Sunday, February 21, 2010


For My Sister

For this post, I am taking a short break from commenting on the family law issues of the day- although I might tie a few things in the end. So here goes.

Last Monday, February 15, 2010, my sister Randi Rosenberg, passed away after living with stage four metastatic breast cancer. The funeral service was on Wednesday. She was 44. She has a five year old daughter, Alexandra Marais Rosenberg Purdue. The cancer blogosphere has been abuzz with the news, my sister having been a co-founder and past president of the Young Survival Coalition, as well as a founding member & inaugural advocacy co-chair at LiveSTRONG Young Adult Alliance for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Randi was also the owner of her own business and an adjunct professor at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Her influence is such that the YSC has established the Randi Rosenberg Young Women’s Leadership Fund. At LiveSTRONG, she was referred to as “a giant”.

A few thoughts from my eulogy which I hope will inspire in her name and honor her in perpetuity:

You are going to hear a lot about my sister this afternoon...the blogs are already teeming with thoughts, prayers and remembrances. But we are going to sing her praises here and now– lest one second has gone by without a reminder of Randi’s bravery, intellect and joie de vivre. While I might suffer from delusions of grandeur of my clear similarity to Randi in these traits, I really do know better– I can only dream of possessing half of her strength and character.

Of her bravery, I would say that while she comes before, after, and contemporaneously with others who have fought cancer, Randi, along with her band of sisters who formed the Young Survival Coalition, did more than fight– they took up arms. Randi took her own struggle and used it to advocate for those whose voices were not heard. She spoke; she wrote; she appeared on TV, radio and the internet. Moreover, she cajoled, informed, and confronted. Whether it was a doctor with an air of superiority about to have that air unceremoniously and forcibly sucked from his now deflated ego or a skeptical politician whose bloated self-interest was about to be used for research and funding for the good of others– Randi got things done.
Randi was, and remains, a force. A force of nature. A force to be reckoned with. A force majeure...
It is so hard to encapsulate a life such as Randi’s in such a short period of time. The inclination is to go on talking so that the words extend her life. But I know ultimately– at least for now that the words must end. The impact of her life, however, continues...
So now Randi goes to comfort and be comforted by our father who she loved so much and who loved her in kind. To rest without pain and to inspire us ever after. Randi was nothing less than a Superstar. And so when you look into the night sky and it is brighter that it used to be, it is because Randi made it so. That is what a Superstar does. She makes everything brighter and happier and more special– simply because she is. The Superstar rises and is ever-present even as the physical wanes. At the end of Randi’s physical life, five year old Alexandra said it best, “Good night mommy. If you are tired you can close your eyes now. Go to sleep”

That a child of five must now go on without a mother, especially one as strong and inspiring as hers, is tragic. That our own mother has to also go on without a child so young, is crushing. That the rest of us, including her partner, Matt, cannot fill the void left by a giant, leaves us numb and grasping desperately for explanation. Randi, though, would look only to find the positive. To take tragedy and seek hope. To take the blow and shrug it off. To take the enormous void and imbue it with joyous life. These are the lessons to be learned even as darkness falls– if we want to learn them. While my sister was suffering and others complained, she would challenge them, “Tell me three good things that happened to you today”, thus forcing them to find the good in life. The choice was always hers to make and she always made sure that her decisions counted– even in the end. She enriched the lives of others.

So for those in the midst of their own conflict and struggle– while the battle is joined and the fight is ongoing– take the challenge, look ahead, protect your children, find some hope, create your own destiny, make a difference.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Divorce New York Style: A BLIZZARD OF ID

A Blizzard of Id

Here in the Northeast most of us have been snowed in all day. The courts and our offices are closed, although as tireless (and masochistic) matrimonial attorneys, sadly we all have files home with us anyway as well as remote access to our office computers, and PDAs in hand. I know I can’t be the only one. So, after checking my email yet again, sending off my case updates, speaking with my partner and associate about tomorrow’s schedule and more snow (did I mention that I now have three cases on in the morning including a trial and one final “stip or appear” in the afternoon-there is no stip), I sat down to blog. Yes, my wife is displeased given that she thought she was going to enjoy an exclusive snow day with her husband.

Given my predilection for bad puns– the lowest form of wit so they say– I give you the snowy “Blizzard of Id” for you past comic strip fans. Why, you ask? Here is the long-winded answer.

I spent a good part of yesterday with a trial scheduled in a case which is simply infuriating for a variety of reasons, many of which I will not express. We spent hours trying to negotiate a settlement after I spent Super Bowl Sunday as well as parts of Monday and Tuesday doing final preparation. After emailing a proposal over the weekend, I heard nothing back, so on the prep went. Of course, a counterproposal came a mere hour before we were to be in court– supposedly we had a done deal or so I was informed. Hours of stipulation adjusting (five pages of handwritten addendum plus changes to my initial draft proposal) later, the husband, still trying to be difficult and one-up everyone to the bitter end (and who would not accept that the entire proceeding resulted from his behavior and non-compliance), would not sign off on the last item. So, at day’s end, it could be argued that we would have been better served trying the matter to conclusion than spending additional time, energy and counsel fees waiting for the husband’s inevitable balking and game-playing. We all wanted the matter to settle, the judge had been fed up at the last court appearance and had enough, but was hopeful when we told him we were working on a resolution. My client wanted it done as well. I fully believe the husband’s attorney also wished to end it. End, however, it did not. We are scheduled back again, weather permitting, with one issue remaining– at least for now. Will countless more hours be spent dragging this on? The answer is no.

Sigmund Freud defined the “Id” in part as follows: “It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations...”

In operating on the “pleasure principle”, i.e., people seek to satisfy biological and psychological needs, the game-playing husband in my example actually gets pleasure in dragging the case out and causing a greater sense of apprehension for the wife as well as her ever-mounting counsel fee bill. Resolution takes a back seat to the satisfaction of attrition. He takes pleasure in his own machinations thinking himself always the “smartest guy in the room”, even when he is not; “getting over” goes hand in hand with a successful negotiation. Unfortunately, with all of the expenses involved and the court’s repeated entreaties to settle this case– there is actually not a lot of money left at this point in time– he will go on unless stopped. This type of litigant is not, however, isolated to this one case nor gender specific. There are many out there with the same mentality, many of them who are “self-represented”, thus forcing their spouse to pay for counsel while they litigate for free and the court often feels hamstrung in the face of the unrepresented, for concern of not appearing fair.

Whether represented or unrepresented (pro se as we used to call it), the ideal of settlement is not always the best available result, although it should almost always be the first and best option. It is why we have courts and judges to make decisions. It is part of the lawyer’s job to be ready, able and willing to say enough is enough (with the client’s imprimatur of course). It is sometimes necessary to have the judge say"call your first witness" even when it make the judge less than happy. A real settlement might even immediately result, otherwise the court will simply render a decision. You would be amazed though at what often happens to the Id on cross-examination. Quite often the blizzard becomes nothing more than a short lived sputtering squall.