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Monday, April 1, 2019

HOW FATHER'S RIGHTS PEOPLE HAVE IT ALL WRONG WHEN IT COMES TO FAMILY COURT REFORM!

In a recent hearing at the CT State Legislature, father's rights activists demanded that legislators and citizens define the problem with family court as one of parental alienation.  They are wrong, and I will tell you why. 

My introduction to the CT family court reform movement was around 2011 when Keith Harmon Snow, author of "The Worst Interests of the Child", contacted me to discuss the ways in which victims of domestic violence were losing custody to their abusers. Next, on or around 2013, father's rights advocates seized control of the family court reform movement and reframed its agenda.  

Instead of demonstrating concern regarding protective mothers, they insisted that the problem of family court could only be traced back to the celebrated [or debunked, depending upon your perspective,] theory of parental alienation (PA), or parental alienation syndrome (PAS).  This recently culminated in the raised House Bill 7393 [now withdrawn] which proposed either jail or fines for those whom the Court determines have committed it. 

The Bill also included two separate "friendly parent" provisions which would have guaranteed that anyone who reported domestic violence or child sexual abuse would promptly lose custody.  After all, it is most unfriendly to assert that you or your child are the victims of abuse.  [Ok, I know, not funny.  I'm just joking.]

To begin, for those who do not know, what is parental alienation, or parental alienation syndrome?  

For a definition, I'm taking the easy route, and I will simply quote wikipedia. Parental alienation syndrome is, "a term introduced by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985 to describe a distinctive suite of behaviors in children that includes showing extreme but unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent. Observed repeatedly in families involved in child custody litigation, these behaviors result from manipulation or undue influence, typically by the other parent who may be attempting to prevent an ongoing relationship between a child and other family members after family separation or divorce." 

The clincher in this discussion is the statement that comes next, "The syndrome has not been accepted by either the medical or legal communities and Gardner's theory has been criticized by legal and mental health scholars for lacking scientific validity and reliability."  

Yet despite the fact that this syndrome has no scientific validity, father's rights people insist upon embedding it in our laws here in CT and making it a central factor in all custody determinations.  

Again, in doing this, I believe that fathers' rights people have it all wrong.  

Why?  

If you have a problem, then you need to look for solutions.  However, these solutions will not work as long as the problems haven't been defined properly.  When it comes to the broken family court system here in CT, I have been increasingly disgusted with the incapacity of many advocates -- father's rights advocates in particular, the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children (2013 - 2014), members of the legislature and the CT Judicial Branch -- to define the problem in an intelligent manner.  

How can you begin to think of developing policies or crafting bills when you have no idea what is going on?  For me personally, as an advocate, I don't get that approach. 

For instance, blaming the victims. For too long now, starting with the "Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children" of December 2002, experts on family court, i.e. attorneys, judges, mental health professionals -- have placed the blame for the problems of family court on the litigants themselves. In the words of the Governor's report, which were again quoted in the report of the Task Force on the Care and Custody of Minor Children (2014), the problem arises from "a small minority of parents [which] engages in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems, or the force of personality."  

The theory that character flaw or mental illness repeats itself in fathers' rights advocates insistence that the problem can be understood almost solely within the context of parental alienation syndrome.  Also, that the solution should be strict punishments for PAS, i.e. jail and hefty financial fines, as well as forced shared parenting.  But is this true?

For a closer look at this phenomenon, take a look at the hearing which took place earlier this month on February 5, 2019. I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday reviewing the entire video which is a little over 9 hours long.  For at least the first three hours of this testimony, viewers were subjected to lengthy lectures on parental alienation theory.  First came Dr. William Bernat, a parental alienation expert, who broke down the theory to its 17 recognized behaviors and 8 symptoms.  After he had completed his testimony, we were forced to listen to Dr. Steve Miller, a frequent flyer at the CT Legislature, who talked about parental alienation syndrome as an epidemic plaguing our nation.  Once he was done, then we were bombarded with more lectures on parental alienation from Linda Gottlieb, who I've been informed is not a psychologist. She talked more about planting false memories and false allegations in the light of parental alienation. 

Then after that, we were required to hear the testimony of Ms. Joan Kloth-Zenard who runs the organization "PAS Intervention"--she apparently is qualified by an MFT, whatever that is, as opposed to an LMFT which is what we would ordinarily be looking for.  What is interesting about Joan's testimony is that, for an example, she described a case where the mother was stabbed in the abdomen and labia by the father, and yet the father still got custody.  To me, this looked to be a case of domestic violence.  However, this is the very interesting twist on the parental alienation movement in that father's rights people have couched this theory in the language of the domestic violence movement and so many people, including women, have come to believe that parental alienation theory is just another word for domestic violence.  That, in itself, is an entirely, different, but interesting story that I will hopefully touch upon in another blog.  

Let me get back to my point. This is the dilemma that arises when folks define the problem of family court as a mental health problem among litigants, whether you want to define it as parental alienation or some other ailment.  It simply isn't true.  

If you look at the Governor's Report of December 2002, there is one paragraph in that report on that nasty, chronic, minority of litigators who they said cause all the trouble.  After that, you get the 65 page detailed report regarding all the systems malfunctions within the family court system itself which actually cause the problems in family court.  

Likewise, once you plow through the insistent litany in regard to PA or PAS in the first 3 hours of the video of the February 5, 2019 day of testimony, which father's rights people provided as the ideological context for the later citizen testimony, you will find 6 additional hours of testimony from at least 30 victims of family court detailing the many systems breakdowns within the CT Family Court system itself.  In other words, the problem is not PA or PAS.  The problem is a broken family court system.  

One person spoke about the fact that there are no consequences for disobeying orders, a failure to obey the ADA, and judges would not listen to her testimony or look at her evidence. She lost everything, her job, her home, her income.  Here is another person who spoke of the collusion between court actors, the failure to obey the constitution, in chambers hearings where parents are not included, impacts including alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness, bankruptcy, trauma, and PTSD.  Another person spoke of the denial of due process, attorneys hiding exculpatory evidence, having to be in court so often it was like a full time job, his case discussed behind closed doors without the parties present, financial costs of up to $300,000 - $500,000 and even more.  

Again, corruption, collusion, racketeering, slander, perjury, lack of ethics, no checks and balances, absolute immunity for negligent and incompetent GALs and other vendors, failure to adhere to the rules of court or case law, financial and emotional blackmail, hired guns, perverted custody evaluations and psychological evaluations, no oversight, no accountability, false allegations, inexperienced and unqualified court personnel, unnecessary continuances, documents that disappear from the court files, transcripts that are tampered with, and on and on.  This is exactly the same testimony we heard during the daylong testimony on February 9, 2014 and the breakdown of family court here in CT.

Forced shared parenting, punishments for so-called alienation, and for not being "friendly", will not correct engrained and deliberately engineered systems failures which are kept in place for profit.  In fact, given the introduction of harsh punishments, settling disputes over whether one parent did or did not alienate the other, will invite additional corrupt vendors into the courtroom, and exacerbate already existing problems within the system.

These systems problems were originally detailed in the Governor's Commission report of 2002 and, for the better part, they have gotten worse, and not better.  

Parental Alienation theories are about the gender wars taking place in America.  Forced shared parenting is about the Men's Rights movement and the backlash against the Women's Rights movement of the 1970s. It is about ideology, and it is about indoctrination. If you talk to the people who promote PAS theory, you quickly get the idea that these are people who act as though they are in a cult reciting their treasured mantras.  

Ideology is like religion.  If you try to enshrine it in your statutes and laws, it will lead to endless confusion. Thinking we can solve the problem of family court by sprinkling holy water on it in the form of the ideology of parental alienation, I think is a recipe for disaster.  

Instead, if we are serious about resolving the problems of family court, we have to do the hard work of looking again at the system itself.  In other words, we have to investigate the machinery of the CT Family Court system which is operating on a daily basis. We have to examine what works, and what does not. It is a difficult and painstaking job, one which often does not have any easy answers, but it is at least a fairly concrete task from which we can garner measurable results. 

In 2002, every member of the Governor's Commission is notable for being at the center of the corruption and malfeasance in family court which we are looking at today.  The membership list is literally a who's who of legal and mental health professionals who later became famous for exploiting and taking advantage of family court victims.  It is paramount that we make sure nothing like that happens again.  When these kinds of criminal court actors take advantage of Moms and Dads, those parents are not mentally ill, they are victims of corrupt family court practices. 

This doesn't mean that the Commission didn't do a good job of laying the groundwork for future reform in its examination of the family court system. It's just that they immediately ignored the outcome of the report and used the network they estalished doing the work to exploit and harm family court victims.  I  simply believe we need to retrieve that work and use it to continue to make progress here and now.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

DAN LYNCH TO JUDICIARY COMMITTEE "COURT REPORTERS DOUBLE DIPPING!"

Dan Lynch's Testimony in Opposition to Raised S.B. No. 844
AN ACT CONCERNING LEGAL TRANSCRIPT REQUIREMENTS AND THE FEES CHARGED BY COURT REPORTERS.

This proposed Bill, as currently drafted, purports to amend Chapter 874 of the General Statutes, the Chapter titled “Court Reporters,” and which also by reference is impacted by C.G.S. § 51-12 (Chapter 870, Judicial Department).
  • This proposed Bill conflicts with numerous statutes which prevent state employees from conducting private business while on state paid time, using state owned equipment and supplies and from within state facilities

  • For more than a decade, Connecticut taxpayers have been defrauded by the illegal practices being condoned by and within the Connecticut Judicial Branch whereby certain of its employees are being allowed to “double dip,” collecting hourly pay (including benefits and pension) while simultaneously charging additional fees for transcription services rendered for private and public parties during that same time

  • Comprehensive review of the entire Chapter 874 is needed to ensure it comports with legal and ethical requirements, as well as current capabilities of technology

  • For more than a decade, some have sought to profit from loopholes in existing statutes which have not kept pace with the significant advancements in technology, as well as the changes regarding hiring of court personnel vs. per diem contractors

The Judicial Branch has known, but remained largely silent as to the highly questionable ethical and legal practices concerning state employees:

o conducting private enterprise while on state paid time
conducting private enterprise from within state facilities (courthouses) 
o conducting private enterprise using state owned equipment and office supplies
page1image15088 page1image15248

QUESTIONS REGARDING THIS PROPOSED LEGISLATION:
  1. Which members of the Judiciary Committee have raised S.B. No.844?
  2. What is the specific rationale being used to allow and codify into our statutes an abusive and illegal practice which should be terminated?
  3. What is the justification for allowing state employees to profit incrementally from the very work product that is already created and owned by the public?
Committee on Court Recording Monitors and Court Reporters (November 4, 2010)
https://www.jud.ct.gov/Committees/pst/court_rep/Final_Report.pdf

Whistleblower Complaint (May 21, 2015)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8b75uSVYHH-OGdyd05Dc2ExWWs

Yankee Institute for Public Policy (Marc E. Fitch, March 7, 2018)
https://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2018/03/audit-finds-court-reporters-make-extra-1-million-in-side-work-boosting-salaries-and-pensions/

CT-N Coverage of Joint Legislative Committee (State Auditor’s Reports, July 9, 2018)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

THE LOW DOWN ON SUBPOENAS FOR A SELF REPRESENTED PARTY IN CT!



If you represent yourself in family court, you will have a difficult challenge ahead of you as I've explained in previous posts.  




What is your status?

The official position of the CT Judicial Branch in family court is articulated in a handout that they give you when you submit your appearance as a self represented party.  It states as follows:

"A self-represented person must abide by the same rules of procedure and the rules of evidence as lawyers. It is the responsibility of self represented parties to determine what needs to be done and to take the necessary action."

While this seems reasonable on face value, if you dig down deeper, keeping things equal between self represented parties and attorneys is literally impossible.

One reason for this is that the Rules of Procedure in "The CT Practice Book", and the Rules of Evidence are encylopedic and there is no way an average person would be able to wade through them and figure them out on time for a hearing or anything of that kind.

Second, self represented parties do not have the same power and authority that attorneys do when it comes to obtaining documents and ensuring that their witnesses are available for Court hearings and/or trials.  While attorneys have the power to issue subpoenas at will, self represented parties cannot do so.  

In other words, self represented parties do not have subpoena power. Unlike attorneys, if they wish to issue a subpoena, self represented parties must ask a judge for permission, and God help them if the judge doesn't want to give them permission.

What is a subpoena?

According to Findlaw, a subpoena is "a request for the production of documents, or a request to appear in court or other legal proceeding." There are two kinds of subpoenas. One is a subpoena duces tecum (pronounced "doo-seez tee-kum"), which requires you to produce documents, materials, or other tangible evidence. The second is a subpoena ad testificandum (pronounced "ad test- te-fi-kan-dum"), requires you to testify before a court, or other legal authority.

Why is this important?  Because proceedings in family court are testimony driven and evidence driven (through documents, tape recordings, video, etc.).  If you want to prove the correctness of your legal position in family court, you will need both.  Without them, you will lose your case. Period.

This is why the power of subpoena is so vital and why not having that power in a family court proceeding is so damaging to self represented parties and why it puts such parties in a position of considerable weakness in contrast to attorneys.

So how does the Family Court system handle subpoenas with self represented parties?

What it does is require self represented parties to request that a judge sign off on all subpoenas.  So if you want to subpoena either evidence or witnesses, you must file an application with a judge, who will then be required to approve it. I will post the link to the application form you would use below. At the same time as you file an application, you must also fill out the subpoena itself and file it along with your application form.  See below:

Application for Subpoena:

Subpoena:

This seems logical, doesn't it!  Ok, but this is the problem.  Most judges will simply refuse to approve your request for a subpoena.  They just won't.  You'd think you would have the procedural due process right to command the presence of your witnesses and obtain necessary documents to prove your position in Court, but you don't--at least not according to CT Family Court judges.  Lawyers do, not self-represented parties.

In my experience, when it came to obtaining documents from banks and corporations, my Judge declined to sign subpoenas on my behalf but instead ordered my ex to sign authorizations to obtain access to the documents.  So how did my ex sign those authorizations?  Slowly.  Further, as all judges and attorneys know, authorizations do not have the force of law. This means the banks and corporations essentially refused to cooperate, or later cooperated with great reluctance so getting the documents ended up being like pulling teeth, and I still didn't get the entire set.  Plus, I had to pay for the entire expense, not only for the copies of documents for me, but an additional set of copies for my ex.  Go figure.

So this is the paradox.  They tell you that you must act in Court exactly like an attorney, but then they don't give you the same power and authority of an attorney to pursue your case.  Not fair? Well, too bad for you.

Is there any recourse if a judge refuses to grant your application for a subpoena?

My recommendation is that whenever you submit a request for a subpoena that you attach to that request an affidavit indicating why the subpoena is necessary.  In addition to a very clear and concise statement as to the need for that particular witness or documentary evidence, the content of this affidavit would be as follows:

If the subpoena is for an expert witness, then you would include  the following information:  1)  The date when you submitted the required "Notice of Expert Witness" to the Court; 2) Confirmation that you sent the expert witness' report to the opposing party as required by Court Rules and that you have included the witness' name in your trial compliance in advance of trial.  

If you have a fact witness, then you would simply indicate that you have included the witness' name in your trial compliance in advance of trial.  

In regard to documents that you wish to subpoena, include in your affidavit exactly why those documents are important and indicate that you have listed the documents you anticipate receiving via the subpoena in your trial compliance.  So even though you don't have them yet, you list them and put the word (anticipated) in brackets to indicate you expect them to be produced per your due process right.  If you don't know quite what they are exactly, you come up with a reasonably fitting description.  This way your request is on the record in another location.

If it turns out that, despite the fact that you carefully filled out the forms appropriately and you submitted a well written affidavit, the judge still denies your request for a subpoena, as often occurs, you still have the option of requesting a hearing to have your application reconsidered.  See below the form you would need to fill out for such a hearing.

Request For Hearing/Denied Application for Issuance of a Subpoena

Of course, this is ridiculous.  Can you imagine how much time it takes to fill out the forms, be denied, submit an affidavit, resubmit request, be denied, request a hearing, wait for hearing, be denied, etc. etc. etc.  This can continue for weeks, meanwhile the day of trial is looming on the horizon and you have no idea whether you can actually present your case in a competent manner because you are being denied access to witnesses and documentation necessary to do so!

But that's all in a day's work when it comes to how the CT Family Court screws self-represented parties.  I am aware that, since my day, the website for the CT Judicial Branch has been crammed with all sorts of information and advice for self represented parties.  If you didn't know how the system works and you just looked at the website, you'd think life was delightful for self represented parties.  Bottom line, however, is that no matter how they have prettied up the website in a PR campaign, the practice of the law in family court has remained unchanged and self represented parties are just as disadvantaged as ever before.  I hope everyone gets that from this discussion.

Where do you stand if you are able to jump all these hoops?

For one thing, you are completely stressed out because in the weeks prior to trial you just didn't know if you'd have the witnesses or documents you needed to present your case.  You've probably done double or triple the work preparing to argue a case despite not having what you needed.  Then you ended up getting discovery after all.  At the last minute, you might have found new documents with completely new evidence.  You realize that the expert you thought wouldn't come is now going to be there.   So now you have to rewrite your argument again.  That's one scenario.

Another scenario is that the opposing party will simply ignore the subpoena or dispute the subpoena. What the judge is supposed to do is enforce the subpoena, but often he or she just won't do that. The same goes for subpoenas sent to banks or other corporations--they'll ignore them or dispute them, and you won't be able to do anything to force them to comply because the judge will refuse to take action on your behalf.

This is not all the aggravation you are likely to deal with.  For instance, when you get all your witnesses to Court, most likely at considerable expense--most require several thousands of dollars to appear--the Judge will refuse to allow them to provide testimony.  No, the Judge may not be so blatant as to say you can't put your witnesses on the stand!  What the Judge might do is continue the trial to a later date so you would have to go through another round of requesting subpoenas to get them to come back.  Plus, you would have to pay the witnesses additional witness fees. As for any documentary evidence you may wish to submit, unless you have memorized every detail of the Rules of Evidence, good luck getting them accepted by the Court as evidence!  In my case, I had 90% of my exhibits denied admission as evidence.

I hope you see how self-represented parties are completely screwed here.  This is why I consider them so heroic because the odds against them are extraordinary.  This is one observation I have in regard to the subpoena situation for self represented parties.  The other observation I have is how hypocritical the CT Family Court system is to conduct business in this manner.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

NEW STUDY INDICATES THAT THE USE OF PARENTAL ALIENATION THEORY RENDERS ABUSE INVISIBLE IN FAMILY COURT!



"This Article provides a brief literature survey, focusing on the theory of “parental alienation” which operates as a primary vehicle for making abuse invisible in custody litigation. This Article reports on the co-authors’ pilot study, which begins empirically mapping family courts’ uses of this theory. These pilot results provide preliminary empirical support for the critiques from the field." 

For more information on this issue, continue reading the article at the link below:

https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1576&context=lawineq

Sunday, December 9, 2018

THE HATE FATHERS GIVE!

By Elizabeth A. Richter


have spent a considerable time now in the family court reform movement here in the State of CT and around the country.  What I find notable in the movement is the considerable divide between how father's behave and how mother's behave.  

Overall, mothers are generally challenging but open to discussion.  They are even kind and sympathetic to fathers, many of whom will engage with mothers and tell them their stories about how they've been oppressed.  

In contrast, fathers will be all sympathetic and sweet to mothers who agree to their father supremacist agenda.  However, should Moms not agree with them, fathers are very aggressive towards mothers and try to denigrate their stories of oppression, and deny the existence of abuse.  

Father's rights people require that you agree to their agenda, or else they become extremely hate filled and abusive.  

As an example of this, I thought I would share on this blog the kind of hate filled comments that father's rights people have directed towards me on Facebook.  

Now, I should acknowledge that I am a pretty straightforward individual.  There are many times when I've posted outright statements on my Facebook page that other people do not agree with. Most people enjoy challenging me on my opinions and exchanging views with me, and I usually enjoy that experience and learn a lot from doing so.  This is not true of father's rights people.  As you will see from the screen shots of the hate filled messages I've received, the level of malignant hatred among fathers rights towards Moms like me who don't immediately agree with them is extraordinary.  

See below:

Here are some comments father's rights people made suggesting that I kill myself.










Aside from the many texts sent to me suggesting I kill myself, there were a deluge of comments using the word "cunt" and "bitch" both public and private, and using quite violent imagery.  I would say I received well over a hundred of these remarks and I really couldn't keep up with the private messages I received so I just ignored them.  This kind of hate filled rhetoric is standard online towards advocates like me who are trying to speak up for Moms. 

Keep in mind as you read these comments that these are the fathers who are given preference in family court simply by virtue of being fathers.  These are the kinds of men who have been able to seize custody from good Moms using hate filled, psychopathic methods of legal assault with the collusion of an only too willing family court system. Now, I would not say that all Dads are like this--absolutely not. Many fathers are good fathers who work to benefit their children post divorce.Unfortunately, the father's rights movement has bred a level of malignant hatred towards mothers in their advocates which has garnered them the designation of being a hate movement.  

See additional comments below:


















Again, as I said, these comments go on and on.  I received dozens of these remarks simply because I tried to open a dialogue to discuss some of the more challenging aspects of child custody. I am posting these examples because it is important not to delude yourself when it comes to advocacy for family court reform when it comes to men. The hate that fathers feel, their fury that women are asking for their rights, their indignation that women will no longer accept being punching bags either verbally or physically appears to be boundless.  Be warned.  

While father's rights folks talk equality, the reality is that the last thing on earth they want is equality. The legislation they push, their agendas, the outcomes of their strategies show very concrete evidence of this fact.

Monday, December 3, 2018

THE LATE DR. KARIN HUFFER SPEAKS ABOUT HER THEORY OF LEGAL ABUSE SYNDROME!

DR. KARIN HUFFER, TRUSTED ADVOCATE FOR FAMILY COURT VICTIMS, HAS DIED!


Dr. Karin Huffer passed away peacefully at her home in Colorado surrounded by family and loved ones on October 24, 2018. Born October 18, 1941 in Pocatello, Idaho to the late Adolph and Jane Pearson and raised in Shoshone County between the towns of Wallace and Mullan. 

She received her bachelors in Psychology from the University of Idaho, her masters in Psychology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and her Doctorate of Counseling and Forensic Psychology from Kings University. Dr. Huffer was most proud of her advocacy work which drew upon her forty years of experience as a counselor in Clark County, Nevada behavioral schools along with her private practice which focused on the recognition of post trauma stress and the use of ADAAA accommodations as a means of intervention. 

Karin was the beloved wife of the late James ("JD") Huffer. She was preceded in death by her grandmother, Karin Ingeborg Johnson; grandfather, Peter Adolph Pearson; and dearly beloved dog, Hudson. Karin is survived by her sons, Jason Huffer and Jordan Huffer; and dear friends, Billi Gremain, Jorge Medina, and Meryl Lanson. 

Those who wish may donate in Karin's name to Equal Access Advocates Scholarship Fund. The memorial service will be held at the South Florida National Cemetery at a time to be announced followed by a celebration of life for all who wish to join.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

LIST OF JUDGES UNDER REVIEW FOR REAPPOINTMENT! SOME MAJOR NAMES HERE!

NOTICE OF EVALUATION OF 
INCUMBENT JUDGES WHO SEEK REAPPOINTMENT

The terms of the following Judges of the State of Connecticut will expire during the year 2020 and the nominations by the Governor will come before the Judicial Selection Commission for review commencing in February 2019.

There are 14 judges with terms expiring in 2020:
 
         SUPERIOR COURT
                                                 
                                      Hon. John F. Blawie
Hon. Patrick L. Carroll, III
Hon. Anna M. Ficeto
Hon. Donna Nelson Heller
Hon. Frank A. Iannotti
Hon. Maureen M. Murphy
Hon. Sybil V. Richards
Hon. Dan Shaban
Hon. Kenneth L. Shluger
Hon. Hillary B. Strackbein
Hon. Mark H. Taylor
Hon. Theodore R. Tyma
Hon. Elpedio N. Vitale

SENIOR JUDGE

Hon. Jorge A. Simón


Comments regarding the reappointment of any of the Judges on the Reappointment List for 2020 may be submitted to the Judicial Selection Commission, 18-20 Trinity Street, Hartford, CT 06106 on or before January 31, 2019.  Reappointment interviews of the listed Judges will commence in February 2019 and continue through June 2019.  Accordingly, comments received after January 31, 2019 will be considered if received prior to a Judge's reappointment interview.  Anonymous submissions will be considered but afforded less weight than signed submissions.  


                                        Robert S. Bello,
                                        Chairperson


Sunday, October 21, 2018

FULL VERSION OF OP-ED BY MARY LEE A. KIEMAN PRESIDENT AND CEO OF YWCA GREENWICH FROM STAMFORD ADVOCATE!

Mary Lee A. Kieman, YMCA
"Domestic violence is a crime that affects people of all races, genders, religions and income levels. It is also a crime that often doesn’t end when the victim leaves the abuser. Taking the step to leave an abuser is monumental for a victim, and leaving is when violence is likely to escalate. The reasons for staying are complicated, which is why it often takes many tries before a victim can leave.
A cruel turn of events often happens after the victim leaves the has had the courage to leaves the abuser: Abusers often continue to assert power over victims by using civil and criminal court systems to their advantage through threats, intimidation, and using legal maneuvers to maintain control. Legal abuse happens whenever an abuser misuses the legal system to re-victimize his or her partner.
Victims quickly discover the complexities and challenges of the legal system. While the system is set up to be impartial, receiving the best representation is often based on the ability to pay for a lawyer. Since abusers often control the family finances, they are often able to obtain experienced legal representation, while the victim is self-represented or less well-represented by legal counsel.
In addition, the abuser continues to assert power and control over the victim by manipulating the court system in their favor using tactics like:
Refusing to agree to reasonable custody agreements or dragging out court battles. Abusers can suddenly show interest in parenting when they had not been involved with the children in the past.
Abusing the right to file motions to keep the victim tied up in court and exhaust the victim’s financial resources with legal fees.
Applying for restraining orders without the threat of violence from the victim.
Refusing to comply with court orders, forcing victims to spend time and money enforcing the orders.
Portraying the victim as an unfit parent and/or making false reports to Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Claiming the victim abuses drugs or alcohol and using this claim against the victim.
“Shopping around” for attorneys, thereby creating a conflict of interest for attorneys and preventing these attorneys from representing the victim.
Requesting continuances to prolong proceedings and/or not showing up to court for scheduled appearances, when the victim has had to arrange child care, call out of work, or pay her attorney.
Not only are these tactics costly, but they also cause additional emotional stress for the victim. In fact, according to Dr. Karin P. Huffer, a marriage and family therapist, the consequence of being abused through the legal system can cause a condition known as Legal Abuse Syndrome, a form of post traumatic stress disorder caused by the continued abuse of power, betrayal, or fraud within the legal system.
What can we do to address legal abuse?
First, we need to continue to raise awareness that abuse of the legal system is a powerful form of domestic abuse that enables an abuser to retain power and control over the victim.
Second, better education and training about how abusers use the legal system to continue to victimize their partners must be provided to judges, lawyers, court advocates, police officers and other professionals who treat victims of domestic violence.
Third, victims of domestic abuse also need advice and counsel on how to determine the best representation for themselves, including interviewing multiple lawyers, finding a lawyer who has experience in litigating domestic violence cases, and finding a lawyer who will take the time to deeply understand the full history of the victim’s abuse, so they can best represent the victim’s interests.
Earlier this year, YWCA Greenwich announced the opening of the YWCA Greenwich Civil Legal Clinic. The clinic, run by two YWCA volunteers who are attorneys, is providing consultations for YWCA Greenwich domestic abuse clients who need help filling out legal paperwork; help with court documents; assistance creating financial affidavits; advice on motions that they need to file; and educational consultation advice on what to look for in a lawyer.
Abuse of the legal system is another “hoop” that victims of domestic abuse often go through to be free of the abuser. Join YWCA Greenwich in raising awareness about this powerful form of abuse and supporting victims of domestic abuse in our community. To provide financial support for the Civil Legal Clinic and the work of YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services, donate to the Purple Purse Challenge at www.ywcagreenwich.org/purplepurse. All of all funds raised this month will go to support the work of YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services.
If you, or someone you know, is in an abusive situation, contact YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services at 203-622-0003. All services are free and confidential. You don’t have to fight abuse alone."
Mary Lee A. Kiernan is president and CEO of YWCA Greenwich.