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Attending a deposition in his divorce case, Gordon James King lost it.
He started yelling about a no-contact order against him, then pushed his way around his counsel to attack the attorney on the other side. "What are you going to do now you fat little f*#@?" he shouted. A knife-fight later, King was in custody -- and we're not talking child custody. As every family law practitioner knows, sometimes family law becomes criminal law.
It doesn't take a study to know that family law practice can be a dangerous way to make a living. Lawyers find themselves in the middle of the most emotional fights. If you didn't know, family law can kill you. And it's not the stress; it's the angry litigants. Opposing parties, clients, and attorneys can lose it.
King, a former sheriff's deputy, is only one example but his case is typical: he was in the middle of an ugly divorce, staring down the barrel of losing his wife, family, and half of his financial life. When the opposing counsel said he was canceling the deposition, King took the law into his own hands. "I'm going to kill you, you're going to die right here," he said, according to affidavits and audio records. "I'm going to kill you right now, you fat little f*#@!"
He punched the lawyer in the head and chest, witnesses said, then slammed his head on the table. The attorney took a knife out of his pocket and slashed back, but his attacker wrested it from him and stabbed him twice in the side while saying, "I'm killing you."
"I think you already have," the lawyer responded. He was lucky King stopped and fled. He was arrested later at his house.
Another Day, Another Assault
The lawyer, who was not identified by police, suffered puncture wounds and a collapsed lung. King, 58, faces charges for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In the family law community, however, it is almost business as usual. Fights -- literal fights -- go hand-in-hand with family court battles. Domestic violence hearings typically take place in the same courtrooms. Too often, angry litigants also take out their frustrations on the lawyers.
It is considered one of the deadliest practice areas, followed closely by criminal law. But in criminal cases, dangerous clients are typically separated from their lawyers by bars, chains or handcuffs. In family court, they are right there.