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.