Divorce Lawyer Clandestinely Hypnotizes Female Clients

_DSC4179 - Version 2In a bizarre case out of Ohio, attorney Michael W. Fine, age 58, has been charged with numerous sexual offences arising from private appointments with a number of female clients, either in his office or in counsel rooms at the local courthouse.

The charges include rape, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, attempted rape, 15 counts of kidnapping, three counts of attempted kidnapping and two counts each of attempted sexual battery, attempted gross sexual imposition, gross sexual imposition and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

Mr. Fine’s abusive activities were fostered by his ability to hypnotize his clients and take advantage of them while they were under hypnosis. The first client who blew the whistle on Mr. Fine recounted an uncomfortable feeling every time she left her lawyer’s office, with her disheveled clothing and a feeling she had lost track of time.

She reported the situation to the local police who told her not to return to his office, but she had a better idea. She continued to see her lawyer and secretly recorded what occurred. Later she played the recording and in shock and embarrassment returned to the police where they listened with mouths agape as they heard Michael Fine put her into a trance and then make outrageous sexual suggestions and physical overtures to her.

They asked Jane Doe #1 if she was prepared to wear a wire and video recorder which would be monitored by the police. The plan was that if and when Mr. Fine began his reprehensible acts they would burst into his office and arrest him. And that’s what they did.

The local bar association immediately suspended Mr. Fine from the practice of law and with the accompanying publicity 30 more women presented themselves as victims of his sex crimes. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fine gave up his license to practice law.

The current indictments against Mr. Fine involves six women only, as many of his other victims are unable to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the criminal burden of proof. However, police say they are continuing their investigation.

Not surprisingly, at least one victim has filed a civil suit against Michael Fine and the law firm that employed him. Her case is particularly alarming as she retained Mr. Fine to bring a civil suit for sexual abuse she endured as a child. She reportedly became close to him and considered him a second father.

Fine’s tactics included schooling his clients on relaxation and “mindfulness” techniques, a front for hypnotism and his own selfish sexual gratification.

He has plead not guilty to all charges.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

When Obnoxious Lawyers Converge, Clients Are Not Well-Served

DSC00507 (2)One of the worst possible scenarios for those unlucky enough to be involved in a lawsuit is when their respective lawyers are at each other’s throats. You may think you are being well-served by an aggressive, boorish lawyer whose focus is on denigrating and insulting opposing counsel, but you are not.

On the other hand, as a client you should be happy if you know or see that your lawyer has a good working relationship with opposing counsel, as you can be sure that the resolution of your case will not be hampered by ill-will between lawyers.

Oddly enough, some clients are disturbed when they see cooperation between their lawyers, misreading it as a sign of weakness on their lawyer’s part. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, there are lawyers who are so well-known for their cranky, obnoxious behavior that other lawyers refuse to take on cases where Mr. or Ms. Miserable is on the opposite side.

A recent example of bickering lawyers arose in a courtroom in Chicago, where last week the final act of an ongoing legal saga came to an end, with Judge Raymond Mitchell ordering both lawyers to resign from the case and their clients to retain new lawyers.

Lawyers Joel Brodsky and Michael Meschino treated their clients and the court to months of disturbing behavior while representing their clients in a business dispute, taking potshots at one another in open court, with no concern for their lack of professionalism and decorum.

At one point Mr. Brodsky called Mr. Meschino a “moron” and a “liar”. Meschino responded with words like “fat, short, and bald” complaining that “Brodsky was constantly shaking his bald head, so that a light was shining on me”. Over time, when the lawyers were in court, up to four sheriffs were present in the courtroom and on two occasions Mr. Meschino was escorted out of the courtroom by sheriffs.

Outside of court, threatening and insulting emails were the norm, and discovery of each party took place in the courthouse rather than in the privacy of a court reporter’s office, as is the usual practice.

Judge Mitchell advised Brodsky and Meschino that a copy of his order would be sent to the Illinois Attorney Discipline Commission so that appropriate action could be taken by the Illinois Bar.

Joel Brodsky is certainly no stranger to ethics complaints. He was the lawyer that acted for former police office Drew Peterson, who was accused of murdering his third wife Kathleen Savio.

Before the case was finished Mr. Brodsky was replaced by new counsel, an event that did not sit well with him. His public comments after his departure as counsel “shocked” the trial judge and resulted in an ethics investigation.

After Drew Peterson was convicted, the animosity between Brodsky and successor counsel, Steven Greenberg was so intense that Brodsky sued Greenberg for defamation, suggesting that Greenberg was a “pathological narcissist”.

Not surprisingly, Brodsky also suggested that Mr. Meschino was mentally ill.

While emotions can run high in hard-fought litigation, the behavior cited by Judge Mitchell has no place in our justice system and the harshest punishment should be levied against lawyers who embarrass themselves and the administration of justice. Sadly, it is their clients who suffer most.

Lawyer Who Played “Nazi Card” Slammed by Appeal Court

BarristerDonn Martinez was riding his motorcycle approaching a network of freeways referred to as “Orange Crush” in Orange County, California, so named because of the maze of highways that come together at this point.

Unfortunately, he lost control of his bike and was injured. He attributed the accident to a poorly lit curb in the middle of the highway that divided two converging roadways. He sued the California Department of Transportation for negligence.

Donn was an ordained minister and a member of a Christian motorcycle club called “Set Free Soldiers”. The logo of the Set Free Soldiers is a skull wearing a World War II German-style military helmet, called “Fritz helmets”. Some say they look very much like the helmets worn by the U.S. Army. His license plate read “The Evil 1”, a biblical term for “Satan”.

Mr. Martinez’s trial lawyer was concerned that opposing counsel would exploit his client’s motorcycle affiliation, portraying him as a low-life biker and thus, prejudicing the jury against him.

To avoid these kinds of tactics, pretrial orders were obtained that provided there be no reference at trial to “membership in motorcycle clubs/gangs or to stickers or emblems” used by Martinez. As well, Martinez’s termination of employment from a California school district was off-limits. Finally, the court ordered there be no evidence led to elicit sympathy for the Department of Transportation with regards to their dire financial situation.

Despite these clear rulings defence counsel, Karen Bilotti, ignored the ground rules in a manner the Court of Appeal described as “egregious” as they overturned the verdict that dismissed Mr. Martinez’s case. It began with her Opening Statement where she made numerous references to the state of the Department of Transportation’s financial status. The Appeal Court said:

“Blessed with a trial judge who allowed it, trial counsel ran roughshod over opposing counsel and the rules of evidence. We have no choice but to reverse.”

The Appeal Court described Ms. Bilotti’s cross-examination questions as “gratuitously besmirching” of Mr. Martinez’s character and despite repeated objections from his counsel that were sustained (agreed to) by the trial judge, she flippantly ignored him.

Most blatant, however, was her final question to Mr. Martinez’s wife:

“At the time of the accident, the motorcycle that your husband was riding had a skull picture on it wearing a Nazi helmet; right?”

In relation to this breach of the pretrial court orders the Appeal Court referred to “Godwin’s Law”, a term coined by American attorney Michael Godwin in 1990 that provides that the first person to introduce the Holocaust or make analogies with Nazism is the loser in any discussion or argument. Bilotti was apparently attempting to counter the positive evidence led by Martinez’s lawyer of his charitable, Christian activities.

In her closing argument Ms. Bilotti mentioned the word “Nazi” multiple times, no longer referring to Mr. Martinez’s motorcycle helmet but directly to him. The Court noted:

“The law, like boxing, prohibits hitting below the belt. The basic rule forbids an attorney to pander to the prejudice, passion, or sympathy of the jury.”

The Appeal Court concluded its opinion with a directive that the clerk of the court was instructed to send a copy of the Reasons to the State Bar (equivalent to the Law Society) notifying the Bar of its reversal of the case based “solely on prejudicial attorney misconduct”.

There is a broad line between aggressive advocacy and representation that intentionally mischaracterizes a litigant and the evidence proferred. Bilotti knowingly crossed that line, no doubt in her zeal to win at all costs.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Fashion Stylists Say Female Lawyers Lack Pizazz

DSC00507 (2)It was a beautiful day in Vancouver, hot and sunny, and with a little time to spare that day I decided to attend the swearing in ceremony of a newly appointed Court of Appeal judge, taking place at the Courthouse across the street from my office.

As I approached the courtroom I observed a sea of black-suited lawyers and slipped into one of the last remaining seats. As we waited for the proceedings to commence I noticed how many women lawyers were in attendance, more than usual, since the new judge was a well-respected female lower court judge.

Looking around I suddenly felt so out of place. I was wearing a mauve leather swing skirt, a very feminine pink and mauve blouse, and mauve three inch stiletto heels, in stark contrast to my female colleagues who were outfitted in boring black suits, mostly made of polyester, and sensible shoes that resembled oxfords.

After the ceremony an invitation was extended to join the Chief Justice for refreshments. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to join the fun, but that day I declined, not wanting to “stand out” in the crowd. (That statement may be hard to believe, but true!)

That brings me to a controversial article in a California legal newsletter, The Marin Lawyer, written by fashion stylists Jill Sperber, also a lawyer, and Susan Pereczek, directed at lawyers in Marin County, an affluent area north of San Francisco that boasts the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at over $90,000 per annum.

In their article titled “Beyond Black: Revising the Lawyer Dress Code for Women” the stylists opine that “female lawyers in Marin are not winning their cases in the Style Department”, a statement that has elicited critical cries of blatant sexism.

As part of their investigation Ms. Sperber and Ms. Pereczek spent two mornings at the Marin County Courthouse where in their roles as “fashion police” they saw:

“mostly non-descript black pants (we counted a few skirts) with button downs or blouses in white or muted tones. Some didn’t bother with jackets. Few wore accessories.”

On the list of fashion faux pas they identified a lawyer wearing a burgundy velvet blazer on a spring day, and another in a tight knit striped miniskirt with a mismatched stripe blazer over a neon blouse, and teetering mules. It’s not a pretty picture!

Among their fashion “dos and don’ts” they suggest is a move away from black suits to a more colourful palette. They also urge female lawyers to use accessories to brighten up and polish their professional look.

A light-hearted article with good advice…what’s wrong with that?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Winnipeg Family Law Lawyer Critically Injured in Bomb Explosion

IMG_0311 - Version 2Earlier today a bomb exploded at Winnipeg family law firm, Petersen King. The National Post reports that lawyer Maria Mitousis, age 35, is the only victim and has lost a hand in the blast. Other sources suggest she may also lose her other hand. She was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

No other details are available, such as whether the bomb was mailed or couriered to the firm and police are on the scene.

The firm has had its share of misfortune over the past several years. The “King” of Petersen King is lawyer Jack King, the wife of Madam Justice Lori Douglas who became known as Canada’s bondage judge. You may recall it was Mr. King who introduced his wife to a client who complained he was sexually harassed by Justice Douglas and her husband.

A high-profile judicial inquiry of Lori Douglas’ behaviour finally ended with her resignation as a Superior Court judge, but not before the first panel of judges adjudicating Judge Douglas’ future resigned en masse, and inquiry counsel, George McIntosh, now Mr. Justice McIntosh of British Columbia’s Supreme Court, was criticized for his vigorous cross-examination of several witnesses.

Sadly, Mr. King recently died of cancer.

It is reported that victim Ms. Mitousis is in a common-law relationship with Barry Gorlick, a Winnipeg lawyer who was recently disbarred after he admitted to 15 counts of professional misconduct. Gorlick practices at another firm in Winnipeg.

During a discipline panel hearing last fall, he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of misconduct, including failure to serve a client, failure to conduct himself in a courteous manner, breach of duty to act with integrity, and misappropriating client funds.

The misappropriation included the deliberate creation of false documents, as well as misleading his staff and partners. A total of $59,129 of client trust money was diverted for his personal use.

A terrible tragedy that hopefully will result in the speedy arrest of the perpetrator.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Former Prosecutor Disbarred Over Wrongful Conviction

GAL & PAL #2jpgIt was a warm August morning in Somerville, Texas when Texas’ elite investigative unit, the Texas Rangers, were alerted to a raging house fire. Once the fire was doused, the investigators entered the collapsed structure stepping over burning embers that sizzled in the hot sun.

What they saw shocked them to their core. Six burned bodies were located throughout the remaining charcoal shell. There were four children under eight-years old and two adults. Once victim had been shot, several were bludgeoned, and all suffered stab wounds, before the home was set ablaze.

At the funeral for the six victims, Robert Carter, the father of one of the deceased children, startled investigators who observed burns on his arms and face that were wrapped in swaths of cloth bandages. Immediately he became a key suspect and after he failed a polygraph test he admitted his involvement and implicated Anthony Graves and a man he knew only as “Red” The Rangers quickly ascertained that Red was actually his wife, Theresa, who also displayed burns that she dismissed as arising from a slip of her curling iron.

Carter was tried for the heinous crimes in 1994, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He now wanted to do a deal with the prosecutor to avoid the death sentence, in exchange for his testimony against Anthony Graves. He continued to insist that Red and Anthony Graves took part in the crimes, and maintained that his wife was not a participant.

As Anthony Graves’ trial approached, settlement discussions accelerated and Texas prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, who had secured Carter’s conviction, met with Mr. Carter and his lawyer the day before Mr. Carter was expected to testify.

During that conversation Carter blurted out that he alone was responsible for the events that resulted in six deaths. Prosecutor Sebesta didn’t believe him and told him to stop playing games. He told him that three weapons, a gun, a knife and a blunt object caused the deaths and that meant there were three assailants.

Carter then explained how the murders occurred, saying that he went to the Davies’ home to speak with Lisa Davies, the mother of his 4-year old son, Jason Davies, to dissuade her from pressing him for child support, and to advise her that despite her entreaties, he would not leave his wife Theresa to get back together with her.

When he arrived at the house Lisa was not there, but her mother, Bobbie Davies was. A heated discussion ensued and Carter left the home, angry and offended. He went back to his car where Red and Anthony Graves waited for him. He explained how he felt disrespected whereupon they said they would “take care of things”.

Although there was no evidence linking Anthony Graves to the crimes, except Carter’s testimony, and despite the alibi provided by Graves’ girlfriend and brother, he was convicted and sent to Death Row. He spent 18 years there, much of it in solitary confinement, and came very close to a lethal injection needle on two occasions. Robert Carter was executed in 2000.

Grave’s “angel” was the University of St. Thomas Project Innocent Network and journalist Nicole Casarez, who championed his wrongful conviction and reinstated her law license to join the legal team that obtained his exoneration.

But that’s not the end of the story. All eyes now focused on prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, when the question arose as to whether he informed the court or Anthony Graves’ lawyer of Carter recanting his allegation that Graves acted with him.

With the media heat on him, Sebesta took out newspaper ads describing Graves as “cold-blooded,” in response to media criticism, and he asked those wondering what occurred to look at the evidence, pointing out that Graves was initially convicted after a jury trial.

He also provides a long explanation of the circumstances of Grave’s wrongful conviction on his website, http://www.charlessebesta.net, insisting he did nothing wrong. However, not everyone sees it his way, and this week Mr. Sebesta was disbarred by a State Bar of Texas grievance committee panel who found that Sebesta failed to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense and presented false testimony to win the conviction of Anthony Graves.

After battling the state for compensation for his wrongful conviction, Anthony Graves received $1.4 million dollars. He splurged on a white BMW for himself and bought a house for his mother. However, the main beneficiaries of his largesse is the University of Texas Law School Foundation where he endowed a scholarship in journalist/lawyer Nicole Casarez’ name and funded a foundation that helps the children of wrongly convicted parents.

I doubt if Charles Sebesta will ever admit he stole 18 years of an innocent man’s life.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang