Volume XVII, Number 3 – October 2008
© Donlevy-Rosen & Rosen, P.A.
THE MORRIS CASE:
No Opinions, No Conjecture, No Assumptions,
Just The Facts…
INTRODUCTION. A lengthy legal ordeal has finally ended for Merry Morris. Much has been written about her case, most of it inaccurate, according to Merry, whom we interviewed on September 25, 2008. We want to present the truth about her case, and what better source for the truth than Merry?
Merry Morris was punished by a Florida family court for seeking that court’s help in clarifying her visitation rights regarding her two children. The punishment? $1.8 million and a warrant for her arrest when she failed to appear in court.
The facts that she had been a fugitive, later incarcerated for contempt of court when she surrendered, and that there was an offshore trust in the mix generated a big hullabaloo among commentators. A particularly outspoken nay-sayer of offshore asset protection (whom we will refer to as “JA”) proclaimed (without getting the facts straight) that Merry had been incarcerated because she had set up an offshore asset protection trust, thus proving once again JA’s position that offshore trusts don’t work (From his web site: “Yet another loss for Cook Islands Trusts.”).
SOME DIALOG. We spoke directly to Merry about her case:
Q: Merry, what was the actual cause of your incarceration?
A: Indirect criminal contempt for failure to appear in court [“indirect” as opposed to “direct” means that the contempt was not in front of the judge, i.e., such as by failure to appear when ordered to do so].
Q: ARE YOU SAYING THAT YOUR INCARCERATION HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR OFFSHORE TRUST?
A: IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH MY OFFSHORE TRUST.
Q: Why did you flee the jurisdiction?
A: Cold-blooded fear that I wouldn’t be treated fairly by the court. NOTE: Turned out to be a well-founded fear.
Q: Was there a connection between your ex-husband and the judge?
A: I have no way to prove it, but I am certain in my gut that there was a solidarity in the system to maintain the family court ruling. I want to emphasize that the trust was a removed third party until my ex-husband was able to manipulate the court system, and no one was interested in the rights and well-being of the children. The issue was enforcement of the judgment and they never looked at the human element. The [3 dissenting justices of the Florida] Supreme Court (932 So.2d 1007) questioned whether the clause [requiring Merry to repay the property settlement amount to her ex if she contested the post-nuptial agreement – which agreement included the specifics regarding visitation and custody of the children] was even legal, and [,whether,] without an appellate review, would be a miscarriage of justice.
Q: When you first entered into the post-nuptial agreement, what were the terms?
A: It guaranteed both [parents] joint custody, unless [the] court found that it was residential custody, I would always have shared parental responsibility. I asked the court to review [my ex’s] breaching the agreement by withholding visitation, and that [request] was ruled as challenging the agreement. At no point did I ask for any more money. Our children were victims of parental alienation, similar to what Alec Baldwin is now talking about in his book.
Q: Why did you create the offshore trust?
A: To preserve capital and protect [my] interests and that of my children. As a single woman, unsophisticated in handling large sums of money, it was in my interest. My ex in-laws had always been involved in foreign banking and accounting, and so it was not a foreign concept to me.
Q: Southpac was the trustee of your offshore trust. Did Southpac have any involvement in the final settlement with your ex?
A: Yes. My ex was required to send Brian Mason [managing director of Southpac] a letter stating he had formed a trust for the children [which could then receive a distribution from the trust Merry settled,in accordance with its terms]. My son had turned 18, and I was always planning on putting some money in a trust for him and my daughter. The trustee and my ex had [previously] communicated, and Brian would not cooperate until all documents regarding the settlement of the new children’s trust were properly in place.
Q: Was Southpac a rubber stamp for you?
A: No, it would have been easier, in fact, if they were. They were never a rubber stamp.
Q: Did they do just what your lawyer told them to do?
A: No, they did what the trust by-laws [trust document] dictated they could do.
Q: So they acted as they should? To protect the interests of the trust beneficiaries and to preserve the value of the trust?
A: Yes. It’s unfortunate that it’s been misinterpreted that they were rubber stamps. Had my children not been beneficiaries when I settled it [Cook Islands trust], they would not have been able to get any funds at any time. What really upset me was that JA had said “Oh how convenient, the kids get a trust at the right time,” but, truth be told, there is no specific time to provide for your children.
Q: In fact, wasn’t this [the Cook Islands trust] a rearrangement of a prior trust?
A: Yes it was, there was nothing new.
Q: Were you happy with the ultimate terms of the settlement? The way the whole ordeal turned out?
A: Yes, I am happy to have a heavily litigated lawsuit over …I was very happy with the way Southpac handled vexatious lawyers, and, as trustees, always upheld the best interests the trust.
Q: What were the main issues here for you? Keeping the money, making sure it was not given to your ex, women’s rights?
A: Letting my children know that their interests were always utmost in my mind when the trust was settled and [that] they were not for sale. It is a US constitutional right for children to have a relationship with both parents. All this will be explained in my book. Basically I was coerced by a corrupt [U.S.] legal system. Judges are elected or appointed and, it is, sadly, a good old boys network where the highest paid lawyers win contrary to the best interest of the parties and, in my case, our children.
SUMMARY. Q: In closing, is there any statement that you would like to make?
A: “I want to make a statement regarding JA. He and his website have misinformed the public on the facts of this case. It is unfortunate that he has stressed opinion over facts.”
CONCLUSION. The Asset Protection News thanks Merry Morris for taking the time to speak to us and set the record straight on her case.