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Crimes of Shame and Revenge

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

I have never texted—or sexted—any naughty pictures. No naughty pictures have ever been taken with my “smart phone”. (That said, all the photos I took with my digital camera seem to have gotten onto the phone, and no, I have not d figured out just how.)

But it seems this is not true of everyone. Sending embarrassing or revealing shits of ones self (I gather they are called selfies” to someone seems to be fairly common in the younger crowd. One UK Mom went so far as to berate girls who wanted to date her precious son but who had posted “selfies” on Facebook, or elsewhere. (see here.)

But some of the photos and (as you may have heard in the Steubenville case) Youtube videos are posted by people—not all but often, women or girls-who did NOT consent in any way, shape or form. A post from a man is available here.

Most of these photos MAY be relatively harmless—but I have learned (from an article in the American Bar Association Journal) that there are actually web sites devoted to the sharing of just such compromising photos and that some of the results have included loss of jobs *by the subjects of these photos.) I won’t post a link to these sites as I REFUSE to go see… even in the name of justice. But one was named Texxan.com if you must check. I just saw that this has also been explored by the Huffington Post here.

Needless to say, people also say nasty things about these named but often unsuspecting folks. I have yet to understand how the digital world has  become the playground for so may people’s baser instincts,  but it’s the whole bullying thing, and it’s not pretty.

This has a name—“Revenge Porn.” Apparently , one lady to whom this was done was brave enough to go public with her story, and it is the subject of the article: “Striking back at Revenge Porn”, by Lorelei Laird, in the November issue of the Journal.

There are some remedies. ALL of them involve being wiling to admit this happened to you.

In 2011 I was contacted by a friend—a dear man, who was appalled (and stressed) because his son, who owned a property in SoCal, had been the object if a shame shakedown. I can’t say much about it—attorney client confidentiality you know– but suffice it to say that it didn’t take me long to learn that the thing was based on… shame. The court where the action was files was in DC-and had NO jurisdiction over an alleged user in California. A look at the court docket (thanks for the internet) showed many dismissals “without prejudice.”

Only an attorney would know what that means. It means there was no attorney involved—but someone had settled. (A few many have been dismissed because someone who did spend the money to hire an attorney had challenged these tactics and the court had ordered dismissal of any defendant who had not been served by a certain time.)

Bottom line, the crime alleged was so heinous—it was not just using and sharing porn (sharing is illegal, as with the music sites which have made news)—but the title of the video named was beyond awful and implied a larger crime, child porn. I simply will not post that here, either—but here is a link to a story about these shame based shakedowns. “”It’s a common pattern at this point, they file lawsuits against hundreds or thousands of people at a time,” says Corynne McSherry, intellectual property attorney at the EFF. People are liable as long as their internet connection was used—leaving anyone with a wireless connection vulnerable.”

So it is safe to infer, as I did, that many of those sent this nasty letter ponied up a few thousand and in return had their care dismissed. But if there had been an attorney, the dismissal would have been WITH prejudice—no further suit would have been then permitted.

In my dealings with this abomination. I let both father and son know that best practice would be to hire a DC lawyer to make sure this was breach if facts and law and ethics was brought to the courts attention. Needless to say, neither had that kind of money to spare, but there was ZERO guilt. None. Nada. Zip. “(I could go on”, to quote “Patrick Jane”—one of my favorite fictional characters.)

S so I wrote a scathing letter to the law form which had written the threat letter tit ye form, pointing out that they did not have an IP address, so anyone could have downloaded this material—IF any had been downloaded, and that they had no jurisdiction in any case.

I upbraided the law firm for choosing such a shameful title to allege. I sent the letter by fax and hard copy. I heard nothing further. It seems we “won” that round. (I also got stiffed for half the very small fee I had asked for. Yes, yes, I did take action without prepayment, based on my great affection for the father, who flat out said the son would pay. Like father was not like son, alas Son said I “didn’t do anything” and has been downright nasty to me. Sigh. I have not told dad who would be appalled again if he knew.)

This was a blatant shakedown…based on shame. I will never know if anyone at the physical address had done anything- it was a rental situation with multiple tenants. But the blatant use of shame to shake people down for several thousands dollars a pop was just so wrong.

I am so incensed at the most recent article I am planning to call both the writer if the article and the one lawyer she quoted as saying “there are only about 4 or 5 of us” doing the work of helping these people—in the whole country”.

I can’t help but feel it is foolish to send “sext” photos OR download porn—I would never do either. And if people do send copyrighted material to sharing sites that is flat out illegal. (And  the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  may apply here, in some cases, from what I have read.)

But injustice trumps stupid, for me, so I may join the fray. What I do NOT know is how many people this has affected—and of those, how many could bring themselves to tell anyone. As I say, I have no naughty photos anywhere, nor would I—but I also have no clue how photos I never posted in cyberspace got into my Android phone, so…

We shall see. The things is. there is an affordable remedy short of filing a federal lawsuit… so, stay tuned.

An Inconvenient Truth

November 9, 2013 Leave a comment

I am active on the highly market-effective but (IMHO utterly toxic website Avvo every day. Yes, I climb it because it is there.

It is populated (I have been able to discover) by people who go looking for an answer to a legal question and up there due to heavy SEO action by the site. Their SEO really is that good. Some of the googlers could find the correct answer to their question if they were better researchers, but many (probably most) don’t know the words that fit their situation. But if it involves a family member they go to “Family Law’ and there they are in my feed.

If it is something I don’t know (The details of loss of parental rights, for example) I can always fin the answer in seconds using Google—but I know the magic words. Being a lawyer, I do. The public does not.

So for the vent portion of this blog I will point out that once I Avvo they are met with responses that in a majority of cases are self serving—lawyers are on there trolling for paying work. Their responses are not designed to provide service to the public. (Yes, Virginia lawyers are asked to provide our expertise “pro bono publico”). These responses are often simplistic—“file for a court hearing”—or wrong. (”Your judgment may have expired.”)

Others just don’t know anything but the few things they have picked up doing whatever they do. Litigated divorce, mostly. But family law brings in tax issues, real estate issues, bankruptcy issues, immigration issues (fraudulent marriage), collections (Family law judgments are “evergreen” and never expire) and many other areas of law.

Silly me, I have always made it a point to know stuff. Especially stuff that is relevant to the practice of family law—and any other area that keeps people out of court, like prenuptial agreements and trusts.

As I say—silly me.

But the one area I am still passionate about, although I have moved out if California and have VERY FEW paying clients is getting the word out that fighting a court battle is not helpful and that alternatives exist. (I have not seen a single other attorney inform the “asker” of this fact—EVER. Recently a few have chimed in after I did, bless them.)

So my new mission is to help the many people who find them selves entangled with what Bill Eddy, problem solver extraordinaire, calls the “High Conflict Personality.” These are the bane of courts and all around them,

A brief bio:
“William A. (“Bill”) Eddy IS CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF HIGH CONFLICT INSTITUTE, LLC, IN San Diego, California, AND Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with over FIFTEEN years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.”

He is very clear that this—the “HCP” is a common obstacle to courts and litigants alike.
“An Observable High Conflict Pattern
High-conflict people (HCPs) have a pattern of high-conflict behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. This pattern usually happens over and over again in many different situations with many different people. The issue that seems in conflict at the time is not what is increasing the conflict. The “issue” is not the issue. With HCPs the high-conflict pattern of behavior is the issue, including a lot of:
All-or-nothing thinking
Unmanaged emotions
Extreme behaviors
Blaming others

All-or-nothing thinking: HCPs tend to see conflicts in terms of one simple solution rather than taking time to analyze the situation, hear different points of view and consider several possible solutions. Compromise and flexibility seem impossible to them, as though they could not survive if things did not turn out absolutely their way. They often predict extreme outcomes if others do not handle things the way that they want. And if friends disagree on a minor issue, they may end their friendships on the spot – an all-or-nothing solution.”

But it gets better- he has tools for helping courts, ex-spouses and even governments deal with this pattern of behavior.

I downloaded and am internalizing his book “Biff: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns [Kindle Edition]” available here:

BIFF is an acronym for Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm.” The trick to making headway with these people is to have, wait for it… empathetic listening skills. I full understand that most people who have been enmeshed with this conflict for what seem like forever will have a tough time with the empathy—I count myself prone to this myself. But the tools for communicating in the way Bill describes are learnable. And, in my opinion, this the only hope for the ex spouse and co-parent of such a person. (It also works with obnoxious friends and family too, of course.) It takes practice, as this review by a lawyer acknowledges: By David J. Spellman
This is an excellent book.
Bill Eddy, an experienced lawyer and LCSW, is an expert on “High Conflict People.” In fact, the chart on Axis II on page 15 is alone worth the price of the book! Bill advises that we respond to communications from High Conflict People with BIFF…a response that is Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.
I see the wisdom in Bill’s approach. But it is a challenge to my lawyerly instincts, because of the old legal maxim that “silence is assent” I tend to be sure to address and refute each allegation, point-by-point. But that just feeds into the dynamic of the High Conflict Person with whom I am communicating! This is a very wise and helpful book.

The hardest part (after mastering the tools) is that the system—courts—is do not yet begin to grasp that there is no hope that punishing these people will reform them. So I have Bill’s blessing to blog my heart out in hopes the PUBLIC will get the word.

Finding this quote yesterday inspired me to FINALLY write this first such blog:

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained. “
o Mahatma Gandhi Young India 1924-1926 (1927), p. 1285

You see, some lawyers are High Conflict People too. And one of those was my tipping point. He lives to insist I am wrong– it matter not what I say, it is wrong. He is blind to irony, humor or EVEN BEING AGREED WITH. He will find a point to argue. Happily for me another women lawyer has begun to call him out. (He is unfazed but it tickles me. But I digress..)
o
It is an error to think and act as though punishing an HCP will stop their flawed thinking and bad acting. (Reasoning also does not work.) Heaven help this lawyer’s clients.

But in any case, if you are wondering why your (ex) wife wants to make an issue of some book fines from school, even when you did nothing to incur them, or in any way bring them about—like a frustrated dad I spoke with via Avvo… this may restore your sanity.

I dare hope so.