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Showing posts with label DISABILITY RIGHTS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DISABILITY RIGHTS. Show all posts

Friday, March 10, 2017

LEGAL OBSCURITIES AND LOOPHOLES USED TO OBSTRUCT A COUPLE'S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE IN "PREDICTIVE NEGLECT" CASE!

Their story is familiar now.  In 2007, Joey Watley and Karin Hasemann's two  children were taken away from them by DCF at birth. The grounds for this?  A controversial doctrine known as "Predictive Neglect". In other words,the concept that parents might neglect their children in the future even if they have not in the past.  CT DCF "experts" labeled the parents as mentally ill--Joey Watley received the diagnosis of Personality Disorder Unspecified, while Karin Hasemann was diagnosed with a broad range of conflicting diagnoses.  Since that time, both parents have taken care of other young children without incident.  

For a decade, Mr. Watley and Ms. Hasemann fought the removal of their children, ultimately losing three trials in State Superior Court in Middletown.  However, they did win appeals of those decisions due to legal error and malfeasance on the part of the trial court. Eventually, however, Connecticut State Court terminated their parental rights permanently. Consequently, in 2015 they took their case to Federal District Court. Initially, that Court denied their  complaint in response to a motion to dismiss filed by the CT Attorney General's office. However, the couple then appealed that decision to a higher Court--the Second Circuit Court in New York--which sustained their right to pursue their case.  Since then they have returned to the lower Connecticut Federal District Court.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

THE ABUSIVE USE OF MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS IN CUSTODY SWITCHING SCHEMES, STVAN v. STVAN: PART VI!

I don't think I can fully express the depth of the terror I felt when it dawned on me in my custody case that my ex husband and the GAL in my case could actually coach my 13 year old son to lie about me.  I am still not quite sure what it is that he was told to say but it went something along the lines that every night I would leave him at home to put his younger sisters to bed while I went off to the Barnes and Noble bookstore to read.  I guess the saving grace of that accusation is that my son didn't say that I went  to a nightclub and danced the night away with various men.  I almost lost custody because of that false accusation.  

Luckily, since my son was living with me, he didn't keep up that nonsense for very long.  But what do you get when you take a child this age, cut her off from her primary caregiver, and brow beat her for week after week with suggestions that she's been abused.  You've guessed it: the kinds of questionable allegations of abuse that Paige Stvan's daughter may have come up with and which became the basis for the custody switching scheme perpetrated in the case Stvan v. Stvan.  

I say "may have" because, as it stands now, even though I have read the documents in this case closely, I still do not know what these allegations were. Ordinarily, if the issue is raised, the Court would order a forensic custody evaluation in order to verify whether abuse occurred or not.  In the Stvan case such an evaluation was never done, which leads me to believe the allegations were never very credible.  Bottom line, Mr. Thomas Stvan only started claiming there was abuse once he realized that he couldn't seize custody with fabricated tales about Paige Stvan's mental health difficulties.  In that approach, he was successful.

Thus, in his January 8, 2016 memorandum, Judge Gerald Adelman stated the following, "The court finds that the best interests of the minor child require that she remain in the custody of the plaintiff and that the defendant's parental access to said child shall be restricted to therapeutic visits with the child's therapist, at the recommendation of said therapist, and hopefully a continuation of the brief meetings at the local mall."  It is now November 2016, and no such meetings have ever taken place, and it looks like they never will.  

At the end of his memorandum, Judge Gerald Adelman acknowledges that he essentially has not obeyed the law and conducted the evidentiary hearing held 14 days after a temporary ex parte change of custody to determine whether that change should be made permanent stating, "That the temporary custodial orders shall remain in effect pending a full future hearing once the GAL, the AMC and the therapist are able to offer the court a more thorough presentation."  The sub text of this order is that the Court has no expectation that any such hearing will take place, since it still has not taken place and there are no plans in sight to schedule it.  

Basically, I'm not sure how such a presentation could happen since now both sides have been ordered not to file any motions without permission from the court, and often no matter how worthy such a request, they are often denied.  This is an unconscionable outcome for a case.  What has happened is that a temporary order has become a de facto permanent order simply by virtue of the fact that Judge Gerald Adelman has disobeyed the law.  

In addition, with this memorandum of January 8, 2016, Judge Adelman has essentially put into place a structure that guarantees that Paige Stvan will never be able to see her daughter again.  

For instance, Judge Adelman conveniently fails to mention that earlier on December 1, 2016, he had issued an order that Ms. Paige Stvan was not allowed to speak to the therapist, Ms. Donna Fletcher, unless the therapist gave permission for her to do so.  As Judge Adelman put it, the  therapist has full authority to decide "who she sees, when and under what circumstances."  It is my understanding that Mr. Thomas Stvan and the GAL Rosa Rebimbas immediately seized control of this therapist by telling her that the judge had established as a fact that abuse occurred even though that would be a lie.    

If the Court truly believed that there was possible abuse, the Court would have requested a follow up report from the therapist to verify any abuse, as well as an explanation regarding the extent of the damage that any parental abuse may have had.  If these allegations were credible, Paige Stvan would have been held legally liable, but so would the father. The bottom line is that the child was largely in the mother's sole care for twelve years.  If there was any abuse that was going on, and the father allowed that abuse to occur unchecked, then the father would be legally liable as well.  

Not only would there be follow up to verify any abuse, if the Court took these allegations seriously, the standard procedure would have been followup hearings to put into place a program of rehabilitation for the parents, and, at the very least, there would have been an investigation by family relations. The question is, why wasn't this standard followed?

Even with situations of abuse, parents are still allowed to remain in the lives of their children.  If they are willing, such parents are given the therapy they need to become better people and parents.  I know of a recent case of domestic violence where the father slammed his infant's head against a car door and gave her a concussion.  Still, he has been allowed unsupervised visits with that child after a period of rehabilitation.  Since this is standard procedure for the family court system, why has it been uniquely disregarded in the case of Paige Stvan?  Is it because this is simply a custody switching scheme?  And why would a State Representative such as Rosa Rebimbas be involved in it?

Finally, if the Court took these allegations of abuse seriously, it would have hired a qualified individual with an advanced degree in forensic psychiatry or psychology to do a proper investigation which would ordinarily include both parents, extended family, school personnel, therapists, and the child's pediatrician, just to start. Instead, the Court merely ordered that the parties hire a therapist for the child, a Ms. Donna Fletcher, who is a licensed practical counselor with a master's degree in psychology who graduated from Fairfield College. 

This is a person who spent 20 years in the computer industry and for whom this stint in counseling is a second career.  She has a specialty in alcoholism and drug addiction, not divorce and custody.  

In the brief period Ms. Paige Stvan had a chance to speak to Ms. Donna Fletcher on the phone, Ms. Fletcher made it very clear she had no intention of doing any kind of investigation.  Her intention was simply to provide counseling to the child for abuse.  Of course, that would be ridiculous if the facts bear out that the child was not abused, and my guess is they would.


Still, the bottom line is that, if you are providing therapy for a child who has allegedly been abused, as a therapist, you would have to meet a few times with both parents in order to do a responsible job of finding out what has been going on.  Instead, to my knowledge, Ms. Fletcher only spoke to Paige Stvan once over the phone.  That is unacceptable.  

In addition, what is even worse is that the therapist, Ms. Fletcher, has apparently accepted a deeply flawed characterization of Ms. Paige Stvan as an abuser, even though two highly qualified professionals--Dr. Linda Ginsberg and Ashley Adamson--took considerable time and trouble to write and to call the therapist in order to put her on the right track.  Unfortunately, Donna Fletcher has simply refused to have anything to do with them.  It is really unethical to disregard medical information from another provider which could be relevant to your work in connection to an abuse case.  You can't just dismiss testimony from other mental health professionals because it doesn't go along with your predisposed opinions.  Ms. Donna Fletcher also ignored testimony from a friend of Ms. Stvan's, the child's Godmother, a child dependency attorney, who had witnessed some of the domestic violence and wrote a supportive letter about Paige to the therapist.  All of this was ignored.  

Ultimately, it appears to me that this therapist, Ms. Donna Fletcher, was simply being used in order to justify the abduction of this little girl from her mother.   This is an abuse of the mental health profession itself to use the profession as a means to unethically deny a mother her constitutional rights as a parent.  Keep in mind that up to the present time there has been no report from this therapist, no confirmation of any abuse, and no attempt to integrate mother into a program to restore Ms. Paige Stvan's relationship with her child which is the proper thing to do.

In the end, there are several things that have gone wrong in this situation, particularly in connection to the mental health component in this case.  

First, If there are allegations of abuse in a high conflict custody case, you would not appoint an LPC with a background in computers--you would find a psychiatrist or a psychologist with extensive training in forensic custody evaluations, who can investigate the allegations, particularly in a situation where there has been considerable domestic violence and legal abuse.  

Second, there needed to be a specific plan for reuniting this mother and child.  If there were allegations, what were those allegations and what can be done about them?  If there were allegations that were verified, then there ordinarily should have been some specific plan put into place where the mother could have worked through counseling, parenting classes, and supervised visitation to improve her parenting skills and earn her way back into having a relationship with her child.  The fact that there was no such plan at any point, no followup hearings indicates that this was simply a custody snatching scheme.  

Third, this therapist has a responsibility to both parents when she is conducting counseling with a child.  She was required to discuss the therapy with both parents and obtain informed consent from both parents for the therapy before proceeding with treatment.  While she did not need to get a signature from Ms. Paige Stvan to proceed since she no longer had custody, it still remained her responsibility to sit down with the mother and explain what the treatment plan is.  

Finally, as a mental health counselor, it was Ms. Donna Fletcher's responsibility to take into account other perspectives on what kind of person Ms. Paige Stvan is, to review the mother's prior medical records to verify if information she'd received was accurate, and to include the mother in her daughter's treatment to the extent possible.  If Donna Fletcher solely listened to the father, and the GAL Rosa Rebimbas whose bias is clear cut and excluded the mother's perspective from consideration, this would simply be unethical and an abuse of her professional role.  

From month to month then, this case is full of schemes to deceive the court, of malicious legal manipulations conducted to deny Ms. Paige Stvan her constitutional rights as a mother, and other unprofessional conduct across the board.  

Thus, it will not come as a surprise that is not the first time that a case with Judge Gerald Adelman has ended up with a troubled and possibly illegal outcome.  This is not the first time that a victim of domestic violence in a case before Judge Gerald Adelman ended up with the victim losing custody or being mistreated in some other manner.  

We have the Jennifer Jones case, Kathi Sorrentino, Susan Skipp, Paul Boyne, Sunny Liberti, Martha Dean, and many others.  It appears that this is a Judge who sees victims of domestic violence and/or legal abuse and his sole thought is to abuse them further.  I am not sure how the CT Judicial Branch can incubate these kinds of judges and continue to allow them to hurt litigant after litigant, but it does.  

Most troubling is that the harm and damage the Court has perpetrated on the child in this case, who has been suddenly deprived of her primary caregiver, is incalculable. In fact, you could make a case that this maternal deprivation, in and of itself, adds up to child abuse. If something is not done soon to correct this situation, the adverse consequences may end up lasting for a lifetime. Ultimately, there is absolutely no justification for denying Ms. Paige Stvan access to her child, and the only factor that stands between Ms. Stvan and justice is the foolishness, blindness, and vengefulness of our family court system here in CT, an abusive ex husband, and a crooked GAL.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE: HOW FAMILY COURT BULLIED PROTECTIVE MOTHER, PAIGE STVAN, AND CUT HER OFF FROM THE DAUGHTER SHE LOVES, PART III!

The custody proceeding that cut Ms. Paige Stvan off from all access to her daughter is most notable for its complete lack of due process and judicial integrity.  The resulting miscarriage of justice consisted of the following elements:

THE LACK OF AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING: 

Ms. Paige Stvan lost all access to her daughter in an ex parte custody proceeding.  So let's look at the Form JD-FM-222, the document that must be filled out in order to obtain the kind of ex parte change of custody that Thomas Stvan requested and received. On the last page of this document there is a notation that 14 days after the ex parte motion is granted there must be a proper evidentiary hearing with both parties present where the respondent has a chance to defend herself from the charges leveled against her.  Thus, the following statement at the end of the form:

"The court orders that a hearing be held at the time and place shown below, which, if relief on the application is ordered ex parte, shall not be later than 14 days from the date of such order for hearing."  

As it turned out, the ex parte motion was granted on September 25, 2015 and there was a hearing scheduled for October 8, 2015.  However, on that day, there was no hearing on the legitimacy of the ex parte order for a transfer of full custody from Mother to the Father, Mr. Thomas Stvan.  At no time during the October 8, 2015 hearing did Judge Gerald Adelman  address the issue, or allow Ms. Paige Stvan to present evidence or testimony in order to challenge the change of custody that occurred with the ex parte motion.  In effect, the Court simply ignored the legal requirement of an evidentiary hearing on the matter and, indeed, there never was such a hearing.

THE LACK OF COMPLIANCE WITH THE ADA:

In addition, if you look at the upper right hand side of the Form JD-FM-222 re an exparte motion there is a notification regarding the ADA which is as follows:  "The Judicial Branch of the State of Connecticut complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you need a reasonable accommodation in accordance with the ADA, contact a court clerk or an ADA contact person listed at www.jud.ct.gov/ADA."  

The important point to note here is that once the Superior Court had identified Paige Stvan as a person with a disability, which it had by granting Mr. Thomas Stvan's ex parte motion, it had the obligation to make sure that Ms. Stvan had access to the ADA Designated Responsible Employee, and also that she had the opportunity to make arrangements for her reasonable modifications in order to have access to the legal proceedings.  This was not done.  To all intents and purposes, this means, in other words, that Ms. Stvan was essentially excluded from the legal proceedings.  

Even worse, from the report Ms. Stvan has given to me, even though she repeatedly requested ADA modifications, ADA contact people at the Courthouse repeatedly evaded her inquiries and denied her requests.  

This is simply illegal.  

If the Judicial Branch is going to state on every document it produces that it will comply with Title II federal ADA law, it really needs to do so.  

Returning to Judge Gerald Adelman's January 8, 2016 memorandum, one of the grounds that Judge Adelman cited as a reason that he decided to cut Ms. Paige Stvan off from all access to her daughter is that Ms. Stvan did not comport herself properly in Court.  As he put it, "the defendant had repeatedly demonstrated an inability to control herself requiring the court to stop the proceedings many times to remind her of proper courtroom decorum."  I did not see that when I read the transcripts, but be that as it may.  You have to ask yourself, was that before or after Judge Adelman told Ms. Stvan that she would never be able to see her child again.  I am aware that, at one point, the proceedings had to be stopped because Ms. Stvan burst into tears and had to leave temporarily.  I suppose Judge Gerald Adelman found that behavior outrageous.  

However, I don't recall seeing any CT legal statute that states showing "proper courtroom decorum" is a requirement for being a parent.  In fact, I've seen all sorts of parents walking into family court, some with their pants falling down, others with their midriffs showing, some chewing gum, many who directly argue with the Judges at length and challenge their decisions. These people don't lose custody because of that behavior. So why is Judge Adelman making demands on Ms. Stvan regarding decorum that are not made of other litigants, and that are independent of the law!  

More important, it is a standard complaint of Court personnel who are dealing with folks who have disabilities that people with disabilities lack decorum during legal proceedings. It is standard for Judges to find fault with the person and demeanor of individuals with disabilities because they do not understand what is going on with a person who has a disability, particularly when it is an invisible disability.  This is why Courts are required to offer these reasonable modifications under Title II of Federal ADA law as promptly as possible as soon as either side raises the issue of disability.  This Judge Adelman did not do.

Eventually, on December 4, 2015, Ms. Paige Stvan was finally able to figure out how to access her reasonable modifications, and the first request she had was the opportunity to have a person sit next to her and take notes during court proceedings.  However, the ADA advocate she hired soon quit because the Court treated her so badly she left.  This is the point where Ms. Elizabeth Richter signed up to work as Ms. Stvan's advocate, but she chose to withdraw as well for the same reason stating, "The atmosphere of family court is so hostile towards Certified ADA Advocates that I simply cannot provide the kinds of necessary services that my client needs."  

What this means, basically, is that, according to the law, the entire time that Ms. Paige Stvan has been going to family court regarding this matter, all the legal proceedings have been null and void.  

So the problem here isn't Ms. Stvan's demeanor, the problem is Judge Gerald Adelman's ongoing failure to comply with ADA law.  This has excluded Ms. Paige Stvan from even the barest modicum of due process in regard to these legal proceedings.  

THE DENIAL OF THE RIGHT TO LEGAL COUNSEL
UNCALLED FOR CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

Not only were there very basic violations of ADA law and fundamental due process in Stvan v. Stvan, Ms. Paige Stvan was also denied her right to legal counsel which fundamentally undercuts the legitimacy of the legal proceedings in her case. Also, her own attorney slandered her reputation without any justifiable grounds and wrongly compromised her legal position.  The story of how this happened is as follows:

Five days after the ex parte change of custody to the father, on September 30, 2015, Ms. Stvan's attorney, Christopher Brennan, filed a motion to withdraw.   He then scheduled this motion to withdraw for October 8, 2015, the day which  was supposed to be for the hearing on the ex parte motion.  In order to avoid an evidentiary hearing on the motion to withdraw, and to evade any accountability from his client, Attorney Christopher Brennan requested a Matza Hearing in order to withdraw from the case.  What is interesting is that, Attorney Brennan didn't say anything about needing a Matza Hearing in his motion to withdraw, so it came as a complete surprise.  This meant that Ms. Stvan had no opportunity to prepare for such a hearing.  The first time the Matza hearing got mentioned was in Attorney Brennan's opening statements on the the day of the hearing.

You've never heard of a Matza Hearing?  Well, neither had I before I read the transcript of the October 8, 2015 hearing and I'm sure neither had Ms. Paige Stvan!  She and I were completely clueless, as I am sure Attorney Brennan knew we would be.

I had to dig really deep and spend a several hours on research before I figured out what a Matza hearing is. This is the story--and by the way, this has nothing to do with passover (a Jewish attorney friend of mine had to make that joke!)  

The Matza Hearing arises from the case of Richard A. Matza v Jane W. Matza 226 Conn. 166 (1993).  In this case, the Defendant, Jane Matza attempted to implicate her attorney in hiding approximately $196,000 from the Court by falsifying her financial affidavit.  Her attorney then wrote up a sealed affidavit to this effect and discussed the matter with the judge in chambers, who then allowed the attorney to withdraw from the case. This ultimately led to a situation where the defendant, Jane Matza, was forced to represent herself.   

Once the case was concluded and the results were not to Jane Matza's liking, she appealed stating that she had been denied an evidentiary hearing in regard to the withdrawal of her attorney and she objected to the in chambers hearing which occurred instead and did not allow her to present her side.  

The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court which, in its decision, quoted rule  1.16 (b) which states that "a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client..."  However, one of the exceptions to that rule kicks in if "The client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer's services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent..."  

The question the Court was faced with is, if an attorney has a reasonable basis for believing that his or her client might be engaging in something criminal or fraudulent, is Superior Court required to hold an evidentiary hearing in order to confirm the factual underpinnings of the attorney's claim.  In Matza v. Matza, the Supreme Court stated that there is no need for such an evidentiary hearing, because the claim doesn't have to be proven in full;an attorney merely needs to establish that he has a reasonable belief that it is credible.  The Supreme Court pointed out that Jane Matza knew what she was accused of and never attempted to dispute the truth of it.

What Attorney Christopher Brennan did, therefore, by requesting a Matza hearing, is essentially indicate to the Court that he had a reasonable belief that Ms. Paige Stvan was intending to do or had done something criminal or fraudulent.  Of course, Ms. Stvan had no idea that this is what he meant and she was completely unaware that she was being accused.  Since she had no idea she was being accused, she had no idea that she needed to defend herself, and certainly she had no idea what it was that she was supposed to have done!  Talk about a complete denial of due process!  Then, merely by requesting the Matza Hearing, he proceeded to  convey to everyone involved in the case that Ms. Stvan was a person of poor character capable of doing something either criminal or fraudulent.  How more damaging to his own client can this behavior get, and how more unethical could he be?  How is Paige Stvan supposed to find another attorney to represent her with this kind of unresolved accusation hanging over her head?

At this point, the Matza case and the Stvan case diverge. In the Matza case, the Defendant Jane W. Matza was well informed regarding the issue that led her attorney to withdraw.  In the Stvan case, Ms. Paige Stvan had no idea what was involved because her attorney never  told her and she was excluded from the in chambers hearing.  The Judge, Attorney Christopher Brennan and her ex-husband's attorney,  Nancy Aldrich were at the hearing, but Ms. Stvan was told to remain outside the room in the hallway.  This meant that while even Ms. Stvan's ex-husband and his attorney knew what Paige Stvan was accused of, no one saw fit to inform Ms. Stvan herself.  

Second, when the Judge in Jane W. Matza's case allowed her attorney to withdraw, he then granted a continuance in the case in order to allow Ms. Matza an opportunity to obtain alternative counsel.  In Ms. Paige Stvan's case, she was not given a continuance and she was not given additional time to hire another attorney to represent her despite the fact that some major decisions were made during that October 8, 2015 hearing.  

Further, how is Paige Stvan supposed to obtain alternative counsel when her attorney, Christopher Brennan, left her burdened with the implication that she either had or  intended to commit some criminal or fraudulent action in her case, the nature of which is completely unknown since the hearing on the accusation against her was all done behind closed doors.


The bottom line is that Mr. Thomas Stvan, his Attorney Nancy Aldrich, and the GAL, Attorney Rosa Rebimbas have made many claims in this case. However, their claims have never faced the challenge of an evidentiary hearing, which is legally required before such claims are acted upon.  Aside from their unfounded, unverified statements to the Court, which are hearsay, for the better part, there is nothing to justify or prove their claims.  

Meanwhile, Ms. Paige Stvan has been cut off from her daughter for over a year now independent of any legal grounds.  The injury this separation has done to Mom, Ms. Paige Stvan, and the emotional damage inflicted on her daughter as a consequence, are incalculable and will continue to unfold.  This case is and remains a disgrace and a moral blight on the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.

Monday, October 24, 2016

WITH A NOD AND A WINK: HOW CT FAMILY COURT BULLIED PROTECTIVE MOTHER, PAIGE STVAN, AND CUT HER OFF FROM THE DAUGHTER SHE LOVES, PART I!

On September 25, 2015, Paige Stvan was hospitalized for a few days to address negative side effects she had to a new medication she had been taking. Meanwhile, since she was dealing with these medical problems, in a very responsible way, Ms. Stvan asked her ex husband, Thomas Stvan, to care for their 12 year old daughter temporarily. He agreed to do so. However, instead of just taking care of the child as agreed, Thomas Stvan used the incident as a excuse to file an emergency ex parte motion in court granting him full custody.  That motion was granted.  As a result, since that time, except for a few brief encounters at a local mall, Paige Stvan has not been allowed to see her daughter.  

Why?  

Paige Stvan had been taking care of her child for 12 years, and the child was happy and healthy, well fed and with a roof over her head, as well as successful in school. Nonetheless, family court, in a series of dirty tricks and maneuvers, effectively assisted her ex husband in excising the child from her mother's life with the collusion of a CT State representative, Rep. Rosa Rebimbas.  

Now remember, this is the same judicial system which gave career criminal Joshua Komisarjevsky full custody of his 5 year old daughter just weeks before Mr. Komisarjevky participated in the triple slaying of the Petit family.  In Paige Stvan's case, this was a woman who had done nothing other than be an excellent mother to her daughter for twelve years. Still, the Court saw fit to cut her off entirely from the child she had been bringing up so successfully.  

We all want the reason for that, don't we?  Just so you know, you would have no basis for knowing the reason had Ms. Paige Stvan not requested one because, unlike in every other custody case I've ever seen, originally the Court didn't bother to provide a memorandum of decision stating the legal basis for its decision.  

But here we go, I have before me a January 8, 2016 Memorandum provided by Judge Gerald Adelman explaining his decision.  This is what he says.  

The ex parte was granted (see p. 3 of the memorandum) because "it was represented to the court that the defendant had a history of mental health issues which had previously required the plaintiff to temporarily assume primary or sole custody of the minor child, due to the  defendant's inability to care for said child."  Yes, but these, to my knowledge are and were simply representations without evidence.  To this day, I not seen any documents that can back up these claims.  

Not only that, in these documents there was no mention of the fact that the Plaintiff, Tom Stvan, was represented to have a bipolar disorder.  Why?  Because the ex parte hearing only heard one side of the story at that time. That is why the law requires another hearing 14 days later--so that before anything is finalized, you have a fair hearing where both sides have the opportunity to present their arguments.  Mysteriously, in Paige Stvan's case, although such a hearing is required by law, it never occurred.  This is just the first of the kinds of procedural flaws that have plagued this case from the beginning.  

It is also important to note regarding the term "it was represented" that anyone can "represent" anything to anyone in this world. Eventually, in a court of law, you have to come up with proof.  At no time that I have observed during the many hearings that were held in this case was there any kind of legitimate evidentiary hearing in which allegations of this nature regarding Paige Stvan could be either confirmed or denied.  Futhermore, from all the information I have in front of me, there is no evidence at all that Ms. Stvan had any such history.

How can any judge possibly justify removing a child completely from a mother's life based upon "representations."?  

Meanwhile, I have in front of me a letter that Dr. Linda Gunsberg, Paige Stvan's psychotherapist, wrote to the court.  In this letter, Dr. Gunsberg stated that Ms. Stvan has "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of domestic violence within the marriage, after the marriage, and as a result of constant, continuous litigation brought against her by Mr. Thomas Stvan, her ex-husband."  

Dr. Gunsberg also stressed that Paige Stvan is a competent primary caretaker and mother to her child and that the child flourished under her care.  She also stated that the father's behavior of cutting Ms. Stvan off from all access to her daughter constituted parental alienation.  Of course, everyone knows I'm not a fan of PAS theory, but I just point it out for what it's worth. Again, as I've said before, when a mother points out PAS or PA whatever you want it call it, judges couldn't care less.  PAS only matters if a man complains about it.

I also have a letter from a social worker who also provided treatment for Paige Stvan in which she stated, "I can confidently state that...it is apparent that Ms. [Stvan] does not present with psychological deficits that would compromise her ability to care for her child. Furthermore, Ms. [Stvan] has been highly motivated to take advantage of the services that have helped her to gain an understanding of her current circumstances, while seeking a path towards betterment as an individual, as well as a mother."  In addition, on Paige Stvan's behalf, LMFT Linda J. Gottlieb took the time to provide an extensive explanation to the Court regarding the phenomenon of parental alienation and how to identify it.  I think it says a lot for Paige Stvan that three well qualified mental health professionals took the time to speak up on her behalf.

I would also like to point out that Paige Stvan has always been honest and straightforward to her ex husband about any medical issues she has and has always taken responsible steps to address them.  The result has been successful, and it appears as though she is being punished for that very success.

I understand that two sides in a legal case can end up interpreting data differently which is why you end up in Court anyway.  That is the reason why a case like this would end up in family relations for a custody evaluation to determine whether testimony one way or another is credible.  What is striking about this case is that despite the dire consequence where a Mother has been entirely cut off from any communication with the daughter she raised for 12 years, there was no family relations report, no custody evaluation whatsoever, indeed, no investigation whatsoever.

How is that possible?  I have no idea.  

Next, if you have serious allegations regarding a parent's mental health status--i.e. as in this case, that father has bipolar and mother has depression--the most logical and just outcome would be a psychological evaluation conducted by a court approved psychologist qualified to do the job.  Remarkably, there was absolutely no psychological evaluation, no psychological assessment by a legitimate professional in any way whatsoever.  

I just do not understand that.  

When issues were raised in my case regarding my mental health, I ended up having two psychiatric evaluations and one psychological evaluation.  What happened to me was pretty excessive and is testimony to the extremely damaging impact accusations regarding mental health status can have.  Still, the idea that you could cut a mother off from her child based upon allegations regarding her mental health status that have yet to be proved, and, as you have seen from the testimony I provided, have actually been soundly refuted, appears absolutely outrageous and represents a tragic miscarriage of justice for this mother and her child.  

You cannot simply point at people, call them crazy, and use such unfounded and unproven claims as the basis for denying them their parental rights.  

As the General Statutes Section 46b-46(c), which is the basis for all custody decisions, state, the mental and physical health of the parents involved is a factor in custody decisions, however, the "disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody."  Furthermore, under Title II of federal ADA law, disability based discrimination is against the law in this country.  Certainly, the issue of disability should not be determinative without a fair and just evidentiary hearing where there is an equal playing field.  

However, what it looks like is that the judge and the attorneys in this case think that they can deny Paige Stvan her legal rights by nodding and winking and sweeping everything under the rug, simply by virtue of the fact that they think she has a mental health disability.  Likewise, they think they can smooth over and ignore father's possible bipolar disorder.  Trust me--that's not happening.

More on this case in Part II.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

NEW OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN HOW TO ASSIST PEOPLE AS A CERTIFIED ADA ADVOCATE IN FAMILY COURT!

John Jay College of Criminal Justice Certifying ADA Advocacy is taking a bold step toward fostering greater empathy and less trauma and stigma in our judicial system.  If you are ready to take on this challenge, please continue to read further!

There is a great need for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Advocates.  The ADA of 1990, the Amendments Act of 2008 and now the update in ADA Regulations of 2016 going into effect Oct. 2, 2016 have put the burden upon institutions to accommodate all persons ensuring equal access and protection under the law.

You, as a Certified ADA Advocate, will be trained to assist the one in four persons suffering from an invisible disability while facing the extreme stress of litigation.  Whether serving your firm, agency, business, or opening a new income stream as an independent provider, you will be a catalyst witnessing your enforcement of federal mandates affecting the court toward fairness.  

ADA advocates are an accommodation that must be near their client as much as possible.  They sit at the counsel’s table, watch their client, and ensure that pre-arranged accommodations through court administration are followed.  The process is confidential and not to be part of the adversarial process.  This act of privacy helps to eliminate stigma.  Accommodations are organized administratively just as elevators and wheelchair ramps are provided, never to be challenged.  The filing for the ADA accommodations is just one of your responsibilities.

You will be apprised through this experiential course of the new regulations.  As an ADA advocate, you will often find you are placed in a teaching role with clerks, court personnel, and coordinators that have not been trained as the law comes to the courts unfunded.  Therefore, ADA advocates often serve in a consulting capacity for their organizations and assist the courts.

Given the knowledge of the litigant’s diagnosis, you will make the difference for many people through filing a request for individualized ADA accommodations.  For example, Galvan, an autistic man, falsely accused of child abuse, and who just automatically agrees with prosecutors, now has an advocate who interprets the questions to him.  Or, Carolyn, who suffers PTSD from domestic violence, used to be questioned by her abuser in court until an advocate obtained accommodations for her.  She now appears in a sequestered room and questions from her abuser must be written for her to answer in her own time, not under intimidation, threat, and coercive control.  Accommodations are reasonable, simple, and usually cost the court nothing. 

Certified ADA Advocates represent litigants with non-apparent disabilities in the justice system and prove to be a real legal game changer toward justice.  I can’t wait to have you join us and hope to see you on October 17.  Any questions in the meantime, email me at khuffer@jjay.cuny.edu .

Warm regards,


Dr. Karin Huffer
Executive Director of Equal Access Advocates
Office:  719-426-9711
Fax:     719-426-9712

Sunday, August 21, 2016

ROSEMARIE GARLAND-THOMSON SPEAKS ABOUT "BECOMING DISABLED" IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!

"Not long ago, a good friend of mine said something revealing to me: “I don’t think of you as disabled,” she confessed.

I knew exactly what she meant; I didn’t think of myself as disabled until a few decades ago, either, even though my two arms have been pretty significantly asymmetrical and different from most everybody else’s my whole life.

My friend’s comment was meant as a compliment, but followed a familiar logic — one that African-Americans have noted when their well-meaning white friends have tried to erase the complications of racial identity by saying, “I don’t think of you as black,” or when a man compliments a woman by saying that he thinks of her as “just one of the guys.”

This impulse to rescue people with disabilities from a discredited identity, while usually well meaning, is decidedly at odds with the various pride movements we’ve come to know in recent decades. Slogans like “Black Is Beautiful” and “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It!” became transformative taunts for generations of people schooled in the self-loathing of racism, sexism and heterosexism. Pride movements were the psycho-emotional equivalents of the anti-discrimination and desegregation laws that asserted the rights of full citizenship to women, gay people, racial minorities and other groups. More recently, the Black Lives Matter and the L.G.B.T. rights movement have also taken hold..."

READ MORE:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/opinion/sunday/becoming-disabled.html?_r=0

Monday, July 25, 2016

CT LAW TRIBUNE REPORTS THE STATE OF CT IS SHORTCHANGING SPECIAL ED STUDENTS!

MEGAN SPICER OF THE CT LAW TRIBUNE REPORTS AS FOLLOWS:

"Connecticut's disability rights agency says the state is cutting off school a year too soon for some special education students.

The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities filed a federal class action July 15 against the state board of education, alleging that it is treating disabled students differently from their peers by terminating education services at age 21.

General education students can obtain their high school diplomas via adult classes at any age. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Act requires that schools provide the same opportunities to special education students at least until their 22nd birthday, the suit contends..."


READ MORE:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

JOSH KOVNER OF THE HARTFORD COURANT REPORTS THAT THE OFFICE OF PROTECTION AND ADVOCACY IS HOPELESSLY PARALYZED BY ITS POLITICAL INVOLVEMENTS!

ACCORDING TO JOSH KOVNER OF "THE HARTFORD COURANT":
"HARTFORD — The office charged with protecting the rights of Connecticut residents with disabilities is severely compromised by its ties to state government and politics and could lose its federal funding if it does not take immediate steps toward independence, a federal audit has concluded.
The review of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities noted a series of deeply seated conflicts of interest.
For example, the agency for years has considered requests from building owners to waive handicapped-access requirements in certain circumstances, and grants most of the waivers it sees. Yet, the agency is also charged with representing people who encounter difficulties over access to those same buildings.
The "entanglement with state responsibilities and state hiring and staffing structures undermines" the agency's ability to meet the federal advocacy mandates, the audit said. "The lack of structural safeguards [against political interference] limits its real and perceived abilities to pursue remedies of rights violations..."
READ MORE: 




Friday, January 22, 2016

JOEY AND KARIN WIN THEIR APPEAL IN FEDERAL COURT! HIP HIP HURRAY!

Josh Kovner of The Hartford Courant reports as follows:
"A federal appeals court has given two Connecticut residents a chance to prove the state child protection agency trampled on their rights by removing two children at birth based on "perceptions and stereotypes" of the parents' mental health.
The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Friday, sending the case of Joseph Watley, 61, and Karin Hasemann, 47, back to the U.S. District Court.
The pair claim that their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated when the state Department of Children and Families terminated their parental rights.
U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny dismissed the couple's case.
The appeals court, in part, said the district court erred when it ruled it lacked jurisdiction and then denied the couple's motion for appointment of a lawyer. The parents had been representing themselves.
"District courts should not dismiss a pro se complaint without giving the plaintiff an opportunity to be heard "[u]nless it is unmistakably clear that the court lacks jurisdiction, or that the complaint lacks merit or is otherwise defective," the appeals court ruled..."
READ MORE:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CT MIRROR REPORTS ON MR. JONATHAN SLIFKA, GOVERNOR'S LIASON TO THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY: IS HE FOR REAL OR WHAT? YOU DECIDE.

Mark Pazniokas, July 15, 2015, reports as follows in "The CT Mirror":
"Call it a bad omen, dark humor or simply farce. On his first day as the governor’s liaison to the disability community, the only elevator that could take Jonathan Slifka, who uses a wheelchair, to the governor’s office was inoperable.
The man whose new job was to provide the disabled with access to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy arrived at the State Capitol, a landmark constructed a century before passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to find himself without access.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, arriving just behind Slifka.
Bigger challenges lay ahead..."
READ MORE:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

THE U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE IN CT HAS TIME TO INVESTIGATE BANKS, BUT PREFERS TO IGNORE FAMILY COURT ADA VIOLATIONS! SEE CT LAW TRIBUNE ARTICLE!

When Elizabeth A. Richter approached Attorney John Hughes of the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding ADA violations in CT's Family Court system, she was told they had no time or resources to investigate such incidents.  But they seem to have time and resources to investigate banks as Megan Spicer of The CT Law Tribune reports below.  Isn't it somewhat hypocritical  of the U.S. Attorney's Office to expect private businesses to obey ADA law when it ignores ADA violations within its own profession?  See for yourself in the following article:

"The U.S. Attorney's Office and Waterbury-based Webster Bank have reached a settlement in an Americans with Disabilities Act dispute stemming from a complaint by a deaf customer.

The complaint alleged that the bank refused to accept a call from the deaf customer using a video relay service, or VRS. The service allows a hearing-impaired person to communicate via video, using a sign language interpreter. The deaf person uses sign language to communicate with the interpreter via a webcam, phone or tablet. The interpreter then verbally conveys the message over a phone to the other caller..."

Read more: 


http://www.ctlawtribune.com/id=1202743621095/ConnBased-Bank-Settles-Claim-That-It-Discriminated-Against-Deaf-Customers#ixzz3t4RvazJt

Saturday, November 7, 2015

THE POLITICS OF MENTAL ILLNESS WITHIN THE CT JUDICIAL BRANCH!

It was six months into my divorce when I finally realized that my attorney was acting in a way that was seriously incompetent.  As a result, I recognized that I had to find a new attorney and so I started the process of interviewing attorneys to see who would be a good replacement.  

It was then that I ran into Attorney James T. Flaherty who immediately asked me for a copy of my parenting plan. "Parenting Plan, I responded, "I don't have a parenting plan!"  Apparently, the fact that I had no parenting plan was extraordinary and Attorney Flaherty seemed truly surprised that I didn't have one. Why was Flaherty surprised?  Well, that was a bit of play acting, but more on that just a bit later.   

Apparently, in December 2002, the Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children came out.  This report was the basis for major statutory changes in the way divorces are supposed to be handled in the State of Connecticut.  Included in these changes was the requirement that divorcing couples submit a parenting plan to the Court within the early weeks of the divorce and obey a list of automatic orders which assures that the parties don't dissipate the marital assets, among other things.  

Nonetheless, as you can see, I soon learned that it was standard for attorneys to blow off parenting plans and allow their clients to violate the automatic orders at will. Attorneys did this intentionally to gain advantage in the case, to generally disrupt the process, and get as much money as possible from their clients.

In spite of that, if you then asked such attorneys, why do we have so many problems with family court, they'd never mention the ignored Connecticut Statutes I just talked about. Instead they'd blame the mentally ill--as per usual.  So goes the politics of mental illness within the Judicial Branch, i.e. if under fire, or facing criticism, put the responsibility on the shoulders of the "crazy people." This approach is, as we will see, a fundamentally feminist issue.

If you look at the discussion which preceded the results of the Commission Report--i.e. the Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children of December 2002--the Commission placed responsibility for the problems of Family Court squarely on the shoulders of "a small minority of parents [who] engage in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems."  

Twelve years later, another group gathered together to investigate problems with Family Court in Connecticut, i.e. the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children of 2014.  This Task Force published an additional report.  

Hearing about this Task Force, dozens of citizens came forward to provide their testimony in person during Task Force hearings while many others wrote letters and sent emails contributing information regarding their personal experiences of Family Court.  

However, instead of addressing the concerns these citizens spoke about, the Task Force Report  simply borrowed a lengthy quotation from the 2002 Commission Report in place of a discussion. The authors of the Report apparently did not even think to add one single bit of additional insight they might have acquired from lessons learned in the twelve years since the prior report.  Even worse, in a terribly short sighted manner, the particular section the report quoted was the one that put the blame on people with mental illness.

The fact that those responsible for writing the 2014 Task Force Report were so lazy they had not a single original idea to put into a discussion says boatloads about the lack of commitment of those individuals to the process of investigation that they were involved in.  

In that regard, I would like folks to recall that when the two co-chairs were appointed--Attorney Sue Cousineau and Attorney Sharon Dornfeld--there was widespread discontent with these appointments, but the legislators responsible didn't want to hear about it.  Thus, the careless,  derivative, negligent, and divisive report that the Task Force of 2014 ultimately produced is the outcome of these legislators' poor choices.  

Mental illness, the spotlight of both reports, is a feminist issue given that Family Court uses accusations of mental illness as a means to deny mothers custody.  Thus, another aspect of the original Commission Report of 2002 and the Task Force of 2014 which I find quite striking is how both are weighted to benefit the father's rights agenda.  

The Members of the Governor's Commission is practically a who's who of father's rights people.  Both Thomas C. Foley and Mr. Pat D'Angelo are long time father's rights people.  I believe Pat D'Angelo was among the original founders of the Divorced Men's Association of Connecticut. Other people such as Dr. Kenneth Robson, Judge Lynda B. Munro, Dr. Sidney Horowitz, and Judge Herbert Gruendel are notorious for their stands in opposition to mothers.  

Likewise, in the Task Force of 2014, members Jennifer Verraneault and retired Judge Thomas Weissmuller are both father's rights advocates.  I don't believe there is an abusive father that Dr. Elizabeth Thayer won't embrace. You have Stephen Grant in the Commission of 2002 and Joseph DiTunno in the Task Force of 2014 both responsible for the distribution of federal government fatherhood initiative money within the CT Judicial Branch.  We can assume they both support fathers in that role.  

The end result, of course, were reports on Family Court that largely support policies and programs that benefit the interests of men.  

For instance, in the Task Force of 2014 there is an extended section on how the CT State Legislature could establish a policy of shared parenting in this state. Shared parenting would be an absolute disaster for the women of the State of Connecticut, particularly those who are victims of domestic violence.  

It is typical of father's rights people that even though so many of the citizens who demanded a hearing on the abuses of family court and who came to testify were women, this Task Force, weighted with father's rights activists, simply took advantage of the political influence these women provided them and pushed forward a father's rights agenda in their final report, thus stabbing those women in the back.  

But this is not my primary point.  I want to address the issue that has now come up in two reports -- this business of blaming people with mental illness for the problem of Family Court abuse.  Can you imagine for a minute if these reports had said something like, the problems of family court arise because of the various character flaws of African-Americans (or whichever minority group is currently unpopular--the Jews, the Hispanics, the Muslims).  

If any group tried to publish a report blaming a particular group based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, class etc.  they would be stopped immediately.  So, why is it acceptable for these reports to make unfounded accusations at folks labeled with mental illness? Somehow this is acceptable?  Isn't this just like the whole gun discussion.  We know that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators, and yet all these conversations in the media about stopping gun violence are all about taking civil rights from people diagnosed with mental illness, even though it has been proven that mental illness is not a decisive factor.  

I'd like to dig in a little deeper here:  who do we mean when we talk about parties who have mental illness? Aren't we really talking about women?  As you know, in our society where gender discrimination and oppression remain rampant, women have many more mental health difficulties than men, particularly depression as the result of the ongoing deprivation of rights and the disrespectful manner in which they are treated.  Not only that, women are far more willing to get the help that they need from mental health professionals because they feel more comfortable with caretaking and helping types of professionals.  

As a result, when women walk into Family Court, they are considerably more likely to have documented mental health histories than men are.  These histories are immediately used against women in family court when custody is under dispute.  

So what these two reports are saying--the Commission Report of 2002 and the Task Force Report of 2014--is that the problem isn't just folks with mental illness; it's those crazy women.  

Such attitudes accord well with what we know about the influence that the massive influx of fatherhood initiative money into Connecticut was having starting in 1996.  This money would have been flowing into Connecticut in a very healthy manner by 2002, just in time for the Commission report.  

But again, this is still not my entire point.  Ok, so the problem is this difficulty with all these women who have mental illness.  Here is what bothers me.   What this really means is that the CT Judicial Branch has no intention of adjusting its methods to address the needs of this very special population--cultural sensitivity be damned.  Instead, it prefers to exploit prejudice and social stigma and declare itself helpless to deal with this group, even though there is every evidence that with the proper accommodations and protections against discrimination, the outcome of legal proceedings can be quite successful with folks who have mental health challenges.

Instead, the way members of the Commission and the Task Force reported it, the Judicial Branch is helpless against this enormous, impenetrable monolith of mental illness that resists any and all attempts the Family Court system implements to address it.  

Based upon this bigoted attitude towards mental illness--in other words, that it is unchangeable and always a negative, family court has used mental health diagnosis as a litmus test for who should get custody, i.e. the fathers.  

But why?  Why this presumption of hopelessness?

Even the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has adopted the recovery model in the work it does here in Connecticut with people who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems.  This means that they operate with the underlying assumption that people can change and that they can improve.  

Unfortunately, the Connecticut Judicial Branch is far from having that approach. The Branch prefers to maintain this hopeless view of people with mental illness so they can use it to advantage in custody switching schemes perpetrated against women. The only reason that Family Court in the State of Connecticut orders psychological evaluations of parties in family court is so that they can find some kind of damning diagnosis (usually for a mother) so that diagnosis can be used to deny custody. For example, a fabricated diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) usually does the trick!

The Connecticut Judicial Branch maintains a policy of discriminating against people with mental health disabilities because it works to their advantage in their war against women.  For years the record shows that the Branch has been rigorous in refusing to comply with the Americans With Disability Act, and particularly disregards its prohibitions against discriminating against people who have disabilities.  This means that people with mental health disabilities who face legal proceedings in custody matters routinely do not receive the accommodations they require under the ADA in order to access those proceedings.  The majority of these people are mothers who are essentially excluded from the process.  

You would think, under the circumstances, that mental health professionals could bring some equity to the situation, but this is not the case.  This is because a good many of these diagnoses are fabricated and pinned on mothers as part of custody switching schemes to transfer custody to abusive fathers.   But there are other reasons as well.

The Commission Report includes some of the history of custody and divorce in Connecticut and mentions how starting in the late 1950s, the Judicial Branch began to bring mental health professionals into the Branch to assist the Courts in custody matters.  This is also when the family services unit of the court was established.  

If mental illness were the problem, you would think that the influx of all these  mental health professionals into the process would eliminate that supposed group with mental illness that is causing the big problem.  However, this is not the case.  

Often, psychologists or psychiatrists hired to do this work produce lengthy and detailed investigative reports full of unsupported gossip and innuendo that simply adds another layer of lies and inaccuracies to the entire proceedings.  Since many of these mental health professionals are adherents of the father's rights movement or receiving father's rights money to write these reports, they are again, frequently weighted against the mothers and used to deny mothers custody.  

What is interesting is that no one tracks what these mental health professionals are doing and holds them accountable.  How can it be that even judges are subjected to performance evaluations, but not mental health professionals?  Is there any evidence at all, anything beyond an intuitive assumption, to indicate that the involvement of mental health professionals in divorce improves outcomes?  Where is the data?  

One guess I would like to venture, however, prior to any such investigation, is that the outcome will show that for the better part, particularly since the influx of fatherhood initiative funding into the family courts, Judges have used older, white male psychologists or psychiatrists such as Dr. Kenneth Robson, men in their 60s and 70s to trash women and transfer custody to the fathers.  

These women who lose custody are the "mentally ill" of the two reports, because, as we all know, mothers will fight for their children to the bitter end and thus "inconvenience" the Court.  Of course, those mothers have to be crazy.  

What this means is that when the two reports talk about people with mental illness causing the problems in family court, they are really talking about mothers.  But what these reports do is describe them in code language that professional insiders within Family Court immediately recognize.  Essentially, this means that women haven't benefited from either of these two investigations into family court abuse.  As per usual, our voices and our life experiences remain absent from the public discussion, as we are labeled as mentally ill and not considered worthy of consideration.  The time has come to change that dynamic.