Why is No One Talking About Elder Abuse?

GEO Oct 26, 2010Did you know that in thirty-five years one in four Canadians will be over the age of 65? Today our senior population is well over 5 million and expected to reach 10 million by 2036.

We do know that as we age we become more vulnerable as our physical and mental health declines. You don’t have to be 65 or older to experience the signs and symptoms of fading youth and to realize that no magic elixirs exist despite the hype of the cosmetics and plastic surgery industries.

A recent news story about pop radio icon Casey Kasem reveals the insidious nature of elder abuse and the difficulty of preventing it or proving it. In Mr. Kasem’s last years he suffered from Parkinson’s disease which became increasingly more debilitating. His three children from his first marriage became concerned when Mr. Kasem’s wife, Jean, refused them access to their father for over three months. The children applied for conservatorship or committeeship, as it is called in Canada, but their application was refused as the Court found no evidence of elder abuse.

It is startling to hear that a California court did not understand that the very fact Mr. Kasem was kept isolated and away from his children and friends, was a sign of elder abuse. Unfortunately for Mr. Kasem his situation grew worse when his wife removed him from hospital in California, against his doctors’ orders, and moved him first to Las Vegas and then to her friend’s home in Seattle. The ambulance driver who transported Mr. Kasem to a private home, rather than a hospital, reported the incident to authorities.

On June 1, 2014 his eldest daughter was awarded conservatorship and she and her siblings were by his side when he died on June 15. Even after death, the abuse continued, as his wife ordered an autopsy and later sent his body to Norway for burial.

While Mr. Kasem’s case was extreme and public, many seniors suffer in silence as they are mistreated, over-medicated, ignored, deprived of food and water, physically, emotionally, and sexually abused or victims of fraud, theft or worse.

According to Canada’s Ministry of Justice website,www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/, while cases of assault, criminal negligence, and fraud have been levelled against perpetrators of elder abuse, the term “elder abuse” has not appeared in a court judgment and is not a term found in Canada’s Criminal Code.

Like child abuse and domestic violence, crimes that were hidden in the shadows for decades, it is time for all Canadians to address the shameful secrets of elder abuse and to be attentive to seniors around them who may be unable to help themselves. It is also time for the Criminal Code to include specific provisions with regards to elder abuse so that Canadians know that suffering seniors deserve respect and liberty to live out their golden years with their civil rights intact.

If you suspect elder abuse, please report it to social services.

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

Will Bankrupt Billionaire Escape His Spousal Support Obligations?

DSC00507 (2)American Samuel Wyly and his late brother Charles made their fortune as savvy entrepreneurs. They founded or grew a variety of successful businesses including arts and crafts stores Michael’s, University Computing Company, restaurant chain Bonanza Steakhouse, and Sterling Software. They also reputedly donated over $90 million dollars to charitable causes, including large donations to the Republican party.

Along the way some of their business activities attracted the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2006 they were under investigation for their alleged use of potentially illegal offshore tax shelters. Grand juries in New York and Texas were tasked with investigating whether the brothers had used funds in offshore trusts to purchase $30 million dollars of art, jewellery, furniture, and other personal items for themselves.

They denied any wrongdoing and advised investigators they would invoke the fifth amendment if they were subpoenaed to testify. They were never called, a bullet dodged.

However, an insider trading investigation in 2010 did not end as well. The allegations, later proved in court, were that Samuel Wyly used insider information to buy and sell securities for an undisclosed profit of $550 million. He apparently traded public stock in companies where he and his brother served as board members, through hidden entities in other jurisdictions.

A Manhattan federal jury in May 2014 found Mr. Wyly guilty and it is expected that Mr. Wyly will have to “disgorge” or pay back $300 million dollars. His assets were also frozen.

Last month Mr. Wyly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas, an event that caused consternation for his ex-wife Victoria Lee Wyly, now Torie Steele, who after their 1991 divorce negotiated support payments of $500,000 per year. In his bankruptcy filings Mr. Wyly recorded monthly spending of $1 million. That has also been curtailed by bankruptcy officers.

Spousal and child support payments are not cancelled by a bankruptcy, however, a paying party’s change in income will be grounds for a variation of support. According to Ms. Steele’s lawyer, Samuel Wyly has already missed a monthly payment of just over $40,000.

There is, however, a complicating factor in respect of Ms. Steele’s support payments. To avoid the “risk and cost” of a contested spousal support hearing the parties agreed in 1993 that Mr. Wyly would act as an investment advisor for Ms. Steele, manage $5 million dollars of her funds, and guarantee her returns of $500,000 per year for her lifetime.

In 2007 Mr. Wyly went to court seeking to be released from this obligation. A judge upheld the arrangement saying Wyly “was agreeable to taking his chance with his acumen as an investor as opposed to
risk incurring any further spousal support obligations.”

The question for the bankruptcy court is whether Ms. Steele’s investment income arrangement constitutes spousal support and if it does not, where does that leave her?

I’ll be watching this case closely and report the outcome in due course.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ever Hear of “Divorce Trolling”? Me Neither.

10950859361151CDPApparently “divorce trolling” has gotten so bad in the State of Michigan that a new law has been proposed to outlaw the practice, a bill sponsored by Michigan Republican Senator Rick Jones.

You ask “what is divorce trolling?” Good question. According to Senator Jones:

“When a woman is a victim of domestic violence and decides to file for divorce from her abusive husband, she should not have to worry about a trolling attorney tipping off her husband before she has time to protect herself and the children by taking actions like moving into a shelter house or getting a personal protection order.”

The proposed law will make it unlawful for a person to intentionally contact an individual that the person knows to be a party to a divorce action filed with a court, or an immediate family member of that individual with a direct solicitation to provide  a legal service until the expiration of 14 days after the date the proof of service is filed with the Court.

A first violation of this law is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, but if you get caught a second time or more, you’re looking at possible imprisonment and a fine of not more than $5,000.

I can only guess that divorce lawyers in Michigan are desperately in search of clients. Here in Vancouver it takes weeks to get an appointment with a top lawyer and even then, they may not want your case.

The good senator, a former sheriff, wants to make sure that women and children who flee a violent relationship aren’t further bugged by lawyers during this emotional time. Hard to believe that legislators in Michigan have nothing better to do than enact unenforceable laws.

I can picture it now…a sleazy lawyer lounging in  a criminal courtroom, jotting down names of domestic violence victims so he/she can run to a telephone to offer legal services to their spouse? Ya think?

Passionate Entreaties Against Trinity Law School Persuaded BC Lawyers

10950859361151CDPLet me recap the recent special meeting of the members of the Law Society of British Columbia, a meeting prompted by a motion from Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan who sought to overturn the 20-7 decision of the governors (benchers) of the Law Society, who had approved the admission of future Trinity Law School students as articling students in B.C.

When the meeting began at 12:30 pm on June 10 Law Society President Jan Lindsay announced that just over 1,200 lawyers were present and a quorum was established. Family law lawyer barbara findlay (lower case is how she spells her name) moved the motion and made a passionate speech urging members to vote in favour of the motion.

Her speech was nothing short of brilliant as she referenced her struggles as a lesbian woman grappling with earlier laws that denied gays, lesbians and transgendered persons basic human rights. She did not mince words, she argued that during the time, not that many years ago, when homosexuality was labeled a mental illness, she had spent time in a mental institution, all because she was a lesbian.

Ms. findlay has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years. Recently when Canada passed laws permitting non-resident same-sex spouses to come to Canada to be divorced, if the American state they lived in would not divorce them and if they had married in Canada, she and I collaborated on several of the first cases to be heard in Canada. She had clients seeking this relief, as I did, and we compared professional notes in our efforts to serve our respective clients.

I don’t know if barbara knows I am a practicing Christian, but I know she knows that I would never skirt my duty to my clients or to the rule of law because of my religious beliefs. After all, the Bible tells us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s”, the ultimate statement on the intersection of Christianity and secular authority. When Jesus spoke these words the lawyers and Pharisees “marveled” at his wisdom.

Other lawyers speaking in favour of the motion also focused on the historical travesties visited upon gays and lesbians, one even referenced the Holocaust. A criminal lawyer told a tale of a gay client who stabbed a woman 99 times and linked it to his Pentecostal upbringing.

A bencher who had voted against Trinity published an article before the June 10 debate comparing the segregation of African-Americans in America’s southern states to his opinion of the inevitable result of Trinity’s community covenant which disallows sexual relations between unmarried spouses or married same-sex spouses.

Lawyers arguing against the motion, seeking to endorse the bencher’s earlier decision, could not match the often inflammatory rhetoric of their impassioned colleagues.

These lawyers argued the law. They reminded the members that B.C’s Human Rights Code specifically exempts religious groups. They confirmed that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to a private educational institution, its purview of protection is against fundamentally unfair governmental action.

They relied on the Supreme Court of Canada’s earlier decision in Trinity Western University v. B.C. College of Teachers where the Teacher’s College tried to block Trinity-educated teachers from becoming members and teachers in B.C. and failed.

They implored their colleagues to recognize the myriad of legal opinions from some of Canada’s brightest legal minds, and the opinion of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, yes, even that bastion of liberal thinking, all of whom supported Trinity Western’s position.

There is an expression that is common amongst lawyers: “if the facts are against you, argue the law; if the law is against you, argue the facts”.

It seems that many of B.C.’s lawyers embraced the well-spun facts, and ignored the law.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Era of the “Green Rush”: Is Legalized Marijuana a Fiscal Bonanza?

As of January of 2014 there are still only two states of twenty American states that have legalized medical marijuana that also permit recreational use as well; Colorado and Washington. These two states, in many ways, will set the stage for other states that are hesitant to embrace legalized recreational marijuana.

Early reports from Colorado indicate that state is generating a successful tax revenue stream since the so-called “green rush”, however, not everyone is sold on the idea of marijuana being widely available to adults, and more available to teenagers.

The marijuana “green rush” is about the thousands of inventors, investors and John and Jane Doe Public buying into the marijuana industry. In states where marijuana is not regulated the revenue that is generated is through the underground marijuana market which provides no fiscal benefit to government coffers. With a fully regulated system, states could see millions of dollars in new revenue, not to mention increased sales from consumers purchasing new inventions and devices created to make the smoking experience more pleasurable. [1]

This boost in the Colorado economy can also help create jobs and new sources of revenue, a significant motive for legislators in other states to consider. In 2012, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy made predictions on the possible financial impact that recreational marijuana could make saying, “the passage of Amendment 64 could be a boom for the state economy. Marijuana legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise around $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue for Colorado’s budget.” [1]

Predictions on the potential revenue to be earned in Colorado is on target as sales began in January of 2014. During the first week of retail sales, marijuana dispensaries earned and exceeded the $5 million mark. [2] The state has projected annual sales to reach around $600 million, and estimates $70 million in tax revenue.[2]

The legalization of recreational marijuana is still a hot topic in which supporters and opponents have battled back and forth in regards to the pros and con, especially the message it sends to adolescents and young teens. Critics of Amendment 64 are fearful of the potential greater access that legalized marijuana could have on teens. (Lyman, 2014) [3]

For years, lawmakers have claimed marijuana is not only a harmful drug but one that can lead to a harder drug use over time. There have been serious flaws in both these theories as no study has concluded that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, studies have found the opposite, concluding that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco and has statistically less health endangering consequences. [1]

Many parents are also on board with marijuana regulation and agree it would be better if their teens were getting the drug from a safer source such as a dispensary, if they choose to use marijuana in the first place. Regulatemarijuana.org is a website dedicated to campaigns that support marijuana regulation and is supported by parents, and even former police officers in Colorado.

Dr. Erika Joye, a nationally certified school psychologist working with the campaigns quotes, “Marijuana prohibition is the worst possible policy when it comes to keeping marijuana out of the hands of teens. If we do not regulate marijuana across the board, we are guaranteeing that sales will be entirely uncontrolled and that those selling it will not ask for ID. We are also forcing consumers into an underground market where they are likely to be exposed to other, more harmful products.” [4]

It is clear that Colorado and Washington are setting the stage for the rest of the country, with the New York Times predicting that Oregon and Alaska will be next.

Sources:
[1]Ferner, M. (2012, August 28). Why marijuana should be legalized: ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol’ campaign discusses why pot prohibition has been a failure. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/why-marijuana-should-be-legalized_n_1833751.html
[2]Ferner, M. (2014, January 8). Colorado recreational marijuana sales exceed $5 million in first week. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/marijuana-sales-colorado_n_4552371.html

[3]Lyman , R. (2014, Feb 26). Pivotal point is seen as more states consider legalizing marijuana . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/us/momentum-is-seen-as-more-states-consider-legalizing-marijuana.html?_r=0

[4]Unknown. Moms and dads for marijuana regulation post yes on 64 billboard . (2012, June 28). Retrieved from http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/news/moms-and-dads-marijuana-regulation-post-yes-64-billboard

This article is a guest post by BRENDA ABBOTT, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Saint Jude’s offers the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement. Brenda enjoys doing research and writing articles, spending time with her family, and is currently beginning to write her first book.