Midwin Charles & Associates LLC Newsletter
Volume II

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In This Issue
Upcoming Appearances
Op-Ed Corner
The Practice Corner
Upcoming Appearances

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.

Op-Ed Corner
 
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 partner.)
 
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 allegation.
 
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 former governor.
 
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?
THE PRACTICE CORNER
 
  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 the Bills.
 
Prior 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 writing.
 
(3) Stay in Touch with the Client.
 
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 Required Appearances.
 
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 judges.
 
(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.
 
Notes
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,  www.cochranfirm.com.  MC&A 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 midwin@charleslawfirm.com.

Midwin Charles & Associates LLC
230 Park Avenue, Suite 1000
New York, New York 10169
212.551.3617
www.charleslawfirm.com

© 2008 Midwin Charles & Associates LLC