Thursday, May 31, 2007

Doctor Flea exposed in court

A legal blogger reports:
A Boston pediatrician blogging under the pseudonym Flea has been outed. It happened in court. During cross-examination. On his own medical malpractice trial. And now it is the top story in the Boston Globe.

Flea had written several posts about the upcoming trial, a wrongful death case involving a child. In the process he discussed his private prep sessions with his attorney, explaining how he had been coached to answer questions to be appealing to the jury, how he had been videotaped, and what materials his lawyers told him to read.
A lawyer would have surely advised him not to post blog opinions while the trial is pending. Conventional wisdom is that it can only hurt. The opposing lawyer will search thru all your comments, and pick out whatever makes you look bad. The judge will think that the trial belongs in his court only, and will not like any comments on blog. And the judge will certainly dislike any comments that make him look bad.

I started this blog knowing full well that if I had a lawyer then he would advise against the blog. He would say that it is too risky. I made the blog anonymous, but I knew full well that my wife would probably eventually discover it, and try to use it against me.

She did discover it, and then quietly waited until she could use it to maximal effectiveness. She told the judge about how I badmouthed the family court system, and told the court psychologist how I badmouthed inkblot tests. It didn't seem like any big deal to me, as I think that any reasonable person would be outraged by what I witnessed in family court.

I don't really know if this blog had any influence on any decision-makers in my case or not. It is too bad Doctor Flea settled his case, and it might have been a good experiment on how jurors might be influenced by some overly-candid online remarks. Some bloggers are assuming that Dr. Flea hurt his case by blogging, but I suspect that the case was in the control of insurance company lawyers, and they were very eager to settle just because they were nervous about having a client who goes against conventional wisdom. They like clients who do what they are told.

Update: There is still no public explanation for why Dr. Flea's case was settled, or why his blog was taken down. My guess is that Flea's insurance company lawyers didn't like him publicizing trial preparation tactics. Lawyers look after their own interests. The insurance company probably threatened Flea with a denial of coverage unless he shut down the blog and agreed to the settlement. I doubt that Flea voluntarily closed the blog, because it actually showed him to be pretty reasonable, and nothing really had any bearing on whether or not he owes any malpractice damages. A malpractice insurance policy will get you a legal defense, but possibly on terms dictated by the insurance company lawyers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Child support movie

Someone made a new movie attacking the so-called child support system. You can view the trailers here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bermuda needs shared parenting

Stephen Baskerville writes:
Virtually every social pathology of our time — from violent crime to substance abuse to truancy — correlates more strongly to fatherless homes than to any other single factor, surpassing poverty and race.

Family courts, assisted by social services agencies and other government authorities, routinely take children away from fathers (and sometimes mothers) who have done nothing legally wrong and for reasons that have nothing to do with the children’s wishes, safety, health, or welfare. Most abuse of children takes place in homes without fathers.

Today in Bermuda, America, Britain, and other democracies, citizens who are under no suspicion of legal wrongdoing, find themselves summoned to court, stripped of their children, and even subject to criminal proceedings, not for recognised public crimes, but for how they conduct their private lives.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Anne Heche's husband says she's a bad mom

The Frisco paper reports:
Anne Heche's divorcing husband wants at least $33,000 a month in support and joint custody of the couple's 5-year-old son, saying the actress is a bad mother. ...

[Husband Coleman] Laffoon said Heche made some "very poor" parenting decisions in Vancouver, such as failing to provide Homer a car safety seat and making lunches that he did not like.

After one visit, she forgot to return Homer's favorite shoes and "his bedtime stuffed animals, which are very important to him and which caused him extreme distress," Laffoon said. ...

His court filing asks for at least $33,000 in spousal support for himself and estimates that living expenses for himself and their son, who lives with him, total $37,399 a month. An accountant hired on Laffoon's behalf submitted a court paper offering a guideline of $45,239 for monthly spousal and child support.
These cases sound kooky, but they are the predictable consequence of family court law. It doesn't matter whether the son can use that kind of money or not. If Heche earns big bucks as a TV star, then her ex-husband can demand support to live the same way.

Anne Heche sounds kooky all by herself. Her autobiography is titled "call me crazy" and says things like "I have been very clear to everybody that just because I'm getting married does not mean I call myself a straight."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Notice of oral argument

I just got notice that the court of appeals will hear my oral argument at 1:30 pm on June 28. Just one minor technical issue is at stake. I will post more details later.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Summary of my family court gripes

A reader asks me to summarize my gripes with the family court. Here are my biggest ones.

Judge William Kelsay ordered a custody change without even taking any testimony. He reduced me from equal custody with my ex-wife of my two daughters, as we had agreed in writing, to visitation two weekends a month and Wednesday afternoons. His only justification was to offer his opinion that child custody does not matter, and to admit that he had made a mess of all of his custody trials. I had to have a formal court trial to reverse what Judge Kelsay did.

Court psychologist and custody evaluator Bret Johnson interviewed me for an hour, asking only trivial questions, and wrote:
Father shall participate in a minimum of six months of thrice monthly individual counseling with a licensed therapist familiar with issues of healthy child care and safety needs to deal with the issues noted herein,, e.g., safety, supervision, insight into his own needs versus the children's, and other issues and shall continue as needed thereafter or until released.
I had to have a court trial to prove that his recommendations had no basis in fact or any recognized expert opinion, and to avoid court-ordered counseling.

Comm. Irwin Joseph delayed my return to equal custody of our kids for six months, even after I won the custody trial. He never offered any explanation, except that he wanted us to see additional court-appointed shrinks for ink-blot tests and other nonsense.

Comm. Irwin Joseph ordered me to pay an extra $900 per month, retroactively and prospectively, based on a goofy theory that I should have had a mortgage in my home. I had to file an appeal to a higher court to get that reversed.

I've heard worse horror stories. I've seen worse cases in court. Sometimes I've wondered if maybe there was more to the story. But I experienced the above myself, and there is no excuse for what the court did.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Best interest of the dog

The Seattle paper reports:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A man who didn't have a will left a $2 million estate, but the most hotly contested item in court has been his golden retriever, Alex.

The four-way dispute over the 13-year-old pet was so intense, an attorney was appointed to represent the dog's interest. On Monday, the judge decided the man's divorced parents should split custody, The Commercial Appeal reported. ...

In the consent order the judge approved, the elder Callan and his ex-wife, Esther Snow Gnall, will trade custody of Alex every two weeks. Both parents also agreed to take the dog to the veterinarian for arthritis treatments and any other needed procedures.

Before the agreement was reached, the elder Callan had custody and took Alex to work during the day. The father has cats at home, though, so at night, the dog stayed with Callan Jr.'s former girlfriend, who had known Alex since he was a puppy.

The son's fiancee also was interested in Alex, and Gnall had said if she won custody, she would allow the fiancee to spend time with the dog.

Royal, the dog's attorney, said he believes all four people love Alex and would take good care of him, but they were using the fight for the dog to punish each other for past transgressions.

"This case is similar to a bitter custody battle involving children where each party loves the children, but the kids are stuck between two people who cannot coexist," the attorney said in his report.
This is pretty crazy. Dogs don't have any legal interests.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Three-way custody

Here is a Penn. case in which custody of two kids is divided between two lesbians and a sperm donor!

Update: There is another aspect to this story that I overlooked. A Penn. paper says:
A man who donated sperm for a lesbian couple's two children must pay support, the state Superior Court ordered in a ruling that legal experts are calling a precedent.

In reaching the decision, the three-judge panel said that since Carl L. Frampton Jr., who died while the case was pending, had involved himself as a stepparent, he assumed some of the parenting duties.

Legal experts say the ruling is unique in making more than two people responsible for a child. It also brings into question when a sperm donor is liable for support, though at least one expert said the ruling shouldn't worry truly anonymous donors. ...

As part of the Superior Court order, a Dauphin County judge was directed to establish how much Frampton would have to pay Jacob.

Reynosa, wants Frampton's support obligation, which might have to come from his Social Security survivor benefits, to be made retroactive to when Jacob first filed for support. His support payments might also help reduce Shultz-Jacob's monthly obligation.
So a dead sperm donor is being forced to pay support to a couple of lesbians who want to raise a child!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dr. Phil on Alec Baldwin

Dr. Phil McGraw was on the Jay Leno TV show, defending Alec Baldwin in his custody battle. He said that no parent should be judged by one private conversation, and that parental alienation is rightly treated harshly in many states where it can result in a parent losing all rights. He implied that Kim Basinger was really the one at fault for releasing the phone recording to the press.

But then Dr. Phil recommends that the court appoint a guardian ad litem -- an attorney who will advocate the interests of the child.

Huhh? Baldwin and Basinger have been battling over custody in court for about five years already, and it is all going to be solved by getting another lawyer in on the action? I doubt it. The problem is that there is an incompetent judge who has already wasted too many years doing futile evaluations of trivial evidence. He should just split the custody and dismiss the case.