Thursday, April 23, 2015
An interesting decision on authentication of documents from social media from the Maryland Court of Appeals
We shall hold that, in order to authenticate evidence derived from a social networking website, the trial judge must determine that there is proof from which a reasonable juror could find that the evidence is what the proponent claims it to be. We shall hold in Sublet that the trial court did not err in excluding the admission of the four pages of the Facebook conversation. We shall hold in Harris that the trial court did not err in admitting the “direct messages” and “tweets” in evidence. We shall also hold in Monge-Martinez that the trial court did not err in admitting the Facebook messages authored by Monge-Martinez.
The court resolved three criminal cases in its decision.
There is a concurring and dissenting opinion.
Use of social media as evidence in civil and criminal trials is likely to become increasingly important. Today we advanced our jurisprudence by adopting the “reasonable juror” standard and holding that circumstantial evidence can be sufficient to authenticate social media evidence. But the Majority set bad precedent in holding that a trial judge can establish such a high bar for authentication as the court did in the Sublet case. The Majority muddled our “reasonable juror” standard by refusing to accept Facebook posts as authenticated, based on an undisputed admission by the witness that she made posts referring to the fight at the party in a Facebook conversation with friends the day after the party, but denying the posts on the same topic occurring shortly thereafter. We would enunciate a clearer standard and advance the law more profitably if we affirmed the trial court rulings in Harris and Monge-Martinez, but reversed the trial court in Sublet.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
The Delaware Court of Chancery has held that a man had capacity to lavish gifts on a much younger woman.
Since the time of King David and Abishag—and, surely, before—certain old men have pursued an interest in certain young women. Sometimes, as in that case, the relationship is one of a powerful man and an exploited woman. Sometimes, it represents, no doubt, a May-December mutual romance, or at least a mercenary exchange of value for value. In other cases, however, it involves exploitation of an elderly and vulnerable benefactor. This case involves a relationship that quickly arose between a moderately well-to-do recent widower in his mid-eighties and a diner waitress of an age to be his granddaughter. The Petitioners—the old man’s heirs, trust and estate—allege the relationship is of the third variety described above; the Respondent contends it belongs in the second category.
During a fourteen-month relationship, George Reed, Jr. (“George Jr.”) lavished gifts on the Respondent, Lisa Grandelli, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a pickup truck costing over $30,000. He also paid cash—nearly a quarter-million dollars—for a condominium in Rehoboth Beach, titled jointly with Lisa with right of survivorship. The Petitioners, George Jr.’s estate, his trust and the beneficiaries of his will, seek, principally through imposition of equitable remedies, to recoup the value of these gifts.
Individuals are presumed competent unless proven otherwise, and are free to deploy their assets, wisely or foolishly, as they see fit. Equity may act in appropriate cases to remedy breaches of fiduciary duty or oppression, or to carry out the true intent of parties. If, however, equity were empowered to remedy every improvident expenditure in aid of unrequited love or misplaced desire, Delaware would need a Chancery Courthouse on every corner.
Lisa must account for the condo and pay back the estate for a Key West jaunt that was financed under false pretenses (her testimony on that issue was "a concatenation of self-serving lies").
The concluding lament
George Jr.’s heirs are upset that in the last months of his life, their father lavished expensive gifts on a much younger woman. Their position is natural; frankly, this is a case that was neither a pleasure to hear or write on. As a competent individual, however, George Jr.’s choices were his to make. Lisa, on the other hand, has treated as her own a condominium unit owned in common with George, Jr.’s Trust, for which she must account. In addition, loans made to her by George Jr. must be repaid, together with amounts to pay for the Key West trip, which she received based on false representations. The parties should submit an appropriate form of order. Each party must bear its own fees and costs.
Friday, April 3, 2015
The Georgia Supreme Court held that the subject of an internet campaign is not entitled to injunctive relief as the posts about her were not "contact" and thus not prohibited stalking
Matthew Chan has a website on which he and others publish commentary critical of copyright enforcement practices that they consider predatory. Linda Ellis is a poet, and her efforts to enforce the copyright in her poetry have drawn the ire of Chan and his fellow commentators. On his website, they have published nearly 2,000 posts about Ellis, many of which are mean-spirited, some of which are distasteful and crude, and some of which publicize information about Ellis that she would prefer not to be so public. At least one post is written in the style of an open letter to Ellis, referring to her in the second person, and threatening to publicize additional information about Ellis and her family if she continues to employ the practices of which Chan and the other commentators disapprove. It is undisputed that Chan never caused any of these posts to be delivered to Ellis or otherwise brought to her attention. But it also is undisputed that Chan anticipated that Ellis might see the commentary on his website, and he may have even intended that she see certain of the posts, including the open letter to her.
No relief was granted because
the commentary about which Ellis complains was posted on Chan’s website, and Ellis learned of that commentary— that is, it arguably was communicated to her — only as a result of her choice to discover the content of the website. The evidence shows that Ellis visited the website herself — it appears, in fact, that she registered herself as an authorized commentator on the website — and that she had others visit the website and report back to her about the commentary published there. Generally speaking, our stalking law forbids speech only to the extent that it is directed to an unwilling listener and even if Ellis did not likewhat she heard, she cannot be fairly characterized as an unwilling listener. Ellis failed to prove that Chan “contacted” her without her consent, and the trial court erred when it concluded that Chan had stalked Ellis.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Herbert M. Kritzer (U. Minn., Law) has published a new volume Lawyers at Work, collecting and updating his 35 years of empirical and theoretical study of attorneys in action, including daily office work, use of expert witnesses, contingency fees, "professionalism," sanctions, and international comparisons. He's known as one of the most insightful and sustained researchers in law and political science on the legal occupation and professional literature. The book is published as part of my Quid Pro Books project and is found as such places as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in print (hardcover and paperback) and ebooks. (Alan Childress)
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that the state's bias crime statute is unconstitutionally vague.
The facts from the case headnote
Defendant David Pomianek, Jr., co-defendant Michael Dorazo, Jr., and Steven Brodie, Jr., worked for the Parks and Recreation Division of the Gloucester Township Department of Public Works. Defendant and Dorazo, who are Caucasian, worked as truck drivers. Brodie, who is African-American, worked as a laborer. On April 4, 2007, these men were assigned to work at an old garage used for storage by Public Works. In the garage was a sixteen-foot long and eight-foot wide steel storage cage. The cage was enclosed by a heavy chain-link fence on three sides and a cinder block wall on the fourth side and was secured by a sliding chain-link door with a padlock. A number of employees were horsing around in the building and "wrestling" in the cage. In a ruse, Dorazo approached Brodie and told him that their supervisor needed an item from the cage. Once inside the cage, Dorazo shut the cage door, locking Brodie inside.
A number of Public Works employees began laughing, but Brodie found no humor in his predicament. Brodie recalled defendant saying, "Oh, you see, you throw a banana in the cage and he goes right in," which triggered more laughter among the men. Brodie considered the remark to be "racial" in nature. From his perspective, the line about "throwing the banana in there" was like "being called a monkey in a cage." Brodie admitted, however, that he never heard defendant call him a monkey. The cage door was unlocked after three to five minutes. Brodie felt humiliated and embarrassed. After his release, Dorazo was heard saying, "You all right, buddy? We were just joking around." Brodie replied, "Yeah, yeah, I’m fine."
The incident led to a 16 count indictment and conviction on the bias charges.
At issue in this appeal is the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(3), a bias-crime statute that allows a jury to convict a defendant even when bias did not motivate the commission of the offense. Under the statute, a defendant may be convicted of bias intimidation if the victim "reasonably believed" that the defendant committed the offense on account of the victim’s race. Unlike any other bias-crime statute in the country, N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(3) focuses on the victim’s, not the defendant’s, state of mind. The defendant’s fate depends not on whether bias was the purpose for the commission of the crime but on whether the victim "reasonably believed" that was the purpose. Whether a victim reasonably believes he was targeted for a bias crime will necessarily be informed by the victim’s individual experiences and distinctive cultural, historical, and familial heritage –- all of which may be unknown or unknowable to the defendant.
Although a jury found defendant David Pomianek, Jr., guilty of the disorderly persons’ offense of harassment, it found him not guilty of purposely or knowingly harassing the victim because of the victim’s race or color. The jury, however, convicted defendant of bias harassment on the ground that the victim either "reasonably believed that the harassment was committed with a purpose to intimidate him" or that "he was selected to be the target [of harassment] because of his race [or] color." Based on the bias-intimidation verdict, defendant was also convicted of official misconduct.
The Appellate Division reversed the bias-harassment conviction. It concluded that a conviction "based on the victim’s perception" and not on the "defendant’s biased intent" would violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. State v. Pomianek, 429 N.J. Super. 339, 343, 358-59 (App. Div. 2013). To save N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(3), the Appellate Division rewrote the statute to impose a state-of-mind requirement and remanded for a new trial on both bias harassment and official misconduct. Id. at 343-44.
We hold that N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(3), due to its vagueness, violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In focusing on the victim’s perception and not the defendant’s intent, the statute does not give a defendant sufficient guidance or notice on how to conform to the law. That is so because a defendant may be convicted of a bias crime even though a jury may conclude that the defendant had no intent to commit such a crime. We are therefore constrained to reverse...
The decision is unanimous. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department affirmed the dismissal of a suit brought against Vanity Fair.
Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action for defamation based on allegedly false and disparaging statements in an article published in the September 2010 issue of Vanity Fair ("Cassini Royale") that reports on plaintiff's secret marriage to the late designer, Oleg Cassini, and her conduct in litigation concerning his estate. Contrary to plaintiff's contention, the allegedly defamatory statements, including a quoted statement that plaintiff and her sisters used to throw parties in the 1960s that were attended by many wealthy "older guys looking for action," do not imply that plaintiff was a prostitute and lacked sexual morals. Given the overall context in which the statements were made, a reasonable reader would not conclude that plaintiff was a prostitute or otherwise unchaste. Nor were the statements so "extreme and outrageous" that they would support an action for infliction of emotional distress (citations omitted).
Friday, January 23, 2015
The Washington State Supreme Court has held
The city of Yakima claims the protection of statutes that were designed to protect the rights of those who engage in First Amendment protected communicative activity. U.S. CONST. amend. I. Those statutes-Washington's "anti -SLAPP" laws-protect speakers against frivolous, speech-chilling lawsuits. We hold that a governmental entity like Yakima cannot take advantage of the anti-SLAPP statutes at least where, as here, the challenged lawsuit is not based on the government's own communicative activity. We reverse the Court of Appeals' decision to dismiss as moot Yakima's appeal of the trial court's decision to deny Yakima's anti-SLAPP motion. Instead, we hold that the case is ripe for review and reinstate the trial court's decision to deny Yakima's antiSLAP motion.
The case involves an employment claim by the police officer contending that he had been subjected to a hostile workplace as a result of internal investigations into complaints filed by fellow officers. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Florida Supreme Court has approved an ethics opinion dealing with whether providing medicaid advice violates prohibitions on the unauthorized practice of law
the Florida Bar Elder Law Section’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Subcommittee petitioned the Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law (Standing Committee) for an advisory opinion on whether it constitutes the unlicensed practice of law for a nonlawyer to engage in the following Medicaid planning activities leading up to the Medicaid application: (1) drafting of personal service contracts; (2) preparation and execution of qualified income trusts; or (3) rendering legal advice regarding the implementation of Florida law to obtain Medicaid benefits.
It is the opinion of the Standing Committee that it constitutes the unlicensed practice of law for a nonlawyer to draft a personal service contract and to determine the need for, prepare, and execute a Qualified Income Trust including gathering the information necessary to complete the trust. Moreover, a nonlawyer should not be authorized to sell personal service or Qualified Income Trust forms or kits in the area of Medicaid planning.
It is also the opinion of the Standing Committee that it constitutes the unlicensed practice of law for a nonlawyer to render legal advice regarding the implementation of Florida law to obtain Medicaid benefits. This includes advising an individual on the appropriate legal strategies available for spending down and restructuring assets and the need for a personal service contract or Qualified Income Trust.
It is the position of the Standing Committee that a nonlawyer’s preparation of the Medicaid application itself would not constitute the unlicensed practice of law as it is authorized by federal law. As noted earlier, it is also not the unlicensed practice of law for DCF staff to tell Medicaid applicants about Medicaid trusts and other eligibility laws and policies governing the structuring of income and assets when relevant to the applicant’s facts and financial situation.
The court order states that the inquiry was a result of activities of the Forida Department of Children and Families.
The opinion has the force and effect of the court's orders. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The double parker is not always responsible for any accident that results from being double parked, according to a decision from the jurisdiction most likely to deal with double parkers.
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department affirmed summary judgment for the double parker
The fact that a vehicle is double parked "does not automatically establish that such double parking was the proximate cause of the accident" (DeAngelis v Kirschner, 171 AD2d 593, 595 [1st Dept 1991]). Here, plaintiff established her prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by demonstrating that the location of her vehicle merely furnished the condition or occasion for the occurrence of the event but was not one of its causes...
The record demonstrates that plaintiff's vehicle was double parked on a one way street. Defendants' vehicle, moving in the same direction, successfully passed plaintiff's vehicle on the left and pulled approximately three to four car lengths in front of it before stopping. One to two seconds later, defendants' vehicle drove in reverse in an erratic manner and struck the front of plaintiff's car, which was stationary at all times. According to plaintiff, while defendants' vehicle was moving in reverse towards her vehicle, she had her foot on the brake and sounded her horn. Defendants' vehicle did not stop, and plaintiff had no time to react before the collision. After the accident, the driver of defendants' vehicle told plaintiff that he was sorry, that the accident was his fault, and that he was having an argument with his passenger and had accidently backed up into plaintiff's vehicle.
No mention whether George Costanza had anything to do with this. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
My favorite issue of the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics -our yearly compilation of student notes on current developments in ethics law - has just hit the street.
This issue holds up well with the past editions and gives the reader excellent exposure to the hottest legal ethics issues that face 21st century members of the legal profession.
As co-faculty advisor (along with my colleague Professor Mitt Regan) to the journal, I am biased in its favor.
With that disclaimer, I highly recommend that all practitioners with an interest in ethics take a look.
Kudos to the journal staff for their hard work and dedication to this notable contribution to the profession. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
The Indiana Supreme Court has held that certificates of death are public records, in response to the requests of a newspaper and an individual
In our society, death is an intimate and personal matter. We recognize that public disclosure of the details of a decedent’s death may cause pain to his family and friends. We are also mindful of the importance of open and transparent government to the health of our body politic. Our General Assembly has considered these competing interests and, insofar as we can determine, concluded that the public interest outweighs the private. Indeed, in recent history, it has rejected three bills that would have exempted death certificates from APRA. See H.B. 1067...Even if we wished to rebalance the scales, it is beyond our power to do so.
The court traced the history of death records in the state going back to the work of Senator Flavius J. Van Vorhis of Marion in 1881. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, October 2, 2014
A death sentence imposed upon a dog was reversed by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
On March 6, 2013, Bluefield Animal Control Officer Randall Thompson responded to a complaint about two dogs at Ms. Robinson’s residence. The complaint stated that one dog was running at large and that a second dog had inadequate shelter.
While investigating the complaint at Ms. Robinson’s residence, Officer Thompson was attacked by one of Ms. Robinson’s dogs, Major. Major was “tied-up” when Officer Thompson arrived at the residence. While Officer Thompson was talking to Ms. Robinson, Major broke free from the chain and bit Officer Thompson on both of his hands. Officer Thompson sought medical treatment following this incident.
A death order can only be imposed on
satisfactory proof that the dog is “vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons or other dogs or animals” [that] must be presented before a circuit court or a magistrate.
The proof here did not meet that standard.
Justice Loughry favored death to the dog
In complete disregard of the unfortunate truth that not all dogs are like the beloved Lassie, a vicious dog has been granted a pardon by the highest court of this State. Indeed, the majority of this Court has seemingly turned a blind eye to the fact that the dog in question broke free of its chain and engaged in a brutal and unprovoked attack upon an experienced humane officer, whose resultant injuries required surgery and a hospitalization that approximated five days.
The majority also seems to disregard the fact that the dog’s owner pled guilty to owning and keeping an animal known by her to be vicious, dangerous, and in the habit of biting persons in violation of Bluefield City Ordinance § 4-49. While I, too, love animals, and have fond memories of my childhood companion and faithful dog, “Bozo,” my affinity does not blind me to the sad reality that some dogs are dangerous and vicious, and inflict serious injuries, and even death, on innocent victims
The pardoned dog is a pit bull terrier. (Mike Frisch)
Sunday, September 7, 2014
The role of the legal profession and procedural-systemic advantages to repeat players and corporations are both at the heart of Marc Galanter's 1974 article "Why the 'Haves' Come Out Ahead." He wanted to make it available to classes and the like in a short-ish, cheap book, so I worked with him and we did that. Here's the 40th-anniversary paperback at Amazon, and in a week or two we'll add ebooks and a hardcover version. For now, though, it may be that profs who teach from the article and assign a photocopy may prefer this new incarnation by Galanter (Wisconsin) and his new introduction. It also adds new commentary by Shauhin Talesh (UC-Irvine) and Robert Gordon (Stanford). Obviously I have an interest in it, as series editor and publisher, so take this FWIW, but I did think teachers would want to know it's out now in this form. I was happy to work with Marc to release it this way. [Alan Childress]
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Collection of papers on "Jews and the Law" and in the legal profession: now published as a book and ebook
Collecting essays presented in a conference held at Cardozo Law School a few years ago, editors Ari Mermelstein, Victoria Saker Woeste, Ethan Zadoff and Marc Galanter have published a new book on Jews and Judaism in the legal profession and law. Called Jews and the Law, it is a book of legal history and current insights about the profession, law firms, networks, assimilation, and antisemitism. Here is a story about it by Dan Ernst on Legal History Blog. It was published through my Quid Pro Books publishing project, and so it no longer sits as a collection of unpublished papers from a conference but is now -- I am proud to say -- a resource that can be read by anyone or recommended to a library to acquire. Its Amazon page for the paperback is here, and it can also be bought at many other places and in ebook sites such as Apple, Play, Kindle and Nook. [Alan Childress]
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that a woman whose then-partner had a child through insemination of an anonymous sperm donor had adequately pleaded parentage of the child in guardianship and adoption proceedings.
Assuming the truth of Susan’s alleged facts, and construing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to her...we conclude that she adequately pleaded that she received Madelyn into her home and openly held Madelyn out as her child. She and Melissa planned to have and raise children together. They prepared Madelyn’s nursery together in the home they had jointly purchased because they "thought it would be a good place to raise a family." When Madelyn was born, Susan was in the delivery room. She alleges: "From the very beginning, Maddie, Melissa, and I were a family. Melissa was the ‘Mommy,’ and I was the ‘Momma.’ Together we were . . . Maddie’s parents, and Maddie was our daughter. I loved Maddie as my daughter, treated her as my daughter, and saw her as my daughter."
Susan’s allegations, taken as true, indicate that Melissa also regarded Susan as Madelyn’s parent as evidenced by, among other things, giving Susan a greeting card commemorating the "Birth of Our Baby," and including her as "Momma," and her parents as Madelyn’s grandparents, on Madelyn’s family tree. The allegations also indicate that Susan appeared "to the world" to be Madelyn’s parent. Madelyn shares Susan’s last name. Susan was named as a parent, along with Melissa, in birth announcements and in a church ceremony. Susan was named as a parent in Madelyn’s school and medical records, and was treated as a parent at Madelyn’s preschool.
The court concluded that the governing statutes apply equally to men and women and that the "lack of a biological connection" was not a bar to a parent-status claim. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, June 26, 2014
A longtime Kansas City Royals baseball fan who lost a jury verdict for an eye injury allegedly sustained during the "Hotdog Launch" by team mascot Sluggerrr gets a new trial.
The plaintiff was at a sparsely attended game with the Tigers.The court noted that the Royals won.
He and his father had moved down into choice seats nearthe dugout. He claimed he was struck by a hand-tossed hotdog but did not report any injury at the time. In fact, he attended the next night's game.
He sought medical attention and claimed the toss caused a detached retina. He advised the Royals of his claim eight days after the incident.
Sluggerrr had no memory of the event.
The jury found the plaintiff 100% at fault.
From the web page ofthe Missouri Supreme Court
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
A law firm's suit for defamation was dismissed by the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department:
In this action for defamation, plaintiffs, a law firm and its two members, allege that defendant, the chief executive of a party named as a defendant in a law suit brought by plaintiffs on behalf of their client, NDTV, defamed them in an interview conducted by a journalist in India and published in an online Indian financial publication. Among the allegedly false and defamatory statements made by defendant were that the plaintiff firm is a two-lawyer, Florida-based law firm specializing in restaurant law, that it accepted cases on a contingency basis, and that it broached the topic of settlement with their client's adversaries in an attempt to "extort" money from them.
The motion Court properly found that plaintiffs failed to state a valid cause of action for defamation. Given the overall context in which the statements were made, a reasonable reader would conclude that they constitute hyperbole and convey non-actionable opinions about the merits of the lawsuit and the motivation of NDTV's attorneys, rather than statements of fact.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Most of the ebooks and print books produced by the book project I started in 2010, called Quid Pro Books, are on law, history or political science, and are not really the topic of this blog. But one we released this week goes to its core. It is a republication, in Kindle, Google Play, and Nook formats (and next week in Apple iTunes; this summer in paperback), of the renowned collection edited by Robert Dingwall and Philip S.C. Lewis, The Sociology of the Professions: Lawyers, Doctors and Others. The new edition adds a substantive 2014 Foreword by Sida Liu of the University of Wisconsin. Chapters are by Dingwall, Lewis, Paul Atkinson, Maureen Cain, John Eekelaar, Eliot Freidson, Marc Galanter, Gordon Horobin, Malcolm Johnson, Geoff Mungham, Topsy Murray, Alan Paterson, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, P.M. Strong, and Philip Thomas. A full description is found at any of the links above.
We also just released a courtroom thriller by University of Houston law prof David Crump, The Target Defendant. Its ebooks are out already, and the paperback will follow next week. And last month we published a mystery novel by Stanford law prof Lawrence Friedman, called Who Killed Maggie Swift? Here is an interview of Professor Friedman in Palo Alto Weekly in which he discusses mystery writing and his other books with this publishing project ... and shouts out to me! [Alan Childress]
Friday, February 7, 2014
An interesting opinion from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department sounds like a New York, New York kind of a story
This case, apparently one of first impression, aptly illustrates the well-known axiom that cautions against mixing business with pleasure. The question presented is whether a so-ordered stipulation, agreed upon by plaintiff and defendant Valenti in Family Court and which precludes all contact between them except by counsel, renders impossible the performance of two prior contracts between plaintiff and Jayarvee, Inc., Valenti's artist management company. We hold that it does.
Plaintiff is a well-known professional jazz singer. Valenti is the sole shareholder and president of Jayarvee, a corporation that manages musical artists, produces musical recordings, and owns and operates the well-known jazz club Birdland. Plaintiff and Valenti met in 2003 while plaintiff was performing at Birdland, and the two quickly kindled a romantic relationship. By early 2004, plaintiff had moved into Valenti's Manhattan apartment. They became engaged that year, and for some years held themselves out as husband and wife, although they never married. They also developed a professional relationship, many details of which are still at issue in Supreme Court.
By 2011, the couple's personal relationship had deteriorated. Plaintiff alleges that in or about March 2011, Valenti obtained her private electronic materials — in part by physically overpowering her — and subsequently made repeated threats to release those materials to the public. He allegedly stated that he would ruin plaintiff's professional career and personal life by posting the data on the internet.
Despite the ongoing personal drama between plaintiff and Valenti, their professional relationship continued. Plaintiff and Jayarvee — with Valenti signing as the company's president — entered into a recording contract and a management contract in April 2011 and June 2011, respectively. Plaintiff moved out of their shared residence in May 2011.
Nonetheless, in October 2011, plaintiff commenced a Family Court proceeding in which she sought an order of protection against Valenti. The court granted a temporary order of protection that, inter alia, prevented Valenti from contacting plaintiff, either directly or through third parties. The order was extended on consent several times through June 2012.
Plaintiff commenced the instant action on November 21, 2011 — while the Family Court proceeding was pending — against Valenti, Jayarvee, and plaintiff's accountant, Howard Weiss (who is not a party to this appeal). Among other things, plaintiff sought rescission of the contracts and a declaration that Jayarvee was in breach. In April 2012, defendants answered, Valenti counterclaimed for the return of an engagement ring he had given to plaintiff, and Jayarvee counterclaimed for breach of the contracts. Defendants then moved for a default judgment against plaintiff for failure to timely respond to the counterclaims; the motion was ultimately denied. In their verified answer, Valenti and Jayarvee — and Valenti, in his affidavit in support of defendants' motion for default — argued that the temporary order of protection had made performance of the contracts impossible.
Plaintiff and Valenti resolved the Family Court matter on June 13, 2012, by entering into a stipulation, so-ordered by the court. Under the terms of the stipulation, plaintiff withdrew her petition without prejudice, and both parties agreed to have no further contact with each other. The stipulation specified that "[n]o contact shall include no third party contact, excepting counsel." Following that provision, there is language, visibly crossed out, that would have allowed for contact by "other individuals at Jayarvee or [Valenti's] place of business." Thereafter, plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on her claims for rescission of the contracts. Supreme Court granted the motion and declared both contracts terminated on the ground of impossibility. We now affirm.
The court intrepeted and applied the doctrine of impossibility. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, February 6, 2014
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has affirmed the divorce decree, initial custody and visitation orders in a domestic dispute that involved the twin sister of Jill Kelley, noted for her role in the General Petraeus downfall.
The litigation had been the subject of numerous media reports because of the Petraeus connection.
The court remanded for further proceedings a motion to modify the custody award to the father and dismissed an appeal to the attorney's fees award "for lack of a final order."
The National Organization for Women Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf of the mother.
Judge McLeese wrote the division's opinion. (Mike Frisch)