Divorces are rarely friendly. That’s why we involve a judge. We expect a judge to draw some boundaries. Otherwise it ends with the couple hanging from a chandelier.
This is not a new story. At least this part: A wealthy New York banker marries a lovely young woman named Lisa, who is tall and lithe and blond, and twenty-years his junior. They are happy for a few years, welcoming a baby daughter Macy, and three years later a son John, named after his father. Then the happiness went away.
In 2011, they divorced. The banker gave full custody of the young children (photo below) to Lisa, but they visited their dad. Then there was an incident. Lisa ended up with a black eye and a broken finger. The banker claimed it was the result of Lisa using Botox. Lisa claimed the banker hit her. The banker said, if that was how she wanted to play it, then he wanted his kids back.
In the preliminary round of the custody trial, Judge Lori Sattler allowed the lawyer for the banker, Eleanor Alter, to subpoena Lisa’s medical records. That’s how the banker discovered that six months after they divorced, Lisa had an abortion. The banker wanted to know the details so he could use Lisa’s abortion as evidence against her in his custody suit. He wanted to know who. He wanted to know where. He wanted all the dirty details.
This is where that impartial judge is expected to draw boundaries. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
The banker’s lawyer argued her client was entitled to know if his children “were exposed to this man, how it all came about.” Alter:
“If this man was coming in the house, if she’s out of the house to see him, if it was date rape, that’s relevant.”
Lisa’s attorney Emily Goodwin responded that such a request was outrageous. Goodwin:
“I think the very idea of the potential of using, against a woman in a custody case, the fact that she may have had an abortion sets women’s rights and the rights of choice back in a way that I can’t imagine this court would want to be associated.”
Eleanor Alter told the judge that her client should be privy to the details about the abortion because Lisa had refused to allow the banker to have his children for Easter, saying it was because he was an atheist. Alter told the judge the abortion put Lisa’s credibility in question concerning that Easter excuse, and the judge agreed.
Apparently neither were aware there are pro-choice Easter observers.
Emily Goodwin was shocked at the ruling. She told the judge her decision was “scandalous and outrageous.” Goodman:
“This might go over well in Texas or Mississippi, but not here.”
Goodwin then requested that the judge recuse herself, but Judge Sattler refused.
When the story broke nationwide, the judge seemed defensive of her ruling, telling reporters she allowed Lisa to be questioned about her abortion “purely for credibility issues alone relating to her prior sworn testimony, and not due to the content contained therein.” Judge Sattler:
“I emphasize that this was an evidentiary ruling, and all statements made trying to twist it into anything else are misguided.”
To that reasoning I would like to say: Lisa Mehos was forced by a judge to be questioned in open court by an attorney for her ex-husband about the details of her sex life. Refusal to do so would mean she would lose her children. It doesn’t take much twisting.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.