Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nikki Araguz - media exploitation and personal revenge

One of the side effects of press and news media sensationalization of something like the civil lawsuits against Nikki Araguz by her late husband's the ex-wife, Heather Delgado, are the various forms of media exploitation that arise as a result. Such exploitation seems like the modern version of the puritanical era practice of locking someone in a pillory at the town square, to be the object of ridicule, harassment, and humiliation. Here are three examples.


a puritanical town square pillory
First of all, Nikki Araguz is being exploited by newspapers and television stations in Texas, who are reaping significant financial gain from writing, publishing, and broadcasting, sensationalized stories about the intimate and not always relevant details of Nikki Araguz's life. These are stories their producers apparently believe generate morbid curiosity among the largely bigoted and hostile viewing public within the culture that dominates much of Texas. The result is that they appear to believe that providing a sensationalized and lurid presentation of Nikki Araguz will increase their television ratings, sell more newspapers, or generate more visits to their web sites, all operated for profit from advertisers. What has also been noticeably absent from the television and newspaper sensationalization, is that the news media has refrained from reporting on the personal histories and background of Heather Deldago and Simona Longoria, who are the people suing Nikki Araguz on behalf of Thomas Araguz's two sons. Altogether, this seems like a quite corrupted approach to journalism.

The second form of exploitation has come from the creator of a college student video documentary about Nikki Araguz made about fifteen years ago. It is apparent that the author of the video was paid a significant sum of money by the Houston, TX Fox News television station for the exclusive rights to broadcast it. However, one can't help but notice that the video's author has not been identified, neither by Fox News in Houston, nor by Nikki Araguz and her attorneys, who must certainly know who created it. In addition, Fox News has committed the unethical act of showing only heavily edited, and self serving, excerpts from the video, overlaid with their own editorializing commentary and intercut with other video, to create the editorial slant they want to present their viewers.

In their television report, the Fox News representation of transsexualism is of her being "troubled", their term, and "confused", also their term, while the video itself presents an obviously happy, very young woman, even at nineteen or twenty years old, who claims she had not even been taking female hormones at that point, despite her significantly feminine physique and total lack of any secondary physical features that would be caused by testosterone. In fact, if in the future Nikki Araguz is able to present medical evidence that she was not taking female hormones at that time, that might serve as evidence she has a medical condition called partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), implying there may be a clear physiological basis for her transsexual condition, causing some to reach the conclusion that she had both a transsexual medical condition and an intersex/hermaphroditic medical condition that impacted her youth. Parenthetically, women with total Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, are born with female genitalia, despite having an XY sex chromosome pair, because their bodies have no ability whatsoever to process testosterone, which is required during gestation in order for male genitalia to develop.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_insensitivity_syndrome

The potential that Nikki Araguz was born with AIS may provide a legal basis for making a claim to marriage legality that differs somewhat from the issues ruled upon in the Littleton v. Prange court case. Given this subtly significant aspect of that fifteen year old video, it seems likely that either or both parties to the probate/inheritance lawsuit will issue a subpoena to its creator, to produce it for use as evidence, which would also require him to serve as a witness to authenticate it for use as an exhibit and evidence if the case ever gets to trial. What has also gone unexamined by much of the press and media are the motivations behind someone selling such a video to a television station, which on a personal level means that person cares little about the feelings of Nikki Araguz, and doesn't care if Nikki Araguz, becomes the exploited victim of tabloid journalism, so long as the author makes a profit from it. Such a person is no friend of Nikki Araguz. Too bad that Nikki Araguz wasn't legally sophisticated enough at the time to require a written contract regarding the manner in which the author would be allowed to use the video of her in the future.

The third example of exploitation that has arisen, is the man Nikki Araguz apparently "ambushed" on a 1994 episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Once again all the newspapers and television stations have noticeably left that man's identity out of their news reports, despite the fact that his identity is surely publicly available and he can likely still be seen on television in re-runs of that episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Once again though, although Nikki didn't behave like a friend when she manipulated that man onto that television program without telling him about the disclosure she was going to make, the man she humiliated on the Jerry Springer Show has been able to turn the tables on her all these years later. That is quite a serious example of "what goes around comes around", and in this instance, it seems like Nikki's adversaries in the lawsuit against her are likely to use its implications about Nikki's character against her during the litigation as well.

Amazingly, at least from public appearances, Nikki Araguz seems to be holding up well emotionally, and except for displaying tangible grief about her late husband, she has handled intense public scrutiny with a significant level of detachment and maturity. The one asset Nikki Araguz undeniably has, is a team of attorneys with the desire, knowledge, tenacity, and apparently, the financial ability, to litigate this case on behalf of Nikki Araguz, no matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult the litigation, and no matter what the outcome.

Friday, July 30, 2010

frank mann - source of the Nikki Araguz leaks

Yet another twist has come to light about the two lawsuits against Nikki Araguz. Apparently, Frank Mann, the attorney for Heather Delgado, the ex-wife of Nikki Araguz's late husband in the child custody lawsuit against Nikki and her late husband, had previously represented Nikki Araguz and Emilio Mata, Nikki's first husband, during a 2002 bankruptcy case. It is surely a violation of judicial ethics rules for Frank Mann to represent Tom Araguz's ex-wife, Heather Delgado, since his previous representative involvement with Nikki Araguz and Emilio Mata creates a direct conflict of interest.It appears that Nikki Araguz may have discussed her medical history with Frank Mann under attorney client privilege, and that Frank Mann has violated that privilege and disclosed that confidential medical information to Heather Delgado in the child custody case and in an email broadcast Frank Mann sent to friends of his about Nikki Araguz during her campaign for mayor of Wharton, TX. This explains how Heather Delgado became aware that Nikki Araguz is a transsexual woman, and it also explains the timing of Heather Delgado's knowledge of this information.

Texas state bar records show that Frank Mann has been repeatedly sanctioned for ethics violations in the past, and that his license to practice law has been temporarily suspended on multiple occasions. It is curious that Nikki Araguz and her late husband Thomas Araguz didn't know enough about the legal system to realize that Frank Mann shouldn't be representing a client in opposition to here after Frank Mann had already represented her, and that their attorney doesn't seem to have been aware either. In addition, Frank Mann had an ethical duty to refrain from representing Heather Delgado, Simona Longoria, or anyone for that matter, in any lawsuit against Nikki Araguz. The Houston Press describes Frank Mann's past involvement with the Texas State Bar Association regarding his ethics violations as follows:
It's not Mann's first dance with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel: in 1990, Mann agreed to a fully probated 36-month suspension for "misrepresentations of fact concerning the dates of his hospitalization for alcohol and substance abuse in an affidavit offered in support of a motion to retain." (The suspension was stayed; he was allowed to actively practice, but was placed on probation.) The Office of Disciplinary Counsel also ruled that, in one case, Mann "assigned away 100 percent of any attorney's fees" and then "intervened in the pending lawsuit, claiming an interest in attorney's fees."

In 1997, Mann was suspended for five and a half years and was not eligible to practice for the first 36 months. In that case, among other things, the Counsel found that Mann's paralegal "affixed [a] client's signature from a prior document to a proposed modification, without the client's consent." Mann wasn't in the office at the time, but he was "responsible supervision and instruction of his staff and for ensuring that his staff follows the law and the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct."
http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2010/07/ex-wifes_lawyer_investigated.php

The newspaper article above reveals that attorneys for Nikki Araguz have already filed a complaint with the Texas State Bar Association. However, at first the Texas State Bar Association dismissed the complaint, and has only re-opened its investigation now that Frank Mann, Heather Delgado, Nikki Araguz, et al, are headline news all across Texas. That doesn't speak very well of the Texas State Bar Association, which has allowed Frank Mann to continue practicing law despite his repeated demonstration of a lack of respect for the rules of ethical conduct that attorneys are required by law to follow. The Texas State Bar Assocation web site contains all the details about its disciplinary actions against Frank Mann:

Frank E. Mann III
6750 West Loop Souoth #120
Bellaire, TX 77401
713-524-6868
License Number: 12924250
http://www.mannfamilylaw.com/
Texas State Bar Profile of Frank E. Mann III

Although the attorney for Nikki Araguz in the child custody lawsuit could surely file a motion with the court in that case to have Frank Mann removed as attorney for the ex-wife Heather Delgado, the damage is already done. Even though Frank Mann may have committed a conflict of interest violation, may have violated his attorney/client privilege with Nikki Araguz, and the Texas Bar Association could go after him, Frank Mann appears to have already succeeded in his role as the Judas whose unlawful disclosures instigated the legal firestorm that now surrounds Nikki Araguz.

Life for transsexual people seems truly perilous when transsexual people can't even depend on attorney/client privilege. It turns out that Frank Mann was secretly quite transphobic, and also tried to leak his privileged knowledge of Nikki Araguz's medical history before the election for Mayor Wharton, TX in May 2010, in which Nikki Araguz was a candidate. Nikki Araguz lost that election anyway, even though the information doesn't appear to have been made public at the time, and Nikki Araguz appears to have been ineligible to run for public office anyway, because she has a felony conviction on her criminal record. However, the most important revelation here is that Frank Mann appears to be someone who has no business practicing law, and is someone who may be primarily responsible for creating the leaks that have stirred up the mess that currently surrounds Nikki Araguz's life.

The twists and turns in the Nikki Araguz lawsuits just seem to keep on coming. It is hard to imagine what life must be like right now for Nikki Araguz, with nearly every aspect of her life virtually exploding around her. It seems like the average person would need anti-anxiety medication just to cope and be able to sleep at night.

Nikki Araguz, truth, and courts of law

In a recent Houston Chronicle newspaper article, Nikki Araguz is quoted as saying she and her late husband perjured themselves in depositions that were taken as part of the child custody lawsuit her husband's ex-wife Heather Delgado filed against them before his death. In that newspaper article she was quoted as follows:
"That deposition is a lie," Nikki Araguz said from her Wharton home Monday night.
"At the time, Thomas and I thought it was in the best interest of our children to lie. They were the center of (our) lives," she said.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7125992.html

It seems apparent that Nikki Araguz and her late husband, Thomas Araguz, truly didn't understand the legal system and the potential consequences for committing that sort of obvious perjury in a legal proceeding. Such perjury, once discovered by the court, which she has now publicly admitted to, only provides Heather Delgado with the very evidence of poor character Delgado would need to claim that Nikki Araguz is an unfit custodial parent for Ms. Delgado's biological children. With that sort of evidence, Nikki Araguz has unwittingly given Heather Delgado the ability to avoid mentioning Nikki Araguz's irrelevant transsexual status at all in the child custody case, to instead focus on Nikki's criminal history and her perjury in the lawsuit itself as the basis for preventing Nikki from having contact with her step sons. In all likelihood though, it seems probable that the child custody lawsuit is a moot point at this juncture anyway. This is so because, unless Nikki Araguz had adopted the children prior to her husband's death, it seems probable that she lost any legal relationship to her step children, has probably lost standing (the ability to be a party) in the child custody lawsuit as a consequence of her husband's death, and therefore has probably lost any legal right to have contact with her two step sons, Trevor Araguz (age 9) and Tyler Araguz (age 7), anyway.

Heather Delgado lawsuit news conference - Thursday July 29, 2010

Here is video from the latest news conference by Heather Delgado, the plaintiff against Nikki Araguz in the inheritance lawsuit filed by Delgado, who is attempting to prevent Nikki Araguz from inheriting the proceeds from the estate of her late husband Thomas Araguz. His estate includes fireman's death benefits with an apparent value of as much as $600,000, plus the proceeds of a life insurance policy he had which names Nikki Araguz as its beneficiary.



Clearly, this presentation by Fox News of excerpts from the news conference that Heather Delgado gave is heavily edited, and only contains short snippets of what was surely a much longer interview. The video is also intercut with segments from the video documentary of Nikki Araguz that was made over fifteen years ago. Consequently, the video above does not provide any sort of objective presentation of the information.

However, one point made by the news reporter, is that Heather Delgado doesn't have any explanation for her assertion that Thomas Araguz didn't know Nikki Araguz is a transsexual woman until just a few months ago. Such a claim clearly lacks credibility, and seems difficult for any reasonable person to believe, since Nikki Purdue (Araguz) married Thomas Araguz in August 2008, but she has stated in a video interview that she didn't have what was apparently sex reassignment surgery to create female genitalia for her until October 2008. It seems highly improbable that the two of them could have been living together during that time without Thomas Araguz being aware of the configuration of Nikki Araguz's genitalia and sex organs. As far as the legal issues in the probate/inheritance lawsuit are concerned, the timing of the surgery could become significant, since the date of the surgery implies that Nikki Araguz was morphologically male, i.e. she has male genitals, at the time she and Thomas Araguz were married, and only obtained female genitalia including a vagina months later. Such a fact pattern would undercut the defendant's ability to use an argument that once a transsexual woman has obtained a vagina as a consequent of surgery, she is physically and legally female, and therefore eligibly to marry, since it appears that Nikki (Purdue) Araguz may have had male genitalia at the time she married Thomas Araguz.

One point of speculation that certainly needs to be entertained, is whether or not Nikki Araguz had undergone an orchiectomy prior marrying Thomas Araguz, was able to obtain an affidavit fromm the orchiectomy surgeon that such surgery fulfilled the requirements of California law with regard to sex-reassignment, thereby enabling Nikki Araguz to obtain a female birth certificate from California, which she could then have used to obtain a Texas marriage license. Hopefully the plaintiff's attorneys will be astute enough and knowledgeable enough about transsexual medical treatment to ask such questions when they next depose Nikki Araguz.



Regardless, the war of emotional words, and the over simplified and obtuse claims made by both parties and their attorneys about the legal issues in the case mean little in comparison to what will and must transpire within the confines of court procedure, including upcoming depositions of the parties, and numerous subsequent court hearings. In this most recent video Heather Delgado attempts to place all the blame for what Heather described as "this mess" on Nikki Araguz, when the truth is that Heather Delgado could have avoided the mess she started by filing a lawsuit against Nikki, could have refrained from filing such a lawsuit, and could have accepted half of the $600,000 in fireman's benefits, and could have tried to work out a friendly agreement for support of the young boys. Instead, she has cast herself in the role of a Roman centurion, attempting to use her lawsuit against Nikki Araguz to nail Nikki to a proverbial crucifix, making Nikki a martyr for the cause of marriage rights for transsexual people. Hopefully, the district court in Wharton, Texas will take the case seriously enough to patiently obtain and hear all the facts in detail, regardless of the judgments it renders as a consequence of those facts and the current state of Texas law. In any event, it is very sad indeed that Texas law allows this Nikki Araguz's entire life to be invaded in the service of this sort of oppressive witch hunt against her.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Perspectives on the Prospects for Nikki Araguz

Based on a cursory perusal of articles and commentary around the internet, a significant percentage of the transsexual population has reacted primarily emotionally, with indignation, and outright anger, about the lawsuits against Nikki Araguz. Many such people have bristled in response to the detailed information that has been published regarding Nikki Araguz, preferring instead, to believe that somehow mere righteousness might win the day in the face of a hostile Texas culture, presumably bigoted Texas judges, and a Texas judiciary whose appeals court decisions have already stacked the deck against Ms. Araguz. Various transsexual activists have focused on the lurid nature of the television and press coverage, reacting with anger and outrage. For example, on facebook.com, the vivacious and valiant Ashley Love shared the following comment:
The media keeps on spreading misinformation about this case. Their offensive and innaccurate misreporting must be called out in order to aide the transsexual, transgender and intersex communities.

http://www.facebook.com/loveashleylove
Ms. Love's comment is correct that nearly every news article has been slanted, misleading, inaccurate, often offensive, and designed to generate negative public sentiment toward Nikki Araguz. However, Ms. Love's statement doesn't identify any of this purported misinformation specifcally.

In fact, much of the core information published by the media, in the midst of its salacious approach to it, has been factual: statements from Nikki Araguz herself, video interviews with Nikki Araguz herself - including a video documentary of her from over fifteen years ago that is quite extensive, Nikki's own admission of perjury during an April deposition she gave, Nikki's own admission and her own apology for appearing on the Jerry Springer Show in 1994 in which she used that television program to blindside someone she had dated by disclosing her transsexual status to him on the program, the details of Nikki's criminal history which includes multiple felony convictions, court records that include her 1996 name change petition, and more. The problem isn't about the truth or falsehood of the media disclosures, the problem is their lack of relevance and the scurrilously misrepresentative nature of them, since few if any of them are actually relevant within the lawsuit itself.

While some people contend that some of this information is purely about Nikki Araguz's character and credibility, and irrelevant to the central legal issues in the probate case, this sort of character information seems likely to have a significant impact on Nikki's ability to testify on her own behalf in any future deposition and in any trial that may occur, especially her public admission of perjury. Admittedly though, if her case were to stand any chance at trial, it would be the quality of expensive medical expert witness testimony that would form the core of a trial court record for future consideration by an appeals court that seems likely to be most important to her case. However, the plaintiffs, Heather Delgado and Simona Longoria, seem quite likely to focus on Nikki's character to attack the validity of her marriage, including admissions of perjury, deception, criminal convictions, and her equivocation and attempts to prevaricate about the specifics of her medical history, and the sequence of events, including the surgery she received in 2008, that surround her two marriages.

Based on her own recent internet posts, Nikki Araguz appears to be in psychological denial about the impact of her own extensive public statements, and about the potential consequences of the factual information that has come to light about her, most of which seems irrefutable. I suspect she is likely to be bolstered by a segment of the transsexual population, and others who will support her in her cause, no matter how seemingly insurmountable the odds against her. In addition, she has a legal team that is apparently ready and willing to wage legal battle for her no matter what, possibly even pro-bono without charging her a fee and while incurring massive expenses for expert witness testimony, as part of a larger legal crusade for marriage rights regarding transsexual people. On the one hand it seems appropriate to wish them good luck, but on the other it also seems appropriate to be realistic about the lack of likelihood that they could prevail against such overwhelming odds.

nikki araguz 1994 student video documentary

Here are clips from the video documentary that was made of Nikki Araguz in the mid 1990s when she was apparently about twenty years old and attending college. The Fox News television station in Houston, TX was apparently approached by the videographer who made the documentary and purchased the exclusive rights to broadcast the video. In the excerpts from the much longer video that were presented by the Houston, TX Fox News television station, Nikki expresses what seems like relatively classic transsexual self perceptions, including her college aged determination to living an all female life at that time.


[part one]



[part two]



[part three]



(please note that Fox News keeps changing the link information for these videos, so they may no longer contain the correct segments of the three video segments)

Although fox news has inter cut the documentary of Nikki Araguz made during her college years with their own editorialized commentary, much of the contents of the documentary do seem to provide insights into her thought processes and well as clear evidence of the structure of her life when the documentary was made. The video documentary also seems to provide excellent evidence of the fact that Nikki Araguz was apparently born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, a condition that causes the human body to develop as female despite having an XY sex chromosome pair, (see references below).

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/androgen-insensitivity-syndrome

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_insensitivity_syndrome

https://health.google.com/health/ref/Androgen+insensitivity+syndrome

What to expect next in the Nikki Araguz case

The present stage of the proceedings in the child custody lawsuit filed against Nikki Araguz by her late husband's ex-wife Heather Delgado hasn't been reported about much in the news. However, it seems apparent that the case is in some stage of discovery (evidence gathering). Given the death of one of the parties, it seems like either or both sides may file various motions with regard to the status of the parties that may impact the resolution of the case. For example, it may be that Nikki Araguz never formally adopted her step sons, so the death of her husband might end her legal relationship to them, voiding her standing in that lawsuit, and rendering her efforts to maintain contact with them moot and unattainable.

The estate/inheritance lawsuit filed against against Nikki Araguz by her late husband's mother, Simona Rodriguez Longoria, and ex-wife, Heather Delgado, appears to have just begun though, with a summons and petition/complaint having been filed and served, along with a motion by the plaintiffs for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and motion for expedited show cause hearing. The show cause hearing for the temporary restraining order took place on Friday July 23 2010 at the Wharton County courthouse in Texas. The judge granted the TRO and froze the assets of Thomas Araguz, including fireman's death benefits, life insurance, and so on, prohibiting both parties from accessing, spending, transferring, and otherwise doing anything with them until the final outcome of the lawsuit.

The next steps seem likely to come from the Nikki Araguz's legal defense team. It seems like a truly vigorous defense team would likely have spent the weekend and the additional days since the Friday hearing gathering their own evidence from their client and determining their options. However, I can't help but suspect that the defense may likely have been blindsided by the flood of seemingly irrefutable character evidence that the press and media have disclosed about Nikki Araguz, evidence that implies she may have had a hard time providing full disclosure to her own attorneys as well.

Under normal circumstances in such a civil lawsuit, there would likely be two potential next steps: either a defense motion to attack the legality of one or more plaintiff claims, or the filing of an answer. In most jurisdictions, motions regarding the legality of a plaintiff's standing and/or claims must precede filing an answer (1).

In this case, the defense might want to challenge the standing (i.e. legal ability of a party to sue) of Simona Rodriguez Longoria, Thomas Araguz's mother. The ex-wife of Thomas Araguz,  Heather Delgado, probably has standing because she is the guardian of their biological children, who are the actual parties to the lawsuit, but who cannot act for themselves because they are minors.

Although most states have court rules patterned after the federal court rules system, there are some states that are notable exceptions; California, Michigan, and New York being a few of them. Texas is also a state with its own idiosyncratic rules system, although a careful reading of them reveals analogues with the federal style rules used by the majority of states.

(Texas Court Rules of Civil Procedure)
http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/rules/TRCP/RCP_all.pdf

If the defense doesn't file a motion to challenge the legal effectiveness of the plaintiff's complaint/petition, then the defense will need to file an answer. Usually, answers are primarily paragraph by paragraph denials of the claims made by the plaintiff, plus "affirmative defenses" if appropriate, and sometimes one or more counterclaims against the plaintiff. Notwithstanding the sort of motions described above, it is usually worthwhile to simply file a total denial answer quickly and then move on the discovery phase of the case.

Based on a quick perusal of information on the Texas judiciary, the Texas court system seems somewhat behind the times technologically and in terms of the changes to litigation practice that often come with it. For example, I can't find any evidence that Texas has implemented a comprehensive digital docketing and electronic court records and electronic filing system. The federal courts, and the more technologically savvy states have been moving toward digitizing all court record keeping. The federal courts seem to be one of the furthest along with the effort, with all its dockets online, all pleadings available online in PDF form, and all document filing done via the web with secure SSL login and digital signatures. In such states, fewer and fewer face to face court motion hearings are entertained by courts, and lawsuits often progress without the parties physically appearing in court for months at a time. However, most courts still require a face to face hearing to "show cause" for a temporary restraining order of the sort obtained in this case, so Friday's mob scene outside the courthouse was probably unavoidable. What is unfortunate though, is that since Texas doesn't appear to have electronic court records, it would be more difficult to get copies of the pleadings and motions files with the court by the parties to share on sites like this one. Hopefully, some entity like justia.com will get interested in the case, have someone go to the courthouse and get copies of the filings, and publish them on their web site, which is something justia.com does for many cases of interest.

Then comes the discovery phase, during which the parties gather evidence. The Texas court rules have a reasonably detailed set of standards for discovery that are pretty similar to what occurs in most states. Based on a quick perusal of the Texas court rules, they limit depositions to a total fifty hours, and provide for about nine total months of discovery, which is actually relatively short. Discovery allows the parties to submit written questions to each other, to request each other to produce documents and other tangible evidence, to take depositions of witnesses, including the opposing party or parties, and to subpoena evidence from people who are not parties. I would expect the plaintiffs to subpoena copies of the various television and other video interviews that Nikki Araguz has given, so that the plaintiff can use the contents of them to impeach the credibility of her deposition testimony if she deviates in any way from her previous statements. I suspect that the video documentary made about her in 1994 will become significant evidence of her personal and medical history.

Given the nature of this case, I would also expect the plaintiffs to file a motion for an order under Texas court rule of civil procedure 204, specifically 204(c)(1) (pages 147-148 in pdf document linked above), for one or more physical/medical examinations of Nikki Araguz, possibly including DNA analysis, abdominal MRI scan, abdominal ultrasound, and other investigative medical tools, in addition to a general physical examination, in order to have one or more medical expert witnesses testify with regard to Nikki Araguz's physical morphology, sex chromosomes, evidence of genital surgery, presence of internal sex specific organs if any (including a possible prostate and seminal vesicles), and so on. The defense would need to do the same and spare no expense on expert witnesses, whose costs alone could run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars including the cost to write reports and provide testimony at trial. Given the personally invasive nature of this potential medical scrutiny, if I were such a party to such a lawsuit, I would have to consider that long and hard. If this case were to go to trial, every intimate detail of Nikki Araguz's medical history and medical condition could become public record, with television stations all over Texas leering in, and reporting every lurid detail.

Given all that has transpired in just a few days, I suspect, that as discovery proceeds, information about the evidence gathered will be leaked to the media by either or both sides, enabling the public to be kept up to date on some of the inner workings of the case. Given the level of pugnaciousness exhibited by the parties, I suspect there may also be a variety of other motions filed and hearings held, to mediate the likely contentious nature of the proceedings. After adequate discovery, I would expect the plaintiffs to move for summary judgment (judgment by the court without trial), based on the contents of Nikki Araguz's own voluminous admissions and future deposition testimony, and using Littleton v. Prang as controlling law to annul her marriage, declare her legally male, determine she committed fraud, and order that all of Thomas Araguz's estate go to his children.

However, given the totality of what has transpired in the press/media thus far, it is hard for me to imagine that even Phyllis Frye would want to use this case as her crusade test case to challenge Texas marriage law, and go all the way through a trial and appeals with it, which would require years of effort and enormous expense. Consequently, I suspect that at some point the parties are likely to announce a settlement. I personally have the impression that a quick settlement in this case, that gives most or all of the money to the kids and dismisses all the claims without assignment of judgment or blame, is in the best interest of Nikki Araguz, of her late husband, and most importantly, her late husband's children, with the possibly that a trust could be controlled by an independent trustee so that the kids' trailer trash mom wouldn't be able to blow the cash, since $600,000 is enough for private school now and tuition at quality private universities for the children later. Such a settlement would at least enable the existence of her marriage to remain intact, which may have some intangible but worthy value with regard to her personal dignity. To me, that might make it worth reaching a settlement, unless the pugnacious plaintiffs demand a stipulated annulment of the marriage as part of a settlement, which could also include a confidentiality clause that would prevent the husband's family and the attorneys from continuing to verbally assault her.


references

(1) Although Texas uses its own rules system, most law schools primarily use the federal rules for teaching and most states follow the federal rules nomenclature. Consequently, a review of Federal Rule 12 provides some background on motions that challenge a plaintiff's claims, standing, or jurisdiction:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/Rule12.htm

http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/ACRule12.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Rules_of_Civil_Procedure

Some sociological observations about the case against Nikki Araguz

Although its been forty or fifty years since transsexual people began to be the subject of news stories, I couldn't help notice when watching videos online of the television news coverage in Texas about Nikki Araguz, that the news reporters behaved as though the existence of a transsexual woman was like the arrival of an extraterrestrial being from a distant galaxy.

One of the more bizarre and not so subtle ironies of this, is that on multiple channels I noticed the news reporters make inquiries about "how can she be so feminine?", her level of femininity having confounded their ability to comprehend her genuine and undeniable female nature. Although Nikki Araguz hasn't made any direct statements on the subject of her own femininity, it is apparent from the videos that were made of her when she was only nineteen or twenty, that she must have already been taking estrogen before then, and that she was likely able to start HRT before she developed facial hair.

The fact is, there are thousands of transsexual women who have started HRT at some point in their teens, who have been able to start HRT before testosterone could ravage their bodies, whose adult female bodies are just plain normal and within female norms and averages. Over the past twenty years there have also been numerous transsexual-girls whose parents have allowed them to begin HRT in their early teens with even more remarkable results. The television news reporters just seemed subtly dumbfounded by the implications of this, apparently without their being aware of the existence of early HRT, and without being able to understand or specifically verbalize their confusion. However, on multiple television stations, reporters have repeatedly asked questions of Nikki Araguz with the intend to figure out how this is possible, although they were completely reluctant to come right out and ask straightforward medical questions about the subject.

Nikki Araguz didn't help them either, because in every interview with the television news reporters she seemed like she was trying to deny that she is transsexual. It is difficult to imagine how Nikki Araguz thought she could hide her past, given available information like: the fifteen year old video documentary that has surfaced, her now published district court name change petition, her 1994 Jerry Springer appearances, and so on, in which she publicly admitted being a transsexual-woman.

What is most sad though, is that Texas culture is such that the media and press there see fit to implement a witch hunt against Nikki Araguz, attacking her character and credibility from every angle they can discover. Traditionally, it seems like the media reserves such treatment only for high profile criminals. It is equally unfortunate for Nikki Araguz that her lack of judgment over the years has produced such a wealth of material for the media to exploit, and which has kept the news media in Texas excited and in pursuit of each new salacious morsel they uncover, eager to share them with their ratings boosting public. Nikki Araguz has become a public political football within a social agenda maintained by the Texas press and media, and seemingly in the service of Frank Mann and Chad Ellis, the disreputable attorneys for the plaintiff Heather Delgado, whose underlying purpose is to portray all transsexual people as somehow fundamentally deceptive and dishonest.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nikki Araguz's name change petition and California birth certificate change

Numerous people have raised questions about the identity of Nikki Araguz, and about her ability to have changed her name, to have obtained a female birth certificate with which to marry in Texas, and other questions about various aspects of her background. I have located an online copy of her application for change of name. In contains answers to numerous questions.

Nikki filed a name change petition, representing herself pro se, on February 9, 1996 in Houston, TX. In the name change petition she requested to change her name from:

Justin Purdue

to:

Nikki Paige Purdue

Her later name change to Nikki Araguz occurred as a result of her marriage to Thomas Araguz in 2008. However, from 1999 to 2007 she used the name Nikki Purdue-Mata, when she was married to a man named Emilio Mata who she divorced in 2007.

In the section for name change reason, her petition states:

I, Justin Purdue, am a woman with male anatomy, working toward a sex change. I have been living and working as a woman for over one year and seek to make my new name legal and permanent.

(source - name change petition)
http://images.bimedia.net/documents/whartonpdf.pdf

Elsewhere in the name change petition at the link above, it states that Nikki was born in Carmel, California on June 4, 1975. This is significant because the California birth place accounts for Nikki's ability to have obtained a new, female, birth certificate at some point. According to the information on the "Dr. Becky" web site, California is one of various states that issues new clean birth certificates to transsexual people after they have had surgery and are able to present appropriate documentation of that fact to the state of California. The following site contains detailed information about the process:

http://www.drbecky.com/birthcert.html

nikki araguz appeared on the jerry springer show

Just when it didn't seem like the Nikki Araguz saga could get much more wacky, she has now admitted to having appeared on the Jerry Springer Show multiple times, and described herself as having been "deceptive" before and during her appearances. Here are some excerpts from the latest Houston Chronicle news article with the details, including statements from Nikki Araguz herself:


The transgender widow at the center of a court battle focusing on her late firefighter husband's estate apologized Tuesday for her appearance on a tabloid talk show 15 years ago during which she surprised a man who once kissed her with the news that she was born a boy.

Nikki Araguz, 35, expressed deep regret for not telling the man the truth about her gender history upfront and for surprising him with the news during her appearance on the Jerry Springer TV show on Feb. 13, 1995, calling it a mistake she made as an inexperienced teenager. She confirmed her appearance on the show after being questioned by the Chronicle.

"It was a horrible experience for everyone involved," Araguz said Tuesday of the TV show. Of the man who appeared on the program with her, she said, "I need to publicly apologize to him for any embarrassment or any situation I put him in. I am truly sorry for any problems and pain that it caused him then. ... It was something I felt terrible about for a long time."




The man who appeared on the Jerry Springer show with Nikki Araguz in 1995 spoke to the Chronicle only on the condition that his name not be published because he said the embarrassment could hurt his employment.

Now 39 and living in Beaumont, he said he was upset by Nikki Araguz's deception 15 years ago and speaking now only out of concern for the late firefighter's children.

The man said he was a 24-year-old University of Texas student in Austin when he came to Houston for a rock concert in November 1994. After the show, he met Nikki Araguz by chance while she was dining at a Houston restaurant.

He said they visited for several hours, kissed and exchanged phone numbers but never had sexual contact.

The man said he had no communication with her until the Jerry Springer show called him two months later, asking him to appear on the TV show in Chicago to hear some news from a woman from his past. He said the show's staff refused to identify the woman.

"I was a poor student back then," he recalled Tuesday. "I thought, 'Chicago, cool.' They flew me in."

While he was on the show, Nikki Araguz appeared and told him she was born a boy. Her demeanor "was almost like tongue in cheek, not remorseful," he recalled.

The man said he kept his cool but chastised Nikki Araguz on camera for being deceitful. The two of them never had contact again.





Araguz, who was 19 at the time of the incident and received $500 for her appearance on the TV show, called it a mistake.

"Just me being deceptive, appearing at all deceptive, was wrong," she said Tuesday. "It was a big lesson to be honest and upfront."

She said that error does not reflect how she has lived her life since then, insisting she was honest with her first husband of 11 years, whom she later divorced, and made full disclosure about her gender history to Thomas Araguz as well.

"Upfront honesty is the best policy," she said Tuesday. "I never ever did anything like that again. That's not my current character or moral standard."

Araguz said she appeared on four other TV talk shows — two more episodes of Jerry Springer, once on Maury Povich and once on Sally Jessy Raphael — in 1994 and 1995, all focusing on gender issues. Her mother appeared with her on two of the shows.

"I haven't hidden my gender from anybody — hello, I was on five national talk shows. I was not hiding it at all. ... Just because nobody else knew doesn't mean my husband and our close friends did not know."
(source of three quotes above)
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7127607.html

It is just amazing to me that the attorneys for Nikki Araguz have allowed her to keeping talking to the news media. It seems like every other sentence she utters hurts her position in the lawsuits against her more and more. In addition, her own admissions and disclosures about herself compound the inconsistencies in her various statements.

This most recent newspaper article also clarifies that the date of Nikki Araguz's previously reported "operation" was October 2008, months after her August 2008 marriage to Thomas Araguz. Although such things have happened before, it seems difficult that anyone could claim Thomas Araguz wasn't aware of the configuration of Nikki Araguz's genitalia during that time, what ever their configuration was then, and however her physical morphology changed before and after whatever physical changes that October 2008 "operation" accomplished.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

emilio mata - nikki araguz's first husband

When the news first broke about the probate/inheritance lawsuit against Nikki Araguz that was filed by her late husband's ex wife Heather Delgado, there were reports that Nikki Araguz had been married to another man before before she married Thomas Araguz. However, nearly every one of the newspaper reports that included mention of the 1999 marriage between Nikki Araguz and Emilio Mata, who she divorced in 2007, has removed mention of Mr. Mata's name from them. It seems like the major news media wants to avoid discussing the existence of this previous marriage, and are possibly unwilling to ask Mr. Mata questions about his relationship with Nikki out of fear of creating what they may believe would be embarrassment for a secondary figure in the matter. There is of course the possibility that Mr. Mata has contacted various media outlets and asked them to remove him from their written reports, and to refrain from getting him involved. Even if that were true, its amazing that a media outlet would honor a request from that individual, at the same time they have made every effort imaginable to hunt down every private detail of Nikki Araguz's life that they have been able to discover, and to report about all of it in detail.

One has to wonder though, whether or not one of the parties to the probate lawsuit against Nikki Araguz, might be interested in making Emilio Mata a witness in their case. At a minimum it seems like Mr. Mata would be aware of the physical morphology of Nikki's genitalia during the period of time between 1999 and 2007. Parenthetically, the news media doesn't appear to have uncovered many details about the nature of the all important October 2008 surgery that Nikki Araguz received. Information published by people representing Nikki has reported that Nikki Araguz received genital reconstruction surgery from Marci Bowers, MD in Trinidad, Colorado on October 7, 2008, a couple months after her marriage to Thomas Araguz. However, based on the Littleton v. Prange decision, the state of Nikki's genitals may be considered irrelevant by the court, since the court in the Littleton case made its absurd judgement purely on the presumed, but never medically verified, chromosomal status of Christie Littleton. Surely the discovery process is likely to reveal whether or not one of the parties is interested in Emilio Mata, in deposing him and/or calling him as a witness if the case ever gets to a trial. If one of the parties subpoenas him to give deposition testimony, it will surely be interesting to find out what questions they ask him.

child custody lawsuit deposition revelations

Additional information about the legal ordeal unfolding around Nikki Araguz was published by the Houston Chronicle newspaper on Monday. It turns out that before the present probate/inheritance lawsuit was filed by the ex-wife Heather Delgado, Nikki Araguz and her late husband were already involved in a child custody lawsuit filed against them by her. Most often, the adversaries of transsexual people in child custody lawsuits try to convince courts that merely being a transsexual-person makes the transsexual parent a "danger" to the children and an "unfit" parent. All too often they succeed unfortunately, with many transsexual parents losing touch with their children, often for no other reason than the fact that the financial burden alone of trying to wage such legal battles can be insurmountable. In the child custody case against Tom Araguz and Nikki Araguz, his ex-wife seems likely to be using Nikki's criminal history has leverage as well.

Among the significant news items reported regarding the Araguz child custody case, is that Thomas Araguz and Nikki Araguz both gave depositions in that case during April 2010, before his July death. These days depositions are often recorded on video in addition to being transcribed by a licensed court reporter, meaning that both the written transcripts and the videos could be presented at any future trial(s). Most importantly, Nikki Araguz has now admitted that both she and her late husband perjured themselves during their depositions in that case, under the misguided belief that doing so was in the best interests of the children. I would imagine that there are likely to be multiple dire consequences for Nikki Araguz that will result from the lies she told in that deposition. It seems apparent already that she isn't likely to have any future contact with her step-sons in any event. Here are some deposition excerpts reported by the Houston Chronicle:

(quotations from the deposition in the same newspaper article)

The depositions were taken in April for a child custody case filed by Thomas Araguz's ex-wife, who did not want their two young sons around Nikki Araguz, attorneys said.
[...]
"That deposition is a lie," Nikki Araguz said from her Wharton home Monday night.
"At the time, Thomas and I thought it was in the best interest of our children to lie. They were the center of (our) lives," she said.
(source)
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7125992.html

"Do you know that your wife was formerly a male?" asked Frank Mann III, a Bellaire attorney representing Thomas Araguz's ex-wife and the mother of his children, according to the deposition transcript.
"No," Araguz responded.
"You have no knowledge of that?" Mann asked the firefighter.
"I have no knowledge," Araguz responded.
During another part of the inquiry focusing on Nikki Araguz, Mann asked her husband, "Would it surprise you if it said male on her birth certificate?"
"Yes," Thomas Araguz responded.
"When did you first tell your husband about the fact that you had that prior name?" Mann asked Nikki Araguz during her deposition.
"I don't recall ever discussing that with him, to be honest with you," she responded.
(source)
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7125992.html

Because Nikki Araguz has admitted to lying during the deposition in the child custody case, attorneys for the opposition against she and her husband in that case could file a motion to have the court find her in contempt, for which the usual penalties in civil cases can include monetary fines and rarely even short jail sentences, which a judge in such a case can order forthwith without addition due process or hearing. When such a fine is imposed, often as much as $500 to $5,000, it becomes a court judgment that if unpaid becomes a blemish on one's credit history, and for which the holder of the judgment can execute using writs of seizure and foreclosure.

What seems far worse for Nikki Araguz, is that her admission of perjury makes it nearly impossible for her to give future deposition testimony, because every time she does, every attorney doing so is sure to bring up her previous perjury, and do everything possible to characterize her as a pathological liar, about whom little she says should be believed. I can't imagine how either of the lawsuits Nikki Araguz is involved in can move forward successfully now, after her admission of perjury, especially when juxtaposed with the other layers of character evidence against her, which together seem to destroy her ability to function as a credible party in either lawsuit. Because of this, it seems like the attorneys for Nikki Araguz are going to have to focus on developing and presenting evidence in the form of documents that corroborate the facts and other witnesses without a direct interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. Hopefully the attorneys for Nikki Araguz will also find ways to keep the lawsuit focused on the relevant factual, medical, and legal evidence and issues, and work hard to avoid bringing the character of either party into the matter as much as possible.

extended video interview with Nikki Araguz

Here is an extended interview with Nikki Araguz, from the ABC station in Houston, TX.





During the video interview above with Nikki Araguz, she provides a variety of information about herself. She makes every effort during the interview to prevaricate around the news reporter's attempts to ask her certain direct questions. She is clearly not someone trained in the media savvy art of verbal evasion practiced by politicians though. Some of the statements she makes in this interview seem to contradict statements she has made in previous and subsequent interviews as well. However, she comes across as mature, emotionally present and connected, and lucid, although with an appropriate level of defensiveness, given the sorts of probing performed by the television news reporter questioning her in the video. This is a woman vastly evolved from the flighty teenager in the video documentary made of her over fifteen years ago.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Plaintiff's attorney Chad Ellis - Claims about the case

Chad Ellis, attorney for Heather Delgado and Simona Longoria of Nikki Araguz's late husband's family, claims that Thomas Araguz did not know about his wife Nikki's medical history until April 2010, that he was shocked, had informally separated from Nikki before his death, and that he was in the process of having the marriage annulled before his accidental death on July 3, 2010.

Meanwhile, Fox News 26 in Houston, TX has described Nikki Araguz as someone with a criminal history comprised of petty theft, DWI, and drug posession convictions. The following link includes video of the statements by Chad Ellis and the "prior bad acts" allegations against Nikki Araguz, including the usual mug shot. In the legal business, this is known as "dirtying" a party, so that the court views that party less favorably, even though the history may be unrelated to the current situation and matters at issue. Such a history could be used against Nikki in court as evidence of poor character under court rules - usually called rule 404(b) in jurisdictions that use federal style rule numbering. Here is the link that includes the Fox News interview with attorney Chad Ellis and information about Nikki's name change and birth certificate.









The same Fox news station obtained a video of Nikki Araguz at about age 25, about ten years ago, in which she makes classic ts disclosure statements - see the link below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/20/nikki-araguz-transgender_n_653129.html

In any event, it seems like Nikki Araguz doesn't stand a chance against Texas culture, or against the Littleton v. Prange ruling. In addition, her attorneys should have known better than to have her talk too much in public, even though it is only her court testimony, depositions, affidavits, and supporting evidence that count, like marriage certificate date, vaginoplasty surgery affidavit and date if she has one, and so on, to provide evidence the court might rely upon. That her attorneys had her speak, rather than speaking for her, is evidence of poor legal representation, IMO. Furthermore, the video that includes her own ten year old statements about herself can be used in court as evidence against her too. Altogether, the evidence looks very bad for her case given Texas law and culture.

What we need to hope for most, is that this case never gets into any appeals courts. This is important, because if this issue ever gets to a jurisdiction in the U.S. that is actually favorable, since it will be an issue of "first impression"(term of art) in that other yet to have occurred other "friendly" state, under the law the court in that state will need to take notice of the decisions in states like Texas, Florida, and Kansas, when considering such a case of first impression in the absence of other settled U.S. law. However, such a court would also be able to hear the matter de novo, and consider scientific expert witness testimony and so on. I imagine that appropriate expert witness testimony would reveal that chromosomes are not the ultimate determinant of sex status, and that the only reasonable legal standard is a physiologically/genital standard.

The most ridiculous aspect of the court's ruling in the Littleton v. Prange case is that the appeals court made its ruling purely on presumption, and the presence of a birth certificate, without ever having requested or having been presented with evidence of the Christie Littleton's chromosomal status.

Right now, it seems like the only states that have a chance of being "friendly" with regard to establishing the legal status of ts-people after surgery are Illinois and Michigan, because those are the only two states I know of that have statutes on the books that provide for providing a new/fresh/clean birth certificate after surgery and submission of a surgeon's affidavit to a court. If there are any other states with actual statutes it would be nice to know about them and get links to them, but I have not been able to locate them in any other states after searching their statute databases. Most states that make any sort of changes to birth certificates seem to do them by adding a footnote onto the bottom of them indicating that the sex was changed, but leaving original designation intact as well, calling it can "amendment", and one that makes the birth certificate forever out the person as ts.

I hope Nikki Araguz is at least able to maintain her personal safety. That may be all she has left when this debacle is over.