Even Contracts Have Limits

Contrary to popular belief, mother is not always right.  From the Albany Times-Union :

The mother of a 19-year-old man and the mother of a 13-year-old girl thought they would avoid legal problems if they signed an agreement that allowed their children to have a romantic relationship, Schenectady police said.

[Shawn] German of Hulett Street is charged with second-degree rape and a host of other charges for allegedly having the relationship with the girl.

His mother, Tracy A. Lisi, 38, and the other woman, whose identity is not being released by police because they said it would identify her daughter, an alleged sex crime victim, were both charged with child endangerment.

Police said the two women knew the age difference between German and the girl could pose legal problems so they created the agreement signing off on the match.
It doesn’t strike me as being necessary to discuss at length why the mothers involved are, oh, sick.  It’s a stretch to suggest that either one should have procreated, but that issue seems to have an inversely proportional relationship with good judgment.

What is fascinating is that these two moms, apparently all on their own, recognized that there might be a little legal issue with the plan, and came up with the notion that they could solve it by contract.  The law fixes everything.  Perhaps they have access to the internet, and sufficient wherewithal to type in basic letters to arrive at what they perceived to be a legal solution to their dilemma, how to authorize a 19 year old boy to have sex with a 13 year old girl.  I wonder what the Google search looked like.  What are the chances they ended up at Popehat, where so many sexual/legal inquiries seem to go.

Maybe they happened upon one of those free lawyer answer websites and learned all about the intersection of contracts and committing crimes?  Maybe they went to Legalzoom and bought a basic do-it-yourself contract for sex with a child.  The article doesn’t say.  A copy of the contract would have been helpful, to see how well drafted it was.  Even if it wasn’t up to Ken Adams’ standards, it might have been a darn good try.

But for all those who think that there’s no particular need to have a clue what you’re doing when it comes to the law, and advocate self-help and one size fits all, let this be a bit of a warning.  There remains a certain element of knowledge and judgment in the practice of law that people inclined to contract away their 13 year old’s sexual favors might lack.  Maybe everybody shouldn’t be their own lawyer.

H/T Poet Emeritus David Giacalone

2 comments on “Even Contracts Have Limits

  1. David Giacalone

    Thanks for running with my Tip, Scott. Were I still blawging, this story would certainly have made it into my Only in Schenectady (I Hope) series. But, I have to say that the actions of these fools should not be an excuse for bashing self-help law. No reputable self-help site would have given the moms or their kids any reason to believe they could avoid criminal or civil liability for underage sex through a contract. You will find nothing at Nolo.com or HALT.org, Legalzoon, nor SHLEP, for instance, that in any way would have led these characters astray. Nolo and HALT always caution that do-it-yourself criminal defense is quite risky. And, they offer tips and guides on legal research that could have helped any reasonably intelligent and diligent person to avoid the problems we see with the Contract penned by the mothers in Schenectady.

    I continue to agree with HALT that the vast majority of people can adequately handle the majority of their legal problems with well-crafted self-help materials. However, as Paul Ello, my old International Relations professor at Georgetown, used to say, “With the stupid, even God labors in vain.”

  2. SHG

    I think you may be taking my admonition a bit too literally.  The point isn’t that Legalzoom offers contracts to sell 13 year olds, but that they encourage people to do things, like create contracts, as if this somehow legalizes this travesty.  And I don’t think that majority of people can adequately handle their legal problems with self-help materials.  In fact, I think it’s a truly bad thing.  But as I said, that’s not the point of the post.

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