Robin Wolpert of Sapientia Law Group, PLLC, was sworn in as President of the National Conference of Bar Presidents

On August 5, 2023, Robin Wolpert of Sapientia Law Group, PLLC, was sworn in as President of the National Conference of Bar Presidents (NCBP) at the NCBP Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Founded in 1950, NCPB is dedicated to building better bar leaders who strengthen the legal profession, help protect the rule of law, and promote justice within their communities and their bar associations. Its members are bar leaders and organizations from state, metropoli-tan and affinity bars from across the country.

“Leading the NCBP is one of the greatest honors of my career,” Wolpert said. “Our mission is to make the difference in the success of bar leaders and or-ganizations from across the country. This year we’ll be building a next generation bar. That means put-ting well-being and belonging front and center. We want to create a thriving profession and the experi-ence of inclusion. And we will be mobilizing to ad-dress the singular challenge of our lifetime—promoting the rule of law and democracy. Lawyers have a unique responsibility to act and it’s urgent we do so.”

Robin Wolpert is a highly respected business litiga-tor, appellate practitioner, and white-collar criminal defense attorney. She handles a diverse mix of civil and criminal lawsuits and appeals, focusing on constitutional law, defamation, business fraud, and cyber-harassment and misinformation campaigns. Robin uses her unique blend of government, private-sector, and in-house experience to address legal, policy, and leadership challenges for a wide variety of clients.

Wolpert received her B.A. from Colby College and her J.D. from Cornell Law School. Before becoming a lawyer, Robin earned her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chica-go. Her areas of expertise include constitutional law, judicial politics, cognitive and behavior-al economics, and political and organizational psychology.

Always passionate about public service, Wolpert is a national leader and public speaker on democracy, ethics, lawyer well-being, implicit bias, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She is treasurer of the Institute for Well Being in Law (IWIL), member of the ABA House of Dele-gates, member of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, special advisor to the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI), past chair of Minnesota’s Lawyers Professional Responsi-bility Board, and past president of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

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Sapientia Law Group Expands Diverse Team with Attorney Karl Johnson

Minneapolis, MN – May 12, 2023 — Sapientia Law Group was established in 2011 with a mission to take a different approach to law and the clients they serve. As a women and minority-owned business, Sapientia Law Group prioritizes results-focused strategies, strength through diversity and inclusion, collaboration amongst its team, impact on community, and alternative fee structures to best meet clients’ business needs. Since its inception, Sapientia has been recognized as an innovation-leading law firm that also leads diversity, equity, and inclusion by example.

To further build and enhance its team, Sapientia announced the upcoming addition of attorney Karl Johnson to Sapientia’s top-notch legal team. Mr. Johnson, an experienced bankruptcy and commercial litigator, brings twelve years of legal experience to the firm. Mr. Johnson is one of only four attorneys in Minnesota to be certified as a Business Bankruptcy Specialist by the American Board of Certification, joining one other such distinguished attorneys, Ken Edstrom, who already practices at Sapientia.

“We are so pleased to have Karl join Sapientia. He not only brings a wealth of knowledge and recognition as an “Up and Coming Attorney to Watch” selected by Minnesota Lawyer, but he is also active in the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, as well as part of the leadership of its Minnesota chapter,” said Sonia Miller-Van Oort, a Sapientia Founding Member and its President. “We look for ‘full-package’ individuals committed to client service, leadership in the community, and a desire to make a difference — Karl fits the bill.”

Mr. Johnson will begin practicing with Sapientia Law Group on May 16, 2023.
Karl Johnson Sapientia Press Release

For More Information:
Sapientia Law Group
120 S Sixth Street, #100
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Phone: 612.756.7100

Chris Proczko authors “Sixth Circuit Dismisses Journalist’s Claims of Interference in Newsgathering” published by Media Law Resource Center

On April 30, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Thomas v. City of Memphis affirmed the dismissal of journalist Wendi Thomas’s suit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief against the City of Memphis, Tennessee, for excluding her from the city’s Media Advisory list in retaliation for unfavorable coverage of the mayor. The court agreed with the district court that the City’s change to its media relations policy after the suit was filed mooted the action.  See Full Article

Chris Proczko’s article “Roy Moore Allowed to Proceed to Discovery on Defamation Claim Against PAC” published by Media Law Resource Center

On March 31, 2021, United States District Judge Corey L. Maze set the table for what remains of GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore’s two defamation suits—one against political action committees that ran ads against Moore’s candidacy in Alabama’s 2017 special election, and one against the Washington Examiner and several of its editors and columnists—for calling Moore a “pedophile” and a “child molester.” See Moore v. Cecil and Moore v. Lowe.

Read Full Article

Ken Edstrom, contributing editor on a case published by the Bankruptcy Section of the MSBA


Ken Edstrom was a contributing editor on a case commentary that was published by the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. The full commentary is below. A version of this case commentary is also available here (A membership to MSBA is required to view the article).

In re Luebbert, 987 F.3d 771 (8th Cir. 2021) February 9, 2021


Debtor Luebbert engaged in significant acts of deception in connection with his employment by hiding the fact that he had started a new company bidding on the same contracts as his employer. When caught, and in settlement of threatened litigation by his employer, he struck a deal to share revenue from his new business with his former employer (the settlement agreement also not surprising involved termination of Luebbert).  However, Luebbert then proceeded to violate that agreement by hiding revenue that should have been shared under the term of his agreement with his employer.  The employer then sued for breach of contract an won a judgment under Missouri law.  Luebbert then filed Chapter 7. The Employer objected to the discharge of Luebbert’s debt under the “intentional acts” exception of 11 USC § 523(a)(6). The Bankruptcy court held a hearing where evidence was introduced that the acts of Luebbert amounted to conversion and upheld the objection to discharge.


First, it is true that, as a general rule, debts resulting from breach of contract, even debts resulting from intentional breach of contract such as Mr. Luebbert’s, are not excepted from discharge under § 523(a)(6). See, e.g., In re Iberg, 395 B.R. 83 (Bankr. E.D. Ark. 2008); In re [Steven and Jill] Johnson, Adv. No. 07–3115, 2007 WL 5065545, at *3 (Bankr. D. Minn. Nov. 14, 2007) (citing In re Glatt, 315 B.R. 501, 511 (Bankr. D.N.D. 2004) ); In re McDowell, 299 B.R. 552, 555 (Bankr. N.D. Iowa 2003) (“Simple breach of contract … is not included in the limited exceptions to discharge in bankruptcy.”). Otherwise, the vast majority of debts would be nondischargeable.  But Mr. Luebbert’s “empty head–pure heart” legal defense is not supported by law under the facts and circumstances here. As the Eighth Circuit said in Patch, the scope of “willful injury” is not limited to the circumstances in which the debtor desires to bring about the consequences of the conduct. It includes conduct in which “the debtor knows that the consequences are certain, or substantially certain, to result from his conduct” because in those cases, “the debtor is treated as if he had, in fact, desired to produce those consequences.” Patch, 526 F.3d at 1180–81, citing Geiger, 113 F.3d at 852.


In re Luebbert, 595 B.R. 314, 331 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. 2018). The Debtor appealed and the District court affirmed, Global Control Systems, Inc. v. Luebbert (In re Luebbert), 18–0945-CV-W-BP, July 15, 2019. The Debtor again appealed to the 8th Circuit.


The 8th Circuit opinion attempts to trace the history of Section 523(a)(6) law in the 8th Circuit. Like the District Court, Judge Kobes quotes from the Patch decision for the “willful and malicious” standard used in the 8th Circuit.


A nondischargeability action under § 523(a)(6) has three elements: (1) the debtor caused an injury to the creditor; (2) the injury must have been willfully inflicted—that is, the debtor must have desired the injury or must have been substantially certain that his conduct would result in the injury; and (3) the debtor’s actions must have been malicious. See In re Patch, 526 F.3d 1176, 1180–81 (8th Cir. 2008).

In re Luebbert, 987 F.3d 771, 778 (8th Cir. 2021)


The Court then declares that it is extending the law in this area.


Analyzing the willfulness element in In re Geiger, we held that “for a judgment debt to be nondischargeable under [§ 523(a)(6)], it is necessary that it be based on the commission of an intentional tort.” 113 F.3d at 853 (emphasis added). We expressed “no view … on the question whether it is sufficient for nondischargeability that the judgment be for an intentional tort.” Id. at 853–54 (emphasis added). We now take this opportunity to clarify our jurisprudence about exceptions to discharge under § 523(a)(6) and conclude that a judgment for an intentional tort is not necessary to find judgment debt for a breach of contract nondischargeable. The willfulness requirement is met when the bankruptcy court finds facts showing that the debtor’s conduct accompanying the breach of contract amounted to an intentional tort against the creditor. We perceive that this aligns with the core of the analyses performed by the Ninth and Fifth Circuits.

In re Luebbert, 987 F.3d 771, 782 (8th Cir. 2021).


The holding seems unremarkable in that the Debtor didn’t seem to argue that even if the bankruptcy court issued findings after a hearing that the Debtor not only breached a contract (which was what the state court found) but that the breach was willful and malicious, that the court couldn’t find that the Debtor violated Section 523(a)(6). Other 8th Circuit opinions had certainly held that an independent determination of “willful and malicious” by the bankruptcy court was proper. If nothing else, the Luebbert opinion strengthened the 8th Circuit’s use of the “subjective test” for determining “willful and malicious.”


The seminal case on § 523(a)(6) in the 8th Circuit is the case of Barclays Am./Bus. Credit, Inc. v. Long (In re Long), 774 F.2d 875 (8th Cir. 1985). Although In re Long preceded the Supreme Court’s Geiger opinion on the meaning of “willful and malicious” (Kawaauhau v. Geiger, 523 U.S. 57, 118 S. Ct. 974 (1998)), the 8th Circuit has, post-Geiger, referred to the Long opinion for assistance in determining the test to be used in § 523(a)(6) cases.  Unfortunately, In re Long seemed to provide both an objective test for determining “willful and malicious” (that the injury was certain to occur, (774 F.2d at 881)) and a subjective test (“that the Debtor intended the injury to occur,” 774 F.2d at 882).  The Patch decision, which was originally a case out of the court of Dennis O’Brien in the District of Minnesota, clarified the language of In re Long in holding that only when the court finds that the Debtor knew that the injury was certain to occur OR that the Debtor intended that the injury occur can a bankruptcy court hold that an objecting party has proven an exception to discharge under § 523(a)(6).


Judge Kobes, in Luebbert, as well as the District court, quoted Patch which provides further evidence that in the 8th Circuit the “subjective” test is the only way to prove a §523(a)(6) violation in this circuit.

Ken Edstrom has been a bankruptcy practitioner in Minneapolis for over 38 years and has been involved in most of the largest bankruptcy cases filed in Minnesota during that time, representing debtors, DIP lenders, secured creditors, committees of unsecured creditors, and other interest holders. He is also involved in state insolvency proceedings including receiverships and assignments for the benefit of creditors. Ken is one of only six lawyers in Minnesota who is Board Certified in business bankruptcy by the American Board of Certification and is a perennial holder of “Superlawyer” status. Click here to learn more about Ken and how to contact him.

Indiana University- Mauer School of Law selects Sonia Miller-Van Oort to receive Distinguished Service Award

Each year Indiana University-Mauer School of Law recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through their extraordinary service to their communities and the law school and who serve as role models for the school’s students and alumni.  Sonia (’97) will be honored with this award at IU’s annual alumni celebration on September 25, 2020.  Learn More

Ken Edstrom’s article “What To Do If Your Client’s Customer Files Bankruptcy?” published in Attorney At Law magazine

In its May 2020 edition, Attorney At Law Magazine featured the article “What To Do If Your Client’s Customer Files Bankruptcy?” by Sapientia Law Group’s Ken Edstrom. Although the number of personal and business bankruptcies have steadily declined since the peak of the Great Recession, Edstrom warns that the arrival of COVID-19 will quickly put an end to that trend. Even if a business is on strong financial footing sufficient to survive the pandemic, its counsel should still understand bankruptcy law basics in order to protect her client’s interests. Edstrom explains why this is important and what businesses should know.

Read Full Article here

Ken Edstrom has been a bankruptcy practitioner in Minneapolis for over 35 years and has been involved in most of the largest bankruptcy cases filed in Minnesota during that time, representing debtors, DIP lenders, secured creditors, committees of unsecured creditors, and other interest holders. He is also involved in state insolvency proceedings including receiverships and assignments for the benefit of creditors. Ken is one of only six lawyers in Minnesota who is Board Certified in business bankruptcy by the American Board of Certification and is a perennial holder of “Superlawyer” status. Click here to learn more about Ken and how to contact him.

Sapientia forms COVID-19 Business Counsel

Sapientia forms COVID-19 Business Counsel group to help businesses navigate pandemic

Learn More


March 23, 2020

Re: We’re all in this together

Clients, colleagues and friends:

In the midst of important national, state, and local health concerns regarding coronavirus 2019, we are all having to evaluate how we do business and how adaptable we are.

Since starting Sapientia Law Group (almost nine years ago to the day), our firm has prioritized providing quality legal services while utilizing flexible work schedules, teleworking arrangements, and collaborative case management. There are many reasons why these fundamental strategies have benefited our clients and our minority- and women-owned company over the years, but that could not be more true today given the challenges our society and the business world is currently managing.

Like many businesses, Sapientia is doing its part to practice social distancing and assist with community
containment mitigation strategies by closing our physical office as of Wednesday, March 18th. With only a slight pivot, our entire team remains fully active in client matters and ongoing litigation. All of our lawyers and staff will observe “Online Workdays” for the immediate future; all are equipped to carry on with our ordinary business, communications, court hearings, conferences, and meetings remotely. Please continue to contact any of our team members by phone or email as usual.

As Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” We are confident that the challenges and circumstances we are all facing will result in all of our businesses rising to the next level and innovating further.

We are all in this together. Please know that we are here to help in any way you need.


Sonia Miller-Van Oort
President/Chief Manager

PDF version of announcement

Sonia Miller-Van Oort featured on cover of Hennepin Lawyer with other past HCBA women presidents for discussion on gender and law

In its March/April 2020 edition, Hennepin Lawyer magazine featured past HCBA women presidents, including Sapientia’s President, Sonia Miller-Van Oort, for a roundtable discussion on gender and the law and their experiences as women leaders in the profession. A myriad of topics were covered, ranging from the paths the past presidents took that brought them to the law and challenges they faced to leadership in the bar. Sonia served as HCBA President from 2007–2008.

Responding to the topic of work-life balance, Sonia explained, “[I]f you don’t like the rules, change them – so I’ve changed them.” And she has indeed, and not just with work-life balance.  Sonia and the other founding attorneys created a firm that never stops improving and adapting through the creation of an Innovation Advisory Board, significant use of alternative fee arrangements that encourage collaboration among firm attorneys and clients, implementation of a client satisfaction feedback system, and the active promotion of diversity and inclusion in the law. These are only some of the many ways that Sonia has used her leadership skills to foster change in the legal industry and build a law firm that refuses to follow the traditional law firm rules.

To read the article, click the image below.

Sapientia Law Group featured in Attorney At Law Magazine as an innovator in the legal industry

In its January 2020 edition, Attorney At Law Magazine featured Sapientia Law Group and how it is driven by its unique values to “create an inclusive, collaborative practice that delivers extraordinary results and singular value.” The article explores how Sapientia achieves this through alternative fee arrangements, a compensation structure that rewards attorneys for advancing the firm’s values, a horizontal management structure, advancing diversity and inclusion in the law, and its attorneys’ commitment to never stop innovating and improving.

Click the image below to read the article.

Ken Edstrom presents 2019 “CARE Minnesota Volunteer of the Year” Award to Attorney Mawerdi Hamid

On December 17, 2019, at the Minnesota State Bar Association Bankruptcy Section’s Annual Holiday party, Sapientia Attorney Ken Edstrom presented the “CARE Minnesota Volunteer of the Year” Award to Attorney Mawerdi Hamid.  Ken is the Minnesota Coordinator for the national non-profit organization “CARE,” which stands for Credit Abuse Resistance Education.  Mawerdi, an Assistant Minnesota Attorney General was honored for her dedication in presenting financial literacy programs to middle school and high school students during the past year. More information about CARE can be found at

Sapientia honored with Diversity & Inclusion 2019 Award from Minnesota Lawyer

Back in 2011, six local attorneys took a bold step when they founded a diversity-focused law firm, Minneapolis-based Sapientia Law Group.Sapientia’s founders “took a chance” by forming a firm with diversity at the forefront, said co-founder Sonia Miller-Van Oort, a past president of the Minnesota State Bar Association who serves as the firm’s president and chief manager.

Diversity “is not a standalone issue,” Miller-Van Oort said. “It’s not just a matter of forming a diversity committee. It’s about how you live diversity in all other aspects of the law firm.”

Sapientia embraces diversity in a number of ways: allowing for individual differences and authenticity, and creating an environment that supports diversity and inclusion by: not using billable hours as a metric, rewarding and compensating based on results and data; maintaining a perpetual improvement culture through Peer 360 reviews and client feedback; and eliminating traditional hierarchical titles, structures and dynamics.

The firm’s attorneys are members of Minnesota Black Lawyers Association, Minnesota American Indian Bar Association, Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, and the Lavender Bar Association. Sapientia’s team includes two of the only five female presidents of the Minnesota State Bar Association both of whom advanced diversity and inclusion initiatives at the MSBA while serving, one of whom is the only Hispanic president of MSBA.

The firm has co-hosted, sponsored, and presented several diversity and inclusion-related programs over the last 18 months through MSBA, Minnesota Womens Lawyers’ annual conference, Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, and BrightSmith.

In 2018, Sapientia Group was honored by the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms as “MVP Law Firm of the Year.”

Ken Edstrom to chair panel on senior financial distress on Oct. 4

On Friday, October 4, 2019, Sapientia’s Ken Edstrom will chair a panel on “The Growing Crisis of Seniors in Bankruptcy.”  The 9 a.m. panel is part of the 2019 Minnesota Bankruptcy Institute and will be held at the Minnesota CLE Center located in downtown Minneapolis at the City Center, 33 South 6th St.

Over the past 15 years, debt balances held by younger borrowers held steady or declined. At the same time, debt held by borrowers between the ages of 50 and 80 increased by roughly 60 percent. Bankruptcy filing statistics mirror this trend.  The panel will discuss the depths of this problem, why it is happening and the prospects for reversing the trend. Other members of the panel include:

Chris Farrell. Chris is the senior economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio. An award winning journalist, Chris is a regular contributor to PBS Next Avenue and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has written for Bloomberg, Businessweek, the New York Times, Kiplinger’s and other publications.

Professor Pamela Foohey. Professor Foohey is a noted researcher in the areas of consumer law, commercial law and bankruptcy. She teaches at the University of Indiana Law School where chairs the Creditors’ and Debtors’ Rights Section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). In addition to her many other professional accomplishments, Professor Foohey currently serves on the editorial advisory board of the American Bankruptcy Law Journal.

Sonia Miller-Van Oort appointed to prestigious ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary

Sonia Miller-Van Oort is one of 15 people serving on the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.  This Committee has been in existence since 1953 and is responsible for evaluating Presidential judicial nominees and providing impartial peer-review evaluations of nominees’ professional qualifications to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Department of Justice, and the White House. Appointment to the Committee is by the ABA President and is based on a lawyer’s possession of the highest professional stature and integrity.

Ken Edstrom speaks to the members of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section on the topic of dischargeability actions in bankruptcy as part of Raeder Larson Public Service Award.

On July 16, 2019, Ken Edstrom spoke to the members of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section on the topic of dischargeability actions in bankruptcy. The talk, entitled: “I Take Exception to Your Discharge” was part of the annual Raeder Larson Public Service Award presented by the Bankruptcy Section’s Pro Bono Subcommittee. The award is presented annually in recognition of the recipient’s dedication to pro bono service and equal access to justice. Both Ken and Jon Strauss are past recipients of this award.

Learn more about the award here:

Read an outline of Ken’s talk here.

Sapientia Trial Team wins unprecedented federal court trial verdict of $585K in a privacy related matter against the City of Minneapolis and two of its officers.

This is the second trial in the District of Minnesota litigating the Federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act- both of which were tried by Sapientia and both of which resulted in victories with punitive damage assessments against city officials.

Sapientia’s Robin Wolpert was recently appointed to the American Bar Association’s National Task Force On Lawyer Well-Being

 Congratulations Robin!

Jon Strauss, will be leading a panel discussion CLE entitled: Workplace Active Shooters: Lawyers Preparing for and Responding to the Unimaginable

On February 18, 2019, Sapientia attorney, Jon Strauss, will be leading a panel discussion CLE entitled: Workplace Active Shooters: Lawyers Preparing for and Responding to the Unimaginable. The class will be held during the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms’ Driving Diversity and Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Jon, an experienced commercial litigator who has worked with clients on reconstructing catastrophic scenes where injuries and deaths have occurred, will be chairing a panel that also includes Gregg McCrary, a former FBI agent who now works for the Threat Assessment Group; Maureen Deskin, General Counsel for Ocean Properties, Ltd., the largest privately held hotel company in North America; Christopher Knopik, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel for the Laser Spine Institute; Paul Logan, principal at the Physical Security Architects; and Ashley Larson, of Sutton Booker P.C., who has experience assisting clients with crisis management and investigations of workplace shootings. Jon hopes this CLE will help lawyers better prepare their clients to take measure to discourage active shooters, train employees for handling a shooter should they appear on the premises, and to address of the aftermath should such a horrible situation occur.

On Thursday, January 31, 2019 Sapientia attorney Amy Gernon will co-present “Diversity & the Predicament of Good Intentions: Lessons from an Anthropologist”

Sapientia attorney Amy Gernon will co-present “Diversity & the Predicament of Good Intentions: Lessons from an Anthropologist” on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 3:30pm, an event sponsored by Minnesota Women Lawyers. Sapientia Law Group will host a reception after the event. Event space is limited. To register click here

We think we understand diversity and know how to engage with it.  But if we don’t take the time to think about diversity in complex ways, we risk unintentionally trafficking in the exact patterns we seek to avoid. Using an anthropological lens, we’ll discuss legal initiatives and case studies to find ways to overcome the predicament of good intentions.