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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


By Elizabeth A. Richter

In the fall of 2014, I began to report on the inappropriate relationship between the CT Judicial Branch and the CT Media via The Judicial-Media Committee established by the CT Judicial Branch. The following are links to the articles I wrote on this subject:

Since this story broke, I have attempted to obtain information from the CT Media regarding how they could agree to such an obviously unethical arrangement with the CT Judicial Branch.  In preparation for this particular article, on August 4, 2015 I had my offices send out the following standard letter to a broad range of broadcast and print reporters:

Dear    :

As you may know, The Divorce in Connecticut website has called into question the Media's involvement in the CT Judicial Branch's Judicial-Media Committee.  For some of this commentary, please see the link below:

At this time, I am preparing to write another blog in connection to this issue on behalf of Divorce in Connecticut.  I am interested in getting your response to the charge that the Media's involvement in the Judicial-Media Committee represents a breach of its journalistic ethics.  Can you provide a comment to me in regard to this issue?

Thank you very much for your time and attention to this matter.


This inquiry was sent to the following journalists:

1. Carolyn Lumsden, Hartford Courant
2. Tom Condon, Hartford Courant
3. Andrew Julien, Hartford Courant
4. Peter Pach, Hartford Courant
5. Thomas Scheffey, CT Law Tribune
6. Karen Florin, The Day of New London
7. David Ward, WFSB-TV, Channel 3
8. David Iversen, WTNH-TV, Channel 8

I also sent an inquiry to Mr. Paul Singley, the current President of the CT Society of Professional Journalists.

I did not hear back from a single one of these journalists in response to my inquiry.  My only way of understanding this is that CT journalists as a whole do not think that they need to be accountable to the public for providing accurate information in articles and broadcasts they present.  To me this comes across as arrogant and irresponsible.

I first attempted to obtain information regarding the Judicial-Media Committee on September 16, 2014 when I reached out to Nancy Schoeffler, Deputy Metro Editor of The Hartford Courant who had just joined the Committee. In my first email, I discussed the issue of audio recordings and persons with disabilities which had been a focus of the Committee. I stated, "I thought it might interest you to know that several litigants with disabilities have requested the opportunity to have audio recordings of the legal proceedings in their legal matters and have faced obstruction and inconsistent rulings from judges and administrators in response to those requests." A report dated 2009 on audio recordings in judicial proceedings produced by the Judicial-Media Committee had made it clear that persons with disabilities had the right to those recordings.

In response, Ms. Nancy Schoeffler responded, "Thanks for your very interesting letter." She continued to say she was new to the committee and would need to become more informed before she could answer to my concerns. She mentioned that the next meeting of the Committee would be in January and said that as the date of the meeting drew closer that she'd like to meet with me stating as follows, "I'd like to meet with you to discuss it a bit closer to the time of the meeting, perhaps in November of early December."

I followed up on that very same day with a few more details regarding the ADA and finished up by mentioning what was most important to me, i.e. my ethical concerns regarding the existence of the Judicial-Media Committee itself. These comments were as follows:

"There is a serious question out there that litigants have as to why the Media such as The Hartford Courant has not investigated the judicial corruption that plagues the CT Judicial Branch, particularly in connection to family Court where the stories are really tragic and saddening." I stated that as I investigated this issue, "I stumbled across this Judicial-Media Committee where it appears that members of the Media are socially interacting with Judges and Attorneys on this Committee, spending time interacting with one another, establishing relationships and building trust, to the point where I am beginning to wonder whether the media has been able to maintain its objectivity under the circumstances and whether the media is capable of doing the kind of hard hitting investigative reporting it should be doing because it has been kind of waylaid and pacified by the intentional friendship building of the CT Judicial Branch."

I finished up this email by addressing Nancy directly, "I just wanted to run that by you because I may eventually write about these matters. Do you have any thoughts on this?"

I sent a follow up email to Nancy Schoeffler expressing similar concerns on October 4, 2014 and also October 27, 2014 and received no response from Ms. Schoeffler. My October 27, 2014 email stated, "I believe that the ongoing meetings between media representatives and employees of the CT Judicial Branch is fundamentally unethical and unfair to Family Court Litigants whose concerns have largely been abandoned because members of the media have lost their ability to be objective regarding the corruption of the CT Judicial Branch and its wrongdoing because of the friendships they have formed with judges, attorneys, and judicial branch employees."

I did not receive any response from Ms. Nancy Schoeffler in response to either of these emails.  I do have a problem with Ms. Schoeffler thanking me and inviting me to fantasy meetings and subsequently blowing me off.

I again wrote to Ms. Schoeffler on December 29, 2014 stating, "It is my view that the special relationship which the CT Judicial Branch is able to develop with the media via the Judicial-Media Committee puts at risk the watch dog role that media should be playing in regard to the Branch. When you develop those personal relationships with CT Judicial Branch leaders, it then becomes easy to dismiss folks like me who critique the Judicial Branch as a bunch of kooks because you haven't gotten to know us as well and you haven't been able to establish a trusting connection with us or an understanding of where we are coming from since these same media members are not getting together with us regularly."

On January 12, 2015, I did finally receive a response from Ms. Nancy Schoeffler basically telling me that the Judicial-Media Committee meeting had been delayed until February 2015. She stated, "I will be happy to share your concerns with the committee when it does meet."

I immediately responded to Ms. Schoeffler telling her that the ethical questions I had regarding the Judicial-Media Committee really had to do with The Hartford Courant itself stating, "The question I really have is for you and by extension, The Hartford Courant itself. Can you be a member of the Judiciary-Media Committee and maintain your integrity as a journalist and report objectively regarding what is happening with the CT Judicial Branch and continue with your watchdog role. Isn't your participation in the Judiciary-Media Committee a fundamental violation of your professional ethics?"

Interestingly enough, it was right at that time that family court attorneys in the Eric Foy v. Lisa Foy case threatened me with jail if I refused to provide the sources in an article that had appeared on the Divorce in Connecticut website regarding that case. At the time, I hired Attorney Daniel Klau to defend me in court regarding my rights as a journalist. What I didn't know, however, is that Attorney Klau at one point was also a member of the Judicial-Media Committee. You have to wonder about the timing of this action against me which resulted in $1,500 in legal fees and the considerable trauma of being dragged into court and threatened!

I never heard from Ms. Nancy Schoeffler again.

The next meeting of the Judicial-Media Committee ended up taking place in March 2015, not February, and has not met since then. From the minutes of the meeting, it appears that Ms. Schoeffler did as she said she would and brought up some of my ADA concerns. However, the details of what she actually said are unclear from the report in the minutes. In a followup email to her dated May 21, 2015 I stated, "I will again maintain that a Committee of this kind [Judicial-Media Committee] is a violation of journalistic professional ethics unless journalists are going to give critics of the CT Judicial Branch equal time and intelligent coverage of their concerns."

The "Report of Connecticut Judicial-Media Committee's Survey Subcommittee" Including "Recommendations Developed From October 2007 Survey of Judges and Journalists" details plans for establishing an intimate and cozy relationship between officials of the CT Judicial Branch and Members of the Media, which even included Maura Casey, then editorial page writer for The New York Times.  These plans included a panel presentation for the CT Judicial Branch on topics such as decision-making concerning editorials, degree of reliability required before publishing investigative articles, etc. etc.  It also involved providing opportunities for clerks and other staff to meet with the Media and chat with each other about their jobs, allowing for the opportunity for Media to tour the courts and clerks to visit news organizations.  And on and on.

We are still waiting not only for the CT Media to take responsibility for their unethical behavior, but also for a smidegeon of that intelligent coverage I mentioned. Silence is not going to make media critics go away, and it is not going to rectify the wrongdoing that the media has perpetrated for the last decade by selling out and neglecting the concerns of family court victims.


  1. The other day, NPR during the Where We Live show was discussing the recent CT Supreme Court ruling involving the death penalty. The speaker, a lawyer was talking about how the ruling shows how the court may not be following the law passed by the legislature which was a mandate of the public.

    A caller called in and talked about how it is not uncommon for judges in the CT court system to not follow the laws of the state and make up their own in their rulings. The caller cited the Carubba v. Moskowitz case which created law where law did not exist by granting GAL's immunity in Family court cases even though the State Legislature only gave GAL's in juvenile cases immunity. The caller stated that they have many more examples.

    The lawyer on the talk show proceeded to attempt to discredit the caller with outright false statements which included the following:

    1. The caller is part of a small disgruntled minority. This is not true as there are countless other victims out there who are either fearful of speaking out or who have given up the emotionally draining fight.

    2. These small # of disgruntled family court litigants improperly took it out on Chief Justice Rogers during her reappointment hearing earlier this year. This is not true as an equal if not majority of speakers who spoke out against her reappointment were victims of foreclosure mills, NOT family court.

    This misinformation, coming from a prestigious news organization is extremely concerning.

    NPR did not allow the caller an opportunity to rebut the false statements by the speaker-lawyer. So sadly, it appears that even NPR choses to cover up the problem with the CT Judicial Branch. How disgraceful.

    In today's CT Law Tribune, there was a story about an engineering firm who negligently hired a bridge inspector who proferred false credentials. Although the fraud committed by the person was wrong, US Atty. Daly's portrayal of saving CT citizens from harm was exaggerated to say the least as nowhere was it stated that the one solo inspector caused harm to any project. If Atty. Daly really wanted to protect the citizens of the State of CT, she would also investigate the corruption in the state agencies and government of CT.

  2. The sad reality is that Connecticut is a very small media market. In my experience, every talented media person will eventually leave the state for a larger media market, together with the bigger paychecks and opportunities that come with a larger market. Journalists in Connecticut find it easier to cooperate with, rather than challenge, all parts of government, including the judiciary. That's why we have no meaningful investigative journalism and huge governmental (particularly judicial) corruption in this state. Unfortunately, this sad state of affairs isn't going to change. I appreciate your efforts to eliminate cooperation between the Judicial Branch and the media.

  3. No backbone, plain and simple. These types should never have chosen journalism, and should just leave the profession. Real journalist shed light on the darkness to expose the all the hidden corruption. They're public heros who effectuate change for the good of mankind. Stopped relying on the Connecticut media long ago. Would rather turn to social media or global journalism like The Guardian.