Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, December 5, 2011


Page 3


Local Man Who Claims He was Delusional Loses Bid to Have Dissolution of Marriage Set Aside


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A Los Angeles man was not entitled to undo his divorce on the basis of his claim that he was delusional when he asked for it, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.

Div. Two, in an unpublished opinion by Justice Victoria Chavez Thursday, said James Sylvester had failed to provide any reasoned argument or citation to legal authority supporting any claim of error from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas T. Lewis’ order denying his motion to vacate the divorce judgment.

Sylvester, who proceeded in pro per, alleged that it was “obvious to me that I was either mentally unstable or under duress when I signed the petition” for divorce. He also included a document, which is not signed or dated, in which he pointed out that his former wife’s first attorney had stated in a declaration that Sylvester was “mentally unstable,” and an incident report from a security company, taken minutes before the marital settlement was signed, which described Sylvester as “delusional.”

He claimed he was terrified of the consequences if he did not sign the marital agreement, and “worried [he] might get killed before the trial date so my wife could collect $250,000 on my life insurance policy.”

The motion was argued before Lewis and denied last November.

Chavez explained that a trial court judgment is presumed to be correct, and that an appellate has the burden of affirmatively showing error.

“Appellant has failed to meet this burden,” she said, noting Sylvester “has failed to provide a single citation to any legal authority” or “even direct this court to the statutory basis for the trial court’s decision.”

In the absence of such information, Chavez said, “we must presume that the trial court was ‘aware of and followed the applicable law.’ ”

The justice acknowledged that Sylvester was self-represented, but chided that his election to proceed as his own attorney “does not entitle him to any leniency as to the rules of practice and procedure; otherwise, ignorance is unjustly rewarded.”

Presiding Justice Roger W. Boren and Justice Judith M. Ashmann-Gerst joined Chavez in her decision.

The case is In re Marriage of Sylvester and Chunara, B229822.


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company