Saturday, October 13, 2007

Using MySpace for legal evidence

A lawyer columnist writes:
In one case, Malbrough said she helped secure shared custody for the father after finding his wife had posted sexually explicit comments on her boyfriend's MySpace page. In another case, a husband's credibility was questioned because, on his MySpace page, he said he was single and looking.

Lawyers in civil and criminal cases are increasingly finding that social networking sites can contain treasure chests of information for their cases. Armed with printouts from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, attorneys have used pictures, comments and connections from these sites as powerful evidence in the courtroom.
One problem with family court is that any part of your private life can be invaded and questioned. What you think might be okay for MySpace could be attacked in court.

If I were represented by a lawyer in my divorce case, I am sure he would have told me to shut down this blog. My ex-wife did try to use it against me, by submitting selected printouts to the judge and court experts.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mom’s religion dominates custody hearing

A Tennessee paper reports:
A Maryville woman who went to court on Aug. 14 for a child custody hearing says she was persecuted because of her religious beliefs at the hands of the Blount County judicial system.

According to Jo Anne White, what was supposed to be a standard child custody hearing turned into an almost hourlong "Bible study" in the courtroom in spite of the repeated protests of her attorney, Kevin W. Shepherd.

After a detailed discussion of her religious beliefs -- documented in court reporter transcripts obtained by The Daily Times -- and a brief recess to chambers, Blount County Circuit Court Judge W. Dale Young awarded temporary custody of White's two children to her ex-husband. The custody will be reviewed again in Circuit Court on Dec. 11.

While Young questioned White about one specific aspect of her religion, attorney Craig Garrett, who represented White's ex-husband, asked numerous probing questions about her faith. Of the 65 pages of court transcripts reviewed by The Daily Times, 41 pages deal directly with White's religious beliefs.

"We were discussing specific Scriptures and the details of end-times prophesy," White said. "My attorney kept protesting, but the judge kept it going for almost an hour.

"At one point, I told the judge, 'I didn’t write the Bible — so why are we discussing this?' ...

Calls from The Daily Times to Young’s office and home were not returned. Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and expert on both child custody and religion in the courtroom, said, "A judge can’t say 'this religion isn’t good for the children' — you must have evidence.

"You have to be able to demonstrate that it isn’t in the best interest of the child.
"I think it's inadvisable to investigate someone’s religion in depth in the courtroom.
"This is not the kind of behavior we want to see from judges, but it doesn't necessarily constitute grounds for reversal."

While transcripts of the court proceedings do not state why the judge awarded temporary custody to White's ex-husband, they do show that religion was the primary topic of discussion in the courtroom that day.
I think that the real crime here is that a judge can make a custody decision and not even explain his factfinding or reasoning on the record. He can just make some arbitrary and predujiced decision, and get away with it as long as it doesn't put a stupid explanation on the record.

In this case, the judge quizzed the mom on whether the Bible says to celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday. Either way, it should not be relevant to child custody.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Got another subpoena and remittitur

I just got a notice from my bank that it received a subpoena from my ex-wife.

I also got another remittitur from the court. I guess that means that the appeals court is turning jurisdiction back to the family court. Comm. Joseph told us in family court that it would notify us of a date for it to act on the result of the appeals court. That never happened for the last remittitur, and my ex-wife tells me that it won't happen for this one either.

I wonder how the average person can cope with the legal system when even the guy who has been running the local family court for the past couple of years doesn't seem to know how it works. Joseph was so positive that his clerk would send us a hearing date that he refused to put the matter on his calendar.

Meanwhile, my ex-wife asked me to sign a stipulated motion to postpone this month's status conference in family court. She says that her baby is a week overdue, and she is expecting to give birth any day.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ordering labor without evidence

The San Mateo County child support system will have another tool to get parents to make payments under legislation recently signed by the governor.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, sponsored the legislation, Senate Bill 523, which allows a judge to order an unemployed person responsible for child support to find a job at the initial hearing for the case. ...

"It's trying to be proactive," Yee said. "If the parents continue to be responsible for the financial health of their children, then they are less of a responsibility to the city and county."

The legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2008, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law on Sept. 26.

After a judge's order, child support obligors must show proof every two weeks that they have applied for at least five jobs.
In other words, they want to maximize welfare reimbursement, so they passed a law allowing judges to order men to work without any presentation of evidence.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Life's Short -- Get a Divorce

ABC News reports:
An all-female law firm is turning heads in Chicago with a new billboard and a blunt message:

"Life's Short. Get a Divorce."

The billboard, sponsored by Fetman, Garland & Associates, Ltd., a firm that specializes in divorce cases, features the six-pack abs of a headless male torso and tanned female cleavage heaving forth from a black lace bra....