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December 2011


Divorce Trial Ended Before It Started Today: Wife and Stepdaughter Shot; Police Questioning Husband

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

12-05-11 -- Two New York lawyers who were waiting for their respective clients at a Queens courthouse apparently never started their scheduled divorce trial today, after word reached them that police said the estranged husband had shot his wife and his adult stepdaughter this morning at their Astoria home. . . . “I was in shock,” attorney Helene Sherman, who represented the 57-year-old wife, told the New York Daily News. "The guy was a difficult guy, but I never thought this would happen.” . . . She said the husband, who reportedly is 52, had paced court hallways during earlier hearings and been difficult even for his own lawyer to deal with.

November 2011


Judge allows suit challenging New York same-sex marriage law

By Dan Wiessner, Reuters  

11-30-11 -- A conservative religious group may proceed with a lawsuit seeking to overturn New York's new law legalizing same-sex marriage, a state judge has ruled. . . . New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a non-profit advocacy group founded by Christian clergy, said that closed-door talks between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Republican State Senators over the hotly-debated law, which passed in June, violated a statute requiring most meetings involving elected officials to be open to the public. . . . The state's Open Meetings Law exempts "deliberations of political committees, conferences and caucuses," which the state argued included the Senate's meetings with Cuomo. The Christian group said Cuomo's presence made the meetings distinct from legislative conferences.

NYS Attorney General Says Court Ruling Does Not Endanger Same Sex Marriage Law

Karen DeWitt, WXXI 

11-30-11 -- State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is defending a lawsuit against the state's same sex marriage law, says he believes there's no danger that the law will be overturned. . . . AG Schneiderman's office will likely be defending the state's same sex marriage law in Court, now that a Supreme Court judge in Western New York has sided with evangelical Christian groups, and ruled that a portion of their lawsuit can continue. The case won't be about the substance of the law, but rather the procedural vote in the State Senate.


Divorcing couple ordered to disclose Facebook passwords

Judge also says they have to share online dating site passwords

By Matt Liebowitz,  

11-10-11 -- A Connecticut judge has ordered a divorcing couple to hand over the passwords of their respective Facebook and online dating websites to each other's lawyers. . . . New London District Superior Court Judge Kenneth Shluger imposed the ruling on Stephen and Courtney Gallion Sept. 29. The decision is intended to aid the lawyers in the discovery process of the divorce case, which will involve custody of the couple's children. Shluger said neither of the Gallions will be allowed to view the other's websites. . . . Kashmir Hill of Forbes reported that the issue was raised when Stephen looked at his wife's Facebook profile and found certain evidence about her feelings toward him, the children and her ability to take care of them.


Queens judge sentences hubby killer Barbara Sheehan to 5 years in prison for gun conviction

Lawyer calls the sentence 'appalling'

By Thomas Zambito, New York Daily News  

11-10-11 -- Hubby killer Barbara Sheehan was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday by a Queens judge who brushed aside her claim that she was repeatedly beaten during her 26-year marriage. . . . "I'm confident this will be Barbara Sheehan's only lifetime contact with the criminal justice system," Justice Barry Kron said, but noted that there had to be consequences for her decision to gun down her ex-cop husband Raymond. . . . "I'm not going to second guess the jury verdict," Kron said. "Raymond Sheehan was not the person on trial." . . . Sheehan's lawyer, Michael Dowd, blasted Kron's tough sentence in the courtroom. . . . "I'm appalled," Dowd cried out after the decision. "But I'm not surprised in Queens County." . . . "Noted," the judge replied.

Judge Says New York’s Refusal to Issue ‘Choose Life’ License Plates Violates First Amendment

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

11-10-11 -- A federal judge in Syracuse has found the state of New York violated the First Amendment when it rejected a nonprofit group’s request to sponsor “Choose Life” license plates. . . . Senior U.S. District Judge Neal McCurn ruled in favor of the Children First Foundation, a group that supports adoption as an alternative for women with unwanted pregnancies and newborns. McCurn stayed the order pending a possible appeal. The Associated Press and the Syracuse Post-Standard have stories.

Parents Buy Chickenpox-Laced Lollipops, Have Kids Attend 'Pox Parties' to Avoid Vaccines

Posted by Bruce Carton, Legal Blog Watch

11-07-11 -- It looks like the kind of story that would be quickly debunked by a search on Snopes, but as the message is being delivered by Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, I'm going to assume that it is legitimate. In short, parents who don't want to get their children vaccinated for chickenpox are paying strangers to mail them lollipops supposedly licked by people who have chickenpox. These parents then give the chickenpox-laced lollipop to their children to lick and hopefully contract the virus. The idea is that after suffering through having this self-inflicted chickenpox, the kids will then have immunity without needing the vaccine. Wonderful!  *******Beyond the lollipop idea, the AP reports that parents are also taking their kids to "Pox Parties" that hook kids with chickenpox up with those who do not. There is even a Facebook group called "Find a Pox Party in Your Area."


States' grandparent visitation laws raise concern

By Stephanie Reitz, Associated Press

11-05-11 -- Increasingly, a wrenching dispute is playing out in courts nationwide: balancing parents' constitutional rights to raise their children without interference against grandparents' desire to be involved in those youngsters' lives. . . . Now, a growing number of grandparents are pushing lawmakers around the country to change state standards they say are too restrictive and ignore the unique bonds many grandparents have with their grandchildren. . . . The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide this winter whether it will revisit the issue, which it addressed 11 years ago in a landmark case out of Washington state that makes competent parents' wishes the guiding principle in most disputes.


St. Clair County's new domestic violence unit gaining momentum, prosecuting more cases

By Jennifer A. Bowen, Belleville News-Democrat

11-02-11 -- At the beginning of the year St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly instructed his assistants about a new way to pursue domestic violence cases. . . . The state's attorney's office became much more aggressive on cases where children were involved. The office requested that law enforcement officers arriving on the scene of a domestic violence call start regularly videotaping the crying, battered victims, immediately interviewing them on the scene and videotaping the damage done to property. . . . Because so may domestic violence victims have "second thoughts" after their abusers are charged with a crime, the cases often end without an abuser being punished. . . . But with the help of the videotaped interview of a victim in distress, Kelly's office can now successfully prosecute more cases without having to depend on an often reluctant victim to testify. . . . The process, referred to as a victimless prosecution, is working in St. Clair County.

October 2011

9 Questions To Keep Your Divorce Lawyer Honest

Diana Mercer, Co-Author, Making Divorce Work / Huffington Post

10-24-11 -- There is a lot of incentive for litigation attorneys to blow sunshine up your skirt and tell you what you want to hear. In that first consultation at the beginning of your case, we lawyers are, after all, salespeople. We start with an optimistic overview of your case, and it will be awhile before we start to talk to you about any potential downside. . . . Plus, it's human nature to decide what you want to do, and then amass evidence supporting your position and discount evidence to the contrary. So we're going to help you do that, particularly at the beginning of your case. . . . Let's face it, nobody wants to hear bad news. But as an informed client, you need to be prepared for whatever might happen so that you can decide how to best handle your case. . . . If your lawyer is being honest, he or she will answer the following 9 questions:

Delaying divorce to save marriages

By William J. Doherty and Leah Ward Sears, Washington Post Opinions

10-20-11 -- Conventional wisdom holds that about half of U.S. marriages end in divorce — and that most Americans wish the divorce rate were lower. Still, many are skeptical about whether we can lower the divorce rate without trapping more people in bad marriages. . . . This skepticism is fueled by two common assumptions: Divorce happens only after a long process of misery and conflict; and, once couples file for divorce, they don’t entertain the idea of reconciling. . . . We now know those assumptions are wrong. . . . Research over the past decade has shown that a major share of divorces (50 to 66 percent, depending on the study) occur between couples who had average happiness and low levels of conflict in the years before the divorce. . . . Contrary to popular belief, only a minority of divorcing couples experience high conflict and abuse during their marriages. Most divorces occur with couples who have drifted apart and handle everyday disagreements poorly. It is these “average” divorces that research shows are the most harmful to children.


New York Lawyer, Samuel Friedlander, Kills Wife, Children Amid Divorce

By Colleen Curry, ABC News 

10-19-11 -- A Westchester County, N.Y., man bludgeoned his wife to death and then shot his two children before killing himself, police said Wednesday. . . . Samuel Friedlander, 50, appeared to have had a violent struggle with his wife and killed her with the leg from a piece of furniture before using a 12-gauge shotgun to kill his children and himself early Tuesday morning, police said. . . . Friedlander and his wife, Amy Friedlander, were supposed to meet for a divorce proceeding today, according to police. Their Lewisboro, N.Y., house, advertised as having "cathedral ceilings and custom built-ins" on over an acre of wooded land in "sought-after" Michelle Estates, was up for sale with an asking price of $799,000.

September 2011


Unable to pay child support, poor parents land behind bars

Judges can jail alleged defaulters — who are not covered by the presumption of innocence — without a trial

By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor, 

09-12-11 -- It may not be a crime to be poor, but it can land you behind bars if you also are behind on your child-support payments. . . . Thousands of so-called “deadbeat” parents are jailed each year in the U.S. after failing to pay court-ordered child support — the vast majority of them for withholding or hiding money out of spite or a feeling that they’ve been unfairly gouged by the courts. . . . But in what might seem like an un-American plot twist from a Charles Dickens’ novel, advocates for the poor say, some parents are wrongly being locked away without any regard for their ability to pay — sometimes without the benefit of legal representation. . . . Randy Miller, a 39-year-old Iraqi war vet, found himself in that situation in November, when a judge in Floyd County, Ga., sent him to jail for violating a court order to pay child support. . . . He said he was stunned when the judge rebuffed his argument that he had made regular payments for more than a decade before losing his job in July 2009 and had recently resumed working. . . . “I felt that with my payment history and that I had just started working, maybe I would be able to convince the judge to give me another month and a half to start making the payments again,” he told “… But that didn’t sit too well with him because he went ahead and decided to lock me up.”

Need an Excel Spreadsheet to Track Sperm Donor Children? Law Prof Sees Need for Regulations

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

09-06-11 -- Some sperm donors have fathered as many as 150 children, a statistic that is leading to calls for more regulation of artificial insemination. . . . The numbers can be tracked through a website where families list children born through artificial insemination and the identifying number given their sperm donor fathers, the New York Times reports. Social worker Cynthia Daily searched the registry and found that her child was among 150 brothers and sisters conceived by a single donor, the story says. A sperm donor keeping track of his children through the website learned he had 70 children and now keeps track of them on an Excel spreadsheet.


A Lesson in Locking Your Office: Divorcing Wife Allegedly Took Documents From Husband's Attorney's Desk

Andrew Keshner, New York Law Journal

09-01-11 -- A divorcing wife may face a hearing to determine if she should be sanctioned for allegedly taking documents related to her case from the desk of an associate for her husband's attorney, a Long Island judge has ruled. . . . Supreme Court Justice Anthony J. Falanga in Nassau County recently ruled that following completion of a trial to set aside a pre-nuptial agreement, plaintiff wife, E.C.-P., could face a hearing to determine whether she looked through confidential work product during a June meeting and if sanctions were warranted. . . . P.P., Ms. C.-P.'s husband, pressed for a striking of her pleadings, an award of $7,000 in attorney's fees related to the instant motion and a $10,000 sanction. He also sought to restrain Ms. C.-P. from discussing or using any information allegedly obtained in the documents.

August 2011


Tragic Death of Tot After Hard-Fought Custody Case Leads to Call for Disbarment of Dad’s Lawyer Sib

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

08-17-11 -- Stunned by the recent death of a 2-year-old girl at the center of a hard-fought California custody case, observers wondered what might have been done differently to prevent the tragedy. Although the case is still being investigated, news reports indicate Madeline Layla Samaan-Fay likely died as a result of a murder-suicide by her father, Mourad “Moni” Samaan, 49. Their bodies were found over the weekend. . . . The deaths, which may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning while the two were in a sports utility vehicle, followed an award of custody to the girl's mother, Marcia Ann Fay. She is well-known as a deputy to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, recounts the Capitol Weekly. . . . Following news of the deaths, Samaan's father and brother reportedly blamed what they called a corrupt court system for the custody award. But it was additional comments made by the brother, who is an attorney, that provided an unusual focus for public outrage. In a television interview with Fox News, lawyer Nabil Samaan, who apparently did not have a role as an attorney in the custody case, implied that his brother had acted appropriately.


The Lawyer, the Stockbroker, the Ex-Wife, and the Widow

Bill Singer, Penton Business Media  

08-02-11 -- This is about as plain vanilla an event as I could imagine. Ah, but the most excruciating, complicated lawsuits often arise from the most common of circumstances, as you are about to see. . . . In 1994, Newman Trowbridge Jr., an experienced lawyer, opened an IRA naming his wife as beneficiary. The IRA was opened at the predecessor of Capital One Investment Services LLC, and the account was subsequently “inherited” by registered representative Rick E. Schenck Sr. . . . By 1999, Trowbridge and his wife divorced after bitter and protracted proceedings. Trowbridge remarried, deleted his ex-wife as his designated beneficiary on several of his financial accounts — including his law firm's profit sharing plan — and substituted his estate as beneficiary. Trowbridge rolled over the balance of his profit sharing plan into his IRA, which quadrupled the balance of the surviving account. . . . In 2009, Trowbridge unexpectedly died, and his widow (also the estate executrix) obtained a court order requiring that all account holders pay funds over to the estate. Notwithstanding the order, Capital One paid the IRA balance to Trowbridge's ex-wife, whose name had never been removed as the named beneficiary.

July 2011


Divorce blog's rancor erupts in free-speech dispute

By Larry King, Inquirer Staff Writer

07-31-11 -- He launched the website in 2007, Anthony Morelli says, as a space for him to vent. . . . And its URL left no doubt about the subject: . . . - a place of no names, only acronyms, but plenty of wicked description. . . . "Imagine, if you will, Jabba the Hut, with less personality," he blogged about his ex. "She spends her time . . . drinking her days away bemoaning her victim status, when she isn't stuffing the children with fast food, buying them toys, or pushing them towards the TV or computer." . . . Flush with biting vignettes and e-mails from the Doylestown resident's epic custody fights with PEW - his shorthand for Psycho Ex-Wife - the site became an online hit among other disaffected inhabitants of Splitsville. . . . Divorced men, and often their new consorts, chimed in with domestic horror stories of their own. . . . Then PEW found out. And Allison Morelli wasn't happy. . . . The 42-year-old Hatboro woman, calling the site "heartbreaking" and potentially harmful to their cyber-savvy sons, ages 12 and 9, wants it permanently shuttered. . . . Now Anthony Morelli, 43, finds himself at odds with yet another woman - this one wearing a black robe - and girded for an appellate showdown over his First Amendment rights. . . . At a June 6 custody hearing, Bucks County Court Judge Diane Gibbons ordered him to "take down that website" and never again refer to his ex-wife "on any public media" or mention his children online "other than 'happy birthday' or other significant school events." . . . She might as well have ordered world peace.


Tennessee high court makes divorce easier, cheaper for some

By Richard Locker, Memphis Commercial Appeal

07-27-11 -- Starting Sept. 1, Tennesseans without minor children or pension plans will be able to file for divorce without lawyers, using “plain-language” forms approved today by the Tennessee Supreme Court provided they agree on the terms. . . . The court adopted a new rule creating the forms for uncontested divorces and making them acceptable in courts across Tennessee effective Sept. 1. They’re accompanied by easy-to-read instructions, including what will happen in court and what not to wear there. (“No shorts. No tank tops or low-cut tops. No crop tops that show your belly.”) . . . The rule and forms were recommended in January by the Access to Justice Commission, which the Supreme Court appointed to study how to improve access to justice, especially by people with lower incomes. The court received public comments on the issue, then agreed to enact the rule and forms.

PDF DOCUMENT: New Tennessee simple divorce form


Questions raised over investigation into divorce hearing

Reported by Jeremy Finley - WSMV

07-25-11 -- A Channel 4 I-Team investigation has found a Memphis judge never disclosed during a divorce proceeding that his staff had police investigate the woman at the center of the divorce because the staff feared she had threatened to kill the judge. . . . Judge Jerry Stokes continued to rule during the case, despite a state law that reads a judge shall disqualify himself if his impartiality is reasonably questioned. . . . According to police records, Stokes even considered recusing himself from the case, but ultimately decided not to recuse himself. . . . Danielle Malmquist, a former Nashville resident, is the woman Stokes' clerk feared had plans to kill the judge. . . . But Malmquist had no idea about any of it until after the judge had already ruled in her divorce. . . . According to Memphis police reports, the judge's clerk heard from a detective working for Malmquist's estranged husband that Malmquist had plans for Stokes and she was going to find someone to kill him. . . . So the clerk filed a police report and investigators began looking into the alleged threat. . . . Police spoke to the judge - and indicated in internal reports - that Stokes was considering recusing himself. . . . Police ultimately found the claim of a threat was baseless and dropped the case. . . . "Did you ever threaten this judge?" asked WSMV chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley. . . . "Never," Malmquist said. . . . "Did you ever say anything that would have made him think you intended to cause him harm?" Finley asked. . . . "No, I did not," Malmquist said. . . . Malmquist said she even remembered during one hearing that Stokes asked her to remove her coat. . . . In court filings, Malmquist's attorney later wrote that his client believes the judge feared Malmquist was hiding a weapon of some sort.


A family's saga ends in hugs

Judge orders 6 children given back to couple who were living in storage shed

By Anita Hassan, Houston Chronicle

07-21-11 -- Prince and Charlomane Leonard sat together in a Houston courtroom on Wednesday, anxiously waiting for a judge to decide their family's fate. With hands clasped tightly, the couple occasionally whispered to each other, biding the time before their turn to approach the bench. . . . Unknown to them, in the lobby on the other side of the court's double doors, their six children also were sitting, waiting and hoping that their family would all be together again. . . . It had been more than a month since Child Protective Services caseworkers found the family living in an eastside storage shed and removed the children from their parents' custody, citing unsafe living conditions as the reason. Since then, the couple, who said they'd never been apart from their children for a night, were able to see them for only six hours a week. . . . "I just already feel like I've missed so much," Charlomane said as she sat in the courtroom. . . . After about an hour of uncertainty, the judge finally told the couple they could have their children back and go home with them that day. . . . The Leonards walked out of the courtroom, smiling as their children — ranging in age from 2 to 12 - rushed toward them, calling out to their parents and huddling for a long family embrace.

The New Battleground of Child Custody Reform: Shared Parenting

Rachel Alexander,

07-19-11 -- Child custody and support laws have become more onerous over the last 50 years due to fewer parents staying together and women becoming equally as capable as men at earning a living outside the home. Instead of reflecting these changes, the laws have lagged behind, continuing to favor mothers over fathers. The laws generally award primary custody to the parent who spent more time at home with the children and less time working, even if the difference was miniscule. The other parent is then ordered to pay a crushing amount of child support, sometimes on top of alimony. In a small percentage of situations, usually where the father was the primary caregiver, this situation is reversed and the laws punish the mother. . . . ******* Although a few small changes have been made to the laws within the last few years, due to exposure and the efforts of advocacy organizations, there has not been significant progress. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 84 percent of custodial parents are mothers, a figure that has not changed since 1983.


Poor-but-happy family says government took six kids because of poverty

By Elizabeth Stuart, Deseret News

07-11-11 -- From the outside, it's a storage shed — just 12 feet by 25. But inside the stark corrugated steel walls 35-year-old Chalomane Leonard has made a home for her husband and children. Neatly folded clothes sit on homemade shelves next to canned goods, textbooks and board games. Beaming faces peer out from family photographs. . . . "It's comfortable," Leonard told the Houston Chronicle, because it is full of love. . . . Leonard's "poor but happy" life was upended last month when Texas Child Protective Services took her six children into custody. The decision has raised questions about whether the government agency punishes families for living in poverty. . . . CPS was created in the early 1970s to get battered children out of danger. On a national level, though, substantiated reports of physical and sexual abuse have declined by more than half. Now, nearly three-fourths of maltreatment investigations are based on neglect — with poverty as an underlying issue, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. . . . "Child Protective Services won't be effective until it becomes Child Poverty Services," Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, told the Tribune. "That doesn't mean you have to eliminate poverty to eliminate child maltreatment — though whoever does the first will come closer than anyone else to doing the second. You can make enormous strides simply by ameliorating the worst effects of poverty."


Judge rules use of GPS to track a cheating spouse is not an invasion of privacy

By MaryAnn Spoto/The Star-Ledger

07-08-11 -- Beware, all you cheating husbands and wives. . . . The use of a GPS device to track your whereabouts is not an invasion of privacy in New Jersey, a state appellate court panel ruled today. . . . Based on the battle of a divorcing Gloucester County couple, the decision helps clarify the rules governing a technology increasingly employed by suspicious spouses — many of whom hire private investigators. . . . “For the appellate division to say that it’s not an invasion of privacy is a wonderful thing for the private investigation business,” said Lisa Reed, owner of LSR Investigations in Flemington. “It’s been something we’ve been haggling over for some period of time.”

June 2011


Alabama's top court overturns law granting grandparents limited visitation rights

By Eric Velasco -- The Birmingham News

06-10-11 -- The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled against a state law giving grandparents limited visitation rights.  . . . An Alabama law granting grandparents limited visitation rights was declared unconstitutional Friday by an Alabama Supreme Court majority that said the law clashed with fit parents' right to decide what's best for their offspring.  . . . Seven justices voted to declare the Alabama Grandparent Visitation Act unconstitutional. Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Justice Jim Main dissented, saying the Jefferson County judge who originally awarded the grandparents visitation had ruled correctly.  . . . The case, in which all parties are identified only by initials and trial court records are sealed, arose from an intra-family dispute. After the parents denied access to the children, the grandparents filed a petition in 2007 under the Grandparent Visitation Act, which allows visitation if it is in the child's best interest. A trial court-appointed representative recommended visitation, and the trial judge agreed.  . . . The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial judge in 2010, but upheld the constitutionality of the grandparent visitation law.


Wyoming Supreme Court reverses same-sex divorce ruling

By Joan Barron, Star-Tribune capital bureau

06-07-11 -- The Wyoming Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reversed a district court ruling, allowing a same-sex couple to obtain a divorce in Niobrara County. . . . District Judge Keith Kautz of Niobrara County earlier dismissed the 2010 divorce petition of Paula Christiansen against Victoria Lee Christiansen for lack of jurisdiction. . . . The women were legally married in Canada in 2008. . . . The Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Michael Golden, made clear the court’s decision only addressed the divorce issue. . . . “Nothing in this opinion should be taken as applying to the recognition of same-sex marriages legally solemnized in a foreign jurisdiction in any context other than divorce,” Golden wrote in a footnote. “The question of recognition of such same-sex marriages for any other reason, being not properly before us, is left for another day.”


5 dead, 1 wounded in Yuma, Ariz., 'divorce gone bad'

By Michael Winter, USA TODAY

06-02-11 -- Five people were shot dead and one was wounded this morning in and around Yuma, Ariz. Police say the shootings are connected. . . . Update at 7:10 p.m. ET: Slain attorney Jerrold Shelley represented the ex-wife of gunman Carey Hal Dyess in their divorce case, the Associated Press reports. . . . Dyess' former wife may be among the four people he killed, but their identities have not been released. . . . AP says court records show Dyess was involved in two civil court cases, one in Yuma and one in nearby Wellton. A judge issued a 2006 protective order against Dyess in one case, which a court clerk said stemmed from Dyess' wife divorcing him. . . . AP notes that Shelley was one of the lawyers representing seven young men -- three sets of brothers -- who sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson after accusing a priest of repeatedly raping them when they were children.


Judge orders California to boost foster payments

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer  

06-01-11 -- A federal judge has ordered California to increase payment rates immediately to thousands of foster parents, noting that it has been more than 2 1/2 years since he ruled that the state's reimbursement levels failed to cover the costs of raising a child. . . . State officials "have now had a full and fair opportunity to come into compliance with federal law. They have not done so," U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco said Friday. . . . He told the state Department of Social Services to raise its rates to levels specified in a UC Davis study of foster children's needs, which the state commissioned in response to the court case. For a child up to 4 years old, the reimbursement would increase to $609 a month from $446. Rates are higher for older children, and would climb to $761 from $627 for youths ages 15 to 19. . . . Payments would increase further each July to reflect rises in the cost of care.

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May 2011


'Wheel of Fortune' jackpot split 50-50 in divorce

Scott Dole might have won $51,600 on "Wheel of Fortune," but the number dwindled to $25,800 on Wednesday, a judge decided.

By Laura McVicker, The Columbian, The Seattle Times

05-26-11 -- Scott Dole might have won $51,600 on "Wheel of Fortune," but the number dwindled to $25,800 on Wednesday, a judge decided. . . . Dole and his wife, Carrie, were embroiled in a contentious divorce battle over, in part, Dole's winnings on the hit game show. The issue was whether the money was community property, and, therefore, should be subject to the state's community-property law mandating equal separation of assets, or whether it was just Scott Dole's property. . . . The husband and wife went to trial Wednesday before Clark County Superior Court Judge James Rulli. Testimony took most of the day. . . . Rulli decided that even though Carrie Dole had filed for divorce well before the show, the couple were reconciled at the time of filming, so the winnings were property.


Charge: Fake lawyer bilked parents fighting for custody

By Levi Pulkkinen, Seattlepi.Com Staff

05-23-11 -- A homeless Federal Way man claimed to be an attorney to defraud parents locked in custody battles, King County prosecutors contend. . . . Filing felony charges earlier this month, prosecutors claimed Arnold “Arnie” Newman, Jr., maintained a website offering attorney services and bilked at least two people out of thousands of dollars. . . . Prosecutors note that Newman – also known as Michael Leonard – is not a licensed attorney and had been told by the state Bar Association to stop offering legal services through the organization Parents Against Parental Alienation, or PAPA. . . . “The defendant is currently homeless and living out of his car, and the defendant was recently released from … King County Jail on a civil contempt of court charge,” Deputy Prosecutor Jill Yamamoto said in court documents.


Lawmakers see support broadening for major alimony system changes

By Colleen Quinn / State House News Servic, Boston Herald  

05-17-11 -- Alimony payment laws could be dramatically revamped under a proposed plan that would lay out in state law for the first time specific guidelines on the levels and duration of payments to former spouses. . . . Critics of the current system say it is inconsistent and arbitrary and leaves many without redress even if their financial situation deteriorates. The changes would also curb “lifetime” alimony, something reform advocates say Massachusetts judges award too often. . . . Alimony reform has come up in the past, but the recession pushed it to the top of the priority list, lawmakers involved in drafting the bill said. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hear testimony on the proposed changes Wednesday afternoon.


Norfolk lawyer loses license for hiding income in divorce

By Louis Hansen, The Virginian-Pilot

05-17-11 -- A three-judge panel has revoked the license of a Norfolk lawyer for misconduct during his personal divorce case. . . . The panel found that Mark Kantro hid $161,000 in income from his former wife during their divorce, according to civil court records. . . . Allan Zaleski, a lawyer for Kantro, said he planned to appeal. . . . The discipline is unusual because the facts related to the revocation are from a personal divorce, not mishandling a client's case, Zaleski said. . . . "This had nothing to do with his performance" as a lawyer, Zaleski said.

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Bill would secure child custody for active military personnel

Youngstown Vindicator

05-15-11 -- Enlisted Ohioans would no longer have to face a loss of child custody when deployed for military service, under legislation passed by the Ohio House. . . . Substitute House Bill 121 would provide court protections for military men and women and ensure contact with their children while on active duty. . . . The legislation passed the Ohio House last week on a unanimous vote and heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.


Hackensack firm slapped with $950,000 judgment for releasing passport in international custody case

By Kibret Markos, The Record Staff Writer

05-10-11 -- A prominent Hackensack law firm was hit with a $950,000 judgment on Tuesday for improperly releasing the passport of a young girl whose mother took her to Spain, setting off a bitter international custody dispute. . . . Walter Lesnevich, a partner at the Lesnevich & Marzano-Lesnevich firm, however, said the girl’s mother, Maria Jose Carrascosa, is the one who bears the responsibility for illegally taking the child to Spain. . . . He said a hearing will be held in Superior Court in Hackensack in the next few months to apportion responsibility between the firm and Carrascosa. . . . Tuesday’s verdict stemmed from an acrimonious matrimonial dispute that dates to 2004 and stretches across the Atlantic. Carrascosa, a native of Spain, was separated from her husband, Peter Innes of Hasbrouck Heights, after a five-year marriage that year. . . . Innes said he filed for divorce that same year, and the two signed a parenting agreement in October 2004 to take care of their only daughter, Victoria, who was 4 at the time.


QDRO, What? Is That a Four Letter Word?

By Jeremy T. Simons, Esq.  

05-09-11 -- There were more than 87,000 divorces filed in Florida alone in 2010. If your friend, neighbor or loved one is in a divorce, ask them, “How is your QDRO going?” Then ask them to read this article. . . . In response to a request from a reader below our column All Attorneys Know the Law, Right?, this column is about that dirty little term, known as a QDRO. . . . QDRO is short for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. . . . Let me set the stage: You are in a “dissolution of marriage” action, commonly known as a divorce, and you are entitled to a share of your spouse’s retirement account.  You receive a final judgment dissolving your marriage and mail it to the former spouse’s company asking for your money. Your spouse’s employer says, “Nope, you are not entitled to your money until you comply with our rules!” . . . WHAT?  A judge entered a court order saying this was your money, and this company thinks it has the right to ignore the judge? The company can establish its own rules? . . . Impossible? Absolutely not. . . . This may seem like an isolated issue applicable only to a select few of the community. However, consider the following:  there were more than 87,000 divorces filed in Florida alone in 2010, according to the Florida Office of State Court Administrator.


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April 2011


Ex-Marine Beats Wife During Divorce Hearing in Judge's Chambers

Paul Gonzalez grabbed his wife, knocked her out with one punch, and continuted punching her in the side of the head

By Janie Campbell, NBC Miami 

04-16-11 -- Happily ever after ended with a stun gun Friday morning for an ex-Marine who attacked and beat his wife in a judge's chambers during their final divorce hearing. . . . Fort Lauderdale resident Paul Henry Gonzalez Jr., 28, beat Catherine Ann Scott-Gonzalez so severely that, according to her boyfriend, she was held overnight in intensive care at Holy Cross Hospital to monitor brain swelling. . . . The 23-year-old mother of two, also a former Marine, suffered a broken nose, torn lip, and facial fractures, boyfriend Brennan Worsencroft told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. . . . The shocking scene unfolded when Gonzalez balked at paying child support and disagreed with Judge Ronald Rothschild's visitation ruling. Angry, he stormed in and out of chambers, before suddenly re-entering, grabbing his estranged wife around the neck, and repeatedly punching her in the side of the head. 


Couple Making $39K a Year Reels in Shock at Call from Preparer: They’re Getting a $54K Tax Refund

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

04-01-11 -- Even their tax preparer, the owner of H&R Block in North Carolina, couldn't believe her eyes. . . . But a couple making $39,000 annually who have adopted five children in recent years qualifies for a $54,000 tax refund. That's because an adoption tax credit of $13,170 became refundable this year. Hence, David and Thelma Ward will be paid the amount left over after the credit is applied to their tax bill, reports CNN Money. . . . Thelma Ward says she was so overcome by the news of the refund windfall that she had to hand the phone to her husband.

March 2011


Editorial: The keys to the cell

Greensboro News & Record 

03-25-11 -- When someone can be sent to jail indefinitely, without being convicted of committing a crime, he needs a lawyer. . . . Far too many “deadbeat dads,” and a few moms, find themselves in that position. They can be held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support and kept behind bars until they come up with some money — no matter how long it takes. . . . Nearly two decades ago, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled those delinquent parents are entitled to a lawyer, at state expense if they can’t afford one themselves. . . . The Supreme Court in South Carolina takes the opposite view. It ruled last year that a man imprisoned for contempt “holds the keys to his cell door and is not subject to a permanent or unconditional loss of liberty” because he can go free as soon as he complies with the court order. Therefore, the state has no obligation to provide him with an attorney. The South Carolina case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments Wednesday.


Abortion battles spring up nationwide as states test the limits of Roe v. Wade

Posted by Stephanie Condon, 

03-21-11 -- In Ohio on March 2, two fetuses "testified" before the Ohio House on behalf of the so-called "heartbeat bill." The hearing room was packed with spectators who listened to the rapid, gentle pulsing of the heartbeat from a 15-week old fetus, and the barely audible heartbeat of a nine-week old fetus. . . . Ohio's "heartbeat bill" would ban abortions in the state as soon as a heartbeat could be detected, with exceptions for medical emergencies. But while a heartbeat may make for compelling "testimony," even most anti-abortion rights activists acknowledge the "heartbeat bill" wouldn't hold up in court. . . . So why push this bill? Some anti-abortion activists may answer, why not? . . . The anti-abortion rights movement last year found itself in a set of circumstances that have all worked to advance their agenda. Most importantly, states across the country elected new, emboldened conservative politicians. Hundreds of anti-abortion rights legislators and a net of 12 new anti-abortion rights governors were elected, according to Americans United for Life. . . . Meanwhile, a set of news-making events in the past year -- such as the passage of health care reform and video of the conservative "sting" on Planned Parenthood -- galvanized conservative activists. National leaders are more vocal than ever on the issue. And a possibly sympathetic swing vote now sits in the Supreme Court. . . . "It's been kind of a perfect storm of sorts," said Dan McConchie, vice president of government affairs at Americans United for Life.


Idaho Lawyer Gunned Down After Filing Client’s Divorce

By Stephanie Francis Ward, ABA Journal

03-14-11 -- Emmett Corrigan, a 30-year-old Boise, Idaho, lawyer in practice since October, was shot and killed Friday, allegedly by a man whose wife was Corrigan’s employee. . . . The shooting took place in Meridian, a Boise suburb. The suspect, Robert Hall, allegedly confronted Corrigan over “domestic issues,” Meridian Deputy Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea told the Idaho Statesman. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that Corrigan filed divorce papers on behalf of Hall's wife the day before he was killed. Hall reportedly believed Corrigan was having an affair with his wife, who was Corrigan's assistant.


California Family Courts Helping Pedophiles, Batterers Get Child Custody

by Peter Jamison in SF Weekly.

03-02-11 -- While the above linked article is more than interesting and educational it has produced such a high volume of responses that the writer, Peter Jamison, is addressing them today as noted below: . . . Thanks to Victims-of-Law reader, Julia Cotton. for her email alert to us to the article: "Illegal Guardians,"

03-08-11 --
In light of the high volume of responses to "Illegal Guardians," SF Weekly is devoting an entire page in the 3/9/2011 print edition to letters and comments. The page also contains a response I wrote to your reactions. For online readers, my response is republished here: . . . Readers' response to "Illegal Guardians" has been energetic and -- as the letters above indicate -- mixed. Much of it has ignored the premise and factual assertions of the article. While they are clearly presented in the story, I will restate them here. . . . In specific, documented cases, California's family courts have awarded child custody to parents criminally convicted of abusing their children or former spouses. In these cases, a common problem was evident: inadequate protocols for investigating accusations of abuse, or an unwillingness to investigate them at all. Such lapses reappear in family courts in different parts of the state. . . . Many readers have taken issue with my characterization of the disputed psychological theory positing the existence of "Parental Alienation Syndrome." This theory -- invented by the late Richard Gardner, a psychiatrist who believed adult-child incest was normal and that American society punished pedophiles too harshly -- asserts that allegations of child abuse, and specifically sexual molestation, are often false and made maliciously as a litigation tactic. In one of the four custody cases examined in "Illegal Guardians," this theory was invoked to discredit a mother's accusations against a man who was later convicted of sex crimes against children. In light of such an outcome, its use in the courtroom deserves scrutiny, and should be of concern to men and women alike.
Regards, Peter Jamison, Staff Writer SF Weekly”

Survey Shows Facebook an Increasing Factor in Divorce

Written by Dave Bohon, The New American 

03-07-11 -- A recent study by a group representing America’s divorce lawyers has revealed that the social networking phenomenon Facebook may be responsible for up to 20 percent of divorces in the nation. . . . According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80 percent of the nation’s divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases over the past five years in which evidence has been drawn from social networking sites. In fact, 66 percent of attorneys said that for cases that do include evidence culled from such websites, Facebook is by far the biggest gold mine of information, followed by MySpace at 15 percent, and Twitter at five percent. A 2008 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that one in five adults has used Facebook for flirting. . . . Christopher Melcher, a Los Angeles family law attorney, said that anything a spouse might post on his or her personal Facebook page is fair game as evidence in a divorce proceeding. “In court, they put on their best face, but their true beliefs and character are often unmasked in their social media communications,” said Melcher. “One client, who thought she had a solid marriage, found out that her husband had been matched on eHarmony with her friend, claiming his status to be ‘single.’”

February 2011


High court to decide if parents 'forfeit' rights

Bill Bumpas - OneNewsNow

02-25-11 -- The Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could limit the rights of parents and students in public schools when government officials come knocking. . . . According to John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, the case before the high court will determine whether a state human services caseworker and deputy sheriff violated the rights of a nine-year-old Oregon girl in 2003 when they removed the child from her classroom, without parental consent or a court order, to question her about allegations of parental abuse. . . . "She was left alone with the sheriff for two hours, and he interrogated her, trying to get her to say that her father had sexually molested her. She became visibly sick...that night... [and] the mother later filed a lawsuit," Whitehead accounts. "This has wiggled its way up through the court of appeals. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the parents, saying this is an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. And now, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear this case."


Divorce Lawyers Tell Twisted Tales of Valentine’s Day

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

02-09-11 -- The phones are ringing off the hook for divorce lawyers on the day after Valentine’s Day. . . . New York City divorce lawyer Nancy Chemtob tells the New York Times City Room blog that November and December are slow months because no one wants to get divorced during the holidays. January is busy. And then there is the day after Valentine’s Day. . . . “The phone’s ringing off the hook,” Chemtob told the publication.


Can This Marriage Be Saved? Two Spouses, Both Lawyers, Each Hate Practicing. What to Do?

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

02-02-11 -- Two married lawyers who both hate practicing are at the brink of divorce as they battle over which one should work at a legal job to pay both of their student loans, putting the other spouse on a path toward the career of his or her dreams, recounts a post today on the People's Therapist. . . . A law graduate and licensed social worker, psychotherapist Will Meyerhofer is working with the husband in this couple's conundrum. However, he sympathizes with the wife, too, who says it would crush her soul to continue in practice. She wants to go to graduate school to study art. If she can't, she'll move back home with her parents.

January 2011


Illinois civil unions signed into law

Same-sex couples will get many of the same rights as married counterparts

By Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune reporter 

01-31-11 -- For the first time in Illinois history, gay and lesbian couples will be afforded many of the same rights as their married counterparts under landmark legislation signed into law Monday. . . . Illinois is now the sixth state to recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Another five states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. . . . Gov. Pat Quinn signed Illinois' sweeping new legal protections Monday afternoon before a jubilant standing-room crowd at the Chicago Cultural Center. . . . "We believe in civil rights, and we believe in civil unions," Quinn said. "We believe in liberty and justice for all."


Tort Defense Lawyer Contends MySpace Smiley Faces Are Damning Evidence

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

01-28-11 -- Tort defense lawyers are increasingly seeking access to plaintiffs’ private social media pages in hopes the contents will provide evidence of fakery. . . . Two state courts recently granted broad access to private portions of social media sites, and a federal court did the same in 2009, Reuters reports. In one of the cases, a defense lawyer allowed access to private posts had claimed that smiley faces and talk of a vacation show a tort plaintiff is happy and mobile. . . . In September, a New York judge granted lawyer James Gallagher access to the private materials in a personal injury suit filed over a fall from an office chair at work. Gallagher had argued that MySpace smiley faces posted by plaintiff Kathleen Romano are evidence of happiness, and talk of a Florida vacation by her daughter indicate Romano isn’t homebound.


Judge orders state paternity requirements eased

Federal jurist determines lawsuit over Social Security number rule could succeed

Written by Carrie Ritchie, Indianapolis Star

01-28-11 -- A federal judge has ordered state health officials to stop denying unmarried parents an easy way to designate a child's legal father if one or both parents lack a Social Security number. . . . U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled Thursday that there was enough evidence to show a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the policy could succeed, and she issued a preliminary injunction to stop the practice until the case is resolved. . . . The lawsuit was filed against the Indiana State Department of Health by a group of families whose immigration status does not allow them to get Social Security numbers, said Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which is representing the families.


Judge slams gag order on N.J. custody case

Homeschooling Christian parents not allowed to talk to WND

By Brian Fitzpatrick, © 2011 WorldNetDaily

01-21-11 -- The N.J. Superior Court in Morris County has placed a gag order on the parties involved in the N.J. Division of Youth and Family Services case against Christian homeschooling parents John and Carolyn Jackson. . . . As reported yesterday by WND, DYFS took the five Jackson children away from their parents on April 16, 2010, citing an imminent danger to the children after the youngest, 2-year-old Chaya, was hospitalized. The parents have been fighting in court to regain custody. . . . According to a source who asked not to be named, the judge hearing the case, Michael Paul Wright, imposed the gag order Wednesday afternoon upon the request of DYFS. WND called DYFS to inquire about the case early Wednesday afternoon, and posted a news story on the WND website early Thursday morning. . . . Army Maj. John Jackson confirmed to WND today that he is under a gag order and is no longer allowed to talk to the media about the case.


ABA Brief Supports Right to Counsel for Civil Contempt Defendants Facing Possible Jail Time

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

01-12-11 -- The ABA argues in a Supreme Court amicus brief that poor people should have the right to a lawyer in civil contempt proceedings carrying a threat of jail time. . . . The petitioner in the case, Michael Rogers, served a year in prison for failing to pay child support. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the sentence was coercive, rather than punitive, and Rogers had no right to a lawyer. . . . According to the brief (PDF), the ABA has concluded that low-income persons should have a right to counsel in adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving sustenance, safety, health, or child custody determinations. The rationale underlying this position also supports a right to counsel in civil contempt cases where an indigent defendant faces possible jail time. ****** The case, previously captioned Turner v. Price, is now Turner v. Rogers. SCOTUSblog has more details and documents.


NJ Lawyer Slammed Over Alleged Fake Time Sheets, Improper Client Relationship

By Ashby Jones, Wall Street Journal (blog)

01-12-11 -- Uh oh, another episode of Lawyer Behaving Badly to get you caught up on, LBers. . . . A New Jersey disciplinary board has recommended a lawyer be disbarred after he was accused of producing false time sheets, billing dates as potential client meetings and engaging in a sexual relationship with a divorce client. . . . Kenneth M. Denti allegedly filed false time sheets while employed at Fox Rothschild at its Princeton, N.J., office, and later at Margolis Edelstein, according to an opinion issued Tuesday by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Review Board. Both firms separately reported him to the review board. You can read the opinion here and a post by ABA Journal here. . . . “Because respondent engaged in a premeditated, continuous and extensive fraudulent scheme, thereby displaying a deficiency of character, we recommend his disbarment,” the board found. . . . In addition to the time sheets, Denti allegedly billed meals with women he was dating to Margolis Edelstein and allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a divorce client, which he and the client denied, according to the opinion.


Death of Female Partner Puts Cozen Firm in Center of Same-Sex Marriage Comity Case

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

01-10-11 -- The death of a female partner of Cozen O'Connor has put the law firm in the center of a dispute over a cutting-edge same-sex marriage issue—whether a marriage that is legal in one jurisdiction should be recognized as valid in another in which the parties would not have a right to wed. . . . After Sarah Ellyn Farley, 37, died of cancer in September, her parents contended that they are entitled to her profit-sharing account. However, her wife, Jennifer Tobits, to whom she was legally married in Toronto in 2006 also is claiming that she is entitled to the proceeds of the account, according to a Chicago Tribune obituary and a Legal Intelligencer article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).


Tax Counsel to House Panel Is Targeted in Protest for Refusing Ex-Wife a Religious Divorce

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

01-04-11 --- A tax lawyer for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee has become a high-profile target in an unusual public dispute over his refusal to give his ex-wife a religious divorce. . . . Although Aharon Friedman, 34, is civilly divorced from Tamar Epstein, 27, after only a few years of marriage, still at issue is his reported refusal to agree to give her a Jewish divorce decree called a get. Without it, she can't remarry within the Orthodox faith, reports the New York Times (reg. req.).

December 2010


Illinois gives 'gays' civil union 'marriage'

Analysts say provisions put homosexuals on par with traditional couples

By Eugene J. Koprowski, © 2010 WorldNetDaily

12-16-10 -- A new civil union law being implemented in Illinois puts homosexuals and traditional opposite-sex couples on the same legal footing and also recognizes "gay" marriages from states, legal scholars and activists are telling WND. . . . "The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act" likely will go into effect next June in the one-time Land of Lincoln, now the adopted home of Barack Obama and a state laboratory for progressive politics for several generations now. . . . Gov. Patrick Quinn, a Democrat who won a narrow victory over Republican Bill Brady on Nov. 2 after inheriting the office when Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office, is poised to sign the bill [SB1716] in January. . . . Brady opposed the bill, and lost the election by about 12,000 votes, with the margin of victory coming from the city of Chicago. . . . The bill, a long-time goal for lake-front activists in Chicago's Hyde Park and Lincoln Park, was a player in the gubernatorial election, but only was passed during a lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly. . . . "Yes, civil unions are the equivalent of marriage under Illinois law," Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Society, a Chicago-based, non-profit law firm that litigates for traditional values and causes, told WND. "Sections 10 and 20 of the new act make that clear."

Taking Sides in a Divorce, Chasing Profit

By Binyamin Appelbaum, New York Times

12-04-10 -- Michelle Pont and her husband amassed millions of dollars in properties and investments from a freight-hauling business that they started with a single stake-bed truck in 1991. They bought a four-bedroom home, then a second home, a vacation home, a motor home and half a dozen cars. . . . But when Ms. Pont decided to seek a divorce last year, she quickly ran out of money. She had no job. Her husband controlled the family’s investments. A few months of legal bills maxed out her credit cards and drained her retirement account. . . . She wrestled with accepting a smaller settlement than she considered fair. Then a lawyer referred her to Balance Point Divorce Funding, a new Beverly Hills lender that offers to cover the cost of breaking up — paying a lawyer, searching for hidden assets, maintaining a lifestyle — in exchange for a share of the winnings. . . . In October, Balance Point agreed to invest more than $200,000 in Ms. Pont’s case. . . . “It’s given me hope,” Ms. Pont said. “I don’t view it as a loan; I view it as an investment in my future. They are helping me to get what is rightfully mine.”

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November 2010


Court says county doesn't have to pay for mistake

Associated Press, Fox News

11-30-10 -- The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that Los Angeles County does not have to pay attorney fees to a couple listed as child abusers even though they were declared innocent years ago. . . . Craig and Wendy Humphries were arrested by sheriff's deputies nine years ago after their rebellious daughter accused them of abuse. State courts ruled the allegation was false but they remain on California's Child Abuse Central Index. . . . In 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found the system unconstitutional because there's no way for the innocent to clear their names. It ordered the state to come up with a new system and the county to pay $60,000 in attorney fees to the Humphries. . . . The high court reversed and remanded that decision, saying Los Angeles County does not have to pay. . . . Los Angeles County argued that it could only be held liable and pay damages if a county policy or custom caused a violation of a constitutional right under a 1978 Supreme Court decision in Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services.


Police: Lawyer assaults wife in court

By Brian Stanley Chicago Sun-Times

11-19-10 -- A lawyer reportedly gave a judge probable cause to grant an order of protection by beating his estranged wife in court Friday morning. . . . Will County Sheriff’s spokesman Pat Barry said the 43-year-old woman had gone to Judge Marilee Viola’s third-floor courtroom for a hearing against Robert W. Goldsmith, 48. . . . “It appears Mr. Goldsmith was not pleased with the outcome of the hearing,” Barry said. “He made a derogatory comment about his wife as they were walking out, then grabbed her by the hair and began punching her in the face — knocking her to the ground.”


Supreme Court justices involved in gay marriage ruling not retained

By Hayley Bruce | UI The Daily Iowan 

11-03-10 -- Three Iowa Supreme Court justices are out. . . . In a historic Tuesday vote, whose margin grew wider as the night wore on, a little more than half of Iowa citizens voted not to retain all three justices. . . . David Baker, Michael Streit, and Marsha Ternus were all ousted by about 54 percent of the votes. . . . “The electorate just poured sugar down the gas tank of the judicial system, and it’s going to take a whole lot of work to keep there from being permanent damage,” said University of Iowa law Professor John Whiston. . . . While such a vote isn’t unheard of, he said, it isn’t common. . . . “It’s just extremely disappointing,” said 6th District Chief Judge Patrick Grady. . . . The unprecedented campaign to remove the justices, appointed by both Republican and Democratic governors, began after a decision legalizing gay marriage in the state.


Editorial | 'Parsing an absurdity'

Louisville Courier-Journal Editorial

11-16-10 -- It's almost impossible to justify the action taken by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to block a Louisville judge from ordering an investigation to protect the safety of a juvenile before his court. . . . Family Court Judge David Holton has been sued after he ordered an investigation by Child Protective Services of the living conditions of a 15-year-old defendant, “J.W.,” whose father and brother were believed to be in the Victory Park “Crips” gang. The father is “allegedly in possession of firearms.” . . . An attorney for the cabinet, Erika Saylor, told The Courier-Journal's Andrew Wolfson that the case was one of judicial vs. administrative power. It's up to the agency to determine which cases it will investigate, not up to a judge, she said. . . . Veteran child welfare advocates disagree, and they make good sense. David Richart, president of the National Institute on Children at Spalding University, termed the cabinet's objections “bewildering.” That the cabinet would object to being ordered to investigate a child's welfare, he said, “is beyond common sense.” . . . Mr. Richart noted that for at least a generation, juvenile court judges here have ordered abuse and neglect investigations and the cabinet has carried them out.


Pa. House approves changes to child custody system

(WHTM) – abc27

11-16-10 -- The state House of Representatives has sent to Gov. Ed Rendell a bill that would change Pennsylvania's system for deciding child custody in cases of separation and divorce. . . . Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, said his legislation is intended to ensure that both parents are treated equally in the child custody system. . . . Under his bill, DePasquale said courts would be prohibited from assuming that custody should be awarded to a particular parent based solely on gender.


Judge blocks Okla. amendment banning court use of Islamic law

Posted by Doug Stanglin. USA Today  

11-08-10 -- A federal district judge has issued a temporary restraining order to block an amendment to the Oklahoma state constitution that would prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases. . . . The amendment was approved by 70% of voters last Tuesday. . . . The order today by Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange will remain in effect until a Nov. 22 hearing, the Associated Press reports.


Court Backs Tennessee in Felon Voting Rights Case

By Annie Youderian, Courthouse News Service  

11-03-10 -- The 6th Circuit upheld a Tennessee law requiring convicted felons who have served their time in prison to pay all restitution and child-support obligations before they can vote again. . . . "Certainly, Tennessee possess valid interests in promoting payment of child support, requiring criminals to fulfill their sentences, and encouraging compliance with court orders," Judge Cook wrote for the 2-1 majority. . . . Cook said the challenged conditions of re-enfranchisement "bear, at a minimum, a direct and rational relationship to the advancement of those interests." . . . Three convicted felons in Tennessee said the state violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to pay restitution and child support in order to have their voting rights restored, even if they lacked the money to do so.

October 2010


Hearing The Other Side of Child Custody

Divorced parents find their voice at a workshop about shared parenting issues in Hinsdale.

By Christine Scherf | Hinsdale Patch

10-28-10 -- A Hinsdale divorced mother was finding little cover as she tried to navigate the emotional minefield of divorce. She was frustrated that she had neither a voice in post-divorce custody matters nor a safe haven in which to share her story. . . . She knew there were other parents like her, but she didn't know how to find them. . . . "There was no real place for people to connect," said Donna Grote. "I noticed in the community there wasn't any support group." . . . That's when Grote decided to take action. She joined the Children's Rights Council of Illinois, a grassroots, non-profit organization that promotes co-parenting solutions for divorced parents, and brought the group to Hinsdale.


Couple in custody battle accused of paying judge for favorable rulings

By Valerie Wigglesworth, Ed Housewright & Matthew Haag / The Dallas Morning News

10-23-10 -- A University Park couple was embroiled in a costly child-custody battle at the time prosecutors say they paid $150,000 in bribes to the political opponent of the judge hearing their case. . . . David and Stacy Cary were in state district court in Collin County, fighting for custody of David Cary's twin daughters from a previous marriage, records show. The judge in the case, Charles Sandoval, had awarded primary custody of the girls to their mother and issued rulings costing the Carys hundreds of thousands of dollars. . . . In 2008, Sandoval ran for re-election. Prosecutors allege that in the weeks before and after the March Republican primary, the Carys paid $150,000 to a campaign consultant for Sandoval's opponent, Suzanne Wooten. She outspent and defeated the longtime incumbent. . . . Wooten, the Carys, and the consultant, Steve Spencer, were indicted Oct. 14. Each faces six counts of bribery and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity, all felony charges carrying prison terms if they're convicted.

Marriage Is the Key to Spending Cuts

by Phyllis Schlafly

10-15-10 -- The attack on the institution of marriage is not only the biggest cultural but also the biggest fiscal issue of our times, and political and judicial attacks by gays are only part of the problem. Marriage is being assaulted by unilateral divorce, feminist hostility toward marriage, the bias of family courts against fathers, and the taxpayer-paid financial incentives that subsidize illegitimate births. . . . Forty-five years ago, a liberal in Lyndon Johnson's Labor Department, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, shocked the nation with a report called "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." The Great Society's welfare handouts to women were breaking up black families by making husbands irrelevant. . . . Since the Moynihan Report, out-of-wedlock births in the United States have grown to 72.3 percent for blacks, 52.5 percent for Hispanics, and 28.6 percent for whites (non-Hispanic). For the population as a whole, out-of-wedlock births have risen from 6 percent in the 1960s to 40.6 percent today. . . . Sounding a Moynihan-style alarm today is Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. He has assembled figures from U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control data, and they are downright scary. . . . This is not, as Moynihan indicated, merely a black problem, and it's not just a cultural problem as the RINOs (Republicans In Name Only, the fiscal conservatives who disdain social issues) like to portray it. It's a very big money problem because the government is transferring nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer-funded handouts to the 40 percent of Americans who rely on government for all or part of their living expenses.


Defense of Marriage Act Ruling Appealed by Obama Administration

By Justin Blum and Andrew M. Harris, Bloomberg

10-13-10 -- A court ruling declaring the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional violation of states rights is being appealed by the Obama administration. . . . A federal judge ruled in two cases in Massachusetts that the law, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, violated the right of states to regulate marriage. The U.S. Justice Department filed an appeal notice yesterday. . . . Massachusetts began permitting same-sex marriages in 2004 after its highest court ruled that gays and lesbians had a constitutional right to wed. The state sued the U.S. over the federal law last year. The law also was challenged by a group of same-sex couples who were married in Massachusetts. . . . U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro in Boston ruled July 8 that the federal law forced the state “to engage in invidious discrimination against its own citizens in order to receive and retain federal funds.” . . . Citing a 2004 report by the federal government, the ruling said that as of 2003, the law affected 1,138 federal programs in which marital status was a factor in eligibility for benefits. . . . The Justice Department had asked Tauro to dismiss both cases, arguing that the act was “consistent with prevailing equal-protection case law.”


U.S. attorney claimed illness in alimony case

By: Joan Garrett , Times Free Press

10-08-10 -- At the time newly appointed U.S. Attorney Bill Killian applied to be one of the state’s top federal prosecutors, he was arguing in court to reduce or end alimony payments to his ex-wife because he said a 2009 diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease had and would hurt his ability to work. . . . Now Killian, 61, says he’s not sure if the tremor in his right hand is Parkinson’s disease, and he said his condition is improving. . . .  “It only affected my work as a trial attorney, not in any other aspect of practicing law, if I was required to take notes for long periods of time,” Killian said Thursday. “It does not impair me at all doing the U.S. attorney’s job. I am working about 14 hours today, and I assure you, if I had Parkinson’s, I couldn’t do it.” . . . A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals opinion says what Killian described as a “neurological disorder” was not advanced enough to hamper his earning potential and warrant a decrease in alimony payments, which had been at least $4,000 a month since 2005. . . . “[Killian] argues that Parkinson’s disease ‘adversely affects his ability to earn a living,’” the opinion states. “It is significant that [Killian] was not diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease until January 2009. ... It is also relevant that, at the time of the hearing, [Killian] had applied for the position of United States Attorney and testified that he thought he could perform that job.”

September 2010


Ain’t No Dividing Wall High Enough to Keep Battling Couple in Shared Home Away From Litigation Fray

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

09-29-10 -- Chana and Simon Taub love their house. But they loathe each other, the New York Times (reg. req.) reported in 2008, after a court-ordered wall was constructed in thelr lavish Brooklyn home. It was intended to allow both to continue living there in the midst of a litigation war. . . . Already, at that point, the couple had spent more on their hard-fought three-year-old divorce battle than they did on their home. Bankruptcy court, civil court, family court, housing court and New York's appellate court were all brought into the fray, as more than a dozen lawyers argued about claims of abuse, corruption, forgery, fraud, libel and perjury, the newspaper recounted.


Proposal would give counsel to poor in civil court actions

Group to present petition to Wisconsin Supreme Court

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

09-29-10 -- Poor people facing serious consequences in civil court actions would get court-appointed lawyers just like indigent criminal defendants under a rule being proposed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. . . . The group Legal Action of Wisconsin, which represents people who typically can't afford their own lawyer in a variety of civil proceedings, plans to present a petition signed by about 1,300 people to the court on Thursday. . . . The idea has been circulating among some lawyers and social service groups for years, said John Ebbott, executive director of Legal Action, and 274 lawyers, seven judges and two court commissioners are among those who have signed the petition.


Battle of the Titans:
Divorce Lawyer’s Fee Suit Backfires in Bar Prez Battle

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

09-27-10 -- A former president of the Virginia Bar Association came out the loser when he sued a former client for additional attorney fees and the client fought back, using expert testimony from another ex-bar president. . . . The lawyer who sued, Glenn Lewis, “is an acknowledged titan of the D.C. area divorce bar,” the Washington Post reports. His suit backfired when another former state bar president, Bernard DiMuro, was among the defense experts who said Lewis had done a poor job and didn’t deserve the nearly $900,000 he had sought in fees and interest for handling a divorce that was resolved without trial.


District Court judge disciplined for dragging feet on divorce lawsuit

Corey Friedman , The Star  

09-23-10 -- A District Court judge for Cleveland and Lincoln counties has been disciplined for waiting nearly two years to file his judgment in a civil suit. . . . The N.C. Judicial Standards Commission issued a public reprimand for District Court Judge K. Dean Black on Aug. 13. Black did not contest the allegations and chose not to demand a disciplinary hearing, according to the order of public reprimand. . . . Black presided over an equitable distribution hearing in Kathy Lynn Sisk’s divorce from her husband, Glenn L. Sisk Sr., in Lincoln County on July 30, 2008. The Denver judge filed his order of judgment almost two years later, on July 13, 2010.


McCourt divorce: His lawyers strive for damage control

Los Angeles Times (blog) 

09-21-10 -- At the end of Tuesday's testimony over the disputed ownership of the Dodgers, Frank McCourt’s lawyers scrambled to do some damage control. . . . They cast Larry Silverstein, the lawyer who drew up the McCourts’ marital property agreement and made a change in it without telling them, as a “very ethical” lawyer who tried to correct a mistake. . . . “He tried to do the right thing,” Victoria Cook, one of Frank McCourt’s lawyers, said of Silverstein. . . . “We have conceded from the beginning that he should have picked up the phone and called his clients and said, ‘I made a mistake,’ ” Frank’s lawyer Steve Susman said outside the hearing being held at Los Angeles County Superior Court downtown. . . . Susman said Jamie McCourt’s lawyers have overblown what Silverstein did. “They’re claiming it’s sinister because that’s all they have.”


Lawyer finds himself in middle of McCourts' drama

Larry Silverstein drafted agreement with three copies saying 'exclusive' and three saying 'inclusive' in key reference to Dodgers ownership. He and firm may face liability claim if losing party blames him.

By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

09-19-10 -- The dispute over who owns the Dodgers may turn on one word. It is the 12th word of the second paragraph of the first exhibit of an agreement signed by Frank and Jamie McCourt six years ago. . . . If that word is "inclusive," Frank could be the sole owner of the Dodgers. If that word is "exclusive," Jamie could be the co-owner. . . . Three copies of the agreement say "inclusive." Three copies say "exclusive." Frank and Jamie have both said they were not aware of the different wording until this year. . . . The difference in the words: two letters, and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. . . . That makes the lawyer who drafted the agreement, Larry Silverstein, a pivotal figure in the McCourt divorce trial. Silverstein and his firm could face a nine-figure liability claim should the losing McCourt blame him, according to several legal experts contacted by The Times. . . . "His competence is being challenged here," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and legal commentator. "If he's shown to be incompetent at the trial, the next action could be malpractice."

Lawyer Gives Examples of Husbands’ Divorce Cases Undone by Facebook

By Mark Hansen, ABA Journal

09-17-10 -- One man who claimed to be unemployed was getting alimony from his soon-to-be ex-wife. On his Facebook page, however, he identified himself as a business owner and described his vacations to exotic destinations with his new girlfriend. . . . Another man in the midst of a divorce claimed he couldn't afford to pay child support. Yet his Facebook profile showed him sitting in a Ferrari, taking a cruise and selling a piece of property he owned. . . . Those two cases help illustrate how personal information posted on social networking sites can be used against a person in court, according to a report Wednesday on NewsCenter5 in Boston. . . . Florida divorce lawyer John Schutz, who cited both examples, says he's used such postings as evidence against the posters in several divorce cases in the past year alone.


Lawyer Facing Divorce Gets Suspended for Sending 'Hostile' Messages

Daniel Wise, New York Law Journal

09-17-10 -- An attorney who hurled "hostile, obscene and derogatory" missives at his wife and professionals involved in their divorce, has been suspended for two years by the Appellate Division, 1st Department, which rejected a three-year censure requested by court's disciplinary staff. . . . Anthony Chiofalo, the attorney at the center of Matter of Chiofalo, M-3073, married in 1990. His wife, with whom he had two sons, filed for divorce in 2005. The case apparently has not been resolved, according to the decision. . . . During the course of the divorce, Chiofalo, against the advice of his own attorney, sent written messages that the court said were "riddled with profanities (primarily of a scatological and sexual nature)," to his wife, her lawyers, his sons' law guardian and the law clerk assigned to his divorce case.


Court Tosses Suit Claiming Beveridge & Diamond Partner Squandered Marital Money

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

09-14-10 -- A Maryland appeals court has handed a victory to a partner and former managing principal of Beveridge & Diamond embroiled in a battle with his ex-wife over alleged financial malfeasance during their marriage. . . . The ruling (PDF) affirms the dismissal of Nancy Lasater’s tort suit against her former husband, Beveridge & Diamond partner John Guttmann Jr. Lasater had claimed that Guttman ran up large debts during their marriage, spending money on ill-advised real estate projects, exotic merchandise, personal adventures and a huge collection of compact discs. Her suit, filed after 25 years of marriage, had claimed conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, according to the ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.


Greensburg divorce attorney denies negligence

By Bob Stiles, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  

09-01-10 -- A Greensburg attorney says in court papers that he asked a Jeannette woman several times if she wanted him to freeze her husband's assets in a divorce case, and she declined. . . . Scott E. Avolio further denies in his recent response to Tracy L. Stull's lawsuit in Westmoreland County Court that he committed malpractice or was negligent in how he handled her divorce action. . . . Stull, of 420 Lafferty St., alleges that Avolio failed to freeze about $242,855 that her husband had in a Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System Account. . . . That cost her $121,427 -- or half the money in the account -- when her husband removed the funds during the summer of 2008 and spent the money "frivolously," according to Stull's suit. Les Stull died in August 2009 at age 45.

August 2010


Testimony by attorney at McCourts' divorce trial sheds light on collapse of marriage

Leah Bishop, who drafted a document that would have granted shared ownership of the Dodgers to Jamie but that Frank refused to sign, describes communications she had with the couple.

By Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times 

08-31-10 -- Frank McCourt took the witness stand in his divorce trial Tuesday, a day on which the most riveting testimony shed light on the collapse of a marriage that lasted nearly 30 years. . . . McCourt considered for months whether to sign a document that would have granted shared ownership of the Dodgers to his wife, Jamie. He said no on May 12, 2009, and later that day Jamie sent an e-mail to Leah Bishop, the attorney who had drafted the proposed document. . . . Bishop's response: "You have only two tools at your disposal — a civil conversation with Frank or a nuclear bomb."


Child Support Modification Clinic – group assistance by pro bono attorneys

by Kathy Para, Jacksonville Daily Record, JPA Pro Bono Committee Chair

08-30-10 -- With many people experiencing job loss due to the economy, some parents have fallen behind in child support payments. They are at risk of having their driver’s license suspended or of being held in contempt of court for nonpayment, thereby exacerbating their problems. . . . Jacksonville Area Legal Aid has been inundated with child support modification requests and simply cannot handle the caseload. . . . Two Jacksonville area attorneys, Marla Buchanan, a Rogers Towers attorney and chair of the Family Law Section of The JBA, and Jamie Ibrahim, a family law staff attorney with JALA, have teamed up to combat this ever-increasing issue by creating a new group assistance opportunity, the Child Support Modification Clinic at JALA.


Donald Bren doesn't owe two adult children any more money, jury rules

An L.A. jury decides that the billionaire Irvine Co. chairman doesn't owe Christie Bren and David Bren retroactive child support. The trial put the intensely private developer in an awkward position.

By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

08-27-10 -- Billionaire Donald L. Bren might have lost some privacy, but he won't be losing any more of his fortune. . . . A Los Angeles jury decided Thursday that the Irvine Co. chairman does not owe his two adult children any more money. Christie Bren, 22, and David Bren, 18, were seeking retroactive child support of $400,000 a month each. They contended that out-of-court payments Bren made to their mother were well below what would have been awarded by a family court. . . . The long-awaited trial put the intensely private real estate developer in an awkward position. He was forced to look on as his children, his former girlfriend and even his own attorneys drudged up uncomfortable details about his fortune and private life. . . . He was described as a virtually absentee father who never attended school events, parent-teacher meetings or even the children's births. He was grilled about love notes and sleepovers. His former girlfriend, Jennifer McKay Gold, described in detail his contraception preferences.

Michael Douglas and the High Cost of Divorce

By Todd McFliker, The Fatherhood Channel (blog) 

08-26-10 -- Lawyers for Michael Douglas and his ex-wife Diandra met in court this week over rights to the earnings of the upcoming sequel to the Academy Award winning Wall Street.  The two divorced after 23 years of marriage in 2000, before he wed British actress Catherine Zeta-Jones later that year.  Lawyers for the 65-year-old actor said Diandra was entitled only to half the earnings that Douglas made before their 1995 separation. . . . The high cost of both time and money involved with a divorce can be frightening.  Divorce attorneys generally charge $75 to $400 an hour or more.  This usually ends up costing families $20,000 to $50,000.  In some cases, attorneys charge a flat rate, usually between $10,000 and $25,000 for all aspects of a divorce.  An overview of lawyers’ costs and payment arrangements can be found at both and


3rd Court rules in divorce battle over Chihuahua

Miriam Rozen, Tex Parte Blog

08-25-10 -- Let the clichés flow: It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Every dog has his day. A dog is man’s best friend. On Aug. 25, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin issued a memorandum opinion affirming a trial court’s judgment that allowed Brooke Ashley Calder to keep a Chihuahua named Clementine. Daniel Naeter Calder, who filed for a divorce from Brooke Ashley in 2009, had appealed to the 3rd Court, challenging a trial court’s judgment confirming that Clementine was Brooke’s separate property. The memorandum opinion was issued by a panel of three, including Justices Bob Pemberton and Alan Waldrop and the opinion’s author, Chief Justice J. “Woodie” Woodfin Jones. Jones writes that Clementine was purchased before the marriage took place and therefore was separate, not community, property.


Donald Bren's intensely private life becomes public as child-support trial begins

The billionaire Irvine Co. chairman calls his relationship with a former girlfriend an infrequent, loveless romance. She says they saw each other frequently and cohabited for a significant period.

By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

08-20-10 -- Billionaire Donald L. Bren walked into a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday wearing a suit and sneakers. His footwear may have been comfortable, but the occasion certainly wasn't: A lawyer representing two of his children peppered the intensely private Irvine Co. chairman with questions about his wealth and personal life. . . . Bren's own attorneys made the case that he's been a somewhat absentee father in raising the two now-adult children: no parent-teacher meetings, no school events, no sleepovers at his house, not even a hospital visit when they were born. . . . His children — Christie Bren, 22, and David Bren, 18 — are seeking retroactive child support of $400,000 a month each. They contend that out-of-court payments Bren made to their mother when they were youngsters were well below what would have been awarded in a family court.


Divorce Easier as New York Law Ends Need to Lie

By Carlyn Kolker and Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg  

08-16-10 -- New York just made breaking up easier to do, passing a no-fault divorce law that stands to reduce long, cutthroat court battles over who’s to blame when marriages fail. . . . The new law permits couples to split without assigning blame for the marriage’s collapse. . . . “There is a human cost and a financial cost” to a system demanding fault-finding, Robert Ross, supervising judge of the matrimonial division in Nassau County, New York, on Long Island, said before the bill became law. “It’s hard to know what impact a new law will have, but we do know that a grounds trial, and the expense and delay associated with it, is not a good thing.” . . . The passage of a bill July 1 by the state assembly sent the measure to Governor David Paterson, who signed it yesterday, according his office’s website.


Judge Transferred Over Alleged Actions in Visitation Case Involving Sex Offender

Complaint alleges judge joked about child pornography during custody proceeding, misstated the facts of the case and maintained an 'inappropriate' relationship with the father's attorney

Mark Fass, New York Law Journal

08-13-10 -- A Suffolk County, N.Y., judge who was the subject of a searing complaint by a children's advocacy group has been transferred from Family Court to the County Court's civil term. . . . A court source called the immediate transfer "unprecedented" and an indication of the how seriously the allegations are being taken by the Office of Court Administration. . . . According to the complaint, Judge Andrew G. Tarantino Jr. granted a father who had been convicted of possessing child pornography and third-degree rape of a minor overnight visitation of his three children, supervised by his own parents.

Read the complaint (pdf) and Tarantino's earlier ruling (pdf).


Family Judge's Rant at Pro Se Litigant Draws Ethics Charges

Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal

08-10-10 -- Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Max Baker has been hit with ethics charges for allegedly launching into a tirade against an unrepresented family court litigant who complained about a child-visitation schedule he ordered. . . . The heated invective called into question Baker's ability to remain impartial, Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct counsel Candace Moody alleged in a complaint made public Friday. . . . The outburst allegedly took place during a hearing last Dec. 31 on cross-complaints for restraining orders brought by Michael and Dana Pilla, both of whom were pro se. After granting Dana's request for an adjournment to obtain counsel, Baker inquired about the couple's minor child and visitation.


Ypsilanti attorney suspended

Margaret Lucas Agius, Detroit Legal News Examiner

08-03-10 -- The State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board reported Monday that its Washtenaw County Hearing Panel #1 suspended Ypsilanti attorney Daniel E. Hunter from the practice of law in Michigan for a period of 270 days effective July 30, 2010. . . . The panel found, by default, that Hunter neglected a paternity and child support matter, failed to act with reasonable diligence, and failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and comply promptly with reasonable requests for information.

July 2010


Same-sex split damages court

Gloucester County Times -  

07-28-10 -- It's possible that Monday's state Supreme Court ruling, which punted a gay marriage case to the lower courts, was correct procedurally. But much of the immediate fallout has little to do with whether or not same-sex couples ever get the right to marry in New Jersey. . . . The 3-3 ruling one seat is vacant is clearly a setback for advocates who filed the case, claiming that the state's civil unions are not equivalent to "marriage." But given that the Supreme Court didn't really judge the merits of the advocates' arguments, the decision may well have dealt a bigger setback to the reputation of the high court itself. . . . The situation was kicked off this spring when Gov. Chris Christie refused to renominate John E. Wallace Jr. for a tenure as a justice (even though he'd have to retire in two more years, anyway). Then, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, miffed that Christie had dumped a worthy justice from Gloucester County, refused to slate a confirmation hearing for the governor's replacement nominee, Anne M. Patterson. Thus far, Christie and Sweeney have not budged from their corners.


N.J. Supreme Court declines gay marriage case filed by six same-sex couples

Matt Friedman, The Star-Ledger

07-26-10 -- In a split decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court has declined to hear a case from six same-sex couples seeking the right to marry, saying the case needs to wind its way through the lower courts first. . . . “This matter cannot be decided without the development of an appropriate trial-like record,” wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who added that “We reach no conclusion on the merits of the plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the constitutionality of the Civil Union Act.” . . . The couples filed the case in the aftermath of the failure of same-sex legislation in the state Senate, arguing that the state’s 2006 civil union law had failed to grant them the full rights and benefits of heterosexual married couples that the court mandated the Legislature provide them with four years ago. Since the Legislature failed to pass same-sex marriage, the couples wanted the court to intervene.


Judge orders couple not to sell baby

By stephen hunt, The Salt Lake Tribune 

07-23-10 -- An Arizona couple believed to be in Utah to illegally sell their child — which may yet be unborn — have been ordered by a Utah judge not to go through with the sale. . . . Third District Judge Terry Christiansen ordered the parents, Alison and Gary Stuckey, to appear in his West Jordan courtroom at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. . . . The judge gave custody of the child to Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and has ordered any doctors, nurses or health care workers with knowledge of the child to contact DCFS. . . . The child-protection order, issued Friday, was based on information provided by Salt Lake City attorney Wesley Hutchins, who represents a Mesa, Ariz., foster couple who are in the process of adopting three other children, ages 12, 8 and 5, born to Alison Stuckey. . . . According to Hutchins’ court petition, Alison Stuckey previously came to Utah and illegally sold a child born Jan. 1, 2007, for $6,000.


Attorneys-at-risk in Family Court

A brutal attack on Fridley lawyer highlights the high emotions of divorce and custody proceedings.

By David Chanen & Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune staff writers

07-19-10 -- Frantic messages filled Terri Melcher's cell phone. One warned her to leave her office immediately. . . . But by the time the Fridley attorney heard it, she had been stabbed nearly 30 times in her unlocked office. Her alleged assailant was a man who had just lost a child custody case in which Melcher represented his ex-wife. . . . As word of the stunning attack last month spread in the Twin Cities family-law community, lawyers expressed horror, but not complete surprise. . . . "The emotions that come in Family Court are as raw as any a judge or lawyer is going to see," said Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke, who has been on the bench since 1984 and is now stationed in Family Court.


Split custody of dog recognizes changing role of family pets

Pets differ from other property

By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

07-18-10 -- In what lawyers believe was a first in Maryland, a judge recently ordered a divorcing Calvert County couple to split custody of their dog, a recognition, experts say, that pets stand apart from other property. . . . Once rare, post-breakup disputes over who keeps the pet have grown more common in the past two decades. At the same time, some couples, many choosing not to have children, are lavishing attention on their pets and are willing to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting for custody of Rover. . . . But what the ruling by retired Judge Graydon S. McKee III spells for the direction of animal law in Maryland is unclear. The decision cannot be cited as legal precedent because it did not come from a state appeals court.


Marriage and the Reign of Judges

By Matthew Franck, RealClearPolitics (blog)

07-14-10 -- The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was grounded on a fear of judges run amok. This past Thursday, federal district court judge Joseph Tauro of Boston justified this fear when he struck down section 3 of the act in two separate cases, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In the Gill case, Judge Tauro held that the law unjustly denied various federal benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages contracted under Massachusetts law, contrary to the equal protection principle. Meanwhile, in the HHS case, Tauro ruled that the state itself was the victim of an unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government on its reserved powers under the Tenth Amendment. In both cases the judge claimed to be basing his ruling on the “historically entrenched practice” of federal law recognizing marital status whenever it was accorded under state law. But we can hardly credit his attachment to “historically entrenched practice” when he is willing to treat the whole moral tradition of human civilization, with its exclusive recognition of marriage as a union of opposite sexes, as “irrational” and thus fit for the dustbin.


Courts Reward Helicopter Parents, Two Law Profs Say

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

07-14-10 -- Courts are rewarding “intensive parenting” and making it a legal standard, particularly in custody disputes, two law professors say in a paper that will be published in the U.C. Davis Law Review. . . . The child-rearing trend, also known as “helicopter parenting” and “smothering mothering,” has dominated parenting in the last two decades, according to the paper published on SSRN. These parents seek safety through nanny cams, helmets and kneepads; monitor their children through organized activities; keep in touch through the “umbilical cord” of cell phones; and research their kids’ developmental problems on the Internet. . . . The article by professors Gaia Bernstein of Seton Hall University School of Law and Zvi Triger of the College of Management School of Law in Israel points to two ways in which the courts are favoring intensive parenting.


Divorce judge orders wall for warring Brooklyn couple

By Edmund DeMarche, New York Post   

07-05-10 -- He spitefully blows out her Shabbos candles. . . . She hides his medications and makes him sleep in the dining room. . . . Can this Orthodox Jewish marriage be saved? . . . Probably not -- but a wall down the middle of the Williamsburg couple's house is a good idea regardless, a Brooklyn judge has ruled. . . . Doing his best King Solomon imitation, Judge Eric Prus on Thursday ordered feuding couple Pinchs and Nechama Gold to split their 3,000-square-foot home in half as they go through a bitter divorce. . . . The Golds have two weeks to agree on where the wall should go -- or the court will decide for them. . . . "They've been living like there was a wall up for two years now," said Abe Konstam, an attorney for Pinchs. . . . "This just helps them completely avoid each other."

June 2010

Facebook: a divorce lawyer’s best friend

Dennis Pots,  Seer Press

06-30-10 -- Cases have been filed again and again thanks to Facebook pictures. . . . Most men have been forgetting to de-friend their wives and are posting pictures of them together with their new mistresses. . . . According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of its members have had their evidence taken from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social networking sites. Not only that there are also videos from YouTube. . . . Linda Lea Viken the president of the 1,600-member group was quoted “Oh, I’ve had some fun ones,” saying that it is very common in the new cases she is handling. . . . “This sort of evidence has gone from nothing to a large percentage of my cases coming in, and it’s pretty darn easy,” According to Viken. “It’s like, Are you kidding me?”


State Supreme Court upholds gay marriage ban

By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel  

06-30-10 -- A legal challenge to the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage was rejected Wednesday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. . . . In a resounding 7-0 ruling, the justices upheld a lower court's finding that the 2006 constitutional amendment was properly put to voters in a statewide referendum. . . . In doing so, the court dismissed a plaintiff's argument that lawmakers violated a rule that limits referendum questions to a single subject when they gave voters one referendum question that included two sections - one on gay marriage and one on civil unions. . . . "Both sentences of the marriage amendment relate to marriage and tend to effect or carry out the same general purpose of preserving the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin as between only one man and one woman," Justice Michael Gableman wrote.


Attorney arrested, charged after argument with spouse

Police say James Tarquin attacked his wife. She was later charged with battery on an officer

By Suevon Lee, Ocala Staff writer   

06-29-10 -- A local attorney is facing charges of child abuse and domestic battery following an altercation that took place outside his home Saturday evening. . . . Law enforcement officials were called to the Silver Springs home of James and Dawn Tarquin, where an eyewitness said an argument between the couple turned violent. . . . According to the eyewitness, James Tarquin slapped his wife, threw her onto the driveway, and held her down so she could not get up. The 24-year-old eyewitness told deputies he was forced to pull Tarquin off his wife, and restrain him by punching him twice until he left his residence in his vehicle. . . . The attorney was “highly intoxicated,” according to the witness' statements. . . . The child abuse charge stems from when Tarquin, 45, allegedly put his arm around his 9-year-old son's neck and shook him when the boy started to cry after witnessing the couple first argue.


Divorce lawyer encourage clients to consider collaborative divorce

By Ellen McCarthy, Washington Post Staff Writer

06-20-10 -- It used to be all business for divorce lawyer Regina DeMeo.

Her approach was always the same: "This is a partnership and the partnership is dissolving. What are the assets? What is the time-sharing arrangement you think is going to work best? Okay, come on," she would think. "Get yourself together and let's move on." . . . Then, after seven years of marriage, DeMeo went through her own divorce. . . . "It was a very humbling experience," she says. "All your dreams are shattered . . . your whole world is rocked." . . . DeMeo began reading everything she could about what makes and breaks marriages, and she changed the way she practices law. Soon after the divorce, the George Washington University Law School graduate became trained in a growing practice called collaborative divorce.


Fathers 4 Justice are on song

Daily Echo  

06-17-10 -- PARENTS from across Hampshire have lent their voices to a new song being released by campaign group Fathers 4 Justice. . . . The Anthem For Justice song is being launched by the Hampshire-based campaign organisation for Father’s Day this Sunday as an Internet download track. . . . Mothers and fathers from across the county travelled to London to record the song this week and film a video for the single, which is promoting equal rights for parents.


Change to Divorce Law Could Recall a TV Quiz Show: ‘To Tell the Truth’

By William Glaberson, New York Times      

06-17-10 -- There are certain to be consequences if New York State introduces no-fault divorce, as now seems likely. The divorce rate might climb. Matrimonial battles will focus on bitter issues like support and child custody. The poor will be able to get divorced as easily as the rich. But there is something else. Those who are splitting up can just tell the truth. . . . For decades, New York State’s divorce system has been built on a foundation of winks and falsehoods. If you wanted to split quickly, you and your spouse had to give one of the limited number of allowable reasons — including adultery, cruelty, imprisonment or abandonment — so there was a tendency to pick one out of a hat. . . . Pregnant women have insisted they have not have sex in a year, one of the existing grounds; spouses claimed psychological cruelty for getting called fat; and people whose affairs have made Page Six have denied adultery. One legendary ploy involved listing the filing lawyer’s secretary as the partner in adultery (which may even have been true in a few cases).

Start a Revolution on Father's Day

by Rebecca Hagelin,           

06-16-10 -- What we need when Father’s Day arrives on Sunday is nothing short of a family revolution, led by America’s fathers. . . . Ours is a broken culture — of fathers and mothers with broken vows, families with broken bonds, and children with broken hearts. . . . For every 100 babies born in America, 60 are born to a broken family. That is, they are either born out of wedlock, or to a family that will soon suffer divorce. Our teen pregnancy rate is the highest in the Western world. Our little girls are looking and behaving like sex kittens at younger and younger ages. Boys are afraid of marriage, addicted to pornography and have few or no manners. There are about 1.2 million abortions in America every year. . . . Mothers feel overwhelmed as they seek to "do it all" — earn a paycheck, nurture the children, manage the finances and keep the family together. Much of that is the fault of a radical feminist movement that perverted the battle for equal treatment into a battle for total independence from men. Many men just sat out what became a destructive force, and now all of us — men, women and children — are suffering the painful results as we realize that we really do need each other after all. . . . Imagine how our culture would be transformed if fathers refused to be bullied by angry feminists and took more of a loving role of responsibility in their own homes. What if husbands started pouring out unconditional and constant love on their wives in the same manner in which Christ pours love out for his people?


For parents, justice not served

Paperwork goes unfiled, appeals are dismissed.

By Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Law & Order Reporter,  Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

06-16-10 -- Mary Tullis was devastated last August when a Luzerne County judge terminated her rights to her son and daughter. . . . She and the children’s father, Jeff Harris, had been working to resolve the problems that led Luzerne County Children and Youth to place the children in foster care. She was confident the state Superior Court would overturn the decision on appeal. . . . She never got the chance to argue the merits of her case, however, because the assistant public defender assigned to represent her failed to file the required court papers, resulting in her appeal being dismissed outright. . . . A Times Leader investigation revealed she is not alone. . . . Since 2005, 15 of the 53 parents who challenged the termination of their parental rights or the involuntary adoption of their children have seen their appeals dismissed because the Public Defender’s Office or other court-appointed attorneys failed to follow proper court procedure, according to a review of cases filed with the state Superior Court. . . . The revelation prompted newly appointed county Chief Public Defender Al Flora Jr. to launch an investigation. He is reviewing records, including those identified by The Times Leader, to determine if anything can or should be done to seek to restore the appeals. . . . The newspaper’s review showed that in nine of the 15 cases at issue, the appeals were filed, but later dismissed because the attorneys failed to file the required legal briefs that detail the errors the trial judge allegedly committed. . . . In another six cases, the appeals were “quashed” – a legal term that refers to the dismissal of an appeal for failure to comply with some other aspect of appellate court procedure, such as filing the appeal late. . . . The lack of action by the attorneys means the parents were deprived of their right to have the Superior Court review the lower court ruling to determine if it was properly entered – a result an advocate for parental rights described as “appalling.”


Neb. judge reprimanded for behavior in custody case

Kerri Rempp Chadron Record, Rapid City Journal

06-14-10 -- Dawes County District Court Judge Brian Silverman has been officially reprimanded by the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission for remarks he made in a child custody case last year. . . . The commission's opinion was released last week. The incident occurred during a hearing in a child custody case in February 2009 in the case of Cari Goodwin v. Derek Goodwin. According to the commission's opinion, Derek refused to acknowledge a December 2008 agreement regarding custody and a purge plan for child support. Silverman informed Derek, who was behind in his child support, if he proceeded with a trial on custody issues, the agreement would be revoked and he would be sent to jail. Derek filed a complaint saying Silverman raised his voice and addressed him in "an impatient, discourteous, angry and condescending tone and demeanor." . . . The commission agreed that Silverman's behavior violated the judicial code of conduct requiring judges to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, to avoid impropriety and the appearance thereof and to perform the duties of the office impartially and diligently.

Divorce attorneys catching cheaters on Facebook

By Stephanie Chen, CNN 

06-01-10 -- Before the explosion of social media, Ken Altshuler, a divorce lawyer in Maine, dug up dirt on his client's spouses the old-fashioned way: with private investigators and subpoenas. Now the first place his team checks for evidence is Facebook. . . . Consider a recent story of a female client in her 30s, who came to Altshuler seeking a divorce from husband. She claimed her husband, an alcoholic, was drinking again. The husband denied it. It was her word against his word, Altshuler says, until a mutual friend of the couple stumbled across Facebook photos of the husband drinking beer at a party a few weeks earlier. . . . It was the kind of "gotcha moment" Altshuler knew would undermine the husband's credibility in court. His firm presented the photos to the judge, and the wife won the case in April, he said. . . . "Facebook is a great source of evidence," Altshuler said. "It's absolutely solid evidence because he's the author of it. How do you deny that you put that on?" . . . Social media stalking skills have become invaluable to the legal world for divorce cases in particular. Online photo albums, profile pages, wall comments, status updates and tweets have become gold mines for evidence and leads. Today, divorce and family law firms routinely cull information posted on social media sites -- the flirty exchanges with a paramour, unsavory self-revelations and compromising photographs -- to buttress their case.

May 2010

Threat to Parents' Rights a Bigger Issue than Rights of a Child

by Marybeth Hicks,  

05-26-10 -- If you’re a parent, you’re probably too busy doing the day-to-day work of raising your children to worry about an international treaty that could actually undermine your authority over them. . . . But if you’ve ever insisted that your teenager drag himself out of bed on a Sunday morning to attend church with the family, or required him to find a part-time job to pay for the increase in your car insurance, or – heaven forbid – if you’ve ever spanked a young child for an act of willful disobedience, there are folks who’d like to override your parental judgment. . . . Folks like President Obama, in fact. . . . The issue of parental rights is at the heart of the ongoing debate over the US’s failure to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Mr. Obama thinks it’s a travesty that the US and Somalia – a country not known as a beacon of human rights – are the only two nations that haven’t ratified this treaty. Not only does he support its intrusions into our national sovereignty on behalf of children, he’s openly embarrassed to be on the short list with Somalia. . . . Up to now, it’s been a worried American homeschool community that most vocally opposes the CRC. That’s because the treaty clearly places responsibility for the education of children in the hands of the federal government. Such a mandate would certainly threaten the freedom of states to allow, and of parents to choose, homeschooling as an option to educate their children. . . . But it’s not just homeschooling parents who ought to be nervous about the CRC. We all should because the language of the treaty – which would supersede all American law other than the Constitution – radically changes the authority structure between parents, children and the state. In short, in line after line, it applies the standard of “the best interests of the child” to determine what’s permissible and what isn’t.


New state law allows adopted access to their birth records

By Barbara Vitello and John Patterson | Chicago Daily Herald  Staff

05-23-10 -- Fifteen years in the General Assembly may have earned state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz some political clout, but whatever capital she acquired meant nothing when it came to obtaining a copy of her birth certificate. . . . Like thousands of other adoptees, the Chicago Democrat had been unable to get a copy of birth records, which remained confidential unless a birthparent granted access. . . . That changed Friday when Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that allows adoptees access to their birth records. Adopted people born in 1945 or earlier now will be able to obtain their birth certificates right away. Adoptees born after 1945 will have to wait until November 2011, to give their birthparents a chance to file an objection, if they want. . . . Yet, the law doesn't guarantee adoptees access to information. Birthparents who want to remain anonymous can do so by filing a request with the state.


Judge to Great Kills teacher:
Nothing wrong with talking dirty in sex class

By Maura Yates, 

05-21-10 -- A Staten Island intermediate school teacher who allowed her students to use street slang to describe sexual terms during an HIV/AIDS class can proceed with her $1 million lawsuit against the city’s Department of Education after parent complaints landed her in an administrative “rubber room.” . . . A federal judge sided with Faith Kramer, 48, a Great Kills mother of two and tenured health and gym teacher at Rocco Laurie Intermediate School in New Springville with 26 years in the classroom and an unblemished record. . . . The city’s Education Department’s own curriculum directs teachers to allow students to use terms they understand while explaining such topics, but two parents complained when they found lists of clinical anatomical and sexual terms listed alongside their slang equivalents in their children’s notebooks after a class in February 2008. . . . “She did exactly what she was told to do,” said her attorney, Duane C. Felton. “She engaged her students and the curriculum suggests that teachers use the language that students are familiar with.”


Arkansas judge suspends ruling on adoptions issue

 (AP), Log Cabin Democrat

05-12-10 -- A Pulaski County judge who overturned a ban on adoptions by unmarried couples is suspending the ruling pending an appeal. . . . Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza suspended his ruling Tuesday while the state prepares to appeal his ruling that the restrictions are unconstitutional.


Judge: State can't protect unborn baby whose parents allegedly want to sell it

Courts » Adoption agency calls claim 'a big misunderstanding.'

By Stephen Hunt, The Salt Lake Tribune  

05-12-10 -- A judge on Wednesday dismissed a protective order giving the state custody of an unborn child whose parents are accused of trying to sell the child, saying there is no one to protect until the baby is born. . . . Third District Juvenile Court Judge Jim Michie said he has no jurisdiction while the child is still in its mother's womb. . . . "I am dismissing the ex parte protective order ... until we have a baby to protect," the judge said. . . . Alison and Gary Stuckey have been accused of traveling to Utah from Arizona to sell the child. . . . But an employee from A Act of Love adoption agency, which is overseeing the child's adoption, said there is nothing illegal going on. . . . "It's a legitimate adoption and has been since January," said Tarilee Roth, who attended the hearing with the Stuckeys. . . . Roth added that the accusations against the Stuckeys are "a big misunderstanding." . . . The Stuckeys' attorney, Larry Jenkins, who also represents the agency, said Alison Stuckey is "not due for another several weeks."


N.J. appeals court allows lawsuits in extreme cases of alleged parental alienation

By Rohan Mascarenhas/The Star-Ledger

05-03-10 -- A nasty legal spat between a Canadian multimillionaire and his ex-wife helped alter New Jersey family law today after a state appeals court hearing the case ruled parents could sue each other for money in extreme situations, like the kidnapping of a child. . . . In a highly anticipated 31-page opinion, the state Appellate Division confronted what it called novel and unsettled law after Moses Segal, a retired developer, asked whether he could sue Cynthia Lynch, his ex-wife, over claims she turned their children against him. . . . Such allegations of parental alienation regularly crop up in Family Court, where fights over custody and parenting are handled, but not in civil court, where Segal filed his suit in 2007. . . . The appellate court ruled against Segal, worried that such a case would force children to testify against a parent in a potentially traumatic process. But at the same time, the court recognized certain cases — including false accusations of sexual abuse — where parents could seek monetary damages in civil court.

Opinion: Moses Segal, Et Al. Vs. Cynthia Lynch  A-0805-08


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April 2010


Manhattan Woman Guilty in Husband’s 1990 Murder

By Anahad O'Connor, New York Times

04-29-10 -- A Manhattan woman pleaded guilty on Thursday to arranging the killing of her husband in a murder-for-hire that occurred two decades ago on the Upper East Side. . . . The woman, Barbara Kogan, 67, had long been a suspect in the killing of her husband, George H. Kogan, 49, who was shot in front of his apartment building on East 69th Street in 1990. The couple were embroiled in a bitter divorce at the time, and, after the killing, Ms. Kogan refused to cooperate with investigators and fought to collect millions from her husband’s life insurance policies. . . . Prosecutors accused Ms. Kogan of plotting with her lawyer, Manuel Martinez, to hire a hit man to carry out the killing. Mr. Martinez was convicted in the murder in 2008 — shortly after being extradited from Mexico — and finally agreed, after years of refusing, to testify against Ms. Kogan. . . . Ms. Kogan, of East 55th Street, pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to felony charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and grand larceny. She faces up to 25 years in prison on each charge at sentencing, scheduled for May 19. . . . A lawyer for Ms. Kogan could not be reached for comment on Thursday night.

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Further Adventures in Lawyer Advertising: 'That Hellhole You Call a Marriage'

Posted by Eric Lipman, Legal Blog Watch

04-16-10 -- Happy Friday everyone. But maybe you're not having a happy Friday. Maybe you're having marital troubles. Specifically, maybe you and your spouse "hate each other like poison." If that's the case, and you live in Florida, you're in luck. This guy, Steve Miller, of, has just what you need: . . . He makes a compelling point. Why on earth would you waste your money hiring a "piece of crap 3-piece suit downtown" when someone who so clearly has your best interests at heart is available ... to handle divorces -- "with or without children" -- exclusively online. . . . Now, Steve's law firm didn't always operate under the Divorce Deli trade name. Before that, it was Why would you give up marketing gold like that to project an image that might make someone think they get a free bag of chips with their annulment? Glad you asked:


Two Judges Slapped Down for Requiring Police Report Before Issuing TROs

by Robert Franklin, Esq. Glenn blog

04-09-10 -- An injunction of protection against domestic violence, also known as a restraining (order) is easy to obtain in the state of Florida. . . . No joke.  In fact this site, despite its semi-literate prose, shows you just how easy it is.  You go to the courthouse and ask where to get an injunction for domestic violence.  You'll be directed to a room and given a form for an affidavit.  Fill it out.  You'll need to include your target's name and address.  You'll also need to explain the incident of assault or battery or why you're concerned that one of those may occur.  Sign the affidavit before a notary there at the courthouse and bingo! your target is enjoined from coming near you, entering his house or seeing his kids. . . . Did you think you'd have to actually take an oath before a judge?  Produce evidence?  Please.  All you're doing is depriving your target of valuable constitutional rights, so no evidence, no notice, no due process and no opportunity to be heard are necessary.  It makes filling out a credit card application look like advanced calculus. . . . And apparently, that's the way attorneys in Sarasota like it.  Over 70% of divorces in the United States are filed by women, and every family lawyer with a pulse knows that TROs help get custody for the filer, so anything that makes getting a TRO even a tiny bit more difficult will get their dander up.  And that's exactly what's happened in Sarasota.

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March 2010


Judge defends his actions in marrying couple in assault case

Says he was guided by his 'Catholic conscience'

By Arthur Hirsch Baltimore Sun reporter 

03-31-10 -- The Baltimore County judge who was suspended from hearing cases after presiding over the marriage of an alleged domestic assault victim and her accused attacker is defending his actions, saying he was guided by his "Catholic conscience" in choosing to marry the couple and "legitimize their relationship." . . . In his first public comments about the case, District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. said in an interview Tuesday he did not know the seriousness of the assault charge against Frederick D. Wood, 29, of Middle River, who had been accused by his fiancee, Shelly Pearl Say, 27, of beating and kicking her. Russell said his mistake was presiding over both the marriage, in his chambers in the Essex courthouse, and the second-degree assault case against Wood, which he heard later that afternoon. Russell found Wood not guilty, after Say exercised her right not to testify against her new husband.


Social sites a boon to divorce lawyers

By Sue Epstein, Herald News, The Star-Ledger

03-22-10 -- The New Jersey couple were already divorced but still fighting. . . . This time it was over custody of their 16-year-old daughter. He was too permissive, the mother argued. She was smothering the girl, the father said. . . . In the midst of the case, the teenager posted a picture on Facebook in which she was partying happily with friends. Her mother saw the photo, and it immediately became part of her courtroom argument. The kids were drinking, she contended, hard evidence that the father was not setting proper boundaries for the girl. . . . The couple eventually settled and agreed to shared custody, said the father's attorney, Steven P. Monaghan of Red Bank, who specializes in family and divorce law. . . . More and more, online social networking sites such as Facebook are playing a role in the breakup of marriages — whether it's people griping about spouses or contacting old flames, or matrimonial attorneys looking for evidence to be used in divorce proceedings. . . . The sites are also being used by divorcing couples for revenge.


Lawyer’s Lover Ordered to Pay $9M in Alienation of Affection Case

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

03-19-10 -- A woman accused of having an affair with a lawyer has been ordered to pay $9 million in an alienation-of-affections lawsuit filed by his wife. . . . The defendant, Anne Lundquist, says she will appeal the verdict, the Greensboro News & Record reports. Lundquist did not attend the trial in North Carolina and did not hire a lawyer to represent her. . . . “I don’t have a lot of money, so where this $9 million comes from is kind of hysterical,” she told the newspaper. . . . . North Carolina is one of only a few states that allow lawsuits for alienation of affections, the story says. On average, more than 200 lawsuits based on the tort are filed each year in the state.


Judge marries defendant to alleged victim

Balto. County jurist dismisses case, is reassigned

By Nicole Fuller | Baltimore Sun 

03-18-10 -- A Baltimore County judge was reassigned Wednesday after he presided over the marriage between a man being prosecuted for domestic violence and the alleged victim - a marriage that led to the man's acquittal. . . . Baltimore County District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. took the unusual step last week of allowing the defendant to leave court to obtain a marriage license and married the couple later in his chambers. About 20 minutes later, his new wife invoked marital privilege so she would not be required to testify against her husband. . . . The case came to an end with the judge finding the defendant not guilty, saying, "I found you not guilty, so I can't sentence you as a defendant in any crimes, but earlier today, I sentenced you to life married to her." . . . WBAL-TV was the first to report the judge's actions Tuesday. . . . Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn reassigned Russell to work in his chamber reviewing motions for civil cases, said Angelita Plemmer, the court's spokeswoman. Plemmer declined to comment on Russell's actions or on whether Russell, who has been on the bench since 1990, has been disciplined previously.


NJ Gay Marriage Battle Back in Court

The Associated Press, 

03-18-10 -- Gay couples who sued New Jersey for the right to marry once before are taking their case back to court. . . . Six couples plus the surviving partner from a seventh filed a motion Thursday claiming the state continues to discriminate against them even though it offers civil unions to same-sex couples. . . . The original suit, filed in 2002, resulted in a 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court decision that came one vote short of requiring the state to legalize gay matrimony. After an effort to get lawmakers to legalize gay marriage, the effort fizzled out.

Texas attorney general warns parents about video chat site Chatroulette

From Dallas Morning News Staff Reports

03-08-10 -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has issued a consumer alert warning parents to keep their children away from video chat Web site Chatroulette. . . . Abbott says the increasingly popular site poses a threat to children by giving users – including dangerous sex offenders – an opportunity to conduct live video chats with randomly selected participants. . . . Users are paired with a random stranger for a video chat. The site does not require a login or registration. Users simply click “next” to be shuffled to a new video chat partner. . . . According to Abbott, an undercover investigation by the Cyber Crimes Unit revealed that nearly half of the randomly selected users encountered by investigators immediately exposed themselves and conducted sexually explicit acts on camera.


High cost of McCourts' divorce: $19 million in fees

Dodgers' case could be one of the most expensive in California history. Even other high-profile divorce attorneys are surprised.

By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times 

03-05-10 -- Frank and Jamie McCourt's divorce could become one of the costliest splits in California history, with attorneys and accountants commanding as much as $19 million in fees — more than the Dodgers will spend on their starting infield this season. . . . Frank McCourt has estimated his "divorce-related expenses" at $5 million to $10 million, according to court filings. Jamie McCourt has estimated her expenses at $9 million — and asked that her estranged husband be ordered to pay them. . . . Although records of salaries and statistics are omnipresent in baseball, specific information about divorce costs is largely unavailable. The Times consulted with several family law experts, none of whom could recall a divorce costing $19 million. . . . "I'm pretty sure there's not been any litigation in a California divorce where they've spent so much on attorneys' fees," said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney who represented Meg Ryan in her divorce from Dennis Quaid.


Christian Husband with Covenant Marriage Agreement vs. Routine No-Fault Divorce

by Bai MacFarlane

03-03-10 -- A Christian husband is citing Ohio Law to protect his family from no-fault divorce. Months ago, Paul Neumann was fully supporting his stay-at-home wife and their daughter in their North Olmsted home. Now he is a defendant in Cuyahoga County divorce court. He sumbitted his wife's signed wedding covenant agreement to the court because she promised to uphold her obligations in accordance with the "Commandments of God given in His Word" and "the divine laws and ordinance for the governance of marriage." . . . Neumann is giving the court an ultimatim: either his wife committed fraud on their wedding day and tricked him into marriage, or she intended to be married in conformity with the rules of their church (see filing 1.4 MB). If she committed fraud, the parties were never really married and the court can't take away his property and force him to pay alimony. . . . In Ohio, argues Neumann, it is criminal for Christian pastors to conduct wedding ceremonies without requiring couples to get a state marriage license. Ohio Law specifies that parties can marry in conformity with the rules of their church. . . . "We wanted a Christian marriage" Neumann said in and interview. "I'm shocked that another Bible believing Christian would bring the world into my marriage rather those in the church who are experts in resolving marital conflict according to the 6000 year principles of God's Word."

Bai MacFarlane writes at Mary's Advocates.


D.C. same-sex marriages allowed

Licenses available Wednesday

Lyle Denniston, Scotus Blog

03-02-10 -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., refused on Tuesday to block a District of Columbia court’s order that cleared the way for same-sex couples to get marriage licenses and wed in the capital city, beginning on Wednesday.  The Chief Justice, in denying an emergency stay filed by opponents of gay marriage, issued a three-page opinion, found here, explaining his action.   He acted in his role as Circuit Justice for the D.C. area; the issue was not referred to the full Court.  (The stay application, 09A807, is here; the opposition to it is here, and the reply is here.) . . . Even while saying a delay was not now legally justified, Roberts noted that the challengers may still try to undo the new D.C. marriage provision by attempting to put it on the ballot asking local voters to repeal the law.  That separate maneuver is now under review in the D.C. Court of Appeals, Washington’s highest local court.

February 2010


Gay divorce case draws attorney general's attention

Couple married in Massachusetts wants divorce in Travis County.

By Steven Kreytak, American-Statesman Staff

02-15-10 -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has intervened in a first-of-its-kind Travis County same-sex divorce case, arguing that the women involved, who were married in another state, may not be legally granted a divorce because Texas law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. . . . Angelique Naylor, 39, and Sabina Daly, 41, married in 2004 in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. They returned to their home in Austin and together adopted a son, who is now 4. They have been separated for more than a year. . . . Last week, at the close of a two-day hearing before state District Judge Scott Jenkins on how they should divide their property and share custody of their son, the two reached an agreement that in part called for them to divorce. . . . According to Naylor's lawyer, Jennifer Cochran, Jenkins granted the divorce orally and ordered the parties to put their agreement in writing and return to court next month for his signature.

Facebook a treasure trove for divorce lawyers

By Larry Hartstein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

02-11-10 -- As if divorce lawyers needed more ammunition. . . . In a new survey,  81 percent say they've seen an increase in the use of Facebook and other social networking sites for evidence in divorce cases. Notes to lovers, compromising photos -- Facebook provides a wealth of incriminating information. . . . "Every client I've seen in the last six months had a Facebook page," said Ken Altshuler, a longtime divorce lawyer from Portland, Maine, who is first vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "And the first piece of advice I give them is to terminate their page immediately." . . . Sixty-six percent of the attorneys surveyed by the AAML called Facebook the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, followed by MySpace (15 percent) and Twitter (5 percent). . . . "Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny," said Marlene Eskind Moses of Nashville, the group's president. "If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence."


Pending Malpractice Suit Against Firm Doesn't Excuse Paying Fees, N.J. Court Rules

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

A Victims-of-Law Associate

02-10-10 -- A family court order requiring a divorce litigant to pay Budd Larner $50,000 in legal fees, even though he had a malpractice case pending against the firm, has been upheld on appeal. . . . The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled on Monday that there was no error in ordering and enforcing the fee award to the Short Hills, N.J., firm, because the client neither asked the family court for a stay nor sought to consolidate the malpractice and matrimonial cases. . . . The court, in Cole v. Cole, A-1710, also found it significant that the court below "expressly carved out the malpractice issue from its decision, and made no findings on those allegations." . . . Joseph Cole retained Thomas Baldwin of Budd Larner on April 28, 2003, to handle his divorce from Justine Cole, which was being litigated in Monmouth County Family Part.


Student support contract enforceable after divorce, says high court

By Erin Alberty, The Salt Lake Tribune

02-09-10 -- Spouses who agree to take turns supporting each other through college could find themselves financially liable for breaking a contract if they divorce before both sides benefit. . . . The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a divorceé can sue her ex-husband after she financially supported him through medical school "in exchange for the promise of a higher standard of living." . . . Gloria and Dallen Ashby married in 1997, while Dallen was an undergraduate student at BYU. Gloria Ashby claims she passed up a lucrative business opportunity to follow Dallen to St. Louis, where he attended medical school, according to court documents.


S.C. Man Kills Ex-Wife's Lawyer, Then Himself

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press

02-05-10 -- A South Carolina man was distraught over drawn-out divorce proceedings and a recent order to sell a home he co-owned with his ex-wife when he killed the woman's attorney and then himself, authorities said Thursday. . . . Jerry Dean Crenshaw shot 61-year-old J. Redmond Coyle several times Wednesday afternoon in a parking lot behind Coyle's downtown Pickens, S.C., office, Police Chief Tommy Ellenburg said. . . . Crenshaw's wife had hired Coyle after the pair filed for divorce in 2007, according to court filings. That divorce became final in May 2009, but the couple had been haggling over splitting up property they had owned together, said Harold Welborn, Pickens County clerk of court.


Attorney Disciplined for Having Two Wives


02-03-10 -- A local attorney has lost his license to practice for the next year after a ruling from the Supreme Court of Ohio. . . . Dennis DiMartino was sanctioned after it was determined he lied on a marriage license application in North Carolina saying he was not married.  He then entered into a bigamous marriage in that state before a divorce from his first wife, from Ohio, had been finalized.

January 2010


Senior judge's wife may drop charges

By Michael R. Sisak, Citizen’s Voice Staff Writer

01-29-10 -- A suspended senior judge's marriage is nearly over, weeks after he allegedly attacked his wife in an alcohol-fueled rage on their one-year wedding anniversary, his attorney said Thursday. . . . Senior Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp and his wife, Valerie, are discussing a financial arrangement under which she would drop criminal charges and they would ultimately move for a divorce, Rehkamp's attorney William C. Costopoulos said. . . . "If they can resolve their disagreement between themselves, maybe that's where the answer should lie," Costopoulos said. "Their differences may be irreconcilable and the marriage is probably over, but that doesn't mean that they can't agree upon the conclusion to a marriage that isn't working." . . . Rehkamp, 61, and Valerie, 50, agreed Thursday to keep the protection from abuse order against him in effect while they attempt to resolve the charges. . . . The order bars Rehkamp from contact with Valerie, 50, or her sons, ages 16 and 18.


Wife of former White House lawyer sues for $30M

By Jeff Morganteen, Stamford Advocate Staff Writer  

01-28-10 -- The wife of a former White House lawyer -- who police say tried to kill his spouse in a vicious beating with a flashlight this month -- is suing her husband for $30 million in a civil lawsuit filed last week at state Superior Court in Stamford. . . . Mary Farren, 43, was beaten unconscious with a flashlight and strangled before she regained consciousness and fled her New Canaan home Jan. 6 with her two young daughters, telling police her husband attacked her over a divorce she sought because of his volatile temper, court documents state. . . . That night, police charged her husband, John Michael Farren, 57, with attempted murder. . . . Last Wednesday, a lawyer for Mary Farren filed a civil suit against her husband at state Superior Court in Stamford. In an affidavit, Mary Farren asked the courts to grant her a $30 million pre-judgment remedy because she is injured and cannot work. She claimed she may lose income from her husband because he could be imprisoned for 30 years if convicted.


Vegas Attorney Takes Deal in Domestic Violence Case


01-25-10 -- A Las Vegas attorney has accepted a plea deal in the assault of his wife, a local judge. . . . Edward "Randy" Miley pleaded no contest last month to misdemeanor domestic battery and animal abuse charges. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed additional counts against him, including a child abuse-and-neglect charge.


Pa. Judge Suspended Following Spousal Abuse Charges

The Associated Press,

01-22-10 -- A Pennsylvania judge overseeing a murder case involving domestic violence allegations has been suspended from duty over criminal charges that he pushed and choked his wife on their first wedding anniversary. . . . Sixty-one-year-old Perry County Senior Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp has been charged with simple assault and harassment and is also subject to a protection from abuse order.


NY man accused of beheading claims he was battered

By AP News, WIND 

01-22-10 -- The founder of an Islam-oriented television station who is accused of beheading his wife was abused by her for years, according to his lawyer, who said Friday he will pursue a defense combining that justification as well as psychiatric claims. . . . Defense attorneys' claims that Muzzammil Hassan was victimized by his wife drew a blunt response from District Attorney Frank Sedita after a hearing Friday. . . . "He chopped her head off," Sedita said. "He chopped her head off. That's all I have to say about Mr. Hassan's apparent defense that he was a battered spouse." . . . Hassan, 45, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the Feb. 12 death of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan at the offices of Bridges TV, the station the Pakistan-born couple established in 2004 to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims. . . . During Friday's hearing, Hassan fired the attorney who has been representing him for nearly a year and replaced him with a lawyer who promised "a revolutionary defense" at the March trial.


Details emerge on former Perry County judge
accused in domestic dispute

Court documents reveal a night of discord between former Perry County president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp and his wife

By John Hilton, Carlisle Sentinel City Editor

01-19-10 -- Former Perry County president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp had been drinking Saturday night when he pushed his wife down “and started to choke her, leaving red marks,” court documents say. . . . Valerie Rehkamp screamed and told her husband to leave their home in Plymouth Township, Luzerne County. According to the criminal complaint filed by Trooper Matthew Stacktish, Valerie Rehkamp’s son stopped the assault and Joseph Rehkamp left the home in his Ford Crown Victoria. . . . Joseph Rehkamp, 61, later turned himself in and was arraigned about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. He is charged with misdemeanor assault and summary harassment. His preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 26. . . . It was not known Monday whether Rehkamp has an attorney. . . . The conflict between the Rehkamps began earlier in the evening, court documents say, when Valerie Rehkamp told her husband he “did not act appropriately” during a dinner outing. Valerie Rehkamp told the judge to “sleep somewhere else” for the night, court documents say.


State's high court rules on marital property

Judge: Money earned by ET class-action specialist before divorce final is subject to split

By Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel

01-18-10 -- The state Supreme Court is using the case of a prominent East Tennessee lawyer to sound this warning: Filing for divorce does not tear asunder the marital paycheck or debt load. . . . It's a legal lesson that cost well-known class-action specialist Gordon Ball a cool $6.8 million. . . . The state's high court opted to use Ball's divorce case to tackle the issue of whether money earned or debt incurred between the filing of a divorce complaint and final judgment is marital property subject to a division between warring spouses. . . . At issue was a $17 million fee Ball won in a South Carolina class-action lawsuit after his now ex-wife, Marn Suzanne Larsen Ball, filed for divorce in January 2006. She insisted she should get a cut because the divorce wasn't final. He contended the hefty fee wasn't marital property because he won it after the couple split. . . . Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood opined the legal fee was indeed marital property and, therefore, subject to the split in assets he approved - 60 percent for Gordon Ball, 40 percent for his ex-wife.

Tennessee Supreme Court opinion in Ball v. Ball


D.C. judge rules against marriage referendum

By Tim Craig, Washington Post Staff Writer

01-15-10 -- A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that same-sex marriage opponents do not have a right to call for a referendum to determine whether such unions should be legal in the District. . . . The decision, a major victory for gay rights activists, makes it more likely that the District will begin allowing same-sex couples to marry in March. . . . In the 23-page ruling, Judge Judith N. Macaluso affirmed a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics decision that city law disallows the ballot proposal because it would promote discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Macaluso also concluded that previous court decisions outlawing same-sex marriage in the District are no longer valid.


Couple in marriage fraud case given probation, will likely have to leave U.S.

By Jeb Phillips, The Columbus Dispatch

01-15-10 -- A Columbus-area immigration lawyer and her ex-husband have been placed on probation and likely will have to leave the country for their participation in marriage fraud. . . . Lilian Asante, 38, and Kwadwo Asante, 40, were taken by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for processing this morning after U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost sentenced them to two years of probation. . . . An immigration judge will have to make a final decision on their deportation, but the Asantes' defense attorney has said they plan to leave the country as soon as possible. . . . Yesterday's sentencing also triggers the suspension of Lilian Asante's law license, said Ritchey Hollenbaugh, the Asantes' attorney.


New Jersey Senate Defeats Gay Marriage Bill

NewsCORE, FOX News

01-07-10 -- New Jersey's state Senate has defeated a bill to legalize gay marriage, the latest in a string of setbacks for advocates. . . . The New Jersey Senate voted Thursday against legalizing same-sex marriage, making the Garden State the latest to turn down legislation that proponents have called a civil rights issue. . . . The Freedom of Religion and Equality in Marriage Act failed by a vote of 20 to 14. The vote was scheduled to take place last month, but was postponed due to an apparent lack of support, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. . . . New Jersey voters are narrowly divided on the issue, with gay marriage opponents finding more support by a 49-46 percentage point margin, according to a November poll from Quinnipiac University. State Democrats favor the measure 60-34, while Republicans oppose it 69-25, the poll found. The margin of error was 2.4 percentage points. . . . Five states currently allow same sex marriage, while thirty have rejected similar measures in referendum votes. The state senate in neighboring New York, where many New Jersey residents work, rejected a gay marriage bill 38 to 24 in December.

Married Couples Pay More Than Unmarried Under Health Bill

By Martin Vaughan, Wall Street Journal  

01-06-10 -- Some married couples would pay thousands of dollars more for the same health insurance coverage as unmarried people living together, under the health insurance overhaul plan pending in Congress. . . . The built-in "marriage penalty" in both House and Senate healthcare bills has received scant attention. But for scores of low-income and middle-income couples, it could mean a hike of $2,000 or more in annual insurance premiums the moment they say "I do." . . . The disparity comes about in part because subsidies for purchasing health insurance under the plan from congressional Democrats are pegged to federal poverty guidelines. That has the effect of limiting subsidies for married couples with a combined income, compared to if the individuals are single. . . . People who get their health insurance through an employer wouldn't be affected. Only people that buy subsidized insurance through new exchanges set up by the legislation stand to be impacted. About 17 million people would receive such subsidies in 2016 under the House plan, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.


Original article with update

Sacramento judge denies ‘disgracing the American Judiciary System’

The strange and bewildering case of Judge Peter J. ‘Chainsaw’ McBrien

By R.V. Scheide, Editorial

03-07-08 -- Don’t get mad, the saying goes, get even. Certainly Ulf Carlsson has plenty to be angry about. In 2006, the Swedish-born American citizen entered divorce proceedings hoping to make the best of a bad situation. Instead, he lost custody of his teenage daughter, got fired from a 20-year career with the state of California and is about to lose his home. . . . So, yes, Ulf Carlsson is massively pissed, and the entirety of his ire is focused on the individual he holds accountable for his astounding reversal of fortune, the magistrate who presided over his two-day divorce trial, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. “Chainsaw” McBrien. . . . Last week, Carlsson and more than a dozen other self-proclaimed victims of McBrien’s alleged legal abuse officially notified the Sacramento Elections Office of their intent to recall the judge. They didn’t waste any time getting to the point. . . . “You are a disgrace to the American Judiciary System and an extreme danger to children and parents,” the recall petition begins, before detailing a number of alleged wrongs along with the relevant case numbers. “You destroyed a young boy by awarding the father custody after multiple investigations substantiated he had sexually abused the boy. … You awarded custody to an abusive mother, ignoring medical evidence that she seriously physically abused her young daughter. … You obtained, in secrecy, a copy of the court transcripts, altered them and had that respondent’s career destroyed. … When will your evil terrorism be stopped?” . . . A little over the top? Perhaps. But they don’t call McBrien “Chainsaw” for nothing. In 1999, he ordered a whack-job on a half-dozen oaks blocking his bluff-side view of the American River, knowing full well the trees were on public property, thus making the act of cutting them down felony vandalism. Unless, of course, you happen to be a judge with $20,000 on hand to bargain the crime down to a misdemeanor—and keep your ass firmly planted on the bench.

Update, January 5, 2010

Judicial Commission fries Judge McBrien

Sacramento News & Review (blog)

01-05-10 -- The California Judicial Performance Commission may not have thrown Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. McBrien off the bench, but it’s a safe bet the judge is feeling extremely butt-hurt after the commission issued a severe public censure of the judge on Jan. 5. . ..  McBrien, also known as “chainsaw,” first gained public notoriety in 1999, after he ordered a tree cutter to chop down a copse of oak trees that were blocking his home’s view of the American River. Read about it here. McBrien first came to this reporter’s attention after Ulf Carlsson, whose divorce case was heard by the family court judge in 2006, notified SN&R about alleged wrongdoing by the judge during the proceeding. Read about that here. . . . The Commission’s Decision and Order of Public Censure is available on the Commission’s Web site here, under “Press Releases” and “Public Discipline –1960 to Present,” and at the Commission’s office.

O.C. prosecutor, wife arrested on suspicion of domestic violence

Paloma Esquivel in Orange County,  Los Angeles Times

01-05-10 -- An Orange County prosecutor and his wife were arrested Christmas Day on allegations of domestic violence, and the case has been submitted to the state attorney general’s office for review, authorities said today. . . . Veteran prosecutor David L. Brent, 53, and his wife, Roshawn Jolancia Brent, 27, were arrested shortly before midnight Dec. 25, said Huntington Beach police spokesman Lt. Russell Reinhart. . . . Police responded to the incident about 11 p.m. after Roshawn Brent called 911 while standing next to the couple’s parked car near the intersection of Gothard Street and Warner Avenue. After an investigation, both husband and wife were arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, Reinhart said. The incident was first reported online earlier today by the OC Weekly.


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"Harmony in the married state is the very first object to be aimed at."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Mary Jefferson Eppes, 7 January 1798)—

"I do not charge the judges with wilful and ill-intentioned error; but honest error must be arrested where its toleration leads to public ruin. As for the safety of society, we commit honest maniacs to Bedlam; so judges should be withdrawn from their bench whose erroneous biases are leading us to dissolution. It may, indeed, injure them in fame or in fortune; but it saves the republic, which is the first and supreme law."
 --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:122



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Archived on March 15, 2012
Updated 03/15/2012