There was a phase in my life where I was observing trials in Hartford Family Court so I could learn to represent myself pro se. I was watching one such case when the mother stated that she was uncomfortable with my presence because she knew me from Church.
But Attorney Budlong essentially misrepresented the situation to the judge and implied that I was aware, stating "I believe she was present when Judge Ficeto entered the order. I checked with Attorney Gersten and she confirms that in fact she was." Now I can't actually say that Attorney Budlong lied because he uses "attorney speak" and manages to do what I call lying without lying. Because if you look at Attorney Budlong's statement, he prefaces his comment with "I believe..." So he is not stating as a fact that I was present, only that he believes it to be a fact that I was present. Then he proceeds with hearsay for which he cannot be held responsible and states Attorney Gersten "confirms" I was present.
Still, I wasn't even a witness and I didn't even have testimony; I was merely an observer. It is still unclear to me how a sequestration order pertains to a non-witness who is simply there to observe. I certainly didn't hear either judge discuss it.
One thing I do know is that for the last six years, I have been present at several trials of friends as an observer and sometimes as an advocate. I have hung out during breaks with witnesses and with litigants. I have never had any attorney ever bring up any issue regarding sequestration. So, all of a sudden it is a concern in this case where neither attorney even intends to bother to go to trial or ask the witness to provide testimony and they already have a finalized agreement ready to go!
I don't want to perseverate regarding the remaining false accusations that were made to trump up a case against me, for instance, that I accused Attorney Budlong of coercing his client--no but I did say, as previously reported, that she would have to swear that he didn't coerce her--or that I walked up and down the hallway (as if they didn't do the same) glaring at the attorneys--as if they didn't glare at me.
The bottom line is that the Judge ordered me to leave based upon fabricated and trumped up grounds and failed to conduct a proper inquiry into the truth of the matter.
If any attorneys in a case can simply engineer the ejection of observers from a courtroom at whim by concocting a believable but false scenario, how much validity does a state law guaranteeing open courtrooms truly have?
As a side note, I had come to observe these proceedings simply as Lauren's friend, but as a principal writer on behalf of the "Divorce in Connecticut" website, I have media credentials as well. However, Judge Jorge Simon did not allow me the opportunity to inform him about those credentials prior to ejecting me from Court.
When I dropped by the Hartford Courthouse a few days later and directly provided Judge Simon with a copy of those credentials while he was sitting with Jeanne Hayes in the Caseflow office, he was very short and dismissive towards me.
Judges and attorneys of the CT Judicial Branch may not wish to be held accountable by the members of the media, but this is the only way that we can protect our freedoms. Both Judges and attorneys would be the first to protest if those freedoms, which journalists protect by their very presence, weren't available to them.
Now I understand that I am only a citizen journalist and not a member of the traditional media, but legal professionals should keep in mind that we are the backup to the backup, and you'd be surprised how valuable we can be.
The bottom line, though, is that it was quite educational to see how my rights as an American citizen disappeared with the snap of a finger when it came to Judge Simon. This is just a microcosm of the kind of violations of our constitutional rights and the right to due process which occurs daily in the courts in all kinds of cases. At bottom, our rights are only as good as the judges who enforce them.