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Saturday, January 27, 2018


Some of you may be familiar with the situation where a judge, citing Strobel v. Strobel, gives an order that certain Family Court litigants can no longer file motions to the Court without permission. I know Susan Skipp has faced this kind of order and it is also in place in connection to the Mathew Couloute case.  

For a long time, I actually laughed at this order and made light of it. I couldn't believe that Family Court would actuallly have the nerve to cut off litigants' access to justice.  As it turns out, however, the joke is on me because such an order is alive and well.  This is what motivated me to take a look at the Strobel v. Strobel order and the case itself that gave rise to it.

A few years ago in regard to the case that established judicial immuity for GALs, i.e. Carrubba v. Moskowitz I told you that case was not what you thought it was.  That case was not so much about judicial immunity as it was about the right of a Guardian Ad Litem to use vulgarity when speaking to the parents of their charges.  Now again in the case of Strobel v. Strobel I will demonstrate that here is another case that is not what you think it is. Strobel v. Strobel is not about parties filing too many motions. It is about custody switching, i.e. taking custody from a good mother, passing it over to the father, and then denying mother all access to the child. 

The Strobel v. Strobel silencing order was issued by Judge Abery-Wetstone and dated June 25, 2003 and was later upheld in an appellate court decision dated December 20, 2005. Judge Abery-Wetstone articulated this order as follows:

Neither parent shall file any motions or pleadings without prior approval of the court...The presiding judge for family matters...shall review any motions filed by either parent and determine if the motion is redundant, vexatious, frivolous, or an abuse of the court system or the minor child.  If the...presiding family judge determines that the motion merits a hearing, it shall be forwarded to the regional family trial docket for scheduling and hearing.  Nothing contained in this paragraph shall prohibit the attorney for the minor child from filing any pleading with the regional family trial docket directly."  

Essentially, what this kind of order does is to deny the victims, in cases like this, any legal protections if they are subjected to abuse, bullying or harassment.

The total number of motions in the Strobel case that had led to this dire result was 230. Since this is considerably less than the amount of motions filed in my own case, I'm a little taken by surprise. This is not only true of my case; I know of other cases that are high up when it comes to numbers of pleadings as well that didn't result in anything like a Strobel mention. What I suspect is that, any case that gets on the nerves of the judges of the judicial system, by default becomes a Strobel case. It doesn't have much to do with the numbers of motions, as it does with the judges having had enough.  They don't care about justice. They want the litigants to just shut up and go away.

Having read through the documents, I am convinced that the Strobel case is all about a mother's outraged cry for justice. It began in 1989 when the parties--Kevin Strobel (plaintiff) and Rose Li-Hwa Strobel (defendant)--were married.  A year later in 1990, they had a son, Gregory.  In 1994, they filed for divorce, and in 1997 the divorce was granted.  The parties ended up with joint custody with Mother assigned primary physical custody.  However, they shared time with their son on a 50/50 basis. In case of disagreement, it was agreed that the mother's decisions would prevail.  

At the time of the divorce, the child had primary residential custody with the father and was going to the Fairfield School System. In order to accommodate the orders in the divorce decree, the child then had to switch to the Stanford School System where the mother was living. This resulted in the child enduring a certain amount of disruption.  However, at the time he was doing well and participated in a gifted and talented program.  

Then in 1999 Mr. Strobel found out that the mother intended to downsize and move to Wilton which meant their son would again have to change schools.  In the face of this, the father filed a motion with the court to require that the son return to the Fairfield School System for the remainder of the 1999-2000 school year. Even though father knew about the move well in advance, he waited to file his motion until immediately before the move was going to happen.  

The hearing on this motion took place on November 10, 1999 in front of Judge Daniel E. Brennan Jr. At the conclusion of this hearing, not only did Judge Brennan order that the child return to the Fairfield School System, at his own initiative and without a motion before him from either party, he switched custody from the mother to the father. And this is not all.  As it turned out, the father, Kevin Strobel, had failed to notify the mother that this hearing was scheduled. This means that Rose Strobel wasn't even present to defend her position during the hearing. As soon as the Order was issued, the Guardian Ad Litem rushed to the nearest phone and read  the Trial Court's decision to her over the phone. How outrageous is that!  

First of all, there clearly was no substantial change in circumstances as required by law to justify a change of custody. But also, as Rose Strobel argued cogently in one of her many appeals, "Under the due process clause, the Trial Court cannot modify a support order or other adjudicated right unless the Trial Court's subject matter jurisdiction has been properly invoked by appropriate pleadings, and that invoked jurisdiction has been perfected by the proper service of process and due process notice and an opportunity to be heard on that issue has been had."  At the very least, Rose Strobel had the right to be informed about the hearing and the right to be present to defend her rights as a parent.

This is just basic.  

Then later, on January 6, 2000, Judge Brennan terminated the plaintiff's child support obligation and shifted it to the defendant mother.  During these proceedings, father Kevin Strobel was represented free of charge by Attorney Sandra Lax while Rose Li-Hwa Strobel was self represented.  

As the year progressed, Rose Strobel was restricted to 7% time with her child while the father now had 93% of the child's time.  When Ms. Strobel attempted to appeal these decisions in Appellate Court, it turned out that Judge Brennan hadn't bothered to provide a Memorandum of Decision on his orders.  Further, his oral statements on the transcripts failed to provide the basis for any of his decisions. As a result, the Appellate Court  refused to review Judge Brennan's decisions because of the lack of clarity on the basis for his decisions. They blamed Rose Strobel for not getting the Judge to explain the reasons for his decisions. 

However, when Ms. Strobel tried to get Judge Brennan to provide the grounds for his actions, the Judge stated, "I need not articulate reasons for such a motion.  I simply rule on them." Further, according to Rose Strobel, "Judge Brennan has from the beginning [given] the defendant no reasons on the bases of his rulings and asserted his superior power, intimidated the defendant and made the defendant believe that his orders were final and any request of articulation was waste of time and unnecessary."  

In its review of the case, the Appellate Court, instead of reprimanding Judge Brennan for his failure to provide the basis for his decisions, and demanding he do so, turned its back and denied Rose Strobel the justice she deserved.  

So what was the outcome for the child when this situation occurred?  

Gregory dropped out of the gifted and talented track and was shifted to special education classes. On April 6, 2001 he attempted suicide and then tried to choke another child by the neck at school. In other words, when the mother was essentially removed from her son's life, the child's level of functioning greatly deteriorated.  To me this is an open and shut case to prove that the child's loss of his mother had caused him considerable distress.  

But we know this is Family Court, right! Immediately, the mother was blamed for her child's problems, even though she was pretty much not allowed to see him.  Thus, after the child's suicide attempt on April 6, not satisfied that mother was almost entirely shoved out of her son's life, the Court next entertained a motion from the GAL to have Rose Strobel placed on supervised visitation of whatever time remained. In preparation, the Court ordered a Family Evaluation from Family Relations. 

The Family Relations Evaluation was completed on August 24, 2001.  However, instead of releasing the evaluation to the parties so that they could absorb its contents and prepare a response, the evaluation was released to the Court and the parties on the day of trial October 10, 2001. Unfortunately, the results of the evaluation were very biased against the Mother.

Of course, we who have endured these situations are well aware that while Rose Strobel may not have seen the report before, it is highly unlikely that the father, Kevin Strobel  or his attorney wasn't aware of the contents, which were very likely orchestrated.  No, I can't prove that.  So much of what goes on in Family Court, the skullduggery, the behind the scenes manipulation, is hard to nail down. I can only convey what many people have reported to me who have undergone just this kind of sleight of hand. 

Legally, it is improper to expect either party to proceed immediately to trial without having any advanced notice of the evidence against him or her; that represents a direct violation of their due process rights.  While Ms. Strobel requested the opportunity to reschedule the hearing so she could provide a rebuttal of the report and bring witnesses in to speak on her behalf, the Court denied her request.

Rose Strobel fought back against these kinds of outrageous violations of her rights and I give her a lot of credit for doing so. Her investment in truth and justice, her meticulous care in developing her arguments, her obvious deep and abiding love for her son as expressed in her legal advocacy are absolutely admirable.  I have been writing for seven years now, and if there is one thing that I have learned about Family Court, it is that the losers are extraordinary people, if not heroic.  

There is no way that subsequent judges couldn't see what an outright miscarriage of justice this case represented.  Yet they saw fit to indulge themselves in maudlin, self-serving commentary. For instance, Judge Anne Dranginis, stated, "This is a classic high conflict, overlitigated family matter, where a minor child has been the subject of parental conflict in the court system since 1994."  Judge Abery-Wetstone, "This is a tragic case of a child torn asunder by his parents' never ending divorce battle that began eight years ago."  

No. Just no.  These judges couldn't care less about the child.  

This case is not about parental conflict. This case is about judges disobeying the law in very fundamental ways.  It is about flouting and disregarding the due process rights of litigants.  

It is also about the judicial system conducting a policy of seizing custody from good mothers whenever possible and giving it to fathers in one of the most dangerous social experiments ever embarked upon in our times. I've discussed this frequently in my blogs in regard to the fatherhood funding and the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.  

As a final note, while both parties--Kevin and Rose Strobel--were often left representing themselves, their son, Gregory, always had as many as 3 to 4 attorneys at his beck and call.  There was Attorney Cecilia Rosenberg, Attorney Hiram Rosenberg, Attorney Peter J. McGuinness, and Attorney Janice La Liberte.  It is as if the Court, having done as much damage as it could to destroy the young man's life, thought that throwing a lot of extra attorneys in his direction to follow him around would somehow make up for all the losses.  

One of these attorneys, Janice La Liberte has been associated with wrong doing in many other cases, including that of Mathew Couloute.  

It must have been with some satisfaction, therefore, that Rose Strobel heard that Judge Daniel Brennan essentially stepped down from the bench around June 2002 because of ill health. She must have felt even more satisfaction in September 2003, when Judge Brennan was indicted on four counts of making false statements to federal investigators and one count of obstruction of justice.  

He was the first State Superior Court judge ever to be indicted in Connecticut. While he could have faced as much as five years in jail and a fine as high as $250,000, he ended up without time in prison and merely a $5,000 fine. As Judge Chatigny stated at the time, "The damage to your reputation is the saddest thing of all."  He died a few years later.  Rose Li-Hwa Strobel, meanwhile, has endured what Keith Harmon Snow has coined as "A Life Sentence".

Again, I will make this point, which some may find annoying and elitist. I made this point about David Mandel and Dr. Eric Frazer, two proponents of quack theories which are used in Family Court to harm women and children.  Judge Daniel Brennan, Jr. was a graduate of Excelsior College--who ever heard of it--and graduated from the University of Bridgeport School of Law.  Here we are in the home state of Yale University and this is the best we can come up with for a judge? Then the CT Judicial Branch gets mad when litigants challenge them on their incompetence?  

Judge Abery Whetstone said of the Strobel case, "The sheer volume of the pleadings filed by the parties is astounding." No, that is not what's astounding.  What is astrounding is how Family Court professionals violated the law, blew off the mother, Rose Strobel's, constitutional rights, destroyed the life of a child, and then walked around acting as if they had no idea how it happened.  


  1. Rose was just protecting the kid from a pedo monster, Holly Wetstone was paid to traffic the kid. Connecticut Pedo Utopia.

  2. How is Gregory doing now, he should be around 27 now. Can he speak out about this travesty?

    Yes Strobel orders are a joke and the judges are not selected based on merit but who they know.

  3. Thank you for your dedication to researching these cases. Without this blog there would be no documentation of the greed and corruption in CT family courts.

  4. sad. there are many wrongdoings with the system. attorney - Janice La Liberte / Janis M Laliberte from Sullivan & Laliberte in Milford CT. I also heard complaints of her, could you elaborate on what happened with Mathew Couloute, this case with Gregory Strobel, and any others?

  5. Absolutely fascinating reading. As every lawyer in this state knows, the Strobel orders frequently employed in Connecticut family courts are unconstitutional.