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Showing posts with label AMC ISSUES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AMC ISSUES. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NEW STANDING COMMITTEE ON GALs AND AMCs IN FAMILY MATTERS TAKES SHAPE!

The April 2017 Addendum on the Judicial Branch Family Court Initiatives reported that the CT Judicial Branch would establish a Standing Committee on Guardians Ad Litem and Attorneys for the Minor Child in Family Matters. The Committee is the result of a change to the Connecticut Practice Book dated June 24, 2016 listed under Sec. 25-61A.  For the exact wording of this section of The CT Practice Book, please see the link below:

https://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/GAL_AMC/PB25-61A.pdf 

Recently, I was taking a look at the CT Judicial Branch Website and found out that the Committee has now been established.  Its first meeting was held on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 95 Washington Street.  According to the information provided on the CT Judicial Branch Website, the purpose of this Committee is as follows:  

"to approve the curriculum for the training required for guardians ad litem and attorneys for the minor child, establish and administer a process by which an individual may be removed from the list of those deemed eligible for appointment as a guardian ad litem or attorney for the minor child, annually review and approve a list of individuals deemed eligible for appointment as a guardian ad litem or attorney for the minor child, and adopt procedures to carry out its functions."

One recommendation I'd like to make right up front today is that I'd suggest taking Attorney Bradford Barneys off the list.  The time for that corrective action regarding Attorney Barneys is far overdue as far as I'm concerned.  For more information on this attorney and his reprehensible involvement in the Stvan v. Stvan divorce case, please see the link below:


I hope that with the passage of time as this Committee gets its bearings that it is more preemptive and efficient at getting rid of the rotten apples.  

Currently, the Committee Members listed are as follows:

Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto, Chairperson
Chief Administrative Judge for Family Matters
Hartford Judicial District

Attorney Christine Perra Rapillo
Director of Delinquency Defense and Child Protection
Office of Public Defender Services

Liza Andrews, MSW
Director of Public Policy and Communications
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Wendy Frunis, Branch Chief
Health Care Quality and Safety Branch
Department of Public Health

Attorney Danielle S. Rado

Judge Edward Graziani, Administrative Judge
Windham Judicial District

Attorney Michael Cronin
Senate Republican Office, LOB

Samuel S. Gray, Jr.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford

Attorney Justine Rakich-Kelly, Executive Director
The Children's Law Center

I am concerned, and others have pointed out since this article was posted, that Attorney Justine Rakich-Kelly was central as GAL in perpetrating one of the most egregious custody switching cases that occurred here in the State of Connecticut recently.  In this case, the father was actually so unable to cope with the children that he returned the children to their mother.  Overall, The Children's Law Center includes contributors from some of the most corrupt law firms in the State of Connecticut.  These are firms that have played a major role in the corruption of the Family Court System and the harm and damage that has been done to parents and children as a result.  I can state quite confidently that the presence of  Attorney Justine Rakich-Kelly and The Children's Law Center on this Standing Committee greatly undermines the credibility of this Committee.

For those who are interested, the next meeting of this Committee will be Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. in the Attorney Conference Room at 231 Capitol Avenue in Hartford.  The meeting after that will take place on October 4, 2017.  

Apparently, according to the Addendum to the Initiatives report, from 2014 to 2016, the number of eligible GALs and AMCs has been reduced from 1200 to 400, which is a reduction of 67%.  I think this is an excellent development because clearly many of these people who were removed were marginally qualified.  

What bothers me, however, is that despite these drastic reductions there remain two poorly qualified individuals on the list, i.e. Joan Kloth-Zanard and Jennifer Verraneault, neither of whom have a graduate level legal degree, mental health professional degree or a divinity degree, at least one of which would be required for work as a GAL or AMC.  

I find it puzzling that these two individuals remain on the list even though they lack the qualifications for being there.  Both of them are zealous adherents of Dr. Richard Gardiner's theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) a fraudulent concept which is widely used in CT Family Court to hand children who have been abused over to their abusers.  It is also used to completely cut off all access these children have to their protective parents.  On this website, I have documented case after case where this kind of injustice has occurred.  

Meanwhile, experts in domestic violence have been removed from the current GAL/AMC list, and I am aware that the CT Judicial Branch specifically refused permission to certain well known advocates of battered mothers the opportunity to attend the course at all.  

I'm not sure why the current Standing Committee on GALs and AMCs would consider it acceptable to begin their tenure on this Committee by promoting the interests of people who support quack theories which place battered mothers at risk.  

This is the problem with the CT Judicial Branch overall--that it displays lip service to the issue of domestic violence while pampering and cosseting fools who promote parental alienation syndrome and refusing to take the proper steps to protect victims of domestic violence in real life situations, such as with Baby Aaden.  

From what I understand the Standing Committee will be working on establishing a procedure for removing persons from the list of those eligible to serve.  They might want to start by removing these two purely on the basis of a lack of even the most fundamental qualifications combined with a belief in air headed theories which could cause serious damage to children when put into practice.

The Standing Committee also has a training subcommittee which has the charge of discussing the curriculum for the training required for GALs and AMCs. Members of this subcommittee include as follows: Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto, Liza Andrews, Justine Rakich-Kelly and Christine Perra Rapillo. Of interest is the recommendation that the training be cut from 40 hours to 20 hours.  The Committee also recommended that the content of the curriculum should include learning how to work with parents who are disabled.  Let's hope this bodes well for a future where the CT Judicial Branch begins to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and refrains from discriminating against people who have mental health disabilities as it has thus far.  

For more information on this new Standing Committee, please click on the following link:

https://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/GAL_AMC/default.htm

And for information on the new Subcommittee, please click on the following link:  

Monday, August 15, 2016

DOES A CHILD'S PREFERENCES MATTER DURING A CUSTODY DISPUTE?

My parents were married for over 60 years, but it wasn't all a bed of roses.  I will never forget how, after one of their big fights, my father asked me who I wanted to live with once they divorced--him or my Mom.  I wasn't going to be stupid and answer a question like that--even at ten I knew better!  Sure enough, they made up and the question became moot.  

However, if I'd thought it was a serious question, this is what I might have answered.  I would have said I wanted to live with my Mom, not because she was the better parent, but because she needed me more because of her drug and alcohol addiction.  I'm not sure that would have been such a good idea, however!  

So how do judges decide who gets the children--do they just ask the kids or what?   

The question of who gets custody of the children after a divorce remains a complex and difficult question in some divorce cases.  Luckily, most people see the common sense of keeping Mother in charge when she has been the primary parent on an ongoing basis and allowing for generous visitation from Dad.  But in divorces where custody is under dispute, how does the Court make the decision in regard to custody, and do judges in these cases take into account the preferences of the children involved?  

In CT, under 46b-56(b) the following factors are supposed to be taken into account as follows:
  1. The child's developmental needs
  2. Each parent's ability to meet the child's needs
  3. Each parent's desire to have custody
  4. The child's relationship with each parent, siblings, and anyone else living in either parent's home that may affect the child's best interests
  5. The stability of each parent's residence
  6. Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  7. Whether either parent tries to manipulate the child or involve him or her in the parent's dispute
  8. Each parent's ability to be actively involved in the child's life
  9. The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  10. The length of time the child has lived in the current environment if it's stable
  11. The child and parents' mental and physical health
  12. The child's cultural background
  13. Either parent's history of domestic violence
  14. Whether the child has been abused and neglected
  15. The child's wishes as to custody, and
  16. Any other factors relevant to custody
As you can see, the child's wishes are way down there under 15.  It is not highlighted as a major factor.  

However, what I find really interesting when I talk to people who have not yet been to Court over custody is how many parents believe judges put a lot of weight on what the child wants.  In fact, what the child wants, even when he or she is a teenager, often isn't a major consideration in regard to custody decisions.  I hear so many parents say my daughter or son wants to live with me and he is 8, or 10, or 12 or whatever age, and can now decide.  Well, no, that is not the case.  Ultimately, the judge decides and the decisions will be made based upon the judges' assessment of all the factors under consideration listed 1 - 16 above, even one as vague as #16 "any other factors relevant to custody." 

In addition, keep in mind that the final decision is supposed to be based upon that often vague and greatly vilified standard "the best interests of the child."  

I hope all of you noted the "friendly parent" factor that so many protective mother advocates hate item #6 on the list above.  We do have a friendly parent factor in the State of Connecticut!  

So, despite the limitations involved that I have mentioned, at what age can the Judge begin to take into account the preferences of the child?  In the State of CT at younger than 5, the opinion of the child is not a consideration.  At 13, the child's preferences have a much greater impact. Between 5 and 13, Judges will consider the child's preferences on a case by case basis, whatever that means.  In California, FYI, the age at which a child's preferences are considered is 14.  

However, Judges ultimately have complete discretion regarding the impact a child's preferences will have on a custody decision.  If the Judge thinks that a child's preferences are based on poor judgment, he or she is unlikely to consider them.  As Divorcenet stated "A court can disregard a child's preference when the judge believes it's not in the child's best interests."  

Notoriously, if judges believe that a child's preference is founded upon "Parental Alienation Syndrome" PAS, that judge will be unlikely to grant custody to the alleged offending parent no matter what the child says. This is what happened in the Kathi Sorrentino case where the child was 15 and expressed a preference to be with his mother. However, the child's preference, on the most frivolous grounds, was determined to be an expression of PAS so father was given sole custody.  

Therefore, people who think their child can make up his or her own mind at the age of 13, this is simply not the case.   Case law supports this wishy washy approach as in Knock v. Knock, 224 Conn. 776, 788-9 (1991) where the Supreme Court ruled that the Court "does not require that the trial court award custody to whomever the child wishes, it requires only that the court take the child's wishes into consideration."  So a Judge may or may not take a child's preferences into consideration.  

So, how does the judge discover what a child's preferences may be.  In Divorcenet, there was a complete discussion regarding judges determining a child's preferences by interviewing the child in chambers along with a discussion of how an attorney should manage that kind of interview.  In all my time hearing about divorce and custody matters in Connecticut during the last decade, I have never known a judge to interview a child in chambers about his or her preferences.  It could be this does happen and I just don't know about it, but still.

Also, there was a discussion of when children can testify in open Court regarding their preferences.  I have known many parents to insist that their children ought to have the right to testify in Court regarding their preferences. As far as I can see, judges absolutely frown on parents who insist upon putting their children through the trauma of testifying in Court.  This is so certain that I can pretty much say that if you insist upon having your children testify while your ex doesn't, that's about a guarantee that you will not get custody of your children!  

For the better part, if there is a custody dispute, what happens is that if your child is under 13, the court will appoint a GAL, a custody evaluator, or a family relations officer to do a thorough investigation of your circumstances in order to present a recommendation to the court which will ordinarily be accepted.  If the child is 13 or older, it is likely the child will be assigned an attorney of the minor child in order to advocate for that child's wishes.  But all of this is really not rigidly adhered to.  I've seen children who have both a GAL and an AMC. I've seen children over 13 who only have a GAL.  It all depends upon the politics of your particular case.  

The real danger of these investigators is that you have to rely on their word that when they report the wishes of the children that they are actually telling the truth.  I have no doubt that they lie on occasion.  Thus, if you have any concerns about the investigator in your case, you might want to have your child sit down and write to the investigator stating what his or her preference is so that it is on the record.  If the custody evaluator or GAL will not accept it, which is what happened to me, you can simply submit it directly to the Court.

You may be accused of manipulating your child to write the letter, but if you have concerns about the truthfulness of the professionals in your case, it is better to be thought of as manipulative than not have your child's preferences considered at all.  

Bottom line is, the State of Connecticut has a presumption of joint legal custody if both of you agree to that.  What is interesting is how few attorneys actually explain that to their clients.  What you are actually fighting over most of the time is which parent is going to be the residential parent, i.e. the home where the children primarily reside, i.e. what is considered their residence legally speaking for matters such as school attendance.  Other than that, the sky is the limit in terms of how much actual time each parent gets to spend with the children.  

Traditionally, the visitation is set for one or two evenings a week and every other weekend for the non-residential parent, but I have known people to renegotiate that for more time for the non-residential parent.  

When you get down to it, fighting over this day here or that day there to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars is pretty silly, and most couples left to their own devices will work out a modus vivendi.  

The question is do you truly want to create an unpleasant atmosphere by quarreling at every turn.  Many abusive family court attorneys and vendors would love you to, but it is your job to see through them and move forward. Trust me, ten years later when you are considering college tuition fees, you will be happy you did so. 

Bottom line, again, when it comes to the children's preferences, do not count on them to get you custody because it is not an absolute.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

CARRUBBA V. MOSKOWITZ: HOW THE SUPREME COURT DETERMINED AMC'S WERE ENTITLED TO ABSOLUTE JUDICIAL IMMUNITY, PART IV!

In the family court system the immunity from liability extended to court professionals who arises from the concept of judicial immunity.  In other words, the immunity that judges are entitled to is also granted to other professionals within the legal system who are considered integral to the legal process.  Judges cannot be sued for any of the judicial acts they take in their capacity as judges, although they can be sued in regard to their administrative acts.  This immunity given to judges obtain is supposed to free them up to make the kinds of principled and fearless decisions necessary in order to serve the interests of justice in the court system.


There are two kinds of immunity that can be extended to professionals who work within the legal system. There is qualified quasi-judicial immunity which still leaves you liable if you act maliciously or wantonly outside the law, and then there is absolute quasi-judicial immunity which means that you can't be held liable no matter how badly you behave.  

State Officials have qualified quasi-judicial immunity for actions performed during the course of their duties in their work.   Public defenders are also at the same level--they have qualified quasi-judicial immunity.  But there are other court employees who are considered entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity because their work is thought to be integral to the judicial process. These include judges' law clerks, prosecutors, witnesses, and court-appointed professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists--the list begins to get quite long.  

For example, the Supreme Court decision in the Corrubba case goes further to mention other functionaries such as bankruptcy trustees, probation officers, court appointed receivers and court appointed medical examiners that are also entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity.


When the Supreme Court in Corrubba v. Moskowitz affirmed the right of AMCs to absolute quasi-judicial immunity, it did so by adopting a three pronged test for establishing immunity developed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  These three prongs are as follows:

1) Does the official in question perform functions sufficiently comparable to those officials who have traditionally been afforded absolute immunity at common law;

2.  Is the likelihood of harassment or intimidation by personal liability sufficiently great to interfere with the official's performance of his or her duties;

3.  Do procedural safeguards exist in the system that would adequately protect against improper conduct by the official. 

In regard to prong #1--functionality--to understand how the issue of functionality could be interpreted in regard to a Guardian Ad Litem, an Attorney for the Minor Child, and a regular attorney, you would have to understand their respective positions. 

A Guardian Ad Litem's job is to pursue an investigation and return with recommendations which serve the children's best interests.  An AMC is required not only to advocate on behalf of the children's legal rights, he or she is also expected to work on behalf of the children's best interests, so she has a double  role.  A regular attorney simply advocates diligently for the legal rights of his client and develops strategies to obtain those rights. 

Attorney George Kramer for the Plaintiff, Paul Carrubba, argued that an Attorney For the Minor child's job isn't in the least bit different than that of a regular attorney who is diligently advocating for his client's legal position. 

In contrast, the Amicus Brief in support of the Defendant Emily Moskowitz, argued that an Attorney For the Minor Child has the unenviable task of determining when to advocate for the children's legal position, and when the children's insight and capacity for decision making is deficient to the point where the Attorney For the Minor Child is obligated to push for the children's best interests instead. 

Further, Attorney Robert Kor pointed out that an Attorney For the Minor child doesn't have the same freedom when advocating for their child clients.  Specifically, an AMC is not authorized to have a psychiatrist or psychologist evaluate a child or his or her parents for a custody evaluation without the authorization of the Court.  Furthermore, an Attorney For the Minor Child is not able to proceed with a deposition or an appeal without the permission of the Court. 

Of course, I am not sure that balancing out the warring imperatives of legal rights versus best interests of the child standard inherent in an AMC's job is any different than balancing out the warring imperatives a family court attorney has between winning at all costs versus taking into consideration the needs of the children in a dissolution of marriage action. 

And while an AMC may not be able to proceed with various evaluations or depositions, the likelihood is that the parents' attorneys will conduct both of those activities for the better part and thus provide sufficient information for an AMC to advocate his or her position.  So these are very minor differences.

Prong 2--harassment--the U.S. Supreme Court test raised the question of whether AMC's would be the subject of harassment from parents and thus be unable to do their jobs without judicial immunity.  Attorney Kor proposed that if AMCs didn't obtain immunity, such attorneys would be so afraid of reprisals they wouldn't be able to do their jobs.  He proposed that "to deny the protection of immunity would exert a chilling effect on all court-appointed attorneys for minor children." 

Of course, reading that statement, I dwell on the word "would", indicating the future.  Is Attorney Kor implying that the chilling effect would only happen in the future because it hasn't happened in the past?  I would have loved to have seen the actual statistics in the decade leading up to the Carrubba v. Moskowitz decision--was there a paucity of Attorneys For the Minor Child at that time because of ongoing chilling effects that resulted from disgruntled and angry parents?  Was the Children's Law Center dangling on the brink of extinction because of this chilling effect?  

Somehow I doubt that. 

It is so easy, particularly within the context of a lawsuit to make unfounded statements because they sound good.  I often wish that judges could have as great an understanding as family court victims do in regard to how cheap talk is, particularly without evidence. 

Finally, Prong 3 asks the question of whether there is any recourse when an AMC goes rogue and acts negligently or maliciously.  According to the Defendant there were options.  For example, Paul Carrubba could have gone to the judge and ask to have the AMC removed.  Of course, Mr. Carrubba did that, but was summarily turned down. 

Anyone who has gone through a difficult divorce knows that a Trial Judge will never disqualify a Guardian Ad Litem or An Attorney for the Minor Child no matter how disruptive, negligent and unethical their behavior is.  Somehow judges are able to redefine the horrendous actions of negligent GALs and AMCs and redefine them as insignificant. 

thus, if you look how the Supreme Court decision, you will see how it redefines Paul Carrubba's complaint against Attorney Emily Moskowitz for spouting profanity and lying as merely "express[ing] dissatisfaction with the manner in which the defendant carried out her court-appointed role." 

Wow, if that's all that is, well, ok. 

The same goes for Statewide Grievance.  A family court litigant will never get satisfaction by submitting a complaint to Statewide Grievance even when there are criminal actions involved. 

So what these Supreme Court Judges did in going through the three prong test, particularly when it comes to the final prong is provide a fully developed piece of verbal nonsense in order to open the door to even more exploitation and family court corruption by granting absolute judicial immunity to Attorneys For the Minor Child. 

That panel of judges--Borden, Norcott, Katz, Palmer and Vertefeuille--who wrote the decision, in my opinion, knew exactly what they were doing, the havoc they would wreak by granting absolute quasi-judicial immunity to AMCs, and they did it anyway.  This is why we so desperately need to make sure that Bill #5505 is passed in the legislature this year, to begin to repair the harm and damage that has been done to so many families as the result of these irresponsible and improper decisions.

Before I close this discussion, I do want to mention that Paul Carrubba also filed a negligence complaint on behalf of his son, Mathew Carrubba, acting as a "next friend".  I didn't go into this subject as extensively as the issue of AMC judicial immunity.  However, I do think it is worth mentioning that all the way down the line, from superior court, to appellate court, and finally on the supreme court level, Paul Carrubba was essentially denied the right to pursue an action on behalf of his child. 

Specifically, the Supreme Court determined that during a dissolution action, the child's interests are assumed to diverge automatically from that of the parents and so, therefore, Paul Carrubba lacked standing.  The Amicus Brief quoted Linda D. Elrod's article "Raising the Bar for Lawyers Who Represent Children" stating that "Only the child should have any right of any action against a 'Child's Attorney' or a "Best Interest Attorney'". 

So, how exactly is a child supposed to do this?  Is this just another one of those weird half-baked things that attorneys say in order to sideline common sense?

I cannot be sure. But one thing I do know, it is time to restore sanity to our Connecticut Family Court System.  It is time GALs and AMCs were held accountable, and it is time that the CT Judicial Branch stopped trashing parents who know far more than any paid professional who just met them what is in the best interests of their children.

Friday, April 3, 2015

CARRUBBA V. MOSKOWITZ: THE CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH USURPS THE AUTHORITY OF THE LEGISLATURE: PART III!!

There are several reasons why the Supreme Court in Carrubba v. Moskowitz should not have ruled that Attorneys For the Minor Children have absolute quasi-judicial immunity in family court proceedings.  Most important are the views of Appellate Court Judge Francis Hennessey when he said that in doing so the Appellate Court was usurping the authority of the Connecticut State Legislature.


In his dissenting opinion in opposition to granting Attorneys For the Minor Child judicial immunity in family court cases Judge Francis Hennessy spoke as follows:  I respectfully dissent from the conclusion of the majority that those appointed pursuant to General Statutes Sec. 46b-54 as attorneys for minor children are entitled under the common law to qualified quasi-judicial immunity for actions taken during their representation in such matters.  I believe that it is the legislature and not the judiciary that should, if it chooses, exercise its authority to extend immunity to court-appointed attorneys for minors."


He further stated, "It is clear that neither the statutes of this state, nor the decisions of this court or our Supreme Court, extend the protections of immunity to court-appointed attorneys for minor children under Sec. 46b-54.  Consequently, I perceive the conclusion of the majority to be synonymous with legislating and "[m]ore importantly...[as] exceeding our constitutional limitations by infringing on the prerogative of the legislature to set public policy through its statutory enactments." State v. Reynolds, 264 Conn. 1, 79, 824 A.2d 611 (2003).


Again, he states at the conclusion of his statement, "The immunity proposed by the majority for attorneys appointed to represent minors pursuant to Sec. 45b-54 should be addressed to a lawmaking body."  And he concludes by quoting Colchester Savings Bank v. Brown, 75 Conn. 69, 71, 52 A.316 (1902), "It is not our office to legislate." 


These are the words of a Judge who was a long time advocate for improving the access of women and minorities to the services of the CT Judicial branch.  This was a Judge who acted as co-chair of the Connecticut Task Force on Gender Justice and the Courts, and Connecticut's Task Force on Minority Fairness, clearly a man of some principle.

Given Judge Hennessey's caution to his fellow justices, who would have though, then, that the Supreme Court would go well beyond what the Defendant asked for and grant her not just qualified judicial immunity, but absolute immunity. 
  


I admire Judge Hennessey.  He asked the kinds of questions we would all ask.



For instance, what is going on with our State legislature that it is allowing the CT Judicial Branch to bully its way into a position where it can exploit and bankrupt the citizens of CT at will, using lurid stories of disgruntled parents mistreating their vulnerable children as an excuse. 


When GALs and AMCs are using their wards college money to fund their lifestyles and foreclosing on the homes their wards live in to pay their legal fees, who is mistreating who?


In disregarding CT General Statute 51-14 which requires public hearings for all changes to The Connecticut Practice Book, in using the legal system to establish case law that is independent of the will of the State Legislature, the CT Judicial Branch is violating our State Constitution.

In regard to Carrubba v. Moskowitz it is worth noting that, according to Paul Carrubba's Attorney, George Kramer, in 2005 when this decision was made, the Connecticut Supreme Court was the only top state court in the country to extend absolute immunity to court-appointed attorneys.   This was how great departure the decision in Carrubba v. Moskowitz was when it came to standard practice.  If there was such a dire need for protection for Attorneys for the Minor Children because they were being chased around by disgruntled angry parents, how come no other state in the union felt the necessity to do anything about it? 

Could it be that this decision was put into place by AFCC members to preempt the outrage they knew their policies would generate?  As a point of note, the names on the Amicus Brief that argued on behalf of immunity for AMCs, i.e. The Children's Law Center, Campbell Barrett of Budlong and Barrett, and Steve Dembo of Berman, Bourns, Aaron & Dembo have been at the center of a vast number of the complaints submitted by victims of family court corruption.


I do find interesting the kind of cavalier attitude people take in regard to how the Connecticut Judicial System usurps the authority of the State Legislature.  For example, a research paper written by Kevin E. McCarthy about Guardians Ad Litem for the Connecticut State Legislature on February 6, 2013 states as follows,  "Conn. Gen. Statute Section 4-141 grants individuals appointed as GALs in neglect, abuse, termination of parental rights, delinquency, or family with service needs proceedings qualified immunity for their  actions.  Although there is no controlling case, it appears likely that courts would find GALs in family court cases have absolute immunity for actions undertaken at a judge's direction."


So what McCarthy is essentially saying is that despite the Legislature's mandate that GALs only have qualified immunity, the Court system will do whatever it pleases and grant such a GAL absolute immunity.  Since when does the Court system make its own rules without regard for the CT State legislature?

It is astounding how commonplace it has become for both the State Legislature and the CT Judiciary when it comes to the judiciary system intervening to itself write or else overstep the Connecticut Statutes that underpin our legal system.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

CARRUBBA V. MOSKOWITZ: FINDING OUT WHAT IS THE GREATER GOOD. PART II!

I will admit that I am not known for my niceness.  Of course, I am self employed and no one pays me to be nice; they read my articles because they want to get the facts on what is going on in our corrupt family courts. 

So I kind of have blog writer immunity because if you don't like what I write you can shake your fists and fume at me, but have fun trying to take me to court.  Ok, ok, ok, some of you have done just that -- thank you Attorney Scott Sandler -- but seriously, what are you going to do about my ideas.  Hmmmm, ok, ok, ok -- now that I think of it you can threaten me like Budlong and Barrett, LLC did, or report me to the police. 

But as they say sticks and stones can break my bones but ideas can only make me suck it up and grow a backbone.  And talking about backbone, why is it that people who work as GALs and AMCs think they shouldn't be held accountable to the people who bottom line pay their highly expensive salaries.  All the rest of us get held accountable for our behavior.  Only teachers have tenure, and even they are subjected to constant evaluations and required to participate in professional workshops to improve their techniques.

How easily GALs and AMCs and their supporters talk about how badly family court litigants behave.  For example, the Supreme Court decision in Carrubba v. Moskowitz states, "We agree with the Appellate court, however, that, in a custody dispute, "parents lack the necessary professional and emotional judgment to further the best interests of their children.  Neither parent could be relied on to communicate to the court the children's interests where those interests differ from his or her own."  Further, "A parent's judgment is or may be clouded with emotion and prejudice due to the estrangement of husband and wife."

Let me venture to say that most of us have some very high standards regarding what we expect of other folks behavior.  Thus, I got myself into a lot of trouble recently with the CT DOJ because I announced on this lovely blog that I considered both Attorney Deirdre Daly and Attorney John Hughes to be some of the most corrupt officials in Connecticut. 

Apparently, from recent correspondence sent to a friend of mine, I am in trouble for saying that, to the point where the CT DOJ plans on denying my friend access to their services as a consequence of my bad tempered remarks.  You see, as I learned, and probably everyone else knew already, if you insult people, you are unlikely to obtain either their respect or support. 

Granting that fact, in the case of Carrubba v. Moskowitz what surprises me upon reading the stack of documents in the case is the complete disinterest the Court has regarding what Attorney Emily Moskowitz was accused of doing.  On the contrary, as I mentioned in Part I of this series, Mr. Paul Carrubba's Attorney, George Kramer, experienced subtle threats from Judge Gruendel for even bringing them up. 

My question is, here you have two warring parents and the fate of two fragile and vulnerable children at stake--Mathew Carrubba, at least, was in counseling at the Institute of Living, was falling behind academically at school and required tutoring--how did it improve the situation that Attorney Emily Moskowitz during custody negotiations repeatedly called Paul Carrubba an "asshole" and a "bastard" and told him he was "killing his children."  

While everyone is so focused on the bad outcomes that result from disgruntled and angry parents in hotly contested custody battles, why isn't a single person discussing this case, including the judges involved, concerned about Attorney Moskowitz' unprofessional and outrageous language and behavior.  Not only did Attorney Mowkowitz use profanity, she also directly lied about information she had received in the case stating falsely that "the Institute of Living had asked her to terminate the Defendant's parental rights."  Apparently, "Mathew's therapists denied that they ever made such a request of Attorney Moskowitz." (see Item #8 of Plaintiff's Motion to Disqualify). 

Of course, maybe Paul Carrubba made that bit up that it wasn't true, but it is rather persuasive that he ended up with custody of Mathew no matter what she said.   Tell me, who is likely to have better judgment--the person who yells repeated profanities and tells lies, or the person who is actively in Court trying to work out his son's future.  I mean, for all   Mr. Carrubba's flaws, the final reports on Mathew Carrubba's progress from Florida are that he was on the honor roll at his high school and progressing well. 

You see, this is my question.  When the court says that parents lack the "necessary professional and emotional judgment" during a custody dispute, do they have any scientific proof when it comes to that statement or is the court simply going by its gut feelings or its experiences in one or two pivotal cases.  Where are the studies that can show us exactly that point in a custody case where we can no longer rely on the soundness of parents' decisions regarding their children?  Other than the court relying upon its right to make pronouncements and its cross referencing other judges who have made similar comments, is there any objective evidence anywhere that the Court's derogatory statements about parents in custody battles are true?  I'd say, no!

I was in a hotly contested custody case and I will say that if anyone looked at the case they will see that as a parent I was the one who showed far better judgment in regard to the children than the GAL or the judges.  In fact, the GAL didn't think that my children should receive the appropriate medical treatment for their disability at all, and the Judge stated that the children didn't have one, even though I had documentation from several doctors contradicting him. 

If GALs and Judges can behave in such bizarre ways, who are they to interfere in the rights of parents to determine what goes on with their children?

Why is it more damning to Paul Carrubba that he was involved in a hotly contested custody matter than it was that AMC Emily Moskowitz repeatedly used profane language and lied boldfacedly in regard to her charges?

How come it is more despicable that I called Attorney Deirdre Daly and Attorney John Hughes corrupt than is the fact that they actually are just as corrupt as I said they were? 

Why is there this double standard in regard to CT citizens and parents who are involved in CT Family Court versus family court officers such as attorneys, judges, clerks, AMCs and GALs?  Why do family court officers get the benefit of the doubt, but not parents? 

How come as far as the Court is concerned family court officers can do no wrong, and deserve full judicial immunity for the wrongdoing they have done, when we have so many clear cut examples that they are irresponsible, greedy, and unprincipled? 

Historically, the legal profession has been given considerable leeway because it has been understood that they are supposed to regulate themselves.  However, the reality of their actions in consistently absolving themselves are any responsibility for their crimes in relation to the victims of Connecticut Family Court makes it clear that the legislature must intervene and remove GAL immunity in the State of Connecticut and vote in support of Bill #5505.

AMC'S AND GAL'S JUST WANT TO BREAK FREE!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

CARRUBBA V. MOSKOWITZ NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT IS. PART I!

Given that Carrubba v. Moskowitz is the seminal case which put into place judicial immunity for GALs, I decided to go to civil court a few days ago, take a look at the court file, and see what documents are in it. Unfortunately, it was somewhat of a disappointment when I arrived at the clerk's office to find out that the entire file has been destroyed!  Luckily, I did continue investigating and was able to locate the information I needed on the case elsewhere. Thus, you have this article!  

As I reviewed the material on this case, one point I noted, which I found unexpected, is the fact that the case was not about GALs, but rather about Attorneys For the Minor Child (AMCs). Apparently, a decision on the one also applied directly to the other, so it gets cited in GAL cases even though it originally had to do with an AMC.

Next, I would like to be able to say that this was a case about good and evil, i.e. a virtuous family court litigant facing down the dragon lady, Emily Moskowitz, but that is not what happened in this case.  In fact, it is more accurate to state that this is a case where the father was a rather  bad character and Attorney Moskowitz was probably doing her job to defend her clients when she went a bit overboard in doing so.  But don't let me persuade you to this conclusion.  I will tell you the facts and you can then make up your own minds.

The Carrubba divorce began in February 1994 and continued on into 2000 when Paul Carrubba turned his attention to suing Attorney Emily Moskowitz.  Attorney Moskowitz was appointed as Attorney for the Minor Children on June 26, 1996 by Judge Herbert Barall another one of my favorite characters. At the time, there were two children involved Mathew who was eight and Jessica who was nine.  As is often true of abusive fathers, Mr. Carrubba soon dropped his interest in getting custody of Jessica--I mean, after all, she was just a girl--and focused in on obtaining full custody of his son, Mathew.  In terms of timeframe, the divorce was finalized in 1997, and then Paul Carrubba began to agitate for custody of his son, Mathew, around 1998.

I was somewhat puzzled to see an Attorney for the Minor Children assigned to children who are so young--basically under the age of 12, which I had thought was the magic number when it comes to kids having some level of self-determination--I would have expected Judge Barall to assign them a Guardian Ad Litem rather than an Attorney for the Minor Children.  But perhaps this had something to do with the high level of conflict in the case which meant that  the judge felt that Attorney Moskowitz required a little more leeway than average, regardless of the law.

So what do Attorney's For the Minor Children (AMCs) do?

The Court appoints AMCs under Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46b-54 which states "The court may appoint counsel for any minor child or children of either or both parties at any time after the return day of a complaint under section 46b-45, if the court deems it to be in the best interests of the child or  children.  The court may appoint counsel on its own motion, or at the request of either of the parties or of the legal guardian of any child who is of sufficient age and capable of making an intelligent request."  (emphasis added)

I can only assume, then, that Judge Barall thought that both Jessica and Mathew were capable of making an "intelligent request", but they still seem to me to be pretty young to have arrived at the high level of maturity requisite for them to meet the statutory requirements for the appointment of an AMC.  

Further, according to Schult v. Schult, 241 Conn. 767, 778 (1997) "The purpose of appointing counsel for a minor child in a dissolution action is to ensure independent representation of the child's interests..."  Also, for more recent commentary from the CT Judicial Branch, there is this, "The AMC’s role is different from that of a guardian ad litem (GAL). The AMC represents the child’s legal interests and supports the child’s best interests, while the GAL represents only the child’s best interests."  The AMC participates in legal proceedings just like a regular attorney, while the GAL is largely excluded from participation in legal proceedings and has a role that is largely investigative.  

In essence, what Judge Barall did was give the children representation by an attorney who could act on a level much more independent of the parents wishes than she could have done if she were a guardian ad litem.  It is possible that he felt there were good grounds for doing that, or perhaps he was simply careless--who knows.

Ultimately, to review, at dissolution in February 1997 residential custody went to the mother with both parents having joint custody.  Nonetheless, the fireworks continued to fly post judgment with the father proceeding to go after custody of his son, Mathew, with the intention of taking him to Florida to live there permanently.  It was within the context of these custody proceedings that on November 2, 1998 Mr. Paul Carruba filed a motion to disqualify Attorney Emily Moskowitz as Attorney for the Minor Child.  

His accusations if true are rather shocking.  

According to Mr. Carrubba, "On July 8, 1998 while the Defendant's and Plaintiff's counsel were negotiating terms and conditions for returning Mathrew to live with his father, Attorney Moskowitz unleashed a barrage of insults at the Defendant, Paul Carrubba, including repeatedly calling him an "Asshole."  In addition, Paul Carrubba stated, "On August 19, 1998 while the Defendant's and Plaintiff's counsel were having discussions concerning a variety of issues Attorney Moskowitz again referred to the Defendant as an "Asshole" and a "Bastard," and [stated that] he was "killing these kids."  

Did this actually happen?  

I believe that these accusations are credible.  For one thing, at no time during the litigation over the question of whether Attorney Emily Moskowitz had immunity did Attorney Moskowitz ever deny these accusations or attempt to refute them.  In addition, Paul Carrubba's attorney who wrote up the complaint states that he was present at the time Attorney Moskowitz used this bad language and if it weren't true, I'd be surprised he would write up false accusations in a legal document.  Given the assumption that these accusations are true, this is unconscionable behavior on the part of an attorney, and most particularly on the part of an attorney for the minor child.  

The charges were sufficiently disturbing that it is clear that at least once Judge, Herbert Gruendel, would rather have not heard it.  As he stated in a rather threatening way to Attorney Dan Kramer, Mr. Paul Carrubba's attorney, "I caution Mr. Kramer that since motions are to be decided on the basis of evidence rather than on the basis of assertions and the pleading, that future pleadings in that regard do not need to be as complete or as graphic as the one that you filed in this case."  

On the other hand, given the way Attorney Moskowitz describes Mr. Paul Carrubba's actions, perhaps he tested her patience rather dreadfully.  Her objection to Mr. Carrubba's motion to disqualify is full of accusations which you can take or leave.  As we all know, attorneys in defense of their reputations and money sources can be remarkably eloquent and imaginative in their own defense.  Personally, I'd rather not go into detail trying to figure out the veracity of the twists and turns of her argument. 

However, what I consider most persuasive in terms of indicating that Mr. Carrubba had a dark side is the fact that he eventually took his son, Mathew by then 12 years old, all the way from Connecticut to Florida permanently separating the child from both his mother and sister.  What I found particularly saddening were the several motions the mother submitted to the Court in 2000 and 2001 stating, "Defendant (father) refuses to allow Plaintiff mother reasonable telephone access to her son, or visitation access to him."  

That's just nasty.  So, Paul Carrubba was no saint, clearly.  



In terms of the progress of Paul Carrubba's complaint, first Mr. Carrubba filed this motion to disqualify which was rejected by the family court and didn't get him anywhere.  Then he filed the same complaint in civil court on October 2, 2000 before Judge Robert J. Hale where it was finally dismissed in a memorandum of decision issued on February 21, 2002.  It then went on to Appellate Court and ultimately to the CT Supreme Court which, in July 2005, upheld the original civil court decision which was that GALs and AMCs have qualified quasi-judicial immunity, and expanded the level of immunity to that of absolute quasi-judicial immunity "for actions taken during or, activities necessary to, the performance of functions that are integral to the judicial process."  This is the decision which the current Bill #5505 seeks to overturn. 

I am not sure how necessary or integral to the judicial process it is to repeatedly call a father an "asshole", but I will leave that up to you to decide!