Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An Open Letter to Carl Brizzi: Why Do You Get A Free Pass On Divorce Laws?

"Nobody is above the law."

Mr. Prosecutor, in its gravest expression, this quote means the famous, wealthy, and influential who commit illegal acts will be prosecuted, and if convicted, punished with equal fervor as the unknown, destitute, and friendless.

But, to me, it also means every governmental rule, regulation, ordinance, or law applies equally to all. We grant no exemption based on privilege or position. Do you agree as a matter of principle?

Every family law attorney in Marion County knows that when parents divorce, they have to attend a class called "Children Cope With Divorce." It costs $55, and it takes two hours to complete. Its purpose is to ensure that parents appreciate the psychological effects their children suffer by virtue of their conflict. It's an important message. Do you agree as a matter of principle?

Invariably, I have clients who are very amicable with their spouses, even during an emotional breakup. They are the rare few who possess the maturity to put their children first. They ask, "Why do I have to do this?" And I tell them, "Because it's required by the Marion County Family Law Rules." They are not entitled to "waive out" of the class.

As you may know, Mr. Prosecutor, Marion County is not alone. Boone County has the following Local Family Law Rule (LR06-FL00-BLR-17):

In the best interest of all minor children in a divorce action, Petitioner and Respondent shall be required to attend a divorce workshop addressing post-separation parenting and encouraging the ability of parents to enter into agreements concerning child-related matters. To this end, Parties are required to attend the workshop offered through Boone County Mental Health Association entitled “Helping Children Through the Divorce.” Parties are responsible for the payment of the cost of the program, with an allowance for waiver of the fee for indigence. Attendance is mandatory for all parties in a Dissolution of Marriage action if there are unemancipated children under the age of eighteen (18). This course must be completed prior to the Final Hearing. Failure to complete the workshop could result in a party having to show cause why s/he should not be held in Contempt of Court.

You know who got divorced in Boone County? You did, Mr. Prosecutor. According to the docket sheet on that case, your ex-wife filed her certificate of attendance on January 20, 2009. But you never did. The case was closed when you entered a settlement agreement on February 24, 2009.

To my knowledge, no account has ever been given that you are not a truly devoted father. There's no indication you struggle to appreciate how difficult your dissolution is for your children. But can you direct me to the "good Dad" or "elected prosecutor from another county" exemption to the Boone County Local Rule? I can't find it.

Also, Indiana Code § 31-15-2-6(b) provides:

At the time of the filing of a petition under section 4 of this chapter, at least one (1) of the parties must have been: (1) a resident of the county; or (2) stationed at a United States military installation within the county; where the petition is filed for three (3) months immediately preceding the filing of the petition.

How was your ex-wife able to file in Boone County? After all, she truthfully stated in her Verified Petition that she had been a Marion County resident before filing. When did you serve as our Marion County Prosecutor while living outside of our county, except when you resided with Tim Durham (in his Fortville (Hancock County) mansion) briefly during your divorce?

I have clients who would love to avoid the embarrassment of seeing their name in the divorce listing of the Indianapolis Star, and they could do this if they could just file in another county. I also have clients wanting to avoid being seen and having to "waste a Saturday" and $55 on a class they feel they don't need. You know what I tell them when they complain? You have to follow the law.

Do you agree as a matter of principle?



Gary R. Welsh said...

I initially wondered why he filed his divorce case in Boone County; however, upon further thought, I understood the potential for conflicts of interest. Let's assume the case had been filed in Marion County, could not one of the parties petitioned to remove the case to another county because of the potential conflict of interest? I think Boone County could hear the case as long as neither party objected to it exercising jurisdiction. I've always had my divorce client complete the seminar and filed the certification with the court. Not sure why Brizzi was excused. It's possible he completed it but his attorney neglected to file it with the court. In Marion County, the judge would prompt you if it was missing from the court's file.

Anonymous said...

The statute says you must be a resident in the county for 3 months and state for 6 months prior to filing. Unless his wife lived in Boone county for 3 months, the Boone county court did not have jurisdiction. This is not an issue of venue, which in this case, would also not be in Boone county. This is just another example of Brizzi thinking he is the law,

Chris Worden said...

AI: First, as I AM painfully objective, even with those I disagree on a great many things, I have to say that your coverage of this issue has been very good. Thanks for stopping by to post.

But what bothers me about the Boone County filing (aside from the fact it's s jurisdictional and not a venue issue, as noted by anonymous), is that we are supposed to sanction the idea that neither the initial judge, nor any of the three appointed on a special panel (should either party seek the same) could properly apply the law.

Put another way, what IS the conflict of interest? That a Judge of the same party would help Prosecutor Brizzi get more of the property from the divorce by not following the law or by exercising judicial discretion in Mr. Brizzi's favor? Then why wouldn't a judge of the same party help him get convictions that help him get re-elected by not following the law or exercising judicial discretion in Mr. Brizzi's favor?

Food for thought.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I know what the statute says about where the case is to be filed, but I know that parties sometimes file a case in a county other than where they live and the court doesn't refuse to hear the case because of the statute. I represented a party in a child support case in Hamilton County where neither party had ever lived in Hamilton County. I asked my client why the case was filed in Hamilton County originally and was told that her prior attorney told her it was a better county to file the case instead of Marion County.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your blog and the way it makes one who reads it pause to think.

You have raised many interesting points--the chief of which makes me question whether or not Brizzi's wife ever considered the negative impact of not having it in Marion County, for example as you point out the asset division. And, how was it Brizzi got to skip what every divorced/divorcing parent cringes at--the required class for those who have kids.

But, since you have raised the point of the obvious certificate missing, I wonder if we will soon see a backdated version similar to the backdated versions of Brizzi's financials filed over in Marion County.

My elderly parents have been following this case and are completely disgusted with what appears to be two sets of law--one set for common folks like us and the second for people like Brizzi who lately is acting as if, as you mention, he IS the law. Last time I checked his responsibility was to the lowly citizens like you and me who go to the polls and vote so someone like him can collect a nice salary and serve his constituents in a manner that applies the law correctly to all.

Paul K. Ogden said...

My understanding is that the divorce case MUST be filed in Marion County and then can be venued out. He would have a strong grounds for change of venue.

I've never quite understood the notion you can file in another county.

I know an Indianapolis-area judge who filed his divorce down in Jefferson County (Madison, IN) which is two hours away from Indy.

Anonymous said...

Of course a guy that cheated on his wife, let Abdul run cover for him while he did it, and then went on to party like a playboy aboard all things decadent and Tim Durham, is above a child rearing class.

Anonymous said...

Brizzi and Durham have craved the spotlight repeatedly....Durham even took reporters to London to attend a car auction with him....remember?

Now they ate in the spotlight and the truth about them is slowly being revealed.......

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your posts. Like you said, stay tuned for the rest of the story.

You have to think Brizzi is meeting with criminal lawyers. Insider trading by a county prosecutor is no laughing matter. Brizzi did not just guess to completely change his pattern of rare at best stock purchases and suddenly go out and buy a massive position of a small, obscure penny stock for no reason.

And, he didn't continue holding the stock in that company, which was supposed to shut down after two cash dividend distributions totally $2.10 per share, for no reason either. He knows exactly what was going on and it's all going to come out.

For disclosure purposes this is solely my opinion and the last time I heard I am still allowed to have one.

Doug Meagher said...

Very well done Chris! My parents divorced when I was young and I know firsthand the devastating effects. What's more, I'm both amused and angered by these republican hypocrites who deny marriage to me and my (same-sex) partner of 29 years but guard their right to destroy their marriages and families.