Last year, I spent a considerable amount of time observing meetings of the "Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care & Custody of Minor Children" which resulted in several reforms of the Guardian Ad Litem system.
At one point during these proceedings, I observed one member of the task force, Attorney Sue Cousineau, harshly and loudly say to her daughter, who was also observing the proceedings along with me,"Don't talk to a crazy person like that" or words to that effect, clearly indicating that she was referring to a fellow task force member, Ms. Jennifer Verraneault who was standing nearby.
As a result, Ms. Verraneault was so upset that she left the hearing room with Rep. Minnie Gonzalez and the proceedings were delayed for a considerable amount of time. I am not sure what they did--whether they reported the incident, or whether Ms. Verraneault merely spoke to Rep. Gonzalez out in the hallway to regain her composure. The bottom line is that Attorney Sue Cousineau's verbal attack was directly harmful and abusive to Jennifer Verraneault and resulted in the disruption of official business of the task force that had been authorized by the Connecticut General Assembly.
At the very least, I felt it was a demonstration of very poor character on the part of Attorney Sue Cousineau, which was particularly reprehensible since she acted in such a manner in front of her own daughter and showed a very poor example to the younger generation.
More to the point, in the light of the recent arrest and conviction of Ted Taupier for 1st and 2nd degree threat, disorderly conduct and breach of peace for an email that was never sent to his supposed victim, how come Attorney Sue Cousineau wasn't immediately arrested for face to face, directly using "fighting words" to her victim, a form of ""disorderly conduct" which ultimately resulted in a "breach of the peace" since it meant interference in Jennifer Verraneault's ability to continue to conduct business which she had been entrusted to carry out by the CT State Legislature.
How come there is one form of justice for legal professionals such as judges and attorneys and another, inferior, form of justice for Connecticut citizens like Ted Taupier or Jennifer Verraneault?
I would also hasten to add that I would characterize Attorney Sue Cousineau's statement as a form of hate speech because the word "crazy" in the sense that she used it, and I heard it, was intended to convey the same meaning that the N word would have if it were directed towards an African-American.
So why do I characterize Attorney Sue Cousineau's words as fighting words? Fighting words doctrine was first established in the United States as a limitation on freedom of speech in the 1942 case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. Here the Supreme Court held that the State has the authority to limit "insulting or 'fighting words" which are those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace." Calling a person "crazy" and implying that such a person should be silenced because they have been defined as such represents a direct infliction of injury.
Clearly, Attorney Sue Cousineau both created an injury and incited an immediate breach of peace when she made a statement indicating her contempt for people with mental health disabilities, one that she knew would upset Jennifer Verraneault and that indeed made it impossible for Ms. Verraneault to continue to participate in official proceedings she was a part of for a considerable period of time.
Further, under 8.4 "Introduction to Breach of Peace and Disorderly Conduct" published by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, the charge of breach of peace includes conduct that includes "abusive or obscene language" I'd say calling someone "crazy" is absolutely abusive.
In regard to disorderly conduct, the statute says that it is "conduct that is grossly offensive, under contemporary community standards, to a person who actually overhears or sees it (for example me), [or] it impedes the lawful activity of that person." State v. Indrisano, supra, 228 Conn. 818. To repeat, Attorney Sue Cousineau's words interfered directly with Ms. Jennifer Verraneault's participation in the task force. Thus, Attorney Cousineau's actions met the standard for disorderly conduct.
Returning to the issue of how Attorney Sue Cousineau's remarks constituted a hate crime, here is how the law sees it. Connecticut hate crime statutes, according to Attorney Christopher Reinhart, are intended to "address certain actions that intimidate or harass another person because of his actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression." Under the hate crime statutes, any conduct that results in the deprivation of a citizen's legally guaranteed rights based upon disability is a crime.
I'd say that Ms. Jennifer Verraneault had the legally guaranteed right to carry out her official responsibilities on that task force without enduring the constant threat that she would be subjected to hate speech from Attorney Sue Cousineau in the course of her duties.
Again, keep in mind that the verbal abuse Attorney Sue Cousineau subjected Ms. Jennifer Verraneault to was face to face, not by email, and also verbalized directly to her, as opposed to arriving indirectly in the kind of whisper down the lane manner that took place in Ted Taupier's situation.
So again, my question is, if Mr. Ted Taupier is facing fines and many years in prison for braggadocio that he did not even intend Judge Elizabeth Bozzutto to know about, how come Attorney Sue Cousineau isn't held to account for what comes across to me as a direct verbal attack on a fellow official in a task force, carried out with the express intention of disrupting Ms. Verraneault's ability to contribute to that task force in a meaningful way.
What's with that double standard?
Going beyond this single incident which is so representative of the kind of discrimination against people with disabilities here in the State of Connecticut, what about the many litigants in family court who have had attorneys or judges falsely accuse them of mental illness with the express intention of denying them their fundamental constitutional and human rights?
How about those legal professionals who bring up litigants' disabilities and then ignore the fact that such litigants have rights under Title II and Title III of the American's With Disabilities Act? Those rights include protection from discrimination, protection from the deprivation of their rights, as well as reasonable modifications which they require in order to obtain access to those rights.
Jesus said in Mathew 7:2-4, For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?"
These are words that Judge Gold should seriously consider.
And Jennifer, if you are reading this, ten to one you still have the right to sue, so keep that in mind.