Sacrificing Mothers and Children

Max's drawing from: Conscience Being Alliance

Max’s drawing from: Conscience Being Alliance

From Conscience Being Alliance:

A RECORD OF U.S. FAMILY COURTS SACRIFICING MOTHERS & CHILDREN
Family Courts Behind an Epidemic of Pedophilia & Judicial Abuse

Posted 23 January 2013

The below-referenced chart lists over 75 family court cases in Connecticut where children’s safety and well being has been jeopardized by unethical and even illegal activities of court professionals who routinely target, extort and exploit Connecticut mothers.  In many of these cases, where mothers reported a father’s violent crimes against her family, the mother eventually lost custody to the wealthier father when he — the real perpetrator — accused her of alienation.  Violent fathers almost always won sole or joint custody of victims, and in some cases these fathers even went on to become mass murderers. 

Insurance companies and the State are being defrauded by medical and mental health professionals who are routinely rewarded handsomely for submitting false claims that misdiagnose fit and loving mothers and their children with mental disorders they do not have; they are also providing diagnosis and treatment plans that are considered illegitimate by the AMA and APA.  Meanwhile, the same professionals justify their billing by deliberately recommending to judges the placement of children in the care of violent fathers, even rapists, and by shielding these offenders from criminal prosecution that might otherwise keep children safe.  The effect is that the whole family becomes damaged and in need of treatment, and are subsequently required to obtain ongoing court affiliated medical and legal professional services.

Continue reading … 



“Barbaric” Courts on Both Sides of the Pond

From The Daily Mail Online:        

                

Scandal of ‘unqualified’ experts who advise our family courts:

Decisions about the care of thousands of children routinely flawed

 

By Katherine Faulkner

Life-changing decisions about the care of thousands of children are routinely being made on flawed evidence from poorly qualified ‘experts’ in the family courts, a damning study reveals.

More than a fifth of these vital reports are being produced by people who are completely unqualified, the Channel 4 News investigation found.

‘Experts’ used in hundreds of family court proceedings are frequently unqualified or unreliable, the study reveals. In some cases, reports on parents or children are being given to courts by doctors who have not even seen the individuals concerned.  Until now, these ‘expert witnesses’ – often psychologists or psychiatrists – have largely escaped scrutiny due to the draconian secrecy surrounding the family courts.

But in a unique study for the Family Justice Council, Professor Jane Ireland – a forensic psychologist who has herself been an expert witness – examined over 100 expert witness reports used in family court cases. Incredibly, she found that 20 per cent had been produced by people who were not qualified at all. A further fifth had been carried out by people who were writing reports in areas entirely beyond their knowledge and qualifications.

In addition, as many as 90 per cent of the reports had been produced by ‘expert’ witnesses who were no longer in current practice at all, but were simply working as ‘professional expert witnesses’. Often, these professional experts – who rake in thousands of pounds in fees from the chaotic family courts system – have not practised for years, leaving them out of touch with developments in their field.

They are often appointed to assess the suitability of a parent or parents to continue to look after their child in care proceedings brought by local councils. They can also be used in access cases following the separation of a child’s parents. Thousands of children have their futures decided in the family courts every year and because of strict rules on what can be reported, often little is revealed about what happens once the court doors are closed.

In the past, parents have bitterly complained that they have not even been allowed to know the names of the paid expert witnesses who testified against them.

That has now changed but Professor Ireland, of the University of Central Lancashire, said 65 of the 100 reports she examined were ‘poorly’ or ‘very poorly’ carried out.

Some reports were found to ‘cite opinion without conducting a formal assessment’ or show a complete lack of understanding of the conditions discussed. One was even found to have ‘completed an assessment on the mother without actually seeing her’.

Professor Ireland said an ‘urgent review’ of expert witnesses in the family courts was needed. ‘I think we were very concerned and perturbed by some of the reports that we read,’ she told Channel 4 News.

‘Some of the most startling results were the sheer number of expert psychologists . . . who are reporting that their entire job is the production of assessment reports for courts.

‘I think the results from the research are enough to suggest that we do need an urgent review across the range of expert witnesses that the courts are employing.’

The Family Justice Council is an independent public body set up in 2004 and funded by the Ministry of Justice. It is charged with monitoring the family justice system and advising the Government and the courts on how the system can be improved.

One mother involved in family court proceedings told how a psychiatrist who had never seen her wrote a 14-page report on her and her family. The day after the psychiatrist signed off his report he was suspended by the General Medical Council for a separate offence. Despite this, his report was still used by the courts.

‘He’s never seen us, never spoken to us,’ she said, ‘and yet he’s ended up writing 14 pages, with recommendations, that he could not possibly have made if he had spoken to any of us or had he read through the court papers.’

She said her custody case dragged on for five years because of the competing testimonies of no fewer than eight expert witnesses.

‘The court system in England is barbaric,’ she said. ‘It does not allow parents to be given a voice, it doesn’t allow their children to be given a voice.

‘But what it does instead is it focuses on employing expert witnesses – at huge expense.’

Nigel Priestley, a family solicitor in Huddersfield, said: ‘If the statistics are that 20 per cent are unqualified, that is not just a mess, that is staggering.’

Who Would Win Family Court Super Bowl?

Could your state win a Family Court Super Bowl?

What would it take to win? 

Would the winning team continue year after year, promoting “high conflict” litigation, draining public coffers, ruining lives and taking lives in the process?

Let’s say the attorneys are the coaches.  The judges are the referees. The rules of the game are the law.

The skills required to play the “game” are this: Knowing the rules of law. Knowing the nuances and the dynamics of all kinds of kinds of cases – especially the “high conflict” cases – and doing the right thing at the right time. For the right reasons. Always.

It’s just a matter of time before all family courts begin to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. 

And… It’s first and ten on the 50-yard line… Alabama family courts have the ball….   

From WLTZ.com:

 

 Local volunteers create binders to spread word on child abuse

 
by Christina Chambers

It’s a binder full of stories about those who have been affected by child abuse.

“What’s happening is 58,000 children a year, throughout the nation, are being court ordered into unsupervised contact with the people that they have identified as abusers,” said project volunteer Amanda Hodge.

Three volunteers who have been victims of domestic violence created a resource binder for all family court judges in the state of Alabama.

“These binders are the first step in trying to reach out to our judges, not place blame, but to say we want to help, we want to fix this problem as a community and a state,” said Hodge.

Alabama is the first state to create a resource binder for judges. Hodge says she’s spoken with survivors across the nation trying to push this project in other states.

“It’s huge for us to have the support of our state legislators, and to be able to get these binders out to people,” Hodge said.

Hodge says the intent is to assist judges in the proper way to handle child abuse cases that come up when the victim wants to leave the abuser.

“I hope that our judges will take the time to read the binders, go out and get further training, and ask questions,” said Hodge.

The judge’s resource binder also has letters of support from Governor Robert Bentley and House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

The volunteer group is sending out the binders at the end of the month to 70 family court judges across the state. Lee County family court Judge Mike Fellows had no comment on the issue. 

_____________________________________________

How Well is our Nation Protecting Children?

From: HedgeCo.net

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New York (HedgeCo.net) – Hedge Funds Care, a global charity dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse, published a press release commending the Senate HELP Committee’s planned hearing on December 13 that will “examine how well our nation is protecting children from child abuse and neglect.”

Hedge Funds Care is committed to educating and assisting the Senate HELP Committee about the existing issues that surround the reporting and prevention of child abuse. Currently, there is a wide discrepancy in protocol for reporting child abuse, for holding perpetrators accountable and for seeing that victims and their families get treatment.

“Given the news surrounding Penn State and Syracuse University, we believe that Congress needs to act immediately to create national guidelines that will provide consistency about how to report child abuse, address perpetrators and serve those affected,” said Dr. Kathryn Conroy, Executive Director and CEO of Hedge Funds Care.

Hedge Funds Care has reached out to the Senate Committee to aid their staff in preparing for the congressional hearing. Since its inception in 1998, Hedge Funds Care has awarded over 800 grants totaling more than $30 million. In the last year alone, Hedge Funds Care has touched over 46,000 lives through prevention, education and service.

Alex Akesson
Editor for HedgeCo.net
 

Parents Target Family Court -> Taxpayers should too.

From The Times Leader:

Parents target family court

By Christopher J. Hughes

SCRANTON – A group of parents demonstrating on Courthouse Square Friday morning across from the Lackawanna County Administration Building at 200 Adams Ave., Scranton, said they feel the county’s family court and guardian ad litem are the focus of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts defines a guardian ad litem as a “person appointed by a court to look after interests of a minor or incapacitated person involved in legal proceedings.”

But parents holding signs suggesting county officials “Toss Ross” and handing out literature about the county’s guardian ad litem system said that was not the case.

Olyphant resident Cherie Matassa said guardian ad litem Danielle Ross, who is supposed to represent her two children in a custody battle that began in March 2010, has not listened to their own wishes.

Matassa claimed that Ross forced her to provide visitation rights to her ex-husband, who she did not name but claimed is employed in Lackawanna County government, despite the children’s expressed wishes.

“I paid her to be their voice… She didn’t care what they said,” she said.

Matassa fears that she could eventually lose custody of her children because of the actions in family court, but a visit by the FBI to the Lackawanna County court administrator’s office on Monday gives her hope that such issues could begin to be resolved.

Efforts to reach Ross for comment at her office in the county administration building and by phone Friday afternoon were not successful.

When contacted earlier this week regarding the FBI’s search at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, Court Administrator Ron Mackay, FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver, and spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Officer Heidi Havens each declined comment on the nature of the ongoing investigation.

Dawn Lewis of Scranton claimed that her father-in-law’s working relationship with a current county judge prevented her from keeping full custody of her now-7-year-old son after his father died from cancer in 2010.

Lewis said the Ross is also her child’s appointed guardian ad litem.

“My son was seen twice for a total of 22 minutes,” Lewis said. “During this 22 minutes, Ms. Ross came to her own conclusions and figured out what was best for my (then-) 5-year-old son who was grieving the loss of his father. She decided he needed to spend three out of five days with his grandparents. Custody? Visitation? No. That’s co-parenting, and that is not right.”

Lewis said she’s working to get a new court date after more than 18 months of legal battles. She believes that the FBI is looking into the finances of family court and that it “is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Another woman from Blakely also feels she was treated unfairly by the county’s family court system. She said Ross, her children’s court guardian, gave custody of her children to a man with whom she had a prior relationship.

That man, Maurice Wayne Hunting III, was charged Sept. 28 with rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual assault of a child, indecent assault of a person under age 13, corruption of minors, and contact with minors involving sexual offenses, according to court records.

Charges were held for county court after an Oct. 5 preliminary hearing, and a formal arraignment was set for Nov. 18.

The woman, who is not being named to protect the identity of the alleged victims, said she hopes that an investigation by the FBI will end troubles in the Lackawanna County court system.

______________________________________________________________________

 

 

For the past 30 years, protective parents have begged family court judges to protect their abused children in child custody cases.  Unfortunately, according to family law in America, abusive parents have a more of a “right” to see their children then children have a “right” to be protected from parental abuse. 

Today, our family court judges force approximately 58,000 children  into unsupervised contact with their identified abusers every year. And most people have no idea this is happening. 

The mainstream media covered the “Catholic Church scandal” but not the family court scandal – which is bigger than the “Catholic Church scandal” ever was.

We protective parents have tried to figure out how to protect our children in a corrupt family court system. We’ve tried to figure out why the mainstream media is ignoring the family court crisis. We’ve tried to figure out how to gain our legislators’ attention. We’ve petitioned the United States Supreme Court. We’ve tried to figure out how to ask for the help from the general public at a time when the mainstream media won’t tell the public about the failure of our family courts to protect children.  

Now, many protective parents are thinking of another way to gain the attention of the public and the attention of our legislators: Through the wallet. Money talks.

Where there’s an abused child, most people turn away. No one wants to talk about child abuse. No one wants to think that our family court system doesn’t protect children. The subject matter is too embarrassing for an every-day-kind-of- conversation. 

However, where there’s money – people listen. People want to talk about saving money. Especially in this economy. 

The FBI is now investigating the court in Pennsylvania. They’re investigating courts in Georgia and courts in a couple of other states too. Protective parents are using the words “tip of the iceberg” to describe these investigations and 21% of Lackawanna County’s budget is no small change. 

Do the taxpayers in Pennsylvania care about children? Of course they do. But not enough people have been talking about saving children in Lakawanna County – or in any other state county in the nation. 

Let’s hope and pray the FBI finds the rest of the iceberg in Pennsylvania, Georgia and in all the other states too. 

Let’s also hope the public starts to talk about how the family courts waste taxdollars. Maybe we’ll save the lives of a few children in the process.

…the president of the American Board of Forensic Psychology…

From The Seattle Times:

 

Twisted ethics of an expert witness

By Ken Armstrong and Maureen O’Hagan

June 27, 2011

Earlier this year, a four-page document with a bland title, “Stipulation for Dismissal with Prejudice,” was filed in a civil matter percolating on the King County Courthouse’s ninth floor. Hardly anyone took notice. Most everyone had moved on.

But that document — filed by lawyers tangled up in the estate of Stuart Greenberg, a nationally renowned psychologist whose life ended in scandal — signaled the end of a tortuous undertaking.

Greenberg had proved such a toxic force — a poison coursing through the state’s court system — that it took more than three years for lawyers and judges to sift through his victims and account for the damage done.

For a quarter century Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.

At conferences and in classrooms, in Washington and beyond, he taught others to do what he did. He became his profession’s gatekeeper, quizzing aspirants, judging others’ work, writing the national-certification exam. His peers elected him their national president.

But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. In the years since Greenberg’s death, while court officials wrestled over his estate, The Seattle Times worked to unearth Greenberg’s secrets, getting court records unsealed and disciplinary records opened.

Those records are a testament to Greenberg’s cunning. They show how he played the courts for a fool. He played state regulators for a fool. He played his fellow psychologists for a fool. And were it not for a hidden camera, he might have gotten away with it.

Stripped of all defenses

In summer 1984, Cathy Graden, a 27-year-old surgical nurse from Woodinville, was summoned to King County Superior Court for an emergency hearing in her child-custody case.

Her lawyer said a psychologist’s report was behind the hearing. But Graden wasn’t allowed to read the report. Nor was she allowed in the courtroom while the psychologist testified.

The psychologist, Stuart Greenberg, had been hired to help resolve a custody dispute involving Graden’s only child, a 4-year-old boy whose bright, goopy finger-paintings Graden taped up all over the house.

Although appointed by the court, Greenberg was paid by the parties. He had interviewed the boy and both parents, and run a half-dozen tests with impressive names (the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist, the Michigan Screening Profile of Parenting … ).

Graden figured she had nothing to fear. She taught Sunday school; she did volunteer work; she had taken care of her son when the boy’s father moved to Alaska after the couple’s divorce. “I thought there was no way I could possibly lose this,” she says.

Greenberg had arrived in Seattle five years earlier, hired by the University of Washington. A letter written by the department chairman called Greenberg a “last-minute replacement” for a psychology professor who’d resigned. Greenberg’s credentials “were on hand,” because he’d applied for some other position.

His credentials were acceptable but not extraordinary. He had a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, where his thesis was a word salad: “Stimulus and Response Generalization of Classes of Imitative and Non-imitative Behavior as a Function of Reinforcement, Task, Cues, and Number of Therapists.” On Washington’s psychology licensing test, one examiner marked Greenberg’s professional judgment as “good,” his knowledge and skills, “okay.”

Teaching, Greenberg earned just $15,300 his first year. His second year, he was assigned only a single evening class. He left the university and moved into private practice. He picked up court appointments in Western Washington as a custody investigator, expert evaluator, arbiter, mediator, guardian ad litem, special master. He became enmeshed in the court system, buddying up to lawyers, judges, fellow experts.

On the stand, he radiated confidence. “He was just kind of a notch above the rest of us,” says Nick Wiltz, a fellow forensic psychologist. “He was able to present reports and information in a very powerful way.”

But Greenberg also demonstrated dubious judgment and a cavalier attitude toward his ethical obligations, which forbade even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In the early 1980s, Greenberg befriended Stanley Stone, who worked in King County as a family-law commissioner — a position akin to judge with the power to appoint experts and approve their fees. On the side, Stone speculated in oil and gas, wooing investors with fantastical claims about the fortunes to be made by digging holes in Kansas.

Although Stone likewise needed to avoid conflicts of interest, his investors included lawyers and expert witnesses who appeared regularly in family court. One of his biggest investors was Greenberg. The psychologist put in $41,250 — expecting, years hence, a whopping return of $891,000 — and encouraged other courthouse regulars to invest, saying he had “the utmost confidence” in Stone, a good friend.

When the investment vehicle went up in smoke, some investors sued, making the enterprise public. Afterward, Stone says, lawyer disciplinary officials admonished him for a breach of ethics. Greenberg could also have been vulnerable to disciplinary action, but his Department of Health licensing file shows no evidence of that ever happening.

Cathy Graden didn’t know about any of this. Nor did she know that her ex-husband’s lawyer was also an investor, coming on board after Greenberg touted the potential rewards to her. That made them limited business partners — her ex’s lawyer and the expert witness who would testify about her parenting.

The report Greenberg filed in court eviscerated Graden. It said she posed a grave danger to her son; that she was “probably” sexually abusing him; that she was psychologically unstable and possibly paranoid. Greenberg’s report said he had interviewed the boy’s day-care provider — and this provider suspected Graden of abuse and said Graden had encouraged day-care employees to beat her son.

In court, testifying, Greenberg described Graden as “quasi-psychotic,” but said the diagnosis was tricky, because Graden might appear “quite normal.” She would likely deny doing anything wrong to her son, Greenberg said, or alternatively, she “might genuinely not remember.”

By the time Greenberg finished, Graden, out in the hallway, had been stripped of all defenses — and without a clue to what had just happened. If she appeared normal — well, Greenberg said she would. If she denied hurting her son — that was part of her disorder. If she challenged Greenberg’s work or motives — she was paranoid.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Donald Haley said: “The doctor has convinced the court.” The judge ordered the boy turned immediately over to his father, with Graden allowed to visit only if supervised by a therapist.

Greenberg was accustomed to such influence. Do judges follow your recommendations? he was once asked. “Typically,” he said.

But in this case, Graden refused to go away. She obtained a copy of Greenberg’s report. She interviewed the people he quoted. She wore a hidden recorder while meeting with him.

And what she learned, she turned over to state disciplinary officials.

The day-care provider, Krista McKee, told The Times that Greenberg “took what I said and just turned it upside down. He made it sound like I said something about Cathy that I just did not say. I never thought Cathy beat or abused (her son) at any level.”

Greenberg also mischaracterized what the boy’s therapist told him, twisting benign commentary into an urgent call for the boy to be removed from his mother’s care.

Greenberg’s work violated a host of ethics rules and laws. If he suspected Graden’s son was being abused, he was required to report that to police or Child Protective Services. But he’d done no such thing.

Most disturbing of all, Graden’s was not an isolated case.

In 1990, after an investigation that dragged on for years, the state Examining Board of Psychology filed a devastating set of disciplinary charges against Greenberg. The charges, 18 pages long, alleged misconduct in four cases between 1983 and 1986, including Graden’s.

The board accused Greenberg of being incompetent and unethical. Of being dishonest or corrupt. Of misusing psychological tests and misrepresenting the results. He was accused of demonstrating bias; reaching sweeping conclusions on hearsay; violating confidentiality; and ignoring damning information about one parent while loading up on another.

In one custody case, he conducted a bizarre analysis of the father’s new wife, a flight attendant. He reviewed some letters she may have written (although Greenberg wasn’t sure), and some photos of the father’s son with temporary tattoos — birds and a dragon, on his shoulders and belly button.

Based on those dubious materials, Greenberg concluded that the woman showed signs of a personality disorder: “Highly abstract thinking, schizoid mentation, hysteroid defense mechanisms, and / or exhibitionistic style.” He never interviewed her, or the father, or the son.

Greenberg could have fought the board’s allegations. Instead, he admitted violating professional guidelines in each of the four cases. He had been seeing a therapist for four years, he told the board, because he was “unable to fully empathize” with parents in child-custody cases and was not sensitive enough to the impact of his opinions.

The board and Greenberg agreed on a severe punishment: a three-year suspension from doing parenting evaluations. Afterward, he could resume only if the board was convinced he was competent.

Graden got her son back in 1989, when the boy’s father died in a work accident. Her son was 4 years old when taken away, 9 when he returned.

Saying one thing, doing another

In 1992, prosecutors for the U.S. Air Force asked Greenberg to be an expert witness in the court-martial of a sergeant accused of raping his 15-year-old stepdaughter. Because Greenberg’s suspension applied only to child-custody cases, he accepted.

In articles published in professional journals, Greenberg distinguished forensic psychology from therapy: the latter assists a patient, the former, a judge or jury.

Forensic psychologists should avoid psychiatric diagnoses, Greenberg wrote. In therapy, patients have reason to be honest. That’s because they want help. But in court settings, they have incentive to lie. A criminal defendant might want to seem insane, and a parent fighting for custody, as normal as can be.

People taking psychological tests can surmise which answers will lead to which results, Greenberg wrote. Attaching a diagnostic category to someone’s description of unverifiable feelings provides “unjustified credibility.”

One particular diagnosis — post-traumatic-stress disorder — is especially prone to abuse, Greenberg wrote. Someone claims to have experienced something horrific, and describes symptoms consistent with distress. A clinician diagnoses PTSD. In court, this diagnosis gets used “in a circular argument” to prove the horrific event occurred.

Greenberg preached caution. He practiced something else.

In the Air Force case, Greenberg had the stepdaughter take the Beck Depression Inventory — 22 questions, multiple choice. The first question: 1. I do not feel sad; 2. I feel sad; 3. I am sad all the time and I can’t snap out of it; 4. I am so sad or unhappy that I can’t stand it. She chose 3. He had her take the Beck Hopelessness Scale — 20 questions, true or false. Question 7: My future seems dark to me. She marked true.

After eight tests and 10 hours of interviews, Greenberg diagnosed the teenager with post-traumatic-stress disorder. (He charged the Air Force $12,360 for this work.)

To Sverre Staurset, the sergeant’s lawyer, Greenberg was key to the prosecution’s case. He vouched for the stepdaughter’s credibility — believe him, you believe her.

Unbeknown to Greenberg, Staurset had rounded up the state disciplinary documents in which Greenberg admitted to conduct both incompetent and unethical. With those records, the lawyer destroyed Greenberg on the stand.

“It was worse than a deer in headlights,” Staurset says. “He really came apart. There was nothing left of him.”

With Greenberg discredited, the sergeant was acquitted.

For an expert witness, credibility is everything. Greenberg knew that if those disciplinary records remained available, his future looked dim.

Hiding his past

A missing sentence. That’s what made all the difference — that, and the state’s lack of mettle.

During the disciplinary proceedings, Greenberg had signed a five-page stipulation admitting that he had misquoted witnesses, misinterpreted test results, reached damning conclusions on flimsy foundations. But the document was also supposed to say: “That by entering into this agreement, Dr. Greenberg does not admit to any violation of statute or administrative rules governing the practice of psychology.”

“That is boilerplate,” says Terry West, who was the Examining Board of Psychology’s program manager at the time. “That’s standard language in any stipulation.”

A lawyer for the state dropped the sentence while merging some documents. Boilerplate or not, that missing language represented an opening — and Greenberg seized it. He let the state know he was thinking of suing. The examining board caved.

Nick Wiltz, the board’s chairman when Greenberg was suspended, says: “The thing dragged on and on and on. Then, suddenly, because of this error by this inept assistant attorney general, the case blew up completely.”

In spring 1993, the board’s departing chairman, David Gossett, wrote an open apology to Greenberg, published in the board’s newsletter. Greenberg had been “exonerated” of “all allegations,” Gossett wrote. The apology asked “all persons” who had kept an earlier board publication describing Greenberg’s suspension to return their copies or destroy them.

For Greenberg, this wasn’t enough. The agency’s paper trail was still publicly available, meaning he might still be confronted on the witness stand with his past admissions.

So Greenberg went to court, asking for the state to be barred from releasing any records about his past suspension. In a remarkable twist, the Examining Board of Psychology joined in this request. Here was a public body — represented by another public body, the state Attorney General’s Office — asking the courts to forbid the state from complying with its public-records requirements.

In King County, Judge R. Joseph Wesley refused to go along. So Greenberg went south, to Thurston County. In 1995, Judge Daniel Berschauer agreed to place the state’s records off-limits to the public; also sealed was the entire court file describing Greenberg’s secrecy request.

Within a year of getting his disciplinary history sealed, Greenberg was giving seminars to other psychologists on the ethics of parenting evaluations.

Greenberg also fended off another kind of challenge. Cathy Graden, the mother who temporarily lost her son, sued Greenberg, accusing him of falsifying evidence against her. But Greenberg cited a decades-old principle — that, as a court-appointed expert, he was entitled to the same “absolute immunity” accorded judges — and Graden dropped her suit, figuring it was doomed.

Greenberg used the same argument to squelch other lawsuits. He became such an expert on this shield that the American Psychological Association would ask him to deliver an address on: “The Liability and Immunity of the Expert Witness.”

‘Laundering priests’

Although Greenberg attracted a lot of work, his judgment raised doubts.

The Roman Catholic Church sent priests accused of sexual abuse to Greenberg, to get his take on whether they could be returned to ministry without endangering congregants.

“He was really the go-to guy for the Archdiocese of Seattle, and for the Jesuits, when it came to evaluating and laundering priests,” says Ken Roosa, an Anchorage attorney who has represented hundreds of people suing the church.

The enterprise was shrouded in secrecy, making it hard to say how many priests Greenberg evaluated. Asked during one lawsuit, Greenberg estimated “10 to 15.”

What’s clear is how easily one priest deceived Greenberg.

In 1993, the Jesuits sent Father Jim Poole to see the psychologist. Greenberg interviewed Poole for 10 hours and administered nine tests. Poole admitted violating his vow of chastity, but only to the extent of kissing and sexual touching with women.

Greenberg wrote reports saying he believed Poole was being honest and that therapy arranged by the Jesuits had “substantially remedied” his problems. “I must say that I do not think that he is conning me or himself,” Greenberg wrote.

But in recommending that Poole be returned to ministry, Greenberg missed the most horrendous aspects of Poole’s history. The Jesuits would later settle more than a dozen lawsuits that accused Poole, decades earlier, of raping or molesting girls as young as 6.

Poole denied raping anyone but admitted French-kissing one child dozens of times, saying: “I found it a way of trying to get across how much she was loved.”

Confronted, in a lawsuit, about his misreading of Poole, Greenberg said: “The data is that psychologists are no better than anyone else at determining when someone’s lying based on interview.”

Greenberg also lacked judgment around the office, some employees say. Jacquie Pickrell, a psychologist who worked for Greenberg in the mid-1990s, says he violated boundaries with women employees and seemed a “narcissist.”

One morning he came into the office, looking horrible. He told Pickrell he’d had a dreadful night. He described vomiting — “in horrid detail,” Pickrell says — while a foot from her face.

When Pickrell advised him to go home, or at least not infect others, Greenberg went into his office, shut the door, and pouted. The next day he told Pickrell she had hurt his feelings, that he was sick and had needed a hug.

Two other women employees described being “weirded” or “creeped out” by Greenberg. One said he rubbed her shoulders; tried to make her go with him, alone, on a business trip to Alaska; and wondered aloud, while shopping for supplies, if other people in the store thought they were lovers.

An orchestrated performance

As the 1990s rolled into the next decade, Greenberg’s past problems faded away.

He published in peer-reviewed journals and spoke all over the country. He chaired the committee that wrote a national certification exam for his field. His peers elected him president of the American Board of Forensic Psychology.

His hourly rate rose to $450. His fees in individual cases were known to climb from $8,000 to $12,000 to $20,000 or more. He got a 39-foot boat — “More Like It,” so named because he’d had a smaller boat, saw a bigger one, thought, that’s more like it, and bought one to match. He owned two houses on Capitol Hill — one for home, the other for work. His wine collection was worth $25,000.

On the side he worked at the UW as a clinical associate professor. The UW heard whispers of a troubled past, asked the state, and was told there was nothing to worry about. (The judge’s sealing order prohibited disciplinary officials from saying more.)

To testify as an expert, a witness must be found qualified. Greenberg turned this into an orchestrated performance. He would hand a script to the lawyer who hired him.

Question: “Doctor, isn’t it true that one of your articles has become one of the landmarks in the field?”

Response: “Well, my article with Dan Shuman on the differences between assessment by therapists and assessment by forensic examiners has been reprinted often, yes.”

Greenberg’s script had 32 questions in all. His answers had the effect of whispering: I am objective. I am humble. I am a giant in my field.

The hidden camera

This is the story Greenberg later told police:

He needed an air purifier. He searched the Internet. A gadget popped up that only appeared to be a purifier. The white plastic box, about 8 inches high, whirred like a purifier, but inside was a hidden camera.

Greenberg placed an order. The item was shipped to him on June 6, 2007.

Greenberg said he planned to spy on contractors remodeling a $1.8 million house he had recently bought for a new home-office. Instead, he installed the camera in his office’s bathroom, used by employees and people getting psychological evaluations.

His staff became suspicious. On July 3, a psychologist who worked for Greenberg devised a test. She placed an aerosol can in front of the purifier. If this device was a camera, this would block the view. Within half an hour, Greenberg entered the bathroom, shut the door, and moved the can.

In a scene caught on videotape, he then fiddled with the lens, stared into his camera, smiled and masturbated.

Police arrested Greenberg that afternoon. A detective interviewed him in a small room. Greenberg gazed at the room’s video-camera, pointed down at him. In court Greenberg had intimidated. Now his voice was barely audible. He sighed, over and over.

Greenberg told the detective he couldn’t resist seeing his employees in partial undress. “I enjoyed it. … It was fun; it was exciting. … I didn’t do this a lot. I’m not minimizing it. I know it’s bad. But I didn’t do it a lot.”

News of Greenberg’s arrest went public. At the UW, a colleague informed the psychology-department chairman that Greenberg gave an annual lecture to students titled “Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology.” “Ironic, I know,” she wrote in her email.

Three weeks after his arrest, while awaiting charges, Greenberg committed suicide in a Renton hotel room. He was 59.

He left three notes on his hotel bed. In one — addressed, “To everyone I hurt” — Greenberg wrote: “I am inadequate. I just don’t know. I am sorry.”

He didn’t say who “everyone” was. That would be for the courts to decide.

The damage done

When Greenberg died, his personal worth was estimated at $1.7 million. But the claims filed against his estate eclipsed that.

There were claims filed by employees who had been secretly videotaped in Greenberg’s bathroom. There were claims filed over cases in which Greenberg failed to finish child-custody evaluations, or did work now deemed tainted or worthless.

Before Greenberg died, some parents in child-custody matters hesitated to criticize his evaluations, fearing any complaint might cost them their children. But since his death, parents have come forward, with women describing bullying tactics, saying he demanded intimate details about their sex lives, and dared them not to answer.

Once the circumstances of Greenberg’s downfall became public, courts agreed to take a second look at some of his more recent cases.

In one of them, Greenberg had recommended joint custody in a case where the father had been convicted of beating the mother. Drenched in blood, she had gone to the emergency room and received 15 stitches in her head.

Greenberg branded the mother, a Microsoft employee, as emotionally unstable, saying she complained too much of the abuse she had suffered.

“I was beaten by my husband, and I was beaten up by the system,” the woman told The Times. “I was accused of being crazy for not liking being beaten.”

After Greenberg’s arrest for voyeurism, the woman’s lawyer asked to have Greenberg’s report tossed out. A King County judge agreed. A new evaluator was appointed — and came to a very different conclusion.

Under the new parenting agreement, the mother is in charge.

Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or karmstrong@seattletimes.com; Maureen O’Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com

Update September 10, 2011:

Here’s another case. The Seattle Times reports in, Well-known Seattle Counselor Jailed in Attempted Child-rape Case :

Scratchley also taught at Seattle University, worked at Seattle Children’s hospital and has been lauded for his work in the treatment community, including recognition by the state Supreme Court, according to a Washington Association of Designated Mental Health Professionals newsletter from 2006.

 Thank you Seattle Times for reporting this information and for caring about our children. 

Read This Quickly…Before it’s Gone

If you’re reading this post on this website, you probably already know about the dangers abused children face in our nation’s family courts.

You might also know that one of the biggest problems facing family court reform is that not enough journalists and editors have been willing or able to cover who’s been doing what in our family courts for the last 30 years.

As long as the mainstream media doesn’t cover this national family court crisis – as well as they covered the Catholic Church scandal –  most people will have no idea that our children’s best interests have been replaced by corruption, racketeering and child endangerment.

The family court crisis didn’t make the national news this week, but wait – the story about the graphic pictures planned for the sides of cigarette packs did. 

Hmmm…

Here’s an idea:  Maybe we can post graphic photos of victims of our family court crisis above the front doors of each family courthouse. 

What? That wouldn’t look right?

We have to do something to warn those who pass through those doors – especially if those who threaten everyone with lawsuits continue to have their way with our children, our media and our nation’s family courts.

This article was published yesterday in The Vancouver Voice:

GAL Power

 By Marcus Griffith
June 22, 2011

 Divorced parents with minor children often fight over custody and visitation rights, producing courtroom decisions that are complex and often heartbreaking for at least one parent. This story takes a rare public look into that system for two reasons:

First, it involves the kind of complicated, personal and family situations that make these cases so difficult to adjudicate. Secondly, there is the additional drama of conflict combined with allegations of questionable performances among the justice system officials themselves.

Clark County Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg recently removed two children from their mother’s home, even though no petition for such action was before the court. Schienberg based her temporary decision on an allegedly flawed report prepared by a court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL).

When the mother’s attorney criticized the GAL report and refused to apologize for her comments, the commissioner held the attorney in contempt and fined her $500.

The commissioner’s ruling is under appeal, with a hearing pending. Meanwhile, the two minor children have been moved to the custody of their father. He has issued multiple threats of legal action against the writer and any publication who would publish a story about this case.

In Washington State, court commissioners are appointed by superior court judges. They are not elected by the public, but they have many of the same responsibilities and authorities as a superior court judge.

A family law guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child, often during divorce or custody proceedings. In addition to family law matters, a GAL can be appointed to assist anyone a court deems legally incapacitated. Clark County commissioners and judges appointed GALs 396 times in 2010, according to Superior Court Administrator Jeffrey Amram.

GAL reports are confidential. However, the author obtained a copy of the GAL report from an undisclosed source after concerns were raised about contents of the report and the commissioner’s ruling.

 

Case didn’t seek custody

In August 2008, the mother received “primary residential placement” of the two minor children as part of a court-approved parenting plan. After more than two years of continuing conflict between the parents, the father filed an October 2010 contempt motion against the mother for violation of visitation rights.

The commissioner, in early December, held the mother in contempt for certain violations. At the same time, she approved a motion to require that transfer of the children for visitation times take place at the Vancouver police station due to conflict between the parties.

In November, the mother filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, asking for restricted visitation time with the father until he received counseling for anger management. The father, responding in December, said there was insufficient proof for a major modification of that plan.

That is the issue before the court that led to the appointment of Vancouver attorney Meredith McKell Graff as Guardian ad Litem to investigate the matter.

According to the mother’s attorney, Vancouver attorney April Brinkman, the GAL report was supposed to be finished by the first of February 2011. However, it was not submitted to the court until May 12, and it came with a blockbuster recommendation that the children be removed from the mother’s home and the father be given primary residential placement.

A source close to the case, who asked not to be identified, said there were significant concerns about the integrity of that 26-page report, which were ignored by Commissioner Schienberg. The source called the report a product of “shoddy investigation” and involved “lies told in court” by Graff.

 

Background shows need for a GAL

It has been almost a decade since the Clark County parents in this case were divorced. Subsequent battles over custody of their children have included numerous allegations between the parties of child abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and harassment.

The 2008 parenting plan noted the “abusive use of conflict by both parents” as a potential risk to the “psychological development” of both children. Information from various sources and documents reveals disturbing allegations surrounding both parents that make it difficult to sort fact from fiction.

One of the more disturbing allegations against the mother is referred to as the “wiener game.” It was reported to Child Protective Services at an unspecified time, according to the confidential GAL report. While bathing with her children, the report says, the mother “taught each boy how to stimulate himself to erection… then balance an action figure toy on their erect penis. The longer they can hold the toy on their penis is the winner (sic).”

The father allegedly has forced his children to write false accusations against their mother, including allegations outlined in a recent police report. In that June 1 report, Battle Ground Officer Joshua Phelps wrote:

“I asked [redacted] about his mom making him lie about things. [Redacted] told me that she did not do that, but their father told them to write that down.”

It doesn’t appear, at this time, that police or Child Protective Services have substantiated allegations against either parent, but due to the long record of conflict it’s no surprise that the court saw need for an independent and objective view of a GAL.

 

GAL investigation takes a turn

The court order appointing Meredith McKell Graff as GAL instructed her to “investigate and report the factual information to the court concerning parenting arrangements” of the two children. Graff’s final report was unequivocal in its recommendation.

“The children in this matter… are at extreme risk of harm if they remain any longer in the mother’s home,” the report states. “They should be removed immediately.”

Subsequent concerns about the GAL report are voiced prominently by the mother’s attorney in the motion for reversal of Commissioner Schienberg’s temporary order.

High on the list of concerns about the May 12 report is a statement by Graff that she interviewed the references for both parents. That conflicts with her statement of May 24 in which she declared, “I did not interview (the mother’s reference); my legal assistant performed this task.”

Neither statement revealed the actual fact that Graff’s assistant, Heidi Atwood, actually interviewed all four references listed in the report.

“As the guardian ad litem’s legal assistant,” wrote Atwood in her May 24 declaration to the court, “in order to save time… I was given the assignment of calling all the guardian ad litem references and asking them the questions requested by the guardian ad litem … ”

Atwood is not listed on the court-approved guardian ad litem registry, and there’s no record that she has completed any of the required training to work as guardian ad litem. She is a 40-year-old college student at Washington State University whose only professional license in Washington is as a Notary Public, according to Graff’s law office and state documents.

 

A lie in court?

Court transcripts of the June 2 hearing include Graff’s statement that she couldn’t obtain a release from the mother to get medical records. “Because (the mother) did not sign a HIPAA release with her doctor … I did not get medical records from the mother,” said Graff.

However, Brinkman has since filed with the court a copy of just such a release, signed by the mother on March 29 and faxed to Graff’s office, according to Brinkman.

Further, Graff didn’t need that release to get the information. The court order appointing her includes a signed “release of information” provision giving her access to all pertinent records, specifically including health care records, for both parents.

The GAL report says that Graff has “minimal concerns with the father,” despite the fact that she quoted a 2007 psychological evaluation saying that the father has “issues with chronic and intense anger;” that he is “not able to express negative feeling appropriately;” that he is “over-controlled with brief, impulsive episodes of acting out;” and that he is “sensitive to rejection and has a subtle paranoia that is expressed as jealously or possessiveness. He can be hostile when criticized and has little self-awareness.”

The doctor who conducted that psychological evaluation of the father also evaluated his current wife, saying she is “aggressive and striving,” and “defines her view as the correct one and assumes that to disagree with her is simply a demonstration of one’s lack of understanding.”

Graff’s report did not disagree with that impression, but said the children need a controlling adult in their lives. “Even though the father’s wife may appear to some that she is ‘controlling,’ she is actually what the boys need right now,” Graff wrote.

The report recommended that both parents enter counseling, but held “no reservations” about having the children moved to primary residency with their father.

 

Many issues of credibility

Graff used Child Protective Services reports to help form her recommendation that the children face eminent harm in the mother’s care. However, none of the allegations against the mother have been substantiated by Child Protective Services, police or the county prosecutor’s office, according to available court documents.

Graff considered various allegations of both parents to be less than credible.

“The parents — both of them — have engaged in CPS and the police far too often, and too many times with false or misleading information, in order to discredit the other parent,” Graff stated.

It’s not clear, then, why allegations from one side would become grounds for such a significant recommendation. There is also a matter of various subjective and inflammatory words and phrases used in the report.

The report at one point says that the mother “remade herself into a sexual abuse zombie,” and later says a photo of the mother and her new husband “shows them tonguing like reptiles.” Nothing clarified the use of those phrases as part of an evaluation of parenting skills.

The GAL report also indicates that Graff did not interview the children’s doctors, teachers, psychologists or neighbors.

 

Lack of balance in interviews

Graff — or rather, her assistant, Atwood — interviewed three references for the father but only one for the mother, an imbalance that casts doubt on fairness of the investigation. And despite Graff being assigned the investigation in December, Atwood didn’t start requesting interviews with the mother’s references until May 10, according to numerous court documents and the declaration of a veteran Oregon police officer.

Officer Jason Maddy stated, “The law office of McKell Graff left a voicemail for me Tuesday, May 10, 2011, sometime during the afternoon. Records indicate that the voicemail was the first and only time that Atwood called Maddy. He planned to call Atwood on May 13, but Graff completed her report on May 11.

Maddy, an experienced investigator, was bothered by the one-day callback window. “I would never even think of just calling someone and leaving a message and writing the report the next day without hearing from them,” Maddy stated. He further stated that he “would have been able to provide very important information about how I have seen (the mother) interact with her children.”

Another reference provided by the mother said she didn’t receive the request for an interview until May 11. By the time she called Graff’s law office the report already was filed, and Atwood wouldn’t document what she said would have been favorable statements about the mother.

Even more disturbing, although Graff may have stopped taking statements in support of the mother on May 11, she continued taking statements against the mother even after the report was filed with the court. In her May 24 declaration, Graff references new allegations against the mother that surfaced after the confidential report was filed on May 12.

“I have been now told,” wrote Graph in that declaration, “that the children have been punished for telling me things that the mother did not want me to know or the children to tell me.”

 

Second-hand allegations

Graff appears to have disregarded her direct observations of the mother’s house in favor of statements from unidentified sources.

“The mother’s home is chaotic and dirty,” Graff stated in her report. However, she wrote that the house was staged to look clean during her lone visit there.

“The mother made a point of having me go ‘say goodnight’ to each boy before beginning the interview,” Graff wrote. “I am concerned this was an effort to get me to walk down the hall to show me that the house was ‘neat,’ rather than how it had been prior to its staging for my visit.”

The report cited an unnamed source who reported to Graff that the mother put a large amount of “stuff” in storage so Graff would not see the usual state of the house.

In contrast, Graff was very impressed with the father’s home, where she made multiple visits. She wrote: “Going in, one feels a sense of peace and calm.” Although records indicate that there was only one investigative interview at the father’s house, Graff wrote, “I have been to the (father’s) home on more than occasion.”

The father’s house is in an upscale neighborhood, and court documents indicate that the father makes substantially more money than the mother. Graff said, however, that those factors were not taken into consideration in her recommendation.

“To be clear,” she wrote, “my recommendation for (the father) being named the primary residential parent is not based on socio-economic factors. I have been appointed in other cases where the recommended placement was for the poorer home of the two parents.”

She continued, in one of the report’s more unusual narratives: “One can be clean, neat, organized, and poor, with clean, ragged clothes and one can have money and worldly possessions and be dirty, chaotic, and provide no supervision for children, along with allowing them to be sexually abused within the grand, expensive home.”

 

GAL invoices for thousands more

Graff is seeking payment of almost $2,500 more than was first authorized by the court, which wrote in its appointing order: “The guardian ad litem fee is $75 per hour up to $750, the maximum the guardian ad litem may charge without additional court review and approval.”

That full $750 was paid months ago through combined payments from the parents. But according to Graff, she has racked up 41.6 hours to date for a total bill of $3,120. She stated in a court document that it would be “appropriate for the court to order the parties to share an additional $2,370.”

The GAL invoice does not explain how many hours her assistant worked, of whether those hours are included in the billing.

 

Commissioner’s fully endorses report

The June 2 hearing, held in open court, included specific reference to contents of the confidential GAL report. And Commissioner Schienberg seemed very pleased with the quality of the report.

“First of all,” Schienberg said in the hearing, I want to thank Ms. Graff for her work. I think you did an excellent job; it was very thorough … I think she did an excellent report.”

The commission, however, went beyond stating her positive impression of the report. When April Brinkman questioned the lack of supporting documents in the report, Schienberg was quick to demand that Brinkman apologize to the GAL.

“There’s no evidence to support anything that the GAL has said,” Brinkman stated in court. The transcript record of that statement provides no information on tone, volume, body language or any other factor except the words themselves.

“Excuse me, you’re going to apologize right now to this Court and to Ms. Graff,” said Schienberg, “or I will hold you in contempt. You apologize, now.”

Brinkman declined to apologize, was held in contempt of court and was fined $500.

Schienberg said in the hearing that her decision to relocate the children was based on the GAL report, statements made during the hearing and unspecified “documents in Volumes 4 and 5.”

According to the court transcript, Brinkman did not receive those documents, and they were not listed in Graff’s report.

At one point, Brinkman asked Schienberg if “the guardian ad litem is supposed to attach any document she used to the report the Court considers?” Schienberg responded:

“Okay. I took the report that Ms. Graff has provided me and her comments, she is an officer of the court. I trust that when speaks to the court, she is not lying to the court. She has an excellent reputation in this court. She is a person who has done a number of guardian ad litem reports, always well done, always thoroughly researched, always coming to an unbiased, no prejudicial conclusion. I value her work.”

Perhaps reflecting the volatile nature of cases before her court, Commissioner Schienberg has attracted a Facebook page entitled “Fire Washington Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg.” The page has 30 members and includes comments from people who have had family law matters before her court.

Schienberg, reached via e-mail with a request for comment on this story, said she could not comment on an ongoing matter.

 

Legislator interested in case

Washington State Rep. Ann Rivers of the 18th District and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was contacted by the mother with concerns about this case. Rivers confirmed in a phone interview that she spoke with the mother and is “concerned” by the issues raised.

“Anytime we have children put into a destabilized system, families lose out,” said Rivers, adding that she is in the “infancy stage of research” and is seeking more information from state legal staff.

Rivers said she believes that parents should place their responsibility to their children above any personal disagreement with each other. As for certain unusual language in the GAL report, Rivers said it wasn’t the kind of thing she would expect to see in a formal report.

Meanwhile, the author and The Vancouver Voice received emailed threats — from the father’s email account — of legal action if the investigation into this case continues. A June 16 email also suggests that Graff is providing legal assistance to the father and his current wife, stating:

“The guardian ad litem is also an attorney and these minors (sic) attorney, and she informed us today that if you print or allow Mr. Griffith to print a story about these minors, you and Mr. Griffith will be served with lawsuits, liable to start.”

Attorney Meredith Graff did not respond to several requests for comment. For updates on the case, visit the blog, VanVoice Blotter, at http://www.vanvoice.com.

New Bill to Protect Children: In Australia Only?

 

From: The Sydney Morning Herald

 

Push to support new bill to protect children

Adele Horin

May 25, 2011

A woman whose ex-husband was jailed for sexually abusing her daughter is resisting Family Court orders to allow him contact visits with their son.

A public inquiry into a proposed new family violence bill starts on June 9. Photo: Peter Stoop

The man was sentenced to three years’ jail and served 18 months for the aggravated indecent assault of a minor – his then 13-year-old stepdaughter.

He was freed on a good behaviour bond and has been granted supervised access visits with the younger child.

The visits, which were supposed to start last October, were intended to lead to unsupervised access after seven weeks.

Now the mother is fearful she might end up in jail because she is in contravention of court orders. “The day he molested my daughter he lost his rights as a parent,” she said. “My son says he’s scared of him and I won’t make him go.”

The executive officer of the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement, Cat Gander, says the case highlights the bind women are in under the Family Law Act.

“State child protection authorities insist women protect their children from danger but Family Court orders insist women facilitate access.”

A rally today outside Federal Parliament will be the first step in a campaign to ensure passage of a new family law bill that seeks to give greater protection to children in access and custody disputes. More than 170 agencies, including Lifeline, the YWCA, the Benevolent Society and Headspace, the youth mental health agency, have formed an unprecedented alliance to push for even stronger protections for children in the proposed legislation.

After several government-commissioned studies into family violence that showed children were insufficiently protected under the 2006 Family Law Act, the federal government proposed a new family violence bill. A public inquiry starts on June 9 in Canberra.

Some men’s groups claim the government’s proposed changes to family law may weaken shared parental responsibility provisions. However, Kylie Temple, project co-ordinator for a mid-north coast domestic violence service, said the 2006 law, in emphasising children’s rights to a relationship with both parents, had compromised children’s safety: “If this mother complies with the federal court order and leaves her child with a convicted sex offender, under state law I am mandated to report the child to the child welfare department for being at significant risk.”

The new alliance wants the committee to take up the recommendations of the former family court judge Richard Chisholm to drop the presumption of equal shared parenting responsibility and the obligation to consider equal time in favour of treating all cases that come before the court on their merits.

The government has proposed more modest changes that will give greater weight to the protection of children above the benefit of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents where family violence was a concern. As well, it proposes to delete the “friendly” parent provision which obliged judges to have regard to whether a parent encouraged the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Ms Gander said that at this stage it was unclear whether the proposed changes would have a smooth passage through Parliament.

“This is not my opinion, it’s the law.”

 

Posted by Julia Fletcher

I read this article and put on my thinking cap. Does anyone ever wonder why our family courts aren’t audited on a regular basis – and without a fight? Do most people believe there can be corruption and mismanagement anywhere except in our family courts?

 

From TheUnion.com:

 

Reformers target those in Family Court system

 
May, 31 2011
 
By Liz Kellar
 
 

Emily Gallup talking to a passerby on the steps on the Nevada County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon. Photo for The Union by John Hart

Emily Gallup isn’t giving up. And she isn’t going away.

Gallup, who is alleging the court violated state statutes and its own rules, still has a wrongful termination suit against the county, which will likely not be heard until next April.

Over the last two weeks, Gallup has been a very visible presence on the courthouse steps, as she — and members of the advocacy group she helped found, Nevada County Family Court Reformers — has been handing out bright-orange flyers to folks heading to Family Court orientation on Tuesday mornings and to Family Court hearings on Wednesday mornings.

“I haven’t given up on my larger goal of getting this court audited,” Gallup said Tuesday. “But I think it’s going to take a lot of time, and I don’t want people to suffer needlessly in the meantime.”

Family Court handles cases where parties seek court intervention to solve their family issues. Judges hear and decide cases involving divorce, paternity, domestic violence and abuse, child custody, support and visitation. The court also provides mediation to help parents resolve child support, child custody and visitation problems.

The flyer includes “helpful reminders” about the Family Court process, Gallup said.

It advises those involved in Family Court to not allow the mediators or the court to pressure them to make an agreement they don’t really want to make; to make sure the mediator is familiar with the history of the case, and that serious underlying issues are addressed; to tell the judge if the mediator makes a recommendation to the court they do not like; and to request separate mediation if desired in cases involving domestic violence.

“This is not my opinion, it’s the law,” Gallup said of the recommendations. “This is how it should be.”

One woman, who asked to be identified only by the initials L.A.W., said she was ordered to allow visitation with her child’s father, even though he had been convicted more than once of child molestation.

“It’s supposed to be about protecting the child’s welfare, and they’re not doing that,” she said. “Not at all.”

Bessee said his fiancee experienced similar issues, and that was what prompted the pair to join the reform group.

“The continuity of the stories are scary,” he said. “People go into the system and get rolled by people who aren’t following the rules. That’s what got us involved. We’re just pleased that (Gallup) has been brave enough to do this … It’s about educating people.”

Item No. 1 on the flyer has to do with the “216 waiver,” which, according to the flyer, “gives the mediators permission to talk behind your back to the judge and minor’s counsel (an attorney that is sometimes appointed to represent the children in a case).”

“Mediators can’t talk to the judge or the minor’s counsel without both parents present,” Gallup explained. “The waiver was designed to be limited in scope. But here, they are using them as a blank check for ex parte communications. I believe there are benefits to talking behind the scenes, but the court has been misusing these forms.”

According to Gallup and Bessee, many of the people going through the Family Court system are not even aware they have signed the waivers, because they are included with the forms that make up the orientation questionnaire.

“If you’re not sure if you signed a 216 waiver, just ask,” Gallup’s flyer reads. “If you did sign it and do not want to keep it in place, tell your mediator you want to withdraw the 216 waiver from your file. You may want to put your request in writing.”

The response to the flyer’s warning was quick, Gallup said.

“I heard it was a very tense day in court last Wednesday,” she said. “A lot of people retracted their waivers.”

The Family Court Reformers will meet again from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, June 26, at the Nevada City Library. For information, call (530) 559-0101.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.

“Kidnapping? Extortion? No, just another child/family investigator…”

From Denver Westword Blogs:

Child/family investigator measure moves ahead amid tales of greed trumping kids’ best interest

By Alan Prendergast

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The e-mails contained an ugly ultimatum: Annette Story had to fork over $1,500 or lose contact with her son.

Colorado State Senator Linda Newell photo blogs.westword.com

Kidnapping? Extortion? No, just another child/family investigator (CFI) demanding an increase in his retainer. Under current Colorado law, Story had no recourse against such an outrageous threat, but a new bill seeks to change that.

Senate Bill 187, sponsored by Denver Democrat Linda Newell, is a package of reforms stemming from the sunset review of how the state regulates mental health professionals. But one little-known amendment, which Newell added in response to concerns from dozens of parents who describe themselves as CFI “victims,” would subject CFIs who also happen to be therapists or psychologists to the same disciplinary measures as others in their field.

A CFI is a court-appointed expert who’s supposed to help judges make custody decisions in particularly contentious divorce cases. Some CFIs are attorneys and are already subject to the attorney grievance process for any alleged ethical violations. But the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has consistently rejected complaints about mental-health CFIs overstepping their bounds because DORA doesn’t have jurisdiction over court proceedings.

Critics of the process say the CFIs don’t have any real oversight at all — even though judges rely on them to make critical decisions about which parent gets more access to the children. At a Wednesday committee hearing on the bill, Newell and other senators heard about CFIs who worked essentially as “hired guns” for certain divorce attorneys rather than as impartial evaluators, even “friending” those attorneys on their Facebook page; CFIs who ignored police reports and frightened kids’ accounts and recommended that custody be awarded to chronic child abusers; and, of course, CFIs who seemed more interested in money than the best interests of the children they were evaluating.

“This man threatened to take my child away and hand him over to a known abuser if I didn’t pay him another retainer,” Story told the committee. “It’s a shame my son had to suffer from the time he was nine until he was fifteen because the Colorado courts just take the word of a CFI.”

Sue Papke testified about her daughter’s battle against an ex (and his allied CFI) that consumed $300,000 over a dozen years. The CFI ignored four years of domestic violence charges, she said, and distorted the record in his official report. “This is the story of everyone in this room,” she said. “If you take away their immunity, these people will have to be responsible for their actions, like other professionals.”

Attorneys who specialize in family law have acknowledged to Westword that certain CFIs are known to have a bias going into a case. One might be known for being “pro-father,” for instance, or inclined to favor the side that recommended that he or she be hired. An attorney CFI showing such favoritism, if it could be proved, would probably face disciplinary action from the Office of Attorney Regulation; but there’s no mechanism for seeking redress from a bad therapist CFI.

“There’s a double standard,” testified Amy Miller, public policy director at the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “This amendment would fix that problem.”

Officials at DORA testified against the measure, calling misconduct by CFIs an issue that “should be handled by the courts.” But the senators moved the bill forward with the amendment intact.

Janice Whittaker, who founded a group called Parents United for Change after losing her son as the result of a CFI’s report six years ago, was cautiously optimistic that the provision will survive further review as it inches through the legislative process.

“I think having the parents there to tell their stories helped change some votes,” she said.

Mothers Day Request: Justice and Safety for Our Children

Posted by Julia Fletcher

The amount of media coverage of the family court racketeering in each state will determine how quickly investigations, accountability and court reform happen. A few reporters in New Jersey are wide awake and have given that state a head start. 

 The following two articles are on NorthJersey.com:

 

Mothers rally for fairness in the courts

 
Saturday, May 7, 2011
 
BY ZACH PATBERG
Herald News
STAFF WRITER

Lori has spent the last eight years fighting the courts for custody of her two children. It began, she said, with her accusing her then-husband of abusing their 3-year-old boy and year-old girl. It ended with him gaining custody and her getting visitation rights.

Joy Star marching in Strengthen Our Sisters' rally to protest a lack of legal representation for low-income mothers in custody battles.

LESLIE BARBARO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
 
Joy Star marching in Strengthen Our Sisters’ rally to protest a lack of legal representation for low-income mothers in custody battles.

“He drained me out,” said the 47-year-old Westfield woman, who declined to give her full name for fear it would hurt her future custody chances. She can’t afford a lawyer and has to represent herself after spending more than $100,000 in legal fees over the years.

She was a housewife. He is a lawyer. She has little money. He has lots.

It is a formula that legal experts and advocates say creates a lopsided matchup in the courtroom for custody cases – one in which the mother most often loses.

“For the most part, the guy is the one who’s got the job and the means to afford an attorney,” said John Fitzgerald, director of Northeast New Jersey Legal Services programs in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties. “To me, the real issue is fairness. It’s not fair if one side is represented and the other side isn’t.”

Finding legal help is harder than ever these days for women with no means to pay for it. Legal Services – generally the only free legal-aid option for low-income people – has seen its budget and staff slashed by a third over the past couple of years, forcing the agency to turn away an increasing number of people.

“It’s even worse than last year,” said Fitzgerald, who estimates that Legal Services will be able to help only 8,000 to 9,000 people this year across the three counties, compared with 13,000 in 2009.

The gloom and doom, however, didn’t stop Sandra Ramos from holding her annual Mother’s Day march on Friday to protest what she sees a fraternity of favoritism in the family court system.

The activist from Ringwood and founder of seven licensed shelters for battered women led a line of about 20 mothers – some pushing baby carriages or strollers – in a constant circle in front of the Passaic County Courthouse. They chanted, “The court is the cash machine, and children pay the price,” along with, “Children should not be used as pawns!”

Ramos has been sheltering battered women ever since she divorced her husband and invited 23 other divorcées to live at her house in the 1970s.

“They came to me with such heartbreaking stories,” she said Friday, holding a sign that read, “End Patriarchy.”

“Then I started seeing women en masse were losing their children to husbands who were punishing them. I just got so angry,” said Ramos.

The Strengthen Our Sisters founder suffered a setback last year, however, when her organization lost about $450,000 in funding because it could not meet state qualifications as an emergency shelter.

Ramos sought help in Hollywood, holding a gala fund-raiser last year that included such personalities as former “Real Housewife” Danielle Staub. More recently, she has been in talks with state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Cresskill, whose chief of staff confirmed Friday he is helping her with funding.

E-mail: patberg@northjersey.com

 

Empty baby carriages call attention to the plight of battered moms

 
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

 

BY DONNA ROLANDO
Suburban Trends
STAFF WRITER

 

Nothing quite says loss like an empty baby carriage. So for the past three years, the women’s shelter group Strengthen Our Sisters has been staging an empty baby carriage march around Mother’s Day. Its aim is to call attention to perceived injustice in the court system that keeps mothers away from children and leaves carriages empty.”We must raise public awareness about the terrifying power of the courts,” said Sandra Ramos, founder of Strengthen Our Sisters (SOS) with shelters in West Milford and Wanaque, and a professor at William Paterson University and Ramapo College.She will be out there in front of the Passaic County Courthouse once again on May 7 in hopes that there will be a new look at custody cases involving batterers. And she invites others to join her at noon in front of the courthouse, 401 Grand St., Paterson.“We have a comprehensive and growing file of cases where children have been taken away from caring non-abusive loving parents and placed with an abusive parent. Far too many children have been placed in harm’s way by court orders. We are asking for re-examination of cases by an unbiased review board when judicial misconduct has been reported,” Ramos said.This is the fourth annual Special Mother’s Day Demonstration, yet Ramos said she sees no change in the court system as it relates to battered mothers reaching out for custody of their kids.What has changed is that a few lawyers have come forth to represent battered women who otherwise could not afford legal representation, she said.The help of capable attorney is key in these cases but many times, the victims of abuse are just about getting by financially. Often their abusers have kept a tight rein on family finances and therefore the abusers alone are able to hire an attorney and make a strong case for custody, Ramos said.Furthermore, she said that judges seldom understand that battered women can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, which may influence how they express themselves in court. And some judges think if a woman smiles in a photo with her abuser she couldn’t have suffered at his hand, she said. Or they may think that she waited too long to get help and that colors the case, she added.

One day, Ramos hopes Passaic County‘s judges will be willing to sit down and talk about how these cases are handled and learn the dynamics of what impacts battered women.

“I don’t believe in miracles. I depend on them,” Ramos said.

She called attention to the children hurt in custody battles, who “grow up to be cutters, depressed, suicidal” and said, “That is why I’m so passionate” about raising awareness in the legal system.

This coming Friday, Ramos hopes to exceed last year’s turnout of roughly 100 demonstrators with the support of California women, who will be on hand for the march. She explained that what’s happening in Passaic County isn’t exclusive to this area – “it’s happening throughout the world,” which is why California is joining hands with Passaic County to get the word out.

Women are banding together for not only the Mother’s Day march but for a larger demonstration to follow in Washington, D.C., where they hope to be able to address their concerns to First Lady Michelle Obama or a representative.

Those who wish to participate should call 973-831-0898 or send an e-mail to lenal@sosdv.org. The event will be filmed by Jackie Aluotto, film producer of Pick it Up Pictures and Mad Dog Productions. To further raise awareness, Andrea Sofia, show host of the Domestic Abuse Reality Intervention Series, ABUSERS, will be on hand to show support for the demonstration and share her own story as a longtime survivor of violence and abuse.

E-mail: rolando@northjersey.com

To See The State’s Legal System Reformed…

Update 5/6/11:

The $15,000 bail was posted yesterday. Next court date: Thursday, May 12th.

See related posts, Letter to Caroline from Annie, You Always Stand for the Truth and Where’s the FBI?   

Given the mainstream media blackout of the family court crisis, it’s encouraging to read the following article. I’m still looking forward to the day when the mainstream media finally begins to investigate and report the family court crisis in the same way the Catholic Church scandal was investigated and reported.

There were not 58,000 victims of the Catholic Church scandal. In the family court crisis, that’s the estimated number of victims each year.

_______________________________

 

From chanvilliger.com:

May 5, 2011

BY FORREST ADAMS

Daughter Says She’s Prepared to Swap Jail Cell With Mother

Despite a plea to reconsider, First District Court Judge Kevin Eide on Monday morning denied a request to lower a woman’s bail.

In doing so, he had the support of the Carver County Attorney’s Office but left the woman’s daughter in tears.

Caroline Marie Rice, 46, has been held in Carver County Jail since April 4. The Carver County Attorney’s Office has charged her with committing a felony in 2010 of depriving custody/parental rights and causing a child to be a runaway, and the city of Chanhassen has charged her with violating orders for protection in 2009.

The felony offense carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, a $4,000 fine, or both. The misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

The county alleges that on Oct. 31, 2010, Caroline, who divorced her husband in Hennepin County in 2004, encouraged their 13-year-old daughter, identified in court documents as “A.C.R.,” to run from Chanhassen to live with her in Michigan.

Carver County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a missing/runaway complaint on Oct. 31. For the next two weeks, law enforcement agencies coordinated their efforts to return the child to Chanhassen. It was “a coordinated investigation with the FBI, the United States Diplomatic Security Service, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Carver County Sheriff’s Office,” according to court documents. The court document further states A.C.R. “wanted to run away from Minnesota to be with her mother.”

According to the official county complaint, A.C.R. met up with a woman in Excelsior who drove her for two days to Michigan and eventually met up with her mother inside Canada. In November 2010, Caroline and two daughters were apprehended when they crossed the border back into the United States.

The city alleges Rice violated an order for protection that prevented her from contacting her children. The order for protection (OFP) was requested by Caroline’s estranged ex-husband as a means of limiting her interactions with their children, who live with him in Chanhassen. The city alleges that each time Rice violated the OFP, she was ordered to appear in court but failed to show up.

“She appears to be a habitual offender, which is troubling to this office,” said Alina Schwartz, the city’s assistant prosecuting attorney.

Bail for Caroline Rice is set at $15,000.

Eide’s decision on Monday not to lower that amount was nothing new, as this was the fifth time since Rice was taken into custody that the judge declined a similar request by Rice’s pro-bono attorney, Rachel Nelson.

“She is not a threat to public safety. She does not have the money for bail,” Nelson told the judge during Monday’s hearing.

The county’s assistant attorney, Peter Ivy, disagreed.

“I don’t believe she can be trusted,” he said in response.

SUPPORTERS

Several individuals have rallied behind Caroline Rice, alleging she is the victim of a “broken” legal system. Caroline’s most vocal advocate is her own daughter, 19-year-old Lauren, the second-oldest of five children. Lauren vehemently disputes the charges against her mother and claims her younger sister ran away from her father on her own.

Among those who have put themselves in place to help Lauren and Caroline is a man named Dale Nathan, a 77-year-old retired attorney from Eagan. Nathan said it’s his desire to see the state’s legal system reformed, and he wants to see justice served for Lauren.

“Since 2003 I have dedicated myself to trying to fix our legal system,” he said. “I’m involved with other cases, but Lauren is a unique kid. She is for real. She is everything she says she is.”

In an affidavit Nathan helped her write, Lauren offers to take her mother’s place in jail if the judge sets Caroline free on a promise to return for future court dates, and she fails to appear. To bolster her credibility, Lauren included in the affidavit a copy of her certificate of appointment to the class of 2013 at West Point, and a copy of the dean’s list certificate she received during the fall 2009 while studying in North Dakota State University College of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Allied Sciences.

“I gave it up to help my mom. I believe without her love and support, I would not have had that opportunity in the first place,” she states in the affidavit.

A pre-trial omnibus hearing in State of Minnesota vs. Caroline Marie Rice is on the docket in First District Court for this Friday.

images.wikia.com

The Pretend World of Custody Courts

 

This article from “Time’s Up”,  is posted here with permission from the author:

 

The Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) is the part of the US Justice Department that provides grants for programs designed to reduce and prevent domestic violence. They recently sponsored a forum for their staff and other professionals in various parts of the government to learn about the crisis in the custody court system. They heard from seven protective mothers, one very inspiring Courageous Kid and over a dozen of the leading experts in the country. It was a wonderful discussion based upon current scientific research and actual experiences and everyone seems to get it that the courts are routinely making catastrophic mistakes in failing to protect children and domestic violence survivors. The purpose of the forum was to consider the problem, causes and solutions. It was so wonderful to take part in a reality based discussion about domestic violence custody issues and to do so with people who may have the ability to promote the needed changes. And yet the next day if any of us walked into a custody court, the research and the reality that were an unquestioned part of the discussion at OVW would be missing in the pretend world that is the present custody court system.

Similarly, in December, I had the privilege of participating in a review of grant proposals concerning gender, violence and health. The Canadian Institute of Health brought leading experts in the field together to consider which grant proposals would be most beneficial to fund. This was a high level discussion in which all of the participants were familiar with current scientific research so that we could have a reality based discussion. I found it particularly interesting that the Canadian government could attract knowledgeable experts for $200 a day at the same time the courts pay or require litigants to pay thousands of dollars for a few hours to “experts” completely unfamiliar with up-to-date research who instead provide opinions based on their personal belief system and prejudices.

Our custody courts are a very insular system in which information and ideas that contradict the misinformation routinely relied on by court professionals are unwelcome. Custody courts started relying on mental health professionals at a time when no research about domestic violence was available and many people assumed domestic violence was caused by mental illness, substances abuse and the behavior of the victims. We now know the original assumptions are wrong and mental health professionals rarely have much expertise in domestic violence or child sexual abuse. Nevertheless the courts are so used to relying on professionals with inadequate training that they routinely refuse to hear genuine experts or treat their testimony with tremendous skepticism. Experts, government agencies and academicians relied on to make major decisions in the real world are treated with disrespect by the court system. Repeatedly I have heard judges suggest that when the (inadequately trained) GAL, evaluator and child protective caseworker all agree, it is unreasonable to consider any other view.

Abusers often impose a pretend world on their victims by denying and minimizing their abuse. They often blame their partners by claiming her behavior forced him to abuse her. It is often unsafe for the woman to challenge this pretend existence. Genuine experts agree that dealing with reality is an important part of the healing process after survivors leave their abusers. This makes the common court practice of cooperating with abusers to focus on pretend issues so harmful to battered mothers and their children.

Many years ago I tried to help a teenage girl whose father was sexually abusing her. She finally found a therapist she could trust and the courage to share her secret. He called the child protective agency, but their response was to remove the girl from her home so the father’s life would not be disrupted. They put her in a home for girls that included those there for criminal behavior. While at this home, she was assaulted and robbed. The caseworker refused to permit her to continue working with her therapist just when she needed him most and pressured her to recant her allegations. The caseworker threatened to send her to an even worse facility and she was also concerned about the trouble her father would face. When she recanted her allegations she was sent back to her home and forced to engage in therapy based upon the false assumption her allegations of abuse were wrong. At a time when she needed therapy in response to years of abuse, she was forced to engage in therapy to determine why she made false allegations.

More recently, I worked on a New Jersey case in which a young child reported to her mother that her father and his mother had touched her in the vicinity of her privates. She did not know the words to be more precise. The father immediately denied the allegations and claimed the mother was making deliberate false allegations. The unqualified professionals focused only on whether the child was molested or the mother made false allegations and when they could not find enough evidence of abuse after a flawed investigation assumed the allegations were false. They brought charges against the mother and eventually gave the abusive father custody and the mother supervised visitation. When the court professionals later learned of the father’s history of domestic violence and hired a qualified expert who used current research to recommend custody be restored to the mother, the court professionals ignored the information that undermined their mistaken finding. The mother was forced into therapy in which she had to prove she no longer believed the true allegations if she wanted unsupervised visitation with her daughter. Having escaped the pretend world imposed by her abuser by leaving him, the mother faced another pretend world imposed by the court.

These kinds of mistakes are common in the broken custody court system. Often they are caused by court professionals who use the bogus Parental Alienation Syndrome (sometimes by other names) to give custody to the abuser and deny normal contact with the protective mother. Some courts impose reunification therapy on the children who are taught that their dislike of their father is not because of his history of abusing them and their mother but because of the lies she has told them. Again at a time when they need therapy to heal from their father’s abuse and the separation from their primary attachment figure, they must instead engage in therapy based on pretend alienation issues. These practices work well for the bank accounts of mental health professionals, but poorly for children.

Most court professionals have been trained to view contested custody cases as “high conflict” by which they mean the parents are angry at each other and act out in ways harmful to their children. Current research, however, establishes that most of these cases are actually domestic violence cases. Fathers with a long history of abuse seek custody as a way to gain access to their victim to pressure her to return or punish her for leaving. Court professionals unwittingly assist these tactics by pressuring the mother to interact and cooperate with her abuser instead of pressuring the father to stop his abuse. The normal fear, emotion and reluctance to cooperate with a man they see as dangerous is used to discredit and punish the mother. Using the “high conflict” lens makes it harder for court professionals to recognize the father’s abuse and to take it seriously.

Few court professionals have been taught about the dynamics of domestic violence or how to recognize it. We regularly see court professionals discredit domestic violence complaints for reasons that are not probative such as when women return to their abuser, withdraw protective orders or don’t have police or medical reports. The women do this for safety and other reasons, but if the professionals treat this kind of information as if it were proof of false allegations, they have no chance to recognize valid complaints. At the same time, these professionals are often only looking at incidents of physical abuse. Accordingly they fail to see the patterns of controlling and coercive behavior. They don’t pay attention to economic control, isolating behaviors, emotional abuse, monitoring their partner’s behavior or information about the abusers’ motivation. Once courts determine through these flawed practices that the domestic violence allegations are false, they generally refuse to consider additional evidence or events that support the allegations and severely retaliate against mothers who continue to believe their allegations. Significantly, when courts do recognize the father’s abuse, they rarely if ever penalize him for continuing to deny his abuse.

The pretend world created by the custody courts is supported by the popular myth that women frequently make false allegations of abuse to gain an advantage in the litigation. A new Department of Justice study led by Dan Saunders of the University of Michigan found that court professionals without adequate training in domestic violence are more likely to believe this myth and in turn make recommendations harmful to children. The myth greatly contributes to the frequent mistaken findings we see in custody courts where valid allegations of domestic violence are disbelieved. Widespread gender bias also contributes to the inaccurate decisions.

Custody courts do their worst job in responding to allegations of sexual abuse of children. Although a majority of allegations made by mothers are accurate, 85% of the cases result in custody for the alleged abuser. Even attorneys with little knowledge of domestic violence and child abuse routinely advise clients not to raise sexual abuse allegations, even with strong cases, because the courts are so reluctant to believe a father could commit such a heinous act. Sexual abuse against young children is particularly hard to prove because it is committed in private for obvious reasons and children often do not have the language to describe what their father did to them. Although many court professionals expect physical proof, most assaults do not leave physical evidence and when they do it may be gone by the time the child works up the courage to reveal the abuse. Older children often recant true allegations because the abuser has threatened to hurt them or their mother or because they don’t want someone they still love to get in trouble. Poor investigation methods by often inadequately trained professionals also impede proof of sexual abuse. When allegations are made by mothers the most likely circumstance is the allegations are true. The next most likely is that the accused did not abuse the child but engaged in boundary violations that made the child uncomfortable. Other common possibilities are that the allegations are false, but made in good faith or that the evidence is equivocal, but court professionals routinely focus on deliberately false allegations even though this is the least likely cause for the allegations. The result of these flawed practices is that courts often deny valid allegations of sexual abuse and conduct the rest of the case based upon the fiction that there is something wrong with the mother for trying to protect her child.

These common mistakes in domestic violence and child abuse cases lead to a pretend world promoted by the abuser and supported by the court in which the case is conducted based on the fiction that the mother’s allegations are false. Any attempt by the mother to provide additional information of the father’s abuse is treated as a lack of cooperation for which she is severely punished. Her only hope to have some minimal time with her children is to prove she no longer believes the true allegations she made. In other words she is back in a pretend world that she hoped to escape by leaving her abuser. Even worse, now he has complete control, supported by the court and she is not even near the children to try to protect them when he acts in a dangerous manner.

In the typical contested custody case the mother is the primary attachment figure for the child and complains about the father’s domestic violence and/or child abuse. The father counters with claims of alienation. The primary attachment figure is the parent or other caregiver who provides most of the child care during the first couple of years of a child’s life. When a child is separated from their primary attachment figure, the child is more likely to suffer depression, low self-esteem and to commit suicide when older. Accordingly it makes no sense to do this unless the primary attachment figure is unsafe such as if they were a drug addict or beat the child. At the same time children who witness domestic violence are more likely to engage in a variety of harmful behaviors when they are older and their normal development is impeded which can cause lifetime of harmful effects. Alienation is a nebulous term which is often alleged in a generalized way. The most likely outcome of false negative statements is that it harms the relationship with the parent making the false statements. There is no research that demonstrates long term harm to children from alienating behaviors. Claims of primary attachment are almost always true as in our still sexist society mothers continue to provide most of the child care particularly in the first years of a child’s life. In many cases the father does not contest the issue or the work schedules of the parents make it clear who was the primary attachment figure. Mothers’ allegations of abuse are rarely deliberately false (in cases of child sexual abuse inaccurate complaints could be made based on the behavior of the child), so the complaints tend to be reliable. Alienation claims by fathers in contested custody cases are often part of a standard abuser tactic to deflect claims of abuse. Research such as the study led by Nicholas Bala establishes that fathers in contested custody cases are sixteen times more likely to make deliberately false complaints. The complaints by mothers are more important to the well being of children and far more likely to be true than father’s complaints and yet in contested custody cases fathers receive custody or joint custody between 70 and 83% of the time. Clearly courts are not making decisions based upon the reality experienced by children or approaches that benefit children.

The worst custody decisions provide custody to the alleged abuser and supervised or no visitation to the safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure for the child. These decisions are virtually always wrong because they are based on punishing the mother for believing the father is dangerous and not on concerns for the well being of children. The findings are usually wrong because of the flawed practices, but the outcome would be wrong if the findings were correct because courts rarely weigh the harm they are causing with whatever benefit they seek to create. The harm of denying the child their primary attachment figure is far greater than any benefit the court believes it is providing. Significantly, we rarely see evaluation reports or court decisions that weigh the benefits and harm of a decision they are considering. This is the kind of result we see when courts fail to consider current scientific research in their decisions. Judges may believe the mental health professionals involved in the case provide this expertise, but the professionals relied on by the courts are rarely familiar with current scientific research and courts don’t disqualify or even discredit evaluators and other mental health professionals for being unfamiliar with current research.

Mothers partnered with abusive fathers are in an impossible situation. If they fail to protect their children from the dangerous abusers, they can lose custody for failure to protect. The mothers hear repeated messages that they should leave him, but when they do and try to protect their children, they are punished for interfering with the relationship between the children and the abusive father. The result is too many courtrooms in which courts recreate the pretend world the mother sought to escape.

In fairness to the custody courts, they were forced to develop practices to respond to domestic violence cases at a time when no research was available. Many other entities were slow to understand the best ways to respond to domestic violence. Police officers were trained for many years to separate the parties when called to a home and have the abuser walk around the block to calm down. Eventually they switched to a pro-arrest policy after research demonstrated this practice was ineffective. Domestic violence homicides were reduced as communities moved towards practices designed to hold the abuser accountable. Even domestic violence agencies have not always been as supportive of protective mothers as they deserved, but with the increase in Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases and increase in domestic violence homicides as a result of mothers staying with their abusers because of the dangers created by custody courts, the domestic violence community has made child custody an important priority. It has taken a while for academicians to realize the harm in common custody court practices. Initial research supported shared parenting, but more comprehensive research has demonstrated shared parenting is harmful to children even when there is no domestic violence, but too often it is used in domestic violence cases because court professionals have difficulty in recognizing domestic violence. Current scientific research confirms complaints by protective mothers that the custody courts are mistreating them and harming their children. Government agencies now seem to understand the custody courts are harming children. Their understanding is based upon the research now available. The problem is that child custody issues have historically and constitutionally been left to the states and their courts.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals engaged in research have come to understand the harm of the standard practices in domestic violence custody cases. Most mental health professionals are not involved in the custody court system, but have failed to impose ethical standards on mental health professionals involved in questionable practices in the custody courts. The professional associations have permitted ethically challenged psychologists and other professionals to make recommendations unsupported by current scientific research, engage in biased practices that favor abusers and make diagnoses that are not found in the DSM IV because they don’t exist. Although ethical considerations would require the professionals to consult with experts on subjects in which they don’t have expertise, like domestic violence, the professionals in custody courts routinely fail to consult domestic violence experts, wrongly believing they have this expertise. This has led to frequent mistakes in domestic violence custody cases. These unqualified mental health professionals have played an important role in misleading custody courts and creating an illusion that there is a scientific basis for the mistaken practices commonly used in custody courts.

Judge Sol Gothard often trains other judges because of his expertise in domestic violence and child abuse. He was featured in the PBS documentary BREAKING THE SILENCE: CHILDREN’S STORIES. He wrote that if the courts had commissioned a study on how the present practices are working, they would have found the research contained in DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. This research demonstrates that the present practices are working poorly for children. The outdated and discredited practices routinely relied on by custody courts lead to the pretend world of custody courts we have discussed in this article. We must encourage judges and other court professionals to be open to the current scientific research and stop closing their eyes and ears to information that undermines their long-held beliefs and assumptions.

Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence expert, speaker, writer and consultant. He is the co-editor with Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. Barry can be reached by email at their web site www.Domesticviolenceabuseandchildcustody.com

What One Mother Can Do – With a Little Help From Her Community

From the NY Daily News:

 

Victims of domestic violence, sex assaults will share in Passover Seder holy dinner in Brooklyn

  

BY Simone Weichselbaum
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, April 17th 2011

The Passover spirit of freedom has a whole new meaning for crime victims putting together a special Seder where they will share stories about abuse, during the holy dinner.

Survivors of domestic violence, sex assaults and child abuse will pack into the B’nai Israel of Linden Heights synagogue on Ninth Ave. in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn Monday and Tuesday night.

Passover honors the Israelite slaves’ escape from Egypt with a 15-step meal called a Seder where stories of bondage are mixed in with the matzo.

Organizer Annie Kay, 33, spent the past month preparing to feed 500 victims and their families, explaining that the horror of living through a crime is no different than the nightmare of being a slave. “They need a family. The rabbis want to keep it so it looks like crimes in our community don’t happen,” said Kay, a Hasidic Jew who changed her name after launching the Coalition Against Legal Abuse in New York back in February.

The Jewish law of mesira prohibits a Jew from snitching to cops on another Jew but some rabbis give a pass depending on the crime. Still, if a victim comes forward in one of the city’s insular Orthodox Jewish communities, families are usually shunned at schools, synagogues and work.

A Borough Park woman named Chaya, 22, said her dad used to beat her with metal coat hangers when she was a kid. “I have a feeling for people hurt by abuse,” said Chaya, who spent the week peeling potatoes in preparation for the two big meals. “I want to help others have a comfortable life.”

So far, 386 cooked chickens are sitting in fridges along with 14 pounds of coleslaw and 50 pounds of gefilte fish. “It doesn’t matter how many people will come. We will feed everybody,” said Kay. “We want more people to feel empowered to speak out.”

What Exactly Happened in Caroline’s Children’s Case?

by Julia Fletcher

Is it the same thing that happened in Holly’s children’s case?

And in Linda Marie’s children’s case? And in Wendy’s children’s case and in Terry’s case?

Is it the same thing that happened when Karen went to family court to try to protect her children? Did the same thing happen to Katie, Amy, Genia, Lisa, Danielle, Pamela, Nancy, Lorraine, Annie, Claudine, Janice, Maria, Karen, Faith, Heather, Kathy Lee, Cara, Marlene, Rachel, Suzanne, Amanda, Renee, Cindy, Anne, Susan…

Any investigative journalists out there ready to get their feet wet?

[Update April 28, 2012: FOUR  investigative journalists are now investigating.]

 … and what about Lea, Jeanne, Mia, Gail, June, Elizabeth, Chris, Kim, Sunny, Susan, Sandra, Leslie, Bree, Wilma, Lisa, Cheryl, Bonnie, Judyth, Lea, Lori, Mary, Kathryn, Tina, Nicolette, Martine, Elena, Donna, Kimberly, Kelley, Marla, Mary Jo, Terri, Elizabeth, Alicia, Tiffini, Jennifer Shannon, Ali, Connie, Jan, Maureen, Carol, Leah,  Fiona …

Stay strong ladies. We’re almost at the mountaintop!

Please note: If you’d like your name added to this list, feel free to post a comment anonymously here or send your first name to me at juliafletcher714@gmail.com.

Publicly Financed Process Crushes Children and Families

From  OpEdNews.com:

How lawyers manipulate doctors in custody cases:

Do-No-Harm vs. Take-No-Prisoners

March 28, 2011

By Anne Grant

When soldiers are ordered to “take no prisoners,” it means to annihilate their enemies. Physicians who vow to “do no harm” step onto a treacherous path when they sell their expertise to lawyers trained to take no prisoners in adversarial lawsuits. 

For more than two decades, I have researched domestic abuse custody cases in Rhode Island Family Court, trying to understand how this publicly financed process crushes children and families. In many of these cases, lawyers, who are officers of the court, have manipulated clinicians. (Below I am naming only those lawyers and physicians specifically responsible to protect children.) 

First Case: At Hasbro Hospital’s Child Protection Program (CPP), Providence, Rhode Island, in 1997, a 6-year-old girl sat rigid, a blanket over her head. Children often try to disappear when life gets intolerable. The girl’s father had a documented history of aggression against his first two wives and their children. This child, the youngest, showed symptoms of sexual abuse. CPP Director Dr. Carole Jenny reported: “There is no doubt in my mind that some event happened because of the child’s clear and consistent disclosure.” 

The father harassed those who tried to help his families: a security guard, social workers, therapists, teachers, pastors. He bullied a Providence Journal editor. He took aim at Kevin Aucoin, chief legal counsel at the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), for not responding quickly enough after the father appealed DCYF’s findings against him. When he threatened to sue, Aucoin needed Dr. Jenny to revise her assessment. 

She listed warning signs in the father’s behavior, then minimized them in a summary of court documents. Her new “forensic review” freed the father to demand possession of his children. He held them for thirty months, until the eleventh Family Court judge to hear the case denounced his behavior in 2003 and sent the children home to their mother with damage that has not yet healed. 

Second Case: In March 2006, attorney Lise Iwon began writing letters to the CPP about a case in which she purported to be a neutral guardian ad litem. She secured an astonishing report from Dr. Nancy S. Harper at CPP. Instead of medical information, Harper’s report glibly summarized court documents Iwon had provided, repeating the conjecture, hearsay, and biased rhetoric in the father’s defense strategy. 

Harper’s supervisor, Dr. Jenny, never saw or signed off on her CPP report before Iwon whisked it off to the judge who ordered DCYF to remove two young girls that day from their mother for a “psychiatric evaluation.” Police arrived with a social worker to take them from their schools into “temporary” custody. The children remained in foster homes and a shelter at taxpayer expense for more than sixteen months before the state awarded the younger girl to the father she had accused of sexually assaulting her; the older girl went to yet another foster home.  

Scores of neighbors, teachers, and others wrote letters attesting to the mother’s superb parenting, but Iwon never interviewed them. Dr. Jenny told me the mother’s behavior sounded “bizarre” but candidly admitted she herself might seem bizarre if she believed her children were in danger. 

A 12-year-old sent his mother this note three years after he last saw her.

Third Case: A German father, head of a vast multinational corporate empire, retained several law firms in the U.S. and Germany to retrieve his two American sons after his estranged wife brought them here to her parents for one to have surgery in 2007. 

The mother told me she had confronted her husband in Germany with evidence that he was sexually abusing their sons. She said she had walked in on this happening and found disturbing photos on a laptop computer her husband had given her. She related that her sons had pointed out a store where their father got hardcore pornography. They allegedly told her that he forced them to watch it and act it out. 

The father hired a former U.S. official (at $700 an hour) as one of his lawyers, who reached out to Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr., and paid the chief’s assistant David Tassoni over $2,300 to help. The father’s attorneys met alone in chambers with U.S. District Judge William E. Smith and intervened to end the involvement of Family Court, DCYF, and the FBI. They secured attorney Sharon O’Keefe, who had been assistant child advocate in Rhode Island, to serve as guardian ad litem. 

O’Keefe contracted with Dr. Jenny to evaluate some of the father’s photographs and a stack of German legal documents with apparent translations. O’Keefe’s bill exceeded $13,000, including at least $2,000 to be paid directly to Dr. Jenny. 

O’Keefe hardly talked with the boys, and Jenny never met them. Both concluded they saw no evidence the father was a pedophile. Judge Smith gave the boys and their American passports to their father, who took them back to Germany in April 2007.  

Judge Smith ordered the father to give the boys plenty of time with their mother. But she has not been allowed to see or communicate with them since 2007. On Mothers Day 2010, one son wrote a plaintive note asking why “these people” would not at least let them Skype her.

It is troubling that Dr. Jenny never talked to the boys, who might have helped her interpret the photos. Nor did she demand an independent search of the hard drive by state police who are trained and equipped to examine electronic evidence of child pornography–and who do not accept private payment for their services. 

In January, I wrote expressing these concerns and asked Dr. Jenny to improve CPP’s protection of children by: 

  • Establishing ethical standards that forbid CPP staff to produce reports for private clients in litigation without a full investigation into the family’s history;
  • Making a complete inventory of past reports produced by CPP or its staff to see how these have been used in litigation and to examine the outcomes for children;
  • Providing CPP staff with training in domestic abuse, coercive control, and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that clinicians need to recognize in protective parents who may seem “bizarre” in their appropriate efforts to protect their children.

Clinicians must recognize the pitfalls when officers of the court reach out to them. Lawyers are hired to zealously represent their clients, no matter who gets hurt. Doctors trained to “do no harm” are easy prey for them; children suffer the consequences.

  

Notes 

In order to protect children’s identities, I am referring only to case numbers. 

First Case: P92-4797 in Rhode Island Family Court; Carole Jenny, MD, signed the Child Safe Clinic #0629-23-38 report of January 14, 1997. After an extensive sexual abuse assessment by St. Mary’s Home (April 16, 1997), DCYF sent a letter (April 18, 1997) to notify the father he had been “indicated.” He appealed and a year later  threatened to sue DCYF and its senior counsel Kevin Aucoin for failure to schedule a hearing. DCYF asked Dr. Jenny to review her records. Her report (July 29, 1998) was followed by a revised DCYF report (August 6, 1998), and Aucoin’s motions (August 6, 1998, etc.) to launch an expedited trial. DCYF investigator Edward J. O’Donnell sent a letter (August 18, 1998) to the father stating that the findings against him “are hereby overturned . . . pursuant to . . . a forensic review of the investigation and all associated material conducted by Dr. Carole Jenny” (DCYF Administrative Appeal of SCR 425142 I/6). 

Second Case: N04-0106 in Rhode Island Family Court and 1676-86-32 AC 000119896231 at Rhode Island Hospital. The court file, which is now sealed and presumably held at the Rhode Island Supreme Court, contains Lise Iwon’s Motion (March 31, 2006) regarding her communications with Nancy Harper, and Iwon’s Motion (April 5, 2006) asking to release clinical reports and court documents to Harper, whose report (March 21, 2006, signed April 5, 2006), shows that Harper already had those documents. I interviewed the mother and secured documents from her and the court file until Judge John Mutter imposed a gag order forbidding all parties to disclose anything further about the case and sealed both the divorce and DCYF files, on or about August 16, 2007.

Third Case: 07-46S in the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, which holds transcripts, including the ex parte chamber conference of January 31, 2007, and court orders, including the decisive order of March 28, 2007; Jenny’s report to O’Keefe (March 15, 2007); and the father’s documentation of payments to Tassoni and others. The mother provided scores of documents, including the rental list from the German video store (October 2005), an initial DCYF report by Paul Ventura (January 31, 2007), O’Keefe’s bills (March 12 and 28, 2007),  hundreds of photographs from the laptop, and her son’s letter (Mother’s Day 2010). 


Anne Grant writes several blogs about legal abuse in custody courts and wrote a chapter for Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010). In addition to her book reviews and general writing, much of Anne Grant’s research focuses on legal abuse in family courts and child protective services that place traumatized children at greater risk. She writes several blogs, including those that focus on custody courts: CustodyScam.blogspot.com , LittleHostages.blogspot.com, TrophyChild.blogspot.com  

Family Law Attorney Calls for Court Reform in the U.S.

From Marketwire:

 

Los Angeles Attorney Mark Baer Calls U.S. Family Law System “Barbaric”

Compared to Australia, England & Wales

April 6, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA  Marketwire

The United States’ Family Law system is barbaric, archaic and unenlightened, says Family Law Attorney Mark Baer, when compared to Australia, England and Wales’ legal systems. His comments reflect the changing attitudes in the practice of family law in Great Britain and Australia where divorcing couples must undergo mediation for child custody and/or financial issues to sort out most disputes before they can use the courts.

 
Meanwhile, in California, where Mr. Baer practices family law, the legislature recently made major changes that will increase litigation time and expenses while causing the divorce process to be more adversarial. 
 
“It’s time for our government to affect a reform in the family law system to shift the emphasis from litigation, as the dominant practice, to mediation and collaborative divorce,” states Mr. Baer.
 
“Litigation is not only more expensive but it is also far more damaging to the family system which still has to maintain contact and function, to some extent, when there are children involved.”
 
Effective April 6, 2011, the British government will require divorcing couples in England and Wales to undergo mediation [for child custody and/or financial issues] to sort out most disputes before they are allowed to use the courts. In doing so, they are following Australia’s example where, in 1996, the Australian government took the lead in implementing the Family Law Act 1975 as its primary dispute resolution (PDR).
 
It recognized that litigation is usually a slow, expensive and adversarial process, and that in family law matters, this behavior may make it difficult for the child to maintain an ongoing relationship with both parents and for parents to maintain their ongoing responsibilities. 
 
Since then, the law has evolved to require family dispute resolution (FDR) where all parties involved in parenting, financial issues or both, must make a genuine effort to resolve the dispute through an accredited FDR practitioner before starting a case. Failure to do so can result in serious consequences including costs penalties for non-compliance.
 
Mr. Baer points out that while many U.S. states have a “mandatory divorce mediation” requirement, it is generally limited to child custody and visitation matters. He further contends that this practice is not true mediation.
 
This is particularly true in California where mediation is required before a court will hear a child custody or visitation matter. In California, a variance in the law allows each county to enforce the mandatory mediation requirement in its own, unique way.
 
However, two states that he says do demonstrate successful Family Law systems are North Carolina and Utah.
 
“North Carolina is the first state to have a comprehensive domestic relations arbitration act, a collaborative divorce statute and mandatory medication (sic) rules,” Baer notes. “The Utah legislature passed a mandatory divorce mediation statute effective May 2005, and results have proven very positive in reducing court caseloads, fees for divorce and stress levels of litigants and attorneys.
 
“It’s fascinating that when other countries are plagued with the same problems in their family law systems, they embrace mediation, PDR and FDR for consensual dispute resolution,” says Baer, “which resolve most or all problems with litigation and courts in family law situations. Yet in the U.S., litigation and courts are the still the first choice for resolving family law disputes over alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and collaborative divorce.”
 
For the U.S. legal system to benefit the public, not the attorneys, Baer believes the government needs to step in to completely overhaul the court system making it more family-friendly and less costly to divorcing parties.
 
Mark B. Baer has practiced law in Los Angeles for nearly twenty years with an office in Pasadena, CA. 

Is Technology the Key to Unveiling the True Face of Domestic Violence in the Courts?

Understanding Technological Evidence for the Legal Professional: 101 the Basics is a technology guide written specifically for attorneys, judges, paralegals, police and prosecutors.  The first section of the book examines a grave example of domestic violence in a child custody case in San Bernardino California in 2009.  The Tagle v. Garcia case ended with the death of the child and the father’s suicide, while exercising his “right” to have visitation with their nine-month-old baby.

The remainder of the book provides an easy to digest, basic overview of technology to help legal professionals better articulate search warrants to judges, and to help judges better understand the evidence presented on a day to day basis.  It is vitally important that courts in general understand technology and its integration into our daily lives.  However, it is a life and death matter that family court evaluators, attorneys and judges understand this technology as it applies to cases involving domestic violence and abuse.

What was it about the Tagle v. Garcia child custody case that made it so media worthy?  Katie Tagle attempted to submit ten different kinds of technologically based evidence.  Why?  A young woman in her early twenties, she has lived her entire life in a completely wired world.  Why would she even imagine a judge would not understand her world?

Perpetrators of domestic violence are successful because they rely upon the assertion of a public persona that contradicts their private use of violence and intimidation.  Their comfort level with this duality makes them better equipped for misrepresenting the truth in court.  Perpetrators privately use intimidation and threats of violence to control their targets.  Often, having control over the couples’ children is the most effective means, as a loving mother will do almost anything to protect her children from harm.  The use of electronic communication; emails, text messages, voice messages, and social media to keep tabs on the victim provide effective means of controlling them.  Both police and the courthouse players are drastically behind the learning curve when it comes to understanding the intent and authenticity of electronic evidence.

The third consecutive judge in the Tagle v. Garcia case failed to provide Ms. Tagle a permanent order of protection after two months of repeatedly requesting protection from the legal system.   Judge Lemkau went so far as to call Ms. Tagle a liar multiple times within a five minute hearing, and to accuse her of “manufacturing” the electronic evidence.  Judge Lemkau has repeatedly asserted that it was not his responsibility to verify the veracity of her evidence when he refused to protect Wyatt and Katie.  Yet isn’t assessing, or “judging” the authenticity of evidence what they do in a myriad of other ways?   While many may argue that the courts can not afford to handle “high conflict cases” differently, what were the real costs of failing to address the domestic violence as a criminal issue and a safety issue to Ms. Tagle and their son Wyatt?

  • The most obvious costs were the lives of both Wyatt and Stephen Garcia; something that could have easily been prevented.
  • The devastating loss to Wyatt’s mother Katie Tagle, and both the Tagle and Garcia families.
  • The financial cost of a helicopter assisted high speed chase of eight police cruisers across icy roads in a ski resort area.
  • The risk to the community when Stephen Garcia recklessly unleashed his rage.
  • The professional devastation of Judge Lemkau’s judicial career and the personal sense of guilt and responsibility he privately suffers.
  • The devastating effect upon Judge Lemkau’s family witnessing his demonization as a “baby killer” in their community.
  • The erosion of trust and respect of the legal system in their community as well as across the country.

As a non-custodial mother, I had the experience of “not being heard” when I attempted to present what seemed painfully obvious electronic evidence to attorneys, judges, GALs, therapists, and other parties in my own custody case in 2006.  The reverberations shook my life for years to come.  I made a serious strategic error in terms of my assumption that the legal profession would be on top of the application of technology, and its evidence, within both the criminal and family court systems.  Many other people, exposed to countless examples of forensic science on television naturally assume the real world legal system is equipped to handle our technical evidence too.

Think again.  Hardly anything could be further from the truth.

Consider where we are in the legal learning curve, and the average age of the participants;  we have the people with the greatest technology gap, holding the most powerful positions.  Juxtaposed, the people with the least amount of power and legal savvy live with the most technical integration in their lives.  Judges, who are naturally often 25 to 50 years older than legal parties; have the least technical integration and comprehension within their professional and personal lives.   The isolating nature of their work prevents them from using this integration in the same way the rest of society does.   Judges and litigants could not possibly be further apart.

Legal professionals must have a “real world” comparison in order to understand the intent behind the communication.  An email is the equivalent of a letter that was posted through the US Postal Service.  A blog entry, or email posting is the same as publishing an article in a magazine or newspaper.  A text message is like a note passed between students in class.  Social Media is like gossiping in the hallways at work or school, and the audience is controlled by the person posting the content.  The Internet is tightly controlled, and it isn’t that hard to trace where, and who, posted information.  Cell phones also provide vital geographic and chronological data.  Using a combination of this data, law enforcement and the courts have the ability to authenticate almost any type of electronic evidence.

Policemen need to be able to articulate the technical issues surrounding a hidden network embedded within the walls of a pedophiles home when asking for a search warrant; they must know how to detect a network that gives access to the horde of pornographic photographs of children.  Right now, most police have the ability to authenticate threatening email communications from their squad cards, but the software and training has not been implemented.  Attorneys can not possibly understand what their clients are sharing, beyond their hysteria, if they don’t know how to dissect the technology behind what was presented by their client.  A Judge’s ability to discern the authenticity, intent and veracity of technologically based evidence is genuinely a life and death issue, and the credibility of our justice system, and lives of our families depend on their ability to get it right quickly.

Liora Farkovitz is a business and product development strategist, and the author of “Understanding Technological Evidence for the Legal Professional: 101 the Basics”. It was edited by Mindy Nemoff, a virtual paralegal.  This guide is the first step towards addressing this urgent need.  TechnologicalEvidence.com is  releasing CLE courses to train courthouse professionals in the most basic aspects of technology.  We’ll be training police, attorneys, judges, advocates and even litigants online and in person.  We’re happy to speak at public engagements, or to provide customized on-site training for any professional group.  We are interested in learning of your “real life” electronic evidence stories as well.  Please click here to visit our site for current resources and special offers.

Urgent Call for Those with a Baccalaureate Degree to Join ACS in New York

Child Protective Services in New York has a division called Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). Although caseworkers in this division are called Child Protective Specialists, they have historically been neglectful of children’s needs. With last week’s news story of the death of a child, changes need to take place.

Although we are asking for the city to take action, we citizens of New York need to take action too. We need qualified people to get jobs with ACS in New York. Only then can we change the system from within. We want to make a difference and this is how we can make that difference.

Would you lie to a family court judge and write a report that you “visited the home six times and there presents no danger to the children”, when in reality, you never even knocked on that door?

Well, it’s been done before by workers with supposed baccalaureate degrees.

Now we will do this the right way.

We will stand by the children of New York, because every child has rights. Under the constitution, children have a right to life and a right to education. Children also have a right to have their emotional and intellectual needs be met so they can reach their highest potential.

Since there is currently no statute defining the measure of psychological and emotional abuse, a worker must use intuition and training to escalate a case to the domestic violence division. It is usually only after the DV workers step in that hidden abuses such as unwarranted parental alienation, incest and neglect can be discovered and addressed. The sooner qualified workers offer their services, the sooner more children will grow up safely protected from their abusers.

Most positions in New York City government are filled through civil service examinations which are administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). Click here for the application information and job requirements. Before applying for this job, please get in contact with us. The Coalition Against Legal Abuse NY will assist you in this holy work.

The Coalition Against Legal Abuse NY is comprised of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women who are aligned to combat corruption in the Brooklyn, New York District Attorney’s office. Please contact coalitioncalany@gmail.com for more information.

How to Uncover a National Scandal Part 6: Click on Professional Image Below

 

How to Uncover a National Scandal Part 6: Click on Professional Image Below 

 

 

Here’s a related video from CBS News

 

And a comment from discussion.latimes.com:

 

StopCourtCriminals at 1:11 PM February 27, 2011

Attorney General Kamala Harris actually campaigned on protecting child sexual abuse and trafficking victims (UNHEARD OF in a statewide campaign in CA), so yes, we have a HUGE opportunity with her office. People should contact the CA Attorney General’s office demanding an investigation into family court corruption.

The Center for Judicial Excellence, which led the recent effort to audit the Marin and Sacto County Family Courts, is working on a similar audit of Los Angeles now. The final report on the other 2 counties can be viewed at its website- it exposes a system that is accountable to no one. 

 

 Editor’s note:  Just wondering how many sequels this will it take.