Bob Trzynka, Leslie Bruckner, Mike Bornitz, Tim James
“However, the unconsented seeking of sexual favors in exchange for ignoring a violation of the criminal law ‘could not be considered part of any legitimate police function.’”
"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."
- Winston Churchill
Some Cases of Significance to me:
Wagner v. Cloverleaf Colony, 3rd Jud. Cir. Kingsbury Co. (SD 1988) – First jury trial. As a 3rd year law student, successfully tried a personal injury jury trial to a Plaintiff’s verdict.
Williams v. Lusak, Circuit Ct., Cook Co. Illinois, Civ. No. 91L16085 (IL 1991) – Successful dismissal of legal malpractice case while litigating for large Chicago insurance defense law firm. The case confirmed that a lawyer can’t simply justify representing the powerful against the less fortunate by claiming “it’s just part of the job.” Rather, contributing to human suffering by manipulating the process and, in essence, buying verdicts is a deliberate and moral decision. It’s also a matter of personal integrity and fair play - after all, any monkey in a suit can win with a stacked deck.
Nuzum v. Lindquist, U.S. Dist. Ct. Civ. No. 97-4175 (S.Div.S.D.) - Same-sex discrimination claim attacking South Dakota’s argument that Title VII does not prohibit sexual discrimination against homosexuals.
Successfully established a hostile work environment sex discrimination claim against a state entity and supervisors in their official capacity on behalf of a lesbian couple pursuant to Title VII which forbids an employer from discriminating in employment on the basis of and “individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Also, pursuant to South Dakota’s counterpart statute, SDCL § 20-13-10.
Christianson v. Aalfs Manufacturing, U.S. Dist. Ct. Civ. No. 96-4312 (S.Div. SD) – Intentional tort exception to exclusive remedy of worker’s compensation.
Successfully preserved a cause of action under the intentional tort exception to South Dakota’s worker’s compensation exclusive remedy on behalf of two female workers injured by the employer’s modification of equipment safety features.
James v. Tapken, S.D. S. Ct. No. 18236 (SD 1993) – Writ of Mandamus against Circuit Court Judge for disqualification.
Obtained Supreme Court original jurisdiction for mandamus removal of the presiding judge from my pending cases on the basis that I had reported the judge to the S.D. Judicial Qualifications Commission for improperly using his judicial office to interfere with judicial elections and for hearing cases involving the same local bank that had charged-off the judge’s home loan without requiring repayment.
The judge ultimately resigned from the bench and was later imprisoned for unrelated felonies including grand theft. Many of the bank’s senior officers later pled guilty to federal criminal violations for their part in a fraudulent scheme to divert bank funds to their personal use. The attorney candidate who was targeted by Tapken’s wrongful interference with the judicial election became a federal bankruptcy judge.
Potter v. Miller, 1st Jud. Cir. Yankton Co., Civ. No. 94-299 (SD 1994) - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against state trooper for sexual misconduct with female motorists.
Successful claim against a state highway patrolman on behalf of a female motorist that was forced to expose her breasts during a traffic stop. Investigation uncovered several other female victims of the same trooper. Based on this settlement the Patrol Superintendent asked for and received the trooper’s resignation.
Stoebner v. S.D. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, 598 N.W. 2d 557 (SD 1999) – Insurance coverage for self-defense by elderly farm woman.
Successfully established a claim for insurance coverage when an insurance company failed to provide representation to an elderly farm woman that was sued for causing injury to her attacker during the insured’s own self-defense against the attack. Following a successful jury verdict defeating the attacker’s claims in 1997, the South Dakota Supreme Court in a lawsuit against the insurance company found that self-defense is an exception to the intentional acts exclusion of the policy creating an obligation on the part of the insurance company to provide a defense.
Hart v. Miller, 609 N.W.2d 138 (SD 2000) – Woman’s constitutional right to bodily integrity as recognized under the due process clause.
Obtained appellate court reversal of a trial court’s summary judgment in 42 U.S.C. §1983 case against state trooper for suggesting a trade of sex for ignoring a pot charge.
2001 Suspension – Potential clients have a right to know when the lawyer they may hire has been disciplined. They should be fully advised. My legal work was, in fact, disrupted for a year when the South Dakota Supreme Court suspended my law license in 2001 based on my disclosure of an episode of necking and fondling with a divorce client after boating and having some beers back in 1994. I was single and my client was divorcing her physician husband. In 1998, more than three years after successfully securing the client a favorable property settlement, I was sued for money but refused to pay as the allegations were not true. Only after I refused to pay, a complaint was made to the state bar disciplinary committee that triggered the suspension. The client admitted the contact was mutually initiated. The evidence was inconsistent with the client’s claims and the lawsuit was dismissed, appealed and then again dismissed without any payment or trial. While the salacious generalizations made the news, the substantive evidence did not. Actual affidavits are below for any potential clients who may still be curious about events from more than 20 years ago.
Not to minimize my 20 minute lapse in judgment, but it's curious that members of the bar have engaged in relationships with divorce clients, won handsome settlements, married the client and enjoyed the newly recovered wealth. One guy, when faced with allegations of destroying a marriage and family, even paid a confidential alienation of affections settlement only to go on to serve at the highest levels. Some of the continuing attempts to highlight the negative, after all these years, is a testament to the the fact I'm still fighting the good fight.
Fortunately, the suspension allowed me to serve as tribal business manager of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Santee, Nebraska. While with the Tribe, I implemented programs to organize tribal finances to move the Tribe off of probationary draw-down restrictions for federal funds that, in turn, allowed investment to earn discretionary income to fund community programs. I established a tribal employee low interest loan fund to eliminate predatory lending by business interests against the Indian People. I created a jobs program of day labor to supplement income for tribal members on government assistance. I also had the opportunity to teach at the Nebraska Indian Community College.
The break from the law also allowed me to work with my team roping and cutting horses with the highlight being a run at the N.C.H.A Futurity in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Setterholm v. Wirtz, 2nd Jud. Cir. Minnehaha Co., No. 06-2977 (SD 2006) – Medical malpractice, wrongful tubal ligation in Catholic hospital.
Successfully resolved a medical malpractice case where an ob/gyn performed a tubal ligation during a scheduled single ovary removal and then treated the patient for fertility. The argument on behalf of the physician was, in part, that the tubal ligation could not have been performed because sterilization is not allowed in the catholic hospital system. However, we discovered that sterilization is routinely allowed in the catholic hospital system in conjunction with cesarean sections so long as the doctor simply checks off that it was in the interest of patient safety.
Houska v. Frank, 1st Jud. Cir. Yankton Co., Civ. No. 07-522 (SD 2007) – Medical malpractice, failure to monitor and diagnose lung mass as cancer.
Settlement of malpractice action where clinic doctors lost track of patient’s known lung mass and failed to perform follow-up. The case highlighted the need for patients to monitor their own medical records for accuracy and be advocates for themselves and family members.
Reimers v. Aase, 1st Jud. Cir. Yankton Co., Civ. No. 05-248 (SD 2007) – First jury trial in the new Yankton County Courthouse.
Obtained a Plaintiff’s personal injury verdict in the first jury trial in the new Yankton County Courthouse on November 28, 2007.
Bockholt Estate v. Allen Sossan, D.O., 1st Jud. Cir. Yankton Co., Civ. No. 12-123 (SD 2013) – Medical malpractice unnecessary spine surgery.
Successfully tried to jury verdict and judgment of $933,835 against spine surgeon for unnecessary spine surgery on elderly farm woman. Subsequent investigation revealed dozens of victims involved in on-going litigation against the hospitals that allowed Sossan to perform profitable spine surgeries. Investigation has also revealed that Sossan’s real name was Alan Abdali Soosan who modified his name after being convicted of felony burglary as a young man. We uncovered that Soosan lied on his application for licensure in the State of Nebraska and South Dakota. Our complaints to the South Dakota Medical Board were ignored however other states have revoked Soosan’s license to practice. The South Dakota Attorney General finally acted on our complaints by indicting Soosan for perjury, however, Soosan remains outside the reach of the law in his native Iran.
Novotny v. Sacred Heart Health Services, 887 N.W.2d (SD 2016) – Appellate court reversing trial court’s crime-fraud exception to peer review discovery.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that hospitals and their medical executive committees knew that Soosan was a “danger to the public” and the existence of a taped conversation reflecting that a member of the Avera medical executive committee would lie under oath about the fact that South Dakota’s Lieutenant Governor hijacked the Medical Executive committee at the hospital where he was general counsel to allow Soosan to be credentialed, the South Dakota Supreme Court allowed those crimes-frauds to be maintained in secret. The Court left it to the legislature to determine whether hospitals will ever be stopped from covering up crimes and frauds through peer review.
Public Justice signed on to the appeal and AARP and Public Citizen contributed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the patients.
Mr. Williams wrote:
But strong professional standing and strong power can only hold out for so long. Sooner or later they will put you in private moments of crying in the night for your mistakes, misconduct, and your personal feelings towards another human being. My philosophy, whatever you put out, comes back to you, like love or “war”.
I will say to any person, “you have no reason to be afraid of the truth.”
Growing up in Yankton, I know that people believe hard work and integrity will result in success. I try to bring these values to my practice.
Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the rules and to some a handshake and their word doesn't count for much. That's when people may find they need a lawyer.
I have devoted the bulk of my career to fighting for the underdog. I guess it runs in the family. Growing up, I heard my dad refer to those he trusted and respected as "salt of the earth." Those folks are my clients. If you're a silver-spooner, a snob or a bully - I'm likely not the lawyer for you.
Just because I come from the "sticks" doesn't mean I fell off a turnip truck. I've taken on the big insurance companies, hospitals and even other lawyers when they failed at their responsibilities to their patients and clients. Sure, they've roughed me up some - but I'm still in the fight. I'm not impressed with their money, power or political influence. I work for you. The only guarantee I can make is that I will try hard.
If you have been injured or wronged, I'd be proud to have an opportunity to evaluate your case.
Tim James was born and raised in Yankton, South Dakota. He graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Law with honors as a member of the Thomas Sterling Honor Society. Tim was a law clerk to the United States District Court of South Dakota, Western Division. After practicing in a large Chicago litigation firm, Tim returned to Yankton and started the law firm that is known today as James Law, PC. Tim and his wife, Terry, enjoy their grandkids and dogs.
James Law, P.C.