Monday, August 13, 2012

Criminal trial in connection with Miller-Jenkins custody case underway in Vermont

The trial of a man accused of helping Lisa Miller transport her daughter to Nicaragua began last week and continues over the next couple of days.  This is the latest installment in the legal cases arising from Lisa Miller's refusal to allow her daughter's other mother, Janet Jenkins, to exercise her court-ordered visitation rights.  I've chronicled the numerous court rulings in this case over the last three years.

Kenneth Miller (no relation) is on trial for aiding in international kidnapping.  The New York Times summarized the first week's testimony here yesterday, and the Burlington Free Press publishes daily reports on the trial's progress.  The defendant is expected to argue that he thought Lisa had the right to leave the country with Isabella and didn't know it was unlawful to assist her.  So far, the prosecutor's evidence of his surreptitous behavior suggests that is a total lie.  It will be up to the jury to determine whether Kenneth Miller had the requisite intent to help Lisa Miller evade court orders.

One of the most interesting questions about this matter is whether Lisa's lawyers, Liberty Counsel, played a role in her leaving the country.  That would be a violation of legal ethics and could (should) result in sanctions.  Evidence introduced last week shows that one of the men helping Lisa (but not charged with a crime...yet) did place phone calls both to Liberty University Law School in Virginia and to Liberty Counsel's Orlando office.  Law school Dean Mathew Staver has repeatedly denied that he or his co-counsel knew anything about Lisa's abduction of Isabella.  I have my doubts.  This very interesting blog post recounts that the "correct" answer to a Liberty Law School exam question about the facts of this case was that the lawyer should encourage "civil disobedience" of the court ordered visitation.  Of course the problem with that point of view is that civil disobedience is open, not hidden, and includes taking the consequences of one's actions.  If Lisa's lawyers admitted their role and faced the possible sanction of disbarment or suspension from the practice of law, as well as possible criminal trial, that would be civil disobedience.  It's not civil disobedience if they helped their client violate a court order and then lied about it.

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