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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.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Cabals of Court, Part 1


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

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 http://LittleHostages.blogspot.com


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 parentingproject@verizon.net

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here:

www.centerforjudicialexcellence.org/PhotoExhibit.htm
www.child-justice.org
www.leadershipcouncil.org
www.evawintl.org provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:
www.haguedv.org

more about domestic violence in law enforcement:
http://behindthebluewall.blogspot.com/



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