As Angelina Jolie moved this week to continue her nearly five-years-long child custody fight against Brad Pitt — by filing an appeal against a judge’s new ruling that granted Pitt joint custody — a growing chorus of family law attorneys question whether she’s really concerned about the best interests of their six children.
They say this for several reasons, beyond the fact that a 50/50 custody arrangement is “standard operating procedure” for most divorces in California, said Peter Walzer, a Los Angeles-area family law attorney who has handled celebrity divorces.
Walzer and Daniel Nottes, a New York-based family law attorney, both expressed dismay that the actor, director and United Nations humanitarian pressed the court to have her teenaged children testify about what they experienced from Pitt’s parenting and during their parents’ marriage, which ended in 2016.
It can be traumatic for children and teenagers to testify in divorce cases, which can involve sharing personal information and sometimes feeling as though they are testifying “for” one parent and “against” the other, the attorneys said.
“To spend all this money on continuing to pursue the case, and to try to put the kids on the stand, all that is just wrong,” Walzer said.
Nottes also said it was highly unlikely that California’s Second District Court of Appeal would reverse the tentative joint custody arrangement worked out by Judge John Ouderkirk; appeals courts are famously reluctant to second-guess trial court decisions.
“I think it’s an act of grasping at straws and a last resort,” Nottes said about Jolie’s appeal. “It seems to me like a very long Hail Mary play.”
Another reason Walzer and Nottes wonder about Jolie’s endgame is that her children are growing up, so it becomes increasingly difficult for a court to even enforce the usual custody issues of where children will live and how much time they will spend with either parent.
The couple’s oldest, 19-year-old Maddox, is in college, no longer a minor and therefore not covered by a custody agreement. And their three teenagers — 17-year-old Pax, 16-year-old Zahara and 14-year-old Shiloh — will not remain minors for long.The couple also are parents to 12-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox.
“As children get into their teenage years, there is only so much a court can do to force teenagers to spend time with either parent,” Nottes said. “Sometimes they don’t want to see mom or dad. They want to go to their boyfriend or girlfriend’s house. They want to do sports or be with their friends. The courts try to do what’s best for the children but they understand once they get to 15, 16, 17, there’s not much courts can do at that point.”
The ongoing custody dispute between the one-time Hollywood power couple comes four years and eight months after Jolie filed for divorce in 2016 and two years after a court ruled that they can each consider themselves single. In addition to custody, the couple still need to work out a financial settlement of their assets, which could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Ouderkirk’s ruling on custody was issued a couple weeks ago, and is “tentative,” which allows either side to still ask for modifications, Walzer said.
In her appeal, the “Maleficent” star claimed that Ouderkirk denied her a fair trial. Ouderkirk is a private judge who was hired by Jolie, 46, and Pitt, 57, to oversee their case outside of regular court, where their dispute would be more public. Ouderkirk presided over the estranged couple’s intimate 2014 wedding at their private chateau in the South of France. But Jolie previously tried to get Ouderkirk disqualified, citing his professional relationship with someone from Pitt’s legal team.
In her appellate filing, Jolie said her main complaint against Ouderkirk is that he wouldn’t let her minor teenagers testify. The Daily Mailthat the trial started in December, continued over several months and included a long list of witnesses, including a former nanny, a child psychologist and staff and others who have been around the family.
Nottes said Ouderkirk probably said no to the children testifying because judges usually try to limit children’s exposure to contentious court disputes.
“I think judges are always skeptical of one parent pushing to have a child testify in court, and wonder why a parent would want that,” Nottes said. “Having a child, including a teenager, come in to court to testify against the other parent is a very traumatic experience that the child will live with forever. Judges have their discretion, and many judges will try to keep children out of court.”
In her filing with the appellate court, Jolie cited a California law that says children 14 or older should be allowed to testify if they want to.
Walzer, who participated in the landmark 2010 Elkins Family Law Task Force on reforming California’s family law courts, said the statute on children testifying has good intentions — to let children have a say in matters that affect their lives.
But more than anything, judges must put children’s well-being first and determine if there are less traumatic ways they can give input without taking the stand, Walzer said. They can share their concerns with a mediator, a psychologist or in a one-on-one meeting with the judge.
Walzer said Ouderkirk is known to be a “careful” jurist in Los Angeles legal circles, which means he “probably evaluated the situation and determined the children’s testimony wasn’t appropriate” or necessary. A judge can make that call if he’s concerned that a child isn’t emotionally ready or mature enough to testify, or if he’s concerned the child is being pressured by a parent to testify a certain way, he added.
Jolie’s other complaint against Ouderkirk is that he wouldn’t let her present evidence about Pitt’s alleged history of domestic violence. Walzer and Nottes said domestic violence allegations are common in contentious custody cases; courts will deny custody to a parent who is proven to pose a threat to a child’s safety.
Jolie’s appellate filing doesn’t elaborate on what this evidence might be. Previously filed court documents said that Jolie was prepared to offer “proof” to support her allegations that the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” star was verbally and physically abusive during their decade-long relationship and two-year marriage.
It’s been widely reported that Jolie filed for divorce days after a confrontation broke out on a private flight carrying Jolie, Pitt and their children from France to Los Angeles.
Pitt was accused of being abusive towards Maddox, then 15, during the flight. Jolie’s attorney said at the time that she sought a divorce “for the health of the family.” But investigations by child welfare officials and the FBI were closed with no charges filed against the actor. Pitt also gave interviews in which he admitted that his anger and abuse of alcohol contributed to his divorce. He said he had gone into recovery to deal with his issues and be a better father. Nottes said Ouderkirk probably felt he didn’t need Jolie’s additional evidence to determine whether Pitt having joint custody would be detrimental to his children.
A source close to JolieSix Thursday that Jolie has never wanted to deny her children a relationship with her father.
“The heart of this dispute has not been about keeping the children apart from their father, it’s been Angelina asking for care for her family,” the source said. “It’s sad that Brad’s people are gloating about a potential win when beating a system that exists to protect families and children from issues that harm their well-being is not something to brag about.”
But other family law attorneys also, given that she and Pitt have clearly spent millions on legal fees as the case has dragged on.
“It has been going on for over four years now, so it’s definitely one of the longest celebrity cases we’ve ever seen,” Los Angeles divorce attorney Kelly Chang Rickert told the Daily Mail in March.
The fact that Jolie has already gone through several different lawyers is an “indication” that the actress “needs to get her own way and isn’t willing to give up,” Rickert added.
Walzer was less charitable, saying, “She’s been notoriously emotional about this case. It’s not about the kids, in my opinion. They could sit down and work this out. What did he do to make her this mad?”
Woman passenger from UK tests Covid positive at Hyderabad airport
Hyderabad: A 35-year-old international passenger who reached the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here on Wednesday has tested positive for Covid-19 after undergoing an RT-PCR test at the airport itself. The woman passenger had traveled from the United Kingdom, which has been categorised as an ‘At Risk Country’.
The passenger has been admitted to the Telangana Institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS) and samples were collected and sent for genetic sequencing. Officials said she did not have any symptoms and that her health condition was being monitored closely.
According to officials, the woman hails from Rangareddy district and was on a visit to UK from Hyderabad. Though her close relatives tested negative, their health condition is also being monitored.
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Revealed: how Sidney Powell could be disbarred for lying in court for Trump | US elections 2020
Sidney Powell, the former lawyer for Donald Trump who filed lawsuits across America for the former president, hoping to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, has on several occasions represented to federal courts that people were co-counsel or plaintiffs in her cases without seeking their permission to do so, the Guardian has learned.
Some of these individuals say that they only found out that Powell had named them once the cases were already filed.
During this same period of time, Powell also named several other lawyers – with their permission in those instances – as co-counsel in her election-related cases, despite the fact that they played virtually no role whatsoever in bringing or litigating those cases.
Both Powell’s naming of other people as plaintiffs or co-counsel without their consent and representing that other attorneys were central to her cases when, in fact, their roles were nominal or nonexistent, constitute serious potential violations of the American Bar Association model rules for professional conduct, top legal ethicists told the Guardian.
Powell’s misrepresentations to the courts in those particular instances often aided fundraising for her nonprofit, Defending the Republic. Powell had told prospective donors that the attorneys were integral members of an “elite strike force” who had played outsized roles in her cases – when in fact they were barely involved if at all.
Powell did not respond to multiple requests for comment via phone, email, and over social media.
The State Bar of Texas is already investigating Powell for making other allegedly false and misleading statements to federal courts by propagating increasingly implausible conspiracy theories to federal courts that Joe Biden’s election as president of the United States was illegitimate.
The Texas bar held its first closed-door hearing regarding the allegations about Powell on 4 November. Investigations by state bar associations are ordinarily conducted behind closed doors and thus largely opaque to the public.
A federal grand jury has also been separately investigating Powell, Defending the Republic, as well as a political action committee that goes by the same name, for fundraising fraud, according to records reviewed by the Guardian.
Among those who have alleged that Powell falsely named them as co-counsel is attorney Linn Wood, who brought and litigated with Powell many of her lawsuits attempting to overturn the results of the election with her, including in the hotly contested state of Michigan.
The Michigan case was a futile attempt by Powell to erase Joe Biden’s victory in that state and name Trump as the winner. On 25 August, federal district court Judge Linda Parker, of Michigan, sanctioned Powell and nine other attorneys who worked with her for having engaged in “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in bringing the case in the first place. Powell’s claims of election fraud, Parker asserted, had no basis in law and were solely based on “speculation, conjecture, and unwarranted suspicion”.
Parker further concluded that the conduct of Powell, Wood, and the eight other attorneys who they worked with, warranted a “referral for investigation and possible suspension or disbarment to the appropriate disciplinary authority for each state … in which each attorney is admitted”.
Wood told the court in the Michigan case that Powell had wrongly named him as one of her co-counsel in the Michigan case. During a hearing in the case to determine whether to sanction Wood, his defense largely rested on his claim that he had not been involved in the case at all. Powell, Wood told the court, had put his name on the lawsuit without her even telling him.
Wood said: “I do not specifically recall being asked about the Michigan complaint … In this case obviously my name was included. My experience or my skills apparently were never needed, so I didn’t have any involvement with it.”
Wood’s attorney, Paul Stablein, was also categorical in asserting that his client had nothing to do with the case, telling the Guardian in an interview: “He didn’t draft the complaint. He didn’t sign it. He did not authorize anyone to put his name on it.”
Powell has denied she would have ever named Wood as a co-counsel without Wood’s permission.
But other people have since come forward to say that Powell has said that they were named as plaintiffs or lawyers in her election-related cases without their permission.
In a Wisconsin voting case, a former Republican candidate for Congress, Derrick Van Orden, said he only learned after the fact that he had been named as a plaintiff in one of Powell’s cases.
“I learned through social media today that my name was included in a lawsuit without my permission,” Van Orden said in a statement he posted on Twitter, “To be clear, I am not involved in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the election in Wisconsin.”
Jason Shepherd, the Republican chairman of Georgia’s Cobb county, was similarly listed as a plaintiff in a Georgia election case without his approval.
In a 26 November 2020 statement, Shepherd said he had been talking to an associate of Powell’s prior to the case’s filing about the “Cobb GOP being a plaintiff” but said he first “needed more information to at least make sure the executive officers were in agreeing to us being a party in the suit”. The Cobb County Republican party later agreed to remain plaintiffs in the case instead of withdrawing.
Leslie Levin, a professor at the University of Connecticut Law School, said in an interview: “Misrepresentations to the court are very serious because lawyers are officers of the court. Bringing a lawsuit in someone’s name when they haven’t consented to being a party is a very serious misrepresentation and one for which a lawyer should expect to face serious discipline.”
Nora Freeman Engstrom, a law professor at Stanford University, says that Powell’s actions appear to violate Rule 3.3 of the ABA’s model rules of professional misconduct which hold that “a lawyer shall not knowingly … make a false statement of fact of law to a tribunal”.
Since election day last year, federal and state courts have dismissed more than 60 lawsuits alleging electoral fraud and irregularities by Powell, and other Trump allies.
Shortly after the election, Trump named Powell as a senior member of an “elite strike force” who would prove that Joe Biden only won the 2020 presidential race because the election was stolen from him. But Trump refused to pay her for her services. To remedy this, Powell set up a new nonprofit called Defending the Republic; its stated purpose is to “protect the integrity of elections in the United States”.
As a nonprofit, the group is allowed to raise unlimited amounts of “dark money” and donors are legally protected from the ordinary requirements to disclose their identities to the public. Powell warned supporters that for her to succeed, “millions of dollars must be raised”.
Echoing Trump’s rhetoric, Powell told prospective donors that Defending the Republic had a vast team of experienced litigators.
Among the attorneys who Powell said made up this “taskforce” were Emily Newman, who had served Trump as the White House liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services and as a senior official with the Department of Homeland Security. Newman had been a founding board member of Defending the Republic.
But facing sanctions in the Michigan case, some of the attorneys attempted to distance themselves from having played much of a meaningful role in her litigation.
Newman’s attorney told Parker, the judge, that Newman had “not played a role in the drafting of the complaint … My client was a contract lawyer working from home who spent maybe five hours on this matter. She really wasn’t involved … Her role was de minimis.”
To have standing to file her Michigan case, Powell was initially unable to find a local attorney to be co-counsel on her case but eventually attorney Gregory Rohl agreed to help out.
But when Rohl was sanctioned by Parker and referred to the Michigan attorney disciplinary board for further investigation, his defense was that he, too, was barely involved in the case. He claimed that he only received a copy of “the already prepared” 830-page initial complaint at the last minute, reviewed it for “well over an hour”, while then “making no additions, decisions or corrections” to the original.
As with Newman, Parker, found that Rohl violated ethics rules by making little, if any, effort to verify the facts of the claims in Powell’s filings.
In sanctioning Rohl, the judge wrote that “the court finds it exceedingly difficult to believe that Rohl read an 830-page complaint in just ‘well over an hour’ on the day he filed it. So, Rohl’s argument in and of itself reveals sanctionable conduct.”
Govt to introduce important Bill, Covid situation likely to be discussed
The government on Thursday will table ‘The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill 2021’ in the Lok Sabha. A discussion on Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and its various related aspects is also likely to take place in the lower House.
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will move the ‘The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (Amendment) Bill’ in the Lok Sabha to amend the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research Act, 1998.
Under rule 193, a discussion on Covid-19 pandemic and various aspects related to it will likely take place. According to sources, the members may also raise their concern and ask for the government’s preparedness for the new Omicron variant. Under Rule 193, members can seek details about the new Covid variant. “Short duration discussion is likely to be held in the Lok Sabha on the Covid and its various aspects, including new Omicron variant,” sources said.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Prahlad Singh Patel, General V.K. Singh, Krishan Pal, Bhanu Pratap Verma, Rameshwar Teli and Kaushal Kishore will lay papers on the table. Reports and action reports of different standing committees will also be laid in the day.
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Amendment) Bill 2021 (ART) by voice vote as the amendments moved by the DMK MP N.K. Prem Chandran, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy and Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut were negated. The ART Bill seeks to regulate fertility clinics. All such clinics will have to be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India.
The opposition is likely to continue to raise its voices on price rise, unemployment and extended jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in some states. The opposition parties are also demanding a law guaranteeing the minimum support price (MSP).
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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