Midwin Charles & Associates LLC Newsletter
Midwin Charles has been selected
as a guest lecturer at the Institute for the Study of the Judiciary, Politics,
and the Media (IJPM) at Syracuse University for Spring 2009.
IJPM is an academic institute
devoted to the interdisciplinary study of issues at the intersection of law,
politics, and the media. The institute
sponsors lectures, conferences, and symposia designed to foster discussion and
debate between legal scholars, sitting judges, and working journalists.
IJPM is a collaborative effort
between Syracuse University's College of Law, Maxwell School of Citizenship and
Public Affairs and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. For more
information on IJPM, go to http://jpm.syr.edu
Revenge of the Wives
by Midwin Charles
Earlier this month, Barbara
Walters listened to architect Peter Cook defend the extramarital sexual
adventures that triggered his bitter and wildly gossiped about divorce from
celebrity model Christie Brinkley this summer.
Cook is the lesser known of a series of high-profile men who have
suffered enormous personal and professional losses in the last several years
due to sex scandals, including Jim McGreevey, Elliot Spitzer, and John Edwards.
In most cases, we watched these
men's wives stand by them at press conferences, looking stunned, while their
husbands announced their infidelities and family betrayals. A few of those women, however, struck back.
Brinkley and Dina Matos McGreevey both sued in the courts to obtain custody
and/or child support from their husbands.
(McGreevey claimed he had no income at the time, having entered the
seminary. He currently teaches at a
local New Jersey college and lives in a nearby mansion with, and owned by, his
Both Brinkley and Matos McGreevey
took their grievances to the most public forum possible. Brinkley even requested her divorce hearing
be made public. As a result, the most
lurid details of Cook's transgressions - including his sexual relationship with
his 18-year old assistant and his payment to her of $300,000 to keep the affair
quiet - became widely available.
Was it necessary for Brinkley to
request the hearing be open to the public?
Did Matos McGreevey have to sue for child support and alimony in a trial
televised for the world to see? The
answer is yes.
Both women employed the most
powerful method available to them under the law to seek what they believed to
be their rightful due. This strategy
invited the fiercest public scrutiny of the facts in pursuit of a favorable
adjudication of their grievances. By
introducing a mountain of unvarnished fact (as well as plenty of allegation)
into the record, they limited their husbands' ability to shape the story to
their own favor or plausibly deny its most damaging aspects.
Many criticized these women's
decisions to take their grievances public for the harm it might do their
children, a concern that was essentially moot.
These are public figures, and much of the information aired at these
trials was already widely available.
When Cook and Brinkley's split initially hit the news, Cook's mistress's
attorney promptly gave an interview to Inside Edition with tantalizing details
of the relationship. And who can forget
Jim McGreevey's carefully staged "I am a gay American" press conference?
Of course, the sword is
double-edged. During the McGreevey divorce,
a former McGreevey aide told the Newark Star Ledger he had routinely engaged in
three-way sex with the spouses before the governor's 2001 election. McGreevey himself soon seconded the
Even if this claim were true -
Matos McGreevey flatly denied it - the claim had no relevance in rewarding
either custody or alimony. Issued during
the divorce proceedings, this allegation's sole purpose was to discredit Matos
McGreevey, thereby framing the narrative in a manner more advantageous to the
In going public, Brinkley and
Matos McGreevey did not exact revenge on their ex-husbands, nor did they
attempt to gratuitously shame them.
Rather, they exercised their rights under the law to fight for what they
believed was their due - and the courts largely saw things their way. Brinkley won sole custody of her
children. Matos McGreevey won joint
custody and child support.
When the facts, particularly the
most sordid ones, are to one party's advantage, telling that story in a
courtroom may ultimately be vital to winning the resolution that party seeks.
The question remains, which wife
will be next?
Part I: Five Steps to a Winning Attorney-Client Relationship
(1) Help the Client Understand
the Nature of the Case.
It is the attorney's
responsibility to ensure that the client understands the nature of the case by
taking reasonable steps to explain the legal complexities and possible outcome
of the client's case.
Make sure the client understands
that he or she must let the attorney know when the legal concepts surrounding
the case are not clear.
(2) Help the Client Understand
to the client signing a retainer agreement, he or she needs to be aware of the
costs associated with the attorney's representation of their case.
The attorney's fees should be
reasonable, including covering filing fees, copying, faxing, and phone calls.
The client should not be charged for things like attorney time spent attending
continuing legal education classes, marketing, etc.
Different fee arrangements that
can be made based upon the nature of the case, including contingency fee,
hourly rates, and flat fees. All fees, costs, and expenses should be in
(3) Stay in Touch with the
This is crucial to maintaining a
healthy attorney-client relationship.
The attorney should make an effort to promptly return the client's phone
calls and/or e-mails, and keep the client updated on the progress of the case.
(4) Insist the Client Make All
Insist the client be present at
every court appearance when necessary to avoid default judgments and/or bench
warrants. In addition, encourage the
client to attend every scheduled meeting counsel may have with adversaries and
(5) Keep Copies of Everything.
Keep a copy of the client's file
in a safe place, and the client should keep copies of all documents the
attorney has provided for his or her records.
Stay tuned for Part II in the next volume where clients can learn how to have a winning attorney-client relationship.
MC&A would like to thank
Derek Sells of the Cochran Firm for his support and encouragement. The Cochran Firm provides legal services in the areas of plaintiff's litigation and criminal defense,
also want to thank interns Yannize Joshua and Kayla Cameron for their hard work
this past summer.
|MC&A is firmly committed to our valued clientelle. We provide a broad range of services in the areas of criminal defense, civil and commercial litigation, immigration, and general corporate and business law.
For more information about how we can be of service to you, call us at 212.551.3617 or send an email to email@example.com.
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