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

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

Update on Teen Who Sued Parents For Child Support

GEO#1Thankfully some common sense has been injected into the situation between New Jersey teen, Rachel Canning, and her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning. Rachel is the 18 year-old who didn’t like her parents’ house rules, moved in with a girlfriend, and ended up in a courtroom suing her parents, courtesy of her girlfriend’s father, a local Lincoln Park politician and….wait for it…..lawyer!

Rachel obtained a court order on March 5, 2014 that denied her the child support she was seeking, but set up a court process for the matter to proceed to trial with a pretrial hearing on April 22, 2014. It was reported that her benefactor, lawyer John Inglesino, has already spent $13,000 on legal fees on her behalf.

Judge Peter Bogaard’s order also included the suggestions that the parties be encouraged to explore the option of family counselling…no kidding?

Rachel’s lawsuit turned her into an international media pariah, savaged in the court of public opinion, a situation that greatly distressed her parents, who changed counsel after the original hearing.

It cannot be a coincidence that the Canning’s new lawyer, Angelo Sarno, announced yesterday that Rachel had returned home, much to her family’s joy. Mr. Sarno said “(This case) should never have been brought to the court’s attention. It should never have been brought to the public”.

However, after Rachel returned home, her lawyer, Tanya Helfand, ran into court seeking emergency orders to seal the court file and have a guardian appointed for Rachel, telling the court that Rachel was “pressured” to return home by her parents and was waiving her complaint with no promise of financial consideration.

Judge Bogaard denied Ms. Helfand’s application.

So what you have now appears to be a classic legal conundrum. On one side, a lawyer who supports his clients to leave the legal arena before the damage is so devastating there is no possibility of reconciliation between Rachel, her parents and her two younger sisters; matched with a lawyer who apparently wants to continue and even escalate the litigation.

I still don’t understand lawyers who ignore the future ramifications of court actions involving families…one of the reasons why family law matters need to be steered away from court and into mediation or arbitration, if no compromise can be reached.

Not surprisingly, lawyer Inglesino has also been the subject of derision for interfering with Rachel and her parents in a highly personal matter.

It looks like there is only one lawyer in this piece who is wearing a “white hat”…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Train Wreck Courtney Love Back in Court To Defend Against Libellous Tweet

GAL & PAL #2jpgAh yes, Courtney Love, a young woman with so much promise. A talented musician and actress with Grammy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the movie “The People v. Larry Flynt”, hampered by psychological ills and sporadic drug addiction.

These days media reports focus on her bad behavior, not her artistic endeavors. She is in the spotlight this week as she attends court in California defending a law suit brought against her by her former lawyer, Rhonda Holmes. She retained Ms. Holmes several years ago to assist her in litigation involving the estate of her former husband, Kurt Cobain, of the Seattle band Nirvana. He is better known today for his tragic suicide rather than his musical legacy.

Ms. Love, apparently unhappy with lawyer Holmes, tweeted that the lawyer had been “bought off”, a serious charge against a professional whose livelihood depends upon her reputation.

This is not the first time Ms. Love has spewed ignorant remarks over the internet. In 2009 she settled another law suit brought against her by fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir. The designer created some couture designs for Ms. Love, and then found herself on the receiving end of allegations that she was a thief and had a criminal record, again, all courtesy of Twitter.

Ms. Love wisely settled the law suit paying Ms. Simorangkir $430,000.

This week’s case is the first time a court in North America will scrutinize communication by Twitter. Witnesses expected to testify include Ms. Love, a few of her employees, and experts in language who are well-versed in the Twitter medium.

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

Family Law Nightmare: Nozolino v. Nozolino

BarristerIf you thought you had an ugly divorce, you may reconsider after hearing about Nozolino v. Nozolino. The Nozolino’s from Colorado were divorced in 1999. Unhappy with the outcome of his family law trial, Bruce Nozolino, a software engineer in his 50’s, appealed the decision before Chief Justice Gil Martinez, regarding division of property, attorney’s fees and several other issues. To no avail, as his appeal was dismissed.

But Court was not over, it was merely adjourned to await the next battle. And there were many.

The Nozolino’s fought over every issue, whether large or small. They fought over the cars, his wife’s pension, her jewellery, the burgundy leather ottoman and particularly over the kids, how much time they would spend with their dad and how much money Bruce Nozolino would pay for their support.

Mr. Nozolino eventually fired his lawyer and redirected his fury from his allegedly adulterous ex-wife to her lawyer, John Ciccolello, a leading Colorado attorney, who he insisted was unethical and unprofessional, delaying hearings to prejudice Mr. Nozolino and making false statements against him.

At one point, Mr. Ciccolello sought to bring trespassing charges against Mr. Nozolino in respect of Nozolino’s attendance at his office, but the charges did not proceed. Meanwhile, Mr. Nozolino took every opportunity to bring Ciccolello to the attention of the Court, seeking sanctions for serious ethics breaches. None were ever proved.

In the midst of the divorce battle in October 2001 a shot was fired at the home of Chief Justice Gil Martinez. No arrests were made but soon after the Chief Justice removed himself from the Nozolino case. Most people thought it was just a coincidence until it was revealed that bullets had also been fired into the home of John Ciccolello a few months earlier.

On January 23, 2002 attorney Ciccolello was in his second floor office when a sniper’s bullet pierced the window and lodged in his eye socket . He believed he was going to die, but thankfully survived his injuries and even with his loss of vision and related hearing problems, continued his thirty year family law practice.

All eyes turned to Bruce Nozolino as the attacker, but with no inculpating evidence, charges could not be filed. Mr. Ciccolello spent years watching over his shoulder wondering and worrying what might be next.

He left the Nozolino case shortly after the shooting and in August 2002, the Court ordered that Mr. Nozolino pay his former wife’s attorney fees in the amount of $30,000.00. By this time, Mr. Nozolino was barred from having any contact with Ciccolello, his ex-wife and his children.

Colorado Springs lead investigator Terry Bjorndahl continued to pursue the investigation against Nozolino and also found himself the subject of a lawsuit brought by Nozolino against him. Nozolino alleged that when Detective Bjorndhal seized Nozolino’s gun collection, Bjorndahl had made the seizure in order to sell the guns to ensure that Bjorndahl’s divorce lawyer, none other than John Ciccolello, was paid his attorney’s fees arising from the Nozolino case. The suit was dismissed.

On November 30, 2008, 46 year-old Richard Schreiner was outside his Colorado Springs home shoveling snow when he was gunned down on his front sidewalk. Good police work uncovered information that indicated that during the Nozolino trial, his name had come up as a “friend” of Mrs. Nozolino’s.

After nine years of investigation and a three-month grand jury hearing, Bruce Nozolino was arrested in July 2010 and charged with thirty-one counts, including the murder of Richard Schreiner and the attempted murders of John Ciccolello and Chief Justice Gil Martinez. A public defender was assigned as counsel for Nozolino, who was being held without bond. Not one to lay idle, Nozolino was also busy tampering with witnesses and had five additional charges levied against him.

In September 2012 Nozolino was convicted of tampering with witnesses and perjury in relation to the grand jury inquiry into the murder of Richard Schreiner and the attempted murders of the judge and his wife’s lawyer. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

His trial on the remaining charges is scheduled for January 2014. Colorado is a death penalty state. You don’t say?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Who Knew? Abraham Lincoln Was a Divorce Lawyer

Did you know that America’s 16th President was a divorce lawyer? I didn’t, but according to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War of Middle Tennessee, he was.

And who are they? An organization founded to “Preserve the Memory of the Grand Army of the Republic and our ancestors who fought to preserve the Union 1861-1865″.

The Sons of Union hosted a program in Nashville Tennessee in 2012 that explored how Lincoln’s divorce practice impacted who he was as a leader and offered a glimpse of the society he lived in.

Researcher Stacy Pratt McDermott found that between 1837 and 1861 Lincoln and his three law partners handled 131 divorce cases in 17 Illinois county circuit courts. The state of Illinois was one of the first in America to grant divorces, make custody orders and provide alimony for women.

Grounds for divorce in Illinois included desertion, adultery, habitual drunkenness, repeated cruelty, impotency, bigamy, and felony conviction.

One case in particular reveals Lincoln’s approach to the business of divorce, which he apparently disliked but considered a necessary evil. In Rogers v. Rogers Lincoln was retained to act for Sam Rogers who sought a divorce on the basis of his wife’s desertion and her adultery. Lincoln persuaded his client that he didn’t need to rely on two grounds for divorce and recommended the divorce proceed under the ground of desertion.

The reason Lincoln chose not to pursue a divorce on the basis of adultery was to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment to his client’s wife. His sensitive approach, however, backfired, as his client was ordered to pay $1000.00 in alimony to his wife. Had he also plead adultery, his client would have paid nothing or a nominal amount.

Fortunately for his client Lincoln was able to reverse the alimony ruling and undoubtedly learned a lesson in the process.

Lincoln was not only a great leader and an advocate for the abolition of slavery, but was a sensitive, pragmatic man who practiced law for 25 years. While he handled railroad cases, tax cases and murder cases, his “bread and butter” was divorce law.

Historians now rank him among the top three United States Presidents and his Gettysburg Address on liberty, equality and democracy is one of the most often quoted political speeches.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang