DISBARRED- The Series: Roy Cohn

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Roy Cohn was a Jewish lawyer from the Bronx who gained fame and later notoriety as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy in his investigation into Communist activities in the 1950′s. Son of a judge and graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of twenty, Cohn had to wait until he was twenty-one to begin his legal career as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice offices in Manhattan.

Cohn worked on the Alger Hiss trial, an American lawyer, accused of being a Soviet spy, and was on the team of prosecutors who obtained espionage convictions and the death penalty for Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1951. Cohn often told others that it was his cross-examination of Ethel Rosenberg’s brother that sealed the convictions. He also bragged that it was his personal recommendation to the judge that the death penalty be imposed on the Rosenberg’s.

In 1954 Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation chose Roy Cohn over Robert Kennedy to act as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, the decision apparently made to avert any accusations of anti-Semitism. Several years later McCarthy and Cohn were investigated for the zeal they employed in the McCarthy hearings, including their condemnation of both communist sympathizers and homosexuals. Cohn bore the brunt of the criticism, while McCarthy’s career lay in shambles.

Cohn left the Department of Justice and went into private practice for thirty years, acting for high-profile clients such as Donald Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno and John Gotti, Studio 54 owner Steven Rubell, the Roman Catholic Diocese in New York and the New York Yankees Baseball Club.

In the 1970′s and 80′s, federal investigators charged Cohn with professional misconduct, perjury, witness tampering and financial improprieties involving city contracts and private investments, but he was never convicted.

However, in 1986 a five member panel of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division disbarred Roy Cohn for unethical conduct, misappropriation of client funds and pressuring a client to amend his will. The “will” incident happened in 1975 when Cohn attended upon a dying, comatose, multimillionaire client in hospital; lifted his hand, placed a pen in it and had him make a mark on a will that benefitted Cohn and his client’s granddaughter.

The official stripping of his license to practice law occurred in the last month of Cohn’s life in August 1986 at the age of 59. Mr. Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984 but kept his illness a secret. It was reported that Mr. Cohn’s goal was to die completely impecunious, owing money to the U.S. tax authorities. He apparently succeeded.

Roy Cohn’s life and legacy survives in today’s popular culture. In the award winning “Angels in America”, written by Tony Kushner, Cohn was played by actor Al Pacino as a hypocrite haunted by the image of Ethel Rosenberg as he lays dying from AIDS. Characters modeled after Roy Cohn have also appeared in The Simpson’s, The X-Files, a Kurt Vonnegut novel and a song written by New Yorker, Billy Joel.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee

Divorce Revenge

_DSC4179 - Version 2A Supreme Court judge in New York recently referred to a divorce litigant as “despicable”. What could possibly garner this strong reaction from an otherwise cool, calm and collected judicial official?

Just before the litigant’s wife filed for divorce, her husband decided to come clean with the tax authorities and filed amended tax returns for 2004 to 2007, disclosing an additional $1.6 million of income from his contracting business.

As a result, he owed the government $1.2 million in taxes, a sum that was coincidentally equivalent to the value of the family home. He also made it very easy for the tax authorities by attaching to his amended tax returns details of the assets he owned, the bank who held the mortgage on the family home, and other pertinent collection information.

The wife was shocked and horrified because the law in New York, as in many other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, provides that a debt incurred during the marriage for the family will be a family debt that is sharable between spouses. Unpaid income tax owed on family income is considered family debt.

The couple had been married for almost fifteen years and had four children.

The New York Supreme Court considered the husband’s evidence of the large family debt and determined that the husband had made the disclosure, not because he was being audited or investigated, but because he wished to cause as much pain as possible to his wife.

The trial judge found that his conduct was malicious and revenge was his motive.

Unfortunately, for this husband, his plan backfired, as the court held that given the egregious circumstances, he would be solely responsible for the debt.

Confucius once said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Lawyers Behaving Badly

49afd8240a58bf0fb97d4a86105572c1I’ve been told that sociopaths have three favorite occupations: practicing law, running large companies/CEO’s or holding government office/politicians! It’s a joke, but I’m sure more than a few people would agree. This week two “bad” lawyer articles came to my attention, thus my title “Lawyers Behaving Badly”.

The first is Fort Wayne Indiana lawyer James Allen Hanson, age 41, who in a fit of pique penned a Facebook message to the ex- husband of his matrimonial client, Nachole Mevis. Hanson was acting for her in respect of her divorce and in regards to an assault charge she faced where her former husband was the victim. It’s not clear why Mr. Hanson was so riled up, although media reports indicate his client was in jail for domestic assault. The message he sent read:

“You pissed off the wrong attorney. You want to beat up women and then play games with the legal system…well then you will get exactly what you deserve. After I get Nachole out of jail. I’m going to gather all the relevant evidence and then I’m going to anal rape you so hard your teeth come loose. I tried working with you with respect. Now I’m going to treat you like the pond scum you are. Watch your ass you little (expletive). I’ve got you in my sights now.”

Ms. Mevis’ former spouse, Chad Vice, contacted the police and attorney Jim Hanson was arrested and charged with felony intimidation, admitting that he sent the message to Mr. Vice while protesting that Mr. Vice gave as good as he got.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia Pennsylvania another lawyer came off the rails. Francis Malofiy brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against pop star, Usher, and nineteen other defendants in regards to Usher’s song, “Bad Girl”. In the course of representing his client, Dan Marino, Mr. Malofiy was described by trial judge Paul S. Diamond as “a paradigm of bad faith and intentional misconduct”, an unflattering portrait that was close to an understatement.

In a pretrial discovery/deposition of a certain witness, attorney Malofiy was deliberately abusive and obstructionist, making lengthy, baseless objections. He was also rude and sexist. In one exchange with defendant’s counsel he said “Don’t be a girl about this..” Opposing counsel responded “I would appreciate you not referring to me as a girl, which you have done repeatedly on the record and off the record.”

He continued to volley insulting and intimidating comments including:

“Counsel you’re defending thieves and you’re acting like somebody who should be hanging out with them at this point”

“You coached him to hell and the Judge came out and slammed you. Slammed you!”

“You’re like a little kid with your little mouth”

During one deposition Mr. Malofiy’s behavior prompted this response from the deponent:

“And for the record I’d like to say that I feel menaced and threatened by Mr. Malifiy and his continual outbursts and seemingly anger-driven conduct today.”

In a written submission to the court Mr. Malofiy addressed his argument “Response in Opposition Re: Joint Motion for Sanctions by Moving Defendants Who are Cry Babies.” The content of the argument included such brilliant points as “this is hogwash and claptrap”; “defence counsel are lying through their teeth”; “defence counsel is bizarre, off-kilter, absurd and professional complainers”.

Even worse than Malofiy’s abusive tongue, however, was his conduct in misleading an unrepresented defendant to believe he was merely a witness and was not being sued, behavior which drew the court’s most rigorous criticism. Mr. Malofiy defended himself by saying that he was a relatively unexperienced lawyer who needed a mentor to help him, protestations that were met with disdain from the court, who sanctioned him, leaving more stringent discipline, including disbarment, to be determined.

Two more reasons why lawyers are often branded as bullies!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Should US White Supremacy Group Forfeit Bequest in Canadian Will?

GEO_edited-1In an intriguing case from New Brunswick a court will decide whether a bequest in Robert McCorkill’s will to an American Neo-Nazi group should be declared void because of the racist views of the organization.

National Alliance, a white supremacy group in West Virginia, was gifted a collection of valuable coins from ancient Rome and Greece, an antique Iranian sword, and other artifacts and investments said to be worth a minimum of $250,000 and as much as $1 million dollars.

Robert McCorkill, who died in 2004 in New Brunswick, lived primarily in Saskatchewan and Ontario during his lifetime. He was a geologist and a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, who had spent time at National Alliance’s headquarters.

The challenge to his Will was brought by his sister, Isabelle McCorkill, who maintains that it’s not about the money but a reflection of her moral duty to intervene in what she describes as an offensive and illegal bequest.

The Attorney-General of New Brunswick agrees with her, as do B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs who were granted intervener status and made submissions at the hearing.

In their arguments against upholding the will, the interveners argued that the National Alliance’s profile had declined with the death of its founder ten years before, and that the bequest would provide funds to the organization to resurrect itself and its mandate to deny the Holocaust, and promote racial cleansing and genocide.

However, the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) argued that the will should stand as representing Mr. McCorkill’s testamentary wishes which are paramount and should not be subject to court intervention simply because the intended beneficiary espouses a message that is unpopular or even contrary to the Criminal Code or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

CAFE also argued that it was not up to a judge to determine the worthiness of a beneficiary and to do so would open a Pandora’s box, illustrating their point by querying whether a bequest to the Hell’s Angels or to a drug dealer or even to Greenpeace could be subject to attack.

They also noted that the National Alliance is a lawful corporation in good standing and had no criminal convictions either in Canada or the United States.

A very thorny question and one that will require wisdom. Is such a gift an affront to Canadian public policy and should the Court interfere with testamentary wishes? How do you think the Court will rule?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why Trinity Western Law School is Good For Canada

BarristerElaine Craig, an assistant professor at Dalhousie Law School wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on December 18 concerning the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s Law School. As a Vancouver lawyer and arbitrator and a committed Christian I have listened to the critics rage on since TWU made their application to the Federation of Law Societies to obtain the necessary approval.

The good news is that the Federation approved TRU’s application, quickly followed by the assent of British Columbia’s Ministry of Advanced Education. With these obstacles out of the way, TWU Law School will now move forward, much to the chagrin of Ms. Craig and others who have decried the establishment of a faith-based law school.

In her article Ms. Craig scolds the Federation for refusing to act in the interests of “equality and justice” by virtue of TWU’s Covenant which states that students, staff and faculty must “abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”.

What she and others of her ilk ignore is that freedom of religion co-exists with the right to equality. However, in the case of private institutions, religious freedom trumps equality.

Section 41 of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code provides a specific exemption for non-profit religious organizations where the organization’s primary purpose is to promote the interests and welfare of an identified group, characterized by a common religion.

Ms. Craig also repeats the tired refrain that TWU’s Covenant is evidence of their anti-gay stance, when she knows the prohibition of sex outside of marriage applies equally to heterosexual couples.

In Ms. Craig’s world there is no room for divergent opinions and the accommodation of different beliefs, even though tolerance of opposing views is the centerpiece of a democracy. In her view, the curtailment of religious freedom is necessary in order to promote the beliefs of another group. Ironically, Ms. Craig is a strong proponent of human rights, so long as the rights are not of the religious variety.

The basic mission of religious law schools, of which there are many in the United States, is to educate students to be lawyers in democracies founded on Judeo-Christian principles. How can Christian ethics and morals be considered inappropriate?

TWU will undoubtedly lead the way in Canada “integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice”. (Taken from the mission statement of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, a Catholic school in Florida)

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bondage Judge’s Judicial Inquiry High-Jacked By Federal Court and Collapses

BarristerIf the Canadian Judicial Council Inquiry Committee reviewing Madam Justice Lori Douglas’ off-duty behavior is a microcosm of Canada’s justice system, why should anyone be surprised that after years of litigation manoeuvres by Ms. Douglas, the Committee has finally thrown up their hands and walked off the job.

Their frustration with the legal gamesmanship and the resulting delay and expense is a feeling that is shared by millions of Canadians daily, particularly those unfortunate enough to be caught in the morass of family court.

However, when the body that governs superior court judges in Canada cannot move forward and complete their mandate because of the interference of another court, one has well and truly gone down the rabbit hole.

Judge Douglas’ saga began in the Fall of 2010 when her husband, divorce lawyer Jack King’s former client, Alex Chapman, reneged on his 2003 agreement to keep his lips sealed in exchange for a payment of $25,000. His lurid secret was that Mr. King had shared explicit nude photos of his wife, Judge Douglas with him and allegedly attempted to entice him into a sexual relationship with the two of them.

Chapman’s complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council alleging sexual harassment started their investigation which eventually led to a rare public inquiry in May 2012 as to whether she was fit to retain her position as a judge of the superior court in Manitoba.

By the time the hearing got underway, additional allegations tangentially related to the harassment charges came into sharper focus. The investigation revealed that when she applied for her judicial position in 2005 she answered the question “Is there anything in your past that could reflect badly on the office of a judge?” in the negative and “changed” some of her diary entries that related to the Chapman allegations.

Several days into the inquiry, after the evidence of husband Jack King and Mr. Chapman had gone in, it became apparent to Judge Douglas’ lawyer that things were not going well for her and an application to terminate the inquiry based on the legal principle of “a reasonable apprehension of bias” was brought on her behalf. The sole basis for the allegation was that counsel for the Committee aggressively cross-examined two inquiry witnesses.

On July 27, 2012 the Committee rejected her application, whereupon she launched an appeal to the Federal Court and obtained an order from that Court that the Inquiry would be “stayed” or put “on hold” until the Federal Court could rule.

The absurdity of the process in the Federal Court is explained by the Committee in their written REASONS FOR RESIGNATION OF THE INQUIRY COMMITTEE CONCERNING THE HONOURABLE LORI DOUGLAS released on November 20, 2013.

They point out that the orders sought by Judge Douglas in the Federal Court and made by the Court were argued without challenge since the only Respondent in the action is the Attorney-General of Canada who brought their own application to be removed from the Federal Court proceedings. The Court refused to remove them from the proceedings but their lack of enthusiasm was evident when they did not appear in court for the stay hearing, thus turning it into an uncontested application, also known as a “slam-dunk”.

The learned justices of the Committee also lament that crucial issues such as the Federal Court’s jurisdiction to usurp the Inquiry’s authority were never addressed and recognize that it may be several more years before the Federal Court completes its review, including the inevitable appeals that will follow.

Finally, the Committee affirms their belief that the inquiry process under the Judges Act must not be high-jacked by “unlimited steps and interlocutory privileges…at public expense”…with the goal of defeating the “wider public purpose that must be served by the judicial conduct process.”

The Inquiry Committee’s resignation is regrettably a necessary, but embarrassing step in a circus that has played out far too long. When will Lori Douglas follow their lead and tender her resignation?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Lawyer’s Nasty Letter Leads to His Suspension

DSC00507 (2)No one in their right mind could possibly welcome an unsolicited letter from a lawyer. The chances that such letters will bring good news are extremely remote. Clients who retain lawyers to write the dreaded “lawyer’s letter” usually have a situation that means trouble for the recipient.

But in the ordinary course of a lawyer’s business, there is no reason that these letters heralding bad news, should be rude or nasty.

I have always subscribed to the theory that each person deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy, even in the most difficult of circumstances. After all, dramatic entreaties outside of the courtroom are of little assistance in resolving disputes.

Unfortunately, not all lawyers have the discipline to exercise basic rules of common courtesy and common sense. Indiana divorce lawyer Joseph Barker falls into that category.

While acting for a father who had been denied access to his child, Mr. Barker wrote to mother’s counsel:

“[Father] told me this week that he has only seen his baby . . . one day all year. Your client doesn’t understand what laws and court orders mean I guess. Probably because she’s an illegal alien to begin with.

I want you to repeat to her in whatever language she understands that we’ll be demanding she be put in JAIL for contempt of court. I’m filing a copy of this letter with the Court to document the seriousness of this problem.”[emphasis in original letter]

The Indiana Supreme Court took exception to Mr. Barker’s letter invoking two sections of their Code of Professional Conduct:

4.4(a): Using means in representing a client that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.
8.4(g): Engaging in conduct, in a professional capacity, manifesting bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, or similar factors, and this conduct was not legitimate advocacy.

Mr. Barker was suspended for 30 days for professional misconduct. The insulting letter served no legitimate purpose related to the matter of his client’s access. Perhaps Mr. Barker believed his offensive missive would intimidate opposing counsel or impress his client? Not likely…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

DISBARRED: The Series Part 9 Scott Saidel

GEO CASUALWhen hot-shot Florida attorney Scott Rothstein’s world of excess collapsed with his $1.2 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, it was inevitable there would be collateral damage, but who could have guessed that Rothstein’s massive fraud would also bring down his beleaguered spouse’s lawyer?

Rothstein’s wife, Kim, shocked by her husband’s criminal acts, had lawyer Scott Saidel by her side, as federal investigators moved to repossess their homes, their yacht, and all the other “stuff” they took such pride in as Rothstein bilked family and friends, all the while parading around Florida like a “big man on campus”.

Boca Raton attorney Scott Saidel, who called himself a friend of Kim Rothstein’s, apparently felt sorry for her, particularly after her husband was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Unfortunately, his compassion led him to participate in a fraudulent scheme to hide over $1 million dollars of her jewellery, including a 12-carat diamond ring, despite a court order that all assets be relinquished to the trustee in bankruptcy.

He then secreted over half a million dollars in his law firm trust account when she sold a portion of the gold and gems. But there was more. Mr. Saidel and Kim Rothstein also conspired to convince the imprisoned Mr. Rothstein to falsely testify that the 12-carat ring had already been sold, so that they could keep it away from the bankruptcy trustee.

Scott Saidel was charged with money laundering, obstructing justice and tampering with a witness. Ms. Rothstein and a girlfriend, who also took part, were also arrested and charged.

Florida newspapers reported that Mr. Saidel wept as he apologized to the court and others for his “error in judgment”, a characterization of his crimes that drew ire from prosecutors. Saidel’s attorney made a passionate plea to the court that out of her client’s desire to help a friend, he had lost his career, his wife and family, and all his assets. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

After reading the news stories I almost felt sorry for Mr. Saidel, until I learned that his “assistance” to his client/friend, added $65,000 to his personal coffers, a hefty sum he was ordered to disgorge as a result of the convictions.

I also learned that Mr. Saidel’s Florida disbarment was not the first time he had fallen afoul of the criminal law. Saidel had practiced law in Arizona, prior to moving to Florida, and was barred from the practice of law for six months after pleading guilty to two felonies arising from an incident that left two passengers in the vehicle he was driving suffering serious bodily injury. Excess speed and alcohol were major contributors to the accident.

Kim Rothstein awaits her sentencing.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Sleazy Divorce Lawyer Faces Jail Term

BarristerWhen I first heard about Mary Nolan, a divorce attorney from Oakland California, I thought perhaps she was simply an overzealous and misguided advocate who got caught up in the emotional maelstrom of her high-conflict divorce practice, perhaps misled by a dirty cop on-the-take.

At the time, maintaining her innocence, she seemed to be a bit-player in scenarios set up by now-disgraced private investigator Chris Butler, situations referred to in the press as “Dirty DUI’s”.

One of Mr. Butler’s “games” was to “set-up” husbands going through a divorce, by instructing his attractive female operatives to entice them to a bar, and after too many drinks and a little dirty dancing, plant a friendly cop a mile from the drinking establishment waiting to bust the unsuspecting dupes.

On at least two occasions, Ms. Nolan just happened to be acting for their wives and lo and behold, the resulting criminal convictions for drunk driving were a serious problem for them in their custody and access claims.

This week Ms. Nolan plead guilty to tax evasion and hiring Mr. Butler to plant listening devices in the automobiles of her clients’ spouses. Butler, who was earlier sentenced to eight years in prison for a myriad of criminal offences, including drug trafficking, testified that Ms. Nolan’s clients paid him for the scam DUI’s but Nolan managed to escape the consequences of her participation in these activities.

Butler also admitted to planting eavesdropping devices inside “hundreds” of cars for clients.

But it is likely Mary Nolan’s evasion of tax that will see her spending time in prison. In multiple years she filed tax returns indicating annual income between $20,000 and $50,000 when she actually earned hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, resulting in a tax bill to the IRS of $1.8 million dollars.

She and Butler also face civil suits brought by husbands of Ms. Nolan’s clients, who suffered significantly after their arrests and convictions. Luckily for them, a higher court quashed their convictions after hearing of the dirty dealings between local police, P.I. Butler and attorney Nolan.

She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Ten-Year-Old B.C. Boy Champions Case for Gender Identity Syndrome

GEO CASUALA ten-year-old boy from Comox British Columbia, who calls himself Harriette, has gone public with his crusade to reform the law that prevents him from acquiring a new birth certificate to reflect his preferred gender.

Harriette’s birth name is Declan Forrest Cunningham, but he recently announced to his Grade 5 teacher and classmates that he is transgendered and lives as a girl, with the full support of his family, who decry the Canadian bureaucracy that refuse to issue him new identification.

Harriette could be a poster child for a debate that is brewing over the treatment of children who are confused about their gender.

Picture a little boy in a pink tutu, fairy wings and ballet pumps. Now imagine that boy being treated with hormone-blocking drugs in a clinic established to diagnose and treat children who believe they were born in the wrong body.

Gender Identity Syndrome, first identified by the American Psychiatric Association in the 1990’s, has spawned a new industry, one where children as young as five, are receiving puberty suppressing injections, despite a paucity of research with respect to the side effects or medical dangers that may accompany these treatments.

At Tavistock Clinic in the United Kingdom over 165 children are being treated by the clinic’s team of social workers and child therapists. Seven of these children are under the age of five, despite Tavistock’s own research that indicates that up to 80% of these children will change their minds about living in the wrong body, once they reach adolescence.

Nonetheless, proponents of hormone therapy believe the treatment is worthwhile to prevent the mental distress these children will experience as their bodies mature. The treatment is also said to be beneficial to those children who will eventually have gender-changing surgery. Others say the treatment reduces suicide and self-harm rates.

Contrary opinions abound. Professor Russell Viner, a hormone specialist at London’s Institute of Child Health believes the impact on a child’s developing bones and brain has not been ascertained and warns of the potential danger. He notes the drugs reduce a patient’s fertility level.

Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a world authority on gender issues, with a Toronto clinic, is opposed to hormonal treatments for children. He says:

“Suppose you saw a black kid that wanted to be white. Wouldn’t you try to understand what was happening…You certainly wouldn’t recommend skin-bleaching.”

He says that gender confusion is an issue of nurture, not nature and believes dysfunctional families or cultural backgrounds play an important role. Other experts say that children confused about their gender may have experienced sexual abuse or have psychiatric ailments and need psychotherapy, not drugs, and not sexual reassignment surgery.

While it is reported that most adults who complete sex-change surgery are happy with their new lives, for others the surgery is anything but positive.

After allegations were made in 2009, psychiatrist Dr. Trudy Kennedy of the Monash Gender Dysphoria Clinic in Melbourne, Australia was forced to close her clinic for a time, while she dealt with numerous complaints and three lawsuits alleging negligence and faulty diagnosis.

Certainly the medical and ethical issues of prescribing intrusive treatments on vulnerable children requires more intense scrutiny than it has received to date.

While the Cunningham family believe their young son’s passion to find justice for himself is laudable, they ignore the potentially negative consequences of his public campaign. He is a child in his formative years who deserves to develop and mature away from the prying eyes of the media. If I was cynical I would say that it is his parents that seek the spotlight…another reality TV show?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang