Sunday, February 19, 2017

Minnesota Alimony Reform - Good News

Some good news for once. A working task force with Minnesota Alimony Reform, the Minnesota Bar, Family Section of the Minnesota Bar, the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an attorney representing legal aide for lower income individuals,  a Senator to be named and Rep. Peggy Scott has been formed to craft comprehensive reform of Minnesota's spousal maintenance laws.

This is exactly the path Massachusetts followed to achieve reform back in 2009. Many state initiatives has failed because they have tried to push through legislation without the involvement of the bar association and divorce lawyer groups. In my discussions with lawyers and legislators many understand the fundamental injustice of the current system and are supportive of reform. But the political reality is that without widespread support from legal groups there is a reluctance to move on the issue. Political inertia is often underappreciated.

The goal is to introduce comprehensive legislation when the 2018 legislative session begins in January.  Specifically:
1. Eliminate permanent spousal maintenance from the statute.
2. Add durational guidelines - limit alimony based on the length of the marriage.
3.  Retirement shall end the spousal maintenance obligation.
4.  A second spouses income never allowed to be a factor in a modification.
5.  If the legislative intent of our Cohabitation Alimony Reform Law passed last year is not met... fix it.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The OLPR Saga Continues

My effort to reform the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (OLPR) continues. In January I had replied to their recommendation agaisnt my petition to improve the Lawyer's Rules of Professional Conduct. They have now replied back to me and I again to them. Both correspondences are below.

Some would say my effort is pointless because the OLPR is never going to admit that they operated in way completely antithetical to their purpose as an organization in my case and, as is fairly evident, in many others as well, That would be a de facto admission of criminality. Yet there may be someone within the OLPR organization who due to my letters actually looks at the facts and decides they do not want to be a part of what may someday be known as a criminally corrupt organization.  Not everyone wants to be the bad guy. Look to Elliot Richardson's actions during the Nixon administration for an example.

My response to the OLPR:

February 5, 2017

Susan M. Humiston
Director – Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
500 Landmark Towers
345 St. Peter Street
St. Paul, MN 55102-1218

Re: Your letter to me dated January 23, 2016 regarding Rule 6, Section A of the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility.

Dear Ms. Humiston,

I view your letter dated January 23, 2016 not only with extreme dissatisfaction but find it profoundly disturbing.

Your organization has never once addressed the evidence in the complaint I filed against . Not in my original complaint against her, nor the appeal, nor in any of the subsequent correspondence I have had with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. If you really believe that Ms.  did not knowingly lie in court and commit fraud, then let’s have a discussion on the facts.  The evidence, I will remind you is based on publically available court documents and a hearing transcript. I would be more than happy to sit down with you and go through the evidence.  

It is because your organization has ignored the evidence against and has done every thing possible to shield her from the consequences of her violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and well as the law, that I believe your organization has acted unethically and criminally. How could I possibly not think this? 

We live in a political climate where telling falsehoods repeatedly and ignoring facts has become in vogue. I guess I am old school idealist because I believe is truth, ethics and justice.

You also seem to believe that getting away with a crime is the same as not having committed it. If in the 1920s an innocent black man was lynched yet no one, despite strong evidence, was even charged with the killing does that mean murder was not committed.? No, it just means the guilty got away with the crime. Just like , with your organization’s help, got away with her crimes. 

You state that your organization routinely disciplines lawyers who have not been convicted of a crime. That is an interesting statement given that your organization has provided me with information to the contrary. Please substantiate your claim. I am especially interested in cases where  lawyers  were disciplined for lying in family court.

There is a surreal Kafkaesque element to all this. The evidence that knowing lied in court and committed fraud is so clear and so solid  it is difficult to even imagine how it could even be stronger. If you have not carefully read the evidence, then I ask you to do so. Then examine your conscious and take action based on what is right. If you do not then for the rest of your life you will have to live with the realization that you stand with the bad people of this world.  

I repeat my request that my letter dated January 7, 2016 as well as this letter be passed on to all Directors and Assistant Directors at the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility and that you confirm that you have does so to me. If you do not then I will simply have to do so myself.

OLPR letter to me:

Sunday, February 5, 2017

South Carolina Reform

Wyman Oxner from SC Alimony Reform wrote a feed back letter on their efforts at alimony reform in the state. Well put I say.

Reform the state’s alimony laws
To the editor:
It is time for the archaic alimony laws in South Carolina to be reformed in order to make the laws fair for both the payer of permanent alimony and the payee.
Our organization, SC Alimony Reform, has been trying to reform the laws for going on seven years, but we have been scuttled by a few members of the legislature each year. I believe we have enough votes in the legislature to reform the laws if our bills are allowed to have an up or down vote. I believe that everyone should have the right to retire without the burden of permanent life time alimony.
Our legislative supporters have re-introduced the following Senate bills that would:
  • Create public policy seeking equity for both parties. No one form of alimony would be preferred over another.
  • Create transitional and fixed-term alimony which would give judges more options.
  • Allow payers to seek a reduction or an end to alimony at retirement.
  • Bar consideration of subsequent spouse’s earnings.
Our House Representative supporters have also re-introduced a comprehensive bill that includes the main points of the Senate bills.
It is time to bring South Carolina into the 21st century and bring our alimony laws up to date. No person should have to pay another person for the rest of their life simply because their marriage failed.
— Wyman Oxner, Orangeburg, S.C.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Types of Alimony in Massachusetts

I ran across a nice article from a law firm in Massachusetts regarding the four types of alimony provided for in the Commonwealth. Remember that Massachusetts passed comprehensive alimony reform back in 2011. Minnesota Alimony Reform is trying to achieve similar reform in Minnesota.

General Alimony, which can go on indefinitely, is defined as:
General term alimony is typically awarded in longer term marriages, but can be awarded regardless of the length of the marriage. Massachusetts’ law provides that alimony should not exceed the recipient spouse’s need or 30% to 35% of the difference in income between the spouses.
The length of time general term alimony is awarded for, depends on the length of the marriage:
  • Marriage of 0 – 5 years: General term alimony awarded for no more than 50% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriage of 5 – 10 years: General term alimony awarded for no more than 60% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriage of 10 – 15 years: General term alimony awarded for no more than 70% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriage of 15 – 20 years General term alimony awarded for no more than 80% of the number of months of the marriage.
  • Marriage of over 20 years: The court may order alimony for an indefinite length of time for marriages for which the length of the marriage was longer than 20 years.
There are provisions for ended general alimony upon the cohabitation of the person receiving the alimony or the retirement of the person paying the alimony upon reaching normal full retirement age.

This is hardly radical reform which may be the reason the legislation passed the Massachusetts legislature unanimously and was widely supported by women's groups and bar associations.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Vermont Alimony Reform Progress

Rick Fleming, president of Vermont Alimony Reform, has a well written letter to the editor in the Chester Telegraph.

A reform bill did pass the Vermont Senate this session but unfortunately will not be voted on in the House due to scheduling constraints given the lateness in the session. Although I am sure this is disappointing to our friends in Vermont, it does bode quite well for the future.
Vermont Alimony Reform's legislative goals are:

  1. Spousal support should be designed to encourage self-sufficiency and independence for the lower earning spouse through the use of training and transitional spousal support with specific guidelines and formulas to give Family Court Judges direction and guidance, resulting in greater consistency, predictability and fairness throughout the state. Spousal support should not be designed for lifetime maintenance of a pre-existing lifestyle while in the marriage. Formulaic factors could include such items as number of years married, career or professional development constraints such as parental/familial obligations, and physical/mental health considerations. Calculations should not include assumptions of future potential earnings of either spouse based on past economic performance.
  2. Spousal support terminates upon the recipient’s remarriage or cohabitation. Spousal support should not include support and maintenance of a former spouse’s new partner, either directly or indirectly.
  3. Current payors with modifiable judgments or agreements should have the right to file for a modification/reconsideration based upon the new guidelines until an established date, with specific written reasoning entered to the Court record by the Judge for denying any such attempts at modification.
  4. A spousal support obligation terminates when the payor reaches the National Full Retirement Age. 
  5. Establishing a predictable end date will allow the payor and payee an opportunity to plan and save for retirement. Everyone deserves to retire!
  6. Specific guidelines for the term and amount of spousal support should be capped and based upon documented and reasonable financial NEED rather than accustomed lifestyle, with a maximum of 30 percent to 35 percent of the difference between the incomes of both parties. The intent is to create parity between the parties until the lower earning spouse becomes self-sufficient, and NOT based on judicial assumptions of future potential earnings of the paying spouse.
  7. The Family Court must honor all legally binding prenuptial agreements, final stipulations and/or contracts between the parties.
  8. A subsequent spouse to the payor’s income should never be considered when a payor remarries, either directly or implied.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Erica Manfred on Lifetime Alimony


Although it is a few years old now (which in the Internet age doesn't mean what it used to) I felt compelled to email Erica Manfred regarding an article she wrote in the Huffington Press, Should He Pay If He Trades in the Old Model After Decades of Marriage?

Here is what I sent her:
Dear Ms, Manfred,
I read your article on the Huffington Post, "Should He Pay If He Trades in the Old Model After Decades of Marriage?" and would like to make a few comments that you will hopefully take into consideration. 
There is a myth that they typical lifetime alimony recipient is, as you describe, a woman over 50 who stayed home and cared for the kids while her husband worked and eventually he left her for a younger women. There is zero evidence for this. In fact most divorces are actually filed by women. 
My own situation is quite the opposite of the one you describe. My wife left me when we were in our late 40s. Despite a custody evaluation that she was not the primary parent,  an employment evaluation that she could make make just a much money as me, my paying well into the six figures for legal expense (including her legal expenses), her taking most the marriage assets, joint custody of the kids (although they spent most their time with me) and my paying all expenses for the children, I have to pay her a massive amount of alimony until the day I die. I can never retire nor can remarry because that would oblige my new wife to pay alimony to my ex-wife should I become disabled. 
I'll emphasize that I did nothing wrong and acted ethically throughout the divorce process. She committed perjury and I have absolute unquestionable proof that her lawyer lied in court and committed fraud. 
Now you probably do not believe me or if you do think that my situation is highly unusual but that is sadly not the case. Minnesota Alimony Reform (http://mnalimonyreform.com/) has many such stories. (I am from Minnesota) 
All assents earned by either party in a marriage are joint and split jointly. I understand rehabilitative alimony where it is necessary - although in most cases it is better to just get a bigger slice of the assets at the time of the divorce and be done with it. But this idea that men need to work till death for a woman who left him can only be justified if you believe women are less capable than men. We can never have gender equality until lifetime alimony is eliminated or at least half the time is paid by the women. Note that currently some 97% of the time the man is the one who pays. 
It is easy to find one off stories of people, men and women, who have suffered injustice in the family law system. Rulings are inconsistent, often arbitrary, and corruption is endemic. Although I am sure you did not intend to, stories that give only one side of the story will not make things better. What we need are clear laws, consistently implemented with safeguards for those who need it. In short we need fairness and justice. 
It would be great if you could write a more balanced article regarding lifetime alimony.  
Thank you for your time.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility

I have mentioned before my petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court to change the lawyers rules of ethical conduct to at least make it a bit more difficult for the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (OLPR) to shield lawyers from the consequences of breaking their ethical rules. That is what I hoped for anyway. However, the OLPR  recommended agaisnt the change and the petition was denied.

After much thought, as well as a broken printer/scanner that took quite a while to fix, I have to decided to break with my custom and post not only their letter to me recommending agaisnt the petition as well as my response to them but am also listing the OLPR director names. I am doing this because I believe the OLPR has acted in my case as well as numerous others in a clearly criminal manner. I feel I have given them every chance to right past mistakes and act ethically and within the law. However, they have consciously determined to act in a manner totally at odds with with the very purpose for which they exist. The OLPR has, in fact, become a criminal organization. Those of of us who believe in a just society need to recognize this and seek to reform it. By publishing the names of the directors I feel I am simply doing my civic duty.

Without further ado below are the names of the OLPR directors, followed by my letter to them and their letter to me.

OLPR

Director:

  • Susan M Humiston

First Assistant Director:

  • Patrick R Burns

Assistant Directors:

  • Timothy M Burke
  • Craig D. Klausing
  • Cassie Hanson
  • Kevin T. Slator
  • Siama C. Brand
  • Megan Engelhardt
  • Joshua H. Brand
  • Binh T. Tuong
  • Amy M. Mahowald
  • Mary L. Galvin

My letter to the OLAP:
Susan M. Humiston
Director – Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
500 Landmark Towers
345 St. Peter Street
St. Paul, MN 55102-1218
Re: In Petition to Amend Rule 6, Section A of the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility and Letter Regarding the Matter Received by me dated October 12, 2016.
Dear Ms. Humiston,
I am writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility's recommendation against adopting the rule change I petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to make regarding Rule 6, Section A of the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility. The petition was denied by the Supreme Court. 
My petition sought to amend the Rule to include:
The investigator assigned, if a lawyer, shall not be in active practice in the same area of law that the lawyer under investigation practices in. The investigator assigned, if not a lawyer, shall not be a person who works in a profession which commonly receives referrals from lawyers who practice in the same area of law as the lawyer under investigation. 
In your response you state that sufficient safeguards are in place already. This is difficult to understand  given the facts in the complaint I filed against [Nelly Wince] with your office. Indeed the behavior of your office had been blatantly unethical and clearly criminal.
I will remind you that:
  • My complaint against [Nelly Wince] is backed by the strongest, clearest evidence possible. It is difficult to understand how a reasonable person could think otherwise. The evidence, which was sent to you, is also available at:  http://www.divorceinjustice.org/p/evidence.html. It is available to the public at the courthouse as well.
  • The original investigation never addressed the specific complaints. 
  • The appeals process, likewise, did not address the the complaints. 
  • The investigator was a person who makes his living off referrals from divorce attorneys. Your claim that this does not create a conflict of interest is difficult to understand. 
Furthermore, the “appeals process” you mention in your letter is rather opaque and consists of nothing more than a letter addressed to your office.  
It is evident that your office does not work to enforce the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility but rather works to shield lawyers from complains that they broke the rules. As far as I can gather your office rarely, if ever, takes action against a lawyer unless they have been charged by law enforcement with a crime. I doubt you have ever disbarred or even reprimanded a lawyer for lying in Family Court which is the very reason it is so common.  And if you do not believe that it is common for lawyers to lie in Family Court you are simply out of touch with reality. 
The Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility are like the Iraqi Constitution under Saddam Hussein - a nice document but not followed.      
The devastation caused by the failure to take action of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility against lawyers who break the rules is enormous. It harms the innocent, including many children, and drives many victims to self-destructive behavior including, tragically, suicide. It also creates a culture of crime which is the logical outcome when people see that the privileged and powerful are able to operate outside the law. 
I doubt you consider yourself unethical and a criminal. Pretty much no one, no matter how badly they  behave, does. But your actions clearly demonstrate that you are. 
Please ensure that this letter is passed on to all Directors and Assistant Directors at the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility and confirm that you have does so to me.

Sincerely,

.cc Minnesota State Senator <>, <> - Minneapolis StarTribune, Minneapolis FBI 
OLPR letter to recommending against my petition (you may want to download the second image to more easily read it):