THE LATEST ON CUSTODY OF OUT-OF-WEDLOCK CHILDREN

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the case of Reed and Daniels v. Fair, decided December 14, 2010, the court of appeals once again addressed the issue of the proper legal standard to apply when the unmarried parents of a child born out of wedlock face off over custody of the child.

Theresa Reed and Marvin Fair had a relationship that resulted in the birth of their son, M.T.F, in 1997. The parents never married each other, but Fair did acknowledge paternity. For most of the next twelve years, the child lived with his maternal grandmother, Irene Daniels. While in the grandmother’s care, M.T.F. was molested by another grandson.

Fair filed an action for custody, and Reed and Daniels counterclaimed in turn for custody. At trial, Reed and Daniels argued that, because of the length of time that M.T.F. was in Daniels’ care, the court should apply a modification standard. The chancellor found that, since there had never been a judgment awarding custody, it was not proper to apply a modification standard, and he adjudicated the case by application of the Albright factors. The chancellor awarded custody to Fair, and both Reed and Daniels appealed, complaining that the court should have analyzed the case as one for modification.

Justice Maxwell wrote the majority opinion, and it is such a concise exposition of the law on the subject that I have excerpted it here:

Generally, in an initial custody proceeding, the parties are “deemed on equal footing,” and custody is awarded based on the best interest of the child under the Albright factors. See Brown v. Crum, 30 So. 3d 1254, 1258 (Miss. App. 2010) (quoting Law v. Page, 618 So. 2d 96, 101 (Miss. 1993)).

But there are situations where certain legal presumptions prevent the parties from having an equal claim to custody. For example, the father of a child born out of wedlock would not stand on equal footing with the mother where the father does not acknowledge the child as his own. Hemphill-Weathers v. Farrish, 779 So. 2d 167, 172 (Miss. App. 2001). Absent other factors, all jurisdictions recognize that the mother of a child born out of wedlock, if a suitable person, possesses the primary right to the child’s custody where the father has not acknowledged the child. Smith v. Watson, 425 So. 2d 1030, 1033 (Miss. 1983), at 1033 (citing N. Hand, Jr., Mississippi Divorce, Alimony and Child Custody 271 (1981) (“upon acknowledging the child as his own, the father has an equal claim . . . to the parental and custodial rights of the child”).

While chancellors must also consider the Albright factors in modification proceedings, “the movant carries a heavier burden[.]” Romans v. Fulgham, 939 So. 2d 849, 852 (Miss. App. 2006). In a modification action, the party seeking custody must prove that since the original custody award, there has been a material change in circumstances adverse to the child, and a modification in custody would be in the child’s best interest. Tucker v. Tucker, 453 So. 2d 1294, 1297 (Miss. 1984).

In Law, the Mississippi supreme court held that “The ‘material changes’ standard used in modification proceedings is dependent on there being a prior determination of custody.” 618 So. 2d at 101. Relying on Law, the court of appeals has consistently held that where no previous custody determination has been made, the relevant standard is the child’s best interest under the Albright factors — not a “material change” modification standard. See Brown, 30 So. 3d 5 at 1258; , 990 So. 2d 774, 776 (Miss. App. 2008); Romans, 939 So. 2d at 853; C.W.L. v. R.A., 919 So. 2d 267, 271 (Miss. App. 2005); S.B. v. L.W., 793 So. 2d 656, 659 (Miss. App. 2001).

The court of appeals also rejected the theory that a modification standard applies by virtue of one parent’s receipt of child-support payments. Brown, 30 So. 3d at 1257-58; Romans, 939 So. 2d at 852.

The majority opinion rejected the appellants’ argument that because Fair had waited longer than parties in other court of appeals decisions to seek custody, that this case should be distinguished from the earlier decisions. The court refused to establish a “length of time” rule because (1) the resulting legal standard would likely be nebulous, and (2) no case law, including Mississippi supreme court precedent, supports hinging the applicable legal standard solely on the timeliness of the request for custody. See Romans, 939 So. 2d at 853. The majority declined to create a new rule or to overturn the established line of authority. Nonetheless, the opinion emphasized that its holding in no way prevents chancellors from considering the length of a parent’s delay in asserting a claim for custody when determining the best interest of the child. See Brown, 30 So. 3d at 1259 (“Although delay in asserting custody may be a factor to be considered in determining the best interest of the child, it is not the controlling factor.”).

So the state of the law at this point is that a father who acknowledged an out-of-wedlock child as his own stands on an equal footing with the natural mother in a custody determination, which will be treated as an original proceeding, and not as a modification.

“QUOTE UNQUOTE”

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Viktor Frankl

“What is to give light must endure burning.”  — Viktor Frankl

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign:  that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.  — Jonathan Swift

“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you’re going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. — I.F. Stone

CHILDREN AS WITNESSES

December 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lawyers who practice in my court are familiar with my prejudice against calling the children of the parties as witnesses in domestic cases.  As the Supreme Court has said, ” … parents in a divorce proceeding should if at all possible refrain from calling any of the children of their marriage, of tender years at least, as witnesses, and counsel should advise their clients against doing so, except in the most exigent cases.”  Jethrow v. Jethrow, 571 So.2d 270, 274 (Miss. 1990). 

As for the definition of tender years, “[A] child is no longer of tender years when that child can be equally cared for by persons other than the mother.” Mercier v. Mercier, 717 So.2d 304, 307 (Miss.1998).  A child over four years of age may no longer be considered of tender years.  Copeland v. Copeland, 904 So.2d 1066, 1075 (Miss.2004).  There is a rebuttable presumption that a child under the age of twelve is of tender years.  Veasley v. State, 735 So.2d 432, 436-37 (Miss. 1999). 

Jethrow does make it clear, however, that there is no per se rule against calling children of the parties as witnesses, and the case prescribes a procedure for the court to examine the child to make a determination whether the child is competent as a witness under Mississippi law and whether testifying is in the child’s best interest. 

It is always within the trial judge’s discretion whether to allow the testimony of a child, and the line that I usually draw is to allow the child to testify only where omission of such testimony would be harmful to the child’s best interests.  Even then, the court must find after a Jethrow examination that it is in the child’s best interest to testify.  It is a weighing test, with the possible harm that may result to the child’s best interest from not testifying on one side of the scale and the possible harm from testifying on the other.  Every case is different, and slightly different facts may yield radically different results. 

As an attorney, you should counsel your client on the ramifications of calling a child as a witness.  It pits the child against one of the parties, puts the child under incredible pressure, and subjects the child to cross examination that may confuse and intimidate the child. 

Never, ever, tell your client that the child will definitely be allowed to “talk to the judge” or testify in chambers or out of the presence of the parents.  Not only is that misleading and setting the child and the clients up for disappointment, it is not the law.  The only way that the law allows the court to take substantive testimony (other than the Jethrow examination) outside the presence of the parties is with their express agreement on the record.  MCA § 93-5-17 mandates that divorce proceedings be had in open court.  MCA § 93-5-21 allows the court to exclude persons from the court room during a divorce trial ” … except the officers of the court, attorneys engaged in the case, parties to the suit and the witness being examined.”  The rule should apply in modifications and contempts, since they are no more than an extension of the divorce trial.  Moreover, the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that a party not be excluded involuntarily from his or her own trial.     

If you need the child’s testimony to prove a crucial element of your case, ask to make an offer of proof on the point before the court undertakes its Jethrow examination so that the judge will know what it is you are trying to prove and how much weight it carries.  If there are other witnesses who can establish the same facts, opt instead to call them.

A CHECKLIST OF CHECKLISTS

December 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Proving your case by proving certain factors is a fact of legal life in Mississippi.  I’ve referred to it as trial by checklist.

Here are the checklists I’ve posted (you can click on the links to get to them):

Attorney’s fees.

Adverse possession.

Child custody.

Grandparent visitation.

Equitable distribution.

Modification of child support.

Periodic and rehabilitative alimony.

Lump sum alimony.

Separate maintenance.

Income tax dependency exemption.

Those are all of the checklists of which I am aware.  If you know of others, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

I also posted a checklist for closing an estate, but it’s a procedural cheklist rather than a substantive checklist.

A CHANGE IN COMMENT POLICY

December 14, 2010 § 4 Comments

I enjoy reading people’s different opinions, including those that disagree with my own.  It doesn’t bother me when people get testy and personal when they present their positions; how they say it says as much about their positions as what they say.  The thread of comments below on the SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL post is a case in point.  I like the exchange of ideas.

What I don’t approve of, though, is people taking pot shots at others from a position of anonymity.  My name is up there for all to see, and most comment-makers have used their real names.

In my opinion, anonymous opinions are worthless.  Anybody can boldly hold forth if he or she knows reputation is not at stake.  If you have something to say, be ready to put your name behind it.

From here on out, if you have a comment, sign it with your first and last name, telephone number, city and e-mail address.  If the post has to do with case law, I will require in addition your bar number.  When I allow your comment, it will show your real name and city, but not your e-mail address, bar number or other info.  All comments will be moderated for these requirements.  This may necessitate a little longer delay in your comments appearing.  Please be patient.   

No more anonymous or alias posts.

As I have from the beginning, comments by non-lawyers about pending cases, or seeking legal advice,or commenting on judges in particular rulings will not be allowed.

A FEW POINTERS FOR MORE EFFECTIVE CHANCERY TRIALS

December 14, 2010 § 8 Comments

A few thoughts that might help:

Facts, not impressions.  Okay, you’re the judge and you have to decide whether the defendant assaulted the plaintiff.  Here are two different versions in response to the question “Please tell the court what you observed when you entered the room.”

Version One:  “The defendant was going crazy. I mean he went mental.  Kaflooey!  And I couldn’t believe it. Never saw anything like it.  Mmm, Mmm, Mmm; I mean to tell you.  Crazy.  And, Lordy, such language.  I didn’t know which way to turn.  Didn’t really scare me, though — I was in Viet Nam.  But it might have scared the others.”

Version Two:  “The defendant picked up a recliner chair and threw it through the window.  Then he grabbed a beer bottle and rared back like he was going to hit the plaintiff in the head, but instead he slapped her in the face and screamed that he liked to kill her.  She was all balled up on the floor crying and begging, yelling out “please don’t break my arm like you done the last time!” and then he turned and glared at me and I thought he was going to kill me.”

Version one doesn’t convey a single thought about what the defendant actually did to assault anyone.  It is ineffective because it is full of impressions and adjectives.  Where are the specifics? 

Version two, on the other hand paints a vivid picture chock full of verbs that unmistakably conveys the violence and anger.  All the details are there. 

When you’re prepping your witnesses for trial (Uh — you do prep your witnesses, I hope), train them to paint a word picture of what happened instead of just babbling a bunch of labels. 

Eliminate pronouns from your questions.  Keep in mind that you are doing two important things while you are questioning the witness:  You are telling the judge your client’s story as persuasively as you can; and you are making a record for the appellate court to use if necessary.  So how does the following help your client?

Q.  So when they entered the room, what did he say?

A.  They was all talking loud, but he said he was going to kill her for messin’ around with him.

Q.  Who else was in the room?

A.  Just all them and me.

Q.  What if anything did you see him do? 

A.  Well, he left the room and then he came with guns and then they both had guns.

Q.  What did he do?

A.  He started to shooting.  That’s when he shot her by mistake, I guess.

Huh?  Who’s on first? What’s on second?  I dunno’s on third?  How in the world can anybody follow that?  Let’s go back and eliminate the pronouns: 

Q.  So when Robert, Travis and Bo entered the room, what did Bo say?

A.  Robert, Travis and Bo was all talking loud, but Bo said he was going to kill Charlene for messin’ around with Billy Joe.

Q.  Who else was in the room?

A.  Just Rita and Charlene and me.

Q.  What if anything did you see Bo do? 

A.  Well, Travis left the room and then Caleb came with guns and then Travis and Bo both had guns.

Q.  What did Bo do?

A.  Bo started to shooting.  That’s when Bo shot Rita by mistake, I guess.

Clearer?  It is to me. 

Focus on the points you need to prove.  If, for example, you are trying to modify child support, it makes no sense to take your client early in her testimony through a long, meandering history of the marriage and divorce, and then how the children are doing in school, and then get several pictures into evidence that one of the children finger-painted in kindergarten, and then a narration of the soccer tournament in Brandon, and then ad nauseam.  Get into the Adams factors for child support modification, sit down and hush.  Just hush.  Sometimes I have the impression that an attorney has no clue about what he or she is supposed to prove because the witnesses and exhibits are all talking about something entirely different from what is at issue.  

It’s your job to establish jurisdiction.  Yes, it’s your job.  Nevertheless, I have had to do it on more than one occasion for the attorney.  Here’s the deal: 

If you are trying a divorce, you have to ask your witness about residence in the state of Mississippi for the requisite time, and you have to establish venue, and of course a marriage;

if you are trying a modification, you have to establish that the court has continuing jurisdiction by virtue of a prior judgment; and

ditto for a contempt action;

if you are trying a property dispute, where on this green earth is the property located? 

The pleadings are not evidence in chancery court.  Don’t think just because it’s in the pleadings that it is proven.  The pleadings are your template for what must be proven through competent evidence at trial.  If you want the trial judge and possibly the appellate court to consider it, you must put it into the record at trial.

No corroboration = no divorce.  Unless the parties lived in near-total isolation and were incommunicado, which is almost unheard of in this internet-connected, smart-phone world, corroboration is a prerequisite to a divorce.  What constitutes adequate corroboration is beyond the scope of this post, but you can find what you need to know in Professor Bell’s or Professor Hand’s treatise.  In uncontested cases, I will sometimes “recess” the hearing to allow a lawyer time to recoup some of his or her dignity by scrounging up some corroboration, but in a contested case, I can not do that without prejudicing the opponent, and the result is an unfortunate denial of the divorce.              

Spend some time on your 8.05.  A post with ten tips for more effective financial statements is here.  I have seen cases turn on the 8.05’s, and the one that is clear and better-presented prevails every time.

Oh, and here’s something to keep in mind:  If you’re in a modification of child support case, the most crucial thing to prove is that there has been a CHANGE in circumstances.  Use your brain here.  If you are trying to prove a change, and it involves money, what is the best tool to use to show that change?  Yes! It’s the 8.05! Of course! Add a column to your current 8.05 showing the expenses and income from back in 2003 when the divorce was granted.  You can ask your client to dig around and find the 8.05 from back then to base your figures on, or ask her to reconstruct those figures for you.  If she does have the 2003 8.05, you could offer that into evidence to prove the expenses and income back then.

Finally, do yourself, the witnesses, opposing counsel and above all the court a favor and simply number the pages and items of your financial statement.  Imagine how mind-numbing this unfortunately typical exchange is for the judge (and everyone else within earshot):

Q:  So you spend $200 a month on clothes?

A:  Yes.  No.  I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.

Q:  It’s on page 3.

A:  (Flipping pages of the 8.05)  No. I think that’s the equity in my house.  Or maybe that’s my life insurance.  Or pet expense. I’m not sure.

Q:  No, look at the third page, the third page. 1-2-3.

A. Do you mean the GMAC here? That must be my church donation — Greater Meridian Adventist Church?  Hmm, I don’t even go to that church.

Q:  You’re looking at your car payment.  Turn to the page that looks like this (Showing the witness the document).    

A:  I don’t see where it says that I spend money on clothes.

Q:  Well, you have the figure $200 down there where it says “clothing.”  What is it for?

A:  Oh, clothing.  I see it on line 11, but that’s the fourth page.

Q:  No, it isn’t, it’s the third. 

A:  You’re right, it’s the third.  Now what was the question?

Wouldn’t it have been more effective to direct the witness to the numbered page and to a particular line number?  It certainly would save wear and tear on the judge, if nothing else.  And the less wear and tear you inflict on the judge, the better your case turns out.  Every time.

ADEMPTION

December 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

Ademption occurs when the testator leaves a specific devise or bequest that can not be satisfied because the testator disposed of the property during her lifetime.

The case of Rousseau v. Rousseau, 910 So.2d 1214, 1218 (Miss. App. 2005), upheld a chancellor’s finding that the testator’s bequest of specific shares of stock to a trust had been adeemed by extinction where the testator sold the shares during his lifetime and did not change the will.

If the testator disposes of the devised or bequeathed property and acquires property that is of the same kind and description of the disposed-of property and whch he owns at his death, the disposition of the second property should be the same as that of the first, unless the will provides otherwise.  In Milton v. Milton, 10 So.2d 175, 177 (Miss. 1942), the testator devised “my home place” to his widow for life, with the remainder to his daughter.  After he made the will, he sold the residence he had at the time of making the will and acquired another.  The Mississippi Supreme Court held that his use of the phrase “my home place” was general enough to embrace any residence he owned at the time of his death, so that the devise was not adeemed.     

In Re Estate of Pickett, 879 So.2d 421 (Miss. App. 2004), was a case in which the testator had devised 181 acres of land to specific legatees, the Van Ettens.  After execution of the will, and during the testator’s lifetime, his attorney in fact had entered into contract for sale of the land to Kirkland.  Before the contract could be carried out, however, the testator died.  The court of appeals upheld the chancellor’s decision that the contract acted as an ademption of the specific devise which extinguished the claim of the Van Ettens.  The execution of the contract essentially converted the real property into a right of the estate to receive the proceeds.  Although there was no Mississippi case law directly on point to guide the chancellor, the court of appeals upheld her decision based on analysis of other authorities.  The court stated:

“In the absence of any statutory enactment by the Mississippi Legislature altering what appears to be a widely-recognized rule of will interpretation under the common law, we are convinced that the chancellor was correct and that the general rule set out above must be applied to this case.

¶ 25. The contract of sale gave to Kirkland the absolute right to purchase the real property. Under the rule of construction discussed above, the execution of that contract worked as an ademption of the specific devise of that same property to the Van Ettens. In that circumstance, the Van Ettens have no claim to the real property or to the proceeds ultimately realized when the sale of the land was closed pursuant to the contract of sale.”  (at 473). 

The decision includes an interesting discussion of the authority relied on by the chancellor.  (at 472-473).

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

December 12, 2010 § 8 Comments

Curtis Wilkie’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ZEUS is the story of the rise and fall of powerful trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs.  It is entertainingly well written, as one would expect of an author with Wilkie’s gift for the word, and microscopically researched.  Wilkie’s book complements KINGS OF TORT, Alan Lange’s and Tom Dawson’s treatment of Scruggs’ downfall from the prosecution point of view.  Those of you who savor Wilkie’s keen writing and incisive journalism will not be disappointed by this book.  The subject matter is a must-know for all Mississippi lawyers and jurists, and citizens as well.  I recommend that you buy and read this book.

Although I commend Wilkies’s book to you, I do find it troubling that it is unabashedly sympathetic to Scruggs.  Wilkie finally acknowledges their friendship at page 371, the third-to-last page of the book. 

As a member of the legal profession for nearly four decades and a member of the judicial branch, I can find no sympathy whatsoever for Scruggs at this stage of his life.  His flirtations with unethical conduct and illegality are legion.  Even his acolyte (Stewart Parrish’s excellent descriptive), Tim Balducci, said in a candid moment that his approach to corruptly influence judge Lackey was not his “first rodeo” with Scruggs, and that he knew “where all the bodies are buried.”  Big talk? Perhaps.  But to me it eloquently bespeaks Scruggs’ history:  His involvement at the shadowy edges of Paul Minor’s illegal dealings with Judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield; his use of stolen documents in the tobacco litigation; his use of questionably acquired documents in the State Farm litigation; and the hiring of Ed Peters to influence Judge Bobby Delaughter.  Are there more? 

Wilkie suggests that Scruggs’ increasing dependence on pain-killer medication led him to fall carelessly into a trap laid for him and Balducci by a scheming Judge Lackey, who had it in for Scruggs because of Scruggs’ political attacks on Lackey’s friend George Dale.  He posits that Lackey created the crime, and that Scruggs had set out initially “only” to improperly influence Lackey. 

The pain killers may be a contributing reason, but even a first-year law student knows that is not an excuse.

What about the idea of a trap?  I leave it to lawyers far better versed in criminal law and procedure to address that.  To me, the issue is finally resolved in this sentence on page 337:  “But Scruggs had acknowledged, ‘I joined the conspiracy later in the game.'”  Case closed as far as I am concerned.  Moreover, Scruggs was not an unsophisticated convenience store owner charged with food stamp fraud.  He was a sophisticated, powerful lawyer skilled in manipulating the levers of legal machinery.  He was not a gullible rube who did not grasp the significance of his actions or their consequences.  He was a lawyer and as such was held to the highest standard of propriety vis a vis the judiciary, a standard he trod into the mud.

As for Judge Lackey, the author skillfully excerpts quotes from the judge’s testimony to support his charge that Lackey had an animus against Wilkie’s friend, in particular the judge’s use of the term “scum” to describe Scruggs.  From my perspective, I can understand how someone in Lackey’s position would view the arrogant and powerful lawyer as scum when he saw how Scruggs had seduced the star-struck young Balducci, whom Lackey liked, into impropriety and, indeed, illegality.  Some of Dickie’s and Curtis’ influential and powerful friends in Oxford may buy Wilkie’s and Scruggs’ attempt to tar Judge Lackey, but I do not.  Judge Lackey chose to stay on the side of right and Scruggs chose the other side.  The point goes to the judge. 

Scruggs’ plaint that he only intended to commit an unethical act, not a crime — in other words that the consequences were unintended — is a familiar theme in history.  Henry II of England griped to his knights that he was irked by that troublesome bishop, Thomas Becket.  The knights, knowing from experience how far they could go before incurring the wrath of their king, promptly rode to Canterbury and rid their sovereign of that meddlesome priest, killing him at the altar.  Likewise, Scruggs’ knights, Balducci, Patterson, Langston, Backstrom and the others, knew the ballpark Scruggs was accustomed to playing in, and they set out with his money and influence to promote his (and their) interests in the accustomed manner of doing business.    

Henry II did penance for the rest of his life for what he saw as the unintended consequences of his actions.  Will Scruggs try to redeem himself for the damage he did to the legal profession and the legal system?  Time will tell.  When he is released from prison, he could find ways to devote some of his hundreds of millions of dollars to improving the courts and the legal profession and restoring integrity to the profession that made him rich.  In the final decades of his lfe, he could become known as a philanthropist who advanced the law and the legal profession, with his past a footnote.  I hope that is what he does. 

Read this book and judge it yourself.  You may see it differently than I.  The story, though, and its lessons, are important for Mississippians to know and understand.

A MILITARY LIFE INSURANCE POTHOLE

December 10, 2010 § 2 Comments

You have tried your divorce case to a conclusion and your client, the wife, is awarded custody and statutory child support.  The husband, an active-duty member of the Navy, is ordered to maintain his  Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy for benefit of the minor child.  It would appear that everything is peachy-keen.  Your client is on cruise control, right? 

Not so fast, my friend.  Your client’s limo is headed for a major pothole.  Consider the following:  

Richard and April Ridgway were divorced in 1977 in the State of Maine.  They had three children at the time.

In the divorce judgment, the trial court ordered Richard to maintain his SGLI policy in the face amount of $20,000 with April as beneficiary for benefit of the three minor children. 

Richard later married Donna and changed the designation of the beneficiary to provide that the proceeds would be paid as specified “by law,” which under federal law means that it would be paid to his widow, who would be Donna.  Richard died and both April and Donna filed claims to the proceeds.

April filed suit in Maine courts seeking imposition of a constructive trust for benefit of her children.  Donna joined the suit seeking payment to herself based on the designation of beneficiary by Richard.

The case wended its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in Ridgway v. Ridgway, 454 US 46 (1981), that court held that due to the supremacy clause, a state court ruling must yield to federal law that gives a serviceman the unfettered right to designate his own SGLI beneficiary, and for such policies to be exempt from attachment, execution and other process for collection.

What all this means is that the state trial court judge’s rulings vis a vis the SGLI is essentially meaningless. 

So what can you do?  One solution may be to ask the court to take judicial notice of the Ridgway decision (and provide the judge a copy), and have your client testify that she insists that the husband obtain and maintain a private policy of life insurance with the children as sole named beneficiary.  If you put all your client’s eggs in the SGLI basket, she may find it empty when egg-gathering time arrives.  And she just might look to you to make things right. 

Thanks to attorney Bill Jacob for this.  I have not researched this issue for later authority, but Bill tells me it is good law.

DEATH SENTENCE FOR THE QUEEN OF SOUL

December 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

It was in the fall of 1968 that I began my love affair with Aretha Franklin.  I found an LP of hers on special in a campus bookstore and paid $2.98 ( and that was marked down from $3.98) for ARETHA FRANKLIN LIVE IN PARIS.  That was nearly three hours’ worth of earnings from my part-time minimum wage job.  A lot of money for a starving college sophomore to spend on a little entertainment.  That record became one of the most beloved of my formidable vinyl collection. I played it until the stereo was worn out of its grooves, and I still have it. I listen to the version on my computer now from time to time, last Sunday the most recent.  The Queen of Soul still reigns, as far as I am concerned.

So it was with great sadness that I learned only yesterday that Aretha has pancreatic cancer and has been given less than a year to live.  How sad.

It was not too many years ago that a diagnosis of any kind of cancer was a death sentence.  That has changed dramatically, and many forms of cancer can be successfully treated and defeated.  We all know survivors today who would have been victims some years ago.

Unfortunately, it’s all too true that pancreatic cancer is still a swift death sentence.  It claimed both the universally admired and loved Circuit Judge Bob Evans and Meridianite Guy Feltenstein earlier this year.  Judge Evans lived only a few months after his diagnosis.  Guy had a few months longer.  Both suffered agonizing illnesses.  Both left a gaping hole in the lives of others. 

I read not too long ago that with the ability to do stem-cell research, scientists feel they are on the path to a cure.  I hope so.  The Lustgarten Foundation promotes research for a cure.  If you have some spare change to donate, it would be for a good cause.           

In the meantime, the death watch for this superbly talented woman who in every sense is the Queen of Soul ticks down to its inevitable conclusion.  How so very sad.

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