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Showing posts with label INJUSTICE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label INJUSTICE. Show all posts

Sunday, January 11, 2015


By Verena Tarrant,
Special to the Divorce in Connecticut Website

In a bizarre turn of events in the Eric Foy v. Lisa Foy case, writer Elizabeth A. Richter, was threatened with jail time for refusing to reveal her sources or disclose the identity of the mysterious Catharine Sloper, the proprietor of the blog "Divorce in Connecticut" which has been an outspoken critic of the legal system for the last few years. 
Elizabeth A. Richter, a freelance journalist whose work has occasionally appeared in the freedom fighting blog "Divorce in Connecticut" was on her way to New Haven, CT on Friday, January 2, 2015, when she received an emergency phone call from her partner, Mr. Sherif Iskarous, a long time ADA advocate and family court watcher.  He stated that a marshall had appeared at the front door with a subpoena and refused to give it to him.  Mr. Iskarous further stated that the marshall took the trouble to cover up the subpoena so that it wasn't possible to see what was on it. 
Since Elizabeth A. Richter maintains joint custody in relation to her three children with her ex-husband, she was very concerned that the subpoena might have something to do with that matter.  Both Ms. Richter and her ex-husband have been in and out of court since 2006 as a consequence of the family court's complete mismanagement of their divorce and custody proceedings. 
"I was very worried on behalf of my children when I heard about the subpoena.  I was mostly concerned that my ex might be raising an issue that would affect them; we have outstanding issues related to health care and college fees.  And so when I heard about the subpoena I immediately contacted the marshall so that I could find out what was going on and address any conflicts immediately in the best interests of the children." 
Instead, what Ms. Richter found when she met with the marshall was that the subpoena had to do with a completely unrelated case. 
As Elizabeth A. Richter puts it, "When I saw the subpoena, I just laughed and laughed because I was so relieved that it wasn't related to some action re my kids.  I had no idea what the subpoena was for.  There was no case number on the subpoena so I couldn't identify it, and there were the names of children without a last name.  I was hardly likely to have any idea what it was all about." 
She further stated, "The Divorce in Connecticut website has published well over 1000 articles since it was first inaugurated in late 2010.  I write for many other news outlets other than Divorce in Connecticut. So, over time, I am unlikely to remember any particular article on the website, let alone elsewhere.  So I was little more than puzzled and annoyed upon receiving this subpoena.  I had no idea what it had to do with.  I did see it was signed by Attorney Scott Sandler of the firm Zaslow & Sandler, LLC which has long done business in Family Court.  Attorney Robert Zaslow was one of the original founders of the  Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) here in Connecticut, an organization whose members have been the subject of many complaints and which has been under investigation for business improprieties within the CT Judicial Branch." See below:
For a while, Ms. Richter was unsure of what she should do with the subpoena which required her to appear in court the following Thursday, January 8, 2015, at 9:30am in New Britain Juvenile Court.  As a victim of Connecticut Family Court, Elizabeth Richter has Legal Abuse Syndrome, a form of PTSD as a result of the many ways in which she has been abused in Hartford Family Court, i.e. being denied her due process rights, being denied the right to present her evidence and testimony, and being regularly browbeaten and threatened not only by her own attorneys, but also by the judges in her case.  This meant that her first reaction to the subpoena was to simply ignore it and hope that it would go away. 
Eventually, however, on Monday she began to research the subpoena to find out what case it belonged to.  After considerable inquiry, she found out that the case belonged to Eric Foy v. Lisa Foy which came into the public eye in connection to the media prior restraint case in regard to the "Connecticut Law Tribune" which is now heading to the Connecticut Supreme Court.  In that case, the Judge, Stephen Frazzini, issued an order prohibiting the "Connecticut Law Tribune" from writing about the child custody case and the "Tribune" responded to it as a first amendment violation.  See the link below:
So this is a case where a judge of the Connecticut Judicial Branch has attempted to silence any media reports on the Foy case on a previous occasion.  Upon further inquiry, Ms. Richter discovered that the Divorce in Connecticut website had published a single article on the Foy divorce back in November 2014 and that this article was the one that had stirred up all the controversy which led to the subpoena she received.  See the link below:
But the majority of the information in this article was available publically online at the time it was written with content that was known to be part of the public domain.  Thus, it made no sense to hold Divorce in Connecticut responsible for publishing news that was readily available elsewhere and that, to Ms. Richter's knowledge and belief, had already appeared generally on other websites, as Judge Frazzini acknowledged when he rescinded the order against the "Connecticut Law Tribune" way back on December 3, 2014.  The bottom line is that the subpoena was a form of harassment, a brazen attempt to follow up a gag on mainstream media with threats against a citizen journalist.
During the  course of our conversation, Elizabeth Richter pointed out that she only occasionally has an article published on the online divorce website using her byline and, in her opinion, she should not be held responsible for content not under her name.  In addition, as Ms. Richter understands it, the website itself does have the right to publish information that it received based upon our constitutional right to freedom of the press as American citizens. 
On Wednesday, the day before the juvenile court hearing, Elizabeth A. Richter met with her family attorney to ask what could be done.  After reading through the subpoena, and making some phone calls, essentially, her attorney told her that she would have to disclose her news sources or face jail.  Further, she stated that Attorney Scott Sandler wanted to put Ms. Richter on the stand and force her to admit that she was Catharine Sloper.  Elizabeth Richter then stated to her attorney that she could not do either. 
In her words, "If the anonymity of the blog is destroyed, then I might as well shut the blog down.  Readers and potential contributors to the blog rely on its anonymity for their own safety." 
Further, she stated, "As a blog writer, it would be absolutely unethical for me to reveal a source." 
Ms. Richter's attorney pointed out that Elizabeth Richter's rights as a citizen journalist are not as clear cut as that of a journalist for, say,  "The New York Times" and asked what would be the harm of disclosing the information, taking for a moment the position of devil's advocate.  But Ms. Richter was adamant that she would not compromise her professional ethics. 
After calling around, Ms. Richter's attorney was able to engage the services of Attorney Daniel Klau who has also been representing the "CT Law Tribune" in their case in regard to prior restraint.  However, before Elizabeth Richter left her office, the attorney advised her to bring her toothbrush and any necessities she might need along with her to court the following day should she end up in jail as the result of her refusal to cooperate. 
On Thursday, June 8, 2015, Elizabeth Richter appeared in juvenile court.  Naturally, after all the difficulties she had in Harford Family Court the experience was particularly hard for her. 
As Ms. Richter put it, "Whenever I go to Court my blood pressure goes through the roof." 
As she was warned to do, in case she ended up in jail, Ms. Richter brought with her a toothbrush and toothpaste among other essentials.  She also brought along with her a membership card from the National Writer's Association as well as a press pass from the Association identifying her as a member of the media which she passed along to Attorney Daniel Klau. 
The morning progressed and Attorney Klau submitted a motion defending Elizabeth Richter's rights and spoke to the attorneys present on her behalf.  In the course of doing so, it came to Elizabeth Richter's attention that it was the mother's attorney that had called her to be present at the legal proceedings. 
"That is particularly ironic." stated Elizabeth Richter when she heard, "Ordinarily the Divorce in Connecticut website is in full support of mothers going through tough divorces.  If I had my way I'd be standing shoulder to shoulder with Lisa Foy.  But not in this particular circumstance.  Mother or Father, no matter what, I will not reveal my sources for any reason whatsoever, even if I disagree with what they are doing.  Further, I will stand firm in support of the integrity of the anonymity of the Divorce in Connecticut website." 
As it turned out, at 2:00p.m. that day, Elizabeth Richter heard from her attorney that her presence was no longer required for the case, the hearings in the case were over for the day, and had been rescheduled for a later date.  Ms. Richter could still be called in at that time, but for the better part it looks as though this crisis is over.   
But the toll on Elizabeth Richter's well-being is not over.  During the weekend, Ms. Richter stated, "After the proceedings were over, I went home and slept for several hours.  In terms of the wear and tear on me emotionally and physically, I have not yet recovered.  My blood pressure has not yet settled down." 
Not only that, the cost of the four hours Ms. Richter spent with her family attorney and the expenses generated by obtaining for her defense one of the State's top attorneys, Attorney Daniel Klau, an expert in Freedom of the Press issues, will probably run to several thousand dollars.  If private citizens can be dragged to court and subjected to interrogation and threatened with jail and put under intense financial duress, how is it possible for them to express themselves freely.
As Elizabeth Richter put it, "Rep. Ed Vargas has compared the State of Connecticut to North Korea, and he is not wrong in saying so.  The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch is desperate to silence its critics and is willing to go to any lengths to do so.  What happened to me this week with these threats to put me in jail and put me out of business is a clear example of that." 

It is clear that the attorneys in this case had all the information they needed that day and were simply abusing their legal authority to oppress and intimidate a critic.
The actions of the Connecticut Judicial Branch in attempting to silence Elizabeth Richter are particularly sobering in the light of the events at the magazine Charlie Hebdo.  When you silence the press, you silence all forms of liberty and freedom.

A copy of the subpoena that summoned Elizabeth A. Richter to the New Britain Superior Court for Juvenile Matters is located at the link below:


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


What do you do if you have no money to pay your attorney's fees during a divorce? 

What they say is that if you don't have any money for lawyers, you will simply lose the case. I don't know if this is true. What I will say is that I was lucky enough have access to money that came from my parents to pay my attorneys a substantial fee.

Of course, there is the whole ethical question of why the CT Family Court makes the assumption that litigants with parents who have money to pay, should be required to make those parents pay. Since when should third parties unrelated to the lawsuit be put in the position of having to pay for it? That's a good question I never got an answer to!

Nonetheless, parents money or not, in my situation having money available for litigation didn't make my attorneys any more effective. They were still substandard. So money isn't everything. In the same way that you can't buy love, you also can't buy a lawyer's good work. In order for lawyers to work hard for you, they really have to care about you, sympathize with your story, or do a financial deal that benefits you rather than the other party so it becomes worth their while to support you. If they don't, you are simply done for and you will lose.

On the other hand, if you don't have any lawyer at all because you absolutely can't afford one, then you definitely will lose simply because you have no idea how to handle yourself in a court room. It is one thing to represent yourself when you have been in the system for a while as I have been, but it makes absolutely no sense if you are totally new to the system and have no one to mentor you. At the very least you are going to need someone to ask questions of as you begin your divorce.

The good news is that, as with so many points of law, the legal system has developed a response to circumstances where one party is the primary earner and the other has few resources available with which to hire a lawyer. The intention of this legislation is to level the playing field so that one person doesn't bulldoze over the other simply because of financial advantage. This is CT STATUTE SEC. 46b-62 referenced above. There is the equivalent of this legislation probably in every state of the union. It basically authorizes the Court to order the earning party to pay the legal fees of the other. See the wording of the statute below:

Sec. 46b-62. (Formerly Sec. 46-59). Orders for payment of attorney's fees in certain actions. In any proceeding seeking relief under the provisions of this chapter and sections 17b-743, 17b-744, 45a-257, 46b-1, 46b-6, 46b-212 to 46b-213v, inclusive, 47-14g, 51-348a and 52-362, the court may order either spouse or, if such proceeding concerns the custody, care, education, visitation or support of a minor child, either parent to pay the reasonable attorney's fees of the other in accordance with their respective financial abilities and the criteria set forth in section 46b-82. If, in any proceeding under this chapter and said sections, the court appoints an attorney for a minor child, the court may order the father, mother or an intervening party, individually or in any combination, to pay the reasonable fees of the attorney or may order the payment of the attorney's fees in whole or in part from the estate of the child. If the child is receiving or has received state aid or care, the compensation of the attorney shall be established and paid by the Commission on Child Protection.

The bad news is that even though this remedy is available, the Court rarely orders it, at least for folks like us who are victims of high conflict divorce. As my divorce progressed and became more and more expensive, my family and lots of my friends and neighbors said, "Doesn't he have to pay your legal fees?" There seemed to be this presumption that my ex would have to. In reality, the Court rarely orders it--not as long as there are grandparents, extended family members, friends or retirement accounts available to be cashed in early, tax liability or not--they don't care.

I actually know of one person whose ex paid all of the legal fees in her case, and I'm sure that it does happen. She big time lost, though I'm not sure if it was because of how her legal fees were paid. But it is kind of suspicious, don't you think?

For the better part, my ex did not have to pay my attorney's fees, and the same thing happened to most other women I know in similar situations. So what do people do? Unless you have a great Aunt to borrow from, etc. etc. in these cases, the attorneys work for nothing until the financial settlement is finalized, at which point they get paid, and often these attorneys simply don't get paid at all. Also possible is that the attorney get paid in favors meted out at another time in exchange for backstabbing you and scuttling your case.

When I asked the several attorneys I had to make a motion to court to request attorneys fees, they simply refused to do it. They told me I would never be able to get the court to order my ex to pay attorney's fees. To be honest, I'm not sure what is the point of having a CT General Statute in place giving the Court the authority to get the earning party to pay attorney's fees for the non earning party if the Court is never going to make that kind of order. Be that as it may, it is there. 

What I hated was the fact that such a statute existed encouraged my friends and family to insist that it could be done and that there must be something the matter with me that I couldn't get my lawyers or the Court to order that kind of relief. The fact that this law--like many other laws intended to protect protective mothers--was only in the books for show was a concept that was far beyond their comprehension. So this law was more of an annoyance to me than anything else because it made me look bad...again!

Finally, within this legislation is an additional provision that you should all be aware of which allows the fees for the Guardian Ad Litem to be paid for from the estate of the child. This means that if you had put money aside for the child through the uniform gift to minor's act, or if you had a *college fund for the child, all of that could be seized by the GAL for the payment of legal fees.

*recent legislation, as stated below, now precludes the Court from seizing college funds for this purpose.

If you are heading for a divorce, make sure you take all the funds you have in the name of your children, make sure you consult with a tax advisor and/or an attorney regarding how you can protect them or disappear them. Good luck!