Tales from Wasilla: Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Wasilla City Hall, Wasilla, Alaska (2008, via Wikicommons)

Wasilla City Hall, Wasilla, Alaska (2008, via Wikicommons)

WC notes that Lisa Stewart, of Wasilla, with her five young children in her Chevy Astro van, rammed her ex’s house with the van. Twice. She knocked the house six feet off its foundation and slightly injured her kids. It probably didn’t do the van any favors, either. She told the Troopers afterwards she had driven the van into the building by accident, and had been trying to get away because the father had been mean to her. Her kids told the cops Mommy meant to ram the house. The Frontiersman reports Ms. Stewart was taking Valium. Apparently, not enough.

WC is a lawyer, but since 1983, WC has declined to take domestic relations cases. Ms. Stewart would be Exhibit A as to why. Some years before that, Senior U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, then an insurance defense lawyer, was appointed by the court to represent a woman in a divorce case, and wound up trapped in his office by the outraged husband, who was waving around a firearm in the parking lot and daring Ralph to come out. Call that Exhibit B. One of WC’s law school classmates was killed in a Cook County courtroom when a husband, upset over a judge’s ruling against him, pulled a pistol out from underneath the seat of his wheelchair, shot and killed WC’s classmate and the bailiff, shot and gravely wounded the judge, told his horrified wife he loved her, and then blew his own brains out. That’s a pretty horrific Exhibit C.

Ms. Stewart’s dangerous tantrum has likely wrecked her life. Her uncontrolled emotional reaction to a perceived affront caused her to ignore her own interests, and ignore her children’s interests. Now she is charged with a serious felony, and there are protective orders issued barring her from having contact with her ex-husband and her five children. It’s an understatement – an possible an unfortunate metaphor – to say she shot herself in the foot.

As a lawyer, how do you advise someone who is incapable of recognizing their best interests? Not just fails to recognize them; is so emotionally charged that they are incapable, no matter what legal advise a lawyer might offer?

If it is possible, it takes skills WC does not possess. And carries dangers, even for lawyer, as WC’s classmate discovered.

The Lisa Stewarts of the world are not found only in Wasilla, although the evidence suggests there may be an unusually high concentration there. The Lisa Stewarts aren’t all or even mostly women; in WC’s experience, women generally handle the emotional wrenching of a divorce of dissolution better than men.

But Ms. Stewart is a classic object lesson. And she does come from Wasilla.