PLEASE NOTE: This blog is a bigotry free zone open to all persons, regardless of age, race, religion, color, national origin, sex, political affiliations, marital status, physical or mental disability, age, or sexual orientation. Further, this blog is open to the broad variety of opinions out there and will not delete any comments based upon point of view. However, comments will be deleted if they are worded in an abusive manner and show disrespect for the intellectual process.
Showing posts with label SELF REPRESENTATION. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SELF REPRESENTATION. Show all posts

Monday, April 16, 2018


By Avi Salzman, September 11, 2005

"The mother from North Haven sat in the back of Judge Patricia L. Harleston's wood-paneled courtroom at the New Haven County Courthouse and cried quietly. She was unemployed, she owed more than $2,000 in child support and she had no idea how she was going to defend herself. She said she couldn't afford a lawyer, so she was representing herself at the child support hearing. Meanwhile, the lawyer for the father of her children sat across the room.

"I don't know what my rights are," said the mother, who asked that her name not be used because of the sensitive nature of the hearing. "When someone else has an attorney, they know all the ins and outs and I don't."

Same players, same victims, except in 2005 only 50% of litigants were self represented.  In 2018, 89% of litigants are self represented.  Note the reference to how the majority of self represented litigants are women! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017


It was tough to read the May 12, 2017 "CT Law Tribune" article in connection to the Dianne Hart-D'Amato case, particularly as a person who has walked in Dianne's shoes and experienced what she has experienced.  It was angering to read Dianne, and by inference all self represented parties in family court, spoken of as "a disgruntled litigant."  

I wonder how attorneys and judges would feel if I spoke of them automatically as crooked attorneys or crooked judges simply by virtue of the fact that I do not agree with them.  It is not often a bully pulpit such as "The CT Law Tribune" exists as a means to tongue lash the people a particular profession does not like.   

Thursday, April 9, 2015



Sunday, April 5, 2015


On June 11, 2013, Kathi Sorrentino came to court with two separate checks--one made out to her ex-husband Saverino Sorrentino and the other made out to his attorney, Kevin Finch--each made out for $1,000.  When the parties finally arrived before Judge Corinne Klatt, the judge stated "Last week the Court found the defendant in contempt and ordered her to pay a one thousand dollar fine today."  

Still, there was a possible way out of the fine. Judge Klatt had also told Kathi Sorrentino she could avoid paying the fine, if she obtained mental health treatment to stop her from filing so many motions.  

Like the vast majority of judges in Connecticut, instead of acknowledging the domestic violence that Sam Sorrentino had committed against Kathi, and for which there was ample evidence, Judge Klatt preferred to attribute all the problems in the case to Kathi Sorrentino's mental illness.

All I can say is that Kathi can thank her lucky stars that Judge Corinne Klatt didn't call her "intelligent" the way so many judges describe other victims of domestic violence and stalking through the court system. 

Putting the joking aside, however, the fact is that using a mental health diagnosis or calling someone "crazy" for the purpose of discriminating against a family court litigant is a violation of the non-discrimination statutes of the State of Connecticut.  Family Court Judges are not allowed to ascribe the refusal of an abused woman to accept the abuse to some sort of psychiatric problem, not only because it violates the Constitutional mandate against discrimination based upon disability, but also because it violates the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and As Amended in 2008.  

Still, blithely unaware of these mandates against discrimination, and happily complaisant in her right to call a person who doesn't agree with her crazy, Judge Corinne Klatt stated as follows:  [Filing many motions is a sign not of] mental illness but some sort of, some type of mental health issue...the repetitive nature of these filings indicates to me...that it was almost so compulsive that it might be indicative of some of mental health issue..."

Apparently, on June 4, 2013, Judge Klatt had stated that if Kathi Sorrentino could make a good faith showing that she had attempted to obtain some counseling for this so-called mental health issue, she would consider canceling the fine of $1,000 for the order of contempt.  What Kathi did was see a person at her local domestic violence shelter.  The counselor at the domestic violence shelter basically said that it looked as though the problem that was going on was that Kathi did not have an attorney.  

Immediately, Judge Klatt intervened and said, you can't say that; it's hearsay.  

But the DV shelter advocate was correct.  Every self-represented party I know has had a problem with filing what the Court considers to be far too many motions.  Of course, I know what the Court really wants is for all of us self-represented parties to do is shut up and go away.  So even one motion from a self-represented party is much too much as far as a Judge is concerned.  Still, I hardly think it is fair to single out Kathi Sorrentino for showing evidence of a problem that pretty much every self-represented party  in the State of Connecticut has.  I myself was fined $35,000 in attorneys fees for filing too many motions.  

So, I guess in comparison to me, Kathi Sorrentino should consider herself lucky.  $1,000 is nothing in comparison to $35,000!  

However, since when does Judge Corinne Klatt think it is acceptable to define Kathi Sorrentino as mentally ill or intransigent based upon behavior that pretty much every self represented party is guilty of.  Doesn't this all again add up to an unconstitutional attack on the right Citizens of Connecticut have to represent themselves at all.  Isn't this a way to send the message, sure represent yourself, but as soon as you cross a single line, we are going to fine you into bankruptcy and call you nuts?

The bottom line is that Judge Corinne Klatt did not consider the letter acceptable and proceeded to demand that Kathi Sorrentino pay the $1,000 contempt fine.  At that point Judge Klatt demanded that Kathi pay the fine to the Clerk of the Court.  Unfortunately, since Ms. Sorrentino did not have enough money herself to pay the fine, her daughter had written out both of the checks to different people--one to Sam Sorrentino and the other to his Attorney Kevin Finch and there were no other checks available to write out to the Court Clerk.  

Immediately, both Judge Corinne Klatt and Attorney Kevin Finch dumped blame on Kathi Sorrentino for not knowing who to write the checks out for.

Attorney Finch:  Again, this is just another effort of Mrs. Sorrentino to delay matters.

Judge Corinne Klatt:  I ordered her a week ago to come in with a payment of a thousand dollars.  I gave you the week as a courtesy more than anything to you.  I gave you a week in which to pay the fine, ma'am.  And you come in today without a fine payment."

Ok, well, Judge Klatt, not exactly.  She had the fine payment, but it was written out to the wrong person.    While Judge Klatt insisted that she had told Kathi Sorrentino who to write the check out to at the hearing on June 4, 2013, a review of the transcript for that date indicated that she had not.

And, you see, here's the thing, how would anyone know that the fees on a motion for contempt would be payable to the clerk of the court.  As Kathi Sorrentino stated, "Nobody told me who to make the checks out to and if you look in the records, nobody did."  I have to say that I've been in and out of the Court for a decade and I sure didn't know that you would have to give the fine to the Clerk of the Court and not to opposing counsel.  If its news to me, I'm not surprised its news to Kathi Sorrentino.  

These kinds of scenarios show up in court repeatedly where the Judge and the opposing attorney in an abusive case will set up a major problem that's simply invented, but a self represented party wouldn't know, and put on a big show of outrage and indignation just to demoralize the victim of legal stalking through the court system.  This is why victims of long term stalking develop symptoms of PTSD and often lose their ability to function in daily life or hold down a job.  And, of course, that's intentional as well.

So what did Kathi Sorrentino do here, stuck in the middle of court without a proper check.  What she said to Judge Klatt is give me a little time and I will go and get a proper check and be back by lunchtime.  But that would be much too easy.  Instead, Judge Corinne Klatt decided to put Kathi Sorrentino in jail because she hadn't written the check out to the right person.  

You know, I have a sneaky idea how the Court could have avoided putting Kathi Sorrentino in jail.  She could have had Kathi hand over the check she had written out to Attorney Kevin Finch and then Attorney Finch could have written out a check to the Court Clerk!  That could have been another approach to getting the fine paid.  But that would have been much too easy, wouldn't it?  

The bottom line, though, is that if there is any concern that a self-represented party might end up incarcerated, isn't that party entitled to representation by a Court appointed attorney?  So what happened to that law?  Not important if you are too busy abusing someone?

I know that many of you reading this blog will think that situations like this are the exception.  Unfortunately, this isn't so.  They are the rule.  This is why we so desperately need to reform our family court system.

As a final note, Kathi Sorrentino did send a complaint about this incident to the Judicial Review Council, but by the time she did so the year long statute of limitations had gone by.  This is what happens frequently when judges abuse litigants; it ordinarily takes at least a year to recover from the shock before any one of them begins to think about filing a complaint and by then the opportunity is gone.  As one of the reforms of our legal system, I think the deadline should be extended up to two years.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


In an earlier blog on the Kathi Sorrentino case, I had spoken of the book "Man's Search For Meaning" in which Viktor Frankl stated that of all the many sufferings he endured in the Nazi Concentration camps, the worst he had to bear were not the physical privations, but the verbal abuse he had to put up with on a daily basis. When asked, "Why was this so?" his answer was, "Because it was so unfair." 

The context in which Mr. Frankl's words make the most sense in our Family Courts is in regard to how Judges bully and badger self-represented parties during hearings.  In ways that are very predictable, judges treat the represented party as if he can do no wrong, while judges consistently browbeat, harass, and pass judgment on the character of the self represented parties. This is one of the most unfair aspects of our corrupt Family Court system.

This phenomenon represents an ongoing, hidden disgrace in terms of how the Court treats litigants in Family Courts throughout the State of Connecticut.  In the hearing that took place on May 23, 2014, Kathi Sorrentino fell victim to the policy of abusing self-represented parties, and thus ended up losing custody of her son, Storm.

In this blog, I am referring to Judge Corinne Klatt who conducted Kathi Sorrentino's trial, but the bottom line is the techniques judges use in abusing self represented parties are well known and clearly judges discuss and share approaches.  So all of them stand guilty of the same abusive behavior, not just any single judge. 

Disregarding Court Rules:

The most common piece of nonsense Judges allow in hearings with self represented parties is to allow the opposing attorney to submit motions right when the hearing starts.  This is a violation of the due process right to know what you are being accused of in advance of the proceedings.  Thus, with Kathi Sorrentino, Dr. Eric Frazer submitted a status report that Kathi hadn't had the opportunity to see prior to the hearing.  Second, in Kathi Sorrentino's case, the judge allowed the opposing attorney to switch around the order of the witnesses right in the middle of the hearing which gave him considerable advantage.  As long as attorneys can manipulate the legal proceedings at will and a self-represented party has no recourse for that, it is unlikely that a self-represented party will ever have a fair hearing.

Often, judges will mislead self-represented litigants about court procedures as a way to disrupt their legal defense.  For instance, in my case the Judge told me that I did not have to object to decisions I disagreed with because the rules of the CT Practice Book had changed and objections were no longer necessary to preserve your right to appeal.  In fact, this was totally untrue. 

Likewise, Judge Corinne Klatt told Kathi Sorrentino that you are not allowed to object to a question that the opposing attorney posed, when in fact, of course you can.  Also, Judge Klatt told Kathi she was not allowed to object to an answer.  Ok, so you might not be able to "object" to an answer, but you can certainly expose the weaknesses in an answer during later examination.  

At other times when Kathi Sorrentino was legitimately standing up to state her objections, Judge Klatt responded with, "Please, stop interrupting." and "Stop shouting out in the courtroom."  So an attorney who objects is objecting, but a self represented party who objects is interrupting or shouting. This kind of judicial reframing of the actions of a self-represented party turns the application of a standard court procedure into a form of wrongdoing which could be punished by a contempt of court.  How can you possibly argue on behalf of your position under such intimidating conditions?  

Shouting loud commands:

Judges also bully self-represented parties by using repeated loud commands.  For instance this exchange during one part of the May 23, 2014 hearing:

Kathi:  Did I ever deny you any time during your parenting time?
Sam:  No.
Kathi: Not mine because, as you...
Sam:  No.
Kathi:  You admitted...
Judge Klatt:  All right.  All right.
Kathi: You do ask to...
Judge Klatt:  All right.  All right.  All right.
Kathi: Ok.
Judge Klatt:  He's answered the question.  You're not to argue with the witness; understand me?
Kathi: Ok.
Judge Klatt:  Ask your next question.

As I read through this transcript, I didn't see that Kathi had been arguing, but this is the point, that the Judge imposes an interpretation on a neutral situation and finds wrongdoing where there is none. 

Other behaviors like this include repeatedly going "Stop, stop, stop, stop" when Kathi Sorrentino was doing something minor like handing over an exhibit too quickly, or another variation, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!" when Kathi asked the other side to show proof in regard to a statement they made.  Or when Kathi tried to elicit testimony from her ex-husband as to why he refused to continue with court ordered co-parenting therapy, "No. No. No. No. No."  

There are also situations where a judge doesn't think you are conducting your examination fast enough as a self-represented party and after each question barks out, "next question!, next question!, next question!" as Judge Klatt did with Kathi Sorrentino.  Or consider this outburst from Judge Klatt when she didn't think Kathi was going fast enough in her examination "This is the last time, move on to the next question.  I have ordered you five times.  I've actually counted.  Five times I've ordered you to move on from that subject.  Next question or I will stop this cross examination." 

Treatment like that inevitably leads self-represented parties to feel hurried and fragmented and judges do it for that reason.  Judges also like to tell self-represented parties off for using up so much of the Court's valuable time on their miserable self-defense.  For instance, Judge Klatt: "We are not going to turn this into a three day procedure.  Please."  Or else this exchange during Ms. Sorrentino's cross-examination of her ex:

Judge Klatt:  Just ask your next question.
Kathi:  So we have it on the record that Storm is registered...
Judge Klatt:  Please ask your next question.
Kathi:  with Dr. Landis...
Judge Klatt:  Are you finished with your questions?
Kathi: Okay.
Judge Klatt:  Are you finished with your questions?
Kathi:  No.  No, I'm not.
Judge Klatt:  Please.  Then go.

Again, when Kathi Sorrentino was attempting to make her final remarks she didn't say them fast enough for Judge Corinne Klatt as the following interchange indicates:

Judge Klatt:  Other than that, what do you want to tell me because...
Kathi:  Why?
Judge Klatt: ...quite frankly, ma'am, I'm about to shut you off.
Kathi:  Why?
Judge Klatt:  We've got three minutes left.  You've taken all day.  And as I've indicated, I think that's been a deliberate behavior on your part...
Kathi:  I'm sorry.  It's not deliberate.

Soliciting or Providing Testimony Outside Judicial Role: Frequently, when judges see there are big holes in a case, they will simply find a way to get the testimony in that is necessary to throw it in the direction of the particular litigant they've decided will win.

In my case, I recall the judge asking my ex's attorney questions about some retirement accounts in my ex's name thus cluing the attorney in on what arguments to use to get my ex excused from the penalties he should have endured for not reporting them on his financial agreement. 

In Kathi Sorrentino's case, the judge intervened extensively  and simply elicited the testimony he wanted to get out of Mr. Sorrentino, rather that leaving it up to the attorneys to argue to argue their case.  If you have the judge inserting evidence into the case of his own volition, and disregarding his role as neutral decision maker, how can you possibly believe that you have a fair trial.

Direct Personal Attacks:

Then there are the direct personal attacks on the self-represented litigant's character which are the most difficult to take and are a matter of course when a self-represented party is involved in a hearing.  For instance, there is the interchange between Judge Corinne Klatt and Kathi when Judge Klatt makes fun of her for not knowing the meaning of the word "filibuster":

Judge Klatt:  This is not let's ramble on because, really, that's all you're doing.  Are you familiar with what a filibuster is?  Ma'am, are you?
Kathi:  No. No.
Judge Klatt:  You're not?  Not at all?
Kathi:  No.
Judge Klatt:  You're a college graduate, aren't you?  Or I know you're enrolled in college...
Kathi:  English and Studio Art major.
Judge Klatt:  All right.
Kathi:  And I'm in school now for...
Judge Klatt:  All right.
Kathi:  and Education major.
Judge Klatt:  And you don't know what a filibuster is?
Kathi:  No.  Not off the...
Judge Klatt:  That's where somebody keeps talking just to stretch things out without really getting to the point of the issues at hand and which is what I think you're doing to me here.

There is something inherently wrong when a Judge of the superior court thinks it is acceptable to make fun of a self represented party for not knowing the meaning of a word. 

Condemnation for being intelligent:

With women who are representing themselves, there inevitably comes a point where the Judge will comment on how intelligent you are.  I personally know several women this has happened to.  This occurs because in these cases of abuse, the Family Court racketeers particularly choose women who are intelligent because the misogynist court system, I believe, is immensely gleeful to have the opportunity to humiliate and demean intelligent women. 

Also, they are aware that bright women are very likely to fight long and hard for their children, so this means more money for everyone all around. 

In Kathi's case, as with so many others, Judge Corinne Klatt's commentary on Kathi's intelligence is predictably interlaced with insult as follows:

Kathi:  I'm confused, your honor.
Judge Klatt:  Ma'am, you know what, Ma'am?  It is my obligation to assess the credibility of witnesses and I don't think you're in the least bit confused.  You're a bright, intelligent woman that has thoroughly prepared for this hearing and I think you're deliberately presenting to the Court in a fashion that makes you--that you're attempting to tell the Court or imply to the Court that you're confused.  I am not believing you in that regard."

But then after celebrating Kathi's intelligence, albeit in a very abusive manner, Judge Klatt tries to insult that intelligence by pretending that the entire court proceeding is not a direct attack on Kathi in the following interchange:

Kathi:  What I'm sensing and I'm hearing is that--that this is about me being accused of [being] an alienator and not complying with Court orders and I'm doing what I can to show that I am.
Judge Klatt:  Well, I hesitate to accuse, ma'am.  That's -- it's an affliction.  It is not -- it is not a crime we're accusing you of.

Right, it's a mental illness not a crime, as if that matters,  because the outcome for Kathi will be the devastating loss of custody of her child.  So is Judge Klatt trying to say that Kathi shouldn't worry about it?  How irrational is that? 

Increasing the noise level to drown out the truth:

The bottom line is that whenever Kathi Sorrentino succeeded in making powerful points in her defense, which was actually quite frequently, Judge Klatt would find a frivolous reason to strike that testimony from the record.  In addition, if Kathi was pursuing a successful line of questioning that proved that she was innocent of wrongdoing, inevitably Judge Klatt would allow the opposing attorney to jump up and down with irrelevant objections and commentary, or else she herself would interject discouraging remarks and observations. 

While for the better part, Kathi was able to make her points nonetheless, I recall being completely sidelined by those kinds of distracting techniques in my day.

The represented party can do no wrong:  

Meanwhile, the represented party pretty much gets away with anything he wants.  He can provide extensive hearsay testimony, make unsupported and outrageous statements without being required to provide the slightest bit of evidence.  He can refuse to answer the questions or answer them with outright lies and get away with it.  In other words, for the person who has an attorney to advocate on his behalf, hearings like this are a breeze. 

For instance, at one point while examining Mr. Sorrentino on the stand, Kathi Sorrentino was able to point out that he had no evidentiary basis for his accusations.  Immediately, Judge Corinne Klatt rushed to his rescue stating, "Well, ma'am, to be quite frank, that -- those comments are stricken.  You want to know why?  Because I am the one who determines credibility, not you."  

A hearing solely for show:

What this adds up to is that Kathi Sorrentino's hearing on May 23, 2014 was simply for show, a casual bow to the legal requirement that the Court allow a citizen a hearing before depriving her of her constitutional right to parent.  The outcome of this hearing was already predetermined. 

But yes, given the fact that legal techniques and procedures are geared to expose the truth, it does take the active intervention of the Judge to subvert the proceedings and conclude with an entirely unjust final judgment as happened in this case. 

Many of the self-represented parties who undergo this trial by outright wrongdoing by a judge talk about how exhausted they feel afterwards.  They are exhausted by the direct personal attacks and exhausted by the constant perversion of the truth.  It can feel as though you are an exhausted boxer staggering around the ring flailing back at punches that appear to come out from all sides. 

There is nothing fair or just about such proceedings.  The fact that Connecticut Family Courts conduct such show trials is a disgrace.  With the passage of last years Bill #494 and with the upcoming Bill #5505, there is hope that we can correct these kinds of abuses.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Karin Wolf, a New Jersey resident and mother of two, has filed A federal lawsuit against Judges of the Bergen County Family Court, and N.J. Appellate Court,  Governor Chris Christie, the State of New Jersey, DYFS caseworkers, Court Vendors, and others requesting damages and declaratory and injunctive relief in connection to her custody case. 

Ms. Wolf, who is a victim of domestic violence, and who obtained a divorce decree based upon charges of extreme cruelty against her ex-husband, brings her case under U.S. Code Title 42 Secs. 1983 and 1985, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) 18  U.S. Code Secs.  1961-1968, and the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1951.  She is among many family court litigants throughout the country who have come to see the family court system as being in the center of a racket that conspires to take children away from fit mothers and transfer them over to the full custody of their abusers. 

As Karin Wolf explains in her Complaint, "Defendants are engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity and operating Rico Enterprises in the Family Court; through a calculated system of eugenics and social engineering; and dealing in obscene matters of human trafficking, child pornography and child prostitution, for motives both economic and non-economic." 

In her Complaint, Ms. Wolf talks about state government actors and court operatives acting in such a way as to "pre-determine the winner" in family court cases without due process as happened in her case.  She also complains that the family court conducts itself in such a way as to impose a "pay to play" policy on litigants and to promote "conflict for cash" while engaging in "emotional blackmail."  I am sure all these terms are very familiar to victims of family court here in Connecticut! 

Further, I think many Connecticut Family Court litigants can recognize as a common experience how badly Ms. Karin Wolf was treated as a self-represented party.  She states that when she acted on her own behalf Court Personnel behaved towards her with contempt and denied her due process rights because she is a self-represented party who "wasn't and isn't paying money into a corrupt system of racketeering, influence, and extortion in the Bergen County Family Court." 

Like many of the mothers in Connecticut who face family court judges who are ignorant of the reality of domestic violence, Karin Wolf reports that the defendants in her case "used retaliation, threats, and coercive control" against her and "deliberately acted obtuse to family violence, ignoring and minimizing it to subvert and circumvent established principles, codes and laws on child abuse and domestic violence."  She also talked about how the defendants provoked family violence so as to subject Ms. Wolf and her children to ongoing intervention from court vendors who then made considerable amounts of money from those interventions.  

In doing so, they invoked Richard Gardner's quack theories of parental alienation as a means to label Ms. Wolf, remove the children from her custody, and transfer them to the custody of their abuser. 

When she tried to defend herself, the Court denied her access to the child support, alimony and attorneys fees which were necessary for her to obtain legal representation.  This was also connected to a policy of refusing to allow Karin adequate discovery. 

Finally, Karin Wolf alleges that the actions of family court professionals are aligned with the nationwide father's rights agenda which is working to "resurrect Lord Hale's Law and the Rule of Thumb, to assist fathers in hiding income and assets, and avoid paying child support, without any concern for their children." 

Ms. Karin Wolf's case is not unique among protective mothers who have ended up losing custody after years of harassment and legal abuse.  Ms. Wolf's journey originally began when she fled her marital home on September 29, 2006 after several incidents of domestic violence and obtained a final judgment of divorce under NJ Rule 2A:34-2(c) having established in court a cause of action for divorce of extreme cruelty. 

Nonetheless, subsequent to the divorce, Ms. Wolf experienced ongoing legal and interpersonal harassment from her ex-husband for years afterwards and finally lost custody of her two children to her abuser on August 30, 2013. 

She lost custody in a flawed proceeding where the Court allowed  her attorney, Alexandra Stremler, Esq., to back out of the trial moments before the hearing without any advanced notice and forced Ms. Wolf to proceed as a self-represented party even though the attorney had failed to appear with copies of her exhibits which were essential to the conduct of a fair trial. Even more troubling the trial proceeded forward despite the fact that Attorney Stremler had failed to submit the trial summary indicating what evidence and witnesses she intended to present to the Court which left Ms. Wolf in disarray just as she was required to proceed to trial as a self-represented party without any opportunity to prepare. 

Karin Wolf describes the presiding judge in the matter,  Judge Gerald C. Escala, as being "rude, intimidating, and contemptuous" and further she describes him as "belittling her attempts to present her case."  Many of us who have represented ourselves in family court have had similar experiences when we have attempted to defend ourselves. 

I have to commend Ms. Karin Wolf for making this attempt to take her case to federal court when the state court and its associated vendors and state agencies have so grossly failed to accord her the fairness, due process, and justice to which she is entitled as a mother and as an American citizen.  Even though she is a single individual, she is speaking for the many thousands and thousands of mothers throughout this country who have been falsely accused, harassed, bullied, and legally abused by their perpetrator ex-husbands, and become victim of our corrupt family court and child protective systems. 

I am aware that in federal court Ms. Wolf's Complaint will face a daunting round of motions to dismiss and we can only hope that it survives to the point where she can present her evidence and obtain a fair hearing.  I admire Ms. Wolf for her strength, her courage, and her determination as well as her powerful dedication to her children.  As this case proceeds through federal court, I will continue to report back on her progress. 

For more news and information in regard to Ms. Karin Wolf, please click on the link below:

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Anne Stevenson calls out the CT Judicial System in regard to their comments about self-represented parties.  See below:
"Despite the economic barriers to justice faced by struggling Connecticut families, rising from the ashes of the highly charged public debates over how to reform the family courts is a shockingly insensitive outcry from court industry insiders demonizing the 85 percent of divorcing parents who have chosen to invest in their families instead of attorneys.
Tauck v. Tauck was perhaps the most inefficient and expensive trial in Connecticut family court history, spanning over five years, 600-plus filings, and ending in an 86-day trial in 2007 that played out before Judge Holly Abery-Wetstone on Middletown's Regional Family Trial Docket. According to the Hartford Courant, the family paid out some $13.3 million in fees to the dozens of legal industry professionals on the case, including $1.3 million paid (without challenge) to attorney Gaetano Ferro, the children's guardian ad litem.
Clearly, the legal industry professionals were the big winners in the Tauck case, and if ever there was a case for cutting out the middleman and going pro se, it is the Tauck divorce. While some may be quick to blame the Nancy and Peter Tauck for their part in spurring on this "high-conflict" litigation marathon, one might also question the competence and propriety of the judges and legal professionals who had clearly lost control of the case. Did Judge Wetstone really need help deciding the case from dozens of industry professionals who just couldn't seem to agree with each other on much except that the $13.3 million they charged the family was "necessary and reasonable"?

For more information in Anne Stevenson's remarks, please click on the link below:

Monday, October 21, 2013


Judicial Branch Launches Series Of Educational Videos JAY STAPLETON
2013-10-17 15:46:15.0

A basic understanding of legal terms and courtroom procedures can be daunting for anyone who tries to get a divorce without the help of a lawyer.
To help smooth the process of self-represented divorce cases, the Connecticut Judicial Branch has gone into the movie business.
No, family court judges are not trying to win an Academy Award with a remake of the classic family drama Kramer vs Kramer. Instead, court administrators are producing instructional videos to teach the masses how to resolve a divorce case. The hope is that the videos will help real-life litigants to more effectively navigate the system.
The production costs are being covered in part by a $20,000 grant from State Justice Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit corporation that awards grants with the intent of improving the quality of justice in state courts.
Technical support, including help writing scripts for the videos, is being provided through a partnership between the Judicial Branch and the New Haven Legal Assistance Association.
"Some people are visual learners, and some people have limited literacy skills, so we found the videos are a great way to demystify the court system and help people feel more comfortable using the courts," said Susan Nofi-Bendici, the executive director of the New Haven-based legal aid organization, who worked on the videos in an advisory capacity.
"Look, a video is never going to be as good as lawyer," she said, "but if we can't meet the legal demand for providing legal services for everyone, at least we can give a lot of support to people by providing them with information on how to represent themselves."
Since the Judicial Branch video program started in June, two of the instructional videos have been completed and put on its website, as well as on YouTube. The first to be uploaded in the news section of the Judicial Branch website is called "Your Uncontested Divorce."
More recently, a seven-minute video, titled "How to File For Divorce," was added. With court clerk, secretaries and even a judge "acting" out the roles of court personnel and divorcing couples in front of the camera, both videos walk viewers through the steps to file for a divorce in Connecticut Superior Court.
The videos show viewers the various forms that are filed in divorce cases. Key phrases that are used in court are clearly defined.
In the first video, for example, the narrator, Jim Lawlor from the Waterbury Court Service Center, instructs viewers by using simple, everyday language. "Broken down irretrievably," Lawlor says. "This is the most common reason people give for wanting a divorce. It means there is no hope of the spouses getting back together."
Late-Night Viewing
Krista Hess, who is the court service center programs manager for the Judicial Branch, said the idea for creating instructional videos has been tossed around for a few years.
The idea for the videos was born out of the strategic plan created by the Self-represented Parties Committee. The committee was formed in 2008 to study the changing legal landscape and to look for ways to implement tools and resources to adapt to the growing number of self-represented parties in the courts.
The idea was to increase the availability of information, to better help pro se litigants navigate the court system in an efficient and timely manner.
Hess was on the committee. She said members agreed videos would be a good educational resource, to be used in addition to help center locations and law libraries that provide instructional materials at 13 of the state's 15 judicial districts.
"Primarily, the idea is that since courts are only open from 9 to 5, and people have to go into the courts to get that information, that could be problematic for a lot of people," Hess said. "If we provide electronic access to the instructional materials, people can watch them when they get home from work, even if it's 11 o'clock at night."
Many court employees appeared in the videos, including clerk's office staff, foreclosure mediators, court service center workers and marshals. "We're really trying to give people a very basic understanding of what they might expect in court," she said. "For example, when they go to the courthouse, they will have to go through a metal detector, and when they go to court, they will have to stand and raise their right hand and be sworn in'."
A third video was recently created on filing restraining orders, but it hasn't yet been posted online. All of the videos are available in English, Spanish and Polish. Hess said each of the videos took about six months to complete. Other possible court areas that could benefit from similar videos include small claims, housing and foreclosure, "where we have the largest concentration of self-represented parties," Hess said. •

Monday, October 14, 2013


Recently, I had the experience of watching a self represented party defend himself during a court hearing.  In my day, I was also a self represented party for around two years, so I understand what it is like.  Yet watching someone else play that role was still a real eye opener. 

The most important observation I had was to see three highly intelligent, well trained, extremely experienced individuals participate in a process that was clearly damaging to everyone involved--the parents and the children.  Every member of the family involved in this case, it was clear to me, would ultimately end up with severe scars as a result of what was happening that day, and throughout the extended legal proceedings in the case. 
But don't let me get ahead of myself.  First, allow me to tell you some of the initial lessons I learned from the experience.
Again, as self represented parties we know that we are going to lose, yet we choose to represent ourselves anyway. 
There are some very practical reasons for representing ourselves, the first being that we absolutely do not have any money left to pay an attorney to represent us.  The second most common reason is that even if we did have the money, no one would represent us anyway because we have become courtroom poison. 
You have to understand these attorneys, let alone the judges, are all in their little club, and they all gossip with one another, and if their little group has decided they are going to make you miserable and make sure you lose and ruin any attorney who tries to do it differently, that is exactly what they will do.  

Other than that, we do what we do because we believe in the justness of our cause. 
Self represented parties essentially make the heroic last stands.  We are Custer and his men and we know that the Indians are going to kill every last one of us.  We are Massada!  We are the Alamo! 
Yet, even though we know we will lose, nonetheless, many of us work very hard to learn court rules and the law so that we can conduct ourselves respectably.  I know I spent hours reading up on what I had to do in terms of presenting exhibits, developing an argument, responding with my objections, and examining witnesses.  I know many other people who do the same. 
And for what?  Why are we doing all those hours and hours of studying and hard work?  Because we are heroic and we are fighting for what is right, good and true, even though we know that the bottom line is that we will never win.
In these recent court proceedings where I was observing, the day started with the usual introductions and the swearing in of the parties and attorneys that they agreed to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God."(yes, I know, very funny!!!) 
Once that was done the judge announced that it was good to see old friends again. 
Of course, we all know that my friend the self represented party wasn't included as one of these old friends.  I mean, self represented parties generally come in for their court proceedings, and then, once they are trashed completely, they leave and the judge doesn't get to see them again.  They don't get "old"! 
No, the only ones that get old are the attorneys who keep coming back for say thirty years or more. 
What that means is that the self represented party will most likely be representing himself for the first and last time in that court.  The opposing attorney, on the other hand, most likely has been in that courtroom for years and years and will continue on that way. 
So while the self represented party is a total beginner and just learning to act as an attorney, the opposing side can apply all those legal skills in his or her sleep.  So right away you have a complete imbalance of power. 
Plus, these folks have seen each other at meetings, spent time with one another on committees and commissions; they have loads of history. 
In my case, the judge had actually provided legal representation to my custody evaluator and so they had this personal and professional relationship going.  So already they trust one another ten times more than they trust you as a self represented party--you will never be designated as an "old friend."
In family court, the most frequently used method to trash the designated losing party is to call that party crazy.  This means that self-represented parties are pretty much guaranteed to end up being called crazy since they are the losing parties.  That means they end up being honorary members of the crazy club. 
The crazy club, in case you didn't know, is the very special club for the mentally ill.  Mental illness is a disability and normally the fact that a person has a disability is not a reason to deny such people their constitutional and human rights.  However, in the court room, the fact that a person has a mental health disability is equivalent to stating that a person is a subhuman monster. 
So when the court decides that you are crazy, that is the end of any opportunity you might have to be treated fairly.
Usually, of course, most self represented parties aren't mentally ill at all.  They are simply highly principled individuals who are insisting upon their rights.  So what can the Court do when they have no evidence that these self-represented parties have any mental illness and the psychological test results indicate they have no mental illness and mental health professionals support the fact that they have no mental illness? 
They will just hint that a mental illness exists even though there is no evidence for one.  The judge, or the opposing attorney will say of the self represented party, we know that there is some mental health problem, but we haven't yet put our fingers on it yet.  The self represented party has some undiagnosed disorder.  Wink!  Wink!  Wink! 
It is amazing how many details you notice when you are observing and you are not representing yourself. For one thing, as I watched my friend, it became clear to me that every time he presented a series of irrefutable facts in support of his position, the judge would immediately interrupt loudly and start berating him for some minor violation of court rules, and the opposing attorney would jump up with objection after objection, many of them with a very trivial basis. 
If they didn't jump up and down and make a lot of noise in response to my self represented friend's strong defense, the judge and the attorney would lapse into silence and stop responding altogether.  The judge would stop making any eye contact with my friend and would start staring fixedly at the opposite side of the courtroom. 
Another tactic I saw the judge employ when my friend was making too many points successfully was to ask highly technical questions about court rules which would overwhelm even an experienced attorney. 
Then another approach I saw was when the judge stated that a particular legal procedure my friend used was incorrect when I happen to know very well that it was correct.  I had that happen to me frequently during my time as a self represented party.  The judge had no problem making procedure up right on the spot.
Another tactic was when the opposing attorney drilled my friend with a whole lot of peripheral and irrelevant questions to the point where he completely lost track of what he was doing! 
Judges will never, ever rule in favor of a self represented party if they can help it.  So, you might have a series of motions, one after another, and if those motions are from the self represented party, they will be denied. 
Also, while all this is going on the judge, the marshals, the court reporter are all smirking when the self represented party is looking at his notes, or searching through papers trying to find his exhibits.  It's all really amusing to them.
Meanwhile, the judge is like, "Take your time, Mr. So and So.  Don't let me rush you."
In the case of my friend, at one point in the proceedings, he tried to prevent hearsay testimony from coming into the record.  However, the judge allowed that testimony stating that it wasn't being considered in regard to its truth, but only as an indication of how a person relevant to the case felt.  Yet I am sure every last one of us in that courtroom knew the judges' statement wasn't true, and that the hearsay evidence was being considered for its truth. 
With me, I was asked to believe that my children who are disabled and that the ADA Coordinator had verified were disabled, were, in fact, NOT disabled. 
There is other kind of nonsense we are supposed to believe, for instance, that a parent who has never harmed his or her child ever, who has never sexually molested the child, has never hit the child, has never been criticized in raising the child, all of a sudden requires supervised visitation, or could even end up being barred from seeing the child permanently without any logical justification.
If there is one thing that comes out most clearly from spending a day in court watching a self represented party, it is that no matter what the facts of a case are they can be spun either in favor of the one side or the other at will. 
It is clear that what occurred in my case and also in the case of my friend is that the judge and the attorneys had made an advanced decision in regard to who was going to win. 
We spent hours in the courtroom that day, undergoing a ritual that already had a foregone conclusion, going through the motions, pretending that the judge was listening and carefully considering the evidence, when in fact he was not.  His mind was already made up. 
Still, that wasn't all in terms of the damage.  Then came the most brutal part of this process when my friend had to sit silently as the judge gave him a long lecture full of lies and misrepresentations pretty much stating that everything that had happened wrong in the case was his fault.   

That is where the self represented party's real heroism comes in, when he or she has to face that kind of outright disrespect and wrongdoing in silence, while still maintaining a semblance of dignity and outer calm. 
Isaiah 53:7  "He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth."


What I found absurd in this whole situation is the fact that the professionals in that courtroom were applying skills that were developed hundreds of years ago to the present situation.  We don't use leaches to cure physical ills any longer, we don't put people in the stocks.  So why are we using a legal approach that is more appropriate to prior centuries instead of living in the present and using the knowledge that we have today?  We don't put victims of polio in iron lungs; we inoculate them.  Why are we doing the same when it comes to divorce?  That is, acting like we are living in an era when we burn people at the stake?

We now know as the result of family systems therapy that when you harm one member of the family, you harm them all.  You can't just haul one person out of the family and trash that person with trumped up accusations and think that every member of that family will not suffer for that in the end.

Why can't we think that?  Because we live in the modern world and we have made major discoveries about how the human brain works long since the  legal system developed theories about hearsay.

Now, it is all very nice that the attorneys and the judge in this case cited a psychiatrist who conducted an evaluation.  However, it is important to note that the concepts upon which that psychiatrist based his report were only developed in the last 50 years and we still have a long way to go in terms of insights and understandings.  But one thing I do know since I have observed the field of psychiatry very closely over the years, and that is, I don't think that the concepts of psychiatry were intended to destroy the relationships between parents and children, or to subject parents to ritual torture in the courtroom.

These legal professionals want to have their cake and eat it to.  They want to use legal weapons invented in the medieval age to eviscerate fit parents and to use children as informants against those parents, a role that will scar them for life.  And they want the right to use the modern weapons of neurobiology to do it.  No ethical mental health professional would agree to participate in such a proceedings.  Why?  Because the mental health profession is a healing profession which has the obligation to do no harm, not to take sides in a legal proceeding which they know is antithetical to the physical and mental health of every family member involved.

I can't say that I have all the answers to the problems raised by divorce.  It's just that the one thing I do know is that what is going on and what I observed that day in the courtroom with my self represented friend is fundamentally unjust and should not be happening.  I also said to myself, here you have three highly intelligent legal professionals, all college educated and with three additional years of law school, and they can't figure out that what they are doing is absolutely appalling?  What's the matter with these people?  It's not exactly rocket science.  I'm not sure what, but we need to do something to stop this.