A California who placed a bug in the vehicle of an estranged spouse has gone to jail for that act... and others according to the American Bar Association Journal. But she also had, as they say--"Other Entanglements..."
A former California divorce lawyer who admitted bugging a car was sentenced on Monday to two years in prison for illegal eavesdropping and tax evasion.
Mary Nolan, 62, of Oakland pleaded guilty to charges of evading more than $400,000 in federal taxes and causing her staff to plant a listening device in the vehicle of “N.F.,” identified as a client’s estranged spouse by the Contra Costa Times and as a client’s ex-husband by the San Francisco Chronicle. Nolan gave up her law license and agreed to repay $469,000 in back taxes, according to an FBI press release.
Nolan was among the defendants caught up in the so-called “dirty DUI” scandal in which a private investigator hired alluring women to drink with the husbands of divorce clients at bars. The women would then invite the men to follow them in their cars, and police would be called to investigate a DUI.
A doctor said in court documents that Nolan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the deaths of her grandparents at a young age and her parents while in college, according to the Contra Costa Times report.
Lesson: Don't wiretap, pay your taxes, and don't run a scam.
The ABA Journal story is here.
Lawmakers in Massachusetts are considering a bill that would prohibit people from dating or having a sexual relationship within their home while they are going through the process of getting a divorce.
An Act relative to divorce, Bill S.787, was filed by State Sen. Richard Ross, a Republican from Wrentham, on behalf of former Wrentham Selectman Robert LeClair.
Under the legislation, couples going through proceedings that involve children and a marital home would not be allowed to conduct relationships within the home until the divorce was finalized and custody issues were resolved. The only exception would be if they received "express permission" from the courts.
Query: Does this mean such activity is to be precluded when the children are around? Or even when the children are in the other parents home for the entire summer?
Some Courts in Texas insert a "morality clause" into their orders that prohibits a parent from having someone with whom they have an intimate relationship stay at the house between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am.
So we'll see if Massachusetts follows.
See the article here.
A Federal Judge in Detroit yesterday struck down Michigan's 10 year old constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down central provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year, Michigan joins a parade of states where Federal Courts have stricken down similar statutes or constitutional provisions, including Texas. The states, besides Texas and Michigan where gay marriage bans have been struck down are: Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, and Tennessee.
The Michigan decision was particular critical of arguments by the State that gay parents somehow raised children that were "less" than those raised in traditional families, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.
A news story is here.
We always tell our clients to be careful with their social media posts. But we seldom think about what their child might post.
In a non family law case where the parent had won a settlement, the child's post on Facebook days later caused the parent's settlement to be voided.
You see, Patrick Snay, the former headmaster of a school in Florida, had sued the school (Gulliver) for discrimination, and had agreed to an $80,000 settlement. And one of the terms of the settlement was CONFIDENTIALITY or non disclosure.
Such non disclosure provisions are common in litigation; they are also common in Divorce and Custody cases. But that is for another day.
Snay's daughter posted the following to her 1200+ Facebook friends “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Through some of her 1200 friends, the post made its way back to Gulliver's officials and lawyers, who asserted that the post violated the confidentiality provisions of the agreement, and should void the agreement.
And the agreement was set aside by a court of appeals.
So be careful what you tell your child about your personal business--especially if the child is active in social media!
There are potential lessons for a family law case here. The Dallas Divorce Courts' Standing Orders and Temporary Injunctions issued in a divorce or other family law case have provisions that prevent either parent from involving the children in the divorce. The best parents in a divorce rehearse with a counselor how to tell the kids about the divorce, and tell them that the divorce is not about them, that both parents love them, and both parents are committed to make the transition to two households as smooth as possible. And give support to the kids during the process, but not much opinion.
In other cases, one or both parents flame the other parent repeatedly in front of the children because of their anger or other issues that the parent has. many times such bad acts are brought before the Court, and dealt with in ways that are not liked by the flamers. I have seen sanctions all the way to a change of custody. An example of a flame could be: "We can't go to the movie tomorrow because your Daddy spent all the child support money on his [girlfriend][drugs][gambling] [boyfriend] [you pick--you get the point].
The Miami Herald story is here.
You may think that the calls and texts you send and receive from your cell phone are yours and private.
While it is clear that the content of such communications is private–absent a court order--data about to whom, from whom, the duration of such calls, and the facts of the text message's transmission, are NOT private.
AT&T just disclosed that it had honored over 300,000 requests for cell phone information from law enforcement agencies in 2013. This does NOT include the number of requests from civil subpoenas, in cases like divorces or child custody cases.
The data that is clearly NOT private (in response to a subpoena) is the occurance (date, time, duration, and to/from what number) of a call, text, or email. Geotags--location information--may be in a different category. Click here to take read an older post, Think Before You Text, about the risks that text messages and e-mails can pose to clients.
So everyone leaves a digital trail of their cell phone usage that CAN show up in a divorce or custody case.
But there is one potential positive of getting the cell phone records: a case of call spoofing previously discussed in a previous News item here.
A story in PCMagazine about AT&T's responses to law enforcement requests is here
Attorney-client confidentiality is a bedrock principle of the American legal system. Candor and free expression between attorney and client is essential in the course of representation.
But lawyers are not immune from cyber security concerns, and despite prudent precautions, some attorneys can fall victims to cybercrime.
The ABA Journal reports a North Carolina attorney inadvertently downloaded a virus that shut him out of his computer system.
Like other businesses, the attorney was targeted via e-mail. He opened a fairly innocuous attachment, and that's when the Crypto Locker virus took over. The article reports that "Thousands of documents stored on his computer were made inaccessible," the attorney reports, "it was actually an email that looked like it was coming from our phone system because our system sends voice mail messages as an attachment.”
The makers of the virus essentially held his computer hostage, and offered him access to his computer if he paid a ransom.
My recommendation for lawyers: regularly back up your electronic files with external hard drives, and keep them in a secure, fireproof place--and consider having a backup copy located outside of your office in a secure and fireproof place. Also consider secure cloud services.
My recommendation for everyone: be careful what you download--schemes like this Crypto Locker extortion ring are pretty sophisticated.
The ABA Journal story is here.
My friend Mark Bentley, who works as a lawyer for the UT System in Austin, commented that their office is not immune from cyberattacks like this one. He adds that these malware can be masked and look like trusted websites and known e-mail senders.
A married couple promises to stick together for better or worse, for richer or poorer. According to a recent study, after hard economic times and the economy starts to rebound, so does the divorce rate.
In a recent story in the LA Times, divorces plunged when the recession struck and slowly started to rise as the recovery began, quoting a study to be published in Population Research and Policy Review.
"From 2009 to 2011, about 150,000 fewer divorces occurred than would otherwise have been expected, University of Maryland sociologist Philip N. Cohen estimated. Across the country, the divorce rate among married women dropped from 2.09% to 1.95% from 2008 to 2009, then crept back up to 1.98% in both 2010 and 2011. The National Marriage Project earlier dubbed the drop in divorce "a silver lining" to the Great Recession, arguing that tough times were pulling many husbands and wives closer together. But some couples may have simply put off divorce until they could afford to part, researchers say. The economic uptick may have finally given them the freedom to split."
Food for thought.
The Texas Standard Possession Order in the Family Code specifies how Spring Break works. In general, one parent gets spring break in one year, and the other parents gets the next year.
But the devil is in the details. Sometimes there are different holidays for different kids as they are in different schools. Some times there is a school or other trip that doesn't fit the mold suggested by the legislature.
Clear, direct communication between the parents is usually the best way to work out these issues. But sometimes a parent needs assistance in making sure everything goes as expected with no hiccups, or emergency retraining orders being filed that blows up a long planned event or trip.
Many times a consultation with an experienced lawyer WELL IN ADVANCE of Spring Break can prevent a cluster right at Spring Break. (That's why this is published in January, not March...)
Call us if we can help.