Monday, March 31, 2008

New England Law Schools, As Ranked By US News & World Report

Now that the entire list and rankings have been officially released by US News and World Report, I am hereby updating and supplementing my recent post on Massachusetts law school rankings. By extracting information from the latest US News rankings I came up with the following list, with relative rank or position, of all ABA-accredited law schools in the New England states:

TOP LAW SCHOOLS (top 104, with numerical rank given)

1. Yale University (CT)
2. Harvard University (MA) - tied with Stanford
21. Boston University (MA)
26. Boston College (MA)
46. University of Connecticut (CT)- 5 way tie for 46-50
88. Northeastern University(MA)- 6 way tie for 88-94

TIER 3 (next 37, in rank order, but no numerical rank given)

University of Maine (ME)
Quinnipiac University (CT)
Vermont Law School (VT)
Franklin Pierce Law Center (NH)
Suffolk University (MA)

TIER 4 (bottom 43, in rank order, but no numerical rank given)

Roger Williams University (RI)
Western New England College (MA)
New England School of Law (MA)

Always controversial, such rankings, like it or not, have a huge effect in the legal world, as the most prestigious law firms, and to a lesser extent other employers, hire applicants partly based on their perceptions of the perceived prestige and worth of the law school attended. And these rankings have effects all the way down to the "bottom" of the legal market, in the general practice areas where so many lawyers from the other schools end up. It is strange that the four smallest New England states - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island - all have only one law school each, and each of these law schools is ranked at the bottom, in either the third or fourth tier. Massachusetts and Connecticut, on the other hand, have law schools ranked at the very top, in the middle, and near the bottom of the list.

For an interesting article on law school rankings, and one that would serve as a point of departure for further reading on this, see the relevant Wikipedia article.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Slight Changes to Parenting Course Requirement for Divorcing Parents

Divorcing parents in Massachusetts will now have to pay $80.00 in advance for the required parenting course, rather than $65, pursuant to the newly revised standing order applicable in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court. (Indigent parties will have to pay only $5.) See Massachusetts Law Updates: Parent Education Program Changes. The new Standing Order 4-08, which goes into effect April 7, 2008, can be found here.

Although attendance at an approved parenting course is mandatory (except under limited circumstances) for all parents in divorce actions, whether contested or uncontested, the course is not automatically required in other child-related family court cases, such as guardianship, paternity, and post-divorce cases. However, the family court has the discretion to require that the course be taken in these other types of family court cases. According to the standing order, the course may additionally be required "as ordered by a judge of this court in an action to establish paternity, complaints for modification or contempt or in any case involving visitation, custody, or support of minor children."

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Let's Keep the Democratic Party Democratic

I just got this email from MoveOn.Org, and have signed their petition to request that the voters, rather than superdelegates, decide who gets the Democratic nomination for President. As I agree with this MoveOn position, and with this petition, I am passing this on. Please sign it yourself and pass it on if you agree.

Dear MoveOn member,

This is pretty outrageous: a group of Clinton-supporting big Democratic donors are threatening to stop supporting Democrats in Congress because Nancy Pelosi said that the people, not the superdelegates, should decide the Presidential nomination.1

It's the worst kind of insider politics—billionaires bullying our elected leaders into ignoring the will of the voters.

But when we all pool our resources, together we're stronger than the fat cats. So let's tell Nancy Pelosi that if she keeps standing up for regular Americans, thousands of us will have her back. And we can more than match whatever the CEOs and billionaires refuse to contribute. Clicking here will add your name to our statement:


The statement reads: "The Democratic nomination should be decided by the voters—not by superdelegates or party high-rollers. We've given money—and time—to progressive candidates and causes, and we'll support Speaker Pelosi and others who stand up for Democracy in the Democratic Party."

We're launching it today with our friends at the blog Our goal is to deliver tens of thousands of signatures to Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders later this week.

A few weeks ago, Speaker Pelosi told ABC News, "If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic Party."2

She's right, but Clinton's top fundraisers want her to back off. According to the New York Times, their letter "carries an ominous tone, which stops just short of delivering a threat. The donors remind Ms. Pelosi that they are 'strong supporters' of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."3 Their language was careful, but their implied threat was universally understood. (Roll Call carried this headline: "Clinton donors threaten Pelosi and DCCC."4)

They're the old guard, and this is how the Democratic Party used to function—the big donors called the shots. But the small donor revolution has changed that. The 20 people who signed this letter have given Democrats an average of $2.4 million per year over the last 10 years.5 Small donations now dwarf that: In February alone, Obama and Clinton raised $47 million in small donations.6

Still, old habits die hard. We need to send a strong signal that we, the small donors, will back Democratic leaders who have the courage to stand up and do the right thing. Please sign our statement today.


Thanks for all you do,

–Noah, Justin, Ilyse, Wes, and the Political Action Team
Thursday, March 27th, 2008

1. "Clinton Donors Warn on Superdelegate Fight," New York Times, March 27, 2008
2. Ibid.

3. "Clinton donors ask Pelosi to Back Off," New York Times Caucus Blog, March 26, 2008.

4. "Clinton Donors Threaten Pelosi and DCCC," Roll Call, March 26, 2008.

5. "Pelosi's hecklers gave $24 million," Politico, March 27, 2008.

6. "February Fundraising Frenzy for Presidential Candidates," Campaign Finance Institute, March 21, 2008.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

New US News Law School Rankings: Four In Massachusetts Among Top 100

The blog Above the Law has announced the prematurely leaked US News and World Report "2009" rankings of American law schools, set to be released officially this Friday. You can see the first page, showing the top 100 of the nation's 184 American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools ranked by the magazine here.

As usual, the three top-tier law schools in Massachusetts continue to rank in or near their usual places, with Harvard at number two (behind Yale), Boston University at number 21, and Boston College at number 26.

Only one other Massachusetts law school, Northeastern University, also made it into the top 100, by getting into a seven-way tie for number 88 (actually 88-94). Northeastern University has not always been in the top 100, and has in the past often shared a spot in the bottom half of law schools, in the third or fourth quartile, with the rest of the Massachusetts law schools.

Not listed in the top 100, and therefore presumably to appear in their usual places among the bottom half of ABA-accredited U.S. law schools, are the following schools: Suffolk University Law School, New England School of Law, and Western New England School of Law. (A further school, the Massachusetts College of Law in Andover, is not even accredited by the ABA.)

It is interesting to note that many general practitioners, family court and other state court judges, and family lawyers in particular, graduated from either Suffolk or New England School of Law, or the even less prestigious law schools of this state, and very few went to one of the top-tier law schools. Certainly, the lawyers who were educated at Harvard, BU and BC are more likely to be found working in corporate law firms than in general practice areas like family law. What does this mean? We family lawyers don't really like to think about the obvious answers to that question, so you can keep your answers to yourself, thank you very much!

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Will Heather Mills Need A Dog?

If you still haven't gotten enough of the Paul McCartney-Heather Mills divorce story, or missed the recent news from here (long and short) and elsewhere, there are still more places to explore. (I'm sorry, I'm afflicted with Anglophilia, with a touch of Beatlemania, and Paul was my fave of the Fab Four. I do think this will be my last post on the topic - still, don't hold me to that.)

First Jeanne Hannah at Updates in Michigan Family Law has a great summary and analysis of the judgment, at least from where I sit on the American side of the Atlantic. Then, from over there where it's all happened, there's Family Law Week blog: Macca v Mucca, a list of, and links to, British family law blog posts on the topic. But that list seemed to miss the following English post, DivorceSolicitor: Heather Mills should buy a dog, which makes the rather amusing point that Heather may need a dog to keep her company now. The dog would give her unconditional love, Divorce Solicitor says, and that's something Heather may have a hard time finding right now. You know, money can't buy me love...

I find it interesting that nearly all of these recent commentaries I have been reading have failed to mention that Heather Mills does not have sole custody of four-year-old daughter Beatrice, as many people are likely to assume to be the case. Beatrice will instead be jointly parented by both Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills in a joint custody arrangement. I wonder if Heather Mills' previous public rants, including at least one in which she discussed her own suicidal thoughts, are the reason for this custody arrangement, which was apparently agreed upon before this past week's contested trial, as it was not obviously in contention then.

I for one think it is kind of cool that what is very likely to be the last child of a Beatle will grow up with parents in a joint custody arrangement. If Beatrice has to be a child of divorce, I think it is great she will at least get the benefit of having Sir Paul McCartney as a very active father in her life.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

States Reconsidering Life Sentences for Juveniles

The U.S. is the only nation in the world imposing life sentences on children. A majority of U.S. states do incarcerate juveniles for life without parole, and we currently have nearly 2400 such juvenile offenders serving life sentences throughout the country.

It may come as a surprise to many that Massachusetts is one of those states in the majority. But the good news is there are people both here in Massachusetts and throughout the country working to stop this practice. The Christian Science Monitor last week ran the following article on the movement in many states around the country to reform or abolish these sentencing laws: States Reconsider Life Behind Bars For Youth - Christian Science Monitor, by Amanda Paulson .

Current prospects for abolition are not great, but this article does give some hope. I have previously argued for a ban of such sentences on human rights grounds and have discussed this issue in these previous posts: Deadly Delinquents, Deadbeat Dads, and the Dangers of Demonization and Massachusetts Youthful Offender Law Challenged in Worcester.


Chicago - How should a society treat its youngest criminal offenders? And the families of victims of those offenders?

Half a dozen states are now weighing these questions anew, as they consider whether to ban life sentences for juveniles that don't include a option for parole – and whether those now serving such sentences should have a retroactive shot at parole.

Here in Illinois, proposed legislation would give 103 people – most convicted of unusually brutal crimes – a chance at parole hearings, while outlawing the sentence for future young perpetrators.

The proposal has victims' families up in arms, angry that killers they had been told were in prison for life might be given a shot at release and that they'd need to regularly attend hearings in the future, reliving old traumas, to try to ensure that these criminals remain behind bars.

Advocates of legislation, meanwhile, both in Illinois and elsewhere, note that the US is the only country in the world with anyone – nearly 2,400 across the nation – serving such a severe sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile. They criticize the fact that the sentence is often mandatory, part of a system devoid of leniency for a teenager's lack of judgment, or hope that youth can be reformed.


The current legislation in Illinois is unlikely to go anywhere, with its key sponsor backing away last week and saying more time is needed to dialogue with victims. Reform advocates hope to have new legislation introduced in the near future. Colorado outlawed juvenile life without parole in 2006, and legislation is pending in Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, and California, while a few other states are experiencing grass-roots efforts.

Some activists against the sentence say they hope they can work with victims' families to take their concerns into account even as they do away with the sentence. In Michigan, where a set of bills is before both the Senate and the House, activists have had some success building dialogue with victims, says Deborah LaBelle, a human rights attorney based in Ann Arbor and director of the ACLU's Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative.

"We need to allow both voices to be heard," says Ms. LaBelle. But she feels strongly that the sentence is inappropriate for youth. "As every parent knows and as every social scientist understands, this is a time of ill-thought-out, impulsive lack of judgment, problematic years… To throw them away and say you're irredeemable as a child is a disturbing social concept."

For information and links related to Massachusetts criminal law see the criminal defense page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Still More On Proposed Joint Custody Presumption

After coming out against the proposed shared custody presumption last month, the Boston Globe has just this past week, on March 11 - in a welcome, even-handed gesture - published an opinion piece by a lawyer in favor of the presumption: Don't leave fathers out of custody cases - The Boston Globe. Penned by attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo III, this op-ed article makes his case for the proposed joint physical custody presumption.

For more on this topic, see my three posts from February on the shared custody presumption, and the debate about it in the Boston Globe and elsewhere. Here's the first, the second, and the third.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mills McCartney Judgment Now Published in Full

As just reported by the British family law blog Pink Tape (Mills McCartney Award Announced - and Judgment published in full « Pink Tape), the McCartney-Mills divorce judgment has now been published in full, after Heather Mills' application for leave to appeal (in order precisely to prevent the entire judgment from being published) was denied. The entire judgment can be found here. See the video below, showing Heather Mills' comments to the media immediately upon leaving court yesterday, and before the full judgment was published after she lost her appeal this morning. Then read the comments from the Pink Tape blog by British barrister Lucy Reed at the end of this post.

Heather here alternates between, on the one hand, trying to convince us she is quite satisfied with the judgment, and on the other hand, criticizing the court system, the "club" of lawyers she faced, and the judge, all of whom were against her but begrudgingly gave her significant assets only because they had to. But she went back and forth, and couldn't consistently hide her displeasure. At one point she even complained that the (presumably inadequate) 35,000 pounds per year for support or maintenance she will get for daughter Beatrice (this 35,000 pounds, or roughly $70,000 a year, does not include the nanny and school fees, which also must be paid by Paul) will mean Beatrice will have to travel "B Class" while her father travels "A Class." Blah, blah, blah...

Heather said she wanted to appeal the publication of the entire judgment and first said something vague about how she was afraid publication of the entire judgment would be done in a way designed to make her look like she had been unsuccessful. But then, after somebody (her sister?) said something in her ear, Heather then explained that she was appealing the publication of the entire judgment for reasons of privacy, on account of her daughter. Oh, but, yes, I'm satisfied with the terms of the judgment itself, and I'm not appealing that, Heather kept stating.

Hmmm...Well, did you think you did well, Heather, or not?

Now that I have quickly read the judgment, I think I know why she didn't want it published, and I don't think it has anything to do with privacy for her daughter. The judge seems to describe Heather herself, and her evidence, as less than credible. Well, if she performed in court the way she spoke to the media here, I can see why the court found as it did.

Heather probably should have forked over the six hundred thousand pounds she says her former law firm wanted from her to represent her at the six-day hearing, rather than go it alone, as she did, and as she unconvincingly urges others to do. Perhaps she would then have been able to convince the court Paul McCartney is worth eight-hundred million pounds, rather than just four hundred million, and perhaps her other evidence would have seemed more believable. Maybe she would have walked away with many millions more, and wouldn't now be complaining about her daughter's having to travel B Class. Who knows? Anyway, this is fascinating stuff.

"UPDATE: lunchtime Tues. Heather Mills McCartney’s application for leave to appeal has been rejected by a 2 judge Court of Appeal. The judgment has been published in full - I have not had time to read it as I have to rush out and deal with more pressing matters (yes such things do exist), but you can find the pdf document here. All I can tell you (and make of this what you will) is that the word ‘unreasonable’ appears 16 times, ‘conduct’ a staggering 108, ‘contribution’ 19 times, ‘exaggerated’ 5 times, and ‘ridiculous’ once. ‘Husband’s case’ appears 8 times, whilst ‘wife’s case’ appears 20 - perhaps an indicator of a certain amount of judicial appeal-proofing going on? ‘evidence’ raises 76 hits, the one which caught my eye being at pa 16 where Heather’s evidence is described as inconsistent, inaccurate, less than candid and Heather as a less than impressive witness. Oops."

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Britney Spears Ordered to Pay $375K of K-Fed's Legal Fees

Following up on my previous post about lawyers for Britney Spears and Kevin Federline arguing in court over whether, and how much, Britney should pay for K-Fed's legal fees in their ongoing custody battle, I now pass on the news that the California court commissioner on the case yesterday decided that Spears Must Pay $375,000 for K-Fed Fees, according to the Associated Press ("Britney Spears was ordered by a court commissioner Monday to pay ex-husband Kevin Federline $375,000 to cover his attorney fees in their child-custody dispute. Mark Vincent Kaplan, Federline's lead attorney, had asked for nearly $500,000.")

For Britney, who is (was?) worth about $100 million, this is just a drop in the bucket. Britney had, however, apparently otherwise been spending her money like there's no tomorrow. But now she is temporarily on a court-ordered $1500/week allowance. Meanwhile her "poor" family may not always be able to depend upon her for money, and indeed Life and Style Magazine even now reports "the Spears family is going broke," whatever that means. (Sorry, but the full article is not available through this online link, so you'll just have to read it in the check-out line - or airport bookstore, as I did this past weekend. I don't remember all the details, but I seem to remember, for one thing, that Brit's mom was spotted trying to sell jewelry.)

Brit needs to get better and get back to some high-paying work so she can pay her many expenses, including her child support, and what we might call her "extended family support," without continuing to reduce her millions in assets. Otherwise, at this rate, Britney and her dependent family might be down to, say, the meager sum of $50 million or so Heather Mills just got from Paul McCartney. So sad.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Heather Mills to Get £24.3 Million in Assets

Heather Mills will get £24.3 million in assets (approximately 50 million U.S. dollars), per judgment in her divorce with Paul McCartney. See Family Lore: Money (That's What I Want), and The Times article of today. This judgment may not be the end of the matter, however.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Predatory Lenders, George Bush and Eliot Spitzer

"When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers." -Eliot Spitzer, Washington Post column, Feb. 14, 2008

The big banks, credit card companies, and predatory lenders in general have all long been good friends of the Bush Regime, just like other corporate entities of questionable virtue, such as Enron and Big Oil. I recall that MBNA (the credit card monster) and Enron were the biggest contributors to Bush's first presidential campaign. Oh, the irony of that. Enron would soon go down as the biggest bankruptcy fraud case in history, shortly before MBNA and other credit card companies and banks got a very healthy return on their lobbying investment in Washington when Congress cowardly rewrote (i.e. gutted) our bankruptcy laws to favor these huge predatory lenders at the expense of consumers (oh, it's called "bankruptcy reform").

Now, with the recent fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was trying to do something good for the consumer by challenging the Bush Regime's alliance with the predators (see Eliot Spitzer - Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime - it is not at all surprising that the story of his fall, like the Clinton-Lewinsky-Kenneth Starr story, is more than simply a tale about a politician's stupid sexual indiscretions. There is more to this story than immediately meets the eye, certainly more than the superficial crap you will generally find in the mainstream media.

If you look around, you can find some intelligent commentators and real reporters who will help you to see that in fact this is a story that must include Spitzer's political enemies (hint: look on Wall Street), who are guilty of much greater sins. Their bigger sins are more easily covered up as a people's champion is exposed.

Vast right wing conspiracy? Well, Hillary Clinton had a point when she said that during the Lewinsky scandal. And so do the following commentators when they now look behind Wall Street's cheering of the fall of Eliot Spitzer to find more sinister, circumstantial evidence of the predatory devils' hands at work behind the scene:

*GREG PALAST: Eliot’s Mess

*ALAN DERSHOWITZ: The Entrapment of Eliot -

*STEVEN G. BRANT: Eliot Spitzer, George Bush, and Wall Street: Hey, NY Times: What's The Real "Breaking News" Story? - Politics on The Huffington Post

We should all be sorry that Spitzer was so stupid, and even more sorry that he was brought down. Or we could instead dutifully follow our Fox News demagogues in cheering his fall along with Wall Street, which is laughing all the way to its predatory banks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vermont Blogger Can Air Dirty Laundry, But Can't Snatch and Scan Wife's Journal

I want to follow up on the recent story about the Vermont divorce case in which the angry husband chose to vent his frustrations and anger at his wife and her lawyer on his personal blog, after which the divorce judge ordered him to take down "any and all" internet postings related to his wife and his marriage. (My original post is here.)

Apparently the judge came to his senses in a subsequent hearing several days later, and in Garrido v. Krasnansky, No. F 466-12-06 (Vt. Fam.Ct, Washington, Cty., Jan. 14, 2008) vacated his prior order on free speech grounds. Furthermore, the judge indicated in this latest ruling that if in fact the comments were defamatory, there might be a remedy, but it would be elsewhere through a suit for defamation, and not through the instant attempt to restrain the husband's speech in divorce court.

But this was not an all-out victory for the angry husband. The judge narrowed his previously overbroad ruling yet continued to prohibit the husband from posting scanned excerpts from his wife's personal journal, which she had left behind in the marital home, as the court found he had no right to take her journal, and by doing so he went out of the realm of speech and into that of conduct - conduct that could be, and is in fact, subject to regulation by the divorce court. (For more on this, see E-Commerce and Tech Law Blog: Vermont Divorce Court Finds First Amendment Right in Husband's Angry Blog).

This trial court about face was a small victory both for common sense and for free speech. But I bet there will be other courts that try to muzzle angry family court litigants, and we will eventually see some appellate cases that will more clearly fix the legal boundaries of their out-of-court speech and conduct.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

UK Family Law Blogs

One of my favorite family law blogs, Family Lore, written by English family lawyer John Bolch, has recently posted the following Family Lore: UK Family Law Blog Review, which is a brief look at family law blogs in the UK (in fact, Bolch actually gives a complete list and description of all such blogs he could find). The legal system and practice in the UK is different from that which we have here in the states, but we Americans continue to have a lot in common with our English ancestors, and indeed we got our basic common law legal system from them.

UK family law blogs may be relatively few in number, but as I've said before, these British bloggers are just way more creative and better writers than we are over here in America. So check them out!

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lawyers for Britney and Kevin Rack Up More Fees Arguing About Who Has To Pay Them

In Hollywood News, this past weekend Britney's ex Kevin Federline played golf with Britney's dad Jamie, and then on Monday (yesterday), Britney Spears and Kevin Federline's lawyers argued again in court about who has to pay K-Fed's legal fees in their ongoing custody case.

It's not fair that K-Fed's lawyers are increasing their rate to $600/hour, says Britney's $700/hour lawyer. Blah, blah, blah....Meanwhile, Britney apparently continues to be Britney, so there's no doubt the money will keep coming to these, and other, lawyers.

Britney's Lawyer Questions K-Fed's Spending - Kevin Federline : ("Britney's Lawyer Questions K-Fed's Spending," By Howard Breuer, Monday March 10, 2008):

"Kevin Federline can afford to 'take responsibility' for some of his own legal fees, an attorney for Britney Spears said in court Monday.

The pop star's lawyer, Stacy Phillips, asked Federline to contribute to his own legal bills in the former couple's ongoing custody case. Citing Federline's tip of $2,000 on a recent $365 dining tab, Phillips contended that Federline can afford to help pay 'for the diligent work being done on his behalf.'

Currently Spears is responsible for paying her ex-husband's legal fees, including $405,000 owed to Federline's attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan.

Phillips further argued that it was inappropriate for Kaplan and his partner to have increased their hourly rate to $600 an hour. Kaplan countered that Phillips charges $700 an hour."

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Divorce and Estate Planning

All individuals who happen to be going through divorce should get an estate planning attorney to prepare for the future by helping them to plan and draft some basic estate planning documents, usually at or near the end of the divorce process. In fact, it is best to see an estate planning attorney before the divorce judgment becomes final.

For an excellent primer on this issue, please read the following series of articles from Leanna Hamill, a Massachusetts estate planning and elder law attorney from Hingham, and author of the Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog:

Estate Planning and Divorce - Part 1
Estate Planning and Divorce - Part 2: Post Divorce, and
Estate Planning and Divorce - Tips on Trusts for the Family Law Attorney.

Every individual's situation is different, but all people going through a divorce will have lots of reasons to hire an estate planning attorney to do an estate planning do-over, or to make a first-time visit if they have yet to do any estate planning. And more generally, most individuals with any kind of family law issues or disputes, whether in divorce or not, would be wise to get a good estate planning attorney, one who concentrates either primarily or exclusively in that area, to go over their particular situations, and provide the appropriate menu of options available to them. Fee arrangements for estate planning are more like those of criminal law than those of family law, in that flat-fee, rather than hourly billing, is the norm.

I am often asked by my clients if I can prepare wills, trusts, health care proxies, and other estate planning documents for them. As a licensed Massachusetts attorney, I can in fact do all of these things, and I have taken courses both in law school and outside of law school on estate planning and elder law, but I prefer not to take on even the most basic of such cases. Estate planning is a distinct area of practice, as are my primary areas of practice which are both in the litigation arena - divorce and family law, and criminal law. I choose, as do most attorneys, to concentrate in a few areas of the law so that I can do the best job possible. Concentrating or specializing in one or more areas of practice leads to more effectiveness and efficiency in service as it leads to greater expertise in those areas.

Many other areas of the law often intersect with family law, and that is one of the reasons I like family law. However, I often find it best, or even necessary, to refer cases or issues in other fields to practitioners in those separate fields. Sometimes, for example, I find a need to refer clients directly to attorneys who concentrate in matters of trusts and estates, in order to handle such matters as complicated trusts, education trusts, special needs trusts, or other matters. In many other cases, clients already have other attorneys for estate planning and I have found it a pleasure to work with them on behalf of the client's various needs when they are related in some way.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bobby Brown and Incarceration Nation

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette News got it spot-on in its editorial today about the sweet, strange deal Bobby Brown received in Brockton District Court. It's almost as if the Telegram read my eerily similar post on this subject from several days ago. Let's just say we are definitely on the same page here. I would now just add that we should ask ourselves how it is that Bobby Brown is actually given the task of mentoring youth as he avoids jail, while many others get locked up for multiple years for possession of just a few grams of crack cocaine. Although admittedly I don't know all the facts of Bobby Brown's recent case, and wouldn't dare to say he deserves to have the criminal case go forward, I can in fact say with confidence that, based on what I do know, it was quite inappropriate, and absurd even, for Bobby Brown to have been assigned community service mentoring youth.

Furthermore, Bobby Brown's sweet deal does appear to be more evidence that, as I recently discussed in yet another post, the War on Drugs doesn't really affect important people the same way it affects those imprisoned in Incarceration Nation.




A tip of the dunce cap goes to Brockton District Court Clerk Magistrate Kevin Creedon, who last week presided over a deal permitting R&B singer Bobby Brown to sidestep cocaine possession charges in return for mentoring the city’s youth for a year.

Whatever his other talents and charms may be, Mr. Brown’s public career has been marked by drug and alcohol abuse, nonpayment of child support, assaulting a hotel security guard, a parole violation for a previous drunken-driving conviction and allegations of assault on his ex-wife, singer Whitney Houston. This is a man whose first musical group, New Edition, voted him out because of his incessant lewd behavior onstage.

There’s no word yet on what kind of mentoring Mr. Brown might be offering the youth of Brockton, but Beating the System 101 seems likely to be high on the list.

For information about Massachusetts criminal law, see the criminal defense page of my law firm website.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Oral Arguments Heard in California Same-Sex Marriage Case

The oral arguments in the California Supreme Court's same-sex marriage case were heard a few days ago, on Tuesday, March 4, in a full three and a half hours of arguments, and now can be seen on the The California Channel (click on March 4, California Supreme Court: Same Sex Marriage). If, like me, you don't have the time or inclination to watch the whole thing, you can instead read Dale Carpenter's commentary on it here at the Volokh Conspiracy Blog. Carpenter thinks, based on the reactions of the judges at oral argument, that the majority on the court is likely to come down in favor of the opponents, and not in favor of the same-sex marriage proponents/petitioners. But if he's wrong, that would mean California will be joining Massachusetts as the second state to recognize same-sex marriage.

My previous posts on this topic are California Supreme Court to Hold Hearing on Gay Marriage (February 12, 2008) and The Battle for Same-Sex Marriage in California (November 16, 2007).

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Parents Should Have An Information Binder

Massachusetts estate planning attorney Leanna Hamill has recently posted an entry on her blog discussing the advisability of all parents' keeping an information binder with important information in it, to be left with babysitters, family members, or anyone else entrusted with the care of their children while they are away from home. See Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law: Information Binder for Parents and Children. This is a good idea, and the post has a great list of the things that should be included in the binder:

....Whether you're going out for the evening and leaving your children with a babysitter, or going away for a week and leaving your children with your parents, it's a good idea to keep a binder handy with all of the important information:

*Each child's full name, date of birth and social security number.
*Any allergies (these should be in large, red lettering) to foods, medicines, soaps, etc.
*Name and phone number of pediatricians and other doctors seen regularly.
*Any recent or chronic illnesses.
*Name, dosage and location of any medications for each child.
*Name of each child's teacher and grade at school.
*Name of people allowed to visit child, and name of anyone you don't want visiting your child.
*Photocopies of the front and back of any health insurance or dental insurance cards.
*Copy of emergency guardianship proxy document.
*Recent pictures of each child.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bobby Brown - Do We Want Him Here or Not?

As just reported here in Boston - see Boston Globe: Bobby Brown agrees to community service and Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog: Singer Bobby Brown Forgoes Jail Time for Community Service Over Alleged Cocaine Possession - Bobby Brown will now do community service here after being arrested for alleged drug possession, per the terms of disposition in a Brockton District Court criminal matter.

Wait a minute. Didn't the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, just a year and a half ago, issue an order for his arrest if he comes back into this state?

Yes, in fact it did. See the People magazine article, Bobby Brown Warned Over Child Support - ("A judge in Massachusetts added to Bobby Brown's troubles on Monday, ordering him arrested if he steps foot in the state, after Brown skipped a court hearing over delinquent child-support payments to Kim Ward, the mother of two of his children....")

Anyone who has followed the story of Bobby Brown will likely have the impression that, over the last several years, every time Bobby has set foot in this state he has been in one of the following places: 1) in Attleboro or somewhere nearby watching his teenage daughter at cheerleading events, 2) in family court in Canton facing the music for failure to keep up with the child support and other obligations to that very daughter and her brother (children he had before he hooked up with Whitney Houston), 3) in jail because of that failure, or 4) in transit between those other places, courtesy of law enforcement. (To complete the picture, I think Bobby Brown has also been stopped at least once by police for other minor vehicle infractions, and went to a hospital for a false heart attack alarm, but there are just way too many stories to cite them all here. If interested, just do a search for Bobby Brown at or

Really, Massachusetts needs to decide whether it wants Bobby Brown back here or not. Maybe the family court department should talk with the district court department and get on the same page here, or perhaps we should just have a referendum and let the voters decide whether we want him back here.

Anyway, this guy's problems up here seem to have escalated at the same time his relationship soured with his famous former wife Whitney Houston, with whom he had lived down in Georgia, and especially after she recently called it splits with him and got her divorce in California. In that divorce case, at least according to the press, Whitney pretty much took him to the cleaners. (On the Whitney Houston-Bobby Brown story, see Bobby Brown's Attempt to Overturn Divorce Denied - Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston :

For now at least, Bobby Brown must do community service here in Massachusetts. And get this: he will be mentoring youth as part of his community service, and that's something he apparently wants to do, according to his attorney.

I found that fact interesting, especially after reading Bobby Brown and Brainiac at 40 - The Boston Globe from his former classmate Joshua Glenn over at the Boston Globe (this piece is from October of last year). Joshua Glenn is just about the same age, and says he and Bobby Brown attended the same elementary school together in Boston. Although Glenn admits he didn't really know Brown, he does remember that Bobby Brown stole his calculator. Glenn also was kind enough to remind us of some of Brown's infamous rap lyrics:

Too hot to handle, too cold to hold
They're called the Ghostbusters and they're in control
Had 'em throwin' a party for a bunch of children
While all the while the slime was under the building
So they packed up their group, got a grip, came equipped
Grabbed their proton packs off their back and they split
Found about Vigo, the master of evil
Try to battle my boys? That's not legal!

And that brings me to this question:

What exactly will Bobby Brown be teaching our youth in Massachusetts, through this court-ordered community service?

I have some lessons that Bobby Brown can teach them. There are just a few I can print here, and these ones are just specifically for those youth who hope to some day be a celebrity like Bobby Brown: 1) If you happen to become a celebrity when you "grow up" and if you happen to get way behind on your child support, then do not go to visit your daughter as she is cheerleading in public. 2) Do not steal calculators from classmates, because even if you don't end up in juvie, your classmates may grow up to be writers for your hometown newspaper.

From the Associated Press:

BROCKTON, Mass.—Singer Bobby Brown will not face criminal charges after police said they found a small amount of cocaine in his possession.

Brown's attorney said Tuesday a Brockton District Court clerk magistrate found no probable cause to issue a criminal complaint, but recommended that Brown volunteer to mentor young people, which Brown wanted to do anyway.

Brown agreed to a year's community service and his attorney said if no other issues arise over the next year, the matter will be struck from the docket.

The case began when police responding to a disturbance at a Brockton hotel on Dec. 1. They said they found the 39-year-old Brown sitting in an SUV in the parking lot, with cocaine in his possession.

The Boston native is the former husband of singer Whitney Houston and stars in the CMT Network show "Gone Country."

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.