About a Hearing & My Facebook Page…

Earlier this week I had a court appearance, walked in without a clue that it was going to be on TV – the station was there for another case but decided to cover my hearing as well as it was about something that was very much in the news at the beginning of the summer.

The hearing was short and sweet and went really well. A good day. That evening, I found the video on Myrtle Beach Online, and shared the link to Facebook with the caption: I made my quarterly TV appearance yesterday, check it out if you have 2 minutes and two seconds.

Well, a lot of you did have 2 minutes and 2 seconds and your responses were great. I checked the page a few times that day and into the next, felt good, went on with everything else – it is a busy time of the year. Then a friend from Connecticut – he has a law degree but no longer practices, he’s a consultant of sorts – called and, well, put this is a vastly different perspective.

He was ‘blown away’ by the post’s reception. He said, clearly and often, that ‘no New England attorney would have posted that video.’ Doing so, he went on, ‘would have invited every kind of Facebook troll known to man.’

As he explained it – and he is in a position to know – there are areas of the country where an accused getting bonded out of jail is not looked at the way my friends and followers and clients looked at this case,that is, as a function of our inherent right to be viewed as ‘innocent until proven guilty.’

“Sure,” he said, “everyone gives great lip service to ‘presumed innocent’ but the reality up here is more along the lines of ‘you get arrested, you must have done something. It’s simply pervasive.”

Pervasive and no one is very shy about sharing their beliefs by commenting on Facebook and LinkedIn posts.

He gave me enough examples that I not only completely believed him but just shuddered at the images he conjured.

So, consider this a Thank You to everyone who takes the time to read my posts and say such nice things and share with their friends. You get it, you understand, and I applaud you for it … not that I expected much different from fellow South Carolinians.

A Little More About HBO’s Divorce

You might remember that just before Thanksgiving we published a blog piece about HBO’s new show Divorce. We wrote that they really seemed to be getting a lot right – from the emotions, to counseling, to, well, the mechanics of the whole process.

That was after three episodes. Now we’re deeper into the series and the roof has caved in on the show. After last Sunday, it’s threatening to do for divorce what Kramer vs. Kramer, The War of the Roses, and Arnie Becker of L.A. Law have. That is neither a compliment or a good thing.

The show’s putting a spin on divorce that’s not only a cliché but undermines family law as a whole. I started to feel that Divorce was headed in the wrong direction when our characters, Frances and Robert blew into and out of counseling after two whole sessions.

Okay, that happens, not everyone or every couple is going to get through counseling (but, really, two sessions?), and Frances and Robert moved to mediation. Great, that was encouraging even though, as the show was scheduled for 10 episodes and had just been renewed for a second season, I knew mediation wasn’t going to work. Too little drama that way.

Again, fine, not every couple can successfully negotiate mediation. But, it was the way the show was so … so … dismissive of mediation that started the hackles on the back of my neck rising. It’s portrayed as disorganized, haphazard, and worse, ineffectual. Pretty much everything it is not.

It’s made so much worse when a supporting character says, “Ha, mediation is where on person gets the cup and the other one gets the coffee.” A sentiment that is repeated several times by different people. That, of course, couldn’t be more wrong.

So, Frances and Robert, zip in and out of counseling and mediation over the course of a few real-time weeks. It’s disconcerting. But it gets worse.

Robert gets a high-price divorce attorney in New York City. We know he’s high-priced because (a) he tells us, the audience, several times; (b) his office is in a high-rise with a clear view of Central Park.

Frances gets a high-price divorce attorney in New York City. We know he’s high-price because (a) he tells Frances he is, more than once; (b) he’s in a high-rise in mid-town Manhattan with a gorgeous Art Deco lobby.

Two problems – first, Frances and Robert are broke. Robert has squandered their assets in a series of bad real estate investments and wild construction schemes.  Neither of their erstwhile lawyers ask for a retainer. As a matter of fact, they both indicate that they’ll get paid when they ‘win’ the case.

That is … wrong. Utterly. Contingency fees are not allowed in divorce actions. It is an ethical violation. Taking one for a divorce will, at the very least, get a lawyer sanctioned. It is not done.

Second, Frances and Robert live 30 miles north of New York City. It is a very, obviously, densely populated area. There are dozens of courts between them and their soon to be disbarred attorneys. Their attorneys would be strangers in a strange land with no connection to Frances and Robert’s court, judges, local rules.

It is ridiculous. And it gets worse. Robert’s $750/hr. lawyer promptly calls Frances at midnight one evening to let her know he’s ‘on to her’ and is having her followed. In a word, he threatens her.

Any attorney would be disbarred for that. People are arrested for things like that.

The thing that bothers me is that people are stressed out enough about their family issues without having to be exposed to a TV series that reinforces every horrible cliché every uttered about divorce and lawyers.

It also reinforces a really old, really worn, really outdated, very discredited view of divorce as something that should be ‘won.’

Valdez is Coming and Indigo Law

Many of you may have already seen that we’re re-branding the practice as Indigo Family Law. Nothing else is changing, we will still be focusing on family law (lucky that, otherwise …) with the occasional criminal matter – although we encourage our clients, former clients, friends and family to come to us first with any legal matter.

I, certainly, am not changing, Which is why I’m re-posting this today. Just to let you I’m the same shy, retiring Brana you all know … until.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what I did. I think he put it this way, “What … exactly do you do?” He asked because, according to him, my old website claimed I did rather a lot of everything.

I patiently explained that I concentrated mostly in family law – including adoption. Adoption can be complex, and family law encompasses divorce, custody, mediation, so much more. Which is why I like it, every case is unique.

I finished pretty pleased with myself for my conciseness, he would have none of it, “What about your criminal law background?”

“Well, I still take the occasional case but … I guess I reserve my criminal law persona for the people who sabotage settlements, or act in the worst interest of the kids or …”

“What then?”

“What do you mean, ‘what then?’”

“What do you do when someone blows up a perfectly good settlement?”

“Oh, then I annihilate them.”

There must have been something about the way I said that because he looked startled for a moment, then laughed, then said, “You’re not a lawyer, you’re Valdez.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, so he filled me in:

Valdez – Bob Valdez – was the title character in the ‘70s cult classic, Valdez is Coming. Written by the late, great Elmore Leonard, it starred the late, great Burt Lancaster. Valdez was a mild-mannered Tex-Mex sheriff on a border town at the turn of last century. He’s the laconic type who really wants to work things out with everyone.

The movie starts with a death and a pregnant widow and Bob trying to collect a few dollars from the men who caused the death so the widow can return to her family. Her Apache family. The townspeople agree to pay $100 if Bob can collect another $100 from the local … well, the local rich land baron who happens to have a pretty large gang and a whole lot more cash on hand than any honest rancher this side of Shane.

Bob tries, twice, to get the guy to pay up. Both times he’s rebuffed. He goes back again, asks quietly, sensibly, humanely. He tries to mediate the conflict. It doesn’t work, this time he’s not only rebuffed, he’s savagely beaten and tossed in the desert to die.

Bob struggles out, is tended to by a friend, starts to heal. He leaves his friend’s house, rides to his home in town, dismounts, goes in – directly to his bed, kneels, pulls out a dusty trunk.

 

He opens it, on top is a photo of an elite US Army unit during the Apache Wars. Under that is a U.S. Army uniform. Under that is a Sharps sharpshooter’s rifle. The uniform on, the rifle loaded and ready, he rides out to get the $200. Only now, he’s not Bob, he’s Valdez and he’s coming. The land baron and his men never know what hit them.

The widow gets the $200.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’m not sure I’m Valdez but I am sure my criminal law background, including experience with capital crimes, from both sides, prosecution and defense, does give me a considerable edge when things that shouldn’t go sideways do.

One thing I do share with Valdez – I’m loathe to cut loose, but when I do they never see it coming.