Newlywed Pushes Husband Off Cliff: Sentenced to 30 Years

DSC00447_2 (1)With some of the most spectacular viewpoints in the world, Glacier National Park in northern Montana, all one million acres, is one of nature’s paradises, abounding with hundreds of lakes, flora and fauna of all description, a place where grizzly bears, mountain goats, and a vast variety of bird species make their home.

However, this haven for hiking, fishing, and swimming, was the scene of a terrible accident last year, according to newlywed Jordan Linn Graham, age 22, from Kalispell, Montana.

On July 7, 2013 she and her husband of eight days, Cody Johnson, age 25, drove 25 miles from Kalispell to the park, a visit that ended with Cody’s body at the bottom of a high cliff. But Ms. Graham hid the truth, telling her friends and relatives that he had gone on a “joyride” with friends to Washington State.

That lie quickly unravelled when Cody’s broken body was found three days later, after a friend and co-worker reported him missing. Ms. Graham’s falsehoods finally caught up with her as authorities and friends questioned her ever-changing explanations.

Remarkably, while engaged in the charade that she didn’t know what happened to him, she advised police that she drove to the park and found his body, suggesting that the spot where she located him was a favorite of his. She apparently believed that her random discovery would be considered legitimate by the police. It was not.

She eventually told the police that she and Cody went to the park to talk about her second thoughts about their marriage, but only after the police showed her videotape of her and Cody at the park.

She then admitted their conversation escalated into a heated argument where she alleged that Cody grabbed her arm and in defending herself, she pushed him from behind where he tumbled off the edge of the cliff to the ravine below.

Last December her trial began with a not-guilty plea, however, just before closing arguments and jury deliberation she plead guilty to second degree murder. In exchange, prosecutors withdrew the first degree murder charge.

Her strategy was obvious, a guilty plea to second degree murder with an explanation that the homicide was accidental, would surely lead to a lenient sentence, perhaps as little as ten years, or so her lawyer thought.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way, as today Ms. Graham was sentenced to 30 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, with no possibility of parole.

Justice Molloy did not mince words saying “There is only one person in this room that knows what happened, and I don’t think she’s been entirely truthful about what happened.”

The judge also said that the court was still waiting to hear an apology from Ms. Graham, but all they heard was a tearful explanation that “It was a moment of complete shock and panic…I have no other explanation.”

Is Ms. Graham an evil person or has our culture made human life so disposable and our egos so predominant that a push over a cliff is akin to swatting a fly?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

SCC Cherry-Picks Principles of Interpretation to Bounce Justice Nadon

GEO CASUALWhen it came time for Prime Minister Harper to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada left open by the departure of Mr. Justice Fish (who I had the honour of appearing before on his last day sitting as a justice of the high court), the Liberals and the NDP joined forces with the Conservatives last October to welcome Mr. Justice Marc Nadon to the prestigious Ottawa bench.

In accordance with the Constitution he would sit as one of three judges representing the Province of Quebec, an appointment that was constitutionally vetted by two former Supreme Court of Canada judges and Canada’s leading constitutional scholar.

Unfortunately for Justice Nadon, on the day he was appointed, Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati, took the unprecedented step of applying to oust him, suggesting that as a Federal Court of Appeal judge and a former member of the Quebec bar for 20 years, he was not qualified for the appointment.

Apparently Mr. Galati and Justice Nadon shared some history together during the Omar Khadr terrorist trial, a decision that went against Mr. Kadhr.

In a 6-1 decision last Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that Justice Nadon’s appointment was “void ab initio” meaning it was invalid from the outset.

How did this happen and where do we go from here? Let me explain.

Sections 5 and 6 of the Supreme Court Act set out the terms for the appointment of Supreme Court justices.

Section 5 says that current and former judges of any Superior Court in Canada or current or former lawyers with ten years experience are eligible for appointment.

Section 6 reads: “At least 3 of the judges shall be appointed from among the judges of the Court of Appeal or of the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec or from among the advocates of that Province.”

You will see that the language is problematic, as section 6 does not stipulate that Quebec lawyers or advocates must have ten years experience. As absurd as it seems, section 6 would permit a government to appoint a lawyer with only one year or less at the Quebec bar. As well, section 6 does not clearly identify whether former lawyers from Quebec are eligible as they are in every other Province in Canada.

What to do, what to do? The Supreme Court of Canada relying on principles of statutory interpretation agreed that for section 6 to make sense it had to be read together with section 5 and accordingly, they imported the requirement of ten years into section 6. So far, so good.

However, they declined to link the section 5 stipulation that the appointment of lawyers was not restricted to current lawyers, but also included lawyers who had previously practiced for ten years in Quebec.

Why would there be a difference depending on your Province of practice? The majority opined that it was not enough that Quebec was constitutionally entitled to three judges, while British Columbia and Alberta have to share one judge, but that Quebec’s legal traditions and social values required that appointees who are lawyers must be current members of the Quebec bar.

Query why section 5 must be read with section 6 when it comes to a lawyer’s time at the Quebec bar, but not read with section 6 with respect to former lawyers of the Quebec bar? A cynic, like me, would say that the learned Justices decided on the outcome and then interpreted the law to accommodate their views.

As a lone voice in the wilderness, dissenting judge, Mr. Justice Moldaver apparently agrees, pointing out that a lawyer can join the Quebec bar after paying the required dues and taking 30 hours of legal education over a two-year period, not an insurmountable task. Those who wish to qualify for the Quebec bar don’t even have to live in Quebec or practice law in Quebec, in fact, it appears that a day at the Quebec bar would guarantee eligibility for an appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.

As for the vitriolic coming from Harper naysayers, their knives are flailing as they take their potshots. Some suggest that Mr. Justice Nadon was never qualified intellectually; that he was nothing more than a part-time (supernumerary) judge, as if that is a shameful position; that our highest Court has delivered a fatal blow to the Conservative government; and that a defiant Supreme Court has stopped Harper from “stacking” the court with Conservative hacks, an assertion that is not borne out by his previous five appointments.

Are we forgetting that the Liberals and NDP also supported Nadon’s appointment? I think so.

I predict that Justice Nadon’s “ride” is over, after all who would put themselves in a position to be drawn and quartered more than once?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Facebook Friendship Turns Fatal

DSC00280With the explosion of internet dating and the old tried-and-true “I met him at a bar”, women have every reason to be cautious about who they hook up with. Certainly, if they are not, they are taking an enormous chance that their new boyfriend has a past that would scare even a female wrestler.

Sadly, domestic violence in dating relationships is rampant. Studies show that domestic/dating violence is experienced by 25% of women worldwide and is the leading cause of injury to women, far outpacing car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

While women are the predominant victims, 15% of intimate partner violence victims are men. Research also tells us that in 70-80% of domestic homicides, no matter which partner is killed, these tragic events were preceded by domestic violence in the relationship.

It took one such murder to galvanize lawmakers in England and Wales who recently enacted “Clare’s Law”.

Clare Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, at her home in Manchester in 2009. Clare, a single mom, met George on Facebook, completely unaware of his atrocious history of violence against women, including multiple harassments, threats, and the knifepoint kidnapping of a former girlfriend.

After her death, Clare’s father, Michael Brown, vigorously lobbied for new laws to assist women like his daughter, resulting in the enactment of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme this month.

This new program provides information, upon request to the police, about a partner’s previous history of violence. A pilot project testing the new law saw 100 people in four police areas access potentially life-saving information.

It is hoped that this legislated “right to know” will help women make informed decisions about who they let in their lives.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Is Prostitution Just a Job?

GEO CASUALAs the Conservative government reviews their options to replace the law struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada governing prostitution-related activities, two polarized views of what Canada’s sex trade industry should look like have emerged.

One camp believes that now is the time to legalize prostitution and treat it as an occupation like any other, with labour and human rights protections, employment that generates revenue through taxation. Proponents of legalization say that prostitution is a victimless crime engaged in by consenting adults. For them, viewing prostitution through a moral lens is myopic. They say it is legitimate work, albeit in a potentially violent workplace, and that whatever ills accompany the sex trade are exacerbated by criminalization.

Others see prostitution as rampant gender inequality; the exploitation of girls and women that perpetuates the notion that sex trade workers are little more than merchandise; throw away victims of the male demand for sex. They posit that the recruitment of vulnerable young girls, trafficked as sex slaves, demands a solution that precludes blind acceptance and legitimization of the world’s oldest profession.

For them, the Nordic model provides an answer to the problem facing legislators who have one year to fix the law, or be left with no law at all. Originating in Sweden in 1999, and later adopted by Norway and Iceland, this model criminalizes buyers of sex, but decriminalizes the act of selling sex. An important part of Sweden’s law was the creation of “exit” programs for women who wished to leave the sex industry, together with comprehensive social services.

Other countries, such as South Korea, have endorsed a modified version of the model, while citizens of Ireland, France, Denmark and Latvia strongly support it.

But will criminalizing “johns” really curtail the demand for sexual services and lead to the diminution of prostitution in Canada? Sweden’s Ministry of Justice reports that street prostitution has been cut in half and the country is no longer a desirable destination for human trafficking. Surveys conducted in the United States and Scotland suggest that criminal punishment will deter buyers. In a survey of 113 men in Chicago, 83% agreed that jail time would deter them from buying sex and 75% said that stronger criminal penalties in general would curb their enthusiasm for prostitutes. Another survey in Scotland had similar responses.

As for me, I cannot imagine a Canada that would allow young girls (and boys) and women to be used and abused freely, with the government collecting their share of the profit through taxation. I also cannot picture any right-thinking parent promoting prostitution as viable employment for their daughters and sons.

What is certain is that the new law must be able to withstand a Charter of Rights challenge and make no mistake about it, there will undoubtedly be one.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (in Legalese)

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a
certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general
lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a
mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by
and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick
a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at House
sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were
located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal
hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein visions of confectionery treats,
including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance,
cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as
“I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the
second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a
sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various
forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the
unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e. the
lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The
party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to
investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of
wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter “the Vehicle”)
being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately
eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact
was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the
approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically indentified the animal
co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid,
Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter “the Deer”). (Upon information and belief,
it is further asserted an additional co-conspirator named “Rudolph” may have
been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer
intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences
located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the
Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown
origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either
express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said
House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with
residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion
of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was
smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of
local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor
children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small
gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minor
pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew,
rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the
Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately
departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said
House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim:

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” Or words to that effect.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

What’s a Clawbie?

GEO CASUALWhat’s a Clawbie? Go to http://www.clawbies.ca for all the juicy details.

But the short story is that the CLAWBIES are Canada’s most prestigious awards for the best law blogs in Canada and abroad. Of course, you can’t nominate your own blog…just sayin’

For me, the best blogs let us glimpse the personality of the author, are well-written and easy to read, and most importantly, are consistent in their output.

Here are my nominations for 2013:

Marilyn Stowe’s Blog: Marilyn is one of Britain’s premier family law lawyers, a media darling who has a top-notch blog for all things family law. She writes many of her own posts but also relies on lawyer John Bolch to add his two-cents.

Family Law Professor’s Blog- Professors Andrea Carroll from the law school at Louisiana State University and Margaret Ryznar from Indiana University School of Law are the editors/authors of this excellent family law blog. Recent posts include stories on Shanghai’s marriage market, China’s One-Child Policy, and the latest Hague Convention on Child Abduction case to be heard by the United States Supreme Court on December 11, 2013.(Lozano v. Alvarez)

JP Boyd on Family Law The Blog- JP started his blog in December 2008 as an adjunct to his comprehensive BC Family Resource website. He writes clever posts that are geared to be of interest to BC family law lawyers, focusing on practice and procedure, rules of court, and interesting BC family law decisions.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Happy 2nd Anniversary Lawdiva!

Lawdiva is 2 years-old today! What have I learned since we launched on May 10, 2010? Lots! Firstly, I realized how high a bar I set when I began publishing 15 to 20 stories each month, while practicing law full-time.

Regular readers have probably noticed that my attention has been focused elsewhere this month. That’s because I am scrambling to get everything done before my husband and I head to China and Thailand in a few days. I expect to cover some interesting, quirky legal stories from those two countries while I am away.

I also learned what a crazy, mixed-up world we live in and that despite the rule of law, if the justice system can go awry, it will. I found that foreign legal systems struggle with the same issues we do and that Canadian lawyers and judges have the same concerns as their counterparts worldwide, namely, the delay, cost, confusion and rigidity of our court systems and the perception that “justice for all” is an illusory target.

I discovered that the American justice system is very different from our Canadian experience and have mined the most interesting stories from below the 49th parallel.

What can I say about my readers? Firstly, that I am grateful for their interest and passion in responding to my stories and my opinions. I can also say that most of them are not shy about how they feel and what they think.

I have been applauded, lauded, and encouraged by many. I have also been chided, scolded, criticized, and condemned by others. All in all, the debate is always lively and spirited and I appreciate your views, both salutary and savage.

Since mid-2011 many of my stories have been published by the Huffington Post and Postmedia Canada and all of them are available on my Facebook page, where comments also abound, and on Twitter.

Thanks to everyone and here’s to more happy writing and reading. Cheers!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Goodbye 2011— Hello 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 52,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.