Could It Happen in Your Family?

DSC00507 (2)Tomorrow at 5 pm I’ll be doing an interview with Jill Egizii who is the host of her own show on blogtalkradio.com out of Springfield Illinois. Jill is a local politician and advocate for children with a special interest in parental alienation.

She’ll be discussing a story out of California involving pop radio icon Casey Kasem, now 81-years-old, who ruled the airwaves for decades as a music historian and deejay, best known for the popular show “American Top 40″ and its multiple spin-offs.

Mr. Kasem retired from radio and his impressive voice-over career in 2009 once he became debilitated by Parkinson’s disease. Recently, however, he has been back in the media spotlight as a result of a situation that is sadly, not uncommon.

Mr. Kasem’s three adult children, Mike, Julie and Kerrie, from his 7-year marriage to his first wife, Linda Meyers, have been refused contact with their father by his second wife, albeit of 33 years, whose relationship with his children was sour from the get-go in 1980.

Media reports indicate the children were very close to their father, who is of Lebanese heritage, and had regular contact with him until he became immobilized due to his illness and also lost his ability to speak.

Daughter Julie brought a conservatorship application in an attempt to become involved in his care, however, she dropped the court case after negotiating visiting time with her father’s wife, Jean Kasem.

The children’s desperate campaign to see their father has included “picketing” in front of the home he shares with Mrs. Kasem, all in an effort to gain access to him. But it is not only his children who are barred, but also close friends and long-time business associates, who participated in the protest outside his Holmby Hills estate in Los Angeles.

In December of last year, Mrs. Kasem consented to the children seeing their dad for twenty-minutes before being escorted out by a paid “bouncer”.

As a result of the profile of this family, one California legislator is proposing new law to protect disabled, elderly parents from “forced” estrangement, such as in this case.

Sadly, with the multiplicity of divorce and remarriage, there will be more cases like this and more elderly victims.

Kerrie Kasem will also be featured in this interview.

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

First, Same-Sex Marriage – Now, Same-Sex Divorce

GEO#1In 2004 Canada took its place as the first country in the world to grant a divorce to a same-sex couple. This was not surprising since Canada was one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage, an event that saw hundreds of gay and lesbian couples from around the world travel to Canada to celebrate their relationships with a legal marriage ceremony.

Many American couples married in Canada or in one of the dozen American states that permitted same-sex marriage.

At the time no one gave a moment’s thought to the inevitable time when these marriages, like their heterosexual counterparts, would disintegrate and divorce would be on the agenda.

While same-sex marriage is a hot topic among American legislators, same-sex couples who married north of the border found that divorcing their spouses was not an easy proposition.

Toronto family law lawyer Martha McCarthy became the first lawyer in Canada to tackle the same-sex divorce dilemma when her clients encountered a problem created by Canada’s Divorce Act, which had not been amended to address the influx of marriages involving non-resident visitors.

The Divorce Act requires that one of the spouses reside in Canada for one year prior to the granting of a divorce, a requirement that is almost impossible for a non-resident to comply with.

Ms. McCarthy brought a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to the Ontario courts, an application that was moot once the federal government enacted the Civil Marriage Act in the summer of 2013. The legislation permits a same-sex couple to apply for a divorce in the Province where they married without a residency requirement, if they reside in a jurisdiction that does not permit same-sex divorce.

Additionally, each of the spouses must consent to the granting of a divorce, unless circumstances prevent such consent and then a court order waiving consent is required, either from a Canadian court, or the court where the couple resided during their marriage.

Will there be a proliferation of same-sex divorces? In the last two weeks I have initiated three same-sex divorce applications, all from American couples who married in British Columbia, but live in states where their marriage was never recognized.

Others say that because many same-sex couples merely legalized their domestic unions after years of living together, they are more likely able to sustain their marriages.

Meanwhile, Lauren Czekala-Chatham, who married her same-sex partner in California in
2008, has brought a legal challenge against the government of Mississippi, where she and her partner lived during their two-year marriage, protesting her inability to obtain a divorce in her home state.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Sleazy Divorce Lawyer Faces Jail Term

BarristerWhen I first heard about Mary Nolan, a divorce attorney from Oakland California, I thought perhaps she was simply an overzealous and misguided advocate who got caught up in the emotional maelstrom of her high-conflict divorce practice, perhaps misled by a dirty cop on-the-take.

At the time, maintaining her innocence, she seemed to be a bit-player in scenarios set up by now-disgraced private investigator Chris Butler, situations referred to in the press as “Dirty DUI’s”.

One of Mr. Butler’s “games” was to “set-up” husbands going through a divorce, by instructing his attractive female operatives to entice them to a bar, and after too many drinks and a little dirty dancing, plant a friendly cop a mile from the drinking establishment waiting to bust the unsuspecting dupes.

On at least two occasions, Ms. Nolan just happened to be acting for their wives and lo and behold, the resulting criminal convictions for drunk driving were a serious problem for them in their custody and access claims.

This week Ms. Nolan plead guilty to tax evasion and hiring Mr. Butler to plant listening devices in the automobiles of her clients’ spouses. Butler, who was earlier sentenced to eight years in prison for a myriad of criminal offences, including drug trafficking, testified that Ms. Nolan’s clients paid him for the scam DUI’s but Nolan managed to escape the consequences of her participation in these activities.

Butler also admitted to planting eavesdropping devices inside “hundreds” of cars for clients.

But it is likely Mary Nolan’s evasion of tax that will see her spending time in prison. In multiple years she filed tax returns indicating annual income between $20,000 and $50,000 when she actually earned hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, resulting in a tax bill to the IRS of $1.8 million dollars.

She and Butler also face civil suits brought by husbands of Ms. Nolan’s clients, who suffered significantly after their arrests and convictions. Luckily for them, a higher court quashed their convictions after hearing of the dirty dealings between local police, P.I. Butler and attorney Nolan.

She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Psychic Cons Woman Looking for Love

GEO CASUALThis story should be filed under “Gullible Victims”. Klarrisa Castro from California consulted psychic Jennifer Williams, who offered her services under the business name of “Psychic Readings By Yana”.

Ms. Williams charged her client $500 for a reading where she gave her both bad news and good news. The bad news was that Ms. Castro was under a love curse, the good news was that Yana could fix it.

Over a period of two years Ms. Castro spent $11,000 on her sessions with Yana and purchases made under Yana’s direction.

She was told to purchase special candles and write love letters and place them in flowered envelopes under her bed. She was also advised to buy gift cards for Yana so that Yana could buy gifts that “represented Ms. Castro’s love for her boyfriend”.

The final step in freeing herself from the curse was to give Yana over $5000 so that she could commission a painting which she promised would lift the curse.

No surprise that nothing worked and Ms. Castro never received the painting. However, Ms. Castro recently filed a lawsuit against Jennifer Williams, aka Yana, for fraud and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Yes, Ms. Castro sounds incredibly naïve, but the worst part is that charlatans like Jennifer Williams rip-off vulnerable people like Klarrisa Castro every day.

There is a good chance Ms. Castro will win her lawsuit, but the bad news is that her chances of getting any money out of Yana are remote.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Becomes “Forensic Point Scoring”

DSC01152_2 (2)_2 Americans Mark and Jenifer Evans started their marriage with nothing, but after 25 years were worth millions of dollars as a result of their successful internet technology company. They lived primarily in the United Kingdom, but had homes in the United States and in the Turks and Caicos.

When Ms. Evans learned her husband was having an affair the marriage ended in trauma, but the drama had just begun.

In a three-year court battle, referred to by the judge as a “forensic point scoring”, the Evans’ ran up legal bills of over $3 million dollars in their collective efforts to make the other spouse pay…I mean really pay!

Lord Justice Thorpe divided their assets, valued at $60 million dollars, equally between them. Ms. Evans kept their London home and would receive the balance of her cash upon the sale of shares in their company. But the judge was not amused by what he had observed. He described their dispute as “puerile”, telling them “Somebody has to come into the nursery to make some rules”.

But nursery school was not over. Ms. Evans was nervous and fearful that her husband would dispose of the shares, leaving her with nothing, so she asked the Court for a rehearing and a new order.

By this time, Mark Evans had sold 65% of the business to a venture capitalist firm for $30 million. Jenifer Evans got her rehearing, but now the assets were worth $10 million dollars less and Judge Moylan reduced her share of the pot to 45%.

Yes, she should have stuck with what she had, as she lost millions in the new order. I somehow have the feeling that this case is not over.

Ms. Evans remains in London with one of her teenage daughters, while Mr. Evans has married the woman who distracted him from his marriage and lives in California with his eldest daughter. His wife is pregnant with their first child.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Making Babies Is a Tricky Business

DSC01152_2 (2)_2With the extraordinary science that benefits childless couples and the growing popularity of reproductive technologies, the prediction from early naysayers that baby-making would create criminal, social and ethical problems can no longer be ignored.

Public awareness of the foibles of procedures such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and anonymous sperm donation began with the news that a California woman, Nadya Suleman, gave birth to eight children via in vitro fertilization in 2009. Twelve embryos had been implanted, apparently at her request.

Ms. Suleman’s octuplets joined her already large family of six children, also born through in vitro fertilization. That she was a single mother with limited financial resources and was eventually compelled to work as a stripper and a nude model further rankled critics who denounced her physician, Dr. Michael Kamrava, who later lost his medical license.

The latest scandal in the baby-making industry involves a home-grown business called Canadian Fertility Consultants, with offices in British Columbia and Ontario, whose CEO, Leia Picard, has been charged with 27 criminal offences including purchasing sperm and egg from a donor and paying a surrogate to carry a baby for a client.

Under Canadian law it is illegal to pay sperm or egg donors and surrogates are only allowed to be paid for their reasonable expenses. While limited information has been released by the RCMP, it has been reported that two women who donated eggs were paid $5000.00 each.

Ms. Picard has also been charged with four counts of forgery in relation to allegations that her clients received false profiles of two of her sperm donors and two potential surrogate mothers.

Canada’s legislation has been in force for almost nine years, but this appears to be the first time that charges have resulted from a breach of the law, with related criminal charges.

There is speculation that Ms. Picard’s present legal problems arise from her purely innocent interaction with Maryland lawyer Hilary Nieman, who ran a surrogacy business with California lawyer, Theresa Erickson, that later proved to be anything but altruistic.

Under a unique California law, a woman can enter into a surrogacy agreement with prospective parents, but the agreement must be signed and finalized prior to the fertilization of the surrogate. Where there is a surrogacy agreement, the prospective parents do not need to go through an adoption to become the child’s legal parents as the child’s birth certificate will record the names of the prospective parents, not the surrogate’s name.

Lawyers Nieman and Erickson both specialized in reproductive technology law. Working together, they paid American women an average of $40,000 to travel to the Ukraine to be implanted with embryos. This was necessary because no doctor in California would do the in vitro procedure under the circumstances presented by the surrogates.

The lawyers got around the requirement for an executed agreement prior to fertilization by submitting forged documents to the Court which attested to the agreement being signed as required by the law.

Ms. Erickson with Hilary Nieman’s help, accumulated a stable of new-born babies ready to be sold to unsuspecting couples for $100,000 to $150,000 each.

In the twelfth week of their pregnancy the women, referred to as “gestational carriers”, flew back to the United States where the lawyers would find a couple who were told that a surrogacy agreement with another couple had fallen through after the couple backed out.

For couples who had tried numerous procedures over many years without the blessing of a child, the prospects of a new-born baby was like winning the lottery.

Erickson and Nieman, both plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy, involving the sale of twelve babies. Although lawyers for the State and Ms. Nieman agreed to a plea bargain of nine months of home confinement, the Court would have no part of that and sentenced Nieman to five months in federal prison and seven months of home confinement. She was also order to pay back profits of $133,000 and was later disbarred.

We now await full particulars of the charges against Ms. Picard, but payments of several thousand dollars to egg donors hardly seems worth the cost of the RCMP’s year-long investigation. Allegations of forgery, however, puts an entirely different spin on the agency’s practices.

Ms. Picard says she will vigourously defend against the charges and is inviting donations to her legal fund.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda Resurfaces

DSC01152_2 (2)_2When you live in a country where human rights and the equality of every man and woman is revered, it is difficult to comprehend a society where Parliamentarians debated and considered imposing the death penalty for people who are gay, lesbian or transgendered.

Uganda’s gay agenda, introduced in 2009, made international headlines in 2011 with the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.

Mr. Kato was one of a large group of gays and lesbians “outed” by the Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone (no relation to the American publication) in October 2010. The headline read: “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Homos Leak”. The article contained Mr. Kato’s name and home address. It also identified venues frequented by gays and lesbians. Its subheading read “Hang them”.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and imprisonment of up to 14 years may be imposed. However, it was a bill introduced by politician David Bahati in 2009, and recently resurrected, that has upped the ante for Uganda’s gay population.

The original Anti-Homosexuality Bill imposed the death penalty for serial homosexual offences; for sexual activity with persons under the age of 18 or the disabled; and for sexual activity where HIV is passed to another.

It has now been reported that after world-wide criticism, including from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the death penalty provisions have been abandoned in favour of life in prison.

However, government fervor behind the bill has not faded. In November 2012 the Speaker for the Ugandan Parliament announced that the amended bill would be passed before the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift” for Ugandans, which has support from 96% of the electorate. Fortunately, this deadline passed with no new law, but law makers are expected to vote on the legislation this month.

Some media outlets report that Bahati’s bill came to fruition after he spent time with certain evangelical christians who came to Uganda in 2009, espousing family values and denouncing homosexuality as a sin. Barack Obama’s inauguration “Pastor”, Rick Warren from Saddleback, California, has been named as a Christian leader who influenced Mr. Bahati and other high-placed politicians.

Warren’s mega-church has focused considerable charitable efforts in Africa, including Uganda, however, Mr. Warren has forcefully denounced the death penalty bill, while adhering to biblical standards concerning sex outside of marriage and the sanctity of marriage, between one man and one woman.

A leading evangelical group in Canada, Crossroads Christian Communications, has also come under fire in recent days. Crossroads receives over $500,000 in funding from the Canadian government to bring aid to Uganda by building wells, latrines and promoting good hygiene.

Critics, however, decrie the organization’s public stance against homosexuality and it is reported that Crossroads funding will be reviewed in light of this position.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is that while many world religions consider homosexuality a sin, discrimination against gays, lesbians and the transgendered is a human rights issue and unlike the hateful Westborough Baptist Church in Kansas, there is no evidence to suggest that Rick Warren or Crossroads support human rights abuses. To the contrary, these organizations are bringing hope and change to Uganda.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Gay to Straight Therapy Banned in Calfornia

DSC00476 - Version 2Controversial “gay conversion” therapy will no longer be used in California to treat children 18 and under who seek to change their same-sex attraction to heterosexual attraction.

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a Bill prohibiting state licensed therapists to engage in treatments intended to assist gay and lesbian kids to change their sexual preference, a law that comes into effect on January 1, 2013.

Proponents of the new law argue that therapies designed to alter a minor’s sexual orientation have been scientifically shown to be ineffective. Homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis was completely removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health in 1986, and in 2005 the American Psychiatric Association rejected the proposition that therapy could be useful for those who wished to “go straight”.

In 2007 Professors Stanton Hope from the prestigious Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois and Mark Yarhouse from Regents University in Virginia Beach joined forces in a study to test the APA’s theory that therapy was of no use.

Thirty-five of their original 98 participants dropped out almost immediately, leaving 65 research subjects at the conclusion of the study. The data was obtained through the organization called Exodus International, a Christian group whose mandate is to give homosexuals “freedom through Christ”.

Drs. Hope and Yarhouse published their results, finding that 23% of their group reported no change, 30% opted for celibacy, 20% embraced their orientation, while 23% reported they were “cured” with no harmful psychological aftermath.

However, critics say their lack of scientific rigour suggests their research is flawed and unreliable. Others say that their results do show behavioral changes, which are different from changes in sexual orientation.

What exactly is conversion therapy? It has been described as encompassing intrusive aversion treatments, drug therapy, Christian informed psychoanalysis, and spiritual intervention. Critics say the treatment brings on shame, grief, and anxiety causing patients to suffer depression and increased suicidal tendencies.

Critics of the new law have already filed lawsuits challenging the legislation on the basis that it breaches constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. They say the law is a disgusting abuse of government powers and a tyrannical interference with parental rights, who alone should determine how to help their child.

Until the law is overturned, a result that I believe is highly unlikely, therapists who continue to practice “gay to straight” therapy will be disciplined for unprofessional conduct.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Church and Child Abuse

We are all familiar with the odious stories of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the trail of damaged lives as a result of sex crimes that were ignored or covered up. However, the Catholic faith is not alone in facing the legal consequences of their leaders’ actions.

This week in Oakland California a jury ruled that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the organization that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses, must pay more than $20 million to 26-year-old Candace Conti, who was sexually assaulted by a church member, not a leader or an elder, when she was nine years old and attending the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The core of the case against the church was church policy enacted in 1989 that instructed church leaders to keep child abuse accusations secret. The tragically flawed policy meant that while the church leaders were aware of Ms. Conti’s allegations, they took no steps to confront her offender or protect her or other children from his criminal behavior. As well, the jury heard that sex offender, Jonathan Kendrick, had a year earlier been convicted of misdemeanor child molestation and nothing was done to ensure that he did not victimize children in the North Fremont congregation.

The Church’s policy only came to light as a result of Ms. Conti’s lawsuit and the disclosure requirements of a civil lawsuit.

The attorney for the Church advised the media the verdict would be appealed and that the notion that a rank-and-file member of a church, not a leader or elder, could be the cause for an enormous compensatory award was inappropriate.

Ms. Conti’s lawyer said that the verdict is the largest ever ordered for a victim of sexual abuse involving a religious institution.

Sex offender Jonathan Kendrick was also convicted in 2004 of molesting another girl. He has not yet been charged criminally for his assaults of Ms. Conti.

It is outrageous that the church, a sanctuary of peace and hope, can be allowed to operate as a haven for the sexually depraved. This case sends a strong message to churches and other faith ministries that children must come first and that sexual deviants must be exposed for who they are, no matter the position they hold.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang