Canadian Judge Faces Scrutiny by Federal Judicial Council

BarristerIt’s been a busy few years for Canada’s Judicial Council, the body that reviews complaints against federally appointed judges in Canada.

While all eyes and ears were focused on the lengthy and salacious Justice Lori Douglas Inquiry, which finally ended with the announcement of her voluntary retirement in November 2014, and the welcomed termination of the “dog and pony show” that the Inquiry became, other members of the Judicial Council have been anything but idle.

In 2012 Quebec’s Chief Justice brought forward a complaint to the Judicial Council with respect to Superior Court Justice Michel Girouard, a 2010 appointment to the Quebec bench. A separate Inquiry of another Quebec judge was commenced in 2014.

With far less media scrutiny than Lori Douglas endured, the allegations against Justice Girouard centre on informants who say the judge was a regular customer of a certain drug dealer in Val d’Or while he was a lawyer.

More startling yet are the allegations that he had gangsters install a marijuana grow operation in his basement and offered legal advice in exchange for cocaine, even when he became a judge!

Wiretap evidence played at the Inquiry revealed conversations between the judge and his alleged drug dealer where the pair discussed when he could pick up certain “videos” and whether there were any good “videos” available that week. Inquiry counsel, Marie Cossette, argued that “videos” was subterfuge for “cocaine”.

Perhaps even more damning is the existence of a surveillance video of the learned jurist recorded two weeks before his appointment to the bench, where he is seen purchasing cocaine at the back of a local video store, from the same drug dealer heard in the wiretaps.

The video, which has not yet been viewed by the Inquiry panel, is said to show a transaction between the judge and Yvon Lamontagne, the store owner, who sold drugs at the back of his store and is said to be a major player in the drug scene in Northern Quebec. The wiretaps and video were collected during a successful drug sting called “Crayfish”.

Judge Girouard denied all the allegations, explaining that Mr. Lamontagne was a client to whom he was giving advice on a tax matter. He said he often visited clients’ businesses to conduct meetings.

The issue before the Inquiry panel last week was the admissibility into evidence of the video. Lawyers for Judge Girouard argued the publication of photos of their client with drug dealers or pedophiles in the course of his law practice would be damaging to his reputation and hurtful to his family. They also suggested the surveillance was unlawful and a violation of his fundamental rights.

Ms. Cossette responded saying that Judge Girouard should have no expectation of privacy when he conducts a meeting in a store with the office door open and a clerk and customers just a few steps away.

While Judge Girouard’s lawyers complained that Ms. Cossette was reaching far beyond her role as independent counsel, a strategy reminiscent of the perpetual criticism of independent counsel(s) in the Lori Douglas Inquiry, Chief Justice of Manitoba, Richard Chartier, who is chairing the Inquiry panel, confirmed his view that Ms. Cossette’s conduct was “very honourable”.

It remains to be seen whether Judge Girouard’s alleged conduct will be similarly ascribed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

One in a Billion: Twins are Actually Half-Brothers

GEO#1If you ask most people they will say that twins must have the same father, but that’s not actually true. There have been several recent cases where a woman had sexual intercourse with two men within a few days of the other, and when her twins arrived they were nothing like each other.

Charlotte Hilbrandt of Denmark was divorced from her husband and jumped back into the dating game. She met a man she fancied and they were sexually intimate. Meanwhile her ex-husband never gave up the notion they may reconcile and a few days later, on New Year’s Day, the couple reconnected and ended up in bed together.

Some weeks later Charlotte discovered she was pregnant and would have twins. Deciding honesty was the best policy she told her husband Michael and her new boyfriend Tommy of the situation and admitted she did not know who the father of her twins was. Michael was delighted hoping that the addition of twins to the family would cement a reconciliation and Tommy had longed to be a father and was equally receptive to the prospects of fatherhood.

The healthy twin boys were born 48 minutes apart in 2005 and to her surprise, one strongly resembled Michael and the other her boyfriend Tommy, however, the whirlwind of new twins delayed any DNA testing.

Charlotte, Michael and Tommy were shocked when the DNA results showed each of them was the father of a twin! Charlotte was told that her situation was a one in a billion scenario and that her odds were far better of winning a lottery. She was also told that her twins were only the third known incident of twins being genetic half-brothers.

Fast forward to New Jersey in 2015 where yesterday Judge Sohail Mohammed of Passaic County Superior Court ruled that as a result of DNA testing, Mr. A.S. would pay child support for one of two twins as he was not the biological father of twin #2.

The twins’ mother, T.M. had applied for government benefits for her and the children and as is routine, social workers asked her to identify the father of her children so they could bring a court application to obtain child support from him. T.M.was in a relationship with A.S. and named him as the father. However, later she advised the court that within the same week she had sexual relations with another man.

Expert witness Karl-Hans Wurzinger, the laboratory director of Identity Testing Division at Laboratory Corp. of America, testified at the trial noting that in an article he published in 1997 he estimated that one in every 13,000 reported paternity cases involved twins with separate fathers. He obviously did not agree the odds were one in a billion.

Wurzinger also commented that although there is no central registry of births related to the phenomenon, the incidence of twins with separate fathers is believed to be on the increase, due to assisted reproductive technologies, medical stimulation of ovulation, and promiscuity.

If Mr. Wurzinger’s statistics are accurate, there must be many fathers of twins who are not aware only one of their twins is biologically related to them. Interesting?

Lawyer’s Arrest Mid-Trial a Set-up by Opposing Counsel

10950859361151CDPFlorida radio “shock-jocks”, “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem and Todd “MJ” Schnitt were engaged in an ugly defamation lawsuit, a case that spun out for five years, culminating in a tough-fought court battle that ended with Bubba declaring himself the victor. But the conflict between the two radio DJ’s took a back seat to the drama that unfolded when MJ’s lawyer, C. Phillip Campbell Jr., was busted for drunk driving in the middle of the trial.

Lawyer Campbell apparently got under the skin of Bubba’s lawyers at Adams & Diaco, so much so they repeatedly brought motions before the trial judge to have him removed as MJ’s counsel, with zero success. But according to Mr. Campbell’s DUI lawyer and the prosecuting attorney, Adams & Diaco found another way to get back at their courtroom adversary.

After court Mr. Campbell walked from his office/apartment to Tampa’s Malio’s Prime Steakhouse two blocks away. An attractive paralegal in the employ of Adams & Diaco was in the restaurant and saw Campbell. She quickly contacted her bosses and asked if she “there was anything she should do?” Following instructions Melissa Personious began a flirtation with Mr. Campbell, lying about who she worked for, and buying him drinks. Campbell wasn’t driving and enjoyed a few drinks.

Shortly after Campbell and Personious connected, lawyer Adam Filthaut from Adams & Diaco called a police officer friend who sat outside the restaurant for three hours waiting for Campbell to leave. Unfortunately, Campbell ended up driving Ms. Personious home in her vehicle, but was stopped and charged with DUI within the first five blocks. He refused to take a breathalyzer.

Notably, at the time Adams & Diaco contacted the police Campbell was stone-cold sober and upon his arrest there was no evidence he was over the limit for alcohol consumption.

During the investigation it became apparent that Ms. Personious was in constant contact with her employers, sending and receiving over 200 text messages and phone calls.

Eventually the charges against Mr. Campbell were dropped, the prosecutors comments included words like “collaboration” and “organized effort”. They said the intense communication between the paralegal and Adams & Diaco was “jaw-dropping”.

Campbell’s lawyer, John Fitzgibbons said:

“It is now absolutely clear that Mr. Campbell was the victim of a devious setup, And all honest and ethical police officers and lawyers should be deeply troubled over what happened.”

Meanwhile, Bubba tweeted:

“This setup nonsense has nothing to do with me or the fact that a jury of my peers found in my favor vs Todd Schnitt. This was just another weak attempt from the losers to justify why they got their a– kicked in court by me/jay diaco.”

Thankfully Adams & Diaco’s “dirty tricks” were the subject of discipline proceedings. Last month Stephen Diaco was disbarred with a stipulation that he could not apply for re-entry into the Florida bar for five years, and would have to retake the bar exam.

Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut entered conditional consent guilty pleas that would impose upon each lawyer a 91-day suspension and requirement to attend ethics school.

The Florida Bar’s Creed of Professionalism includes the following:

“I will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of my profession’s code of ethics, to the extent that the law permits and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity, and fair play.”

Lawyers like these need to be ferreted out of the profession.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Client From Hell

_DSC4851In the mid-2000’s Toronto police officer Richard Wills, pulled off the most masterfully cunning manipulation of Ontario’s justice system and shockingly, got away with it, mainly because nobody cared enough to pay attention. The refrain “It’s not my job” became the mantra that brought the Ontario Attorney-General’s office and Legal Aid Ontario to their knees.

Wills’ married mistress of six years, Linda Mariani, went missing in 2002. Having been dumped by Ms. Mariani, Wills was immediately identified as a viable suspect even though he broadly hinted to his police associates that her husband was the likely culprit. Four months after her disappearance Wills retained top criminal counsel to cut a deal for him. He would admit that Linda accidentally fell down the stairs in his home, and acceding to her wishes, to avoid an undesirable burial in her husband’s mausoleum, he hid her in a 60 gallon vat behind a wall in his home, so he could later bury her in the resting place she desired.

The police weren’t buying what Richard Wills was selling. They located Linda’s body where Wills said it was but the evidence screamed homicide. She had a skipping rope tied around her neck and a baseball bat jammed in beside her. She died of blunt-force trauma. Mr. Wills was promptly charged with first degree murder.

But Richard Wills was not your garden-variety repentant rage killer. No, he was different. Despite overwhelming evidence, including his confessions to at least two persons, he insisted that Linda’s death was accidental, or if it wasn’t, he was mentally ill and therefore incapable of forming the intent to murder her or understand the consequences of his actions.

The “Richard Wills Show” began with a 65 day preliminary hearing, a process designed to determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial. Wills paid his first set of lawyers with his own money, after all, he was a millionaire. By the time he had fired multiple sets of new lawyers, he had transferred all his assets, including real estate and his police pension to his ex-wife and was now officially a pauper begging for legal aid. As an indigent criminal defendant the Attorney-General was obliged to follow Canadian case law and compelled to pay for his defence. Legal Aid received funds for Mr. Will’s defence from the Ontario government and was expected to oversee payments to his lawyers, only they didn’t realize they were to do more than just dole out money.

Representing himself for much of the preliminary hearing, his behaviour was outrageous. He was rude and childish, belching, passing gas, lying prone in the prisoner’s docket, and contemptuously degrading, swearing, and insulting the Judge, the prosecutors, and anyone else unlucky enough to be a part of the process.

He regularly urinated in the police van on the way to and from the courthouse and on one occasion displayed a handful of excrement to the Judge after a well-coordinated courtroom bowel movement. He revelled in the spotlight, ignoring the Judge’s admonitions and rebuke and obstreporously belaboured and delayed proceedings with his interminably irrelevant questioning of witnesses.

He rambled and repeated himself with the obvious goal of drawing out and delaying the hearing. He was finally ejected from the courtroom and forced to watch the proceedings via video from a separate room. Ultimately, he achieved his goal when the Attorney-General, in an unusual move, declared an end to the preliminary hearing even though it was far from finished, and directed that Mr. Wills go straight to trial. Of course, pre-trial motions occupied another 144 days before Mr. Wills 84 day trial commenced.

His antics at trial were no different. He laughed out loud, feigned mental illness, bullied his own lawyers and was repeatedly racist.

Legal Aid initially estimated that legal fees for Mr. Wills would amount to about $50,000. Boy, did they miscalculate. Thirteen lawyers took their turn at bat for Mr. Wills, including two “friends of the court.” One of Mr. Will’s last lawyers, Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, was fired by Wills before the trial commenced. He alone billed almost $700,000 for “preparatory work” and was later disbarred by the Law Society of Upper Canada for overbilling by more than $100,000.

His last and final lawyer, Raj Napal, began his representation by announcing to the Court he would be calling 18 expert witnesses.

If it is not already apparent it was Mr. Wills who was running this trial. On March 1, 2005, Justice Shaughnessy, declared, with no pun intended: “I think we have unfortunately a test of wills here.”

Sadly, at the end of this fiasco, the administration of justice and Ontario taxpayers were the fools, while Mr. Wills sits in prison, convicted of first degree murder, no doubt confounding prison authorities and fellow lifers.

Yes, it is the inmates running the asylum, or in this case, dictating the administration of justice.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Vexatious Litigant

BarristerDr. Valery Fabrikant was an unstable, temperamental, and frustrated engineering professor at Concordia University in Montreal when he slaughtered four of his colleagues in 1992. Acting as his own lawyer, he sabotaged his case at trial, although his murderous actions were never in issue.

No doubt impressed with his own legal prowess, he continued to file lawsuits and was eventually declared a vexatious litigant by the Quebec Superior Court in 2000, an apparently ineffective tool as today the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed his attempt to appeal a Federal Court of Appeal ruling made in 2014.

So, how does one merit a vexatious litigant label? A vexatious litigant is a person who continually brings frivolous, unmeritorious law suits intended to harass, insult and abuse the victims of his court actions and to undermine the justice system. Vexatious litigants typically represent themselves as no legitimate lawyer will take on these cases.

Attaching this label to a litigant and curtailing his recourse to the courts or ensuring that no claim can be brought without the permission of the Chief Justice of the Court is a draconian measure that is only ordered in extreme cases.

Notable vexatious litigants include:

1. JULIAN KNIGHT, an Australian mass murderer with an IQ of 132 who gunned down seven people and injured 19 in the Hoddle Street Massacre in Victoria in 1987. Knight’s multiple lawsuits were directed at prison officials and the Australian government over issues concerning prison conditions, prison discipline, access to mail, solitary confinement, and a myriad of other petty complaints. Knight was eligible for parole in 2014 but the government enacted legislation that year preventing Knight’s release from prison.

2. LAWRENCE BITTAKER, a serial murderer from California who raped, tortured, and murdered five young female hitchhikers over a period of six months in 1979. Bittaker, with an !Q of 138, sits on California’s Death Row. He filed 40 separate lawsuits against the State of California including one claiming “cruel and unusual punishment” because he was served a broken cookie. He was declared a vexatious litigant in 1993 and requires the permission of a lawyer or judge before he can commence any court actions.

3. CLIFFORD OLSON, British Columbia serial killer of 11 children between the ages of 8 and 15, in 1981, was declared a vexatious litigant by the federal court in 1994. He had filed over 30 lawsuits over issues including his lack of access to the media, his designation as a sexual offender, and his inability to vote in elections. It was reported that his case prompted the Canadian government to legislate against early release law, called the “faint hope clause”, for serial killers.

Of course, not all vexatious litigants are deranged murderers, however, prison inmates seem to be attracted to this attention-getting tactic.

4. JONATHAN LEE RICHES is a former federal prisoner in Kentucky, convicted of wire fraud, who filed over 2,600 lawsuits in six years. Victims of his court filings included publishing maven Martha Stewart; former president George W. Bush; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick; gossip columnist Perez Hilton; pop singer Britney Spears; Apple founder Steve Jobs, and Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Psychiatrists describe vexatious litigants as suffering from “querulous paranoia” or “litigious paranoia”, a subtype of a delusional disorder manifested in persons who feel obsessively wronged about minor issues and petty offences, accompanied by groundless allegations.

Their deleterious impact on the justice system cannot be overstated and unfortunately, their numbers have escalated in the last twenty years.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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