April 25, 2019

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Alec Baldwin Kicks Off the Family Law Revolution in Denver

Mr. Baldwin signed copies of his book, A Promise to Ourselves.

Last night, Alec Baldwin spoke to a packed room of legal professionals in downtown Denver. The topic of discussion wasn’t the usual press engagement concerning his job at NBC’s 30 Rock, hosting Saturday Night Live, or his political aspirations. Instead, Mr. Baldwin delved into a personal and sensitive topic that has a profound effect on a great many in our society: divorce.

Mr. Baldwin’s journey through fatherhood and divorce is chronicled in his book, A Promise to Ourselves. But his discussion last night was not simply a retelling of his own, highly publicized experience (which at one point led him to consider suicide). Mr. Baldwin brought the audience deeper, pointing to some of the root problems he saw and continues to see in the family law system itself. He spoke about the need for judicial accountability, sanctions against non-compliant parties, and selecting an appropriate attorney for your family law dispute. Mr. Baldwin was also an advocate for parental rights, including rights of the father, speeding up the long and drawn-out process of finalizing a divorce, and for ultimately reshaping the practice of family law into a less destructive force for families.

Mr. Baldwin with Lisa Cordova, CBA-CLE Program Coordinator

Mr. Baldwin acknowledged that divorce itself is something inherently destructive, whether it is accomplished through the courts or mediation. But, much of the alienation and pain that grips the parties during a divorce, and lingers long after, can be alleviated if we change the way we engage in the process and with each other. He suggests that we treat the situation as we would a funeral – a showing of respect for something special and sacred that has died: the family unit. But through the struggle, it can be a time to come together, setting aside differences out of respect for what once was, and moving forward with a new life and outlook. It may not be perfect, but the faster families can get to that point, the better off all involved will be.

Mr. Baldwin’s speech was engaging and insightful, humorous and sobering. He told it like it is, from his own experience – exactly what he was asked to do. Whether those in attendance agreed with all he had to say or not, he provided a legal-outsider’s perspective on the process, of which many judges and attorneys may not always be cognizant.

Me with Mr. Baldwin before dinner and his family law presentation

For myself, I found it quite enjoyable. Thanks to Brenda Storey, Chair of the Family Law Institute, for arranging this unique evening and to Mr. Baldwin for taking the time from his busy schedule to make the evening such a success for everyone involved and for the Legal Aid Foundation (it was Mr. Baldwin’s idea to make the event a fundraiser). We’ll have more for you on the event and the Institute (which starts today in Breckenridge!) in the coming weeks.

What were your thoughts on Mr. Baldwin’s family law presentation?

Huffington Post: Alec Baldwin Will Be The Keynote Speaker At Colorado’s Annual Family Law Institute Event

On the subject of divorce proceedings, Colorado’s Family Law Institute has gained its first keynote speaker: Alec Baldwin. On the subject in fact, the actor couldn’t be clearer. Baldwin’s only book, “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce,” is a memoir about the costly process that he argues needs to change from the inside out.

Each year the Colorado Bar Association hosts an intimate gathering of lawyers who specialize in family and divorce law for a three-day seminar focused on improving the practice. This year family attorney Brenda L. Storey, a partner at McGuane and Hogan, LLP, nabbed Baldwin as the keynote speaker for the theme, “Say You Want A Revolution” (inspired by the Beatles song) and cites his book, A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce as the main reason why she selected him.

A selection that Storey admits, has raised some questions. In 2007 the Emmy-winner attracted worldwide media criticism when a message he left on his daughter’s voicemail was leaked to TMZ.com and cost him a suspension in his parental visitation rights, according to the Washington Post. Baldwin’s joint custody with Ex Kim Basinger was later reinstated however, and he made a public apology to his-then 11-year-old daughter on The View.

“I was getting a lot of, ‘Why would you get Alec Baldwin to speak?’ but a lot of lawyers even, didn’t understand that he wrote a book about the system and suggestions for fixing it. When they heard about the book, they understood,” Storey told The Huffington Post.

“I’m not saying every lawyer that practices family law, needs to listen to me or Alec Baldwin, but he does present some real insights from the other side. What our theme really means is a revolution of our system itself. That’s where Mr. Baldwin came in. He wrote a book about the ugly side of the system, he provides a voice about the system and gives suggestions for change.”

In his book, Baldwin writes that his own divorce and custody battle took more than six years and $3 million in legal fees. He further describes the emotional costs of the family litigation process as a cruel battle that promotes more irreparable damage for all parties involved than closure.

“To be pulled into the American family law system in most states,” Baldwin writes, “is like being tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road late at night. No one can hear your cries and complaints, and it is not over until they say it is over.”

Part of the problem though, Storey says, is that law school doesn’t adequately prepare students for this specific area of law.

“We jump in and tear them apart, but they are the ones who have a kid to raise,” Storey said.

“Additionally, there are judges who push divorce cases through at their own pre-determined one-size-fits-all pace, without giving the parties and their case and their family the time truly needed for their particular circumstances. It is easier to get a one-week personal injury trial on some dockets than it is to get three days for a final hearing in a divorce case that impacts every aspect of a family’s future. Also a problem is that some judges do not enforce orders. They give second, third, fourth chances, that send a message that compliance is optional.”

The kickoff will cost lawyers between $115 and $1,150 to attend, with all proceeds going to Colorado’s Legal Aid Foundation–which provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals and was reportedly all Mr. Baldwin’s idea.

Below, Alec Baldwin explains his views on parenting through divorce and Parental Alienation Syndrome to Joy Behar, who was covering for Larry King on CNN.

[This article was reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. It originally appeared in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Click here to view the article.]

If you go: Kickoff to the Institute with Alec Baldwin

August 11 at the Marriott City Center Hotel, 1701 California St., Denver, Colorado, beginning at 5:30 pm. Dinner and a conversation about the family law system with Baldwin. Pre-purchase of Baldwin’s book, “A Promise to Ourselves,” is available when registering. Guests who pre-purchase the book with be entered into a lottery for an intimate book signing. The twenty-five selected will get to spend an hour with the actor following the event. The twenty-five participants will be notified of their selection by August 4th. Register by August 1 by calling (303) 860-1115 or email melissan@cobar.org. A registration form, available here, must be completed to RSVP.

A Seat at the Bar: Alec Baldwin Kicks Off Family Law Institute

Brenda Storey has been working since October to create a catalyst to start a discussion on the current practices in family law. This year, there will be a Kickoff to the Family Law Institute and the special guest, who has some tough words for family law lawyers, will be actor Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin, who wrote the book “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce” following his public divorce from Kim Basinger and his custody fight for his daughter Ireland, describes today’s treatment of family issues in the courts as a cold and exploitative event: “To be pulled into the American family law system in most states is like being tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road late at night. No one can hear your cries and complaints, and it is not over until they say it is over.”

The kickoff will be held Aug. 11, the day before the Family Law Institute convenes in Breckenridge Aug. 12 to 14. The event also will serve as a fundraiser for the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado, an idea Storey said Baldwin suggested. The theme of this year’s Institute is “Say You Want a Revolution,” so the kickoff event at the Marriot City Center Hotel in Denver will start the conversations early.

Though Storey knows not everyone will appreciate Baldwin’s take on family law, the Family Law Section Chair hopes the event will entertain, educate, and challenge people to change.

When Storey first started the process of inviting Baldwin, she was unsure of whether he would be interested. When she spoke with Baldwin from the set of the TV show “30 Rock,” she was caught off-guard by the personal call and the fact that he went through his calendar with her to find a date that would work for them both.

Baldwin had never been approached by a bar association to discuss his book, which he wrote with Mark Tabb.

“I asked him to look them [the lawyers at the event] in the eyes and tell them, me, us what we’re doing wrong,” Storey said of her approach in inviting Baldwin to speak.

Despite how people may feel about Baldwin personally, Storey said the same issues—personal attacks and being brought to one’s breaking point during a divorce or custody battle—are relatable to others. Throughout her planning process for the Institute, Storey has been surprised to find how few in the family law realm know that Baldwin wrote this book, which was published in 2008.

“What I appreciate about his book is that he doesn’t just complain; he actually makes some good suggestions,” Storey said.

Although Baldwin hopes the system will change, Storey said his book is not meant to be disrespectful of those who work within the legal system.

“He really respects good lawyers,” she said. “He respects the system; he just wants to change it.”

If you go: Kickoff to the Institute with Alec Baldwin

August 11 at the Marriott City Center Hotel, 1701 California St., Denver, Colorado, beginning at 5:30 pm. Dinner and a conversation about the family law system with Baldwin. Pre-purchase of Baldwin’s book, “A Promise to Ourselves,” is available when registering. Guests who pre-purchase the book with be entered into a lottery for an intimate book signing. The twenty-five selected will get to spend an hour with the actor following the event. The twenty-five participants will be notified of their selection by August 4th. Register by August 1 by calling (303) 860-1115 or email melissan@cobar.org. A registration form, available here, must be completed to RSVP.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at denbar.org/docket.

From Baldwin to Breckenridge: The Colorado Family Law Institute Is Over, But the Revolution Has Only Just Begun

On August 11, 2011, Alec Baldwin sparked the momentum needed for revolutionary change within the family court system. He spoke frankly, sometimes emotionally, and sometimes with his wicked sense of humor, about the current family law system and the damage that it can cause. He very pointedly stated that he holds judges responsible – for issuing timely orders that protect parent-child relationships, for enforcing those orders and conveying the absolute expectation of compliance, and for reigning in the lawyers who can add fuel to the already present fire of the litigants.

He challenged the room to respect the parties, the loss of a marriage, and the broken family they are experiencing. He endorsed collaborative law as one of the answers, if not the answer, for dissolving marital relationships respectfully and with dignity. The focus should always be on making a successful transition to the new form of family the parties assume after ending a marriage. He reminded all in attendance that families leave the system, attorneys, and judges behind, but continue to deal with the effects of the process long after, especially when attempting to raise children together.

Alec Baldwin with Brenda Storey, Chair of the Family Law Institute

As the event ended, members of the audience expressed utter enjoyment at being part of the event and the rejuvenation and hope they felt as a player within the divorce process. Several lingered after and shared their own similar experiences within the system. Even a judge in attendance chatted with Mr. Baldwin for a time about her observations on divorce law and her frustrations with what it has become.

The fundraiser component of the evening, a new component of the Institute, was also a huge success. Thousands of dollars were raised for the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado.

As the lights went out on the event that night, the energy for change remained lit.

That momentum continued into the next day. As attendees arrived in Breckenridge, that same energy from the previous night was in the air. People talked excitedly about the successful kick-off and the message delivered by Mr. Baldwin. Attorneys shared stories of their brush with the celebrity, as well as continued their conversations about their own similar experiences within a flawed system that has left clients, and themselves to an extent, bruised and damaged.

The pre-conference, also new to the Institute, had close to 100 participants. The Institute itself welcomed 446 attendees. Mr. Baldwin truly delivered the catalyst effect desired! The “Revolution” theme was enhanced by the classic and iconic Beatles song playing at the start of sessions, and numerous social opportunities helped further open attendees’ minds to the idea of change. The sessions offered at the Institute delivered the promised education and entertainment, and challenged everyone there to join the revolution to reform the practice of family law.

Pam Gagel, with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, shared solutions from other states, and even other countries. She offered suggestions to streamline the process and requested forward-thinking involvement by the bench and bar.

The Plan B Committee had a captive audience who listened intently to and contributed additional ideas about a rather innovative alternative: taking divorce out of the court system and providing a team approach with triage treatment and education.

At the “Open Memo to the Bench” session, Jim Miller took to heart Mr. Baldwin’s criticisms of the judiciary and opened the topic to further discussion about early judicial intervention, enforcement of orders, and judicial education. Dr. Dana Cogan delivered an inspiring lunchtime presentation on “Change, Life’s One Constant,” and Gina Weitzenkorn, the 2011 Family Law Icon Award recipient, challenged the room to join the revolution by taking more pro bono cases. Eric Six and Bill Vincent, both CPAs, presented on avoiding the battle of the experts. Terri Harrington finished off Saturday with a presentation on “Lawyers as Peacemakers” that had attendees talking well into the following cocktail hour about what events changed them for the better along their careers in the divorce system.

The Institute had wonderful sessions on innovative ways of looking at substantive law and family law practice. Other topics included discussions of when 50-50 parenting time is not the best solution, how to get around the double-dip case law, and what HIPAA is not, among many others. Attendees were provided with written materials, expert referrals, and inspiration to approach their cases, arguments, practice, and careers in a different light.

I have to say, the Institute, from kick-off to conclusion, was everything I had hoped it would be and more.

On August 14, the slow, acoustic version of “Revolution” played and the Institute came to a close. But the revolution had only just begun. Plan B is becoming a reality, moving into the pilot project phase. Jim Miller is generating an actual “Open Memo to the Bench” to be disseminated to the judiciary, reflecting the input provided during his session. Providing more family-law-focused training for judicial officers is a priority, with State Judicial and CBA-CLE joining forces. The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System has been granted new access to court cases to conduct research and facilitate further change.

And lastly, the Family Law Section is rolling out a new webpage that links its members to all of the judicial districts and has started a two-year process of implementing statewide the family court “Best Practices,” as identified by the Family Law Task Force. The Section is focusing on being an even bigger resource for its members – we hope you join us in making our vision for the future a reality!

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Every generation needs a new revolution.” This revolution has truly only begun and I look forward to reporting on our progress and success!

Baldwin: Collaboration, Speed, Control of the Courtroom Key to Reforming Divorce

A divorce is like a funeral, and just as the dead should be treated with respect and mourned, so too should the death of a relationship, actor Alec Baldwin told 150 people, largely family law attorneys, at the Kickoff to the Family Law Institute on Thursday night.

“What has to start happening in divorce court is you have to have the same ethics that you have at a funeral,” Baldwin said. “It’s the death of something, and the death of something profound and meaningful and very significant in the lives of these people and we have to give it a proper burial.”

Gathered in a ballroom in the Denver Marriott City Center, the star recounted personal details about his own divorce and custody battle as the start to a larger conversation about the future of family law and how to prevent parties from feeling worse off than when they began.

Denver attorney Brenda Storey, who organized the kickoff and the 2011 Annual Family Law Institute, a two-day conference presented by the CBA Family Law Section in Breckenridge, found herself representing a man who was going through similar issues as Baldwin, but her client attempted suicide. At the same time, she was reading Balwin’s book, “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce” about his odyssey through the family court system.

Brenda and Alec sit together on stage during the discussion

What he said struck a chord with her: “When someone is sick, our society usually offers some means of care,” he writes. “When illness afflicts a marriage however, the professionals who arrive on the scene often are there to prolong the bleeding, not stop it.”

In her time as a family law attorney, Storey had seen the ugliness of the proceedings. “We who are in this system have no idea what it’s like to be in the shoes of those parties,” she said Thursday. “We do in fact leave a lot of the parties that come into this system already broken; we leave some of them worse than when we found them.”

But, the evening was not about dwelling on the bad. As lyrics to the Beatles’ “Revolution” flashed across the projector screen on the stage and filled the room’s speakers, the goal of the kickoff and the institute is to entertain, educate and challenge family law attorneys to think about change.

Storey said she wants to change it, but acknowledged, “it’s going to take a revolutionary change.”

The kickoff with Baldwin is part of the discussion of that change. When he came to the stage, he shared his story of divorce and an event during it that caught the attention of the nation.

It was 2007, and Baldwin got word that a tape of a voicemail — in which he released a tirade on his then-11-year-old daughter, Ireland, and called her a little pig — the evening that he was to serve as an honoree at the Goodman Theatre School of DePaul University.

When he returned home and saw the news, he was blind-sided by what he called a booby trap, which happened at a time when he was utterly frustrated because although he had been prevailing in court the orders in court were being ignored.

“This became this kind of insanity-inducing experience where there was no enforcement of the court’s orders,” Baldwin said.

He felt the tape had portrayed him as the exact opposite of what he was — a caring parent. Meanwhile, the story swirled in the media and there were calls for him to lose all custody of his daughter. The ordeal made him suicidal, but soon he decided to stop with those feelings and take a different tack.

From there, he began working on his book. For Baldwin, it was a way to go on the record about his experience and to think about change, he said.

For Baldwin, that change means a few things:

  • First, it means to work on collaborative divorce clinics. Many in the crowd applauded when he brought up collaborative divorce. “I think people are really, really tired of this system and the way it exists now,” he said.
  • Second, it means speeding up the entire process. “You want to get everybody set and give them this kind of chiropractic adjustment quickly so that you’re all set and ready to go so you can move on with your lives,” he said.
  • Last, it means for family court judges to have more control of their courtrooms. His experience in California courts was that it felt that the attorney were more in control, and he did not see any enforcement of orders of the court. “You must punish people who violate orders of the court,” he said. “I think judges have to really understand that they are in charge of the courtroom.”

In his closing remarks, Baldwin said divorce is one of the most shattering experiences a person can have. “I felt like a failure. … It’s this extraordinarily painful thing,” he said.

But, if the professionals involved in divorce can bring more emotional engagement, and act as a “wise friend,” and work to make the process fast, Baldwin said, then the parties involved will be able to move on with their lives.

“Once they start living inside that new paradigm, everybody heals.”

Photos by Matt Meier, Law Week.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read full issues online at denbar.org/docket.

Class Action Headaches: The Intersection of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Litigation

Iron Mike Webster

“Iron Mike” Webster played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1974-1988 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 1989-1990, and played in 245 games during his career. He died at the age of 50 in 2002 from a heart attack. At his death, Iron Mike was suffering from dementia, self-mutilating, and living out of his pickup truck. A doctor named Bennet Omalu performed his autopsy, which showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Dr. Omalu examined the remains of several other former NFL players who had similar symptoms to Iron Mike, including Terry Long, Andre Waters, and Justin Strzelczyk. He presented his findings to the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, but was largely ignored until Chris Henry of the Cincinatti Bengals died in 2006 at age 26 due to CTE.

Will Smith and Alec Baldwin starred in a December 2015 movie, “Concussion,” which detailed Dr. Omalu’s findings and his struggle to be taken seriously by the NFL. In April 2015, a federal district court judge approved a class-action settlement of former NFL players for long-term neurological problems associated with repeated concussions. All eligible retired former NFL players will receive a baseline neuropsychological and neurological examination, and additional medical testing, counseling, or treatment if they are diagnosed with moderate cognitive impairment. The settlement also provides for monetary awards, conceivably into the millions of dollars, for diagnoses of certain neurocognitive diseases or impairments, such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or certain levels of dementia. Fewer than 200 retired NFL players have opted out of the settlement.

Other sports organizations have filed class actions, as well. A number of former college athletes have filed suit against the NCAA, alleging long-term injuries from concussions experienced while playing NCAA sports. The U.S. Soccer Federation, U.S. Water Polo, the NHL, and the World Wrestling Federation have also been the subjects of concussion-related lawsuits. Many states, including Colorado, have passed measures intended to protect young athletes from second-impact syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal consequence of repeated concussions.

Reid Neureiter of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell has researched concussion litigation extensively. On Thursday, March 9, from noon to 1 p.m., he will present “Concussions in the Courts,” a one-hour lunch program to highlight the continuing litigation between athletes and athletic organizations. Register by calling (303) 860-0608 or by clicking the links below.



CLE Program: Concussions in the Courts

This CLE presentation will occur on March 9, 2017, at the CBA-CLE offices (1900 Grant Street, Third Floor), from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Register for the live program here or register for the webcast here. You may also call (303) 860-0608 to register.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here: MP3Video OnDemand.