Anonymous v. Anonymous: The Secret Divorces

GeorgiaLeeLang016Anthony Weiner’s public and private activities have been splashed over media outlets around the world. Besides his unsuccessful run for mayor of New York in 2013, and the discovery of “Hillary” emails on his computer, there has been rampant media coverage of his arrest for sexting an underage teen, and his 21-month prison sentence.

But even more recently was the news that Huma Abedin, Mr. Weiner’s wife, and former top aide to Hillary Clinton, made an application to the New York divorce court to keep their divorce proceedings private, with their names hidden from the public via an “Anonymous v. Anonymous” designation.

In the world of celebrity divorce, where notoriety for the wrong reasons is to be avoided, celebrities often convince judges to ignore their written policies on open and transparent courts.

New York is just like British Columbia, where divorce and family law files are not searchable by the general public or the media, but only by the parties themselves, their lawyers, or any other lawyer. Family Court hearings are always public, and once a court makes a ruling, Reasons for Judgment are posted on the internet, and the details of the proceedings are fair game for publication. In some cases, where children are involved, a court will initialize the parties’ and their children’s names, but this is also the exception and not the rule.

Leading divorce lawyers in Los Angeles and New York have spilled the beans on certain judges and celebrities who have manipulated the system to avoid the ignominy of having their personal peccadilloes and financial wherewithal, (or not), broadcast for public consumption. Los Angeles divorce attorney Laura Wasser says the reasons celebrities want anonymity is varied, but for some it’s because they are embarrassed at their lack of a substantial net worth.

One example of a notorious “anonymous” divorce was the divorce of Mayor Rudy Guliani and his wife Donna Hanover in 2000. Guiliani was the mayor of New York, involved in an affair with staff member, Judith Nathan, who he later married. His divorce attorney, Raoul Felder applied for the designation but even he admitted that everyone who followed the case knew it was the mayor’s divorce. Felder also noted that the presiding judge, Justice Judith Gische at one point said that it was silly to continue the anonymous designation, but it remained in place throughout the proceedings.

Even more startling was the divorce of Real Housewives of New York star, Bethanny Frankel, whose whole life was on display on her reality television show, nonetheless, her lawyer was able to convince Judge Ellen Gesmer to anonymize her divorce from Jason Hopper. Judge Gesmer even kept the “public” hearings private by keeping the case off the court docket sheets typically displayed on boards on the ground floor of the courthouse.

As for Huma and Anthony, the court ruled against them this week, ensuring that their divorce case will not be sequestered. A better incentive to settle out of court could not be found!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Presides Over Child Support Hearing While Conducting an Affair with Litigant

DSC01152_2 (2)_2If you were the payor father in a child support hearing and you learned that the judge presiding over your case was having an affair with your child’s mother, how angry would you be? How about if you read an email from the judge to your ex, agreeing with her suggestion that you be sent to jail because you’re in arrears of child support?

“I figure if he hasn’t come current by his court date, he gets jail to pay. If he says he can’t bring me the $$, I’ll put him on a tether (electric monitoring) til he brings the receipt…or do “double time”.

You might think this kind of corruption comes from a judge in Russia or Zimbabwe, but you’d be wrong. Judge Wade McCree was, until recently, a judge in Wayne County Michigan, home to two million people, best known for Motown and Motor City, and of late, the 18 billion dollar debt and subsequent bankruptcy of the City of Detroit.

Judge McCree’s judicial career ended ignominiously this Spring when Michigan’s Supreme Court suspended him for six years, after finding his conduct affected not only the litigants involved, but harmed the integrity of the judicial system as a whole.

Initially Judge McCree pulled a “Weiner” by texting a partially nude photo of himself to a female deputy sheriff, and was under investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission. Rather than minding his “p’s and q’s” while under scrutiny for that indiscretion, he began an affair with Geniene LaShay Mott, who was the complaining party in People v. King, a court proceeding involving the enforcement and collection of arrears of child support against Robert King, who was the father of one of Ms. Mott’s children. He was in arrears of support in the amount of $15,000.

Judge McCree’s offences included:

1. Conducting an affair with Ms. Mott while he was presiding over her child support hearing;
2. Engaging in sexual relations with Ms. Mott in his judicial chambers;
3. Allowing Ms. Mott to access the court house through a rear, private door and utilize the judicial parking lot;
4. Surreptitiously arranging for Ms. Mott’s cell phone to be delivered to her in court by a sheriff so she could call him during the hearing;
5. Texting Ms. Mott from the bench while presiding over other cases;
6. Accepting Ms. Mott’s suggestions as to how he should deal with her child’s father;
7. Giving money to Ms. Mott, as much as $6,000;
8. Lying to the Judicial Commission concerning the date that he ended his affair with Ms. Mott;

But there was even more. Judge McCree presided over People v. Tillman, reducing Mr. Tillman’s bond in another child support case. Tillman was a relative of Ms. Mott’s, a fact known to McCree. And when his affair with Ms. Mott cooled down he lodged a complaint with Wayne County’s Prosecuting Attorney, alleging that Ms. Mott was stalking him and extorting him by demanding $10,000 in exchange for terminating her pregnancy and not revealing the affair and pregnancy to Judge McCree’s wife. In fact, the alleged crimes never occurred.

While Judge McCree’s attorney argued “no harm, no foul”, the judicial panel, comprised of seven judges, disagreed, saying the judge was well aware that his conduct was egregiously inappropriate as evidenced by an email he sent to Ms. Mott:

“Second, you are the complaining witness on a case that is before me. Naturally if it got out that we were seeing each other before your baby daddy’s case closed, everybody would be in deep shit”.

As for the aggrieved Mr. King, he filed a lawsuit against Judge McCree alleging constitutional violations, including the right to equal protection under the law and the right to be treated fairly in legal processes. District Court Judge Avern Cohn ruled against Mr. King finding that Judge McCree’s decisions in King’s case were “judicial acts” covered by “judicial immunity”, a protection that applies even if a judge’s actions are negligent, incompetent, or malicious.

Unfortunately for Mr. King, this week the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed Judge Cohn’s decision while declaring Judge McCree’s behavior “reprehensible”:

“Casual readers of this opinion…may erroneously conclude that…we are somehow endorsing Judge McCree’s conduct or going out of our way to protect one of our own…We do nothing of the sort.”

The Appeals Court also noted that “the best justice possible” was achieved by the Michigan Supreme Court when they suspended Judge McCree for six years.

Is this the end of Wade McCree’s judicial career? Only the people of Detroit can decide that, since Michigan State judges are elected, not appointed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang