Canadian Couple Sue Georgia Sperm Bank for Misrepresentation

DSC00507 (2)An Ontario couple were over-the-moon with delight when their first child was born. Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson of Port Hope Ontario had purchased sperm from Xytex Corp. in Atlanta, who touted the sperm donor as an overachiever with a 160 IQ, working on his PhD in Neuroscience Engineering.

The couple received their donor’s photo which showed an attractive man, only later did they learn the photo had been photoshopped.

Seven years after the birth of their son, Xytex inadvertently released the name of the anonymous donor to Ms. Collins and Ms. Hanson. That was when they discovered their child’s father was schizophrenic ex-convict, James Christian Aggeles, a college drop-out who had fathered 20 other children through the services of Xytex.

The couple’s lawsuit reveals that if they had known the truth about the donor’s background and medical history they would have declined. Their lawyer, Nancy Hersh, said the couple love their child but want to ensure they have the funds to properly evaluate and care for him if he is diagnosed as schizophrenic. Ms. Hersh is representing 15 other mothers in the same situation as the Ontario couple.

Collins and Hanson say they have suffered emotional and financial damages and are suing for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, and unfair business practices.

According to John Hopkins Medical School, research data shows that schizophrenia affects about 1% of Americans. If a parent has schizophrenia, there is a 10% chance their child will be similarly afflicted.

Canadian couples are forced to use offshore sperm banks as Canada has only one national sperm bank, Toronto’s Institute for Reproductive Medicine, and they have only 51 active donors. Two small clinics in Quebec have several donors but only operate locally.

It is reported that there is a need for donor sperm for more than 5,500 inseminations per year in Canada, 3,000 of those for lesbian couples.

Spokesperson, Wendy Kramer, for the American non-profit “Donor Sibling Registry” says there is little regulation or oversight in the sperm bank industry allowing donors to get away with saying whatever they want about their personal and medical histories.

With the number of women requiring donors, it surely is time for proper protocols to be legislated to protect vulnerable women, eager to have a child.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Mother Fakes Child, Dupes Father, and Goes to Jail

GEO CASUALJohnna Loreen Vandemore of Iowa has nothing to be proud of. A woman so greedy she faked the birth of a child and inveigled her former lover to believe he was the father.

Only there was no child.

Ms. Vandemore created the fraud by telling her 2007 fling that as a result of their brief relationship he was the father of her baby. She provided him with a forged birth certificate from a non-existent hospital, and a photo of the child, using a picture of her cousin’s baby.

The alleged father, who lived in Minnesota, stepped up to the plate and began paying Ms. Vandemore $1,000 per month, sending extra cash for holidays and the child’s birthday.

As the money rolled in Ms. Vandemore’s husband queried her about her finances. She lied to him telling him it was profit from selling nutritional products online.

Vandemore’s scam was successful for six years. She received over 90 payments totalling $100,000. This week she was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to reimburse her duped victim the payments he had made.

Vandemore’s defence lawyer, Donovan Robinson, is as disingenuous as she, telling the court that Vandemore initially believed she was pregnant, and that her victim bore some responsibility, after all, if he had requested to see the child he would have discovered he was being swindled. Of course, Mr. Robinson assured the court he was not victim-blaming, saying:

“These things are not intended to foist responsibility on the victim, but, to show the ease with which a house of cards could have been toppled.”

Vandemore and Robinson are a matched pair. I’ve heard that clients hire lawyers that reflect their values. You don’t say?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Death Row Prosecutor Apologizes to Innocent Man

_DSC4851My regular readers will know that I abhor the arrogance of police and prosecutors who play a significant role in the wrongful conviction of innocent accused, both in Canada and the United States, but refuse to acknowledge their responsibility in these gross miscarriages of justice.

Imagine my delight when I read about the mea culpa from Louisiana prosecutor Marty Stroud III who sent an innocent man, Glenn Ford, to death row in 1984. His apology in the form of a letter to the editor of a Shreveport newspaper was poignantly refreshing:

“In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie “And Justice for All”, winning became everything.

After the death verdict in the Ford trial, I went out with others and celebrated with a few rounds of drinks. That’s sick. I had been entrusted with the duty to seek the death of a fellow human being, a very solemn task that certainly did not warrant any celebration…

I end with the hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford. But, I am also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it.”

Thirty-years after his conviction and almost as many years since Mr. Stroud left the prosecutor’s office, Glenn Ford, assisted by the Louisiana Innocence Project, was released from death row.

The former prosecutor wrote his letter when he learned that Mr. Ford was battling to receive compensation from the State for his wrongful conviction, a fight that was proving difficult.

Stroud wrote that he should have listened to rumours that others were involved in the crime and he ought to have realized that the testimony he introduced from a forensic pathologist, who opined that the shooter was left-handed, was nothing more than “junk science”.

The exoneration of Glenn Ford is bittersweet, as at age 64 he has terminal lung cancer. As for Marty Stroud I respect his courage to admit his mistakes and can only hope that other players in the justice system who bear some responsibility for wrongful convictions will follow his lead.

As for the state of Louisiana it is unconscionable for them to deny and delay Mr. Ford’s compensatory claim. He is seeking the sum of $330,000 an amount that pales next to the $10 million dollars rightfully paid to Canada’s David Milgaard for his 23-year wrongful incarceration for rape and murder.

No amount of money is adequate payment for the loss of one’s liberty and freedom, made worse by the prospects of unnatural death at the pleasure of the State and the justice system.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Notables Who Failed the Bar Exam

GEO_edited-1From time to time I meet with young men and women who dream of becoming a lawyer and seek encouragement or advice on their journey to the bar. I believe the legal profession, although often maligned, is a noble calling, and to those lawyers who much has been given, much is owed.

A recent conversation with the eighteen-year-old daughter of a client, caused me to reflect on the process. After the completion of an undergraduate degree and successfully passing the Law School Admission Test, three years of law school follows. With a law degree in hand the only impediment to calling yourself a lawyer is the passing of the bar exam.

It is at this point where many people run into a roadblock. Certain of the bar exams are notorious for their difficulty, including the tests required in New York and California.

The top spot for lawyers who have failed their bar exams goes to MAXCY DEAN FILER who obtained his law degree in 1966, but failed the California Bar Exam 47 times before finally passing the exam in 1991.

By the time he was permitted to practice law, both of his sons were lawyers. He worked with one of his sons for about five years before striking out on his own. His other son is now a judge in California.

But there are many more lawyers who struggled for the right to practice law, but were forced to retake the exam. Some of the notables include:

1. MICHELLE OBAMA- A graduate of Harvard Law School, Ms. Obama failed her first try at the Illinois Bar Exam, said to be one of the easier bar exam States;

2. HILARY CLINTON- Former Secretary of State, former Senator for New York State, candidate for President of the United States, First Lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency, attended Yale Law School, wrote her bar exam in Washington DC and failed. Around the same time she wrote and passed the Arkansas Bar Exam, practicing patent law and intellectual property law. Her pro bono interests were in the area of child and family advocacy;

3. THE MAYORS- RICHARD DALEY of Chicago, ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA of Los Angeles and ED KOCH of New York;

4. THE GOVERNORS- JERRY BROWN of California, PETE WILSON of California, and DAVID PATERSON of New York;

5. PAT ROBERTSON, founder and host of the 700 Club and leader of the Christian Coalition, graduated from Yale Law School but failed the bar exam. He then abandoned law and obtained a Doctor of Divinity degree. Leader of the christian right, he is a successful businessman and entrepreneur, who founded Regent University which includes a Judeo-Christian law school.

6. KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, former Dean of Stanford Law School, Marshall scholar at Oxford, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1981, constitutional and appellate law expert, often mentioned as a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, failed the California Bar Exam, but rewrote it in 2006 and passed. Many years earlier she had been admitted to both the Massachussats and the New York bar.

It is clear that perserverance is the cornerstone of success. To all my friends, young and old, who have a dream, remember these words:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful
people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is
almost a proverb… Persistence and determination alone are
omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

GEO#1PT Barnum of circus fame is credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute”, and that’s just what hucksters and fraud artists count on.

Here’s the email I received today…

“I hope you get this email on time, I made a trip to (Philippines) and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and credit cards in it. Went to the embassy and they are willing to help me by issued me a temporary passport but i have to pay for a ticket and settle my hotel bills with the Manager here. Unfortunately for me, I can’t have access to funds without my credit card, i was wondering if you could loan me some few $ through western union money transfer easy for me to cash here and pay bills and get back home, I will definitely refund it back to you as soon as i get back safely.

let me know so I can forward you the details to wire it to me. Susan”

Oh, yes, I think I’ll contact Western Union right now!

I also recently received an email from a woman in Japan who wanted to retain me to assist her to collect a large sum of money from her ex-husband who happened to live in Vancouver. She asked me to begin by writing to her ex to determine if he would pay the sum he owed voluntarily or whether it would be necessary to commence a court action.

From the get-go it smelled like a scam, so in return I sent her an email advising her that in British Columbia we have “know your client” rules which require that she provide picture ID to show who she was.

Not a problem. Within a day I received a copy of a passport and an official ID card in her name with a photo of her. Her emails were all unfailing polite and to a less suspicious individual she appeared to be an ideal client as she informed me that upon my successful collection of the monies owed I would be paid my legal fees in a generous amount.

At this point her scam was no longer amusing to me and I ended the email conversation. She contacted me several times thereafter wondering why her Vancouver lawyer had not been in touch.

Had I carried on with her she would have excitedly told me that my letter had served its intended purpose and that I should expect to receive a large cheque from her ex and would I kindly deposit it to my trust account and send her my trust cheque for the monies, less my generous fee.

Had I complied, she would have received her money from my account and I would be left owing my bank a large sum of money once it became obvious that the deposited cheque was worthless. The financial consequences to me would pale in comparison to the humiliation of being so thoroughly scammed.

This scenario is just one of the hundreds of internet swindles floating through cyberspace.

Have you heard of the “grandma” scam where a young adult posing as your grandchild, obtains enough information from Facebook and other social sites to pepper her email solicitation with accurate family information. She is in trouble and needs money to either get out of jail or purchase an airline ticket to fly home to escape a dangerous situation.

The “Nigerian” scam is so old it is truly surprising that it still nets internet crooks millions of dollars a year. If you could only send money to this Nigerian diplomat, he could obtain millions of dollars that belong to his family and share it with you!

The FBI reports that between 2000 and 2009 internet fraud accounted for $1.7 billion in financial losses to unsuspecting consumers. The best way to avoid being the victim of internet fraud is to assume that every email overture concerning money involves a criminal looking for a victim. Don’t let it be you.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Misery of Hoarding

BarristerHe shuffled into my law office for his 10 am appointment, his shoulders were hunched over and he looked completely defeated. I asked what brought him in to see me and he quietly removed some photographs from a yellow envelope and set them up like a slide show on the desk in front of me.

I had never seen anything like it. A living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, all piled to the rafters with newspapers, junk mail, pizza boxes, dirty laundry, bags of garbage, kitty litter and much more. A trail through the house, no more than a foot wide, was left open as a passage way. In one photo a little girl in a pink dress sat smiling, leaning on a tower of junk.

He was embarrassed as he told me that his wife had transformed their home into a waste pit, that she wouldn’t or couldn’t stop accumulating stuff, refusing to throw anything away, and he was worried sick about his three-old daughter.

He said he loved his wife but believed the home environment was hurting his little girl. He asked me whether he should take his daughter and move out.

I was stymied. This was long before television turned hoarding into a spectator sport and intuitively I knew his wife’s behavior was an extreme form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I sent the photos to a child psychologist and asked his opinion. I expected him to tell me that my new client had a legal and moral obligation to rescue his daughter from the chaos of their home. But he surprised me. He said that removing the little girl from her home and her mother would only increase her anxiety, for after all, what she knew was a crowded, dirty, infested home.

My client got his answer and I didn’t see him again.

I didn’t question the psychologist because after all, he was the expert. But later, after scanning Kimberly Rae Miller’s book entitled “Coming Clean”, her personal story of her childhood, I wondered how that little girl was, the one in the pink dress.

Author Miller describes her wretched childhood: the rats, the bugs, the insecurity she felt as a result of her parents’ activities. Her mother was a compulsive shopper, her father a hoarder, and between them her life was isolated, secretive, and shameful. In her late teens Ms. Miller had a breakdown, overdosing on pain killers. That’s when she finally left home and began living in her car. Yes, a car she vacuumed every day.

Family law lawyers see the best and worst of domestic life. That day I saw the misery of hoarding.