Mother Jailed 8 Years for Child Abduction Now Released

B9316548187Z-1.1_20150314202542_000_GFTA6A1QO.1-0One of the most litigious child abduction cases may have finally come to a conclusion.

Victoria Innes was five-years-old when her mother, Marie Carrascosa kidnapped her, taking her from the United States to Spain, despite a court order that prohibited each of her battling parents from removing her from the United States without the consent of the other parent.

To buttress this order, and as a precaution, the Court also said that Victoria’s passport must be held by her mother’s lawyer and not released.

A series of unexpected events unfolded when Ms. Carrascosa changed lawyers. Her new lawyer, Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, was unaware of the court order regarding Victoria’s passport. She released the passport to her client whereupon Ms. Carrascosa fled with Victoria to Spain, where her parents lived and where she was qualified as a lawyer.

Distraught father, Peter Innes, took immediate legal action to have Victoria returned to the State of New Jersey, obtaining an American court order for custody, however, the Spanish courts ignored the order.

Later Ms. Carrascosa returned to New Jersey without Victoria to continue the legal battle, apparently confident that the Spanish courts had jurisdiction and taking comfort in an order of the Spanish court that  barred Victoria from leaving Spain until she was 18-years-old.

But the New Jersey courts didn’t see it that way. Ms. Carrascosa was tried and sentenced in New Jersey to fourteen years in prison for contempt of court and interfering with child custody.

In the meantime, Mr. Innes launched a lawsuit against attorney Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich who was ordered to pay compensation of $950,000 to him for her negligence in releasing the passport to Ms. Carrascosa.

Typically a term of imprisonment tends to  eventually persuade an individual to comply with the law, but not in Ms. Carrascosa’s case. In her zeal to ensure her ex-husband would have no contact with Victoria she remained in prison year after year, depriving her daughter, not only of a father, but a mother as well. Victoria was in the care of her maternal grandmother in Spain.

Ms. Carrascosa’s continued defiance of the court orders and her lengthy incarceration became a legal problem for the State court who expected compliance sooner rather than later. At a hearing in 2007 appellate Judge Donald G. Collester said “She cannot be held forever. At some point in time, she will be out of jail. What are you going to do then?”

In 2014 Ms. Carrascosa received parole for the child abduction conviction but was immediately transferred to local  Bergen County jail for refusing to return Victoria to New Jersey.

It was the entreaties of her daughter to court and correctional authorities and the consent of her former husband, Mr. Innes that resulted in her final release in 2015.

Mr. Innes said:

“I know Victoria wants her mother back, and for that reason only, I support her release. I am confident that once our daughter gets to know her mother, she’ll begin to see the reality of this sad situation. It’s been 10 long years since my daughter was taken, and there’s only one thing I am sure of — no one wins in cases like this.”

No person should suffer the torment of child abduction and Peter Innes’ consent to his ex-wife’s release is proof that he understands that it should be all about what is in his daughter’s best interests, a concept that has eluded the self-centred Ms. Carrascosa.

Mr. Innes maintains a website “” and has not given up hope that one day he and his daughter will be reconciled.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Quebec’s Former Lieutenant-Governor Sentenced to 18-Month Jail Term

BarristerPerhaps one of the most prestigious appointments in Canada is that of a provincial Lieutenant-Governor, appointments made by the Governor-General of Canada in consultation with Canada’s Prime Minister and the Premier of a particular province.

The Lieutenant-Governor performs various ceremonial duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, while elected politicians and those appointed carry out the daily operations of government. It is a non-partisan position although politicians have been appointed and Canada prides itself on the appointment of women and minorities.

Lise Thibault was Quebec’s 27th Lieutenant-Governor appointed in 1997 by Prime Minister Chretien. She attended teacher’s college and taught adult education for several years before she worked as a host and researcher for the CBC. Her appointment was widely heralded as she was the first woman and the first disabled person to be appointed to the post in Quebec. As a result of a tobogganing accident as a teenager she was confined to a wheelchair.

Serving for over ten years, her fall from grace occurred in 2007 when federal and provincial auditors determined she had spent $700,000 in unjustified expenses including:

-$45,000 for “gifts” without the names of recipients.
-$24,000 to transport her official van to the United States while she was on vacation, rather than renting a car there.
-$12,000 to the provincial air service for a one-day fishing trip in the Gaspe region.
-$44,000 in “tips” paid by her bodyguards during hotel stays and sporting activities.

Upon her appointment she promised to bring “values” to the position, but instead defrauded two levels of government by billing them for her golf lessons, fishing rods, roof repairs at her home, and even the legal fees for her divorce lawyer.

Her defence lawyer argued she enjoyed “sovereign immunity” against criminal charges as an agent of the Queen, an arrogant position considering she was a civil servant. However, the Court rejected her argument and Judge Carol St.-Cyr described her behaviour as “highly reprehensible” and part of a “culture of deceit”.

Ms. Thibault was also ordered to reimburse the government the sum of $300,000.

Tonight she sits in a Quebec prison, despite her lawyer’s plea that at age 76 her punishment is overly severe. She is expected to be released next week pending her appeal.

Having received three honorary doctorates during her tenure as Lieutenant-Governor, it is galling that she is nothing more than a greedy crook, who managed to obtain and abuse her coveted position, forgetting that her job was to serve the citizens of Quebec.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

A Man Who is His Own Lawyer Has a Fool For a Client

_DSC4851In 1814 British scholar and writer Henry Kett wrote “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”, a truism if there ever was one, and later adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States who wrote “the adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client” is the product of years of experience by seasoned litigators. (Kay v. Ehrler, 499 US 432, 437 (1991)

A classic example of the danger of acting “pro se” or for one’s self is illustrated by Anthony Zappin, a 30-year-old New York lawyer who made the disastrous mistake of acting for himself in his own divorce.

Married to lawyer Claire Comfort in 2013, the couple separated shortly after their son was born. Zappin’s path to self-destruction began after he entered into a consent order dated November 2013 where he agreed to have no contact with his wife and supervised access to his son.

In April 2014 Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein found that a motion filed by Mr. Zappin was “replete with intemperate and uncivil language…redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous”. Judge Epstein also criticized his counsel skills, a comment that Zappin, a junior lawyer, took great exception to.

In May 2014 Judge Epstein rendered a further decision throwing out Zappin’s application that he reconsider his prior ruling. By this time, Mr. Zappin’s bad behavior was escalating as evidenced by the handwritten note he attached to his reconsideration motion that read “You’re pathetic! (Judicial Complaint Forthcoming)

On March 3, 2015, Justice Deborah A. Kaplan rendered oral reasons in open court that apparently displeased attorney Zapping. When she concluded she asked Mr. Zappin if there were any other matters for her to consider. He answered:

MR. ZAPPIN: I just want to make it known on the record that I am tired of the lies coming from the court and tainting of the record, knowing full well this is going to go to the Appellate Division. And we’re gonna be in the Appellate Division tomorrow, getting a stay, and then we’ll go back down to D.C. on Friday, and we’re going to open up to Ms. Comfort’s domestic violence petition, and we’re gonna have a hearing down there in from of Judge Blant, because that’s who she lied to, saying that she filed the motion and we’ll have him make a finding of domestic violence. So that’s all I have to say.

THE COURT: Are you finished?

MR. ZAPPIN: Oh, I’m finished, your Honor.

Penning the disciplinary judgment in respect of Anthony Zappin, Justice Matthew F. Cooper wrote:

(Zappin’s) “contemptuous remarks directed towards Justice Kaplan — made to her face in her own courtroom in front of attorneys, litigants and court staff — were not restricted to the statements quoted above. Without reciting the other deeply personal, and frankly outrageous, verbal attacks that plaintiff launched against Justice Kaplan when he was before her on March 3, 2015, they can only be described as words not said in civil discourse, let alone ones that should ever be uttered by an attorney to a judge in the context of a court proceeding.”

But Justice Kaplan was just one of Mr. Zappin’s victims. He also targeted a lawyer ordered by the court to represent his son’s interests, regaling her with scathing comments. Later he established a domain site in her name and on this website wrote missives like:

“Harriet You’re a very sick and greedy woman. I pray for you and hope you seek help. Also, “I intend to keep the public apprised of your misconduct and disturbing behavior.”

The child’s lawyer retained a court ordered psychiatrist to provide expert testimony, a task that was met with Mr. Zappin’s pernicious complaint to the psychiatrist’s professional organization, and although quickly dismissed, caused considerable anxiety and harm to the innocent expert.

Most damaging, however, was Justice Cooper’s conclusion that Mr. Zappin’s “ill-advised behaviour seriously calls into question his fitness to practice law” and indicates a “personality that makes (him) incapable of properly parenting the parties’ child”.

Zappin was fined $10,000. The trial to resolve the issues takes place in November 2015. After all this, one can only hope Zappin finally hires a lawyer.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Politically Incorrect Judge Faces Disciplinary Charges

GEO CASUALWhat’s wrong with a judge discretely complimenting a civil servant witness in a guardianship case? Plenty, according to New Jersey’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, who have Superior Family Court Judge Joseph A. Portelli in their cross-hairs for passing a note to a family service specialist who was testifying, that read “You look nice today.”

He is also accused of inviting a deputy attorney general and her supervisor into his chambers during a break in court proceedings, putting his arm around the deputy AG’s shoulders and telling both of them they were doing a great job. On the same occasion he also said that he liked how she was “shoving it up the law guardian’s ass”.

Now the latter comment may be vulgar but is it really so outrageous that formal discipline is required?

Other allegations include Judge Portelli’s practice of making children more comfortable in his courtroom by inviting them to visit his chambers, engaging in small talk, and permitting them to sit behind the bench on his lap and use his gavel. On one occasion in 2013, Portelli invited a child to sit on his lap and then jokingly turned to a deputy attorney general who was present in the courtroom and said to her, “No…you can’t come and sit on my lap next.”

The judge, age 60, has been on the bench for nine years with an impeccable record and no complaints. Nonetheless the PC police say his comments show poor judgment and a lack of dignity and respect for his office.

Somebody needs to get a life!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

$1,000 an Hour Lawyer Disbarred for Appealing an Arbitration Award

BarristerRobert Bennett was a high-flying attorney in Texas with a big reputation as a go-to litigator. He included among his clients uber-wealthy financier R. Allen Stanford, sentenced to 110 years in prison for a $7 billion dollar Ponzi scheme arising from the fictional Stanford International Bank in Antigua and wrongfully convicted death row inmate Anthony Graves, exonerated in the murders of six people and released from prison.

But the case that has ended his career relates to client Gary Land who retained Mr. Bennett in 2011 to handle a breach of contract case and a potential civil rights violation action. The latter case had been turned down by other lawyers as it involved an improbable allegation that Mr. Land was being secretly surveilled by unnamed persons, possibly federal agents.

Bennett asked for and received a $50,000 retainer. Bennett was instructed by his client to forward his bills for legal services to him by email as he would be engaged in extensive travel. Bennett’s first bill arrived by email but the rest were mailed to Mr. Land’s parents’ home. When Mr. Land finally received the posted bills he learned that Mr. Bennett had already billed for $75,000 worth of legal services. Land fired Mr. Bennett and challenged the legal fees.

When Mr. Bennett agreed to act for Mr. Land he asked him to sign an agreement that any fee dispute would be subject to binding arbitration by the Houston Bar Association Fee Dispute Committee. Mr. Land had agreed and an arbitration was scheduled.

Mr. Land’s position that he had been charged excessive fees for very limited legal services was upheld by the arbitrators whose award included a provision that Mr. Bennett would not receive the outstanding amount of $25,000 and that $27,500 in legal fees would be reimbursed to Mr. Land by Mr. Bennett. The award was binding, conclusive and not appealable in accordance with the agreement between Mr. Bennett and his client.

Rather than paying the award, Mr. Bennett filed an application to the Committee for a Modification and Clarification of the award. His application was denied. Mr. Land then applied to the district court who turned the award into a court order. Bennett still refused to pay and appealed the court’s order.

That’s when the Texas State Bar commenced disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Bennett seeking a two-year suspension from the practice of law.

In a rare three-day hearing in district court Judge Carmen Kelsey upheld the Bar Association’s findings of professional misconduct based on Mr. Bennett’s failure to pay the arbitration award and his pursuit of several appeals that were barred by agreement between the parties. However, Judge Kelsey ignored the Bar Association’s submission that Bennett be suspended. She ordered him disbarred. In Texas a lawyer who has been disbarred cannot apply for reinstatement until five years have passed.

But this case is not over. Last week Mr. Bennett’s appeal from the order of the district court was argued before three judges of the Court of Appeal. Most impressive were the one thousand amicus briefs filed by local lawyers in order to show solidarity with Mr. Bennett’s position that disbarment is out of proportion to the alleged offences.

I still can’t figure out why such a notable and successful lawyer would refuse to reimburse his client a mere $27,500, only to engage in protracted, expensive, high-profile disciplinary and court proceedings?

The appeal is under reserve.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Grandparents Jailed for Assisting in Children’s Abduction

_DSC4179 - Version 2Poor grandma and grandpa…thrown in jail for their misguided efforts to assist their daughter to flee England with her two children after the Court ordered a change in custody to their father.

The children’s mother had custody of her son, age 7 and daughter, age 2 until a judge ordered the children to be transferred to their father’s custody, leaving mom with one hour a month of supervised access. The mother’s “issues”, what ever they be, were plainly reflected in the draconian limitation placed on her time with the children.

And then a plan was hatched: Mother’s parents drove her and the children to a secret rendezvous spot under cover of night where mother, children, and six suitcases were loaded into a chauffeur driven Mercedes for the journey to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris where they hopped on a flight to Costa Rica. They had escaped, or so they thought.

Police investigators naturally began their search for the missing children at their grandparents’ home. The grandparents advised the police that the children had spent the night at their home, but in the morning when they awoke the children and their mother were gone, leaving only a note.

However, their story quickly fell apart when police discovered a text message from granny to her daughter that showed her daughter’s location in the Channel Tunnel enroute to France.

More damning evidence emerged from roadside video that showed the Mercedes and other footage displayed the abducting mother’s vehicle being driven by grandfather back to his home.

Eventually the police learned that mother and children were in Costa Rica and not surprisingly, the children were already on the local constabulary’s radar as it had been reported that the children were wandering through their hotel without supervision, their mother’s whereabouts unknown.

The children’s father’s wife and a social worker arrived in Costa Rica to retrieve the children from an orphanage and return them to England, a task that took almost six weeks to obtain the proper paperwork from local authorities. All tolled, the children’s ordeal lasted two and a half months before they landed on British soil.

Grandma was jailed for 14 months, while her husband, who was less involved, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Judge John Wait said to the elderly offenders:

“The consequences of this case have been quite awful. You were responsible for some of this but those acts were done out of love and emotion, not for money. You knowingly flouted a court order and told lies in the Royal Courts of Justice.”

Mother remains in Costa Rica but extradition proceedings are pending. You can be sure this mother will receive a lengthy jail sentence once she is back in the United Kingdom.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Court Intervenes in Case of 16-Year-old Girl Removed From Flight to Join Jihad

GEO CASUALBritain’s High Court of Justice has recently been faced with child protection cases that reflect the unfortunate radicalization of young girls exposed to the extreme ideology and values espoused by the self-styled Islamic State.

In London Borough of Town Hamlets v. B (2015) EWHC (Fam) August 21, 2015 the Court considered the case of 16-year-old B. who came to the attention of authorities when she went missing from her home. B.’s mother, acting on information received from B.’s brother, advised police she was about to fly to Syria.

The police arrived just in time to stop the flight, taking B. into custody. Child protections authorities made an application to Justice Hayden to make B. a ward of the court and secure her passport. After the orders were made, the Social Services Department engaged B. and her parents in a dialogue where they discussed purchasing an internet monitoring device, as suggested by the police. B.’s parents agreed to the plan and were fulsome on their support of it, as it would entail B. remaining under their care and control.

However, the proposed plan was abandoned when a search of the family home revealed a plethora of electronic devices which were seized for analysis by Britain’s Counter Terrorism. Pursuant to section 58 of the Terrorism Act, B. was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences, as were her parents and brothers, offences that carried substantial custodial sentences.

The analysis produced the following material in B.’s possession:

(1) A document headed “44 Ways to Support Jihad” with practical suggestions as to the support of terrorist activity;

(2) Internet searches relating to terrorist manuals and guides to terror activities. That also included queries as to the response times of the Metropolitan Armed Response Team and the Queen’s Guard;

(3) Internet searches as to the preservation of on-line anonymity, including, as confirmed by a police officer at an earlier hearing, the downloading of software to hide the IP address of the user’s computer when on-line;

(4) A downloaded version of “Mujahid Guide to Surviving in the West”. Possession of that document is, of itself, a serious criminal offence. It gives guides to weapon and bomb making and to “hiding the extremist identity”.

On the siblings’ devices were numerous articles urging flight to ISIS territory and recommending its lifestyle, and videos of terrorist training and images of actual beheadings and execution.

B’s parents were in possession of more disturbing and illegal documents and information praising ISIS with additional detailed data regarding terrorism and gruesome videos.

Justice Hayden found the material to be powerful and alarming, stating:

“It is not merely theoretical or gratuitously shocking, it involves information of a practical nature designed to support and to perpetrate terrorist attacks. I have noted already but reemphasise that it provides advice as to how to avoid airport security, particularly for females. In addition, the videos of beheadings and…corpses can only be profoundly damaging, particularly to these very young, and in my judgment, vulnerable individuals.”

Judge Hayden criticized as disingenuous an earlier statement made by the family before the terrorism material and criminal charges were laid, suggesting they were monitoring B. and hopeful that her earlier attempt to flee Britain could now be put behind them.

“We are a very strong family unit and we are doing our very best to help prevent such a situation from reoccurring. We are keeping extremely close eyes on B. and trying to be encouraging of her moving without ridiculing her for her actions to the extent that this incident forever haunts and affects her day to day living.”

The Court concluded that in view of the material found in the home the family statement was an “elaborate and sophisticated succession of lies.”

Ultimately B. was removed from her parent’s custody, while her siblings were permitted to remain, as their indoctrination was not as egregious.

This decision illustrates the observation that the family court system is emblematic of change in life and society, changes that often resonate first in family dynamics, resulting in new challenges for family law judges and lawyers.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang