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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Complaints against family court specialist go back years

Malcolm Maclachlan's November 3rd article in California's Capitol Weekly, begins:
According to her resume, Janelle Burrill is many things: psychologist, attorney, social worker. To the Sacramento Superior Court, she’s both an approved family court mediator and a special master, a person appointed by the court to make sure judicial orders are followed. She’s also been active in Placer and El Dorado Counties, testifying in numerous cases. But to some critics of California’s family courts system, she’s something else: Exhibit A for what’s wrong with family courts in California.
Her fraudulent claims remind me of David Tassoni, apprentice to Rhode Island Family Court's former Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr.

Burrill and Tassoni both enjoyed enormous power in secretive family courts though their credentials were not questioned while both actively promoted the discredited legal tactic of "parental alienation" (developed by psychiatrist Richard Gardner, who claimed a status he never held at Columbia University Medical School).

The article expresses surprise at the high prices charged by these court "specialists" citing huge retainers and fees of $200 an hour. That is the same amount charged six years ago by attorney Lise Iwon (now head of the Rhode Island Bar Association) when she worked as guardian ad litem to remove two sisters, 5 and 9 years old, from an excellent mother, using the same bogus argument of "parental alienation" that Burrill and Tassoni liked to use. When she convinced Judge John Mutter to take the girls into state custody, Iwon complained that their mother still owed her $5,000. Before long, Iwon's bill approached $50,000.

Iwon was close friends with Lise Gescheidt, who was criminal defense attorney for the two girls' father. Gescheidt (who now heads the RI Supreme Court's Ethics Advisory Panel) defended her friend Iwon and accused the girls' mother of introducing motions that "slander the professional reputation of a unbiased guardian ad litem who has consistently acted in the best interest of the children without meaningful compensation. . . .” (Italics added.)

These cases are all about money and power, not about determining the "whole truth and nothing but the truth" or the "best interests" of children.

The only family that is reliably served by Family Court are the "sisters and brothers" of the Rhode Island Bar and their former colleagues, now on the Bench, who protect and preserve the Family's interests.

The ease with which Lise Gescheidt and Lise Iwon influenced staff at the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) shows that the Executive Branch is also implicated in this ongoing scandal.

The third branch of government, Rhode Island's General Assembly did the right thing by mandating in 2010 that DCYF must finally get accredited by the internationally recognized Council on Accreditation.

Now we need the General Assembly to turn its attention to Family Court. The many legislators who are also members of the Bar should step back, recuse, and allow their colleagues to conduct an open audit of Family Court costs and services.

More about Lise Iwon's handling of this case is at

The Capitol Weekly article on Burrill appears at the link below (or click on the title above):

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: