More Morrissey misery? The Weisberg case

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In my previous entry, I wrote about several cases in which District Judge Linda Morrissey had been reversed on appeal for abuse of discretion and errors in law. In just four hours of searching, despite internet connection problems for about half of that period and no easy way to find reversals for a given judge, I found eight such cases, by no means an exhaustive list of Morrissey's reversals.

As I expected, the entry received a lawyerly comment (posted from an IP address associated with the Tulsa law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold) pooh-poohing the significance of these errors.

All trial judges err. Unlike some professions, a judge's error is not always indicative of incompetence. Many matters of law are unsettled, and in such cases, a reversal indicates only that the appellate court disagrees, not that the district court should have known better.

I don't buy it, and neither should the voters. In only one of the cases I looked at was there anything unsettled in the law, and in that case Morrissey went entirely in the wrong direction, looking to Michigan law and precedent rather than Oklahoma precedent, and in so doing, she went against the express wish of the decedent to give his IRA to his children. In all the other cases, Morrissey went against clear law and facts. In the civil case where Morrissey abused her discretion, it appears that she was blatantly unfair to one of the parties in the lawsuit. In the two criminal cases, Morrissey set up and followed her own sentencing policy, contrary to law. From the facts of the cases presented in the appeals court rulings, it appears that Morrissey's rulings were also contrary to common sense.

I suppose for a lawyer, a reversible error by a judge may mean more billable hours, but for the normal people involved in the case, fixing the error in appeals court means more expense, more anxiety, more waiting for justice.

Sometimes the party fouled by a judge's negligence, arrogance, or ignorance doesn't have the means to pursue an appeal. The injustice stands.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Scott Weisberg, who had spent some time in the Tulsa County courtroom of District Judge Linda Morrissey, in a case involving a severe head injury to his daughter, and he wanted to let the public know about his experience.

What follows is Weisberg's characterization of the case and how Morrissey handled it. In an ideal world, I'd have time to review the case in depth and draw my own conclusions. I've decided to publish Scott Weisberg's perspective on the case because he is willing to attach his name to it.

To summarize Weisberg's grievance against Linda Morrissey: A trust was set up as a result of the settlement over his daughter's injury to provide for her long-term care. His ex-wife (the girl's mother) presented receipts for reimbursement from the trust. Morrissey appointed Deborrah Ludi Leitch as guardian ad litem, ostensibly to look after the daughter's interests and to determine whether reimbursement was appropriate. On Ludi Leitch's recommendation, Morrissey denied reimbursement. According to Weisberg, the money paid to Ludi Leitch out of the trust for her services was almost as much as the amount of the disputed receipts. In Weisberg's opinion, Morrissey could have evaluated the receipts herself, leaving more money in the trust for his daughter's future care.

What follows in the block quote below (after the jump if you're on the home page) are quotes from Weisberg; anything in brackets has been added by me for the sake of clarity.

Judge Morrissey was assigned to my daughter's lawsuit... against KJM stables and the owner of KJM stables.

The lawsuit involved an incident that happened on Mother's Day of 2006, when my daughter... had walked through a large hole in the privacy fence that surrounded her housing addition, walked in through this huge gaping hole in the privacy fence into a paddock where a horse was being held, only to have my daughter kicked out of her Crocs, crushed her skull, and she was literally in a coma for six months.

The court appointed guardian ad litem was appointed -- she did not need to be appointed in my opinion -- she just was hired to look over a couple of receipts to the tune of about $6,000 worth. [Deborrah] Ludi Leitch was her name, and come to find out I guess she was a friend of Judge Morrissey's. And frankly that $5,000 or so that was charged against my daughter's account in the long run probably equated to about 50 or 60,000 dollars taken out of her trust.

There was a settlement with the insurance company representing the stable.

[On who initiated the appointment of a guardian ad litem?]

Yes, this was simply the judge making this request, only because there were some receipts that were brought to bear, and she frankly in my opinion just didn't want to take the time to take a look at those.

[Weisberg on the value added by the guardian ad litem:]

Absolutely none because her findings were that those receipts could not be reimbursed against my daughter's trust.

These were receipts that were brought by my daughter's mother, my ex-wife. And they were receipts that were absolutely absurd, they had no relevance in terms of being reimbursed against my daughter's account. They were just expenses that were incurred through the term of my daughter's rehabilitation.

[The reimbursement] was not approved.... Judge Morrissey basically took the recommendation by Ludi Leitch that those receipts should not and could not be reimbursed against my daughter's trust.

It took me a few minutes to look at them [receipts] and shake my head and go wait a minute. The purchase of a van and a few other itrems have absolutely no relevance in terms of a claim against this trust that's been created for my daughter.

[Weisberg's impression of Morrissey's professionalism.]

I was quite taken by the fact that she and Ludi Leitch seemed to be buddies and found out that indeed they had been. I didn't think it was very professional at all. That's why I questioned it not only from the beginning but at the end I was pretty upset. Especially when I negotiated this trust with seven different attorneys, and every dollar that was taken out of there in 30 years has a huge impact on the amount of money that my daughter will be receiving on a monthly basis after I'm dead and gone....

At the age of 30 my daughter will receive regular payments for the rest of her life. That fee that she will receive was based on the amount of money that was initially put into the trust.

[The impact of the guardian ad litem fee on the trust designed to provide lifelong care for Weisberg's daughter.]

$90,000 was left after payment of attorneys' fees and so forth. My daughter has a guaranteed benefit of roughly $4,000 a month for the rest of her life.

Once again for the judge to hire a friend just to look at a handful of receipts and then be charged $5,000 against my daughter's trust just boggles my mind, total disregard for my daughter's trust and everyone involved in my opinion.

[Why Weisberg did not pursue an appeal:]

The opinions of friends and attorneys and so forth [were that] the expenses that had already been incurred drove down my daughter's trust considerably... any more may not be reimbursed. It was determined that we just had better leave it alone.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 25, 2010 9:10 PM.

Reversing Linda Morrissey was the previous entry in this blog.

Will there be a wave? Or will it be dissipated by complacency? is the next entry in this blog.

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