Family Law Nightmare: Alienated Teens Disappear, Mom Says She Knows Nothing

GEO CASUALLegal experts say that most spouses settle their matrimonial differences consensually despite resentment and hard feelings that linger, yet for the sake of their children and their sensible desire to avoid court proceedings and the enormous costs, life carries on and the family makes the necessary adjustments.

However, law books and judicial dockets still abound with high conflict cases where extreme positions rule and one or both parties’ hatred and anger escalates to crisis levels.

A family in Minnesota now enters Lawdiva’s “Family Nightmares” Hall of Fame. As is typical, the divorce between Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and David Rucki got off to a bad start after the first court orders Sandra obtained in May 2011, including full custody of their five children and $13,000 a month in child and spousal support, were set aside as fraudulent.

In September 2011 Judge David Knutson ordered a new trial ruling there was “sufficient evidence showing that Ms. Grazzini-Rucki defrauded Mr. Rucki and the idea that the father would agree to those divorce terms was “beyond belief””. Apparently, Ms.Rucki obtained the earlier orders by alleging her husband agreed to them.

From there it grew even uglier. Ms. Rucki now alleged that her husband had abused their two eldest daughters ages 13 and 15, who were living with her, pending the new trial. In preparation for the fresh trial Judge Knutson ordered the daughters to see psychologist Dr. Paul Reitman. In 2012 Dr. Reitman recommended the girls be put into foster care. His report to the court highlighted the mother’s tragically successful parental alienation. He wrote that the girls were “depressed and browbeaten” and required “deprogramming”.

In October 2012 Judge Knutson ordered Ms. Grazzini-Rucki to leave the family home and the girls were ordered to reside with their aunt, Nancy Olsen, who was to share temporary custody with Mr. Rucki’s sister, Tammy Love. Neither parent was to contact the children.

In April 2013 Ms. Rucki’s sister, Ms. Olsen, advised the court she was no longer able to take care of the girls and Judge Knutson ordered them to reside with their father’s sister in the family home. On April 19, 2013 the girls arrived back at the family home for several hours before they escaped from the basement of the home, never to be seen again by the court or their father.

In November 2013 the court granted full custody of the children to Mr. Rucki with supervised visitation to Ms. Rucki, necessary because “the court was concerned she would abduct the children if she is allowed unsupervised parenting time with them.” Judge Knutson found that Ms. Rucki had intentionally alienated her two eldest daughters from their father and her testimony at court about their whereabouts was “uncooperative and obstructionist”.

Mr. Rucki described the disappearance of his daughters as “worse than death” as he cares for the three youngest children on his own.

The media reported that an independent witness saw the girls get into their mother’s car after running from the family home. The girls also contacted a local television station saying they were afraid of their father. Ms Rucki continues to deny knowledge of the children’s disappearance or their current location.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki portrays herself as the victim of a corrupted court system. Blog “Carver County Corruption” describes her dilemma:

“Since then Sandra has lost all custody of her children, her home, vehicles, assets, even her personal belonging were awarded to her ex husband. She has not been allowed to see her children in almost a year for reasons unknown. Her two oldest daughters are runaways since April of 2013 due to severe abuse by their father, therapist and court appointed custodial guardian. Judge David Knutson has violated all of Sam Grazzini-Rucki`s constitutional rights and refuses to remove himself from this case due to obvious bias to the ex husband and his lawyer.”

The girls, now 15 and 17 years old, have been gone for two years. To date, no criminal charges have been laid. As I have said repeatedly, parental alienation is the worst form of child abuse. Ms. Rucki: How on earth could this be in your children’s best interests?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judicial Shaming of Convicted Judge Nixed by Court of Appeal

GEO#1As Elton John wrote: “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”, an adage that is certainly true for convicted Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who was ordered to deliver a written apology to every judge in the State as part of her sentence for using state facilities and staff to run her judicial election campaign. The problem Ms. Melvin had with the order was that she was to write the apology on a photograph of herself in bracelets, also known as handcuffs.

Former Judge Orie Melvin and her two sisters were upwardly mobile stars in the Republican political firmament in Pennsylvania. Joan was initially appointed to the bench and thereafter ran several successful re-election campaigns. Joan’s sister Janine Orie worked with her, and sister Jane Orie was a Republican Senator for the State of Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, both sisters were also charged and convicted of improper use of state services, facilities, and staff to advance Jane’s Senate campaign. Janine was also convicted in respect of Joan’s judicial campaign, while Jane was charged but acquitted.

It wasn’t bad enough that Judge Orie Melvin lost her judicial position and her pension, but she was also ordered to serve three-years of house arrest with electronic monitoring, followed by two-years probation and community service in a local soup kitchen three days a week, together with a substantial fine.

On appeal the requirement that the apology to her fellow judges be written on a photograph of her with handcuffs was eliminated, the court finding that its only purpose was to shame and humiliate her. Appeal Court Judge Christine Donohue wrote:

“The trial court’s use of the handcuffs as a prop is emblematic of the intent to humiliate Orie Melvin in the eyes of her former judicial colleagues.”

However, the first batch of letters she sent to over 600 Pennsylvania judges were not good enough according to sentencing Judge Lester Nauhaus. Her first letters included the phrase “As a matter of law I am guilty of these offences”. Judge Nauhaus was not impressed with her lack of humility and ordered a rewrite which he said he would vet before the letters were delivered. He also criticized Ms. Orie Melvin’s lawyer, Patrick Casey, for the feeble apology.

On her second attempt she wrote:

“As a former member of the Pennsylvania Judiciary, I realize that my conduct has impacted the public’s perception toward the judiciary and the difficulty it has imposed upon the discharge of your responsibilities as a judge…I accept responsibility for the crimes for which I have been convicted. I regret any harm my conduct has caused you.”

How sad that three accomplished women in the same family lacked the integrity to conduct themselves in accordance with the privilege of the offices they held.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Supreme Court of Canada Strikes Down Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Prohibited Firearms

BarristerEveryone said Hussein Nur, age 19, was a fine young man, smart, athletic, and a leader among his high school peers. Unfortunately, Mr. Nur was caught by the Toronto police with a working 22‑calibre semi-automatic gun with an oversized ammunition clip. There were 23 bullets in the clip and one in the chamber. When working properly, this prohibited firearm fires 24 rounds in 3.5 seconds. Nur, a first-time offender, was arrested and plead guilty to possession of a restricted weapon. He was sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years prescribed by the Criminal Code.

Sidney Charles was also arrested when Toronto police found a loaded Ruger semi-automatic handgun and ammunition in his bedroom. It was equipped with an over-capacity magazine, a prohibited device under the Criminal Code, containing 13 rounds of live 9-mm ammunition. The gun’s serial number had been scratched off. As a career criminal with multiple criminal convictions he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, the mandatory minimum for a repeat offender.

Both accused argued that the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences as prescribed by Canada’s Criminal Code constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” and ought to be struck down as unconstitutional. Their cases wound their way up to the Supreme Court of Canada where six Justices agreed the law could not survive Charter scrutiny, although neither accused had their sentence reduced. (R. v. Nur 2015 SCC 15)

Perplexing isn’t it? The Court held the law was unconstitutional, but the minimum mandatory sentences were appropriate for each of Mr. Nur and Mr. Charles. How could the law be unconstitutional if the mandatory sentencing scheme was not cruel and unusual punishment?

Very simply, six Justices, Chief Justice McLachlan, LeBel, Abella, Cromwell, Karakatsanis and Gascon JJ. held that while the Nur and Charles’ sentences fit the crimes, there may be other cases where it would be “cruel and unusual” so better to get rid of the law now, before those cases occurred. Yes, the Court concluded that a minimum sentence may be challenged based on the circumstances of the offender before the court, or on other persons in hypothetical situations who may reasonably be caught unfairly by the law, such as persons who may commit minor licensing infractions without moral turpitude or danger to the public.

To that proposition three dissenting Justices, (Moldaver, Rothstein and Wagner JJ.) vigorously objected, declaring that the weapons applicable to mandatory sentences “have few legitimate purposes and are commonly used by criminals to devastating effect. Yet, despite Parliament’s valid and important objectives, the majority would declare these mandatory minimums unconstitutional on the basis that, in “reasonably foreseeable” cases, they could lead to grossly disproportionate sentences in violation of s. 12 (cruel and unusual punishment) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

The dissenters take issue with the majority’s suggestion that innocuous licensing cases, that may or may not occur, support the striking down of the mandatory gun law, keeping in mind Chief Justice McLachlan’s statement that “gun-related crime poses a grave danger to Canadians.”

They note that Section 95 of the Criminal Code was enacted in 1995 and has been in force for nearly two decades. They say it has always included a mandatory minimum sentence for cases prosecuted by indictment. Since 2008, it has included the present three-year and five-year mandatory minimums. The Criminal Code gives prosecutors the option of proceeding with a matter by indictment or summarily, a discretion that abounds in the Criminal Code. Summary proceedings do not attract mandatory minimum sentences. They point out the unlikely probability of the majority’s concerns:

“And yet, the respondents Mr. Nur and Mr. Charles are unable to point to a single licensing-type case over its entire history where a mandatory minimum imposed under s. 95(2) could be regarded as grossly disproportionate. Moreover, they cannot identify a single case where an offender who has committed a “licensing offenc[e] . . . involv[ing] little or no moral fault and little or no danger to the public” has been prosecuted and subject to a mandatory sentence.”

In an unusual departure from Supreme Court of Canada protocol, the Chief Justice remarks that she has read the dissenting Reasons in advance and criticizes the dissenters’ opinion:

“I add this about my colleague’s proposed framework. The protection it offers against grossly disproportionate punishment is illusory: in practice it would create a situation where the exercise of the prosecutor’s discretion is effectively immune from meaningful review. The abuse of discretion standard is a notoriously high bar and has no place in this Court’s jurisprudence under s. 12 of the Charter. The proposed framework would be a radical departure from the constitutional framework in these cases, and offers scant protection from grossly disproportionate sentences being imposed on offender.”

Commendably the dissenters express the obvious: That it is our elected representatives who are responsible for making Canada's laws and "it is not for this Court to frustrate the policy goals of our elected representatives based on questionable assumptions or loose conjecture."

Alas, the majority rules, as it should, but the polarization of the Court's judges is worthy of note, as is the majority's propensity to once again turf Stephen Harper's "law and order" agenda.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Tabloid Fame Increases Chances of Divorce in Hollywood

_DSC4179 - Version 2In a tongue-in-cheek article in the New York Times, writer John Tierney re-introduces his practically fail-proof formula, designed in 2006, for predicting the demise of Hollywood marriages, by relying on his friend, Garth Sundem’s statistical expertise, and his own in-depth literature review of articles published and sold in reading material at supermarket check-out lines. All in all a very impressive and scientific analysis!

The formula they devised includes considerations of the relative fame of the husband and wife, their ages, the length of their courtship, their marital history, and perhaps most importantly, the sex-symbol quotient of the wife, ascertained by looking at her first five google hits and counting how many of them feature either no attire, or skimpy attire.

In their 2012 New York Times update, they confirm the relative success of the “Sundem/Tierney Unified Celebrity Theory” by pointing out their accurate predictions in respect of the collapse of the unions of Demi Moore/Ashton Kuchter, Britney Spears/Kevin Federline and Pamela Anderson/Kid Rock. (Note: Also Pamela Anderson/Richard Salomon)

They also herald the success of their formula with respect to the intact marriages of Jennifer Garner/Ben Affleck and Matt Damon/Luciana Barroso. Their few failures include Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but time will tell. (Note: We now know they successfully predicted the Cruise/Holmes disintegration)

While they modestly don’t mention it, it seems their equation also works in respect of the relationships of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Hulk and Linda Hogan, Tiger Woods and his lovely ex-wife, and so many others.

In light of their recent reassessment of their theory, they have refined certain of their criteria; the major change being the recognition that rather than reviewing Google hits, a more effective formula is measuring the number of New York Times references, divided by the number of mentions in the National Enquirer.

As they move forward with this important research they acknowledge that a wife’s tabloid fame is now probably the best indicator of the success or failure of a marriage. I’d say that Kim Kardashian’s first divorce confirms this reality and her chances of a lifetime liaison with Kanye West are exceedingly remote. Time will tell as to the fate of George Clooney and Amal Clooney…

I’m glad these guys don’t take themselves too seriously!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Not Male or Female, But Bi-Gender

DSC00275_1As medical experts dig deeper into the world of sexual orientation and gender identity, their research expands this field of knowledge in ways that are nothing less than bizarre. Case in point is the work of Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, who claims to have discovered a new gender which is neither male nor female, but bi-gender.

The condition identified by Dr. Ramachandran, called “alternating gender incongruity” or AGI, occurs when people involuntarily switch between male and female. Individuals with AGI experience phantom breasts or genitalia of the opposite sex, according to the highly respected neuroscientist.

His study considered 32 people who registered on an online bi-gender forum, 11 women and 21 men. One-third of the group said their gender switching was predictable; a majority switched weekly while 14 others said they switched once or more daily.

Dr. Ramachandran said that his findings to date indicate that between the extremes of male and female is a “spectrum of a poorly understood and poorly studied group of ambiguously defined sexual identities that are very much part of the human condition.”

He did, however, caution that his results are suggestive, but not conclusive of his theory, and that he still needs to rule out multiple personality disorder or role-playing by his research subjects and ascertain whether there are biological indicators present, such as fluctuating hormone levels.

His research also revealed that those with AGI had a tendency to ambidexterity and bipolar disorder. Nonetheless, while admitting that more work is required, scientists are pushing for a new category of transgender or neuropsychiatric condition.

Ryan Wigley, age 22, also known as Ria Wigley, describes to The Mirror, a British publication, what it feels like to be bi-gender:

”It hit me that I was two genders, it’s so confusing…

“I have to guess which I’ll be the next morning to plan my day. I try to work out how I feel the night before.

“If I feel more feminine I’ll have a shower and set my alarm earlier so I have time to get ready.

“If I feel like a girl several days in a row, the upkeep is hard. I need to shave my face, chest and legs every day, wash my hair and keep my make-up in place.

“I feel like I prefer to be female but I’m much more relaxed in what I look like when I feel like a man.”

Ryan/Ria has an understanding girlfriend who accommodates his dual gender identity. Speaking of confusion, I can only imagine how baffled his acquaintances, friends and workmate are!

The medical exploration of strange phenomenon is nothing new for Dr. Ramachandran who earlier investigated “synaesthesia”, a condition affecting millions, where one’s senses are intermingled; people can taste words, hear colours and feel sounds.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Love and Legal Fees Incompatible

BarristerIn 1990 Park Avenue family practice doctor, G.Peta Carrera, hired his girlfriend, Manhattan lawyer, Christine Anderson to represent him in a civil suit where he was accused of sexually molesting a patient.

Because they had been together for ten years, Ms. Anderson did not insist on a cash retainer from Dr. Carrera but instead took the doctor’s Park Avenue apartment and his Mercedes Benz as security for her legal fees. Anderson and Carrera agreed that he would sell his apartment after the trial to pay his legal fees.

Ultimately, Dr. Carrera lost his civil suit with the jury awarding $1.4 million dollars to his former patient.

Dr. Carrera was in no hurry to pay off his former patient and also took his sweet time to sell his apartment. It wasn’t until 2011 that the apartment sold for $2 million dollars and he persuaded Ms. Anderson to falsely claim that her lien had been satisfied.

She said she agreed because “I trusted him and loved him; and I believed he would honor his word.” But Dr. Carrera was a dishonourable, irresponsible cad who continues to refuse to pay his bills, both to Ms. Anderson and his patient who was
awarded $1.4 million dollars in damages.

Last week Ms. Anderson filed a civil suit in Manhattan Supreme Court against her former lover where she wrote that she realized Carrera never intended to pay her. She is seeking $500,000 to cover her legal bill, $500,000 in a palimony claim and $2 million dollars in punitive damages.

Another case of love and legal fees being incompatible… a situation that arises more often than you may think. Many attorneys act for friends or family and suffer the same fate as Ms. Anderson, they get “stiffed” in circumstances where their friend, lover, or relative, who with effusive gratefulness accepts the legal services, refuses in the end to pay for them.

A word to the wise: If you really must act for a friend, lover, or relative, do it pro bono, or don’t do it at all.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Orders State of California to Pay for Inmate’s Sex-Change

DSC00258_1Mule Creek State Prison just outside of Sacramento in Ione, California houses over 3,000 men and is the only California penal institution designated a “sensitive needs yards” facility.

What that means is that prisoners who are at risk for gang retaliation, are former police officers or correctional officers, or are susceptible to victimization, such as sex offenders or gay prisoners, are housed here. Famous Mule Creek inmates include Charles Manson and Tex Watson of Helter-Skelter notoriety, Lyle Melendez, serving life without parole, who with his brother Eric murdered their parents, and Geronimo Pratt, former Black Panther.

Recently, however, Mule Creek Prison has captured media attention because of inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s successful application to have the State of California pay for her sex-change operation. United States District Judge Jon Tigar ruled that denying medical treatment to Michelle was unconstitutional.

In the court hearing Norsworthy deposed that she is “a woman trapped in a man’s body” and that “[her spirit] is imprisoned in a way that causes excruciating pain and frustration to a point that therapy and other remedies are the only way to relieve that agony” The “psychological and emotional pain” and “frustration and agony” she experiences mean that she is “unable to complete [her] existence or complete who [she is].”

She deposed that at times, the anxiety caused by her gender dysphoria causes symptoms such as sleeplessness, cold sweats, hypervigilance, panic attacks, and mood swings.

Michelle entered Mule Creek Prison in 1987 as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, serving a life sentence for second degree murder. By 1990 he was living as Michelle with support from the California Department of Corrections in the form of counselling, mental health treatment, and hormone therapy to feminize her male features.

Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Judge Tigar noted that Michelle is the
first California inmate to obtain an order to have the state pay for her sex-change. Recently a Massachuset’s inmate was granted the same order, but on appeal the order was overturned. An appeal to the United States Supreme Court is pending.

State officials are contemplating appealing the order made by Judge Tigar and have identified practical problems that will arise if the surgery proceeds. They say that returning Michelle to a male prison population could put her at risk for assault or rape. On the other hand, she may also be in danger in a female facility, or pose a danger to female inmates because of her history of domestic violence.

Correctional authorities are also concerned that the costs of sex-change surgery, estimated to be $100,000, will severely impact the prison’s budget, particularly if additional inmates seek similar orders in the future. The State’s cost estimate has been criticized as an exaggeration by transgender support workers.

The floodgates argument is difficult to assess as statistics on the transgender population in the United States are hard to come by.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, who studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is responsible for one of the most frequently cited estimates of the transgender population — 700,000, about 0.3 percent of U.S. adults, an estimate that remains controversial.

As transexuals, transgenders, and cross-dressers feel more accepted and become comfortable in disclosing their sexual orientation, data-collection and public policy will advance in this area.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang