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Monday, October 16, 2017
O'BRIEN V. O'BRIEN: YES, GUYS, THE AUTOMATIC ORDER THAT PROHIBITS PARTIES FROM DISPOSING OF MARITAL ASSETS APPLIES TO YOU!
I feel somewhat out of my depth when it comes to discussing divorcing couples who deal in millions when it comes to their Court matter, but I will try in my modest way to draw some parallels between my case and that of the O'Briens. I can't imagine having so much money to play around with and fight over!
It may surprise you but I wasn't really serious about getting a divorce. What led me to file for divorce was the fact that I was receiving notifications in the mail that my ex husband was selling considerable amounts of stock. I had been told that the automatic orders would prohibit such sales. Filing for divorce was my way of putting a stop to those sales until I could figure out whether my ex husband was having some kind of nervous breakdown or not which was leading him to mishandle our finances.
However, surprise surprise--yes ladies, you will understand my sarcasm--even after I had filed for divorce and the automatic orders kicked in, my ex husband continued with these ongoing sales of stock and my attorney did nothing to stop him. In fact, when I brought my concerns up with my attorney he pretty much stated the equivalent of "boys will be boys" and men have to be able to manage their accounts without inference from the little woman.
By the time he was finished, my ex had literally disposed of approximately $300,000 or so of our assets which I never saw again, despite the fact that the automatic orders do state that parties are not allowed to sell or hide assets. I pointed that out to my attorneys repeatedly and they took no interest in that issue whatsoever; they were too interested in threatening me with the loss of the custody of my children in which they were busily colluding with the opposing attorney.
The bottom line?
How dare women have the nerve to think they have any right to the marital assets they played a major role in accumulating? That's how the vast majority of legal professionals feel about women and money in family court. For the better part, how attorneys conduct the legal process that results in divorce is ultimately informed by the attitude that women should put up and shut up and that the outcome that results from the legal proceedings should benefit fathers considerably. It is not surprising, then, that this is the attitude that pervades the discussion of the O'Brien v. O'Brien case in the August 3, 2017 CT Law Tribune.
I want to preface this commentary by discussing the title of this CT Law Tribune article, i.e. "Millions at Stake in Quarrel..." How come the author of this article, Michael Marciano, refers to this matter as a "quarrel" as if it were a mere quibble, a kitchen controversy, or a matter of some trivial or foolish import? I am fairly certain that were this not a family court matter that the legal issue here would have been referred to in more masculine terms as a "dispute." But this is how the legal profession tries to imply that the issues at stake in a family court matter are just silly beyond words. However, I am sure that if an attorney were owed millions in legal fees from an uncooperative former client, he or she would never refer to his claim as a quarrel; I have no doubt in my mind it would be called a dispute. As we all know, matters that affect attorneys are significant, while those that affect mothers and fathers, are not.
What was at issue here in the O'Brien contretemps? In this case, Mr. Michael O'Brien was accused of being in contempt of a provision of the automatic orders as follows:
(1)]Neither party shall sell, transfer, exchange, assign, remove, or in any way dispose of, without the consent of the other party in writing, or an order of a judicial authority, any property, except in the usual course of business or for customary and usual household expenses or for reasonable attorney's fees in connection with this action.
What were Michael O'Brien's actions which led him to be accused of violating this provision?
According to Mr. Marciano's article, Mr. O'Brien "sold 28,127 shares of company stock and exercised options to liquidate another 75,000 shares" which amount to $2.5 million worth of transactions between 2009 to 2012.
Ok, now that seems like a direct violation of the automatic orders to me. What does it say in the automatic orders? It says, "Neither party shall sell..." What did Mr. O'Brien do? Mr. O'Brien "sold" stock. This seems like an open and shut case of the violation of the automatic orders to me and apparently all seven of the Supreme Court Justices of the Supreme Court agree. That's seven pretty smart people who agree with me!
Attorney Gary Cohen challenges this conclusion stating that such an interpretation of the automatic orders would hamstring litigants who are conducting transactions to maintain their financial portfolio. But this is comparing apples and oranges. For example, before he started conniving in preparation for our divorce, my ex carried out the kinds of transactions Gary Cohen uses as an example, i.e. selling stock in some companies and buying others on a regular basis and consulting with his stockbroker in order to make the best decisions based upon the market. This kind of transaction is the kind that the automatic orders are addressing when you talk about "the usual course of business". They essentially maintain the health and viability of your portfolio and are in accordance with ongoing practices.
As long as such transactions were consistent with the kinds of transactions conducted in the past and continued on in the manner anticipated by the party's financial planning with their business advisor, this would have been perfectly in accordance with the provisions of the automatic orders. However, Michael O'Brien's decision to sell company stock subsequent to filing for divorce was a dramatic departure from his previous actions and the outcome of those actions was the loss of $3.8 million in additional value that the stock might have eventually had were they not sold. A decision of that magnitude, that was a departure from prior actions, quite reasonably required the consultation of the Court and the opposing side and the idea that this is not so is nonsense.
Another argument that is nonsense is the idea that consulting the Court in such matters would "further clog an overburdened court system."
No it would not.
The provision prohibiting the sale or disposal of marital assets is only about those situations that are outside the ordinary course of business. Such transactions are not frequent enough to become a problem unless, of course, the attorneys want it to be. This quarrelsome case, for instance. Think about it. When seven justices vote unanimously that the original trial court decision was correct, this tells you that the entire appeals process which ultimately arrived at the Supreme Court, and is now being continued with a motion for consideration, and which probably cost the parties multiple thousands and thousands of dollars in attorney's fees, was a complete waste of time because the original decision was solidly based in the law. This is where attorneys are making a financial bonanza, in appealing a decision that is not appealable because it is right and they all know it!
Finally, let's talk about the issue of contempt. Apparently, both sides agreed that "Michael O'Brien appeared to be acting in good faith when he exercised his stock options, and showed no intention towards depleting his or Kathleen O'Brien's marital assets." Apparently, you can only be held in contempt if you took action while not acting in good faith.
I find such a conclusion laughable.
I am assuming that Mr. Michael O' Brien who makes a salary of $1.2 million a year is a reasonably intelligent man. I am assuming that Mr. O'Brien can read the automatic orders the same as you and I. I am assuming he is a native English speaker. Again, what do the automatic orders state? "Neither party shall sell...any property..." If you are driving a car and you know that the traffic rules state, "You shall not run through a red light" nonetheless, you run through a red light, is it intentional? I leave the conclusion up to you, my readers. At the very least, if you have the slightest bit of doubt, you should consult your attorneys. Perhaps what this case requires is a complaint for attorney malpractice!
A note to Mr. Michael Marciano, our new Chief of Bureau for the CT Law Tribune who wrote this article. If you have attorneys coming to you and whining--attorneys such as Daniel Klau, Gary Cohen or horror of horrors Attorney Campbell Barrett--seriously do not pay any attention to them. Their attitudes are drenched in male privilege. As for Klau and Cohen, my best guess is that they are trying to placate their client for his defeat and their wasting his attorneys fees by giving him a pat on the back in the pages of your Tribune.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
ANOTHER READER RESPONSE TO NEWS THAT THE FAMILY COMMISSION IS DISBANDING, GOING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!
There are lots of Munro stories. My favorite relates to her supposed oversight of Stamford attorney Gary Cohen's "community service." Cohen had been grieved by a former client for extorting $300,000 for himself and another $300,000 for the client's ex wife's lawyer. Miraculously, the grievance panel found that Cohen had engaged in unethical conduct.
See: http://www.jud.ct.gov/SGC/decisions/060020.pdf. (For a good laugh, note the discussion of Cohen's expert, fellow divorce lawyer Gaetano Ferro, who found Cohen's behavior ethical.)
This case represents, to my knowledge, the only time any member of the Connecticut divorce bar has been sanctioned for any behavior whatsoever.
Cohen was then required to perform something like 200 hours of "community service" pursuant to a subsequent settlement with the Statewide Grievance Committee. Munro was assigned to "oversee" Cohen's community service. However, Cohen wasn't up doing the required hours of community service. So Munro then gave Cohen credit for community service performed on his behalf by one of his associates, whom Cohen presumably paid. Thus, Munro unilaterally eliminated the Statewide Grievance Counsel's community service penalty.
Munro subsequently retired from the bench and is now a partner at Pullman & Comley which just happened to be the law firm that represented Cohen in the grievance matter.
To summarize: Cohen is actually found to have engaged in unethical conduct, Munro unilaterally commutes his community service sentence, and then Cohen's law firm pays back Munro by making her partner.
Just another day at the office for corruption in Connecticut's family courts . . . .