“On the private company side, the family business, if you don’t have enough external management, things get dicey. The people who aren’t management often feel disenfranchised. Sometimes you can’t take it to the next generation,” he said.
Cockson’s practice also includes class actions, mergers and acquisitions, and post M & A issues. Many of his cases are confidential. “I’ve got two arbitrations I’d love to tell you about,” he said.
Cockson devotes his pro bono time to landlord tenant and housing issues, which have become extremely important since the eviction moratorium during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s also recently begun a large class action against a landlord in Chicago.
“I got involved in landlord-tenant law in law school,” Cockson said. “It’s been my primary focus for pro bono.” He is on the board of Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance and gets a variety of referrals from Volunteer Lawyer’s Network.
He thinks housing becomes uninhabitable because municipalities have limited resources for code enforcement and inspections get backed up. Currently there is a court backlog as well since courts were closed for a while during the pandemic. In Hennepin and Ramsey Counties — the only counties which have housing courts — they are operating at capacity. Reportedly, the wait time for housing hearings in Hennepin County is four months from service of the notice.
There are a variety of tools available to tenants, Cockson said. Faegre Drinker hosts clinics to help tenants work with landlords, and there are also state resources, Cockson explained. The main question is whether the issue is rent arrears or habitability, he said. “Minnesota’s habitability law is pretty good. It’s tough to get the balance [between] landlord and tenant interests,” he said. “The front line is the housing inspector.”