“Bill Cosby” Law to Take Effect in California

DSC01152_2 (2)_2In Canada there is no statute of limitations for criminal offences. If you committed a robbery,sexually assaulted a person, or even murdered a person decades ago, the law is coming for you, if they find sufficient evidence to prosecute. Admittedly, historical cases are more difficult to prove: evidence is lost, witnesses die, and memories fade, but Canadians recognize that a crime is a crime is a crime and the passage of time ought not to excuse an offender of his or her criminal wrongdoings.

Not so in the United State, where criminals can beat the system if they have not been prosecuted within certain proscribed time periods.  Justification for limitation laws include that an alleged offender ought not to have to defend himself after a lengthy period of time has passed, again because of lost evidence, faded recollections and other “fairness” arguments. That this approach clearly prejudices victims has apparently fallen on deaf ears, until now.

This week California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that changes the limitation period in California for rape and other sexual molestation cases from 10 years to 20 years commencing in  2017. California’s limitation law reforms are not at the leading edge as  Nevada and Colorado amended their laws earlier this year, again expanding the period to 20 years. All of these legal reforms arise from the allegations of at least 30 women who say they were drugged and assaulted by Mr. Cosby.

According to the California Women’s Law Centre, 17 other States in America have no limitation period for rape.

California attorney Gloria Allred represents 30 women in the Bill Cosby case, most of whom have no legal recourse because of the limitation laws on the books in most states. She notes that the legislation is not retroactive, so it will not apply to her clients.

Proponents of the new law explain that it “tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law.” California state Senator Connie Leyva who brought the bill forward said in a statement. “Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired. There must never be an expiration date on justice!”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Custody Dispute Puts Father in Prison for 18 Years

GeorgiaLeeLang057For those of you who think that false allegations of abuse are a rarity in family law cases, think again! Recently I acted for two clients, the first was a father accused by his estranged wife of molesting their young son. A police investigation was initiated and the Ministry of Child and Family Services barred him from seeing any of his children.

The second client was accused by his common law spouse of all manner of outrageous abuse: physical, sexual, and psychological. The graphic descriptions of her alleged suffering were like nothing I had ever seen before. Another day, another police investigation.

In both cases the allegations were unfounded and dismissed, but not before wreaking havoc in two innocent men’s lives.

And not all abuse allegations are nipped in the bud…take for example the case of Luther Jones of  Santa Rosa, California. In 1998 he obtained custody of his daughter, an event that changed his life, only because immediately after he was awarded custody, his 10-year old daughter accused him of sexually molesting her.

Mr. Jones alleged that his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Woods’ accusations were false and only surfaced when he received custody of one of their children. A witness at trial told the court that Woods had told her she would put Jones in jail to prevent him from gaining custody. The ten-year old testified against Mr.  Jones. He was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison, all the while protesting his innocence.

But that little 10-year old grew up and at the age of 30 admitted to authorities that her mother forced her to falsely accuse Jones, because her mom was enraged that he obtained custody of another child of theirs. She also acknowledged that she was molested, but the perpetrator was a different boyfriend of her mother’s.

Luther Jones, now 70 years old, ill and frail, was released from prison and is expected to receive compensation of about $1 million dollars from the State of California.

The current county district attorney, Don Anderson remarked that in the context of a custody battle, the allegations of abuse must have attracted suspicion, but apparently not enough to see justice prevail. Anderson has announced his willingness to seek perjury-related charges against Ms. Woods, a fate that is far less than she deserves. He is also determined to investigate the new information that the ten-year old was molested, just not by Luther Jones.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Taxpayers Be on the Hook for Sexual Reassignment Surgery?

BarristerWith “transgenderism” definitively out of the closet, the question remains, “How common is transgenderism?” While early research suggests it is an infrequent occurrence, more recent studies conducted by Lynn Conway, an American academic and scholar, who underwent surgery to transition from male to female in 1968, posits that it could be as prevalent as one in every 500 to 1,000 people. Conway reports that between 800 and 1,000 operations are conducted annually in the United States and hundreds more occur in Britain, Australia and Thailand.

While the myth that transgenderism is linked to mental illness or emotional dysfunction has been tabooed, the stereotype of a transgendered inmate transitioning while in custody has been featured in several popular TV shows including “Orange is the New Black” and the Australian production of “Wentworth”.

There have been several recent cases of prison inmates suing the American government alleging that to refuse them sexual reassignment surgery is a breach of their constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

The first case was brought in 2012 by Michelle Kosilek who was serving a life sentence for murdering her wife, Cheryl McCaul, in 1990 when he was known as Robert. At trial Judge Mark L. Wolf ordered the surgery finding that the State of Massachusetts’ failure to provide it violated the 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. However, in December 2014 the US Court of Appeal in a 3-2 ruling overturned the trial decision, finding that the trial judge erred by substituting his own opinion that the surgery was medically essential despite the lack of consensus between experts. The appeal court also rejected the trial judge’s circumvention of prison safety and security concerns post-surgery.

Kosilek had been transitioning when he entered prison and officials had already provided therapy, hormone treatment, permanent facial hair removal and female attire and personal effects.

More recently in California a judge in San Francisco ruled that Michelle-Lael Norsworthy was entitled to have the State pay for her surgery based on her diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Ms. Norsworthy was convicted as a man of second-degree murder after a fatal bar fight. She was scheduled to have the surgery, which costs as much as $100,000, in July 2015, however, the State filed an appeal that put a hold on the operation, and subsequently, the California Board of Parole granted her parole after serving 30 years. However, that was not the end of it.

While her release from prison relieved the State of paying for the expensive surgery, Ms. Norsworthy filed a civil rights suit for damages advancing evidence of gang rape by nine male inmates in 2009 which led to her acquiring hepatitis C.

This month the lawsuit was settled with California agreeing not to appeal the San Francisco judge’s ruling that the State must fund medically necessary reassignment surgery and paying $500,000 to Ms. Norsworthy, who now lives in a California halfway house.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

FBI Investigates Rogue Court Employees Who Exchange Favours for Cash

GEO_edited-1There was an unusual gathering of 110 lawyers and former criminal defendants in Santa Ana, California last week, described by the Orange County Weekly as a “hell of a scene… in the West Orange County Municipal courtroom of Judge Thomas James Borris”.

All had been summoned to appear before the Court in light of a FBI investigation that revealed errors in the court records with regards to 600 court files.

“You are here to convince me there is not a mistake in your case,” Judge Borris said to the assembled throng of shocked attorneys and clients, as he began calling forward and questioning defendants and lawyers.

He asked one attorney whether he had represented client X as the court file indicated. He said he had not. Judge Borris immediately issued a bench warrant for X’s arrest.

To a female defendant he queried whether she had completed the three-month jail sentence that was recorded in her file. She replied in the affirmative, but Judge Borris instructed the court clerk to call the institution to confirm she had served her time. An answer came quickly. She had not and was remanded into custody, without bail.

In some cases the Court called both a lawyer and a defendant to approach the bench at the same time and asked whether they had ever met before. Many had not, despite court files that recorded a client/attorney relationship.

As the morning progressed and people were free to leave, they were approached by FBI agents who took them aside to ask what they knew about their own court files and if they could shed any light on the unfolding corruption scandal.

Defendants whose court files did not reflect the actual results of a case’s disposition were given the option of negotiating a settlement with the prosecutor, the presiding judge, or hiring a private attorney.

The FBI alleges that rogue court employees had been paid cash to “fix” impaired driving and other traffic violations by recording fake sentence reductions and dismissals for drunken driving and other misdemeanor traffic offences.

As of late last week, no arrests have been made. The court file audits continue.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Orders State of California to Pay for Inmate’s Sex-Change

DSC00258_1Mule Creek State Prison just outside of Sacramento in Ione, California houses over 3,000 men and is the only California penal institution designated a “sensitive needs yards” facility.

What that means is that prisoners who are at risk for gang retaliation, are former police officers or correctional officers, or are susceptible to victimization, such as sex offenders or gay prisoners, are housed here. Famous Mule Creek inmates include Charles Manson and Tex Watson of Helter-Skelter notoriety, Lyle Melendez, serving life without parole, who with his brother Eric murdered their parents, and Geronimo Pratt, former Black Panther.

Recently, however, Mule Creek Prison has captured media attention because of inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s successful application to have the State of California pay for her sex-change operation. United States District Judge Jon Tigar ruled that denying medical treatment to Michelle was unconstitutional.

In the court hearing Norsworthy deposed that she is “a woman trapped in a man’s body” and that “[her spirit] is imprisoned in a way that causes excruciating pain and frustration to a point that therapy and other remedies are the only way to relieve that agony” The “psychological and emotional pain” and “frustration and agony” she experiences mean that she is “unable to complete [her] existence or complete who [she is].”

She deposed that at times, the anxiety caused by her gender dysphoria causes symptoms such as sleeplessness, cold sweats, hypervigilance, panic attacks, and mood swings.

Michelle entered Mule Creek Prison in 1987 as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, serving a life sentence for second degree murder. By 1990 he was living as Michelle with support from the California Department of Corrections in the form of counselling, mental health treatment, and hormone therapy to feminize her male features.

Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Judge Tigar noted that Michelle is the
first California inmate to obtain an order to have the state pay for her sex-change. Recently a Massachuset’s inmate was granted the same order, but on appeal the order was overturned. An appeal to the United States Supreme Court is pending.

State officials are contemplating appealing the order made by Judge Tigar and have identified practical problems that will arise if the surgery proceeds. They say that returning Michelle to a male prison population could put her at risk for assault or rape. On the other hand, she may also be in danger in a female facility, or pose a danger to female inmates because of her history of domestic violence.

Correctional authorities are also concerned that the costs of sex-change surgery, estimated to be $100,000, will severely impact the prison’s budget, particularly if additional inmates seek similar orders in the future. The State’s cost estimate has been criticized as an exaggeration by transgender support workers.

The floodgates argument is difficult to assess as statistics on the transgender population in the United States are hard to come by.

Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, who studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is responsible for one of the most frequently cited estimates of the transgender population — 700,000, about 0.3 percent of U.S. adults, an estimate that remains controversial.

As transexuals, transgenders, and cross-dressers feel more accepted and become comfortable in disclosing their sexual orientation, data-collection and public policy will advance in this area.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why is No One Talking About Elder Abuse?

GEO Oct 26, 2010Did you know that in thirty-five years one in four Canadians will be over the age of 65? Today our senior population is well over 5 million and expected to reach 10 million by 2036.

We do know that as we age we become more vulnerable as our physical and mental health declines. You don’t have to be 65 or older to experience the signs and symptoms of fading youth and to realize that no magic elixirs exist despite the hype of the cosmetics and plastic surgery industries.

A recent news story about pop radio icon Casey Kasem reveals the insidious nature of elder abuse and the difficulty of preventing it or proving it. In Mr. Kasem’s last years he suffered from Parkinson’s disease which became increasingly more debilitating. His three children from his first marriage became concerned when Mr. Kasem’s wife, Jean, refused them access to their father for over three months. The children applied for conservatorship or committeeship, as it is called in Canada, but their application was refused as the Court found no evidence of elder abuse.

It is startling to hear that a California court did not understand that the very fact Mr. Kasem was kept isolated and away from his children and friends, was a sign of elder abuse. Unfortunately for Mr. Kasem his situation grew worse when his wife removed him from hospital in California, against his doctors’ orders, and moved him first to Las Vegas and then to her friend’s home in Seattle. The ambulance driver who transported Mr. Kasem to a private home, rather than a hospital, reported the incident to authorities.

On June 1, 2014 his eldest daughter was awarded conservatorship and she and her siblings were by his side when he died on June 15. Even after death, the abuse continued, as his wife ordered an autopsy and later sent his body to Norway for burial.

While Mr. Kasem’s case was extreme and public, many seniors suffer in silence as they are mistreated, over-medicated, ignored, deprived of food and water, physically, emotionally, and sexually abused or victims of fraud, theft or worse.

According to Canada’s Ministry of Justice website,www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/, while cases of assault, criminal negligence, and fraud have been levelled against perpetrators of elder abuse, the term “elder abuse” has not appeared in a court judgment and is not a term found in Canada’s Criminal Code.

Like child abuse and domestic violence, crimes that were hidden in the shadows for decades, it is time for all Canadians to address the shameful secrets of elder abuse and to be attentive to seniors around them who may be unable to help themselves. It is also time for the Criminal Code to include specific provisions with regards to elder abuse so that Canadians know that suffering seniors deserve respect and liberty to live out their golden years with their civil rights intact.

If you suspect elder abuse, please report it to social services.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Court Judge Scolded for Discourteous Remarks

_DSC4179 - Version 2I have some sympathy for Judge Daniel Healy of Solano County, California. As a family court judge he has likely seen and heard it all…and I can readily accept that his intemperate remarks to certain litigants was borne out of intense frustration.

Among the worst of his “undignified and discourteous” remarks were the following:

In August 2013 Judge Healy was presiding over a family law case where a husband alleged his spouse was driving drunk with the couple’s child in her car. Judge Healy commented that while the two parents may not chronically abuse drugs and alcohol, both of them struck him as “rotten”. He called the mother a “liar” and said “Why don’t you prove to me that you recognize what a train wreck you are?” He also told her lawyer that she should be “grovelling like there is no tomorrow”.

In another case Judge Healy rebuked the father for his threatening and vulgar messages to his wife, saying “if the children do something thuggish and stupid it’s because their father is thuggish and stupid.” He also remarked “life is too short to let kids be tortured by rotten parents like you two”.

And in a 2012 case he said “This is the first time I’ve seen you but if you are exposing your daughter to one-fifth of the attitude I’m getting from you right now, you might as well have her start walking the streets as a hooker because that’s the life you’re going to subject her to, when you treat her like this, when you flash this attitude like this.”

Judge Healy also threatened litigants with imprisonment on multiple occasions despite lacking any authority to do so.

Yes, I think he crossed the line, but the stress of dealing with unfit, incompetent parents on a daily basis would cause the most sane of us to finally say what we really thought. No excuse, but understandable.

The Discipline Commission held as follows:

“Judge Healy argued that blunt and evocative language is sometimes necessary to compel litigants to gain awareness of their circumstances, the harm that they are causing their children, and the importance of respect and cooperation. The commission disagrees. Referring to litigants as “rotten,” “stupid and thuggish,” and a “total human disaster,” and telling litigants their child “might as well start walking the streets as a hooker,” is the antithesis of imparting the importance of respect.”

Judge Healy received a “public admonishment” and no longer sits in family court. He is likely happy to be out of there!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang