At the risk of sounding like a legal academia groupie, I must declare: I love law professors. I love their big brains, their big ideas, and their big paychecks. This is why Above the Law treats certain law professors like bona fide celebrities.
But nobody’s perfect, and that includes legal academics. For example, law professors have an unfortunate tendency to overcomplicate matters.
Take divorce. Two formerly married law professors have been involved in a knock-down, drag-out legal fight that judges have called “frightening” and “appalling.” Who are the profs, and what are they fighting over?
When they married in 1986, Christo and Sharlene Lassiter vowed to create a marriage that would last in good times and bad. Instead, the marriage lasted 10 years – seven years less than their divorce-related legal battles. That fight has been so acrimonious that it’s resulted in rare instances of judges sharply rebuking the pair….
“I am really shocked, because when I was in law school my professors were outstanding. They never would have told me that behaving the way you all have, both of you, over the past 20 years, is acceptable behavior,” Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz told their attorneys in a July hearing.
It’s deeply unfortunate, because the Lassiters looked great on paper and made for quite the power couple. Christo Lassiter, 56, a professor of law and criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, has a BA from the University of Chicago, an MA from the University of Michigan, and a JD from the University of Michigan. Sharlene Lassiter, 52 — who has since remarried and now goes by Sharlene Boltz — is a professor of law at Northern Kentucky University, with a BA from Brown University and a JD from the University of Michigan. She is a member of the bar in three states.
But for all their shiny credentials, Lassiter and Boltz have proven unable to conduct themselves amicably. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, their divorce file had more than 1,400 docket entries — 1,000 more than the typical divorce case — and their divorce and subsequent legal battles have gone on for some 17 years. The divorce proper dragged on for five years, and subsequent squabbles, carried out through 28 separate lawsuits, have gone on for another dozen years (and counting).
Such a litigation hell makes that recent ugly Biglaw partner divorce look like a picnic. Some of the Lassiters’ interactions have been très trashy:
The filings have included Boltz calling the police to Lassiter’s workplace several times; both having and then losing custody of their two children, now ages 20 and 17. It also involves several complaints by judges presiding over the case that the law professors, who they say should know the rules of the courts, repeatedly violated those rules.
What do Christo Lassiter and Sharlene Boltz have to say for themselves? Boltz didn’t respond to requests for comment, while Lassiter had these remarks:
“There has been no spite. I wanted to father my children,” Lassiter said. “I have not seen this as ego-driven. I have not seen this as revenge-motivated.” ….
“I think there could have been and should have been better court management,” he said of what he believes were judges allowing his ex-wife to manipulate the court system to her benefit. “Had a court stepped in and resolved the major issues cleanly and early, there would not have been voluminous [filings],” he said.
Law professors: they’re just like us (or our children). They need bright-line rules, plus lots of tough love. If you give them anything else, watch out: things will get very, very complicated.