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

Switched at Birth

10950859361151CDPWriters since the 18th century have been intrigued by a storyline where babies are accidentally switched at birth. This theme appears in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas “The Gondoliers” and “HMS Pinafore”, and Mark Twain also used this plot line in “The Tragedy of Puddin’nhead Wilson”

Dozens of television shows have also featured this now-classic conundrum, including soap operas “One Life to Live” and “The Young and the Restless, primetime’s “Desperate
Housewives”, now in reruns, and the current ABC TV Family network’s popular “Switched at Birth”.

But how often does baby switching occur in real life? More often than it should! Some medical experts say that one in eight children are mixed-up at birth, particularly in large urban hospitals in America.

This week a court in Johannesburg, South Africa, heard a case involving two four-year-olds, a boy and girl, who left the maternity ward with the wrong parents.

The mistake did not come to light until one of the parents requested a paternity test upon his separation from his child’s mother. He was faced with a claim for child support and wanted to ensure that he was the child’s father, because he said, the child looked nothing like him.

His suspicion proved correct. Neither he nor his wife were biologically related to their child. The court heard from a child development expert who testified that each child should remain with the family who raised the child, albeit with a suggestion that the child also have visits with his or her biological parents.The expert’s recommendation is in keeping with other “switched baby” cases in other parts of the world.

One of the most famous cases occurred in Ottawa in 1971 when Laura Cain gave birth to twin boys at Grace Hospital. She named them George and Marcus, but she was not in a position to raise the twins, so Ontario’s Children Aid’s Society found a foster home for the infants. Several months later Laura married the father of her fraternal twins and requested the return of her babies.

She and husband Randy Holmes raised George and Marcus, having no idea that Marcus was not their son, due to a mix-up at the foster home where the boys were living. The real “Marcus” was with Jim and Carroll Tremblay in a neighbouring community. They named him Brent after adopting him from Children’s Aid.

The switch may have remained undiscovered but fate intervened when both George and Brent registered at Carleton University in 1992. Mutual friends introduced them, remarking that they looked curiously similar. They became fast friends and eventually they met each other’s parents.

Once the two sets of parents realized the three boys were all in the care of Ontario’s Children’s Aid as new born babies, and after DNA testing, they discovered that Marcus was not George’s twin, but Brent was his identical match.

After learning the truth, Laura Cain noted how different George and Marcus were from one another, different interests and different friends, although they were very close and moved in together once they left the family home.

There were reports at the time of a lawsuit against Children’s Aid and the foster mother who cared for the three baby boys, as it was she who mixed up the twins when she returned the twins to social services.

By the time the mistake was identified the foster mother had alzheimers and so eventually the lawsuit was dismissed.

Now you can understand why “switched babies’ is an intriguing favourite of fiction writers, but in the Canadian case, truth is stranger than fiction.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

LiarsCheatersRUS.com

_DSC4851If your boyfriend or girlfriend is a liar or worse, a cheater, you can “out” him or her, just like Stacey Blitsch and Amanda Ryncarz did when they posted their complaints about their former lover, lawyer Matthew Couloute, on LiarsCheatersRUS.com.

The website is designed to provide a forum for women and men whose wives, husbands or significant others have “done them wrong”, usually by engaging in one or more affairs during what they believed to be a monogamous relationship.

In the case of Matthew Couloute, a former prosecutor and Court TV analyst, when he learned that the LiarsCheaters comments were the first hits for him when anyone googled him, he sued both women for compensation for inflicting harm to his reputation and causing mental anguish and economic loss.

Ms. Blitsch was a professional roller derby skater and the mother of Mr. Couloute’s son, while Ms. Ryncarz reported that Mr. Coulote dumped her and married someone else twelve days later. The online comments from the women included “Lied and cheated his entire 40 years of life”;”He’s scum, run far away” and “Has no longterm friends. He rents or finances everything and owns absolutely nothing”.

The website makes it very clear that the material on the site is someone’s opinion and the owners of Liars Cheaters do not guarantee the truthfulness or accuracy of the posted allegations.

Last week Federal Judge Harold Baer threw out Mr. Couloute’s lawsuit saying that Mr. Couloute could not show he had suffered any professional damage and ruled the comments were not defamatory because they were “clearly hyperbolic”. The Judge said that it would be obvious to anyone that the comments were the “opinions of disappointed lovers”.

Mr. Couloute says he intends to appeal the ruling: “When you look for a lawyer and the first thing that comes up on Google is defamatory, how are you not harmed?”

UPDATE ON LIARSCHEATERSRUS.COM

Karma is a bitch….Mr. Couloute married Lauren Haidon twelve days after dumping Ms. Ryncarz, having dated for two months prior to their wedding. Ms. Haidon stood up and defended her husband when he was cyber-slammed by his ex-girlfriends, but now she says they were absolutely right!

She filed for divorce in 2012 alleging that Mr. Couloute abandoned her and their 7-month-old baby. In an August 2012 family court filing she said “Father is mentally, financially, emotionally unstable. Father is emotionally abusive.”

But it gets worse. It appears the couple may have reconciled as the New York Post this week reports that Mr. Couloute was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. The victim is identified as his wife, but no name is given.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Prestigious “Stella” Awards

10950859361151CDPEveryone knows about the Emmy, Tony, and Oscar Awards, but what about the Stella Awards?

A “Stella” is awarded to those litigants who file the most frivolous lawsuits each year. The award is named after Stella Liebeck, the 79-year-old woman who successfully sued McDonald’s Restaurants in 1992 when she spilled hot coffee on herself.

Her original payout was $2.9 million which included punitive damages, however, on appeal she received far less.

Ironically, although outrageous lawsuits continue to clutter our court dockets, Stella’s case was bonafide. The rarely published facts included the following:

1. She was badly burned. The reports say that either 6% or 16% of her body was burned.
2. She underwent treatment for two years including multiple skin grafts.
3. She offered to settle her lawsuit with McDonald’s for $20,000.00, but the company declined.
4. Between 1982 and 1992 McDonald’s dealt with about 700 spilled coffee cases, many of them resulting in serious injuries.

So, perhaps undeservedly, Stella is the namesake for vexatious litigants.

Recent Stella runners-up include:

Allen Ray Heckard, although shorter and heavier than Michael Jordan, sued Jordan because Heckard said that people frequently mistook Mr. Heckard for “Air” Jordan. He sought hundreds of millions of dollars for defamation and emotional suffering.

Looking for even deeper pockets, he also sued Nike for the same relief. After a brief chat with a phalanx of corporate litigators, Mr. Heckard abandoned his lawsuit.

Speciality search engine Kinderstart.com sued Google in an attempt to have Google list their website, explain their Page rankings to Kinderstart.com, and pay compensation to them as a Google competitor.

They claimed that Google breached their constitutional right to freedom of speech by failing to rate them higher on Google.

You’ve got to be kidding! Who are the lawyers that take these cases?

The clever owner of stellaawards.com should begin a new website to “out” the lawyers and law firms that participate in this nonsense. It could be as popular as the United Kingdom website “Solicitors from Hell”!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Court Judge Scolded for Discourteous Remarks

_DSC4179 - Version 2I have some sympathy for Judge Daniel Healy of Solano County, California. As a family court judge he has likely seen and heard it all…and I can readily accept that his intemperate remarks to certain litigants was borne out of intense frustration.

Among the worst of his “undignified and discourteous” remarks were the following:

In August 2013 Judge Healy was presiding over a family law case where a husband alleged his spouse was driving drunk with the couple’s child in her car. Judge Healy commented that while the two parents may not chronically abuse drugs and alcohol, both of them struck him as “rotten”. He called the mother a “liar” and said “Why don’t you prove to me that you recognize what a train wreck you are?” He also told her lawyer that she should be “grovelling like there is no tomorrow”.

In another case Judge Healy rebuked the father for his threatening and vulgar messages to his wife, saying “if the children do something thuggish and stupid it’s because their father is thuggish and stupid.” He also remarked “life is too short to let kids be tortured by rotten parents like you two”.

And in a 2012 case he said “This is the first time I’ve seen you but if you are exposing your daughter to one-fifth of the attitude I’m getting from you right now, you might as well have her start walking the streets as a hooker because that’s the life you’re going to subject her to, when you treat her like this, when you flash this attitude like this.”

Judge Healy also threatened litigants with imprisonment on multiple occasions despite lacking any authority to do so.

Yes, I think he crossed the line, but the stress of dealing with unfit, incompetent parents on a daily basis would cause the most sane of us to finally say what we really thought. No excuse, but understandable.

The Discipline Commission held as follows:

“Judge Healy argued that blunt and evocative language is sometimes necessary to compel litigants to gain awareness of their circumstances, the harm that they are causing their children, and the importance of respect and cooperation. The commission disagrees. Referring to litigants as “rotten,” “stupid and thuggish,” and a “total human disaster,” and telling litigants their child “might as well start walking the streets as a hooker,” is the antithesis of imparting the importance of respect.”

Judge Healy received a “public admonishment” and no longer sits in family court. He is likely happy to be out of there!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Nevada Media Tells Tale of Vancouver Same-Sex Divorce Debacle

GEO CASUAL Television station KLAS Las Vegas featured a story last evening that told of a “divorce debacle” in our British Columbia Supreme Court.

Earlier this year I was retained by a woman in Nevada who, like many others, took advantage of Canada’s same-sex marriage laws. Vivian and her same-sex partner were married in Whistler, British Columbia in 2004, returning to their home state of Nevada, where both were accomplished professional women.

Along the way, Vivian’s partner adopted two children to whom Vivian played an equal mothering role during their marriage. Regrettably, their relationship broke down and Vivian quickly realized that she had no “legal” status with regards to her partner’s children, a most discomforting reality considering the equal role she had played in the children’s lives.

At the time of the separation of Vivian and her partner, same-sex marriage was not legal in Nevada and neither was there any legal provision for same-sex divorce.(Note:same-sex marriage is now legal in Nevada)

In August of 2013 the Canadian government became aware that many same-sex couples who married in Canada could not be divorced in their home countries, and so, a law was quickly passed that enabled same-sex couples to apply for a divorce in Canada in cases where both parties consented, or where a judge of the home country made an order that one of the parties was unreasonably withholding their consent.

Several months later Vivian was shocked when she received a copy of a divorce order made by a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver. She had not been notified that a divorce proceeding had been initiated and completed in Vancouver.

The pronouncement of a divorce was significant with respect to Vivian’s chances of maintaining a parental role with the children and as well, sadly, her ex-partner was terminally ill, which had serious ramifications with respect to estate matters.

Would Vivian become a widow or was she a divorcee, with no legal rights?

It was about this time that Vivian retained me to assist her to determine how her partner was able to obtain a divorce order in Vancouver with no notice to her.

The divorce file in the Vancouver courthouse told the story. Vivian’s ex had filed the proper paperwork, which included a court order from the Las Vegas Justice Court, pronounced by Judge Melanie Andress-Tobiasson. This order declared that Vivian had unreasonably withheld her consent to a divorce. The problem was that Vivian was never informed, notified, or served with any divorce application.

Instead her ex-partner, who happened to be a lawyer in Las Vegas, appeared before Judge Andress-Tobiasson with no application, no motion, no paperwork of any kind, and obtained the order she sought. More significantly, the judge had no jurisdiction over family law cases!

Vivian contacted the Chief Justice of the Nevada Court who immediately voided the Nevada order and also ensured the order was declared void back to the time the Vancouver court made the divorce order.

Nonetheless, the divorce order is still in effect until a hearing can be set down in Vancouver to expose the unethical process and persuade the judge who made the divorce order to rescind it.

In the meantime, Vivian’s ex-partner died, and Vivian is now in court in Las Vegas battling for access to the two children, who are in the primary care of her ex’s new partner.

Judge Gloria O’Malley, presiding over the custody hearing, referred to the divorce debacle saying:

“The order was problematic in numerous respects…The Court is not comfortable with the process used to obtain the ex parte order from Justice Court…there was no due process to Vivian. She didn’t have an opportunity to be heard. She didn’t have an opportunity to present her position”.

Judge Andress-Tobiasson is being sued personally in federal court by Vivian for civil rights violations. As for “judicial immunity”, because the judge had no jurisdiction to make the order, arguably she cannot avail herself of the immunity protection.

It is also likely that judicial discipline proceedings may follow.

Vivian believes that “a huge favour was called in. It’s classic cronyism, corruption, and a back-room deal”. I agree with her, and thought this kind of justice only occurred in countries like Russia and Zimbabwe!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang