Political Correctness Leads to “Merry Christmas” Laws

GEO_edited-1Texas governor Rick Perry signed a new law in 2013 called the “Merry Christmas” law. The new law protects Christmas and other holidays in Texas’ public schools from legal challenges.

The law was initiated when Representative Dwayne Bohac learned that his son’s school had erected a “holiday” tree, as the word “Christmas” was banned in the school for fear of attracting litigation. Mr. Bohac remarked that the exclusion of any reference to Christmas at public schools was “political correctness run amok”.

The Christmas controversy, called the “War on Christmas” by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, has taken a variety of forms.

In 2005 the City of Boston erected a “holiday tree” that incensed the Nova Scotia farmer who supplied the tree to Boston. He said he would rather put the tree in a wood chipper than put up with misguided political correctness.

Nativity scenes were barred in public schools in New York in 2002, a position that prevailed when the public school authorities were sued.

In 2007 a public school in Ottawa caused alarm when the word “Christmas” was excised from the school choir’s rendition of “Silver Bells” and replaced with the word “festive”. A few years later another public school in Ontario cancelled their Christmas concert and replaced it with a winter craft fair and concert in February.

Major American big-box chain stores have also been subject to criticism. Sears, Home Depot, Kmart, Target, Walmart, and others who left out the word “Christmas” in their marketing material acceded to pressure from customers and Christian lobby groups to reinstate the name of the religious statutory holiday.

Meanwhile Texas has led the way for “Merry Christmas” laws in Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri with bills awaiting enactment in several other American states.

As for me, I say both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hannukkah”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bill Cosby Plays the Race Card

BarristerLet me put my cards on the table. I never did like Bill Cosby, didn’t think he was funny, and wondered why everyone went ga-ga over him, especially Oprah.

However, I never dreamt in a million years that he was a long-term sex offender, and yes, I believe the accounts told by every victim that has come forward.

I was shocked when Janice Dickinson described what happened to her and will willing to suspend belief, based on her history of drug and alcohol abuse. But when I read 1970’s top black model, Beverly Johnson’s article in the December 2014 Vanity Fair this week, I was overcome with anger and sorrow that this man who was lauded and honoured was an unrepentant rapist.

I didn’t know that he had settled a civil sexual assault case several years ago and had not heard that multiple women had come forward to be witnesses in the civil trial. I sure do understand why he settled the case… a trial would have been pubic, as would the evidence of the parade of thirteen female victims who were prepared to testify that they too had been drugged and assaulted by him.

Cosby has refused to make a public statement until yesterday when he said:

“Let me say this. I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind”.

Yes, Cosby is suggesting that ‘whitey” won’t give him a fair shake…a ridiculous suggestion from a man who thrived in the institutions and bastions of white America, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to Temple University, from the Playboy Mansion to overwhelmingly white Hollywood.

Journalists, of every race and colour, report the news. The news about Cosby is that as many as 37 women have come forward with allegations that all sound the same: Cosby drugged and assaulted them.

His wife of many decades, Camille Cosby, also spoke out yesterday saying that the man who has been described in the nation’s newspapers is not the man she knows. On that count I’d say she is correct.

Bill Cosby has managed to fool everyone!

Unlike Canada, where criminal charges can be filed in historical sexual abuse cases, America has a statute of limitations which means that after a certain date, no criminal charges can be filed against Cosby.

Here’s hoping that the civil lawsuit filed against Cosby this week will start a landslide of civil actions.

For all his fame and fortune, Cosby is by all accounts, an abusive, nasty man, the details of which will become clearer as the civil suits proceed. Of course, with the millions Cosby has it would not surprise me if he threw enough money at his “problem” to make it go away, like he did in 2006.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Hollywood’s Take on Divorce

DSC00567 - Version 2Today’s post looks at the lighter side of divorce and separation with a review of my top three “divorce” movies. And the winners are….

1. The War of the Roses

Who can forget the outrageous antics of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as the warring Roses, in this black comedy directed by Danny De Vito, who also plays a divorce lawyer in the film.

The Roses are a wealthy, sophisticated couple who despite appearances, hate one another. After Mrs. Rose asks for a divorce she advises her husband she will never leave her home and refuses to acknowledge that he has an equal interest in it.

With each refusing to move out, the couple live together in a state of unarmed warfare. To spite each other, they destroy most of the home furnishings and smash Royal Doulton china and Waterford crystal against the walls.

When Mr. Rose “accidently” runs over his wife’s cat, she retaliates by nailing the door of the sauna shut while he is in it. He nearly succumbs to heat stroke and dehydration.

As matters escalate, Mrs. Rose rigs their large hallway chandelier, hoping that it will fall on her husband, thus eliminating her problem. There is a surprise ending that I will not give away.

This 1989 film grossed $150 million at the box office and won three Golden Globes: Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Movie.

2. The First Wive’s Club

This 1996 comedy features Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler as three middle-aged wives who are dumped by their husbands in favour of younger women.

The three form a club vowing to wreak havoc in their ex-husbands’ lives and exact revenge. Goldie Hawn plays an aging actress who is a plastic surgery addict; Diane Keaton is an anxious neurotic with a lesbian daughter; and Bette Midler is a capable Jewish wife who sacrificed herself for her husband’s successful business.

The film has a great soundtrack including Dionne Warwick’s “Wives and Lovers”, Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, and Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me “.

Who can forget Ivana Trump’s cameo line “Don’t get mad, get everything!”

The film was a winner at the box office and helped revive the careers of its
three leading ladies. It was based on the novel of the same name written by Olivia Goldsmith, who died several years later during a facelift procedure.

3. Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams plays a father, Daniel, with a lagging acting career, who loses his job, his marriage and his three kids. His wife, played by Sally Field, has a new boyfriend (Pierce Brosnan) and sole custody of the children. Daniel is given access to his children once a week on Saturday nights.

Desperate to see his kids, he notices that his wife is advertising for a nanny. With the help of his brother who is a film makeup professional, Daniel transforms into British nanny Mrs. Doubtfire.

The film is hilarious. Eventually the two oldest children realize Mrs. Doubtfire is their father and go along with the scam.

The “happy ending” includes Daniel on his own children’s television show playing Mrs. Doubtfire and his wife’s recognition that he is really a great dad.

The film was the second highest grossing film of 1993 only outstripped by Jurassic Park. It won an Oscar for Best Makeup and Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best Picture.

What are your favourites?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Attorney Uses Forged Power of Attorney to “Pull the Plug” on Her Wealthy Father

Elder abuse is a world-wide phenomenon that has only recently received the attention and research dollars that it deserves. For our senior citizens who are victims of caregivers or family members, the emotional and physical damage and financial exploitation is often hidden behind closed doors.

Such is the case in an elder abuse case in Missouri that has been exposed by authorities who have charged Kansas City lawyer, Susan (Liz) Elizabeth Van Note, age 44, with first degree murder and felony forgery.

Liz Van Note’s 67-year-old father and his long-time girlfriend, who he intended to marry, were attacked by an intruder in their Ozarks vacation home. Mr. Van Note’s girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, age 59, did not survive her gunshot wounds and died at the scene.

Mr. Van Note survived and was transported to hospital, but died four days later, after his only child, Liz, gave his medical team a durable power of health care attorney, that authorized her to determine whether or not to “pull the plug”. She decided that life support should be terminated. With the death of her father and his fiance, Liz Van Note became the beneficiary of his multi-million dollar estate.

Authorities later determined that the power of attorney was a forgery.

A September 2012 criminal indictment against Ms. Van Note says that she “knowingly caused the death of William Van Note by shooting him… either acting alone or by knowingly acting together with or aiding another or others” and used a forged power of attorney to deny him potentially life-saving treatment. No charges have yet been brought against her in respect of the death of Sharon Dickson.

Two high school friends of Ms. Van Note’s have also been charged with felony forgery and second degree murder. Desre and Stacy Dory also plead not guilty.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Van Note was removed as the executrix of her father’s estate and was ordered to relinquish control of the assets in her father’s estate. She did, however, manage to post cash bail of $1 million dollars after pleading not guilty, a situation that has caused concern because Ms. Van Note filed for bankruptcy the year before her father’s death, claiming assets of $250,000 against debts of $375,000.

The obvious inference is that Ms. Van Note has already helped herself to estate assets.

Ironically, Liz Van Note practices estate law touting her “compassionate representation of clients” and expertise in end-of-life issues.

UPDATE: Liz Van Note has now been charged with the murder of Sharon Dickson. She was also jailed for contempt of court when she failed to return monies she spent from her deceased father’s estate. Charges have been dropped against high school friends, Desre and Stacy Dory, who unwittingly witnessed the forged power of attorney.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Law Firm Caught Up in Bogus Sunken Treasure Find

DSC00275_1Jay Miscovich was a bright man, with a medical degree in his pocket, but he preferred the world of business and real estate investments until, down-on-his-luck, he turned his talents to finding sunken treasure off the coast of Florida.

He told a story about running into an old friend in a bar in Key West, who showed him some salvage fragments which appeared to be from a Spanish galleon. He purchased a map from his friend for $500.00, where X marked the spot of a possible treasure trove of sunken artifacts and perhaps more.

He and a buddy, later a partner in the company they incorporated, began diving in the location marked on the map and lo and behold, they discovered over 80 pounds of emeralds on the ocean floor. But under Florida law they needed the admiralty court to confirm their find and legally recognize their ownership.

It was not to be as straight-forward as they hoped.

A well-established treasure salvage company, Motivation Inc., who in the 1980’s staked claims to two Spanish galleons that sunk in 1622 and rescued over $400 million dollars in booty, including gold and silver, challenged Mr. Miscovich’s claim, saying the area where the emeralds were found, was part of their salvage operations, 30 miles off the Key West coast.

Miscovich needed a lawyer and hired the well-respected firm of Young Conaway in Delaware. Young Conaway partner, Bruce Silverstein, ran the case and became an investor in the project as well. Silverstein engaged counsel in Florida to represent Miscovich in admiralty court. Young Conway’s legal fees would be paid from a percentage of the treasure, after sufficient monies were raised from investors to conduct the salvage operation.

Under the intense scrutiny of Motivation Inc., Jay Miscovich’s tale of treasure began to fall apart. Lab tests revealed that the emeralds were coated with a 20th century epoxy. But it was to get worse.

In later court proceedings a Florida jeweller testified that Mr. Miscovich purchased $50,000 worth of low-quality emeralds from him several months before the “find”.

Jay Miscovich committed suicide once the fraud began to unravel.

An investor’s group filed a $10 million dollar lawsuit against Silverstein and his firm, alleging that the goal of the enterprise was to extract money from investors and lenders, and conceal and perpetuate the fraud.

They also claimed that Miscovich fraudulently pumped up the value of the emeralds by causing Young Conaway to file false documents. Finally, they said Young Conaway’s litigation tactics were intended to “thwart and intimidate” the opposition by imposing “enormous litigation and investigation costs”.

Motivation Inc. had earlier brought a lawsuit against Young Conaway for fraud and bar sanctions against Bruce Silverstein, alleging that Silverstein aided and abetted Miscovich’s fraud, while deliberately delaying the legal proceedings by filing frivolous applications designed to overwhelm Motivation Inc.in a paper war.

This week a Florida court threw out Motivation’s fraud claims against Young Conaway, but agreed that Bruce Silverstein must face a sanctions hearing, not a trifling matter in the practice of law.

In the meantime, the investor’s claims are still alive, pending an upcoming trial.

As for attorney Silverstein, it is reported that he has an impeccable reputation with both the bar and the bench, and is highly offended by the allegations that he knowingly participated in the fraud. Young Conaway’s view is that they are innocent victims of their client’s treasure hunt scam.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Politicization of Canada’s Supreme Court

GEO CASUALWe should have known that the failed appointment of Mr. Justice Marc Nadon to Canada’s Supreme Court of Canada was just the beginning of the politicization of Canada’s Supreme Court.

It was surprising to many that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada, sparred publicly, albeit gently, over allegations that the Chief Justice had improperly interfered with the executive branch of government’s appointment of Federal Court of Appeal Justice Nadon to Canada’s highest court.

Ultimately, the issue was thrown back to the high court when Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati successfully challenged Nadon’s appointment before Quebec’s Federal Court, a move that forced Mr. Harper to obtain the opinion of the judges who were now Justice Nadon’s colleagues in Ottawa.

The Court’s ruling against Justice Nadon’s appointment was seen as a “slap in the face” to Mr. Harper, and the liberal media took obvious delight in putting Harper “in his place”, amid nasty insults and demeaning comments directed at the beleaguered Nadon.

Justice Nadon slinked back to the Federal Court, more battered and bruised than when he departed.

But surely this was a one-off, not to be repeated? How I wish that were so. Mr. Harper’s recent appointment of Suzanne Cote is now being slammed by certain Canadian “law students, lawyers, and law professors”, a whopping 350 of them.

They are apparently upset that Madam Justice Cote was not vetted by a multi-party parliamentary committee prior to her appointment. They must have short memories, because when Mr. Harper introduced a vetting process for the first time in Canada in 2006, with the appointment of Mr. Justice Rothstein, many anti-Conservative lawyers and law professors criticized the Americanization of the appointment process.

Gallingly, the naysayers are now at work trashing Ms. Cote’s reputation, alleging misconduct in respect of two cases she handled as a lawyer.

In a class-action lawsuit brought by ill and addicted smokers against several multi-national tobacco companies, Ms. Cote acted for Imperial Tobacco commencing in 2010. The lawsuit began more than a decade before her involvement, nonetheless, they blame her for the delay and also claim an “abuse of process” in the multiplicity of allegedly frivolous applications and appeals.

It’s called “hard-fought” litigation folks and I expect the plaintiffs are giving as good as they get, with their own phalanx of high-priced lawyers.

Their second complaint is in a letter to the Canadian Judicial Council, where they suggest that Ms. Cote’s conduct as independent counsel for the Inquiry panel hearing the Judge Lori Douglas bondage scandal deserves censure. The case revolves around nude photos of Judge Douglas, taken by her husband and posted by him online.

Ms. Cote’s sin is that she argued that the photos must be entered as evidence in the Douglas Inquiry, a position opposed by Judge Douglas and called “callous and gratuitous” by Ms. Cote’s critics.

The panel admitted the photos and shortly thereafter, Ms. Douglas announced her upcoming resignation and the Inquiry adjourned. The complainants suggest that Ms. Cote’s conduct was demeaning and forced Judge Lori Douglas to resign.

The executive director of the Canadian Judicial Council properly belittled the complaint, spearheaded by second-year law student Esther Mendelsohn of Osgoode Hall Law School, saying:

“I hate to say something like this, it’s not my style, but a second-year law student saying one of the most esteemed lawyers in Canada didn’t do things the way she should have is something I reject
entirely.”

Given Ms. Mendelsohn’s intemperate remarks, she must be planning to skip any Supreme Court of Canada litigation in the future.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Tragedy of Hot Cars and Kids

GEO CASUALRecently there has been a spate of tragic stories about young children inadvertently left in motor vehicles who have died because of the intense heat.

Residents of sun belt areas know all too well that children and pets cannot be left in cars when sunny days lead to warm weather, however, despite this we continue to hear such stories.

This summer Justin Ross Harris of Georgia was charged with malice murder, felony murder, and child cruelty when he left his 22-month-old son in his car while he went to his workplace, forgetting to drop him off at daycare.

Authorities in Georgia believe that Mr. Harris’ actions were intentional after finding searches on his home computer for “death in hot cars”. They also learned that Harris and his partner had purchased substantial life insurance on their son. Media outlets have reported that while his infant son was sweltering in extreme heat, Harris was sending sexually explicit photos to a variety of women.

The only good news Harris has received since his arrest is that the county prosecutor will not be seeking the death penalty. Harris remains in jail. His wife has not been charged.

Meanwhile in Scottsdale, Arizona, mother Shanesha Taylor, age 35, left her two children, ages two and six months, in her automobile while she attended a 45 minute job interview. She was a single mother who had been desperately looking for work. The children were rescued before the worst happened. Ms. Taylor told the police she was unemployed and homeless. Her story was met with public sympathy and compassion, so much so that she received over $100,000 in donations.

Further investigation revealed, however, that she had a part-time job and was not homeless, nonetheless, authorities agreed to a plea bargain where she would take parenting classes and deposit all donations into a trust account for her children’s education.

Her biggest challenge was obtaining the return of her two children who had been removed from her home after the incident. She eventually recovered custody of the kids.

Across the pond, British family law lawyer, Tim Haines, stopped at a pharmacy to pick up baby formula for his two-year-old daughter, leaving her in the car for no more than ten minutes. When he returned his daughter was happily standing in the front seat, but outside the car were two police officers waiting for him.

The officers chastised Mr. Haines, and refused to allow him to drive his car home because of “bald tires”. Mr. Haines walked the lengthy distance home carrying his daughter.

Two weeks later the police showed up at his doorstep and arrested him for child endangerment. His five children were placed on the Child Protection Registry and Mr. Haines and his wife spent a year in legal proceedings. He was convicted of the charge but on appeal the conviction was reversed. He eventually had his name cleared and his children’s names removed from the registry.

Website kidsandcars.org brings home the devastation of these deaths in its collection of photos of beautiful, innocent children who have tragically died in their parent’s cars.

Never take the chance with a child’s life….

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang