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

4 Reasons Why Justice Lori Douglas Finally Resigned

BarristerI can’t imagine Justice Lori Douglas’ anguish over the protracted Judicial Inquiry that has been her life for the past four years. I wondered how she was able to carry on with the unrelenting battle, particularly after the resignation of the original Inquiry panel in 2013, the appointment of a new three-member panel in 2014, and the untimely death of her husband, lawyer Jack King, earlier this year.

With renewed vigour Judge Douglas’ counsel, Sheila Block Q.C., jumped back into the fray this Fall with multiple applications designed to short-circuit the formal hearing set for November 2014.

Yesterday the startling announcement that Judge Douglas would resign in a few months time, put an end to the embarrassingly salacious Inquiry, an event that may not have occurred but for the convergence of four recent developments.

Judge Douglas’ public statement, delivered by her counsel, focused on her family:

“Even though she loved being a judge, considered it an honour and a privilege to serve, she is at the point where this is the best choice for her, for her son and elderly father, for her late husband’s children, and the rest of her family”.

However, she was running into roadblocks, despite the valiant efforts of her counsel. The new panel,consisting of British Columbia’s Justice Austin Cullen, Quebec’s Chief Justice Francois Rolland, and Halifax lawyer, Christa Brothers Q.C. began the hearing afresh, confirming the renewed allegations in August 2014:

1. Alleged failure to disclose in her judicial application the events involving nude photos of her distributed by her husband and Alex Chapman’s involvement;
2. Alleged incapacity to continue as a judge due to the public availability of the photos;
3. Alleged failure to fully disclose to former independent counsel for the Inquiry
panel that she had modified her diary notes in relation to Alex Chapman’s involvement.

In August 2014 independent counsel, Suzanne Cote, sought a ruling from the panel with regards to a new complaint brought against Judge Douglas. This complaint came from Manitoba’s Chief Justice Joyal concerning expense account irregularities. Counsel wished to include this allegation in the ongoing Inquiry. Judge Douglas resisted this. In September the panel ruled in her favour, saying the matter was not relevant to the issues before the panel.

In early October Madam Justice Douglas asked the court to rule on five applications:

a) That allegations 1 and 2 be dismissed without a formal hearing;
b) That allegation 3 be struck for jurisdictional reasons, or alternatively, dismissed;
c) That all the photos be returned to Judge Douglas and be declared inadmissible as evidence in the Inquiry;
d) That her private psychological records be sealed;
e) That the Judicial Inquiry be moved to a location outside of Winnipeg.

The panel ordered the medical records sealed. However, the change of venue, summary dismissal of the charges, and Judge Douglas’ request to bar the nude photos from the hearing were denied.

She then applied in mid-November to the Federal Court of Canada to “stay” the decision of the panel to introduce the photos into evidence, an order the government did not oppose. It was common ground that the Federal Court’s involvement would delay the Inquiry well beyond the Spring of 2015.

But even more significant is Judge Douglas’ eligibility to receive her judicial pension in May of 2015, with ten years of service as a judge, despite not sitting as a judge for the last four years. She will reportedly receive approximately $130,000 annually for the rest of her life, about half of her annual salary of $315,000 per annum.

I suspect that Judge Douglas’ Plan A was to fight the allegations, with the hope she would be recognized as her husband’s unwitting victim. That strategy failed to take hold with the original panel and it became apparent that her unsuccessful attempts to change the venue, have the photos deemed inadmissible, or obtain a summary dismissal of the complaints, was heading in the same direction.

Plan B was waiting in the wings…. only four years to achieve her ten-year mark and walk away with a pension. After all, we know now that the Judicial Council is on par with Canada’s justice system when it comes to speedy justice.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Most Expensive Divorces Ever

Everyone knows that divorce can be an expensive process, but some of the sums involved in the world’s most expensive divorces are truly eye-watering.

Expensive divorces have been in the news recently with the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev being forced to pay his former wife $4.5 billion in what has been called the “most expensive divorce in history”.

The order came from a Swiss court, with Elena Rybolovlev’s divorce solicitors branding it a “complete victory”. Her former husband is now set to lose half of his wealth.

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s spokesperson Serget Chernitsyn argued that the divorce was a “win” for him, although his lawyers are said to be launching an appeal. Query why Mr. Rybolovlev would appeal if he won his case? Pure bafflegab!

The couple was married for 23 years and it took six years for the case to be completed. Rybovelev made his money from the potassium fertilizer industry and is the owner of the Monaco Football Club. He is also famous for buying the Palm Beach Maison de L’Amitie from Donald Trump for chump change, around $95 billion!

THE DIVORCE OF MURDOCH AND DENG

Controversial media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s 2013 divorce from Wendi Deng cost him a reported $1.8 billion even though he had a pre-nuptial agreement. This gives you an idea that prenps may not be everything they are cracked up to be, particularly if a couple’s circumstances change and children enter the picture.

They were married for 14 years and it is likely the payout to Ms. Deng was so high due to the needs of their daughters’, among other reasons. Deng, who is almost 40 years his junior, hit the headlines when she slapped a protestor who threw a pie at her husband during the phone-hacking enquiry in 2011.

Murdoch married Deng just two-and-a-half weeks after his previous marriage was finalised in 1999 with the help of divorce lawyers. He also paid a bundle to his first wife!

THE WILDENSTEIN’S DIVORCE

The 1997 divorce of Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein cost an estimated $2.5 billion. Alec was from a family of famous art dealers and their divorce was seen as a huge scandal. Things turned sour when Ms. Wildenstein caught her husband in bed with a young Russian model.

Alec then, wielding a gun, threatened his wife and for his trouble spent a sleepless night in the local jail. Judge Marilyn Diamond, who presided over the divorce proceedings received a number of death threats.

Judge Diamond told Jocelyn that she could not use the alimony payments for cosmetic surgery, as by this time Ms. Wildenstein’s multiple surgeries led to her nickname “The Cat Woman”.

The Court gave her $2.5 billion and $100 million every year for 13 years after. Alec Wildenstein died in 2008 leaving his young Russian widow.

ECCLESTONE PAID BY FORMER WIFE

Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone raised eyebrows when it was made public that he was being paid by his ex-wife following his 2009 divorce.

Documents recently released showed that Ecclestone was receiving $100 million dollars each year from his former wife Slavica’s trust fund. Information about how long the payments would continue have not been made public.

It’s said that this divorce was worth $1.2 billion, placing it high in the top ten divorces in history. Ecclestone is one of the sporting world’s most controversial figures and famously paid a significant sum to escape bribery charges in spring 2014.

It seems the richer you are, the harder you will fight to retain your wealth. Quite amazing to realize that these couples could not in a lifetime spend all the money they have.

“Money often costs too much.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

This post was GUEST AUTHORED by RIX AND KAY, Family law solicitors from Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex and Kent in the UNITED KINGDOM, an experienced team of barristers and solicitors.

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

Rampant Sex Discrimination in Saudi Arabia

_DSC4179 - Version 2To be born female in Saudi Arabia is to endure a life of discrimination…on many fronts. First of all, it is legal for men in Saudi to have up to four wives who may be as young as 10-years old, as long as they can afford to support them all. It is reported that polygamy is increasingly popular with younger generations, bolstered by their oil wealth.

Saudi women cannot leave their home unless they are escorted by a male guardian, usually their father, brother or husband. They cannot marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, or consent to elective surgery, without the approval of their guardian. They also are not permitted to drive a vehicle and women who disregard this law have been subject to punishments like flogging.

Photos of Saudi women show them covered up with only their hands and eyes showing, a custom/law that is enforced by the “religious police”.

It was not until 2005 that women were entitled to vote or run for political office, and in 2008 they were finally allowed to initiate and engage in educational studies on their own.

Family law in Saudi Arabia is equally demeaning and restrictive. A woman who socializes with a man who is not a relative can be accused of adultery, fornication, or prostitution. Sex segregation is the norm, with special female entrances and sections in banks and other public institutions. Women must sit with other women when they dine in a restaurant. It is reported that men’s sections in restaurants are usually well-furnished and welcoming, while the women’s sections are sparse and uninviting.

Divorce laws are cruel and unjust. Men may divorce their spouses anytime they want for any reason or no reason at all, while women can only divorce if their husband consents, or they obtain a judicial divorce, but only if they can prove harm or injury during their marriage. Fathers obtain custody of all children over seven-years-old.

The only obligation a man has to his ex-wife is to provide financial support for a period of four months and ten days.

Two recent divorces in Saudi have gone viral in the west, because of their unusual capriciousness. In one case an arranged marriage, which is the norm, came to a sudden end, just after the couple were declared man and wife. The couple had not met prior to the wedding and the first time the groom saw his bride was when she lifted her veil at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Her groom was taken aback when he saw his new wife’s face and according to media reports said: ““You are not the girl I want to marry. You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.” She immediately collapsed with tears and the marriage was over.

In the second case, a Saudi man text messaged his wife to inform her that he wanted a divorce, because she ignored his previous text messages.

According to a story from Gulf News, this couple were having marriage difficulties because the husband believed his wife spent too much time on her cell phone talking to her girlfriends and ignoring him. The last straw for him was his unanswered phone messages and text messages to his wife. He knew from the app on his phone that she had received and read the text message but had not bothered to reply.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate in Saudi is 50%, but with multiple wives I guess the loss of one is not a real hardship.

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