation, Minnesota CLE, February 14, 2018
- Presenter, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Litigation Involving Powers of Attorney and Financial Institutions, ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section National CLE Conference, April 20, 2017
- Co-Author, Estate Litigation Chapter, Minnesota Estate Administration Handbook, 2017 and 2018
Honors & Education
- University of Minnesota Law School, J.D., 2007, magna cum laude
- Creighton University, B.A., 2004, summa cum laude
- Minnesota, 2007
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 2008
- U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, 2008
- U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, 2009
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 2009
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 2010
- Minnesota Lawyer, “Attorney of the Year,” Group Recognition, 2020
- The Best Lawyers in America, Litigation – Trusts and Estates, 2020-2021
- Small Company Transaction of the Year, 2018, Turnaround Management Association – Minnesota Chapter
- Minnesota Super Lawyers, Rising Star, 2013-present
- Minnesota State Bar Association, North Star Lawyer, 2013-2015, 2017-2019
- Fredrikson & Byron’s Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year, 2014
- Minnesota Law Review, Lead Article Editor, 2006-2007; staff member, 2005-2006
- Order of the Coif
- Director and Officer, Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Chapter, 2013-2019
- Adjunct Professor, University of Minnesota Law School, Law in Practice, 2009-2015
- Clerk, Judge James B. Loken, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 2007-2008
- Judicial Extern, Judge David S. Doty, United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, 2005