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I have again been fortunate to have been invited to address the Hawaii State Bar Family Law Section as their keynote speaker this Friday. I have worked very hard on my 3 hour, yes 3 hour presentation. But this time it’s different. I will not be speaking about the rules of evidence, or recent caselaw. Rather, I will discuss how to practice with a passion. I am lucky to be passionate about what I do. The rewards are not immediate, but I know I am doing my best to help people, and any lawyer who practices family law should feel that way, IMHO (in my humble opinion) as the young texters say. This program will cover not only practicing with a passion, but how your passion can help your practice and your life. And how it can lead to better time management and in fact, the creation of time. If we can create time by how we practice, we can spend more time focusing on what’s important. Things like our family, our colleagues, and even the big picture of our cases, instead of drowning in the details. This idea is a work in progress for all of us, but I hope to help the lawyers who attend. I am nervous and excited. I hope I merit the invitation.
Double Duty, Quadruple Duty Family Law Day; Divorce Seminar, Child Abuse Seminar and 2 TV interviews (Kelly Rutherford Custody Case and Paparazzi and Divorce, and yes, it started with the Kate Middleton Story)
On Friday, September 14, 2012, in addition to working on client cases and matters, I had a full, quadruple duty family law day. I had scheduled a day without trials so that I could present at two very important programs. The day started out with my presenting as the lead-off speaker at our annual “Nuts & Bolts of Family Law Seminar” sponsored by the State Bar of Georgia, Family Law Section. I presented on “How to Present Your Case When Time is Short”. I think I was effective, and at least I finished on time, since going long would have been disastrous, given my topic. The program agenda can be viewed at: http://www.iclega.org/programs/8025.html.
As soon as I finished speaking there, I left to go Chair and speak at maybe the most important seminar I have ever been a part of (there were well over 200 people attending the “Nuts & Bolts of Family Law Seminar”, so I had to try my best to leave discreetly, but that was impossible). The program I then went to was called “Stewards of Children” and it was a training session to teach people how to prevent or help prevent, child sexual abuse. The numbers of sexually abused children astounded me. I thought I knew something about children and the issues they face. I had no idea.
The seminar was a success and everyone who attended was moved by it and motivated to do more. For information and full brochure: http://www.iclega.org/programs/8030.html
That was the “Double Duty”. Then came part two. As we went to break during the second seminar, I received a call from CNN/Headline News. They invited me to come comment on the Kelly Rutherford Custody case, where her former husband who now lives in France was just awarded custody of their two very young children. I agreed, studied up, and went over as soon as the “Stewards” seminar ended. As I walked over, the telephone rang again and it was CNN/Headline News. I thought perhaps my segment was getting cancelled. Instead it was another department asking if I could appear on the Jane Velez Mitchell Show to discuss paparazzi and celebrities, including Kate Middleton. I agreed, especially since I was on my way to their studios anyway. Without getting into much detail, it was a whirlwind of an afternoon. The bodies of the Americans who had perished in Libya at the Consulate attack had just arrived in the U.S. and Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama each gave speeches right when my segment was scheduled. Needless to say my segment was delayed for a while. But I can’t tell you how interesting it is to be there and to watch the news unfold. This happened once before as I was at CNN to discuss a custody case and right between my two segments, the news broke that Michael Jackson had died. I tell you, reputable news organizations like CNN/HLN work so hard. You should see the experts and professionals scrambling to ensure the news is accurate and that it is delivered quickly and professionally. They have to learn the story and then explain it to the world, all in a matter of moments, and they do and they do it well. AND IT IS A LOT HARDER THAN IT LOOKS! Imagine trying to learn all about ten stories you will cover in just one hour. Stories about the far east, the middle east, medical stories, celebrity stories, politics, weather, sports and other topics. No one can be an expert in every area, but they become experts in all of it. But I digress. I eventually made it from one interview to the next and enjoyed every second of it, including the last second changes, personnel changes and time changes. The first interview can be seen by clicking here.
So why do I feel good about all of this? I guess part of it is to be able to accomplish a lot of different things within a day. But as I think about it, I know I had a chance to help. On a day to day basis I hope I help my clients (and yes, I spent about four hours in the office on client matters to on Friday). But on this day, I hope I helped family law attorneys learn to present their cases more efficiently, other lawyers to be able to better help protect children from sexual abuse, and viewers across the country to better understand the custody laws and concepts as well as how travel and international diversity can affect court rulings. I didn’t do anything complex or change anything or anyone, but I did my little part, using the knowledge I have, to try to improve lives. And that made the day wholly worthwhile.
In the very recently decided Georgia Court of Appeals case of Rutter v. Rutter (July 13, 2012), the court ruled that video survelillance of a spouse, in their own home, even if they were unaware they were being recorded, is allowable – click here for the case video in home caselaw. While the purpose under the statute is supposed to be for crime detection, the court approved the trial court’s determination that even if the purpose was to possibly catch a spouse committing a crime, which might affect a custody case, the video is allowable and admissible. This is big news. The buzzwords we have all lived by used to be “expectation of privacy”. In other words, if you are in your own home and have a reasonable expectation of privacy, can a videotape of you at your own home be used against you in court? The answer is now yes. Does this mean spouses will now run to spy stores and buy video recorders to film their spouses doing things, which even if not criminal, may affect the custody case? Maybe. Does seeing how much a spouse drinks at home count as a crime? Probably not, but could it affect a custody case? Certainly. This case certainly changes the advice I will give clients as I have always said that I cannot advise them to install such a device and that I think the law used to be unclear, or even may have led to them being convicted for committing a crime. I am anxiously awaiting the comments of my peers, but for now, this is news and does change what I will tell my clients. I do not polan to encourage anyone to rush out and record their spouse, but when asked about whether it is okay, my answer will now be different than it has been.
I was interviewed a lot in the last few weeks about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes Divorce. People Magazine, CNN (CNN International, Headline News, etc.) and others asked me about it. Maybe I am biased because I know and respect Katie Holmes’ lawyers Jon Wolfe and Michael Mosberg, but I consistently suggested it would be worked out privately and quickly (see my blog posted June 30, 2012). Not only because there were good lawyers involved, but because frequently, when there is a lot of money combined with potential for a lot of negative public publicity, cases resolve quickly. They make news when they don’t. This one reached resolution quickly, and that is of course, beneficial to their daughter. Bravo to the parties and the lawyers. That’s how cases should get resolved and hopefully this divorce will be a good example of why it is good to get it done quickly.
The 30th annual Georgia Bar, Family Law Institute is this week in Amelia Island, Florida. There are already over 500 people signed up. This is the final seminar for my year as Chair of the Family Law Section in Georgia and I must thank Kelly Miles for putting together such an outstanding program. Click here for the entire agenda. The whole seminar is filled with Cutting Edge topics in Family Law, Hot Tips, case law update and a surprise speaker at the end. There will be ample opportunity not only to learn, but to network and meet other family law attorneys whom you may have litigated against, or with andothers who you certainly will meet for work in the future. Why not come to the program and try to meet them now, while you have no cases against them. It will make it much easier to handle cases together if you develop that relationship independent of any client directives or litigation which may make for a rougher start to a relationship?
I look forward to seeing those of you who have signed up and those of you who still may. Let’s learn and have fun together.
This Friday, May 18, 2012, there will be a “Family Court Boot Camp” CLE program. It will cover the basics of practicing in Fulton County’s Family Division. It has been a few years since we have had such a seminar and it will be good to learn what is new. Click here for the program agenda.
The Family Court Judges’ Staff will be there, so that alone makes it worth attending. But more than that, over 70 lawyers are already planning to attend, so come learn with your peers and see what’s new in the Fulton County Family Division.