April 2012 Bar Bulletin
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April 2012 Bar Bulletin

Wechsler Symposium Updates Judges, Commissioners on Family Law Issues

By Judge James Doerty


March 4 saw a very successful fourth annual Mary H. Wechsler Family Law Symposium, presented by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers to 28 judges and commissioners of King County Superior Court.

The program was masterfully created and assembled by Mike Bugni. Morning presenters included H. Michael Finesilver on child support, Jan Olson on criminal misbehavior in family law cases, and a panel on unbundled legal services with Carol Bailey, Monica Chin and Lorraine Rimson.

Lisa A. Sharpe's presentation, "Marital Misbehavior in the Context of a Custody Case: What Is(n't) Relevant," was topical and thorough. An excellent panel of experts on various types of parenting evaluations and investigations included Rachel DelVillar, Caroline Davis, Dr. Daniel Rybicki, David Hodges and Dr. Anne Ganley.

In the afternoon session, Dr. Ganley led a discussion about the challenges presented by the different kinds of evaluations in domestic violence situations. David Starks presented on Hague Convention issues, Shelby Frost Lemmel reviewed Washington appellate law on non-parental custody and de facto parenting, and Catherine Wright Smith and Valerie A. Villacin presented a case law update on family law issues.

This unique educational program for judges continues to provide a topical, interactive and instructive opportunity for all the participants. The Superior Court is lucky to have this resource and the efforts of the AAML and presenters are much appreciated.

The annual symposium is dedicated to Mary Wechsler, a highly respected and beloved family law attorney for more than 30 years who retired from practice after her diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease). Mary died from the disease on January 21, 2011, at the age of 63.

Among her many accomplishments, Mary served as president of the King County Bar Association and the Washington chapters of the American Judicature Society and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She received "Outstanding Attorney" awards from KCBA and the WSBA Family Law Section. Mary was active in reformation and improvement of the Washington judicial system and was appointed to the Walsh Commission on Judicial Selection by Gov. Mike Lowry in 1995. She was honored as Distinguished Lifetime Director for her outstanding contributions to the judicial system.

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