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.)
Monday, November 5, 2012
School district says 12-year-old rape victim was "negligent" and "careless" when she was sexually abused:
Monday, October 29, 2012
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Don't miss this week's broadcast on the Documentary Channel about the true story of Holly Collins and her children, who were accepted by The Netherlands in 1994 as refugees from domestic violence in the United States:
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Friday, October 5, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
The American Psychiatric Association, in updating its much-anticipated next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for clinicians, has decisively rejected a doctrine that has long been standard operating procedure in Rhode Island Family Court: a junk science called “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS).
Friday, September 21, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Thursday, May 31, 2012
The first order of the day was to be certain the witness chair would not collapse under a succession of personal injury lawyers. Some of the twenty-odd chairs in the Disciplinary Board's modest hearing room are, in fact, broken. (The room is ominously lined with file boxes from lawyers whose businesses they have closed. I wondered if the chairs were donated by those offices.)
Disciplinary Board member Attorney Laura A. Pisaturo hauled over a green captain's chair and tried it out herself before offering it to a witness. She took her seat at the hearing table with Attorney Matthew L. Lewiss, who chaired the hearing, and Public Member John E. Moran III, who verified for the record that he is not related to the complainant, Louise Moran.
Deputy Disciplinary Counsel Barbara Margolis represented Ms. Moran, who attended with her private attorney. Based on the exhibits and testimony, this appears to be the chronology of the case:
- On January 31, 2012, Rhode Island construction worker William Moran died of carbon monoxide exposure, and others were injured in a West Virginia hotel.
- The next day, West Virginia Attorney Michael Bee called Rhode Island Attorney Robert Karns (who knew him from their work on traumatic brain injury cases) and asked Karns to find out about the Rhode Island victims since Bee was working on a lawsuit. Karns was in the middle of an IT seminar, but he called Investigator Ryan McCormack and asked him to look into the case and to provide victims with Attorney Bee's website and with Attorney Karns's business card.
- On February 3rd, McCormack went to the home of Mr. Moran's widow, Louise Moran. She was not at home, but McCormack talked with a family friend, Randolph Baker, who told McCormack to return and speak to Moran.
- On February 7th, after the funeral, McCormack returned to the Moran home, and Ms. Moran told him she had hired another lawyer.
- A week later, on February 14th, Moran wrote a letter of complaint against Karns to David Curtin, Chief Disciplinary Counsel. Her letter arrived on February 21st.
- On February 27th, Mr. Karns wrote to Mr. Curtin, admitted his violation of Rule 7.3, and apologized.
- More than three weeks later, on March 21st, Curtin petitioned the Disciplinary Board to hear the case.
- On March 28th, Karns's attorney Amato A. DeLuca filed his client's answers to Mr. Curtin's Petition.
At the hearing, DeLuca called on several colleagues of "Respondent-attorney" Karns to testify under oath to his character. Some had been his opponents in the courtroom, but all spoke highly of his integrity, hard work, and generosity. One said she believed he was simply doing what he could to help a member of the Bar from another jurisdiction. "That's Bob," she said, describing his "selfless" attitude: "Whatever you need, I'll help you out."
After more lawyers praised Karns, Louise Moran, who sat next to me, grumbled to her private attorney, "This is ridiculous." Five lawyers testified to the respondent's decency, and one asserted that it was not Karns, but Ms. Moran's attorney who was pursuing this "for pecuniary gain." (After that witness returned to his seat, Ms. Moran's attorney summoned him to the corridor, where a separate commotion ensued.)
Finally Mr. Karns took the witness chair and told how he had phoned McCormack during a break in his seminar and asked the investigator to "look into" the case, but he had no idea McCormack was returning to the Moran home a second time. McCormack was a thorough and "dogged" investigator, said Karns. Before leaving the chair, Karns apologized to everyone in the room, and most emphatically to the widow.
She took the witness chair next -- a youthful woman, in her 30s or 40s, and told about receiving lawyers' solicitations by mail -- perhaps thirty of them -- which she immediately discarded. Those are entirely legal under Rule 7.3, which prohibits soliciting prospective clients in person or by telephone ("real-time contacts"), but permits mailings.
There was a lot that was curious about this hearing:
- The essential witnesses -- Mr. Baker and Mr. McCormack -- never appeared. Only they could clear up what Karns said to McCormack, what was said on the first visit to the Moran home, and whether Baker had asked McCormack to return. That degree of hearsay calls the entire proceeding into question.
- Was the West Virginia lawyer proposing a class action suit? Given the circumstances of the case, this seems likely, and it might have left some wiggle room under Rule 7.3 that Karns did not exploit.
- And what about that extraordinary apology? Even Karns's lawyer said he would not have counseled his client to apologize if he had represented Karns then. But if someone is truly harmed, an apology matters.
Even if Karns's apology was a cynical attempt to deflect the Disciplinary Counsel, it is hard to understand how the case ever came to demand the public money and time devoted to this proceeding when Family Court attorneys commit wholesale violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct (as I have found researching countless child custody cases) without ever facing disciplinary proceedings or judicial reprimands.
This appears to have been the complaint of a woman who attended the hearing and disrupted it at the end by calling the entire Bar Association to task. (I was so stunned by her outburst that I failed to take notes, but Ms. Margolis rushed to bring Mr. Curtin into the hearing room, and Mr. Lewiss hastily adjourned the hearing.)
Later Curtin observed with amazement that this woman wonders why she "lost custody of a child who isn't even hers."
I learned there is more to her case than that, and her bizarre behavior is far more understandable in context. I have met many parents -- and stepparents -- who have been traumatized by the unaccountable behavior of Family Court lawyers in violation of Rule 8.4 (c) against engaging "in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" -- like those who tormented the child pictured at the top of this blog, or others I have written about in http://littlehostages.blogspot.com and http://trophychild.blogspot.com
I asked Mr. Curtin a few weeks ago if the Disciplinary Counsel's Office can identify the most common complaints against Family Court lawyers. He said it is impossible to know, since his office does not keep a record of the types of complaints in various courts. I have written to ask Mr. Curtin to have his office compile a simple database that would show the full range of public concerns about the behavior of attorneys, the Rules they are accused of violating, and the Courts where this alleged behavior occurred.
When I met with him, Mr. Curtin spoke of his efforts to uplift the profession and to help lawyers deal with destructive patterns in their personal lives and practices rather than simply function in a punitive role. This is an important goal for his Office.
I am not a lawyer and do not know Mr. Karns. But the case against him appears unreasonable and punitive. In what universe did this rise to the top of lawyers' offenses? If police were content to set unreasonable speed traps to boost their statistics but failed to address violent crimes within the community, we would cry foul.
Deputy Counsel Margolis described the procedure ahead: the hearing panel will meet to decide on a sanction which they will recommend to the full Disciplinary Board with a written decision. The Board will forward their recommendation to the Supreme Court that will issue an Order -- probably sometime in the fall.
This seems like a good time for the Supreme Court to direct its Disciplinary Counsel to focus on those violations that most egregiously damage the honor of Rhode Island's legal profession -- including "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" forbidden by Rule 8.4 (c).
Monday, May 21, 2012
Mary Richardson Kennedy hung herself last week, reports Mail Online: "Court records show that as well as battling with debts and depression, she was also fighting a losing battle with her estranged husband as he relentlessly built a case against her in their custody battle.
"The son of the late Sen Robert F. Kennedy, he filed temporary restraining orders against Mary that a Westchester judge signed on March 28, April 19 and again last Friday, documents show.
"He also filed an order of protection last September and got another judge to hold her in contempt of court later that month, according to the Post."
At other times, the article reports, he praised her as "extraordinary," but he used the court to control her by filing multiple restraining orders. He tried to get full custody of the children by claiming she was unfit while he publicly replaced her with his actress girlfriend, Cheryl Hines.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2146356/Mary-Kennedy-death-Robert-Kennedy-Jr-reveals-ex-wifes-life-long-struggle-depression.html#ixzz1vV6bPz4Q
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
In a report by Anne Stevenson, Huffington Post notes that the top five federal HHS programs endanger women and children:
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program it created transformed welfare policy by drastically reducing and shifting federal assistance away from the homes of mothers and children and into the homes of violent offenders. In an article entitled "How Federal Welfare Funding Drives Judicial Discretion in Child-Custody Determinations and Domestic Relations Matters" fathers and rights activists Lary Holland and Jason Bottomsly explain that this policy has backfired because the incentives are structured so that the state will only benefit if children are removed from loving homes:
"In essence, the federal guidelines wanted the states to function as collection agencies, recovering financial support from parents who had willfully abandoned their parental responsibilities to their children. The result, however, was different from the intent and has caused the state welfare programs to adjust their environment to have a greater need, which has caused the program to collect from willing parents that would ordinarily provide a loving environment for their children absent a court order limiting a parent's involvement. Despite the original intent of the IV-D welfare program, it now provides an incentive for the states to use their family courts to produce forcibly absent parents in order to increase the states' IV-D welfare caseload."
The bureaucratese is hard to fathom, but the outcome--removal of children from loving homes--is exactly what we have been watching in Rhode Island Family Court over these years.
For more on those five programs, see the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-stevenson/top-5-hhs-programs-endang_b_1511613.html
We need the Rhode Island General Assembly to get some clarity with an objective audit of the role of federal funds in removing children from loving homes, taking them into state custody, and even awarding sole custody to the abusive parent.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It was odd last month when the Rhode Island Supreme Court's Disciplinary Counsel David Curtin reportedly filed a complaint accusing Attorney Robert T. Karns of unethical conduct for twice offering his services to a tragically bereaved widow (Tracy Breton, “Lawyer faces disciplinary hearing,” The Providence Journal, March 30, 2012, Section: Rhode Island; Page A5 COURTS).
Mr. Karns’s representatives had barely rung that doorbell twice. There was no contract, no litigation. He apparently admits he violated Rule 7.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct that prohibits lawyers from soliciting prospective clients.
His offense seems minor compared to years of Family Court litigation full of blatant violations that have removed parental rights with no due process, no notice, no hearing, no evidence, no cross examination—all done in the usual way, ex parte, through so-called “emergency” orders when no emergencies existed, sometimes with DCYF involvement and behind closed doors.
Mr. Karns’s offense does not compare to the lifelong damage done to traumatized children by lawyers in cases I have written about at http://LittleHostages.blogspot.com, http://TrophyChild.blogspot.com, and http://CustodyScam.blogspot.com
Based on those cases, I had long ago concluded that the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Counsel and Rhode Island’s Rules of Professional Conduct have less bite than a hen’s teeth.
I plan to attend Mr. Karns’s hearing at the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel, 24 Weybosset Street, 2nd floor, Providence, on Monday, May 21st at 3 pm to gain some understanding of what needs to be done to end the wholesale violations going on in Family Court and in DCYF.
Meanwhile, I will look again at the record of the current “Trophy Child” case, http://TrophyChild.blogspot.com, where three attorneys, Cynthia Gifford, Cherrie Perkins, and Kerry Rafanelli, allegedly violated Rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct http://www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/ri/code/RI_CODE.HTM
Finally, we need heroes, not hen’s teeth. So it is good to know that the Bar in Texas (where the election of judges still inclines the scales of justice toward campaign contributors) that Talmage Boston has produced a book of positive role models “reestablishing the legal profession’s once hallowed reputation”--Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society http://texasbarbooks.net/books/raising-the-bar/.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Yesterday I sat in an unusual courtroom in Providence Family Court. I was alone. There was something different about the space that took me a while to absorb. What was it?
My eyes lingered over the dark wood paneling, the carpets, seats for litigants, lawyers, the public, the judge's bench, the witness stand extending to one side, the clerk's desk to the other: solid, warm, even reassuring. What was I noticing?
I recall the first time I entered a courtroom in Rhode Island Family Court over two decades ago--how chaotic it was full of people. Something seemed incongruous. What was it?
Then I remembered: Taped to the paneling behind the clerk were photos of her family and some children’s drawings. The stenographer had mounted family pictures, too.
I had not thought of the significance then, but it seemed inappropriate. Had Rhode Island privatized its public courtrooms into office cubicles? This was one of my earliest introductions to our state’s small-town culture in Family Court.
I’m sure the people who put up their pictures were good-hearted. They may have felt it would humanize the space to see family photos on the wall. They did not intend to communicate any subliminal message about who you need to know to protect your children in this Court.
I did not fully appreciate how unsettling those family photos were until yesterday, when I sat in a courtroom without them.
I have seen courtrooms in Family Court with bouquets of flowers on the bench--perhaps to make the setting less austere for people who find this place deeply traumatic. I have seen candy bowls and lollypops for children getting adopted. (I don't remember if the judge offered candy at our son's adoption, but I do remember his clarity in saying: This child has all the rights of any child born to you. That was sweetness enough for us.)
In one Rhode Island courtroom I saw a statue of the blindfolded Lady Justice holding the scales aloft. I even saw a judge's omerta-warning taped to the bench--Silence is Golden.
But the courtroom yesterday took my breath away with its uncluttered simplicity. Behind the judge's bench at either side stood the only decoration a courtroom needs: the flag of our country and the flag of our state.
A courtroom whose judge upholds our laws with justice and mercy needs nothing else.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
(Click once to enlarge.)Last week I went to Providence Family Court to observe a hearing in the "Textron Case" (mentioned in my post of March 16, 2012). I learned about another reform of Chief Judge Haiganush Bedrosian -- a new 9-page green version of the old "DR6," the financial form that has been the object of much lawyerly gaming in the past (as the baby shown at the top of this blog discovered in her teens, but that's another story).
No one in the courtroom seemed to have one of these new DR6 forms, but the fact that the Defendant’s attorney knew the form should have been submitted -- and the judge agreed -- suggested that a new wind is blowing.
In the Washington County case that I have been reporting at http://TrophyChild.blogspot.com, "Barbara," the client of Cynthia Gifford and Cherrie Perkins, submitted one incomplete DR6 in four years and failed to include the amounts of her financial resources in that skimpy 2-page document.
Six months ago, Chief Judge Bedrosian promulgated the new rule that requires the green 9-page DR6 to be filed with each Miscellaneous Complaint, Answer, Counterclaim, etc. The color makes it easy to find in the file and hard to fraudulently create without the client's freshly notarized signature.
This strikes me as an important reform. Detailed financial reporting always seemed like a no-brainer that could have avoided hundreds of costly hours wasted in this Court. Chief Bedrosian's reform could seriously crimp the freewheeling style of many Family Court attorneys. It could greatly reduce the number of frivolous motions that now clog the Court.
Another of Chief Bedrosian's reforms makes my work harder, but protects the process against documents mysteriously disappearing or getting hopelessly jumbled in court files. Under this reform, those viewing the file can still copy documents, but may no longer remove the prongs holding them in the file.
It is difficult and expensive to make clear copies of thick files on a photocopier. I could not have figured out the legal abuse in the current TrophyChild case without scanning every document in the public files.
Hopefully Family Court will move toward electronic data, much like the federal courts, which could greatly simplify the filing and retrieval of documents.
I am glad to endure any reforms that mean Family Court is becoming more ethical and just. The three cases I mentioned in this post represent four children--now young women. This month, the youngest (in the Textron Case) turns 12, and the oldest (pictured above) turns 23. I have met them all. Because of them and others like them, I take these reforms personally.
I first opposed Judge Bedrosian at a Judicial Nominating Commission hearing in 1996 because of a decision that she later defended as conforming to the rules. I argued that her decision harmed the child pictured at the top of this blog, a victim of domestic violence. Judge Bedrosian criticized my “ignorance of the requirements of judicial conduct.”
Ironically, her reform of the DR6 hits at the heart of that case and each of the other cases I have mentioned in this post -- the enormous financial inequities that set these three Family Court custody cases on such an unequal playing field. Parents who are forced to litigate pro se, or with pro bono attorneys, seldom prevail for long in this Court.
Their abusers keep returning to assault them again and again. And where will they find the money to appeal to a higher court when decisions harm their children here?
The Court seldom sees these children or how much they suffer. It is good to find Chief Judge Bedrosian addressing problems related to children’s trauma and the bad practices that have prevailed too long in Family Court.
She deserves credit and encouragement to keep working at those parts of this system that are most unjust, including:
1. The abuse of so-called “emergency” motions thatFamily Court needs a roadmap for the countless people struggling to find their way through these labyrinthine rules and procedures that often seem intentionally confusing and inconsistent from one judge to the next. Despite my worst fears, maybe this is exactly the time when we need an experienced teacher in charge.
a. are not true emergencies or that
b. should be referred to Superior Court’s domestic violence court (without placing the financial and emotional burden of legal defense on alleged victims).
2. The abuse of ex parte motions that
a. prevent judges from hearing the other side in a timely manner
b. produce orders that spread misinformation in the community.
3. The failure of lawyers to complete paper work in a timely manner
a. when drafting orders after hearings,
b. when submitting documents to the other side for review before getting the judge’s signature, or
c. when completing paperwork for child support.
4. The Court’s use of clinicians that violates
a. HIPAA regulations,
b. ethics of mental health professionals, and
c. rules of the insurance industry against reimbursing for court-ordered services.
5. The need for judges to sanction lawyers under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_11
Friday, March 23, 2012
Since the General Assembly created Family Court and Rhode Island taxes pay handsomely for it, how would you recommend our legislators can control its abuses of power?
Examine the case described at http://TrophyChild.blogspot.com (Click on January 15th, 2012, to start at the beginning) and send your confidential suggestions to Anne Grant at
Friday, March 16, 2012
Click once to enlarge.
The cavernous marble corridor of Garrahy Courthouse was nearly empty. It was mid-afternoon, and the daily rush had cleared. Attorney William Holt stood, a silhouette against the wall of windows above Dorrance Street.
From the way he stared at me, I suspected he had read my "Overcoming Abuse" column in Sunday's Providence Sunday Journal under an editor's bold headline: R.I. court system further victimizes battered families (July 18, 1993, p. E-1).
Was Holt fuming? Or about to offer me some new disclosure? Both proved true.
Barely able to suppress his rage, he scolded: This is called Family Court, not just because it deals with family issues. But we are family. We attorneys call each other "brother" and "sister." Chief Judge Jeremiah is like a father to us. When he is attacked, we will always come to his defense.
What if your family is dysfunctional? I asked. Can you make changes from the inside, or do you need our help from outside?
He said he had to think about it, which seemed promising.
Bill Holt became the first attorney that our Mothers on Trial support group recognized as a key player in The Cranston Cabal, conceived in the hurly-burly of Cranston City Hall during the years Edward DiPrete was mayor, from 1978 to 1984. Holt had proven his value as DiPrete's administrative assistant during a liquor licensing imbroglio in the early 80s.
Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr., had paid his political dues as Republican chairman in Cranston. He spent fifteen years as assistant city solicitor and six more as solicitor while Edward DiPrete was mayor.
After DiPrete became governor in 1985, Jeremiah advanced to the statehouse as his executive counsel. Two years later, when DiPrete's turn came to fill a vacancy on Family Court (before legislative reforms established the Judicial Nominating Commission), the governor tapped Jeremiah. Barely a year later, in 1987, DiPrete acknowledged Judge Jeremiah as his "closest friend" and made him chief of Family Court.
The Cranston Cabal also produced Kathleen A. Voccola, who became Cranston's first woman city lawyer when DiPrete named her to fill Jeremiah's former position as assistant city solicitor in 1979. Governor DiPrete made Voccola the first woman to serve as the state's liquor control administrator, saying the appointment was in line with his "continuing efforts to place qualified women in positions of authority and responsibility."
Voccola was not the first woman that Republicans invited to serve as sacrificial lamb by running her against popular Attorney General James O'Neil in 1988. She lost that race as expected, but a year later, DiPrete made her a judge on Family Court.
By then an ethics complaint had been lodged against the governor for steering state contracts to campaign contributors. Nearly a decade passed before DiPrete made a plea deal to protect his son from prosecution and went to prison himself for bribery, extortion and racketeering in 1998. The whole truth has never emerged, and DiPrete's friends on Family Court escaped unscathed.
Jeremiah skated away from his own brush with the Ethics Commission. He and Voccola sat on the Governor's Juvenile Justice Commission, where she made, and he seconded, a 1997 motion that awarded $56,000 in federal money to a police organization that sublet space from attorney Holt in Jeremiah's Cranston office building and paid some of that rent directly to Jeremiah.
"Holy mackerel!" Jeremiah exclaimed to the press when his conflict of interest became public. "I never even thought of that."
By the time a grievance against him reached the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline in 1998, Voccola had been named to that body, and the Commission found no basis for the complaint.
In 1999, the Ethics Commission also exonerated Jeremiah, rejecting the recommendation of its own staff, who had urged a full-blown ethics trial and provided 64 pages of findings and exhibits.
Rhode Island has a tradition of powerful families with modest headquarters, like the godfather, himself--Raymond Patriarca's mob headquarters at Coin-O-Matic, 168 Atwells Avenue, Providence. Jeremiah's unpretentious office building at 995 Park Avenue gave no clue to the power he wielded. His tenants, like Holt and attorney Patricia Murray-Rapoza, seemed to gain preferential treatment and prominence at Family Court, where lawyers jockey for rich litigants in custody cases that can provide oodles of billable hours until children turn 18.
Consider the Textron Case, where a wealthy vice president, accused of being a "sexual predator," reached a settlement with help from his attorney, William Holt. Patricia Murray-Rapoza had followed Holt as property manager for Jeremiah and bought the building from him on May 2, 2001. This might have relieved Jeremiah of embarrassing conflicts if he had not agreed to take back the mortgage. The Chief and Murray-Rapoza joked in court about the regularity of her payments to him.
On May 18, 2001, Judge Voccola appointed Murray-Rapoza to be guardian ad litem for two young sisters. One girl turned out to be daughter of the Textron vice president, and Holt launched a custody case against the girl's mother in Family Court and a law suit in Superior Court demanding that she return a diamond ring her boss had given her.
Holt described the woman as a "gold-digger" without appreciating the irony of how that word may fit him as well and other lawyers on the case. At one point, two divorce lawyers became so jealous of the money doled out to Murray-Rapoza that they crafted a document identical to hers and got Judge Gilbert Rocha to sign it, giving each one $5,000 of marital assets and creating three guardians ad litem for two children.
When Chief Judge Jeremiah assigned the case to Judge Rocha, he must have known the judge's daughter, Patricia Rocha, was Textron's attorney, who had worked with Holt on the settlement for his client to leave the company in 2001 by claiming the man was legally blind and therefore entitled to enormous payouts from disability insurance.
And when the insurance company's lawyers arrived in Rhode Island, seeking a transcript relevant to the man's two-million-dollar disability claim, Judge Rocha sent them home without it. They returned a month later with a formal motion to get the public record.
While both Holt and Murray-Rapoza contended the man was legally blind, neither Social Security nor the insurance company agreed. Indeed, the evidence of deceit led U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi to deny his bid for U.S. citizenship in 2006 on grounds that he "has not established the statutory prerequisite that he 'has been and still is a person of good moral character'" ("Memorandum and Decision," CA 05-398ML, p. 9).
Since that time, the man has secured U.S. citizenship and will return to Family Court next month. I described this case more fully in August 2010. (In the index below, click on 3. A, B, C, D, E.)
It is time for the General Assembly to examine the exorbitant waste of public funds and the damages done by the cabals of Rhode Island Family Court.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
In January 2011, NBC 10 news reported that Chief Judge Haiganush Bedrosian had called in state police to investigate the Family Court's head mediator David Tassoni. Bedrosian's predecessor, Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah, had made Tassoni a law clerk intern in 1997.
Though Tassoni had neither the college nor law school degrees he claimed, he rose quickly to a top administrative position at Family Court, reporting directly to Jeremiah. He seemed ubiquitous, moving from courtroom to courtroom, case to case.
In 2004, Tassoni told me he was working closely with Judge Bedrosian on the training manual for guardians ad litem, which promoted the Court's use of the so-called "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS)--a legal strategy by which abusers can control their families and often claim sole custody of their children. PAS has proven lucrative to lawyers and psychologists and deadly to victims of domestic violence.
David Tassoni told me he had found a psychologist who "understood parental alienation." He brought Lori Meyerson, PhD, from her cramped country office to Providence, where she moved into the Regency Plaza and became one of the Court's expensive favored clinicians to "reunite" children with parents they dreaded.
In her first case as a guardian ad litem, Meyerson testified for a father who bragged that he owned Family Court. He relished intimidating his ex-wife by sitting at the entrance to the courtroom in the chair he had autographed when he was deputy sheriff in that same room before his well publicized arrest for felony domestic violence in 2004.
Dr. Meyerson told the Court that the man's legal problems were settled and that he should win sole custody of his eleven-year-old daughter, who was terrified of him. Applying the PAS theory, Meyerson blamed the girl's mother for "alienating" the girl against her father.
Meyerson did not fulfill the basic requirements of the manual for guardians ad litem. She never visited the two parents' homes. She did not interview school officials or local police, who had visited Chief Judge Jeremiah to ask why seven judges had recused themselves instead of giving the deputy sheriff's ex-wife a restraining order.
Fortunately the Court knew the man better than Meyerson, and the girl stayed with her mother. But she grew up with constant anxiety that the Court's psychologist might give her to her father.
In 2006, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) warned that the "parental alienation" argument does not meet evidentiary standards and should be stricken from custody evaluations. But it was already well established in Rhode Island.
(Click once to enlarge:)
The fact that Bedrosian quickly dislodged Tassoni when she became chief judge suggests that she might be on course to bring some of the transformation needed at Family Court.
In the past, I have criticized her for failing to protect victims of domestic violence. But she is using her authority to build awareness about trauma and hopefully will continue to confront the schemes that make even the best-intentioned judges subject to the cabals of court.
In 1992, I was facilitating a support group called Mothers on Trial that discovered the cabals by connecting the dots from one case to another. The same lawyers and psychologists kept appearing in their cases, pursuing similar strategies, and competing for the most bankable litigants.
The cabals have made Family Court a very dangerous place for families trying to escape violence or child sexual abuse.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
For more on "parental alienation," see my post, "Who is Norbara Octeau?" on February 14, 2012, at http://LittleHostages.blogspot.com
Saturday, January 28, 2012
In 2010 I testified against her becoming Chief Judge of Family Court. I feared that she was entrenched in a court culture that seems not to care about low-income litigants, that is especially catastrophic to battered mothers and traumatized children.
Frankly, I could not support any of the candidates for Chief, because the cases I had researched and watched unfold in their courtrooms suggested that none of them would confront the culture of cronyism and cabals that plagued the Family Court under Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr.
I will write more about those concerns later at the Trophy Child blog, but now I want to focus on the important departure Chief Bedrosian undertook this week with her statewide training that participants praised as transformative to their understanding of traumatized children and likely to change the way they work.
The Chief Judge, who was a teacher before she became a lawyer and judge, intends to have more trainings. Over five hundred professionals, including Family Court judges, lawyers, staff from DCYF, the Department of Education, Juvenile Corrections, the Offices of Child Advocate and Attorney General, and many others stayed from start to finish through two days packed with substantive information.
The open way she structured this conference may finally dismantle the silos that have kept Rhode Island's agencies and decision-makers closed off from each other far too long.
The keynote presentations by James E. Greer, MD, and Robert B. Hagberg, LICSW from The Mind + Body Project
Much of their message could also pertain to children traumatized, not only by parents, but--often far worse--by legal abuse and neglect after they have been caught up in the machinery of DCYF and Family Court.
A panel of former foster youth from the RI Foster Parents Association Youth Leadership Board spoke compellingly about their experiences and affirmed the need for more youth involvement in future trainings. Their motto could be the focus of an entire conference: "Nothing about us without us."
One teacher told me the training was full of A-ha! moments that helped her understand things going on in her classroom. The governor, a mayor, both U.S. senators brought words of strong affirmation.
Dr. Janice DeFrances, director of DCYF, was scheduled to speak on "Putting Children First" in the context of DCYF's educational initiatives, but could not attend due to a death in her family. But her leadership, alongside Chief Judge Bedrosian's, is key to the depth of content and the breadth of participation--judges alongside former foster youth, teachers and front-line staff.
Such a paradigm-shifting event signals new readiness to hold powerful decision-makers accountable to shared standards and to finally break through the cabals of court that have held sway too long.
That process will not be quick or easy, but it has finally begun.
- ► 2014 (17)
- ► 2013 (16)
- ► October (4)
- ► September (3)
- ► August (2)
- ► May (3)
- ► 2011 (26)
- ► 2010 (31)
- ► 2009 (26)
About the mother and child pictured at the top
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.
About the Author and the Cause