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Showing posts with label FAMILY COMMISSION. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FAMILY COMMISSION. Show all posts

Saturday, November 7, 2015


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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Here is my favorite Munro story: 

The psychologists that were big into the "custody study" business realized that it if they actually had to write a custody study, someone might actually read it and realize that there was no scientific, psychological or other basis for anything in the report. 

So Horowitz & Krieger perfected the art of delaying, deferring, demanding "feedback sessions" and other dirty tricks to avoid ever having to issue the report. 

Of course, they still got paid for their work but they'd try to make the case settle without having to write anything for which they could be held accountable. The other psychologists started to copy their methods. Then the game became how to bill the greatest number of hours and make life as difficult as possible for the parents to force the family to settle (or just let the crazy people kill each other or the kids) and never have to issue a report. 

However, in some rare cases, they actually had to write a report, which some logical litigant might actually read. 

What to do? 

Answer: get the judge to order that the parents not be permitted to read the report. You make up some reason like the parents might release the report to the public in a manner that would hurt the kids. 

(Remember, in family court fantasyland, the PARENTS are bad for the kids, while the DIVORCE INDUSTRY is good for the kids.) 

Thus, in a Stamford matter, Munro ordered the parents to take the kids to (I think) Horowitz, pay him whatever he asked for, then Munro ordered that the parents not be permitted to read the Custody Evaluation, and then she started issuing orders based on the Custody Evaluation that she had forbade the parents from even reading. At this point, the ultimate goal has been realized: the parents role has been reduced to simply writing checks to the divorce industry. 

True story. This is due process in Connecticut family court. You get to write the check, or you will lose custody of your kids and be incarcerated.


There are lots of Munro stories. My favorite relates to her supposed oversight of Stamford attorney Gary Cohen's "community service." Cohen had been grieved by a former client for extorting $300,000 for himself and another $300,000 for the client's ex wife's lawyer. Miraculously, the grievance panel found that Cohen had engaged in unethical conduct. 

See: (For a good laugh, note the discussion of Cohen's expert, fellow divorce lawyer Gaetano Ferro, who found Cohen's behavior ethical.) 

This case represents, to my knowledge, the only time any member of the Connecticut divorce bar has been sanctioned for any behavior whatsoever. 

Cohen was then required to perform something like 200 hours of "community service" pursuant to a subsequent settlement with the Statewide Grievance Committee. Munro was assigned to "oversee" Cohen's community service. However, Cohen wasn't up doing the required hours of community service. So Munro then gave Cohen credit for community service performed on his behalf by one of his associates, whom Cohen presumably paid. Thus, Munro unilaterally eliminated the Statewide Grievance Counsel's community service penalty. 

Munro subsequently retired from the bench and is now a partner at Pullman & Comley which just happened to be the law firm that represented Cohen in the grievance matter. 

To summarize: Cohen is actually found to have engaged in unethical conduct, Munro unilaterally commutes his community service sentence, and then Cohen's law firm pays back Munro by making her partner. 

Just another day at the office for corruption in Connecticut's family courts . . . .

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


In late 2008, early 2009, Munro was given permission to invite certain non-judicial members of the bar to serve on her "Committee". Later, she changed the name to "Commission", I believe she changed the name on her own, and by no official process. She sent invitations to attorneys before she was given permission to do so, I believe. 

One of the attorneys was invited to join at the very time he managed to extract himself from a highly contentious Stamford case over which Munro had presided, and at exactly the same time she left Stamford for Middletown, after assigning that same contentious case to Middletown where she was heading... This attorney had admitted to a certain jurist that he had been aware of his client's fraud upon the court for nearly a year and requested to be relieved of the case. Before he abandoned his client, he had Munro order the family's pensions liquidated to address, pre-judgment, insane fees that were never before the court and were later found unreasonable, just after he had her invade minor children's trust funds to pay for bogus forensic psychological evaluations with Sidney Horowitz. 

Some of the first items on the Commission's agenda were emergency ex-parte motions for custody, GAL training and fees, and invasions of minor children's "custodial accounts" for payment of forensic psychological testing. These issues were urgent, because Munro had made some crazy rulings and needed some quick rule changes before she was personally sued. (Trust funds are not "custodial accounts" - they are independent legal entities that are specifically protected by state statutes) .

Munro and the attorney who proposed the rule change that would allow the court to order minor children to pay for their family's bogus psychological evaluations and did so under false pretext, for they failed to disclose to the Commission the fact that the case had been before Munro and Munro had ordered minor children's trust funds improperly invaded while she denied the mother a support hearing even after learning the mother and children had no heat or phone service and had been heating the home with an oven, that the mother and children had received zero dollars in child support in 2 years because that special attorney had made sure the mother never had her hearings by scheduling with Munro "emergency status conferences" (15 in 8 months!) during which she granted for him motion that were not even drafted, before canceling that mother's scheduled hearing and ordering the pensions liquidated without a financial hearing for inflated legal fees that later were found to be "unreasonable" but were until that point the cause for the attorney to bankrupt the family by placing a lis pendens on their home and failing to remove it upon court order…

Because all the orders were made "without prejudice and to be addressed at trial" the mother was unable to remedy the situation until trial, which was cancelled by Munro 7 times and ultimately never occurred due to the litigant's being stripped of their net worth. The mother could therefore not appeal.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Recently, I was reviewing the online page for the Family Commission located on the CT Judicial Branch website.  As I did so, I was quite surprised to read commentary in the September 10, 2014 minutes of the Family Commission meeting indicating that the Commission is planning on shutting down its operations. The pertinent wording is as follows:

Under Section V.

"The Commission discussed the past, present, and future missions of the Family Commission.  The Commission was originally created to review and update the practice book rules for family cases.  All members present agreed that the Commission has gone beyond its original charge."

They did?  They said they had gone beyond the original charge?  How?  We would all like to know.  One way, I would suggest, is to become involved in the legislative process and personally write some of the Connecticut General Statutes.  This strikes me as a violation of the concept of the separation of powers.

To continue:

"The members also agreed that it was no longer necessary to meet on a regularly scheduled basis [emphasis added].  The Commission will continue to meet from time to time when there are issues brought to its attention by the bench and the bar for discussion.  All members agree that the family bar has always been comfortable bringing important matters to the attention of the bench when needed [emphasis added]."

What does that mean?  Does it mean that in cases the family bar speaks to judges in chambers and pretty much gets its way?  If so, this is a privilege self represented parties clearly aren't allowed!

So, in essence, they are taking discussions regarding the operation of family court outside of the public eye and into back corridors and private rooms.

I wonder if the increased scrutiny on the operations of the Family Court Section of the CT Judicial Branch has led to this outcome? I am aware that the much maligned AFCC has shut down its operations here in Connecticut.  Could the one event have led to the other?  Who knows?  One thing is for certain, the Family Commission has certainly not appreciated the increased scrutiny on its activities which has included a considerable number of interested citizens and family court victims attending its proceedings.

I reviewed the number of meetings of the Family Commission which have taken place from its inception in 2008 up to the present.  There has definitely been a considerable decrease in meetings and an increase in the cancellations of meetings as the public has taken it upon itself to observe in person many of the Family Commission meetings, and has expressed greater concern about the misdeeds of family court and its exploitation of Connecticut citizens.  

A chart following this trend is posted below:


2008                     5                                              0

2009                     7                                              1

2010                     7                                              0

2011                     8                                              1

2012                     4                                             3

2013                     6                                             3

2014                     3                                             2

2015                     1                                             0

I also think it is interesting that the founding members of the Family Commission have remained on the Commission for the entire seven year period that it has been in existence.  While the Family Commission has added additional members, earlier members have stayed.  So the culture of this Commission has remained the same, and the people dominating the Commission from the start and establishing the agenda on a meeting to meeting basis has remained steady.

Some of these legal professionals whose names dominate the Commission are known AFCC members or legal professionals whose names are considered notorious among family court critics because they are perceived as corrupt.

The names of the founding Commission members are as follows:

Hon. Holly Abery-Whetstone
Hon. Sandra Sosnoff Baird
Hon. John Boland
Attorney Steven Dembo
Hon. Anne Dranginis
Attorney Gaetano Ferro
Hon. Steven Frazzini* (no longer a member)
Attorney Constance Frontis
Hon. Elaine Gordon
Attorney Johanna Greenfield
Hon. Lynda Munro (Chair)
Attorney Maureen Murphy* (Now a judge)
Attorney Thomas Parrino
Hon. Elliott Solomon

Members who have been added to the Commission since its original founding are as follows:

Hon. Elizabeth Bozzuto (Current Chair)
Attorney Michael Blanchard
Attorney Michael Fasano
Attorney Deborah Grover
Attorney John Colella
Attorney Alan Palmer
Hon. Barry Pinkus

These are the individuals who apparently no longer feel they ought to be held accountable to the public, despite the fact that it is their failed policies that have generated so much dissatisfaction in recent years.  

Judge Elliott Solomon is one judge who has stated that he is responsible for training pretty much all of the judges in Hartford Family Court and that they would all do what he said.  If so, he is the first one who should answer for the gross miscarriages of justice which has taken place there in recent years.