Thursday, October 25, 2012

Romney's Testimony in Stemberg Divorce Unsealed

Well, folks looking for a big October surprise from our state's family court may be disappointed.

This morning, according to the Boston Globe, the Norfolk County Probate and Family Court ruled that the Romney testimony in the Stemberg divorce will be unsealed.  Now it is up to the Boston Globe - which brought the litigation to report on the upcoming election - to examine the record of that testimony and tell us what, if anything, it reveals.  The confidentiality agreement between the parties to the divorce, which the former Mrs. Stemberg's attorney Gloria Allred tried to lift so she could talk about Romney's testimony, remains in place.   Allred and her client were trying to piggyback on the Globe's initial request, which included a lifting of the gag order as well as the unsealing of the testimony, but then the Globe dropped its request to remove the gag order when it was clear the testimony would be unsealed.

Gloria Allred and the former Mrs. Stemberg, who actually supplied the documents themselves as the court no longer had the two-decades-old transcripts, accused the Boston Globe of a "double cross" and will now have to petition separately for the lifting of that gag order.

There's likely no big story here, as today Mr. Stemberg rescinded his objection to the unsealing of the testimony (Romney had already stated no objection to the unsealing yesterday, but he was probably doing something of a piggyback of his own on Stemberg's objection at the time).  As this morning's proceedings, and the rescinding of the objection, occurred after Stemberg and Romney (and Staples) had been given time to review the testimony, it appears that Stemberg and his buddy Romney now see nothing in that testimony worth the political cost of continuing to object.  Furthermore, Gloria Allred herself suggested (see below), that her client needs to be allowed to speak in order to put the testimony into "context" or otherwise the testimony will not be meaningful to the public.

And to that I say, calling to mind a fine legal phrase: res ipsa loquitur...not!
The Globe originally moved to amend the confidentiality agreement to allow parties in the case to speak publicly about Romney’s testimony but dropped the request on Thursday, when Stemberg — who had opposed the Globe’s request to unseal the testimony — rescinded his objection.
Allred argued vigorously for Sullivan Stemberg’s right to address Romney’s testimony publicly, saying Sullivan Stemberg was being denied her First Amendment Right. 
“Out of context, [the testimony] has no meaning for the public,” Allred said. “She can put it in context.”The court ruled that because the Globe was no longer petitioning to modify the confidentiality order, and was satisfied by the release of Romney’s testimony, that Sullivan Stemberg would have to bring a separate motion to amend the order. 
Allred indicated that she would do so and after the hearing accused the Globe of a “double cross” because the paper stopped its push to amend the confidentiality order.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An October Surprise for Mitt out of Mass. Divorce Court?

Tomorrow morning there may be some interesting drama in one of Boston's family courts where I regularly practice, the Norfolk Probate and Family Court, involving sealed testimony by Mitt Romney, apparently given in support of his friend, former Staples CEO Tom Stemberg, during his divorce.   The ex-wife, represented by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, is reportedly here to tell the judge her client doesn't object to having the testimony unsealed.  

If this is just about Mitt's testimony that Tom Stemberg was a good father, we probably don't have much of a story.  On the other hand, if TMZ's reports are true that Mitt also falsely testified under oath that Staples was worth virtually nothing to aid his friend in misleading the court in order to reduce a payout to his exwife, then we may have a real story, an October surprise of sorts.

This may be the most excitement we have seen in the Norfolk Probate and Family Court since Bobby Brown's arrests here for contempt on child support arrears.   (I don't count the matter of the other Massachusetts Presidential candidate, John Kerry, who tried unsuccessfully, in 1995, to seal records here of his 1988 divorce to his first wife, as the facts of that case are rather boring.)

If TMZ's report about Mitt is accurate, and his testimony becomes unsealed, this could be significant news.  As we all know, from the most recent Clinton and Bush terms, a President's lying to Congress, the American people, and the United Nations about reasons for going to war is one thing.     But lying under oath before becoming President, in a deposition or trial, in a private civil case, such as a divorce or sex discrimination suit, is quite another.  It's absolutely unthinkable and disqualifies one from the very important job of lying about wars with absolute impunity and immunity.

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

Monday, October 22, 2012

Second Circuit Joins First in Striking DOMA

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York just became the second of the intermediate-level federal appeals courts (circuit courts) to find the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.   The first was our First Circuit Court of Appeals here in Boston back in May of this year.   The Second Circuit decision, which found the federal statute to be an unconstitutional violation of equal protection under heightened scrutiny (the "intermediate level scrutiny" for "quasi-suspect" classifications), is the most likely case on gay marriage to reach the US Supreme Court.  

Two other same-sex marriage cases likely to reach the Supreme Court are the First Circuit decision in Boston also striking down DOMA, and the Ninth Circuit decision overturning California's ban on gay marriage out there. 

For a short explanation of this Second Circuit case, with some discussion of related federal court decisions, see David Kemp's The End of an Unjust Law: The Second Circuit Strikes Down DOMA and Sets the Stage for Supreme Court Review.  Also see the New York Times article for an overview.

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