Texas Frozen Embyo Case Update: Wife To Try Last Desperate Legal Gambit

April 15, 2008

 

The ex-wife in the highly publicized Texas Frozen Embryo Custody case of Roman v. Roman was “devastated” upon hearing the news that the U.S. Supreme Court denied her the right to legal custody of several frozen embryos she had created with her ex-husband prior to their divorce.  Augusta Roman, 46, has said that the embryos are her last chance to become pregnant.   Her ex-husband, Randy Roman asserts that he does not want to create any children with her after their long and bitter divorce. 

Augusta Roman’s local attorney, Becky Reitz, said her client was devastated by the refusal of the Texas and U.S. supreme courts to hear her case.

“She just bawled,” Reitz said. “She cried her eyes out.”

Randy Roman’s attorney, Greg Enos was characteristically understated and said his client was “pleased” with the news and that Mr. Roman was “hopeful that this long ordeal is over”.

It looks however that Randy Roman will have to endure more before the case is finally over.  Augusta has pledged that she is going to exhaust every legal remedy- no matter how long the odds or how much it costs. 

“I told her the only thing we can do is file a motion for reconsideration and it will cost $1,000 just for the printing. She goes, ‘I don’t care”, said Becky Reitz.

Augusta Roman’s last legal option is to motion the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider it’s decision.   The long shot motion is a final desperate gambit.  The U.S. Supreme Court almost never grants such motions, and such motions usually argue that something new has happened since the Court considered the case. 

If the U.S. Supreme Court denies the motion, Augusta Roman will be out of legal options.  If that happens, the embryos will never be implanted.  The embryos will remain frozen under a protective order until the end of the case.  After all legal remedies are exhausted, the embryos will likely be destroyed by the fertility clinic unless the parties agree to have them disposed of differently.

Quotes from an article printed in the Houston Chronicle 


Female Lawyers Get Divorced More Than Male Lawyers

April 14, 2008

A researcher has found that young female lawyers and other women professionals have slightly higher divorce rates than their male counterparts.

Law professor Robin Fretwell Wilson of Washington & Lee University is the author of the study. She says her study indicates that “women can’t have it all because there is a social stigma to having or being a stay-at-home spouse.”

Wilson spoke with the Wall Street Journal about her findings, based on her analysis of 100,000 young professionals in business, law and medicine. She found that 10 percent of women with law degrees were divorced, compared to 7 percent of male lawyers.

Wilson’s study, which will be released next week, also found that female professionals are up to three times more likely to remain unmarried than men.

Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who conducted research on high-achieving women in 2001, theorizes that highly educated women have higher divorce rates than their male counterparts because they are attracted to successful men, and can’t give these men the care and support they need.

Hewlett has this advice for well-educated, high-earning women: Look for a husband who is particularly loving and supportive.

Source:  “Women Lawyers Have Higher Divorce Rates, Need Loving Husbands, Researcher Says” by Debra Cassens Weiss, published in the ABA Journal Weekly Newsletter.


County Clerk Scams Quickie Divorce

January 17, 2008

There are so many “get-divorced-quick” scams out there that it has become common place for people to shell out their money for bogus or at least dubious “divorce services”.  Now it appears that even the trusted clerks are in on the scamming. 

A Miami-Dade County employee was arrested Tuesday for running a quickie divorce scheme out of the clerk’s office, the county’s Office of the Inspector General said.

Olga L. Avila, 46, is accused of promising to provide unrepresented litigants with a fast divorce for $670 cash. In the course of the scheme, Avila, who worked as a courtroom clerk, allegedly falsified and fraudulently notarized documents, and used her access and friends at the Miami-Dade courts to expedite the divorce proceedings.

Of the $670, she used $364 to pay the required filing fee and kept the remainder.

According to OIG, judges ordered the final dissolution of marriages, unknowingly relying on falsely sworn pleadings. Some of the parties, believing they were divorced, entered into new marriages. So far, the OIG investigation has uncovered four couples who obtained divorces through Avila.

Avila has been terminated from her employment, and charged with a total of 52 felony counts.

OIG said the investigation is continuing and that additional arrests are expected.

The lesson to be learned: hire a licensed family law attorney to help you with your divorce.

Source: South Florida Business Journal Business Journal


Suit to Shirk Child Support Flops

November 13, 2007

An appellate panel has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who claimed that Michigan’s paternity law violates the equal protection clause. The lawsuit, filed by the National Center for Men, argued that men involved in unintended pregnancies should have the option to decline financial responsibility for the child. Courts have previously ruled that any possible inequities experienced by men in such circumstances are outweighed by the interests of the child.

Source: Ap, USA Today


Harris County to Build a New Family Law Center In Downtown Houston

November 7, 2007

Harris County voters yesterday approved a $70 million dollar bond to construct a new family law center for Harris County, Texas. The facility will be located in the downtown Houston court complex.

The bond issue passed by a very narrow margin. 50.6% for and 49.4% against.

According to Family District Judge Bonnie Hellums, the building might be open in January 2011.
The new building will be built on the block north of the present one. It will require razing the “Coffee Pot” building which Harris County vacated, and also the teardown of the Lomas & Nettleston parking garage.

The building will be a “one stop shop” for most all family law services. Currently many of the services are spread across downtown. The building will house Family Law Intake, Children’s Protective Services, the Domestic Relations Office, the Attorney General, and the Houston Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Program.

There will be rooms for children to give videotaped testimony via closed circuited television

With one floor left as a shell, the building should be adequate for the county’s family law needs for 15-20 years, Judge Hellums said. She noted the huge caseload carried by the Harris County Family District Courts and predicted it will only increase.

The volatile nature of many family law cases is reflected in safety plans for the new building. Today, to pursue a complaint, Houston area domestic violence victims must go to several agencies in different offices, often by bus, Judge Hellums said. The new building will have offices for assistant district attorneys, law enforcement officers, doctors and the Houston Area Women’s Center.

When protective orders are being argued and negotiated, there will be separate rooms for the litigants, which should reduce tensions. There will be rooms for supervised visitation and monitoring exchanges between custodial and non-custodial parents. Judges will have secure parking in a level below the building reported Judge Hellums.

The New Harris County Family Law Center will also have a drug lab. Litigants suspected of abusing drugs-an issue in many cases- are currently sent to a lab three blocks away. To avoid the drug test, some litigants claim to get lost and arrive shaved (to avoid giving hair follicle samples). This possibility will be eliminated.

Judge Hellums is particularly interested in ensuring there is a designated Family Drug Court, which she currently presides over.

For more information about the new Harris County Family Law Center, go to http://www.hcfamiliesfirst.org/

Sources: Houston Chronicle; Hearsay (Harris County District Clerk Publication).


Texas Frozen Embryo Case of Roman v. Roman On CNN’s Anderson Cooper

November 2, 2007

Follows is the transcript from last nights CNN news show: Anderson Cooper.  In it, Augusta Roman, who has used up all her appeals in Texas indicates that her attorney is working on a brief to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  From politics, let’s turn to a story that is certainly going to have you talking tonight. Divorce cases are often bitter and brutal. And they certainly get worse when there’s a child caught in the middle. But there’s one battle that is not over a boy or a girl. It’s over frozen embryos and just who they belong to. CNN’s Gary Tuchman has our report tonight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are from very different countries and cultures, but Augusta and Randy Roman hit it off quickly when they met in Texas. AUGUSTA ROMAN, FORMER WIFE OF RANDY ROMAN: We wanted to get married and have kids. So, we didn’t really have a long, what you call it… TUCHMAN (on camera): Courtship. A. ROMAN: Courtship. So, we talked about it, and we wanted to get married and start a family. RANDY ROMAN, FORMER HUSBAND OF AUGUSTA ROMAN: She was the woman that — that I married for life, and she was the woman that I wanted to have a family with. TUCHMAN: They had fertility issues and ultimately began in vitro fertilization treatment. Thirteen eggs were retrieved from Augusta’s ovaries. Six were fertilized with Randy’s sperm. The night before they were ready to implant the eggs: A. ROMAN: I got ready for bed. And he just came out of the office and said he has something that’s been on his mind that he wants to talk about. TUCHMAN: Augusta’s husband told her he didn’t want to go through with it. R. ROMAN: I just felt that something wasn’t right and the marriage wasn’t in harmony. A. ROMAN: I was pretty shocked. TUCHMAN: The couple went through marriage counseling, but, ultimately, they got divorced. However, Augusta, who is now 47, still wanted to try to have a baby from the three embryos that survived the freezing process. A. ROMAN: I want my children. Those are fetuses. They’re my children. They’re not just embryos out there. TUCHMAN: Randy Roman says he’s an evangelical Christian, but: R. ROMAN: Not everybody in the Christian community, or in the evangelical Christian community, believes that life begins at conception. And I’m one of those who does not believe that life begins at conception. TUCHMAN: Greg Enos is his attorney. GREG ENOS, ATTORNEY FOR RANDY ROMAN: He doesn’t want to have a child with a person who feels so negatively about him. He — and he wants to have a child in a nuclear family. TUCHMAN: So, in a most unusual divorce case, the Romans are fighting over their embryos. You will be amazed how far that fight has gone. We will tell you when we come back. (END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O’BRIEN: Like many couples, Augusta and Randy Roman wanted to start a family. And their attempts at childbirth lead them to in vitro fertilization treatment. But then the marriage fell apart. She hoped to create a family with the embryos, but he doesn’t want to. CNN’s Gary Tuchman continues his report, showing us just how far both are willing to take this fight. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TUCHMAN (voice-over): Both Augusta and Randy Roman had signed a form, agreeing to have the clinic discard the embryos in the event of a divorce. A. ROMAN: I wasn’t paying attention. I was signing a bunch of forms, trying to get to have babies. That was the only thing on my mind, trying to have babies. REBECCA REITZ, ATTORNEY FOR AUGUSTA ROMAN: My heart just breaks for her. TUCHMAN: Rebecca Reitz is Augusta’s attorney. REITZ: I know that — that society should — should err on the side of protecting life, and — and not destroying life. TUCHMAN: A Texas trial court ruled in favor of Augusta, but then an appellate court ruled in favor of Randy. The Texas Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. Now Augusta’s attorney is preparing briefs for the U.S. Supreme Court. The embryos remain frozen at this clinic. Anti-abortion groups support Augusta. CLARK FORSYTHE, AMERICANS UNITED FOR LIFE: The best-interests- of-the-child standard should be applied here to protect them, without regard to the individual will of either parent. TUCHMAN: One prominent bioethicist disagrees with that. DR. ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA CENTER FOR BIOETHICS: He is involved in the creation of the embryos, as well as her. And you don’t want to put people in a position where they’re being asked to reproduce against their will with someone they don’t want to. TUCHMAN: Randy Roman says his ex-wife has made this very difficult and painful. R. ROMAN: She hates my guts, but she wants my sperm. A. ROMAN: I don’t hate him. I feel — I think he has a problem. And I do pray for him. TUCHMAN: She also prays that the U.S. Supreme Court take the case and rules in her favor. It’s her last legal chance. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Webster, Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE) O’BRIEN: OK. So, you have seen the story. Now to the legal issues that are at the center of this battle. For example, is there any difference between the legal rights of an embryo that’s inside the womb and one that’s outside the womb? We will take a look at that just ahead. *** Now back to that bitter custody battle we have been talking about, a divorced couple fighting over frozen embryos. Is this case going to go all the way to the Supreme Court? We are going to check in with law professor Jonathan Turley right after this short break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) O’BRIEN: In custody cases, courts usually decide by what’s — looking at what is for the best interest of the child. But what if there is a custody case, but no child? What if the fight is over frozen embryos? That’s what is unfolding in Texas between a divorced couple. Randy Roman doesn’t want the embryos implanted. His ex-wife, whose name is Augusta Roman, is hoping that she can use the embryos and have children. A Texas appeals court ruled in his favor, because the two signed a contract saying that those embryos would be discarded upon divorce. Now she’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. Lots to talk about tonight. Joining us is Jonathan Turley. He, of course, is a constitutional law expert at George Washington University. Jonathan, nice to see you, as always. JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Thanks, Soledad. O’BRIEN: The Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case. What do you think the chances are that, in fact, the United States Supreme Court will hear this case? TURLEY: I would bet against it. I have got to tell you, I don’t think that the United States Supreme Court wants any part of this case. It’s very, very complex, in the sense that it has constitutional elements, contractual elements. But, at the end of the day, the Supreme Court generally leaves these things to the states. And I’m willing to bet you that a majority of the justices would agree with the court of appeals on the case. O’BRIEN: At the same time, you have some outstanding issues. She’s older. These embryos can remain frozen until they make a decision. But there’s sort of a clock ticking here in the background. Will that play any role? TURLEY: Well, all of this goes into the mix. I mean, the trial court actually found that, even if the embryos were implanted, she would have only about a 10 percent likelihood of actually bringing a child to full term. O’BRIEN: Because she’s 47 years old. TURLEY: That’s right. But, still, this is still the potentiality of something that she wants very, very much. And that’s what makes this all very, very tragic. And, so, you have this tension between a case — within a case in which you have got constitutional questions which are looming, the Roe v. Wade, you know, right-to-choose/right-to-life questions. But then you also have a sort of purely contractual question of, these are two people that entered a contract and said, we’re going to do something under these conditions. And one of those conditions was that we would not use the eggs unless both of us agreed. O’BRIEN: And it was clear. There was a form that was signed. She said, you know — she’s not saying she didn’t sign the form. The way she describes it, well, you know, there are lots of forms. And I just signed them because I wanted to go ahead and get — you know, get going with having these babies. Will that have any standing in a court? TURLEY: Not really. I mean, I can understand what she’s talking about. Many of us sign things, particularly when we’re distracted or we’re thinking about other matters. But we are held accountable to those. And this was a very important contract. This was dealing with fertilized eggs, the potentiality of being implanted. And I’m afraid the courts will use that lack of judgment or concentration against her. The — the terrible thing for many people, Soledad, is that these eggs are treated as property. They are just part of the estate. And what the court said originally, the trial court, was, this is a community property state. It’s part of community property. I’m going to give it to — give it to her, and she can use these eggs. But the court of appeals said, wrong, that this is subject to a contract. And the court also noted that there’s a strong public policy against requiring people to have children. O’BRIEN: Anti-abortion organizations are supporting Augusta in this. And she says — this is what she said in interview with the Associated Press — “If I was pregnant with these embryos, no one should come and say to me, abort them. There’s no difference,” she says, “between embryos inside the womb and outside the womb. I’m already pregnant.” Is she already pregnant, in the eyes of a court? TURLEY: No, not in the eyes of the court and not legally. She may view that morally… O’BRIEN: And not technically either. TURLEY: Yes, or technically. But she may believe that, morally, that — that that’s true, that this is the potentiality of life. You know, President Bush is opposed to destroying even stem cells under the same theory. But, legally, that’s not the case. And to make this argument to the Supreme Court is going to really buck the trend. Right now, conservatives are trying to take inches away from Roe v. Wade. This would be a moon shot. This would be asking justices to say that a fertilized egg is itself life that deserves full protection that you would give a full-term baby. That’s just not going to happen. And it hasn’t happened. The notable thing, Soledad, is that the courts have been almost uniform — in fact, I think they have been entirely uniform — in ruling against people trying to force an ex-spouse or ex-partner to relinquish control of these — these eggs, that the courts have said, you really cannot force someone to have a child. You have a right to procreate, but there’s a flip side. You have a right not to procreate, unless they signed a contract waiving that right, their right, to you. O’BRIEN: Jonathan Turley is a constitutional law expert with G.W. University. Nice to see you, Jonathan. Thanks so much.


“You Make Me Sick!”: Unhappy Marriages Can Lead To Poor Health

October 17, 2007

A bad marriage can lead to poor health.  According to researchers, marital discord and bad relationships can increase your risk for heart disease. 

Research scientists said on Monday that stress, an acknowledged contributor or health problems is a byproduct of troubled relationships.

In a study of 9,011 British civil servants, most of them married, those with the worst close relationships were 34 percent more likely to have heart attacks or other heart trouble during 12 years of follow-up than those with good relationships. That included partners, close relatives and friends.

The study, in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine, follows previous research that has linked health problems with being single and having few close relationships. In the new study, researchers focused more on the quality of marriage and other important relationships.

”What we add here is that, ‘OK, being married is in general good, but be careful about the kind of person you have married.’ The quality of the relationship matters,” said lead author Roberto De Vogli, a researcher with University College in London.

Source:  AP, N.Y. Times Link to Article


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