James W. Murdoch of Charlotte, Vermont has been selected by his peers for inclusion in the 20th Edition (2014) of the Best Lawyers in America© in the practice areas of Criminal Defense and Family Law. Murdoch was congratulated on being recognized by his peers as one of the best in these areas of practice for at least 15 years.
In addition, Mr. Murdoch was also selected for inclusion on the 2013 New England Super Lawyers list, an honor that is limited to no more than five percent of the attorneys within Vermont.
Mr. Murdoch concentrates in the areas of Family Law, Criminal Defense and Personal Injury. An alumnus of Middlebury College and Boston University’s School of Law, he has been practicing law in Burlington, Vermont since 1968.[Read More...]
In its decision, D.M.T. v. T.M.H., Fla., No. SC12-261 (Nov. 7, 2013), the Florida Court held that applying the assisted reproductive technology statute to deny a woman from asserting parental rights when she donated ova to her same-sex partner is unconstitutional and a violation of her due process, privacy, and equal protection rights.
D.M.T. and T.M.H. enjoyed a long-term relationship and agreed to have a child together. T.M.H. provided the egg and, with donor sperm, the fertilized ovum was implanted in D.M.T. The child was born in 2004, but the parties separated in 2006. After D.M.T. severed contact between their child and T.M.H., .T.M.H. brought a court action to establish her parental rights.
The trial court denied T.M.H.’s action, finding she relinquished any claim to parental rights or obligation under Florida’s assisted reproductive technology statute. The appellate court reversed, finding the statute did not apply to T.M.H. because she did not intend to give her ova away, and thus was not a “donor”. The Florida Supreme Court agreed that T.M.H. was not a “donor” but disagreed with the appellate court because the statute in its face did, in fact, apply to T.M.H.
The Florida statute identifies two categories of “donor” individuals who do not relinquish parental rights: commissioning couples (the child conceived uses the biological material of at least one of them); and fathers with executed pre-planned adoption agreements.
The Court analogized her interest to that of an unmarried biological father, “whose parental rights are inchoate but develop into a fundamental right when [he] demonstrates ‘a full commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood’.” Here, T.M.H. assumed full parental responsibilities until D.M.T. severed her contact with the child. Therefore, this decision may result in unmarried same-sex couples being treated as a “commissioning couple” under Florida’s assisted reproductive technology statute.
To read the Florida Supreme Court decision, please visit: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2013/sc12-261.pdf
To read the Florida Statute, please visit: http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/742.14[Read More...]
Civil unions have been available to same-sex couples in New Jersey since February 2007. Previous efforts to change the law failed, with the Governor vetoing a same-sex marriage law in 2012. However, same-sex marriage finally became available on October 21, 2013 after a Court ruling invalidating the state law that restricted marriage to persons of opposite gender. Governor Christie initially indicated that he would appeal the ruling, but subsequently withdrew, and therefore same-sex marriage is now available to couples in New Jersey.
New Jersey joins 13 states and the District of Columbia that allow gay couples to marry.[Read More...]
James W. Murdoch has once again been appointed by the Board of Regents as a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers‘ Vermont State Committee for the coming year.[Read More...]
Frank Twarog was recognized by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense (NAFDD) as one of the top DUI defense attorneys in Vermont and was invited to join their organization. NAFDD is an invitation-only organization that identifies the top DUI attorneys in the country and provides the public with a resource to locate the best attorneys in this practice area.[Read More...]
In St. Mary v. Damon, 129 Nev., Advanced Opinion 68 (No. 58315, Oct. 3, 2013), the Nevada Supreme Court considered the custodial rights of a woman who bore a child created from her same-sex partner’s egg and donor sperm.
Ms. St. Mary and Ms. Damon decided to have a child together. After drafting a co-parenting agreement, Ms. St. Mary gave birth to a child through in vitro fertilization, using Ms. Damon’s egg and an anonymous donor sperm. A previous order recognized Ms. Damon as the legal mother and included her on the child’s birth certificate, and recognized Ms. St. Mary as “a mere surrogate.”
The couple separated and entered into a dispute regarding custody of their minor child. The district court refused to uphold the parties’ co-parenting agreement and refused to consider whether Ms. St. Mary had any custodial rights of their child. Ms. St. Mary appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.
The Nevada Supreme Court held that, under Nevada law, it is possible for a child to have two mothers and the district court erred in restricting the evidentiary hearing to matters of third-party visitation and refusing to consider whether Ms. St. Mary had any parental rights. Additionally, the Court found the district court erred in barring enforceability of a co-parenting agreement on the basis of the parties’ genders because it conflicts with the Nevada Parentage Act’s policy of promoting the child’s best interest with the support of two parents.
The Nevada Supreme Court remanded the case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of Ms. St. Mary’s parental rights. If the district court finds she is a parent of the child, the court must consider the co-parenting agreement between the parents when making its custody determination.
To read the Supreme Court of Nevada’s Advanced Opinion, visit: