Friday, December 9, 2011

Testosterone-Tanked Traders - A Rant

I've been distracted, working like a lunatic on revisions to Client Relations (I found an excellent writers' website by sheer happenstance - - great bunch of writers there).

Along with being wrapped up in the Republican wrangling for the nomination (meltdown followed by meltdown), the near-daily debacles in Congress, the gut-churning insanity of the financial markets (up 150 points today, down 150 yesterday). And I'm not even mentioning the global stage....whew!

No wonder my poor blog is lonely!

But right now, I'm really frosted at all the pro-Occupy Wall Streeters who cheered - mostly from afar, not in downtown Manhattan - a bunch of purposeless people who trashed a private park for months. The "Occupy" people were protesting something (what, exactly?), without ever bothering to get permits. How hard would getting the proper permits have been? Seriously?

The protestors added to the woes of a strapped NYC budget by straining the overburdened sanitation workers and police department -- all for the sake of YouTube videos. While the secretaries, messengers, copy clerks, deli workers, shop owners - stepped over the trash and tried to ignore the media circus so they could get to work every day.

Their distant, armchair supporters across the country didn't have to deal with any of that.
Tsk, tsk, shame on me for having no mercy on the "unwashed poor." Wait, I'm paying NY taxes, among the highest in the nation - while the rest of the country dumps their "unwashed poor" on NY.

Wanna get a movement to counter the marginal but disproportionately powerful Tea Partyites? Have a simple, unifying purpose. Lobby for political influence. Organize to capture elections.

Maybe the 99% concept, which eventually resulted from the ogling media attention the Occupy people captured in the fall, will gain lasting traction in the political arena. Although I'm skeptical, given the lack of money, influence and celebrity (that's right, I said celebrity - Is Sarah Palin, on the opposite side of the spectrum - anything else?) support.

Where the hell are those enraptured, embrace-the-unwashed-poor, anti-Wall Street people now? Apart from maybe (finally?) realizing that their 401-ks suffer when Wall Street shudders, as it has been since last May?

They're certainly not paying attention to the latest wtf moment that lays out the searing issue that Occupy movement SHOULD have been about: Reversing -and strengthening - the regulation of our financial institutions and financial markets.

Sound dull? Uh-uh.

Even the pro-business commentators on CNBC yesterday were flabbergasted at the sworn testimony of former Senator and current MF Global CEO Jon Corzine before a Congressional committee. (Yeah, Congress was actually doing something - hard to believe, I know.) You see, at least $1.2 billion in customer funds has vanished - poof! - from MF Global, causing the company to go belly-up.

What happened to all the money? Congressional representatives asked him. They grilled him for hours.

"I simply do not know where the money is," he said. "I'm not in a know." Huh? The CEO doesn't know and is in no position to know? Wait, isn't a CEO supposed to be, like, in charge of the whole company?

I'm thinking about all the farmers who hedged their risks against bad growing seasons, never suspecting that their funds were being gambled on European debt, and secreted away in the hinterlands.  They've no doubt figured out what the "MF" in MF Global stands for.

So what happened to the pro-Occupy Wall Street people? This is EXACTLY what that movement should have been about: the wholesale, large-scale theft of billions of dollars by financial institutions, money managers, wheeler-dealers, and testosterone-tanked traders - all as a result of over a decade of deregulation and indifference by the SEC and CFTC. The prime reason for the widest income disparities (the 99% vs 1%) in the US since the pre-Depression Era.

A wtf moment for Corzine, but also for the anti-Wall Streeters who aren't paying attention now that the young bodies illegally camped out in Zucotti Park aren't posing for the cameras anymore.

There, I've sort of gotten this out of my system.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Confusion About Separation Agreements

Been so busy polishing my novel, Client Relations (coming along nicely, I think, I hope), that I've been neglectful of B to C.

I'm thinking of doing another HuffPo entry on separation agreements - how they're really negotiated, how they're really written. It seems many people mistakenly think we use simple forms all the time - bless those Legal Zoom people, they REALLY know what they're doing (right), including fill-in-the-blank form separation agreements.


Anyway, while I pull the energy together for that article, which I'll post here, of course, I thought I'd re-post a related item that I wrote early on in the life of B to C last year.

And I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!


Eight Emotions During and After The 'Closing'
In no particular order:

1. Exhaustion (from: negotiations, legal fees, pressure from spouse and family, emotional turmoil)
2. Relief (because the parentheticals in #1 are over)
3. Anxiety (about: financial future, ability to survive and bounce back emotionally, children where applicable)
4. Anger (i.e., why the hell did s/he have to put me/us through this?)
5. Sadness (about: the end of the marital relationship or the strains placed on it)
6. Guilt (that the relationship required a formal agreement in the first place)
7. Joy (that the parentheticals in #1 are over)
8. Emptiness

Friday, October 28, 2011

Setting Husbands Up For Supervised Visitation

There are a lot of angry dads in America who have lost temporary or permanent custody of their kids, and claim it was a setup. That the chips were stacked against them. Their voices are sometimes so loud, it sounds like "What, me paranoid? Is that what everyone's saying about me?"

But a recent scam in California was revealed in the LA Times, and then in the ABA Journal, that shows some of the dads may be right. At least, in Modesto, California.

Several bottom-feeder divorce lawyers, who represented divorcing wives, apparently hired a very shady private detective to set up their clients' husbands to make it harder for the husbands to win custody. The shady detective hired sexy, Vegas-y type women to date the husbands (the husband in the photo I saw was a plumpy dumpy guy), go out for drinks, and - bam!- the husbands would get arrested for drunk driving immediately after leaving the bar or restaurant, courtesy of the detective's contacts with the local police.

In the Plumpy Dumpy case, Mrs. Plumpy Dumpy was able to use the drunk driving incident to get an order restricting her husband to supervised visitation.

Now, it's not clear to me whether Mr. Plumpy Dumpy actually was driving drunk. He was certainly thinking with the wrong body part when he pursued the gorgeous blonde, whom he mistook for having a genuine interest in him. He actually believed her when "she told him he had large, strong hands" and "described his kisses as 'yummy.'" Sorry, but that sounds like hooker-speak to me.

It's also not clear if the divorce lawyers, or just their over-eager paralegal staff, made these dastardly (what a great adjective) arrangements. And I don't know if they will be hauled in front of their local grievance committee.

But that begs the question: did Mr. Plumpy-Dumpy deserve to lose unsupervised access to his kids for this? It was a set-up, for crying out loud. Depressed, lonely middle-aged plumy-dumpy goes for young brassy blonde with hot turn-on words. Duh. Plumpy-Dumpy was an easy mark.

Maybe we should flip the question around: Did the kids deserve to lose access to one of their parents because their parent was lured to a bar by a woman who had been paid by their mom's lawyers (via the detective's bank), and picked up by cops who had been tipped off by their mom's lawyers?

Mrs. Plumpy Dumpy claims she didn't want her husband to get arrested. Her lawyers profess ignorance about the entire matter.

So now, I wonder, who showed the worst judgment of all in this whole sordid mess?,0,7922829.story?page=1

Scams like this are yet another arrow in the quiver of lawyer haters.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Voice of Sweet Reason

Many clients don't want to hear it. They want to be completely unreasonable, and they want their lawyers to agree with their unreasonable demands and expectations.

Recently, I had a consult who insisted that because her spouse had fooled around, and hadn't earned as much money as she had (maybe 25% less), he should forego his entire interest in the marital home, her much larger pension, and their joint bank accounts, leaving him with about 15% of the marital estate. She wanted me to agree that she could settle her case under these (ridiculous) terms. In fact, she insisted that I agree her proposal was appropriate. And when I didn't agree, she grew extremely angry with me.

Opposing counsel with uncontrollable clients making similar, or even more lopsided demands, are even worse. Because they can't be knocked out of your life with a simple, "Sorry, I'm sure you can find another lawyer who has another opinion, best of luck." No, the unreasonable PIA opposing lawyer and his/her unreasonable PIA client, with punishment as their primary goal, is going to engage in a war of attrition for months, maybe even years. And they don't care that they're wasting gargantuan amounts of money, energy, time, and public resources, even when they know -- at least an experienced (albeit sometimes utterly inept) adversary knows -- damn well what the bottom-line settlement or litigated result will look like.

That's why there's nothing more wonderful than a reasonable person on the other side, who can control the unreasonable demands of his/her client and cut to the chase.

Right now Republican politics is just like the unreasonable client who craves a lunatic lawyer who will accede to his/her preposterous positions and not yield to anything or anyone resembling sanity. A smart, highly articulate, credentialed and reasonable candidate doesn't stand a hope in hell of impressing the foam-at-the-mouth extremists who seem to be running that party from the outer banks of fringe conservatism. Hence Jon Huntsman's low low low poll numbers.

Told ya I was a political junkie.

But this just goes to prove my point that politics is, indeed, a macro picture of interpersonal relationships, and that divorce lawyers and politicians have a LOT in common....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Divorce Lawyers Are As Bad As Obama

A political junkie like me laughs when a presidential candidates' debate is scheduled to air on an obscure, upper-register cable channel, like say, oh, the Bloomberg Channel (#105 over here in NY). I'm not that easily dissuaded - I WILL watch it, even if I have to stream it.

Not going to be watching it in silence, though. I mean, how can you sit still when an intellectual heavyweight like Michelle Bachmann blames the country's decade-long economic woes solely on President Obama (okay okay, he's a Democrat so it MUST be all his fault); when the effervescent, blunt Ron Paul gets interrupted when he starts scolding Republicans as well as Democrats for poor legislation; and when model family man Newt Gingrich overlooks Reagan/Bush de-regulation and overspending, and stiflingly high Reagan/Bush tax and deficit increases-- NO! it's Obama's fault!

Thank God for Republican Party unity. Thank God for political ambition.

Anything to derail Obama's reelection chances is clearly fair game, even if it means re-writing history or ignoring what's best for the country now. And I thought the vitriol was high during the Clinton years. But I digress...

My favorite comment - seriously - of the evening came from Rick Santorum, who cited "the breakdown of the American family" as a primary cause of economy disparities in the US. I heard heckling in the background when he said that (the noise distracted many of the candidates, including my favorite - Michelle, of course). Maybe the heckler was a married guy. Or a single mom who's doing just fine, thank you.

But Rick Santorum is absolutely right, as study after study and just plain common sense has shown. Single-parent households struggle far more than intact families. Santorum unfortunately missed the opportunity to lambaste the group that everyone, on all sides of the political spectrum, loves to hate. Had he done so, maybe he would have propelled his poll numbers out of the single digits.

I'm talking about divorce lawyers. Naturally. We're the ones who enable a person to dump his/her spouse out on the street. We bicker over the amount of spousal and child support. We defend the deadbeats who fail to meet their financial obligations to their ex's. We file actions to decrease monthly payments because our clients can't -or won't - afford them. Best of all, we rape family assets for legal and expert fees. We're bad bad bad bad people. (The clients share no complicity in any of this, of course....Here is where I have to give a nod to Herman Cain's call for personal responsibility.)

So you see, the widening gap between rich and poor is really our fault. We're as bad as Obama. Worse.

Rick, you blew it, buddy. At least you were on the right track.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Post-Apocalyptic All-Female Celibate Society

I'm trying my hand at a short, sci-fi story:

A post-apocalyptic, all-female band of survivors re-populates the world via IVF and brain cell regeneration.

What can I say? In my younger days I spent many hours curled up with Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dissing the Judge Is Never A Good Idea

Two words: Joe Walsh.

Walsh, a Tea Party freshman Congressman, owes over $117,000 in alleged child support arrears, while stoking up the right-wing media over government spending, and calling out the President of the United States as a liar who is "in over [his] head."

He didn't bother to show up for his oft-adjourned child support hearing last week, because of his position as a Member of the House. (Not like he was actually doing something important in DC on the day of the hearing.) To which the Judge replied, “Well, he’s no different than anyone else.” The Judge's comment was actually consistent with the position taken by Walsh's, ummm, fourth(?) lawyer, that he's just like "any other average guy." You know, that average "Joe Sixpack" kind of guy who has trouble meeting his child support obligations.

Wait a minute.

Since when is the average American support obligor a deadbeat? And if it's so "average" (i.e. normal) to be a deadbeat dad, does that make it okay? (Note to Levi Johnston: Tea Party matron Sarah Palin won't mind if you skip paying child support to still-unwed Bristol.)

Child support orders can be onerous, and even downright nutty - Lord knows I've had a few of those issued against some of my clients. Sometimes they're far too meagre, I've had those, also. Sometimes judges actually do something about bizarre orders - although they usually don't. I've been on both sides of enforcement proceedings. Lord knows, they're an even bigger nightmare.

The thought of F-f-f-f-family Court makes my skin turn a nasty shade of green.

But in any event, you don't just ignore the damn court date.
Judge scolds Rep. Joe Walsh in child-support case with ex-wife - Chicago Sun-Times

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Men Pay A Steep Price For Lust (Or Lack Thereof)

Everyone knows that men often think only with their ****s. Especially men who are powerful enough to believe their lewd actions won't have major repercussions on their marriages, their careers and their lives.

Obvious recent examples of over-sexed, self-destructive men:
*Bill Clinton, who demolished his presidential legacy and forever tarnished his reputation.
*Tiger Woods, whose escapades as a man-whore practically overshadowed his legendary (but now-fading) golf prowess, and drove him from the sport, sponsorships and, of course, his wife and kids.
*John Edwards, who ruined his political life and probably helped to loosen his wife's already-tenuous hold on life.
*DSK, who lost his IMF chairmanship and checked into Riker's Island for a few days.
*Elliott Weiner, who thought his own wiener was so photogenic that he lost his Congressional seat and handed it over to the House Republicans.

But maybe you didn't know that men also pay heavily for lacking a strong enough sexual appetite.

In France - yes, France where male ardor is a matter of national pride! - a 51-year-old man was recently socked with paying his ex-wife 8500 Euros for his lackluster performance in the bedroom. Not just for a few months, either, but for 21 years, which I think is a mighty long time for any self-respecting woman to wait for some serious attention. A little Viagra along the way could have saved the thin-blooded Jean-Louis B. a pile of money. It could have saved his marriage, too, since his failure to satisfy his wife was grounds for the divorce.

Damned if they do it (with someone else), damned if they don't do it (for a really really long time) with their wives. There's a lesson there, guys.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Women Must Sacrifice Career for Family? Really?

I'm so sick of the assumption that women - women attorneys in particular - can't hack working full-time and having a family. That women - the masters of multi-tasking - require reduced hours and telecommuting in order to raise their kids while holding down a job.

Oh really?

Guess that means that successful women who work their butts off full-time are, ipso facto, utterly incapable of having equally rewarding personal lives. Or that working women are destined to be either professional slugs or crappy wives and moms.


And what role, pray tell, are men supposed to play in this absurd scenario? I guess, circa 1955, they're the real professionals, the bread-winners without shared family responsibilities. The ones who bring home the bacon to the "little woman" changing diapers while she's wearing her apron, cooking dinner for the family before going back to her part-time telecommuting job.

Here's the link to an ABA Journal article I just read with total disgust, that perpetuates this kind of ridiculous, last-millenium mindset.
At 50 Best Law Firms for Women, Policies Allowing Reduced Hours and Telecommuting Are the Norm - News - ABA Journal

Monday, August 8, 2011

How Screwed Are We?

Two weeks ago, I compared the morons in DC to bad divorce lawyers screwing up a case- obsessed by self-interest, indifferent to the greater good, controlled by belligerence, hostility and contempt for everyone with a different opinion.

My comparison was dead-on.

And now? The proverbial brown stuff has hit the fan. World markets have plunged. Savings and retirement portfolios are dissolving. Our nation's credit rating with S&P is worse than France's - although I fail to see why S&P has any business weighing in on our political wrangling.

Congress went on a five-week vacation immediately after dumping this mess on us. After they scoffed at warnings that their bs would lead to a bloodbath in the markets, and would hurt US credit standing enough to cause an increase in our borrowing costs (and a resulting increase in our debt). After they left us with an under-funded FAA that left airport construction crews stranded. They left, for vacations longer than any of us ever take. So now, they have lots of free time to put fingers at the other guys, blame them for the repercussions of months of ineffectual, blowhard politics.

Maybe they'll pay the price at the polls and not get another chance to screw us after the next election. Maybe they'll be looking for a real job then - although I suspect they'll be more successful than 9.1% of Americans.

Meanwhile, no one has a clue when the markets will bottom and how much more money we'll be losing. The only thing that's certain is, the bleeding can't last forever.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bad Divorce Lawyers Are Running The Country

Nightmare divorce cases. Unlikely that anyone who's had the misfortune of enduring them can ever erase them from their memory banks.

The torturous negotiations that dragged on endlessly. The pain-in-the-butt lawyer who dug his or her heels in, who refused to answer telephone calls. Who sent letters in which every other word was in italics or in bold lettering or underlined. Who constantly badgered and bullied and postured and flailed around, instigating a fight when everyone else already agreed to the bottom line. The passive-aggressive or over-aggressive spouse on the other side.

Belligerence just to make a point and look "tough." Ridiculous demands that were made, knowing they were totally unacceptable, so the other side would look bad or be forced into a potential disadvantage. And then, even after getting everything they wanted, upping the ante yet again by insisting on more capitulation to things that were never discussed, or inventing new issues to be disputed.

What a colossal waste of time, energy and money. What enormous risks to, and tolls taken on, the physical, emotional and financial health of everyone involved.

Sounds like a micro-version of the current debt ceiling negotiations. Like a bunch of nitwit matrimonial lawyers dithering around, overwhelmed by multiple-trillion-dollar issues that they're treating like hyper-personal allocations of marital assets or parenting times. Cripes.

Every day for the past few weeks, escalating over the past few days, our political leaders in Washington (and the wannabes running for office) have been playing reckless games with the debt ceiling issue. Many of these people seem positively clueless about who are really the potential victims of their stupidity - not just the recipients of government checks, but everyone who has direct and indirect market exposure, i.e., just about everyone. American politicians with power and influence, who are either inept or damgerously indifferent to how underlying market and economic currents react to any ripples in our financial strength that emanate from their embarrassing political ditherings.

And they ARE embarrassing. Democracy at its worst, partisanship at its most divisive. The level of venom has attained heights not seen since the worst days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Only this time there's a lot more at stake than the moral malfunctions of a randy middle-aged president and semen stains on the dress of a dim-witted intern.

I swear, the current debt ceiling impasse reminds me of some of the worst divorce cases I've seen. Same pointless posturing, same foolish risk-taking, same poor leadership, same insane brinksmanship - but with the entire country, no, the world economy - held hostage to these fools.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gotta Be Nuts to Marry a Politician

Right off the bat, all PC aside, it always seems to be the politician-husbands who get themselves embroiled in sordid scandals. You never hear about a woman pulling down her panties for a quickie behind the office, like Bill Clinton. Or soliciting a stranger for sex in an airport bathroom, like Larry Craig. Or flying to a foreign country to sleep with a "soulmate," like Mark Sanford. How about having a secret love child in her own house, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or while her husband staves off death, a la John Edwards? Or forcing herself on a clueless hotel staffer, like DSK? Or Twittering naked crotch shots of herself to an Internet "friend" half her age, like Anthony Weiner?

Not saying women never screw around, not saying they can't subject their husbands and kids to immeasureable embarrassment. But how many woman politicians and business leaders engage in the kind of utter crap described above? I can't think of any. Too much common sense, maybe.

Except for those women who marry politicians or men who hint that politics their career goal. These women have no common sense whatsoever. Those women, to quote Jim Cramer, have got to be "NUTS, THEY'RE NUTS, THEY KNOW NOTHING!"

Given the abysmal track record of the political man, one would think that a woman would say, as her boyfriend asks for her hand on bended knee, "Yes, but only if you get out of politics/never go into politics." But they don't try to establish those conditions, from what I can tell. Instead, political wives encourage, or at least accept, their husbands' political ambitions. And then later, they quietly bury their growing unhappiness with the life they've chosen in alcohol and mysticism (e.g., Betty Ford and Pat Reagan).

I'm not even going to go near all the men who had "issues" long before politics was on their minds, and the women who foolishly thought they could cure their men of their problems...That's a whole other set of psychoses...

Can a political wife be truly surprised to be standing under the glare of the cameras a few years later (maybe not even that long), after her husband 'fesses up in public to unleashing his one-eyed monster on other women or men? No shocker there. See the HuffPo's list of the mortified women who "stand by their men" at

Marry a politician, you know damn well what you're getting into. Chances are, it'll ultimately be a lot less power and glamour, and a lot more squalid humiliation. Thank God for the women who don't bother to show up for the weepy press conferences. I suspect they knew the odds when they exchanged wedding rings.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sex and Self-Destruction

What is it about powerful men and uncontrollable sex drives? Why do they go hand in hand, along with utter contempt for the law and for the personal havoc that results?

My friend Ali Leotta, sex crimes prosecutor, has also posted about DSK on her blog, Prime-Time Crime Review. Is it just a lawyer thing to be more fascinated by DSK's downfall than the latest celebrity sex scandals?

Here's Ali's extremely well-written article:

What’s His Defense?
By Allison Leotta on June 8th, 2011

Whether it’s a Kennedy cousin, a professional athlete, or the head of the International Monetary Fund, it’s always shocking when a wealthy celebrity is charged with rape. Could that man in the suit really have been that beast in the bedroom? Why would a millionaire risk trading his life of champagne and yachts for three hots and a cot? What will his defense be?

By now you’ve seen the footage of the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, being led on a perp-walk by the NYPD. Until last this week, DSK was the French politician most likely to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy and become France’s next president. His reputation as a womanizer had also earned him the nickname of the “Great Seducer.” On May 18th, he was charged with sexually assaulting a maid at a posh Manhattan hotel, where he was staying in a $3000-a-night suite. According to news reports, the maid went into DSK’s suite to clean it; he allegedly emerged naked from the bathroom, grabbed her, forced her to perform oral sex on him, and tried to further assault her; she escaped, ran from the room, and reported the incident to her supervisor.

Since his arrest, we’ve heard a couple of different theories of his possible defense. 

He’s got an alibi:   Hehad checked out of the hotel and/or was lunching with his daughter when the alleged crime occurred, so he couldn’t have raped the maid. Gee, what a terrible mix-up this all must be.

The Vast Global Conspiracy: Sarkozy’s cronies set up Strauss-Kahn to eliminate him as a political rival. Dan Brown, start taking notes!

I doubt he’ll go with either of these two defenses. I was a federal prosecutor in D.C. for twelve years, specializing in sex crimes for the last eight. I’ve seen countless sex-assault cases, although admittedly few involving French diplomats. But this isn’t how such a case is typically defended.

An alibi defense is simply too risky (unless, of course, it’s true!). With credit card receipts, ever-present security cameras, and GPS cell phones, there are too many ways authorities could disprove a false alibi. And advancing an alibi squanders one of the few great advantages that a defendant has at trial – the prosecutor’s heavy burden of proof. Sure, technically the prosecutor still has to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt even if she can poke holes in the defendant’s alibi, but in practice the jury is likely to think they’re picking between two theories. If the defendant’s alibi is wrong, the prosecutor’s theory must be right.

As for the conspiracy theory – I’m a thriller-writer, but it’s too far-fetched for me. New Yorkers are a skeptical bunch. I don’t think they’ll buy a story where French politicians use the NYPD to carry out a grand conspiracy. If this were a set-up, it’s a risky one. Could the alleged victim maid hold up under the spotlight that all the media in the free world is about to shine on her – not to mention cross-examination by experienced defense attorney Benjamin Brafman? Michael Corleone did it much better with the dead girl in the Senator’s hotel bed.

Instead, I predict Strauss-Kahn will go with the usual defense that powerful men opt for:


This has been the defense of choice since there have been sex scandals. It’s powerful because it often could be true – whether an alleged victim consented can be a blurry concept, and mistakes can be made. As a strategic choice, a consent defense takes advantage of two enormous challenges prosecutors face: (1) rape usually happens with no witnesses, aside from an often vulnerable victim, and (2) the government has the burden of proving every criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard in American law. This defense also plays into the biases and prejudices in our culture. Someone on the jury might see a woman who had sex with a wealthy man, and think she must have wanted it.

These days, DNA testing often proves that the sexual contact took place. That leaves a defendant unable to claim – for long – that he never had sexual relations with that woman. But who is to say that she didn’t consent – except, of course, for her? The consent defense sets up a he-said / she-said situation, which is difficult to overcome by a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard.

Not impossible to overcome, of course. Forensic evidence such as vaginal tearing might demonstrate that the sex was forcible. But that kind of evidence is quite rare, and it seems even less likely to exist here, where there may have only been oral contact. Prosecutors will look for other injuries on the maid and DSK consistent with a struggle. They’ll also search for any other corroborating evidence. Did she immediately call the police or family after the alleged assault? Did he flee the scene? Did anyone else see or hear anything during the encounter? Has he done this before? In the absence of such corroboration, a lot will ride on the victim’s sheer credibility – a heavy burden for any woman to carry.

Meanwhile, the defense team has no obligation to state DSK’s defense until after the results of the DNA testing come back. In fact, they don’t have to say anything until trial – or even during trial. Every defendant has the right to sit back and simply hold the prosecution to its burden. But if history is any guide, DSK’s attorneys will say this was just another case of the Great Seducer wielding his famous charm on a willing woman.

The prosecution will continue to work the case from every angle, searching for any evidence that goes to this question. The men and women of the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s Office are excellent law enforcement authorities. If they believe the charges cannot be proved, they will dismiss them.

And if this really turns out to be a vast global conspiracy, it will launch a new generation of political thrillers.

I have commented on Ali's post as follows:

I'm so glad you weighed in on this one, Ali. I posted on my blog about DSK's various alibis, too, but as usual, I was far more unkind than you are! :<) Funny how this story disappeared from the headlines in the wake of the Ah-mold/Maria soap opera and, now, Rep. Weiner's teary sext-mess. Just one more powerful man in self-destruct mode because of an unbridled sex drive and utter disregard for the consequences of his actions (both legal and personal)... Sigh...

There has been a great deal of information dug up about the maid's immediate actions following the alleged (ahem) attack. Apparently, the shell-shocked maid, after being found cowering in a hallway right after DSK forced himself on her (allegedly, sorry), reported a consistent story to both hotel security and the NYPD. Versus DSK, who was far from consistent: he was dining with his daughter at the time; ummm, no, it was consensual (his defense only after his fingernails were scraped for DNA evidence, coincidentally).

And just in case anyone thought the Sofitel in Times Square was the only scene of sordid sex crimes, the elegant Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue was the scene of a sexual attack barely two weeks later, in a case so eerily similar that when I first saw the headlines, I thought the reporter was two weeks behind the DSK story. Turns out an elderly Egyptian businessman thought another maid was fair bait, too:

"The former chairman of one of Egypt's major banks has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing a maid at a Manhattan hotel, just weeks after the arrest of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on similar allegations. Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar - the 74-year-old former chairman of Egypt's Bank of Alexandria - allegedly groped and "gyrated" against the maid in room 1027 at The Pierre hotel on Fifth Avenue, a law-enforcement source said."

The Smell Test

The decision and order are out. Your lawyer flips to the last page, the only one that really matters.

Who won the motion? How much will you be paying for support, and for how long? Is your company going to be drawn into your divorce case? Is the trial going to be delayed again? Who gets stuck with the tax penalties? Are you going to lose the house? Where are the kids going to live?

Pretty bizarre, leaving decisions that are so critical to your life in the hands of some stranger in black robes. Who the hell is that judge anyway? Is s/he so quick, so intuitive, so brilliantly analytical, to be uniquely qualified for such a demanding and important job? Umm, I'll punt on that one, at least here on HuffPo. (You can take a look at my blog for my thinking on this subject, if you're so inclined.)

No, I want to talk about what's behind judicial decisions: What makes the results practically inevitable in so many cases. Why you, or your spouse, may never have had a fighting chance from the get-go. How you were able to turn your case around from a total loser to a hands-down winner, or the other way around. And yes, this can be something that only you control.

Forget about gender bias arguments, claims of corruption in the legal system, or how the "old boy" network supposedly operates. Maybe those arguments have some merit. Maybe they're just paranoid. It doesn't matter. Because for the vast majority of cases, those issues aren't at the crux of court decisions. What is?

I call it The Smell Test.

Okay, the judge considers what your lawyer presents to the court. And what your spouse's lawyer says and writes about you which, chances are about a zillion to one, is extremely unflattering. Let's not forget the experts, either, who, in their inimitable wisdom, opine about your finances, your psyche, your motives, and your conduct. Never underestimate their power to sway the judge.

Or the witnesses, judges might consider them, at least to some degree - please, you need to put a lid on that family member who refuses to mind his/her own business, and get the human resources lady to turn over your pension stuff before she goes on her honeymoon. Witnesses for the other side? Not much you can do about them, so don't pester them. Bad idea.

Lord knows your spouse will be going after you hard, maybe s/he's out for blood. Maybe s/he will be so nutty, so unreasonable, so vile, that, assuming you're not equally horrible (justifying a "plague on both your houses" mentality by the judge), s/he will self-destruct.

But when all is said and done, even in this cacophony of information, it's up to you to make or break your own case. So what you say, what you do, how you look -- both in and out of court, right now, during the case -- that's just about all you can control, but cripes, it matters. It seriously matters. You can't change the past, and you can't change who you are. But you can control how you handle yourself in your greatest time of need. Of course, any hint of insincerity or opportunism, any contradiction of your true intentions -- well, most people (even judges!) aren't so utterly clueless that they won't detect you're trying to pull a fast one.

Whether it's because you remind the judge of a favorite cousin, or your spouse has the same first name as the judge's sworn childhood enemy, or you cuss out the judge's favorite court officer, one of you glares at the other lawyer across the courtroom at the preliminary name it. That first impression counts. But then there's the next court appearance, and the next, and the next. Plenty of time and ways to build on or demolish that first impression. Like the forensic evaluations. And your compliance with court rulings, Your cooperation with your spouse during the case. Your body language. The information filtering into court about your dealings with teachers, therapists, the cops, the kids.

Every case gives off a certain vibe. Every human being reacts to another with a visceral, gut feeling of sympathy or distaste. A judge who has the power to affect the rest of your life is no different. In fact, his/her antennae are overly sensitized - it makes decision-making that much easier. Yes, a good lawyer will help you to maximize and capitalize on the positives, and minimize the negatives. But you give off your own vibe.

Which of you is going to pass The Smell Test? Because, unless lofty Constitutional issues are involved that transcend personality, whoever passes it will find that the law has been pushed, pulled, shoved, squeezed, pressed, rolled and stuffed into the facts of your case. Yep, it all boils down to The Smell Test.

From my May 11, 2011 article in the Huffington Post-Divorce

Friday, May 27, 2011

Girl Lawyer and Fathers' Rights Advocate

When I was in my 20's, my father used to call me a "girl-lawyer" just to see if he could get a rise out of me, which, of course, he did. By the time I was in my 30's, cranking out the hours at BigLaw, the ranks of women lawyers had swelled so much no one paid much attention to gender - except for the proverbial "glass ceiling." And after I'd been a divorce lawyer for roughly a decade, I'd grown tired of being asked by men if it was "better" for them to hire a woman lawyer; I'd also grown accustomed to women who were clearly more comfortable confiding in a female lawyer, while others were happier to be represented by more testosterone than I'd ever have.

Then I found myself tossed onto a few websites, defining me as a fathers' rights advocate. I had some women calling me a woman-hater, and some men saying, yeah, Terri gets it, unlike all those feminist b****s.

Okay, let me set the record straight.

First, I suppose I am something of a feminist, if that's what you call a woman who firmly believes woman and men have the same rights to citizenship, educational and career opportunities, personal choices, etc. I hardly consider that an extreme position. I was raised on the notion that girls could do anything boys did, and I focused on getting a kick-ass education so that I could, in fact, do whatever I wanted. (Being a divorce lawyer wasn't my childhood dream, though, in all honesty...) As a teenager, my views were shaped, reinforced and supported at my all-girls' high school, where I'm pleased to say Sen. Gillibrand (class of '84) is returning to give the commencement address this weekend.

Second, I have, in fact, won many bitter custody battles for male clients, where the kids ended up living with their fathers. Translation: I have represented men who were, I believe, deprived or about be to deprived of access to their kids, to the severe detriment of the kids. And in those cases, the judge agreed with our presentation of the evidence that the father provided the better living environment for the kids for a variety of reasons, usually centering around emotional/psychiatric issues.

Third, I have negotiated many deals (lost count a long time ago) for male clients, where the terms included shared parenting (decision-making and access time) between both moms and dads. In those cases, both parties agreed that the kids would live fuller, happier and better lives, and receive the maximum emotional, educational and personal advantage by having significant access to both their parents.

Fourth, I've done the same thing for female clients over the years. I've also helped - dads, don't gasp - women to relocate with the kids, where courts have accepted the evidence presented that the kids would thrive in that new place with their mom. That the move was not being done to punish the dad, that the move was reasonable and necessary, that adjustments during weekends, vacations and summers could accommodate the need for parenting time with the dad, etc. etc.

Fifth, I loathe beyond words the abuse of legal process, the gamesmanship and the bull***t that preludes and accompanies most custody battles. It happens on both sides - men and women. The way people drag friends and family in to take sides against their spouse, the PR (formal, when it's a high-profile matter, and informal, where people notify their surrounding communities of their private issues). The way people, mostly women - sorry, that's been my experience, ladies - obtain bogus ex parte orders to throw their spouses out of the house and cut off all access to the kids. How child protective service agencies get contacted - again, mostly by the women, in my experience, to bust into homes and grill often-clueless kids about their parents' manner of showing affection. How one or both parents are so fixated on hating the other that they ignore the radioactive damage they're inflicting on their hapless, helpless kids.

So does all this make this "girl" (not so much now, at my age) lawyer a fathers' rights advocate? No. The concept of furthering the rights of one gender over another is an anathema to everything I believe in. I never saw any of my custody cases as a battle between the sexes. To me, it's been a battle between parents - my client (whom I believed in and advocated for as the better, more nurturing parent) and the opposing party - with the ultimate goal of doing the best thing for the kids rather than assuaging the ego of the father or the mother. And if my client - man or woman - was more interested in his/her ego than what was best for the kids, I wouldn't be representing him/her.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Consensual? Is this a Joke?

Like my prior post says, I'm far more fascinated by the DSK crime scandal than Arnold's. Yeah, both are, at heart, the same old story of powerful teststerone-laden men who think they're invulnerable, until they are undone by sex - one too many attempts to lord it over seemingly defenseless objects of their lust. But DSK has all sorts of international, high-powered criminal/political/economic themes, including that perennial favorite of mine, conspiracy theories.

For anyone not in the know, DSK (the common nickname for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French Socialist Party leader and freshly-resigned head of the International Monetary Fund), is accused of having sexually assaulted an African maid in his elegant suite at the Times Square Sofitel, while he was in NYC to visit his daughter. The details are laid out here:

DSK was yanked out of his first-class seat on an Air France flight from JFK to Paris, right before it left the gate, within hours of the incident. He spent a few days in a solitary cell on Riker's Island before he was finally let out on bail. Not exactly the digs he's used to.

Anyway, initially, DSK's lawyers claimed he was innocent because he had already checked out of the hotel when the alleged assault took place. Okay, so he checked out of the hotel post-haste. But that's only because he was in a hurry to meet up with his daughter. There were witnesses who could attest to his whereabouts. Solid alibis. Um-hum.

Now his defense has changed: Any sex he had with the maid was consensual.

Why am I not buying into any of this?

The hotel keys, you know, those annoying computerized plastic cards, may hold the real answer...

"Police have said the maid knocked on Strauss-Kahn’s door and called out, used her master keycard to open the door, and left her work cart in the doorway, a typical safety practice in hotels. According to the police account, Strauss-Kahn emerged naked, tried to attack the maid, and then shut the hotel door when she tried to escape. The Times explains how the key card evidence may play out: “If the defense for Mr. Strauss-Kahn maintains that the encounter was consensual, its version will have to accommodate the unambiguous computer record of her leaving the door propped open," the story says. "It will also have to explain how and when she decided that sex with Mr. Strauss-Kahn was a better use of her time than changing the linens.”
IMF Chief May Claim Any Sex Was Consensual; Hotel Key Card Records Are Likely Evidence - News - ABA Journal

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again - Almost

Can't believe it's the end of May already, and I'm not feeling too motivated. But hey, can you blame me?

I've been doing a lot of reading, and not really enjoying much of what I've read. Nonsensical plot points, unsympathetic protagonists who make me think, "So what?" and dumb dialogue-- All makes me nervous about Client Relations as I continue revisions. Paul Simon's new song, "Rewrite," from his latest album, is beginning to feel like my theme song: "I say, help me help me help me help me, Thank you!..."

HuffPo Divorce is rife, actually it's totally inundated, with Arnold and Maria posts. How much, seriously, is there to say? Rich movie star/former politician sleeps with maid, has illegitimate child living under the same roof as his family. Alienated wife has hired an LA lawyer 15 years out of law school, working at her dad's firm. Okay? Done. Move on.

The DSK scandal is far more sordid, but since he's not a movie star or a former body-building champ (just a super-powerful financial French guy), he draws less press. Except on CNBC and Bloomberg's of course. But since the market's down, no one's paying much attention.

Charlie Sheen's fifteen minutes (okay, four days) have come and gone. Can't say I miss him.

It hasn't been an awe-inspiring year so far. Which is why I need to immerse myself in writing again. Because sometimes (like, now) fiction is better than reality.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

THIS Person is a Judge?

Most people don't expect to stand in front of someone in black robes, frowning at them from behind a high dias, issuing orders and judgments that will affect them for the rest of their lives. No, that's for criminals, they think, and criminals usually get what's coming to them. Normal people don't have judges intruding into their lives, pontificating on every move they've made in recent (and even in not-so-recent memory), determining whether to reward, punish or restrict them in the future. Right?

Okay, so you suspect I'm about to talk about divorces and custody wars, where judges become an integral part of a "normal person's" life for a few months, or a few years, and their decisions can wreck havoc on a family for decades.

But what I really want to talk about it...who the hell are these people? The judges who are making these life-changing decisions?

Lawyers get accused all the time of being "in bed" with judges - We are the largest contributors to their election campaigns, which we often run. We appear in front of the same judges over and over, year after year, so we don't want to offend them in one case and have them take it out on us in another. We generally run in the same social circles, or at least the same professional ones. Does any intelligent lawyer want to offend a judge given these circumstances? Of course not.

But that doesn't mean we have to like or even respect all of them. There are those judges - far too few - who were really solid lawyers before they "ascended" to the bench. Smart, intellectually nimble, savvy to the ways of the world, and, most of all, ready, willing and able to do justice- which is what judges are supposed to do, using the law to accomplish that goal. These judges actually wanted to become judges to facilitate justice, and they never, ever grow tired of it. They love the law, they don't burn out.

What about the rest of them? Well, in New York, as in many of other states, our State and local judges are elected. Most voters don't have the slightest clue of who the judicial candidates are come Election Day, other than their party affiliation, when they pull the lever.

Does being a female Democrat translate to being a liberal feminist judge? How about a black Republican male - conservative, law-and-order kind of guy? Nope. All that party affiliation usually means is that was the party where that particular judicial candidate had an opening - a friend willing to push for him/her, favors were owed, there was no one else willing to run on that ticket...You get the idea. Judges appointed by governors and other elected officials? Pretty much the same thing.

If we're lucky, the judge turns out to be intelligent, fair and open-minded. After that, we're looking at the many degrees of indifference, stupidity, dogmatism and rigidity that separate fair to mediocre to downright atrocious judges, not necessariy by bright lines, either.

And so we're stuck swallowing our bile as we call that collection of judicial disgraces "Your Honor." We hope they don't destroy our clients' lives too much, because most people lack the stomach or the money to endure an appeal of a horrific judicial decision. And we hope they will someday be on the receiving end of decisions as atrocious as the ones they're doling out, or be kicked off the bench for some crime or act of egregious misconduct before the next election cycle rolls around.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

CNBC's "Divorce Wars" is a Bomb

I've learned to expect more from CNBC than the incessantly sensationalist reporting and insipid banalities that are the norm for most broadcast media. After all, CNBC is the main broadcast source of information for business and financial leaders, with its second-by-second stock quotes and up-to-the-minute breaking business news updates.

So I eagerly tuned in to CNBC's Special Report, "Divorce Wars," on Tuesday night. The program had been widely advertised: "CNBC goes inside the confidential world of multi-million dollar divorce revealing the secrets of winning and losing on a battlefield of emotional pain and financial gain." A former AAML national president, Gerry Nissenbaum, and unbiquitous publicity hound Raoul Felder, along with two divorcee bottom-feeders who've been hawking their wares on the Internet (a "divorce insurance" broker, and a "divorce funding" broker who takes a percentage of the recovery -- how unethical is that?!!), were slated to enlighten viewers with their perspectives.

Having handled a fair number of high-asset divorces and pre-nups myself, I'm still not crazy enough to think I've got a monopoly on knowledge or insight on representing the super-rich. And I figured, even if I didn't learn anything really new or fresh from the show, at least Gerry (a first-class Boston lawyer) would share an interesting tidbit of information and Raoul would be, well, Raoul.

Wrong. Gerry didn't have much of a chance to say anything except comment on the case of a bitter, unpleasant woman whose settlement agreement he was able to bust open on fraud grounds. Raoul was more subdued than usual, and the two get-rich-off-other-people's-misery non-professionals came across as sleazy as I expected.

Then there were the wronged clients. Gerry's client, the kind of sour, angry person no one in their right mind wants to deal with unless they have the patience of Job (like Gerry). The whiny CEO who didn't heed anyone's advice to get a pre-nup and was later shocked -shocked! - when his bride not only divorced him, but now has a substantial book value that rivals the Forbes' 500. Then there was the - oh my God can you believe it? - fabricated case of child pornography planted into an unsuspecting husband's computer while he was off on a business trip, that took a team of experts, 81 trial days, and millions of dollars to disprove.

Of course, I can't omit to mention the reporter for this special program. (Each time she intoned the word, "MILL-yon," I wanted to throw something at the TV.) Her claim that no one in the world of high-end divorces of business leaders wants to talk about their experience, and how secretive that world is, is belied by the headlines. The Perelman divorce. The Mark Hurd fiasco. The "Dodger" divorce of the McCourts. Yeah, right. Need I continue?

I swear, CNBC fell mighty short on this one.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Horny and Self-Righteous Lawyers

Another great attorney-client relations story that just happened in Iowa: An Iowa attorney turned himself into the local police on charges of assume to commit sexual abuse. After his client was sentenced to probation for driving under the influence, he served her four cocktails while they met in his office. I wonder if he serves booze to all his DUI clients, or whether he reserves it for special female clients.

Anyway, he must mix a hell of a drink, because the four drinks he served her made her so woozy that she can't recall everything that happened to her afterward,but she can remember sitting on his lap on the couch in his office at some later point, and a surveillance tape at her apartment shows her getting out of his car.

And, as is so often the fate of overly self-righteous law enforcement officials (think Elliot Spitzer), a Nevada prosecutor managed to get himself arrested for buying crack from a street dealer. This guy is a chief deputy DA who's been buying crack for his own recreational use for months from "Joe" the Dealer. Meanwhile, he counts among the people he's prosecuted the likes of Paris Hilton and Bruno Mars, and he had just been put on a Federal drug task force. Looks like his career's going to be headed in a different direction now. Maybe he'll get his own talk show, or land a spot as a commentator on Fox News.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The "Legal Expert"

A lawyer posts a well-written blog article about a certain celeb's impending custody battle, and discusses potential winning strategies and the judge's possible thought-processes. The blogger calls himself an "authoritative voice" and "legal expert." Okay, fine.

Just out of curiousity, since I've never heard of the guy, I do a little digging. I go to Then to Google. Then to the links to his other blog posts. Then to LinkedIn. Then to the websites of the firm, actually firms, that his name is linked to. I'm turning up vague stuff, mostly his own bios, about his actual credentials, nothing I can confirm from an independent source. What the...? So finally, I go to the New York Office of Court Administration.

Who is this "legal expert," this "authoritative voice," pontificating on custody law?

Well, I can't confirm he actually got the Fulbright he says he got, but okay, I'll assume he did. Very impressive. And it appears on OCA that the guy went to the Ivy League law school he says he went to. But his stint at DOJ? Less than one year's duration, before he even started law school, according to his LinkedIn bio. His extensive contributions to well-known media? Mostly blog posts, from what I can tell. As for the four unexplained years between law school and NYS bar admission? Well, maybe he was a judicial clerk (most lawyers brag big-time about that, and he says nothing, so who knows) or did something non-law-related? Travel?

But this is where I get angry: The guy's experience as a lawyer that makes him an "authoritative voice" and a "legal expert?"? Ummm....admitted for all of FIVE years in NY. He's worked with at least two different firms - already - in corporate law.

In my book, this baby lawyer who bloats his creds shouldn't be posing as a legal expert in anything, let alone matrimonial law. Pay some dues, mister, before you pass yourself off to the unsuspecting public as one of the big boys.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Client From Hell

Of course I mean Charlie Sheen, Mr. Tiger's Blood, the Adonis-DNA guy who has evolved way beyond any of us mere mortals...

Who the hell would want to represent this guy? His publicist had the smarts to walk away - far far away. But he still has legal representation. You can always count on somebody willing to be treated like a servant, let the client call the shots, all for the sake of getting a higher profile and some decent legal fees.

I'll leave the corporate guy alone, since he's dealing with fancy things like CBS contracts, and focus on the hapless divorce lawyer: A Class of 1982 Florida law school grad (not an Academy Fellow, what a surprise). Does this lawyer honestly expect to get Charlie in and out of divorce court without getting fired, grievanced, sued, or blasted in the press? Does he expect not to get shafted on his fees? He's either completely spineless, or completely desperate. Or he's willing to tase his client.

In any event, it's a lose-lose for the lawyer. For everybody. Not "win-ningggg," sorry, Charlie.

Charlie just plain doesn't SHUT UP. He's ubiquitous, too. Never mind the content or the style of his presentation. Unless you want to think about how a court will respond to his benevolent public statements about the mother of his two young children. Stuff like,"She's a traitor," "She's banished," and "She's going to live under a bridge somewhere."

Great. How to show you're willing to foment a healthy relationship between the kids (poor things, doomed to be forever screwed up, I fear) and what you hope will be the noncustodial parent. (Not like she's any great shakes, but, geez, Charlie, SHUT UP if you want to WIN.) No one cares that you're being "grandiose," at least no one who's going to be deciding your matrimonial case.

Whew. If Charlie were as "evolved" as he thinks he is, he'd know to sit back and let his drug-addict wife lose the case all by her lonesome. It could be done. Sure, he'd have to show what a good guy he is, by not having a porn star and a weed model taking care of his kids while they're busy taking turns servicing him. Just for starters. And---

Cripes, I could go on and on about what he should do, what he shouldn't do, to position himself in his divorce and custody case but why bother? He's not reading this, he could give a damn anyway, since he's above it all.

And the lunatic lawyer representing him? For God's sake, if you can't/won't shut the guy down, and control his conduct, well, brace yourself for the consequences. All of them. It won't be a pretty sight.

It's so frustrating, watching this case get lost so badly, by an uncontrollable client and a lawyer who can't/won't stem the bloodshed for whatever reason. On the other hand, what a relief I don't have to deal with this crap. What nitwit would, anyway?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Bother Being Politically Correct?

Is anyone really pc? I don't know anyone who doesn't let something truly off-color slip every once in awhile, including me.

But I have to say, when it comes to custody battles, I could truly care less which gender the prevailing parent is, as long as the kids have ended up in a good place (as best anyone can see from the facts, of course).

And this is coming from a person who went to all all-girls' school, where feminism was instilled in me as deeply as my love for classic rock and soul music. But the kind of feminism that teaches women to achieve their full potential, and not search for excuses to underperform because of their gender. To feel good about themselves, and comfortable in their own skin, and never accept anything less than equal treatment. To seek fairness for themselves, and for others. To strive for the truth, and not fool themselves with bland, meaningless euphemisms that accomplish nothing.

Not a bad way to live. Takes a lot of energy and will-power, though, which I often lack. Yet another reason to be glad someone invented chocolate, the supreme comforter of the hopelessly inadequate...

A Rant About Temporary Orders of Protection

My latest article on Huffington Post:

Let's discuss the bad, no, let's make that the absolute worst, court order in family law cases where kids are involved: The temporary order of protection, more affectionately known as the TOP.

First, a disclaimer: Some TOPs have validity, and some actually work. There are people who seriously need to be protected from abusive or threatening individuals, and are at imminent risk of harm. The resulting TOP will work if the respondent has a lingering remnant of respect for the law, or fear of repercussion -- like arrest or imprisonment -- if s/he violates the order. (Many doubt that a simple piece of paper will dissuade a truly violent person from his/her intended harm.) And the TOP is better yet if the police are quick to enforce it. These are the meritorious orders. Who in their right mind can quarrel with them?

But bogus TOPs are more often the norm, and they hurt everyone.

In meritorious cases, family court judges can become so inured to requests for TOP's that at-risk people may be denied the protection they need, sometimes with horrific consequences. It happens, and not just in big cities, either.

What about the respondent in the completely bogus TOP case? S/he is usually cut off from the kids, suddenly and indefinitely -- with little or no physical, telephone, written or even electronic contact -- while the case gets adjourned ad nauseum, based on allegations s/he never even had a chance to contest in court prior to the issuance of the TOP.

And the kids in these cases? Usually they're confused by the abrupt disappearance of one parent. If they're lucky, they won't get poisoned too much by the petitioner or his/her friends and relatives. Chances are, they will. Therapists, come on and join the gang of total strangers (judges, law guardians, child protective services, forensic evaluators, etc. etc.) now intruding on this family.

Let's not forget the petitioner, who thinks s/he has just scored big-time in the impending custody battle. S/he may not have noticed the damage s/he has just caused his/her family - which no custody award in his/her favor will ever erase. And s/he runs the risk that a very patient respondent -- one who's prepared to ride the waves of mostly negative rulings for a while, and who's hired a good lawyer - will eventually expose the phony claims. If the respondent has a fair amount of facts in his/her favor, s/he may even prove it's the petitioner who's really harming the family. Boom. Custody unexpectedly awarded to the respondent.

And everyone will have nice hefty legal fees for their efforts.

There, now, wasn't that a productive exhibition of hostility?


Friday, February 11, 2011

A Family Lawyer Dies In A SWAT Gun Battle

A respected family lawyer in Virginia snapped under pressure. He holded up in his house and pointlessly battled a SWAT team for a few hours. His wife (who is also his law partner) has got to be reeling still from these events.

What happened to Mr. Ferris that would have made him act like a desperado? No one really knows. They found some beer and meds in his house, so maybe he was depressed. They found a picture of a sniper there, too, and - bizarre twist, given his legal practice area -he was also a licensed gun dealer. So maybe he was just a troubled guy, although local residents described him otherwise, and be was apparently very involved in his community.

Very tragic, seeing anyone throw away their life. At least he didn't kill his wife and kids...

I first read about this in the ABA Journal:

I couldn't find out much more, even after reading this:
UPDATE: Cause of death released for Ferris in Chesterfield shoot - WTOC, Savannah, Georgia, news, weather and sports |

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Get Up, Stand Up

Here's an inspired post from Dan Hull (who else?), suggesting that we - and, in particular, educated professionals - should stop wallowing in conformity, stop playing it safe in our thinking, renew our leadership and innovation roles in society. I've blocked and pasted it in its entirety. Even though the post is a little long, Dan's impatience with mediocrity is always refreshing and cogent:

Heroes, Leaders & True Grit: Anyone Out There Have Soul, Style and Sand?

Do "educated" Americans and other Westerners ever stand up anymore?

We live in an increasingly consensus-driven society--if you are a lawyer, or some other kind of professional or executive, it's more cookie-cutter than ever before. You get patted on the head for making your thoughts and actions risk-averse and business as usual. You are rewarded for being a Soulless Dork.

Who leads? Which execs? Which lawyers? Which doctors? Which humans who've acquired or been given valuable educations, experiences, things and gifts many others don't have?

Anglo-Irish, Angry and Brave. So now add this Clergyman and Satirist to our Cosmos of Heroes. He was a unique and rare gent. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the author of Gulliver's Travels, was truly authentic, and maybe not quite as sick and strange as his contemporary critics thought; they saw him through the lens of the many illnesses that plagued his last decade and put him in a permanently bad mood. Certainly, he had no fair shake from any of us in the last century, when we all went nuts on Freud.

Sure, Swift could be abrasive. And hyper-aggressive. He made enemies, both literary and political. But he was influential. We still talk about and, when at our best, emulate the purity underneath his anger and sarcasm. He is of course the man who, in his pursuit of Irish causes, and fighting the alternating apathy and arrogance of the English, suggested that Ireland's poorest address their poverty by selling their children as food to the rich.

Those who knew Dean Swift were impressed that he put his ideas and notions of wrongs to be righted ahead of all of his many simultaneous careers. He put ideas and the plights of others ahead of his own comfort and popularity.

Big Moxie--it fueled Swift's desire for justice and his need to end the suffering of others--had a life-long hold on Swift.

Yet he was very much part of The Establishment of the England and Ireland of his time. In fact, a mainstay.

So who's brave these days?

Are Americans "stand up" people anymore? We live in a consensus society and, if you are a lawyer, or some other kind of Western "professional", it's perhaps even worse.

You get patted on the head for making your thoughts and actions risk-averse and business as usual. It's safe that way. You never need to lead. And you are actually rewarded for "it"--i.e., Flying the Colors of Sameness--in the short term.

Who apart from clever publicity hounds thinks on their own, acts, embraces unpopular but sound ideas about new practice models, and are not afraid of the consequences in our conservative, conformist and essentially tradition-for-tradition's sake calling?

Just pro bono work for the poor and disenfranchised? Bar association causes and events? The Rotary? Insular church groups? Work soup kitchens on Thanksgiving? An occasional letter to the editor? Chamber of Commerce membership for people who look and talk just like you?

Give us a break. Why don't you just put on little hat, play the banjo and do a self-congratulatory dance for co-workers, friends and neighbors?

Reach higher. For starters, what about the 24/7 primacy of the main event: everyday buyers, customers and clients as a focus which never changes? Doing your jobs with skill and pride. Never taking them for granted. Inspiring others with your passion.

What about real innovation? What about thinking and acting on your own--and away from the Change-Hating Mediocre Herd? Never Reading Self-Improvement or "Business Leadership" books? Why not use your "educations" and too-often stagnant minds to think, create, act and lead?

And be like Dean Swift? Substance. Soul. Style. Sand.

Who leads? Which execs? Which lawyers? Which doctors? Which humans who have been given things many others don't have?

Dead of Winter

Up late as usual, trying to get motivated. It's freezing, icy and inky outside, my car's in the shop because some idiot sideswiped me when I was parked on the side of a street so I'm housebound - not like I really want to go anywhere when it's in the single digits even under a tinny sun.
Got my computer back from repairs, so I can write again. I have to pull myself into positive thinking mode again. I see the divorce blogs are focusing, as always, on the latest celebrity blow-out. Who the hell cares??? And once you see it on one site, does it really matter if it's posted somewhere else? The writing blogs focus on the author's latest book tours, current projects, that sort of thing. And the law blogs, chugging away with the pop culture antics of some out-of-control lawyer.
It's the dead of winter.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Next HuffPo Article

I'm weighing what to do next week...
1. A post on crappy TOP's, which I plan to reverse the genders for
2. A post on what divorce lawyers should do, which I'd de-lawyer-speak from the Academy Bounds
3. A post on ffffffamily court that picks up where the post (on getting ready for court) left off

Gotta get some energy for it first. I'm seriously wiped out and need to re-group.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm Cold, and Distracted...January Blues

Too many different things going on for me - I feel like I'm being tugged in so many different directions. And it's January, ugh.

So I'm thinking about the next post I should do for HuffPo. What topic, whether I should keep doing lists, those are my main issues. And what about this blog? I'm feeling like I'm inside a black hole - have I lost my way? Then there's Client Relations - I'm getting back into it, after holiday distractions, but it's hard when I know the next few weeks are going to be so demanding. I feel so discouraged. It's almost overwhelming, trying to keep up my energy.

January has been dreadful. Jim's car got nailed in a hit-and-run. My new wheelchair already has 'issues' that haven't been resolved. The basement flooded because the plumbing and septic needed repairs. My car battery died. Then the ABS had to be replaced. My computer blew -- same damn issue as the other two Sony VAIO notebooks I had-- NEVER BUY A SONY COMPUTER!!!! Stem cell trials are still a zillion years away. And its going to be minus twenty outside tomorrow. I know I'm leaving something else out, and it's not just the obscenely high NY property taxes due this week, or how fat I'm feel and that I don't even care right now.

Yeah, I know, bitch bitch bitch.

I figure with so much crap happening in January, I'm getting it all out of the way and the rest of the year is going to be great.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Crappy Lawyers - full text

Here it is, me bitching about the dabblers who make all divorce lawyers look really bad:

Divorce lawyers. Otherwise known as dirtbags, bottom-feeders, thieves, morons--go ahead, you name it, we're used to it. The tirades that often show up here on the Huffington Post, and on other web sites when the word 'divorce' is mentioned, are pretty intense. Yep, lots of people have horror stories and, whether it's justified or not, the matrimonial bar bears the brunt of the hostility resulting from divorce.

Think we don't feel the rancor? That we don't know why we're considered the "dregs of the legal profession," as someone commenting on my last post so kindly (uh-huh) put it? We're not quite that clueless, despite outward appearances and all our bravado. Fact is, the "dabblers"-- you know, the lawyers who are either very inexperienced or whose practice isn't at least 80% matrimonial--cause a great deal of the angst and anger. But hey, I know that sounds kind of defensive.

So here we go--the things divorce lawyers can do to earn their clients' fury (with attorney explanations in parentheses):

1. Miss deadlines. ("Give me a break, I forgot.")

2. Don't know the law. ("Geez Louise, you expect me to know everything?")

3. Make up facts. ("Everyone else does it. The judge never sanctions anybody.")

4. Don't bother with the billing. ("The retainer check should cover it. Besides, billing takes too long.")

5. Bill the hell out of the case. ("I was thinking about you while I was watching the play-offs.")

6. Nickel-and-dime the client to death with personal and general office expenses. Charge for things like taxis, train fare, meals, telephone charges, per-page faxing, secretarial overtime., just to name a few. ("I wouldn't have eaten any dinner--ever--if I weren't working on the case, or taken a cab home when I worked late, or bought another toner when the fax ran out of ink. And you're screwing up my weekend.")

7. Yell at the client. ("Come on, it's my normal speaking voice.")

8. Diss everyone in the case. The client's shrink. His/her parents. Opposing counsel. The law guardian. And, of course, the judge. ("They're all idiots anyway.")

9. Remind the client there are a lot of other cases that need to be handled. ("It's a matter of priorities, and you need to be put in your place. I'm very much in demand.")

10. Keep the client waiting unnecessarily for office appointments. ("I'm more important than any client; work with me here, it's an ego-thing.")

11. Let the client see the lawyer sneaking out for a sandwich when the appointment is supposed to be starting, then waltz back into the reception area with either (i) a brown paper bag; or (ii) a receipt that the lawyer ostentatiously slaps on the front desk. ("Like this needs justification? Get real, people.")

12. Ignore the FedEx packets a client sends. ("Huh? Hope no one tracks the delivery date.")

13. Whenever something's missing--and delivery to the lawyer's office has been confirmed-- blame the staff. ("Sor-ry, got too much stuff to look at as it is.")

14. Always have the secretary place the call to the client, instead of dialing directly. Wait a minute--is that the client calling again? ("Hell with it, I'm busy. All the time.")

15. Why waste time sending the client copies of anything? ("You'll find out eventually.")

16. Don't let the client settle the case, under any circumstances. ("It could ruin my 'pit-bull' rep.")

17. Keep the client out of the loop on what's going on in their case. ("Like I'm supposed to know, too?")

18. Forget to give opposing counsel (or file in court) important documents/information. ("Hmmm, must be somewhere on my desk or in my office. I think. Maybe.")

19. Tune out what the client is saying s/he wants to accomplish in the case. ("Like clients know anything, right?")

20. I saved the best for last: Have sex with the other lawyer. Or the client. ("Who can resist a screeching adversary or a vulnerable, stressed-out client? Hottest people on the planet.")

Think I've given angry clients out there whatever ammunition they need, assuming they even needed any, to continue to dump on the matrimonial bar? Nope. Because responsible, knowledgeable, experienced divorce lawyers don't behave this way.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crappy Lawyers

This article of mine is front and center on Huffington Post Divorce today...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lust, Sex and Clients

Always a fun topic, especially given that it is a key element of my novel-in-progress, Client Relations.

My friends at have posted an article about the recent disbarment of a New Jersey lawyer who had sex with his divorce client.

What really frosted the NJ Disclipinary Board was the offending lawyer's enormous billing fraud stretching across years and law firms and, get this, that he was having sex with a client while she was considering reconciling with her husband. In other words, if she were in the midst of a brutal divorce war, where reconciliation was not even remotely on the horizon, it would have been perfectly okay for her lawyer to screw around with her. Assuming he wasn't billing her for his time spent when they were frolicking in bed, that is. Cripes, I knew I should have waived into the New Jersey bar - I had no idea it was so much fun over there, just across the state line.

The Academy (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) has an extremely thorough code of conduct for matrimonial lawyers (Bounds of Advocacy Section 3.4 This kind of crap is flat-out barred by the Academy: "A more intimate relationship may endanger both the client's welfare and the lawyer's objectivity."

So. What's really interesting to me about all these rules, ethical opinions, cases, stuff like that, is:
1. Generally, non-divorce lawyers can go at it with their clients as long as their professional judgment is unimpaired. Okay, that's crystal clear.
2. I haven't seen any specific cases or opinions where the lusty lawyer is a woman. Not even in journal articles that lead off with the lame, supposedly provocative, photos. Nope. It's always the male lawyer with the wingtips, and the quivering female client worshiping his diplomas on the wall. Excuse me? Women lawyers are fully capable of dominating male clients (and opponents), thank you very much. Power trips aren't gender-neutral.
3. Nothing prohibits good old-fashioned romance, without actual sex acts, between lawyers and clients. You know. When people don't expose their private parts for manipulation, like back in pre-pre-pre-Monica Lewinsky days. Kissing, hugging, touching non-genital areas - I guess that's all fair game for those who are so inclined.

If the lawyer and client 'laugh just a little too loud, stand just a little too close, stare just a little too long' (a la Something to Talk About), well, that's fine and dandy. No conflicts of interest, no impairment of judgment. Just a little distraction (hmmmm, maybe enough distraction to push a case through too quickly in order to make the client available for an all-out sexual affair). Put that together with a female tax lawyer representing a sexy real estate tycoon (wait a minute - isn't that an oxymoron?), and voila! Absolutely no Draconian fear of disbarment hanging about in the foreground.

Note: Since 1981, no client has ever been that appealing to me. No adversary or judge, either. And I know of no female attorney who has gotten herself in hot water for sleeping with her client. But I do know a few men - and not particularly attractive ones - who have. Hence all these rules - Thanks, guys, for making the rest of us look as bad as you are.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Civility for Thirty Minutes, Unless You're Online

President Obama's speech in Tuscon yesterday implored us to be more civil to each other. Civility as an ideal, but in reality, remembered for a moment before everyone moves on with their normal affairs. Be nice for the next 30 minutes or so, then forget it.

As for online civility? Are you kidding? The anonymity of Web 'discourse' pretty much invites people to be rude since they don't have to face their audience or even hear them. Palin's ridiculous video yesterday, via Web broadcast, almost doesn't count --she broadcasts out of a studio in her house which prevents any dialogue (just the way she likes it),but she is far from anonymous. She'd probably pull her hair bump out if her name weren't plastered all over the place. No, I'm talking about people with Internet 'handles' - fake names - and people who may use their real names but know they'll never have to be responsible to anyone for what they post online.

For those people, the rest of us have a choice as simple as the old-fashioned notion of changing the channel when we don't like a TV show. If you don't want to log off, or leave the site, hit the delete button if the obnoxious post is your in box, on your Facebook wall, on your IM or blog. Skip past it if it's on a site you're reading, or if most posts on the site are obnoxious, don't go there again (I generally avoid Above The Law now for this reason). But for the sake of your own sanity, don't take an obnoxious Web post on. You won't change anyone's mind. You'll just buy aggravation, an unwelcome flurry of nasty and pointless exchanges, and perhaps a creepy invasion of your privacy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How To Duck Out Of Child Support

Some people just don't get it. You can't duck out of support obligations when the court has your credit card statements showing you've been blowing your money in Vegas on whores and gifts...And you sure don't carry a wad of hundreds around in your pocket!!

I can always count on my friend John Bloch from across the pond to find the real gems!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Thrill of Cynicism, the Agony of Rage

It's so easy - being cynical. That old "been there, done that" attitude. Feels really cool. But it's very condescending, and it's really tough to be around a cynical person. I know. Because I'm cynical as hell. And trying not to be, so I can live with myself.

Then there's rage. So destructive, so stressful. It can eat you up inside; it can kill you. I look back at some of the things I've written when I've been at the peak of rage, and it makes me cringe. And I tell myself, don't get so angry again, look at what it did to you. Been there, done that. No need to do it again.

Damn. I'm being cynical again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pissing Off Divorce Lawyers

I'd posted this on my blog back in August, as one of my first posts,when my blog was in the neonatal unit:

I tweaked it for the Huffington Post last week,  and it posted there yesterday, with huge (not all positive :
Kinda good to see people out there in cyberspace...

Happy New Year!