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Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, Madness… and MISCONCEPTIONS!


(Spoiler Alert – Proceed with Caution!)

Tiger King is the must-watch Netflix crime documentary of the year. However, it’s characters and content have caused much controversy with its exploration of Big Cat breeding, and the mayhem arising from the eccentric characters of its inner circles.

In no way is this blog going to try to find reason or logic in the bizarre happenings (and resulting legal nightmares) that arise throughout the series. However, there a few significant issues raised in the series that we couldn’t resist putting into an Australian context, so that no misconceptions arise.

Enduring Powers of Attorney – shall not be affected by any disability or disappearance

No, we are not making our opinion public as to whether Carole Baskin actually killed her husband (or not), and then fed him to the tigers (or not). Mainly, because that would require the office to reach a unified consensus!

But in all seriousness, Don Lewis’ Enduring Power of Attorney specified that it “shall not be affected by any disability or disappearance”. Like Don Lewis’ lawyer, in the 40+ years of Butlers’ experience, we have not seen an Enduring Power of Attorney that specifies “disappearance”.

An Enduring Power of Attorney (“EPA”) is a legal document that enables you to appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, about your finances or property.  You can appoint one person, or two people to act jointly, if that is preferred.  EPAs can either come into effect immediately or upon you becoming incapacitated – that is, when you are unable to deal with your finances yourself. 

If Don Lewis’ EPA came into effect upon incapacitation, then “disappearance” would likely fall into the category of “incapacitated”. However, an application would first have to be made to the State Administrative Tribunal with extensive evidence presented regarding the disappearance, the proper appointment of the Attorney and the need to act in relation to finances and property. Only upon an Order being made by the Tribunal would the Attorney be able to act under the authority of the EPA.

So, while it may (or may not have been) convenient in the documentary, that portion of the story would not be an accurate depiction of what would happen here in the same circumstances.

Violence Restraining Order

Don Lewis applied for a Violence Restraining Order against Carole Baskin, after she threatened to kill him. According to the show, the application was rejected as expressing her desire (ie threatening) to kill Don Lewis was exhibiting Carole’s right to free speech. A right that is upheld by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Australia does not have explicit freedom of speech and, as a result, such an application would likely have resulted in an interim Family Violence Restraining Order (“FVRO”) binding Carole Baskin, and protecting Don Lewis. Carole would then have had 21 days from receiving the FVRO from the police to object to it.

In Australia, FVROs may be obtained against a family member to prevent any threat of violence, or violence occurring. This is not limited to physical violence, but also includes financial, emotional and psychological abuse. An interim FVRO may be dismissed, varied or made final pending the evidence presented at a Final Hearing. A final FVRO usually lasts for two years. However it may be longer or shorter, depending on the evidence and the Court’s finding.

While Carole’s expression of her want to kill Don was not held to be grounds to grant a Restraining Order, it would likely not be the case here. We simply cannot have people expressing their desire to kill others with no ramifications.

Polygamous Marriages

While the series endeavors to explore the hidden world of Big Cat breeding and exotic zoos, what it really does is explore a wide variety of relationships, and relationship issues.

Joe Exotic has two husbands (at least prior to John leaving him for the receptionist, and Travis accidentally killing himself). Carole Baskin has had multiple marriages which ended in a variety of ways (none pleasant), and Bhgavan “Doc” Antle may have 3 to 9 wives, depending on who you ask.

In Australia, bigamy and polygamy are criminal offences, pursuant to section 94 of the Marriage Act 1961 – bigamy being the act of marrying a person while already married to another person and polygamy being the having of more than one husband or wife at once.

However, it is not an offence to have multiple de facto relationships at any one time in Australia. As such, the “union” between Joe, John and Travis and Doc Antle’s many de facto “wives” would not be illegal in Australia.

So without even touching upon the numerous potential criminal issues in the bizarre world of the “Tiger King”, you can see that the show raises numerous issues in the context of Australian Family Law and Estate Planning!

So, what do you think? Was Joe Exotic framed? Did Carole Baskin “kill her husband, whack him”? Is that really Joe singing? We’d love to hear your opinion – comment below!

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Friday, 07 May 2021

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