Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Law Prof's Paternity Defense

One of the enjoyable aspects of being a law professor is getting together with colleagues and trading bizarre faculty stories.  Although I have heard some amazing tales through the years, this one takes the cake:  Unhappy Father's Day:  Retired U of A Law Prof's Paternity Excuse? The Birds, The Bees and the Refrigerator (Phoenix New Times (6/13/90)):

Law professor Jack J. Rappeport ... is noted in legal circles for his wild stories about how his cleaning lady got impregnated with his seed.

The aging prof, who retired from full-time teaching at the university in 1984, was sued last year in Pima County Superior Court by Maryann Ortiz, who claimed Rappeport sired her child in 1985. Ortiz claimed she and Rappeport were lovers while she was employed by him. She was cleaning his house and taking care of his elderly mother in exchange for some legal work that Rappeport had done for her.

Ortiz, now 41 and a deputy clerk at Pima County Superior Court, sued for child support, pointing out that sophisticated genetic tests indicated that Rappeport was the father of her child. Rappeport ... insisted in court that he didn't recall ever having sex with Ortiz.

So how could Ortiz possibly have gotten pregnant? Rappeport offered some astonishing theories when he was questioned last November in a Superior Court trial. So flabbergasting that even the judge had to stifle a smirk. ...

Following is an excerpt from Rappeport's testimony elicited by Ortiz's lawyer, Gary Kneip--a former student of Rappeport's who pulled A's and B's in his classes:

  • Kneip: How is it possible that you could be the father of this child without having had sexual contact with Maryann Ortiz?
  • Rappeport: There are a number of ways. One is artificial insemination.
  • Kneip: Did that happen in this case?
  • Rappeport: I don't know.
  • Kneip: You don't know whether artificial insemination happened?
  • Rappeport: That's correct.
  • Kneip: Are you a donor at a sperm bank here in town?
  • Rappeport: No, I'm not a donor.
  • Kneip: Okay. How would Maryann artificially inseminate herself with your sperm, Mr. Rappeport?
  • Rappeport: I'm not quite certain if it even did occur, but there was a possibility of it occurring.
  • Kneip: How would she get ahold of your sperm?
  • Rappeport: She cleaned my office from time to time . . . and there was refrigerated sperm in the refrigerator during that time--during that period of time.
  • Kneip: And so your theory--excuse me, your theory is Maryann got into your refrigerator and inseminated herself with your sperm. That's your testimony?
  • Donald E. Gabriel (Rappeport's lawyer): Object to counsel's manner of asking the question--laughing.
  • Kneip: I'm not trying to be facetious. Is that your testimony?
  • Rappeport: I don't have any theory. You're asking how it's possible and that's what I told you, among other things. I don't know.
  • Kneip: What would the other things be?
  • Rappeport: I told you that I don't recall having any contact--sexual contact--with Maryann Ortiz, and that's the truth. I don't have any recollection of it. If this could occur at the time when I was comatose, that's a possibility.
  • Kneip: Were you comatose in February or March of 1985?
  • Rappeport: There was a period of time when I was under very heavy sedation for what has really never been truly diagnosed, but something that kept me from being able to walk.
  • Kneip: And you were sedated and Maryann had access to your body? So that's a possibility? She may have what--raped you without your knowledge? Is that what you're telling us?
  • Rappeport: I don't know if you want a technical definition of rape. I'm guessing. If, in fact, the child is mine, that's another possible way it happened.
  • Kneip: That she had sex with you without your knowledge?
  • Rappeport: Without me being aware of it, correct.

Apparently, Rappeport's testimony didn't persuade Judge Allen Minker, who ordered the professor to pay Ortiz about $500 a month in child support.

Things have not gone well for Mr. Rappeport, now 85 years old:

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Where did the genetic test results come from?

Posted by: dna test | Feb 3, 2009 10:42:17 AM

Perhaps he should have instead used the "I'm Not Rappeport" defense.

Posted by: R.E. Marsh | Jul 9, 2008 11:00:08 AM

Keep in mind that as an attorney ages, the memory is the second thing to go.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jul 9, 2008 3:12:35 AM

I really wish that i could have cross examined the witness... Is this all of Rappeport's testimony?

Posted by: Suneet | Jul 8, 2008 11:06:27 AM