Debts, fees could force Rison into bankruptcy court

The Flint Journal

Former Flint Northwestern and NFL star Andre Rison could be forced into bankruptcy because of overdue child support debts. Three creditors tied to two child support cases against Rison have filed an involuntary petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Flint, claiming they are collectively owed more than $105,000 in fees and child support, including a $58,435 claim from ex-wife Tonja Rison.

Filed May 9, the case could help move Rison’s child support debts ahead of other creditors who are positioning themselves to tap into a $100,000 severance paid by the Oakland Raiders, the last NFL team Rison played for, said David Findling, a receiver appointed to recover child support from Rison.

Findling said Rison still hasn’t been served with a summons in the bankruptcy case. The Flint Journal could not reach David Kallman, a Lansing attorney who has represented Rison, for comment Wednesday.

According to papers filed in the case, the Raiders withheld part of the severance to pay taxes and deposited the remaining amount with a California court. The Raiders asked the court to decide who should receive the money, Findling said. The bankruptcy filing could bring the money back to Michigan and make repayment of child support debts the top priority, he added.

Rison, a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, most recently played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League but was released by the team in August 2005. The Web site says Rison was trying out for several arena football teams one year ago, but the site’s news section hasn’t been updated since. Rison told The Flint Journal in February that he was busy with music and film projects and appeared on Spike TV’s “Pros vs. Joes” series.

Problems with child support have dogged Rison for years, landing him in jail for nearly a month in 2004 for failing to pay child support. He was released after agreeing to restart payments, but in addition to Tonja Rison’s claim for child support, Atlanta attorney Randall Kessler also claims Rison still owes him attorney fees of $46,215 for his work collecting child support for Raycoa Handley, a Flint native who is the mother of two of Rison’s other children.

Atlanta Magazine Super Lawyer, 2003-present: Top 100 Lawyer 2007

Randal Kessler was again selected by Atlanta Magazine and Superlawyers as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the State of Georgia.

Amid sand and Kevlar, judge is far from bench

Randy Kessler quoted about Fulton County Judge

By Greg Land, Staff Reporter
SPICES. In addition to his family and friends, that’s what Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural D. L. Glanville misses most.

“Our food over here, as much as it’s very healthy, is kind of light on the seasoning,” said Glanville by telephone from his billet in Kuwait. “I miss a lot of seasoned food.”

The judge—or Lt. Col. Glanville, U.S. Army Reserve, as he is more properly known these days—shipped out in late January to serve as staff judge advocate assigned to the 335th Theater Signal Command, based in East Point.

On his first assignment to the Persian Gulf, the former Fulton magistrate who was elected Superior Court judge in 2004, said he performs a range of duties, from counseling commanders on the legal ramifications of military operations to consulting with soldiers who may be struggling with family or financial problems back home.

“There is no typical day,” said Glanville, who oversees a staff of lawyers. “You kind of do what the mission dictates; that might include giving out all types of advice on any number of issues related to personnel, military justice, contracting, counter-insurgency operations—any number of things a commander may have need of. We give the full range of legal services.”

Glanville said he handles “a little bit” of criminal work, “but my command primarily does a lot of commercialization, so I answer a lot of fiscal law [questions] and do a lot of coordination with other staff sections to make sure that our projects are properly funded and planned and executed. It’s a lot different an experience for me.”

In some ways, said the 44-year-old jurist, his work is similar to that of a general-practice attorney in the States.

“Both the military and civilian systems have one goal: to provide due process to the individual,” he said. “How they go about doing that is where the differences lie, and the military has a totally separate way of handling issues of criminality and administrative processes, as well.”

His judicial experience, he said, seldom comes into play.

“I don’t do any judging,” he said. “In the military, we have a separate branch of folks that do that, a detail of military judges. I’m a staff judge advocate, so I’m the chief lawyer for our signal company command.”

While he spends most of his days at Camp Arifjan, a sprawling base south of Kuwait City, Glanville said his duties sometimes require him to gear up for forays off-base or to sites in combat zones.

“I do have to go out on missions, and put on my equipment like any other soldier: my [individual body armor]–that’s the stuff that has the armor plates inside it—and my Kevlar and other equipment,” he said. “I’ve been to Afghanistan already, so you need that to fly over there.”

His spice cravings aside, the base offers some comforts of home, said Glanville.

“We have pool tables, pingpong, computers and a phone center where you can make morale calls,” he said. “And we have Starbucks, a KFC, and a food court with Pizza Hut and Robin Hood sandwiches—a lot of the same stuff you’d expect back stateside.”

He tries to stay in contact with his wife, Lisa, a program manager for the Fulton County Juvenile Courts, and his children, 15-year-old Evan and 12-year-old Leslie, as much as possible, said Glanville.

“With my being gone, she’s very, very busy. Evan plays golf, and my daughter sings and acts, so she’s always running.”

Lisa Glanville agreed.

“From a physical perspective, at the end of the day I’m exhausted,” she said. “But from an emotional perspective, I’m exhilarated that he’s able to do what he’s doing. And the children are so proud of their father.”

They particularly look forward to the phone calls from Kuwait, she said, which come at least twice a week.

Lisa Glanville, who has worked with the juvenile courts for a year and a half, formerly worked as a grant administrator with the Ryan White Program for HIV-positive children, and now spends her days overseeing programs aimed at drug treatment and intervention for children at risk of criminal behavior.

Then she takes up her parenting duties.

“I’ll say one thing,” she said, “my hat’s off to those single parents who are able to do this all the time.”

In addition to the strain on his family, Glanville also worried about his colleagues at the courthouse.

Upon receiving his new assignment, he said, “I was torn, because I certainly love the opportunity to serve in this capacity, but my colleagues had to pick up the slack, and a lot of my cases were redistributed. I just wanted a smooth transition in the court’s service.”

Not to worry, said Judge Christopher S. Brasher, who picked up some of Glanville’s civil cases upon his departure.

“Lots of folks on this bench (and Judge Henry Newkirk on the State Court Bench, as well) have tried to do our small part to keep the court’s business—and those cases assigned to Judge Glanville—moving, while he is in Kuwait serving our country,” wrote Brasher in an e-mail.

The rest of Glanville’s caseload was divided among Senior Judge Alice D. Bonner and Judge Stephanie B. Manis, according to Court Administrator Judith Cramer. The judges don’t view the additional cases as a burden, said Brasher.

“What a small price for us to pay, while he and his family pay a much larger one,” he said.

Glanville said he also seeks input from local lawyers as he works to assist his fellow soldiers.

Family law specialist Randy M. Kessler said he is among those Glanville has called upon, and considers it a privilege to help out.

“He has called me from Kuwait to help keep various family law disputes from too negatively affecting the lives of men and women while they are serving our country overseas, while at the same time trying to ensure that the families back home are cared for,” said Kessler, who characterizes Glanville as “one of the most genuine, honest and caring individuals I know.”

Glanville, who is due back the second week in May, said he has heard about the pollen blanket that recently afflicted Atlanta, and is not sorry to have missed it.

“On the other hand,” he said, “I have sand that blows all the time, and whenever that blows up, we’re all told to stay inside, so it’s probably the same effect.”

In any event, he said, he is eager to get back to “my family and friends and colleagues, and the city I love so much. But I’m happy to serve; there are worse places to be, and the service of one’s country is very important.”

Custody Case No Slam Dunk for Dr. J’s Son

By Greg Land

JUDGES IN GEORGIA and Pennsylvania are trying to sort out which state has jurisdiction in a dispute over the grandchildren of former basketball great Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

At issue are the 6-year-old and 3-year-old children of Philadelphia resident Kira Clifford and Julius Erving III, who calls himself “J.” One thorny question is whether a Fayette County judge’s order demanding that Clifford return to Georgia with the children is binding.

Attorney Randall M. Kessler, who is representing the younger Erving along with Mark J. Issa, said Clifford moved from Philadelphia to Fayetteville last August with the two kids. A month later Erving followed, relocating his music and entertainment management business to Atlanta.

Erving, 32, said in an interview that he had given Clifford, with whom he had lived until about three years ago, $50,000 toward a house and $3,400 a month “on time, every month.”

On Jan. 5, Clifford filed for determination of paternity in Fayette Superior Court, seeking a permanent order for child support and insurance for the children. That case is Kira Clifford v. Julius Erving III, No. 2007V-0017E.

In his response, Erving acknowledged paternity and agreed to allow the court to set the terms.

“Our lawyers were communicating trying to work out a settlement,” said Erving, “and we got to the point where we had basically shaken hands on an agreement and were ready to ink a deal.”

A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 23 but, according to Kessler, was cancelled the day before because both sides were in settlement negotiations and about to reach an agreement.

“The following weekend, she said there was a funeral in Philly she wanted to go to,” said Erving. “So I said fine. That was the 27th of February.”

On March 2, Clifford and the children left for Philadelphia and have never returned, despite a March 9 order by Fayette County Superior Court Chief Judge Paschal A. English Jr. demanding that Clifford bring the children back.

Once back in Pennsylvania, said Kessler, Clifford asked a Philadelphia court for an emergency ruling on jurisdiction, said Kessler. “A hearing was set for last week, and our client was never even served,” said Kessler.

Clifford’s local counsel, Atlanta sole practitioner Deanna H. Powell, said her client did not wish to discuss the case or allow her attorneys to do so.

Powell also expressed concern that the matter was being discussed publicly.

“I try my cases in court,” she said.

Shiel G. Edlin, who chairs the State Bar of Georgia’s family law section, said the case is “tremendously complex” due to the short time the children were in Georgia, and because of Clifford’s return to Pennsylvania after filing here.

“[The children] were here less than six months, so the court’s not going to see Georgia as home,” he said. “[But] you can’t just file suit and run; I’d be interested to hear her reasons for leaving … the court’s going to take a dim view of that.”

Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox is expected to issue an order in the matter, said Kessler, after she and English decide which court has jurisdiction. English did not respond to a call for comment by press time, and Fox is on vacation, said her clerk.

According to Kessler, both Georgia and Pennsylvania are signatories to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which lays out the process for reaching just such a decision.

“This type of case is exactly why Georgia adopted the UCCJEA,” said Kessler. “There’s been nothing filed in Georgia to ask the judge to move the case at all; I don’t think there’s even a legal basis for the court to consider transferring or dismissing the case, because in Georgia, the last document filed was the order for her to come back down here with the children. There’s been no request by [Clifford’s] Georgia lawyers for J. to go to Philadelphia; there’s not even been a request by the out-of-state lawyers for us to come up there …

“The law is very clear that this case should be heard in Georgia,” he said. “The UCCJEA gives ‘home state’ jurisdiction priority, and [Clifton] filed her motion for paternity and visitation here first, so Georgia obviously had jurisdiction first.”

By filing in Georgia, said Erving’s Philadelphia attorney, Saul Levit, “[Clifford] has already picked her jurisdiction.”

Sears taking marriage message to New York

Chief Justice took on issue when she saw domestic cases dominate dockets

AS LEAH WARD SEARS prepared for a lecture she will give this week on her “strengthening marriage” initiative, organizers of the New York University School of Law event said alumini had a question.

Was her speech about gay marriage?

Sears, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, is familiar with the issue; re-election challengers in 1998 and 2004 used some of her writings to paint her as a gay rights candidate. But in her speech, the only thing she planned to say about gay marriage was that her initiative is not about gay marriage.

Sears acknowledged last week that some people may think she’s taken on the mantle of encouraging marriage and two-parent families for political reasons.

“I’m not in it for a political thing at all,” she said in an interview in her chambers, “because I really care about this.”

Besides, she added, she’s taken some hits for embracing the issue of encouraging marriage. “It’s become politically correct not to talk about family dysfunction,” she said.

Sears said she has had trouble getting people to take her work seriously.

When she first became chief in 2005, Sears started making comments on the issue but sensed the media viewed it as something light, so she pulled back.

The results of her subsequent behind-the-scenes efforts were the creation of a court Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law last summer and the drafting of a white paper on the breakdown of families and the ensuing cost to the state.

Sears said that she began looking at the issue when, as part of her assessment process upon becoming chief, she examined caseload statistics. According to the white paper, 65 percent of all civil cases heard at the superior court level in Georgia involve issues regarding families and children—outnumbering not only all other civil cases but all criminal cases, as well.

But she’s not just talking about costs to the state resulting from divorce. She highlights statistics on out-of-wedlock births, particularly among the black population. She calls marriage “one of the best anti-poverty programs we have going.”

Now she’s taking what she says is a serious message to a serious audience. Thursday night, she’ll be the speaker at the annual Justice William J. Brennan Jr. lecture on state courts and social justice at NYU.

Acting like a lawyer preparing for oral argument, Sears said she planned to give her speech the moot-court treatment—getting her law clerks to ask tough questions so she can refine the speech if her message is not getting through.

Sears said that after the Washington Post published an op-ed piece by her entitled “A Case for Strengthening Marriage” last October, she got negative feedback from “northeastern” professors. Some people thought she was trying to make things more “Ozzie and Harriet,” she said.

Not so, she said. “I tell people we’re not trying to take families back to the ’50s” such that women can’t get divorced.

Sears, who has been divorced and is remarried, is careful to say she’s not judging those whose marriages may have failed and wants to encourage not marriage at any price but healthy, stable marriages. “I’m not a Cro-Magnon,” she said. “I don’t want to condemn anybody … but we’ve gone too far in the other direction.”

She’s ready with a quick answer to anyone who might have qualms about her efforts on the grounds that it’s more government meddling in intimate relationships: “That would be fine if they didn’t ask [the government] to meddle in their lives when things go bust … we just want to encourage them to make it healthy,” she said.

There’s also a note in the commission white paper indicating a sensitivity toward domestic violence issues, saying the commission “in no way seeks to encourage abusive or other unhealthy relationships.”

“I say you ought to run [if] you find yourself in a relationship where there’s abuse or addiction,” she said.

Sears said she’s limited in what she can do because of the branch of government in which she sits. For example, Sears doesn’t have a position on waiting periods for no-fault divorce—“other than it would be nice if they were studied” by the Legislature or her group.

But she said the commission can highlight the problems and educate lawyers and judges. Officially, the commission’s goals as set forth in the white paper are to identify steps the judicial system could take to increase the proportion of children being raised by their married mothers and fathers, reduce the statewide domestic relations caseload, establish measurements for whether goals for child abuse, neglect and juvenile delinquency cases are being met, improve the quality of legal representation in juvenile court cases and expedite the appeals process for termination of parental rights matters.

The commission is comprised of more than 30 judges, professors, lawyers, business people, legislators and other state officials. Sears said the commission already has met and will spend its first six months learning about the issues. It’s set to meet again March 16.

Randall M. Kessler, an Atlanta family lawyer not on the commission, said good family law practitioners want people to get along, and Sears is on the right track with her idea of promoting education and counseling.

“But,” he said, “some marriages just aren’t meant to be.”