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Showing posts with label ARTICLES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ARTICLES. Show all posts

Sunday, February 22, 2015



Monday, March 24, 2014


In a September 2013 article by Macklin K. Reid found in "The Ridgefield Press", Attorney Sharon Dornfeld adds new insight into the definition of domestic violence:
"Caveman behavior — a husband screaming at his wife, beating her, demanding obedience, subservience, sex — may still be the classic face of domestic violence, but it is no longer viewed as the only face.
“People think of domestic violence as somebody hitting the other person, smacking them with a frying pan,” said Attorney Sharon Dornfeld. “But the understanding of it has evolved to be a much broader set of things. The term that is typically used now is ‘coercion and control.’ ”

Just as a note of interest, last year Attorney Sharon Dornfeld completed a stint as Chairwoman of the CT Bar Association's Family Law Division.  Even more recently, she acted as Co-Chair of the controversial Task Force held at the Legislative Office Building in regard to the role of Guardians Ad Litem in complex custody cases.
For more information on this topic, please click on the link below:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


"Family Courts in Connecticut have been doing more harm than good, as they continue to put parents in life altering situations. Guardian ad litems are appointed in many of these cases, to help the child, the result is hardly helpful. Connecticut’s family court system has become more about money, money made off of already difficult situation, leaving many parents broke. Children being torn between parents, as the G.A.L appointed, is not looking at the effect it is having on them."
For more information, please click on the link below:

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Opinion: CBA Defense Of Family Law System Is 'Misguided'

Editor's note: The author of this letter is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, a former clerk for a federal judge and a former tax lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City. Last fall, he was involved in legal proceedings in which he and his lawyer challenged the fees and conduct of a GAL involved in his divorce case.

To The Editor:

I read with great interest the recent column ("In Defense Of Family Judges, Connecticut Law Tribune, March 10) by Connecticut Bar Association president Kimberly Knox about the recent debate in the General Assembly regarding the reappointment of Judge Leslie Olear and, more broadly, the need to reform our state's very flawed family court system. While I was not in Hartford for the debate, I followed the matter closely via CT-N. I have no personal experience with Judge Olear, and I share Ms. Knox's concerns about maintaining the integrity of the reappointment process. But I also believe we should maintain the integrity of the public discussion of these issues.

While Ms. Knox wrote that Judge Olear "[b]y all accounts" "is the type of judge that Connecticut deserves and needs," the debate was to the contrary. State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez and other legislators spoke of having received a large number of complaints from parents about Judge Olear. In the debate and in related communications, legislators and parents attributed the scarcity of formal complaints about the judge to fears of retribution and frustration with a judicial complaint process that parents view as a waste of time.

Likewise, Judge Olear's positive evaluations from the Judicial Branch are not meaningful if, as I understand, such evaluations are based on lawyers who do business before her but not the pro se litigants who appear in more than 80 percent of family law matters. Sen. Jason Welch based his opposition to Judge Olear on a couple of questionable opinions she issued which were reversed on appeal. And parents protesting Judge Olear distributed flyers detailing concerns specific to the judge. In short, many parties expressed sincere concerns about Judge Olear.

Ms. Knox wrote that courts "occasionally involve guardians ad litem or other professionals to protect the children's interests." Testimony before the Task Force To Study Legal Disputes Involving Care and Custody of Children and statements by legislators indicate that, in fact: judges routinely assign GALs and an army of other individuals who purport to act "in the bests interest of the children;" that, in practice judges permit those individuals to exploit financially — and even bankrupt — families in difficult situations; and that such individuals and the judges who supposedly supervise them are not accountable in any fashion.

While Ms. Knox wrote that "[t]hose individuals have a thankless job," in fact those individuals have extremely lucrative jobs. Ms. Knox's defense of the current system is a misguided effort to protect those lucrative positions notwithstanding the resulting harm to families.

Ms. Knox's discussion of the task force established to review family court matters was, at best, misleading. The task force was formed to advise the legislature (and not, as Ms. Knox suggests, the Judicial Branch) about three specific issues. However, its hearings revealed the need for complete reform of our family law system.

As Rep. Edwin Vargas noted in the Olear debate, the task force was chaired by two professional GALs and consisted largely of divorce industry workers who have a vested interest in preserving the current system. Ms. Knox suggested that the legislators wait for the Judicial Branch to consider and act upon a task force report written by divorce industry workers. Instead, the legislators should reject the institutions that created the current family law system that destroys so many Connecticut families, including the organization Ms. Knox purports to represent.•

Mark Sargent.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


According to Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, "If members of the public want to see where some of the most difficult court cases in Connecticut are handled, they need only to visit Family Court, where painful and heart wrenching scenarios unfold every day. These cases, by their very nature, involve the breakdown of a relationship between two adults, the custody of their children and the division of their finances.
Quite simply, it does not get more personal than that.
So, it's not surprising that dissatisfaction with the outcome of some high-conflict Family Court cases has made its way to the General Assembly. As a result, lawmakers and the Judicial Branch are now considering possible changes to the guardian ad litem process used by Family Court judges in highly contested custody cases. The Judicial Branch will continue to work with the legislature to make improvements to the system — among them, the addition of family relations counselors dedicated to mediating higher conflict cases."

To read more of Chief Justice Roger's remarks, please click on the link below:

Thursday, March 6, 2014


No, we are not a small minority--citizens throughout the State of Connecticut are rebelling against the inefficiency and abuse that runs rampant in CT Family Courts. 
In the words of Peter Szymonik, "On Feb. 26, there was a historic vote at the state Capitol in which family court Judge Leslie Olear was only narrowly reappointed by the legislature. This vote came after public protests which gained media attention and after legislators were called into action to address the serious problems in our state's family courts. After this vote, some members of the legal community understandably rushed to defend Judge Olear, claiming that the votes against her were politically motivated and only in response to complaints being expressed by a "small number of family court critics." This is simply not the case."

To read more, please click on the link below:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


In his recent article, published in The Connecticut Mirror on March 4, 2014, Dr. Richard Shulman states, "The Connecticut Forum will soon host a panel of celebrities and professionals to take “An Honest Look at Mental Illness.”  The selected panelists’ consensus is that science has demonstrated that ‘mental illnesses’ are illnesses – biological diseases of bodily tissue… (and that pharmaceuticals are indispensable).

The problem: Prominent psychiatrists – the same people who promulgated this view – now admit that this isn’t demonstrated fact. Never has been."

For more information on this subject, please click on the link below:

For more information on Dr. Richard Shulman's non-profit organization, "Volunteers in Psychotherapy", please click on the link below:

Thursday, February 13, 2014



     In September 1903, W.E.B. Dubois, a Harvard educated scholar, published a ground breaking article in which he speculated that African Americans could only achieve social equality and social justice through the efforts of a small group of elite intellectuals whom he referred to as “The Talented Tenth.”

     In a recent incident here in Connecticut, a 17 year old inmate identified as having a mental illness imprisoned at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire committed suicide.  His incarceration and subsequent death places a spotlight on the issue of what happens when insufficient community services for people labeled with mental illness leads to substantially increased numbers of prison inmates who are considered mentally ill.

     In the years since I began to be involved in advocacy, I continue to see a mental health system plagued with inadequate resources, hampered by a community – the citizenry of the State of Connecticut—which still does not seem to understand the ethical and social implications of refusing to address the needs of some of its most vulnerable—those labeled with mental illness.  After a decade, why is it that promises state government made to support the recovery of people with psychiatric labels remains broken?

     I do not believe that DMHAS (Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services) wished for cutbacks in mental health treatment, but I do believe it is wholly responsible for this outcome.  For any oppressed group, be it African-Americans, homosexuals, or those with other unique abilities, the very core of social activism which leads to equitable policies and, if necessary, rehabilitative support, lies in the establishment of powerful and vocal advocacy groups made up of the members of that group.  The NAACP, for example, was the direct consequence of W.E.B. Dubois’ advocacy, and has been a powerful voice for change on behalf of people of color in this country.

     Where DMHAS is responsible for its own downfall has been in its systematic elimination of any viable consumer voice which could speak out on its behalf, while also acting as a loyal opposition in pointing out its weaknesses and failures in order to correct them for the better.  Personally, I would not say, as W.E.B. Dubois did, that adequate leadership among people labeled with psychiatric disabilities must come from the most highly educated among us.  In fact, I would put far greater confidence on the most passionate and the most deeply committed.  But what I would say is that in order to achieve any of our goals in advocating for equality and justice and access to services, housing, and vocational training, etc. within the community of people labeled with mental illness, we must be allowed our leaders, and also allowed the ongoing identification, training, and support of leaders.  So far this has not been done.

     Years ago, this State had a thriving and active consumer led organization known as CT Self Advocates For Mental Health.  This was a group that, under the leadership of Will Brady and Lorraine Stanek and numerous others, among many other things (I can’t list them all!) conducted conferences, provided self-help/self-advocacy training, publishing a newsletter called “Emerging Image,” maintained an information and referral phone line, developed a research library, participated in DMH and P & A and other top level policy and strategy meetings, as well as nationwide conferences.

     This consumer/survivor led organization played a central role in developing forward looking and just policies within the mental health system, as well as educating folks within the community to promote a stronger base of support and understanding.  This is the organization that first articulated the concept of recovery which DMHAS has currently adopted as its central philosophy.  So what happened to this organization?  In 1992, it was financially starved out of existence by the then DMH and replaced a year later by Advocacy Unlimited, an organization which is kept well under the thumb of DMHAS and does a fraction of the work of CSAMH using substantially more money. But most significantly, Advocacy Unlimited has been used as a means to silence some of the most effective advocates we've had available in the State of Connecticut today. 

     After the demise of CSAMH, Rowland shut down Norwich Hospital and Fairfield Hills Hospital while proposing a 41% cut in the budget for community Mental Health Care.  As a result of the closing and the cuts in the state budget, a substantial number of people who might otherwise be receiving mental health treatment are ending up in jail.  As a result, The Hartford Courant reported that “prison expenditures tripled in Connecticut since 1991 to more than a half-billion dollars a year.” (7/31/05)  I can’t help wondering if this all could have been avoided if DMHAS had preserved the voices of the very people—maverick consumers and survivors—who could most powerfully have spoken out against such foolish and misguided policies.

     So this is the lesson.  If DMHAS cannot tolerate a free, independent and proud consumer/survivor organization based upon the principles of empowerment, self-determination and justice, one which takes as its central role the task of challenging DMHAS and other state agencies, as well as the citizens and legislators in the State of CT, to maintain the highest standards of service to the community of those labeled with psychiatric disabilities, then they will continue to face the imprisonment, death, and ongoing deterioration of members of that community, and they remain solely responsible for that outcome.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


For those who are interested, see the link below for Denise Buffa's article. 

I do want to say that I have long complained about the fact that "The Hartford Courant" is too soft on the CT Judicial Branch and the legal profession in general.  Only too rarely, if ever, has the Courant reported on family court and on the ongoing corruption and wrongdoing there.

It is good to see some responsible reporting going on finally.  It's good to see the Courant redeem itself.

So I am absolutely delighted that Ms. Buffa has stepped up to the plate to fill this gap and I hope that her work will be ongoing because it certainly needs to be.  Thank you, Ms. Buffa for your thoughtful presentation of the issues.

Again, see link!

Monday, February 3, 2014


In advance of Super Bowl XLVIII in the New Jersey Meadowlands, flight attendants were told to be on the lookout for underage girls traveling to the Northeast. The concern was that the teens were being imported by human sex traffickers to be peddled as prostitutes for those attending football's biggest game.

The problem of child prostitution exists wherever large groups of men congregate, including near military bases and "man camps" of oil drilling operations, as well as at major sporting events, William Rivera, of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), told a large conference on sex trafficking in Hartford on Jan. 29.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


"What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains."

So begins Dylan Farrow's story about the way Woody Allen allegedly raped her as a 7 year old child.  For more information, please click on the link below:

"The Register Citizen" weighs in on Dylan Farrow's statement:

"Variety" speaks out about Dylan Farrow's statement.  See below:


I will admit I am a bit of a practical joker.  And I mean it in the best way because I think people need to relax and not take themselves so seriously.  Of course, sometimes this can be a problem when I am cracking a joke that I think is particularly funny, but no one else knows the joke. 
I can recall one incident way back before Borders went belly up in bankruptcy.  The Borders I frequented had just renovated to add Seattle's Best Coffee to its cafĂ©.  Of course, that alone was a problem.  Seattle's best coffee in Hartford, Connecticut.  Hello, are you kidding me?  We have some of the "best" things here in Connecticut, but Seattle? Where is that exactly? 
So they had just made the switch, and I went and ordered something slightly more complicated from the newly hired little girl who was at the cash register.  I mean, everyone else knew me, but not this little kid, and I kind of forgot that.  So while she is fumbling around with my order, checking the newly published booklet on prices and slowly punching my order into the register, I said, "I'm a secret shopper from Seattle's Best Coffee, so you better hurry it up or I'll have to report you." 
Well, wouldn't you know, our cute little cashier believed me and almost had a nervous breakdown right on the spot until the other barristas calmed her down and said, "That's just Cathy, pulling your leg!"  Which of course, sort of ruined my fun. 
Anyway, my point in telling you this story is that in 2008 The Connecticut Judicial Branch began running a "secret shopper" program, one that is fully funded by the Judicial Branch itself.  The program, which has been reported as a rousing success, by the way, indicates that the Branch is doing a truly wonderful job of meeting the needs of the public. 
I guess they weren't at the task force hearings on January 9, 2014! 
The article on this program which appears in the website for the National Council for State Courts, in the section "Trends in State Courts" was written by Heather Collins who is reported to be a Court Planner with the Connecticut Judicial Branch.   
Apparently, the purpose of this program which I have been told remains operational on an ongoing basis and has considerably increased its reach is to "help judges and court staff to improve their work with the public." 
Of course, later in the article, Ms. Collins kind of sneaks in the fact that no judges were investigated in this program, so that's kind of cheating.  I'm not sure how the judges can improve their work if they are actually not participating in the program. 
The way the program works is that volunteer staff members (members of the Courthouse Observation Team--COT) who are already employed in the CT Judicial Branch, went around to various Judicial Districts sampling their services.  In other words, "volunteer branch staff members [conducted] anonymous assessments of the delivery of services to the branch staff" with the primary focus, according to Chief Justice Chase Rogers of determining whether Branch employees used "common courtesy." 
I suppose that means that when they hid your documents, failed to calendar your motions, and denied you modifications you were entitled to under Title II of federal ADA law, as long as they did so with common courtesy, that makes it OK!  Isn't this a little like the Mafia investigating itself?  Doesn't it smack a bit of the "self-regulating" nature of the legal profession which means that practically none of its members are ever held accountable by Statewide Grievance for even the most blatant wrongdoing?  Just wondering! 
The participants in the Courthouse Observation Team (COT) received a very specific checklist upon which to record their observations covering the condition of the facilities, ease of navigating around the facilities, the behavior of marshals and Clerks as well as telephone courtesy in response to inquiries.  The checklists allowed team members to respond either "yes", "no", or not applicable with room there for more detailed comments. 
The article stated that the purpose of this secret shopper program is "to support accountability to the public by helping to ensure that each person is treated fairly and respectfully with professionalism and integrity, which are the core values of the judicial branch." 
I never would have guessed that in the last seven years I've been going there!  
Apparently, despite some initial discomfort with this program, employees at the judicial branch are delighted by it, particularly because it is reporting how great these employees are--not a big surprise.  Nine out of ten times, team members experiences were positive. 
Employees also feel good that even if one of their number gets fingered, the CT Judicial Branch management will not single them out.  Instead, there are meetings to improve the performance of all employees as a whole while specifically detailing what the problem had been. 
Finally, the article ends with prophetic words that when the public is not being treated fairly, "our governor and legislature will surely hear of it!"  Looks like the governor and the legislature is hearing a considerable amount right now and will continue to hear a good deal in the months to come. 
And this is the thing about self examination, about secret shopper programs conducted by inside players.  They don't work! 
What I find very typical here in this report is that it goes ahead and reports as a smashing success a program that the extensive public outcry in the last few years has shown to be a complete failure.  So what we are getting are more self congratulatory manipulations on the part of the CT Judicial Branch starting right from the top with Chief Justice Chase Rogers.  It is kind of like the doublespeak of 1984 transplanted to the CT Judicial Branch. 
Of course, we heard the same kind of nonsense from the co-chairs of the task force in these past few weeks.  We have a broken Family Court System and the co-chairs are apparently the only ones who don't know it.  Could it be because of the massive sums of money they've been making off of vulnerable family court litigants?

As I postscript, I will say that in the last year when I've gone to Court there has been a distinct improvement in general friendliness and the willingness to be helpful.  You know that thing where you ask if they have a stapler, and the clerks say "Go find one yourself!"--that has gone!  I was actually quite touched in one situation where a marshall asked me whether I'd filed that paper that goes to the Court clerk to indicate I'm ready to go before the judge.  And when I hesitated he told me how to get it and submit it.  So, ok, there are some improvements there.  But let's not get over excited here.  There is still a long way to go. 

For more information on this program, see the link below:


Friday, January 31, 2014


Task Force to Recommend Reforms to Child Custody Cases! 

For more information on this WNPR story, please click on the link below:


"Reforms sought in child custody policies

HARTFORD — A state task force is recommending reforms to child custody cases in state courts, including capping court-appointed child guardians' fees that many parents say are wiping out their finances.

The Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children, which was created by the legislature last year, met in Hartford on Thursday to finalize recommendations it plans to submit to state lawmakers today. The panel looked a variety of issues, including how high legal costs are hurting families, and voted on more than 90 proposals.

The panel held an emotional, nearly 15-hour public hearing earlier this month, Parents in child custody disputes complained that they were forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on guardians who are appointed by judges to represent the interests of children and make recommendations to the courts about visitation, custody and other issues. The law doesn't require such appointments."
For more on this topic, please click on the link below:

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Wendy Murphy speaks out about Connecticut Family Court.  See below:
"A colleague of mine, Anne Stevenson, recently testified before the Connecticut legislature on behalf of good parents and ethical court employees who feared retribution if they spoke up themselves against the corruption, fraud and shady deals in Connecticut’s family court system.
The content of her testimony is critically important, and not widely understood, so I agreed to post it here to provide folks with a better understanding of how the “divorce industry” in Connecticut is ruining families financially, and subjecting children to dangerous custody arrangements.
Her proposed changes for reform, set forth below, were provided to the Connecticut legislature but are applicable to other states as well because the problems in Connecticut are systemic in American family courts.
For more information on these issues, please click on the link below:

Friday, January 10, 2014


Divorce Corp.: Documentary Paints Horrific Picture of Intimidation, Collusion, and Excessive Billing in Family Courts

A man is jailed for criticizing a judge on his blog. Another is found in contempt of court for expressing frustration in private Facebook comments. An evaluator charges $7,500 for a single interview. Judges order divorcing parents to sell their homes. Lawyers contribute to judges' campaign funds to receive favorable treatment in court.

This kind of behavior is not what we expect in American courts, with our constitutional protections, but it is common in family courts, according to charges made in the independent documentary film Divorce Corp. opening in theaters in 15 states today.

For more information:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


The Connecticut Law Tribune
August 8, 2013
"We were taught in law school that the justice system in the United States is based upon the adversarial system. We learned that the adversarial system is a two-sided structure wherein a judge or jury hears civil and criminal disputes, and parties are represented by counsel who can call witnesses and offer evidence by asking questions of the witnesses."
Read more as Attorney Arthur Rutkin deconstructs the family court system in Connecticut.  See below:

Monday, November 11, 2013


Barry Goldstein, of the NOMAS Child Custody Task Group states the following:
"Mothers and domestic violence advocates have been complaining for many years about problems in the custody court system that have resulted in large numbers of children being sent to live with abusive fathers while safe, protective mothers are denied any meaningful relationship with their children.  Courts have tended to dismiss the complaints by referring to the mothers as “disgruntled litigants.”  As more concern about the problem has been expressed and more research performed, the mothers’ complaints have been confirmed.  Early in 2010, a new book co-edited by Dr. Maureen T. Hannah and Barry Goldstein, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY will be published and end any doubts that there is a pattern of mistakes made in the custody court system.  These mistakes have caused thousands of cases to be mishandled and placed the lives and well being of battered women and their children in jeopardy."
To read more of this article, please click on the link below: 

Thursday, April 25, 2013