Mom ordered to pay Daughter $300K for making false allegations against Dad

Federal Court Awards $750,000 in Damages Against Lori Handrahan for Conduct in Custody Case » SAVE: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments

Lori Handrahan, ex-wife of Igor Malenko, has been ordered by a federal court to pay her former husband $450,000 and her daughter $300,000. Federal District Judge George Z. Singal ordered the damages to be paid for Handrahan’s outrageous conduct throughout her custody battle over their daughter, Mila. Handrahan’s repeated false allegations against Malenko were so obviously at odds with the truth and her behavior so immune to judicial control that a Maine family judge eventually gave Malenko sole custody of his daughter. Handrahan’s visitation is conditioned on her seeking, receiving and benefiting from intensive psychotherapy. Since custody was transferred to Malenko in 2011, Handrahan has apparently neither seen nor spoken to her daughter, despite the fact that telephone contact is permitted her under the court’s order. Apparently, she’s paid no child support either, although that may be old news. The current state of her child support obligation, I haven’t been able to ascertain.Jail for false allegations - 2016

In keeping with her apparent desire to simply ignore everything having to do with her daughter and former husband, Handrahan refused to attend the trial in Judge Singal’s courtroom. Handrahan, it must be emphasized, is a highly educated, highly paid and highly functioning individual. She holds a Ph.D from the London School of Economics, speaks English, French and Russian and is employed as a lecturer at American University. Her articles appear regularly in various mainstream publications such as the Washington Times, the Huffington Post, and the like. Her last representation to a court indicated that she earns $105,000 per year.

So her refusal to appear in court and defend Malenko’s claims against her cannot be attributed to ignorance or lack of funds. If she had a defense to the charges, she could easily have made it, but she didn’t. That strongly suggests that she has none, and the findings of fact made by Judge Singal strongly indicate exactly that.

In his lawsuit, Igor Malenko sued his ex-wife for a variety of things including intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. He also sued on behalf of their daughter Mila for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court found that he had proven all those claims, although it declined to find sufficient proof of others. Damages were awarded in the amounts of $450,000 to Igor and $300,000 to Mila who is now six.fam law scandal - 2016
Judge George Singal Enters Damage Award Against Lori Handrahan

Here are Judge Singal’s Findings of Fact, in their entirety.

1. Plaintiff Igor Malenko (“Malenko”) is an individual who resides in the city of South Portland, County of Cumberland, State of Maine. Malenko is the father, and court determined custodial parent of one minor child (“M.M.”), whose date of birth is xx/yy/2006.
2. Defendant Lori Handrahan (“Handrahan”) is an individual who resides in Washington, D.C., County of Washington, District of Columbia.
3. Malenko and Handrahan were married on May 30, 2006 in Bar Harbor, Maine.
4. A child, M.M., was born to Malenko and Handrahan on xx/yy/2006.
5. On May 16, 2008, Malenko filed a Divorce Complaint against Handrahan.
6. On May 23, 2008, Malenko served the Divorce Complaint against Handrahan.
7. Immediately after being served with the Divorce Complaint, Handrahan filed a Protection from Abuse Complaint (“PFA”) against Malenko on May 23, 2008, making false claims that Malenko suffered from mental illness.
8. As a direct result of this retaliatory and false PFA Complaint, Malenko’s fundamental and constitutionally-protected interests in the nurture, upbringing, companionship, care, and custody of his child were substantially infringed upon.
9. After the guardian ad litem appointed by the Court and the Court-appointed doctorate level forensic psychologist indicated that they did not believe Malenko was suffering from mental illness or any other defect that would prohibit him from having unsupervised contact with his child, Handrahan then began making false claims that he was a homicidal abuser, as part of her effort to destroy the father/daughter bond.
10. The court hearing the divorce case ultimately rejected Handrahan’s claims of abuse and mental illness and granted Malenko significant rights of unsupervised visitation with his child.
11. Handrahan repeatedly violated provisions of the Divorce Judgment, made unilateral decisions regarding the child’s welfare, and continued to do everything in her power to damage or destroy the father/daughter bond.
12. Finally, Malenko filed several Motions to Modify, asking the Court to grant him custody of the child.
13. Days after the Court sent out Notices of Hearing on the several Motions to Modify, Defendant forced her child to repeat false statements about Malenko sexually abusing her.
14. Defendant even forced her two year old child to make these false, rehearsed statements while Defendant recorded them on a video recorder.
15. Defendant persuaded her friend and advocate to listen to the false, coached statements, and then to contact the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) and claim that the child had made a disclosure of sexual abuse.
16. Defendant also persuaded her friend and advocate to make completely unsubstantiated claims that Malenko had child pornography on his computers.
17. As a result of these claims, DHHS launched an investigation.
18. As a result of these claims, Malenko’s rights to as a parent of M.M. were substantially infringed upon.
19. Defendant continued to coach and force her then two year old child to make false statements to others including Spurwink Child Abuse Program (“Spurwink”) investigators regarding
Malenko.
20. As a result of similar false claims by Handrahan’s friend, and as a result of more false claims that Handrahan made to Spurwink, the minor child was subjected to an invasive medical exam by Spurwink’s medical team as it looked for evidence of sexual trauma,which Handrahan knew did not exist.
21. Thus, as a direct result of the claims caused to be made by Handrahan and with Handrahan’s consent, her two year old child was examined by various medical professionals.
22. As a direct result of the false claims by Handrahan and her friend and advocate, the two (2) year old child underwent at least 8 separate interviews regarding alleged sexual abuse by her father.
23. The examination of the child’s genitals and the numerous interviews regarding false allegations of sexual abuse caused direct harm to the child.
24. The Portland office of DHHS unsubstantiated the claims on August 20, 2009.
25. Handrahan immediately demanded that DHHS at the highest levels reconsider this determination of “unsubstantiation.”
26. Dan Despard, the Director, Division of Child Welfare, then conducted a de novo review of the file and affirmed the decision made regarding unsubstantiation, by letter dated August 25, 2009.
27. On or about August 14, 2009, understanding that her and her friend’s false claims were about to be discredited by DHHS, Handrahan unilaterally took the child four hours north of her home in South Portland, to her vacation home in Sorrento, Maine.
28. On August 14, 2009, Handrahan then filed yet another PFA, this time in Ellsworth District Court, making more false claims that Malenko had sexually abused their child, and also making false allegations that “he was discharged from the [Yugoslavian] Army for pointing a gun at an officer’s head.”
29. Handrahan filed this PFA in Ellsworth District Court specifically to avoid Judge Jeff Moskowitz, the Portland District Court Judge who had presided over the divorce trial.
30. Handrahan wrote an article, published on June 2, 2009 in the Bangor Daily News, entitled “American courts have never been kind to women, kids,” in which she was critical of Judge Moskowitz’s decisions in the divorce trial.
31. As a direct result of this false PFA in the Ellsworth District Court, Handrahan stripped Malenko of his parental rights and ability to see M.M. for a period of time.
32. The PFA case was transferred back to Portland District Court, where Handrahan was provided a full opportunity for a hearing before Judge Jeff Moskowitz, on October 26, 2009.
33. Handrahan decided not to appear at this final hearing on her PFA, because, as she later testified under oath, it was “inconvenient.”
34. On October 26, 2009, after a full hearing, Judge Moskowitz dismissed the PFA from the bench, finding that Handrahan had presented “extremely precarious evidence of an extremely serious charge.”
35. On November 2, 2009, the parties entered into a Stipulated Order giving Malenko unsupervised visits with his child every single weekend, from Thursday through Sunday one week and Friday through Sunday the next week.
36. Malenko enjoyed the 2009 Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend with his child for the first time in over a year.
37. Malenko and his attorney, Michael Waxman, became friends through this ordeal, and Waxman invited Malenko and his child to spend Thanksgiving with his children, his ex-wife (Carol Amoroso), her husband and friends, at Amoroso’s house.
38. Malenko and his child also spent the following weekend with Waxman and his children and his parents at the family’s vacation home in New Hampshire.
39. Upon hearing of the visits Malenko and his child enjoyed with Waxman, Handrahan filed a Protection from Harassment Complaint (“PFH”) against Waxman in Ellsworth District Court.
40. The PFH claimed that Waxman had harassed and threatened and harmed Malenko and Handrahan’s child.
41. Handrahan had no basis upon which to make these claims.
42. These were false claims made in an effort to prevent Waxman from continuing to represent Malenko.
43. Handrahan’s goal was to strip Malenko of legal representation so that he would have no way to defend himself in ongoing proceedings.
44. Handrahan knew that Waxman was not charging Malenko for his legal representation.
45. Handrahan filed this PFH in Ellsworth, once again, in order to avoid Portland judges, whom she believed had been conscripted by Waxman into a conspiracy to harm her and deny her justice.
46. On February 12, 2010, Waxman had a hearing on his Motion to Dismiss the temporary PFH before Portland District Court Judge, Honorable Roland Beaudoin, who dismissed the temporary order.
47. On March 4 and March 5, Portland District Court Judge, Honorable Jane Bradley, presided over Handrahan’s PFH Complaint against Waxman.
48. On April 7, 2010, Judge Bradley dismissed Handrahan’s PFH case against Waxman.
49. Handrahan also began filing numerous grievances against Waxman in the fall of 2009 and continuing into 2010. These grievances were part of Handrahan’s effort to prevent Waxman from continuing to represent Malenko
50. On December 2, 2010, Justice Alexander, of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, filed a 65 page decision exonerating Waxman of the 14 counts of unethical conduct alleged by Handrahan.
51. Handrahan also contacted DHHS Child Support Enforcement beginning in November 2009 and falsely claimed that Malenko owed in excess of $7,000 in child support.

52. These false claims caused DHHS to withhold Malenko’s tax return in 2010 for months, causing a tremendous financial hardship for Malenko.
53. DHHS finally discovered Handrahan’s representations were false and turned the tax return monies over to Malenko.
54. In January 2011, Malenko finally was granted a hearing on his multiple motions to modify before Portland District Court Judge Jeff Moskowitz.
55. Handrahan attended this hearing and was represented by counsel.
56. By Order dated February, 1, 2011, Judge Moskowitz stripped Handrahan of custody of the minor child and transferred custody to Malenko.
57. By that same order, Judge Moskowitz also allocated decision-making authority regarding the minor child’s welfare to Malenko, if the parties could not reach agreement.
58. Judge Moskowitz also stated as follows: “the Defendant [Handrahan] has simply resisted Plaintiff’s [Malenko’s] efforts to be [the minor child’s] father at nearly every turn.”
59. Before and after this Order, Handrahan made repeated false claims to DHHS and to medicalproviders that Malenko was poisoning the minor child with methamphetamines and sexuallyabusing his daughter.
60. Just after this Order entered, Handrahan contacted DHHS and made claims that Malenkohad hit the child in the head with a frying pan.
61. These claims were all false.
62. As a result of these false claims, the then four year old child had an invasive medical exam conducted at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital with Handrahan’s consent.
63. Also, Handrahan herself took urine and fecal samples from her child and presented them to medical providers to be tested for drugs.
64. Handrahan also froze several samples of her daughter’s urine for later testing.
65. Handrahan also forced her child to state into a recording device that Malenko had hit her in the head with a frying pan.
66. Handrahan presented this false, coached, audio tape to DHHS.
67. As a direct result, the Ellsworth office of DHHS launched another investigation into Malenko, and interviewed the child on at least two occasions regarding the frying pan.
68. The child clearly and forthrightly stated that her father never hit her in the head with a frying pan, and that she knew Handrahan was saying this happened, but it was not true.
69. DHHS issued another letter unsubstantiating these false allegations on April 29, 2011.
70. On or about the week of June 13, 2011, Handrahan made yet another false claim with DHHS, claiming that Malenko was poisoning the minor child with methamphetamines and that Malenko possessed child pornography on his computers.
71. DHHS opened a file in the Biddeford office because Handrahan claimed that Waxman had “connections” with the Portland and Ellsworth offices, each of which had unsubstantiated previous claims.
72. Mark Dalton, DHHS Regional Manager for York County, has stated that there is no evidence supporting these claims by Handrahan. In a letter dated June 27, 2011, DHHS again found the allegations of neglect and sexual abuse against Malenko to be unsubstantiated. See Pl. Ex. 8b
73. Handrahan has also reached out to the administration of Governor LePage in order to try and destroy Malenko’s fundamental rights as a parent. These communications included false statements about Malenko in order to persuade Governor LePage to act on her behalf.
74. As a result of Handrahan’s behavior, M.M. was required to stop attending a day care center where she had become attached to friends and caregivers. M.M. has experienced social isolation as a result of Handrahan’s actions and threats.
75. Even though she testified in January that she makes $105,000 per year and even though the February 1, 2011 Order obligates her to pay Malenko $368.80 per week, Handrahan has repeatedly withheld child support payments. See Pl. Ex. 26.
76. Handrahan has evaded service of process and refused to accept service of process in connection with this case and other related legal proceedings.
77. On June 21, 2011, Handrahan arrived at Malenko’s residence and pounded on his front door screaming “give me my child!!!” “where is my child?” “I am here to take my child!!” “Why are you hiding my child??”
78. Handrahan proceeded to run around the house, peering into windows and screaming.
79. The child was in Malenko’s arms and traumatized, not wanting to go to her mother.
80. Malenko called the police and they escorted her off Malenko’s property.
81. Malenko obtained a PFH on his own behalf and on behalf of his minor child the next day, June 22, 2011.
82. On June 23, 2011, Handrahan sent her private investigator, Stephen Pickering, a former Maine State Trooper, to the home of attorney Waxman’s children and his children’s mother, Carol Amoroso.
83. The private investigator, Stephen Pickering, banged on the front door, walked around the property, and called Ms. Amoroso on the phone, demanding to speak with her.
84. Ms. Amoroso declined to be interviewed and was very shaken up by this conduct. As a result, she contacted the Yarmouth Police about this incident.
85. None of Waxman’s four children were at Ms. Amoroso’s house when Mr. Pickering approached the premises.
86. Waxman’s four children have been warned that there is a private investigator hired by Handrahan, trying to intimidate Waxman’s loved ones, and that if he makes contact with them, they are to refuse to cooperate and that they should contact the police.
87. By sending her private investigator to the home of Malenko’s attorney’s children, Handrahan intended to intimidate attorney Waxman and to deprive Malenko of further legalservices.
88. Beginning in the Fall of 2011 and following Malenko’s filing of this action, Handrahan initiated broad dissemination of defamatory material regarding Malenko on the internet.
89. Handrahan launched a site called “Saving M.M.” on which she placed a great deal of material, including many claims that Malenko has abused his child, has raped his child, has poisoned her with methamphetamines, has sold her to obtain money for a green card, has “trafficked” her, has been visiting child pornography sites on the internet, has placed M.M. in a pedophile ring, has conspired with others including his attorney, judges, district attorneys, DHHS workers and others. See Pl. Exs. 10-19.
90. Handrahan has made significant efforts to ensure that the material on her “Saving M.M.” website is viewed by many others and disseminated worldwide. See, e.g., Pl. Ex. 16.
91. Handrahan has sent these same false claims to multiple people by email, including multiple government officials. See Pls. Exs. 1-5.
92. Handrahan has posted many audio tapes on various sites also, which contain similar false statements regarding Malenko.
93. Handrahan also posted a picture of M.M.’s genitals on her “Saving M.M.” website. See Pl. Ex. 6.
94. Handrahan has also posted personal information regarding Malenko and M.M., including their addresses, Malenko’s social security number and employment information.
95. Handrahan coached her child (at age 2 ½) to make false statements about Malenko sexually abusing her into a video camera and she has posted that video on the internet. See Pl. Ex.27.
96. As a direct result of Handrahan’s defamation, Malenko has received threats from followers of Handrahan. Malenko has also been warned by local police regarding threats against him that they considered serious.
97. As a direct result of Handrahan’s defamation, Malenko’s life has been significantly and negatively impacted in many ways.
98. Malenko, normally an outgoing, friendly person, now lives in many ways like a recluse, refusing to initiate new relationships and anxious about his present relationships because he is well aware that the staggering quantity and disgusting quality of the online defamation could convince others that he is some kind of monster.
99. Malenko carries with him at all times numerous court documents and decisions from DHHS, just in case Handrahan makes new, false claims against him.
100. Malenko testified that M.M. has been negatively impacted by the vast quantity and malicious quality of defamatory material in that Malenko has been very, very concerned about permitting other children into his home without the parents in attendance. He has been so shaken up by the heinous defamation published by Handrahan that he feels completely on the defensive at all times around all children.
101. Malenko testified that he has been trained in and received certifications as a swimming instructor, that he formerly derived income and a great deal of enjoyment from coaching and teaching children to swim. As a direct result of the defamation all over the internet, Malenko no longer teaches any children swimming skills other than his own, and is unlikely ever to do so again.
102. Malenko testified that the defamation has negatively impacted his performance at his job, prompting him to lose concentration and make mistakes he would not otherwise have made.
103. Malenko wishes to pursue a career as a pharmacist but is concerned that Handrahan’s repeated, false claims that he has poisoned M.M. with methamphetamines could negatively impact that goal of his as well.
104. Malenko testified that he is seriously considering changing his and M.M.’s last names in order to avoid the stigma now associated with those names as a result of Handrahan’s internet postings.
105. As a direct result of Handrahan’s false representations, Malenko has been deprived of the love and companionship of his child for long periods of time.
106. As a direct result of Handrahan’s false representations, M.M. has been deprived of the love and companionship of her father for long periods of time.
107. As a direct result of Handrahan’s actions and false representations, M.M. has suffered physical and emotional harm.
108. In March 2012, Maine DDHS concluded that Handrahan’s actions on January 27, 2012 inflicted “high severity emotional abuse” on M.M. See Pl. Exs. 8a & 18.

You’ll notice that Finding #93 states that Handrahan posted photographs of her five-year-old daughter’s genitals on her website. (She’s since taken them down.) You’ll also notice that Finding #70 states that she accused Malenko of possessing child pornography. A brief Google search of Handrahan’s published articles demonstrates a preoccupation with pornography, specifically child pornography. Amazingly, Handrahan seems to have no concept that she herself has posted images on the Internet of her own daughter that could easily be described as child pornography. Needless to say, neither she nor the publications for which she writes ever disclose the fact.

The Findings of Fact made by Judge Singal show the extent to which a mother can go to abuse not only a father, but a child, the judicial system and opposing counsel. Up until Judge Singal’s order, the only price Lori Handrahan has been made to pay for her many years of utterly outrageous, malicious behavior is losing custody of Mila. Had the family court acted as soon as it became obvious the type of litigant Handrahan was, much of this grief could have been avoided.

As I’ve said before, Michael Waxman is nothing if not a tenacious lawyer. This man has represented Igor Malenko virtually free of charge through every imaginable hardship imposed by Handrahan. He now comes armed with a judgment against her and my guess is that he’ll collect at least a large part of it. After all, Handrahan is not poor. His civil suit on behalf of Malenko and Mila should serve as a template for other fathers who suffer the slings and arrows of false claims leveled against them by mothers who think that family court is an open forum for slander, libel and defamation.

Source: Fathers & Families

Source: Man Wins $750,000 in Damages Against Wife in False Allegations Custody Case » SAVE: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments

Justice4Children ~ Family Law and Child Welfare Reform

AFLA LOGO 2 - 2015Judges merely redirect the dysfunction of one parent as a means to achieve an equitable settlement without regard for children. Prospective lawyers to become judges practice under a code of ethics where they are only allowed to have regard their clients and not the children. A prospect practices under these rules of engagement for 20-30m years before a simple letter of appointment to the bench. They can in no way be expected to have regard for children after this indoctrination.

Family Law Reform sm - 2016The code of ethics for those lawyers practicing family law needs to change before anything gets better for children.

Just know the enemy of your children are the lawyers and judges themselves.

The Children’s Rights Facebook Group now has over 18,000 Members. We’re here for Parents who need morale support, information, and more. Come check us out!family court in focus - 2015

!! ATTENTION FLORIDA VOTERS !!

852e6-florida2bcommission

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES VOTE FOR ANY OF THESE LEGISLATORS WHO HAD VOTED AGAINST THE FAMILY REFORM BILL:

First Husbands Advocacy Group - Florida Alimony and Custody Laws Reform's photo.FOR SENATE SB 668 NAY VOTES:

Abruzzo (D-Wellington), Braynon (D-Miami Gardens), Bullard (D-Cutler Bay), Clemens (D-Lake Worth), Detert (R-Venice), Flores (R-Miami), Hukill (R-Port Orange), Joyner (D-Tampa), Legg (R-Lutz), Montford (D-Quincy),
 Ring (D-Margate), Sachs (D-Delray Beach), Smith (D –Ft. Lauderdale), Soto (D-Kissimmee)

FOR HOUSE SB 668 NAY VOTES:

Antone (D-Orlando), Avila (R-Hialeah), Berman (D-Boynton Beach), Bileca (R-Miami), Bracy (D-Ocoee), Campbell (D–Miami-Shores), Clarke-Reed (D-Pompano Beach), Cortes, J. (D-Kissimmee), Cruz (D-Tampa), Cummings (R-Orange Park), Dudley (D-St. Petersburg), Edwards (D-Sunrise), First Husbands Advocacy Group - Florida Alimony and Custody Laws Reform's photo.Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Meyers), Geller (D-Dania Beach), Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill), Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek), Jenne (D-Hollywood), Jones, M. (D-Jacksonville), Jones, S. (D-West Park), Kerner (D-Palm Springs), Lee, L (D-Ft. Pierce), Mayfield (R-Vero Beach, moved to Brevard), McGhee (D-Cutler Bay), Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs), Murphy (D-New Port Richey), Narain (D-Tampa), Pafford (D-West Palm), Powell (D-West Palm), Pritchett (D-Miramar), Rader (D-Boca Raton), Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee), Richardson (D-Miami Beach), Rodriguez, J (D-Miami), Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), Slosberg (D-Delray Beach), Stafford (D-Opa Locka), Stark (D-Weston), Steube (R-Sarasota), Torres (D-Orlando), contact_rick_scott-sb-668Trujillo (R-Doral), Van Zant (R-Palatka), Watson, B. (D-Miami Gardens), Watson, C. (D-Gainesville), Williams (D-Tallahassee)

Remember to vote in the August primary and November general election!

First Husbands Advocacy Group – Florida Alimony and Custody Laws Reform

BRAVO and CONGRATULATIONS to this man.
He is FREE of his alimony tether.
We applaud your good fortune and wish you all the best in life and love.
You are an inspiration to all other reformers.
Mother's Blocking Access - 2016

Parental Alienation Awareness - IT IS CHILD ABUSE --2016As we had predicted …
What a bunch of crap.
No…we NEVER will respect nor “honor” any of you who are stealing from us via lifetime alimony.
Honor and respect has to be earned.

Ya’ll are and will be pieces of shit to us…and the kids will know that forever and ever and ever.

Fatherless Day Rallies In Every State and Across The Globe!!

FRM USA - 2015Our current system of resolving child custody disputes rarely considers either children’s needs from children’s own perspective, or current research on child custody outcomes.

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Civil Rights in Family Law Florida

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Exposed Corrupt Family Court Judge

Corrupt justice: what happens when judges’ bias taints a case?

Divorced mother Margaret Besen tells her five-year struggle to get justice, just one story in the hundreds of judicial transgressions across the US revealed in a Guardian and Contently Foundation for Investigative Reporting collaboration.

When Margaret Besen, a 51-year-old nurse from East Northport, Long Island, filed for divorce from her husband in March of 2010, she believed justice was on her side.

Judge William Kent’s preliminary ruling seemed like a first step toward compromise. Margaret and Stuart Besen, who agreed their marriage was beyond repair, would remain in their suburban Suffolk County house, living in separate rooms – and keeping away from each other – while sharing custody until a resolution could be reached.

But within weeks, the situation deteriorated. Stuart Besen, a politically connected attorney for the town of Huntington, had an anger problem, Margaret told authorities. The couple’s screaming matches left Margaret feeling intimidated and their children – a daughter, 11, and son, 7 – terrified, she said. So in August of that year she obtained an order of protection prohibiting Stuart from harassing her. Three weeks later, Stuart entered Margaret’s bedroom and hovered over her as she slept, she told police. They arrested him for violating the order, reporting that Stuart had stared down at Margaret with his arms folded on three consecutive nights. She got temporary possession of the family home.

In the years that followed, Besen’s hopes for an equitable settlement dwindled as she battled a series of harsh and hard-to-explain decisions against her. Though she could never prove anything, she suspected that the scales had tipped for reasons unrelated to the evidence in her case. If true, Besen faced what experts say is one of the most troubling threats to our nation’s system of justice: judges, who, through incompetence, bias or outright corruption, prevent the wronged from getting a fair hearing in our courts.

“The decorum and bias and the perfectly unethical behavior of the judges is really rampant,” said Amanda Lundergan, a defense attorney in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, who confronted a nest of judicial conflicts in her state’s rapid-fire foreclosure rulings – dubbed the “rocket-docket” – following the housing market collapse. “It’s judicial bullying.”

Judges in local, state and federal courts across the country routinely hide their connections to litigants and their lawyers. These links can be social – they may have been law school classmates or share common friends – political, financial or ideological. In some instances the two may have mutual investment interests. They might be in-laws. Occasionally they are literally in bed together. While it’s unavoidable that such relationships will occur, when they do create a perception of bias, a judge is duty-bound to at the very least disclose that information, and if it is creates an actual bias, allow a different judge to take over.

All too often, however, the conflicted jurist says nothing and proceeds to rule in favor of the connected party, while the loser goes off without realizing an undisclosed bias doomed her case.

“Everybody should have the right to ensure the judge sitting on their case doesn’t have a conflict,” said Mary McQueen, executive director of the National Council on State Courts.

“It’s absolutely imperative that people have full faith and confidence in the judicial process.”

‘Explain, defend or apologize’

Hundreds of judicial transgressions have been uncovered during the last decade, with results that cost the defeated litigants their home, business, custody, health or freedom.

Some of the best-known cases involve judges who ultimately did suffer consequences for their behavior, including Texas judge Christopher Dupuy, who bullied four lawyers who filed conflict-of-interest recusal motions between 2011 and 2013. Attorney Lori Laird asked that Dupuy bow out in 2013 because she’d represented Dupuy’s ex-wife in the couple’s custody battle in Galveston. The judge responded by slapping her with 37 counts of contempt, demanding that she “explain, defend or apologize” for her motion. He later sentenced her to 220 days in jail, although she didn’t serve any time.

“It was the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen,” Laird told Contently.org. “It also caused great damage to both of my clients.” Dupuy was admonished in November – after he’d already retired and was sentenced to two years’ probation for pleading guilty to misdemeanor counts of perjury and misuse of government property.

But court critics say that one reason judicial violations are common is because they frequently go unpunished. When litigants ask a judge to back away because of a conflict, they risk being told no, then face possible retaliation, so many don’t bother. If a litigant or an attorney files a complaint with an oversight body, there’s only about a 10% chance that state court authorities will properly investigate the allegation, according to a Contently.org analysis of data from 12 states.

Judges state-by-state
Photograph: Contently.org

The analysis shows that a dozen of these commissions collectively dismissed out of hand 90% of the complaints filed during the last five years, tossing 33,613 of 37,216 grievances without conducting any substantive inquiry. When they did take a look – 3,693 times between 2010 and 2014 – investigators found wrongdoing almost half the time, issuing disciplinary actions in 1,751 cases, about 47%.

The actions taken ranged from a letter of warning to censure, a formal sanction that indicates a judge is guilty of misconduct but does not merit suspension or removal.

Actually removing a judge was a rarity. Just 19 jurists in 12 states were ordered off the bench for malfeasance, which is about three per decade for each state. And even that result is becoming less common, with only one removal in 2014 and three in 2013 among all 12 states.

The states examined – California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, Georgia and South Carolina – were chosen because they comprise a representative sample from different populations and areas of the country and because they had matching data for the years 2010 through 2014.

California, which created the first judicial disciplinary body in the country in 1960, had a dismissal rate of 98%. It did not suspend or remove a single judge in 2013 or 2014 and acted just once over the last five years, removing a sitting judge in 2012. Colorado’s lone judicial action since 2010 was a suspension in 2013. Texas has not removed a judge in five years, though it has suspended 23 for varying lengths of time.

One discouraging factor is the secrecy under which these commissions operate. Allegations against a judge are commonly kept confidential unless a sanction of some kind is imposed. New York’s CJC, for example, is prevented by law from disclosing whether anyone has complained about a judge, discussing specific allegations, revealing what evidence might have been presented or what steps, if any, it took to investigative.

When conduct boards do act, the sanctions usually amount to an admonishment that may be embarrassing but costs the judge little.

Among those still on the bench after ethical violations are Louisiana judge Robin Free. Free oversaw a personal injury claim in 2010 by a man and his wife, Israel and Leslie Robles, who were hurt in an oil field run by Houston-based fracking contractor Integration Production Services, Inc. The trial had begun when the two sides agreed to a $1.2m settlement. As he mulled signing off on the deal, Free arranged for some post-trial R&R at Casa Bonita, a hunting and fishing ranch in George West, Texas, owned by the victims’ lawyer, David Rumley. He flew there aboard the Rumley firm’s private jet.

It wasn’t Free’s first ethical blunder. In 2001 he presided over a fouled-water case against Dow Chemical, trying to resolve the matter even as his mother was a member of the plaintiff’s class. Free is still serving on the bench after being docked 30 days pay in December and forking over a $6,723.64 fine.

Raoul Felder, the well-known New York divorce attorney, served as a CJC board member between 2004 and 2008, helping the commission sift through thousands of complaints. He came away from the experience perplexed by its decision-making.

“I wouldn’t say [the CJC] is toothless, but it’s arbitrary,” Felder said. “It can be unreasonably tough on judges who commit trivial offenses while going easy on judges who are really bizarrely out of the mainstream, doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”

Judicial discipline at the federal level is almost non-existent. A Contently.org examination of the most recent five years of complaint data shows that 5,228 grievances were lodged against federal jurists between 2010 and 2014, including 2,561 that specifically alleged bias or conflict of interest. But only three judges were disciplined during those years and each got the mildest rebuke on the books: censure or reprimand. None was suspended or removed.

The numbers suggest that at least some of these judges’ rulings did not pass the smell test: 4,168 of the dismissed complaints were tossed due to a lack of sufficient evidence, bringing up the possibility that some litigants raised valid concerns but failed to find definitive proof.

‘I’m on food stamps’ and he makes more than $500,000 a year

In the Besen divorce, judge Kent’s initial decisions were fairly typical for a couple in their situation. He imposed financial obligations on Stuart, the moneyed spouse, including $200 in weekly child support and $500 in monthly car payments. But when Stuart didn’t make the payments and the vehicle was repossessed, the judge did nothing. Nor did he act when Stuart honored only part of the support he owed, leaving Margaret, who was then unemployed, struggling to provide for her kids.

“Occasionally he paid $200 a week, sometimes $175, sometimes $120,” she recalled. “The church had given me vouchers for gas, and I was getting food from the food pantry. I couldn’t cash checks. One year I found on his tax returns he had made $528,000, and I am getting food stamps and trying to get groceries home on a bicycle. It was extremely humiliating.”

Margaret and Stuart accused one another of mistreating their children. Police and child protection service workers became involved. Kent ordered her to undergo a psychological evaluation, which slammed Margaret as a danger to her children as she was allegedly alienating them from their father. No abuse by either parent was substantiated.

Margaret won a court order of protection barring Stuart from contact with her children for a year. But when Kent issued his final decree less than six weeks later, he awarded Stuart full custody, while Margaret was allowed only supervised visits. And he ordered Margaret to pay back half the cost of her nursing degree and to sell her diamond engagement ring and split the proceeds with Stuart. The judge also reversed the support arrangements. While Stuart would pay $1,500 a month in maintenance to Margaret, she now owed Stuart $153.90 a week for the children, even though she was earning about $13,000 a year as a part-time aide in an assisted-living facility.

Margaret began to look into her husband’s dealings and discovered, through searching public records, that he and judge Kent had possible connections. In 2010, Stuart was appointed as the Suffolk County representative on a statewide commission for vetting local judicial candidates. That same year, an organization based at Stuart Besen’s Garden City law office, the Long Island Coalition for Responsible Government, donated $7,500 to candidate Richard Ambro, who got elected and became one of Kent’s fellow Supreme Court judges in Suffolk’s 10th district. In his role as Huntington’s town lawyer, Besen argued cases before these very judges. He’d entered a circle of judicial insiders.

“I’m in the middle of a large group of people who’ve got money and influence and who are all connected,” said Margaret Besen. “I’m not being afforded an opportunity to get a fair shake.”

Margaret had no way of knowing whether the connections she uncovered played any role in how Kent ruled in her case. But her concern deepened when she made an additional discovery about her house. Kent had ordered the Besen home, the most valuable marital asset, to be sold and the proceeds divided, putting Margaret in line to receive possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then she found an online listing offering the property for sale – with the judge’s wife, Patricia Kent, as broker. The home, which was listed for $749,999 with Patricia Kent’s photo and contact information on Realty Connect USA, is currently more than $15,000 in arrears on its property taxes and no longer appears to be actively offered. Margaret was evicted from the house in 2013 and lives in a modest apartment a few miles away. She has yet to receive a penny for her interest in the property.

Patricia Kent claimed she had never represented any of the properties her husband had ordered sold in divorce or other cases. “I have never been a broker for any of his houses; we’re very clear about that,” Patricia Kent said in a phone interview.

A reporter informed her of the agency listing with her information attached to the Besen property. She said her photo could have appeared because she was a broker with the same firm as the agent who did have the listing. “The only person who gets the commission is the listing agent that listed the property,” she said.

Patricia said William Kent was unlikely to comment. “I’m not so sure that he’d want to speak with you,” she said, adding: “When I see him, I’ll let him know, and if he’s interested he’ll give you a call.”

Kent didn’t call. And Stuart Besen did not respond to messages left at his office.

Scott L Cummings, a professor of legal ethics at UCLA law school, said the case raised “significant ethical red flags”, because of the judge’s wife’s alleged involvement in offering the Besen family home for sale. “Not knowing the details of how his spouse might have been assigned as broker, the idea that a judge might benefit financially from the sale of a property in dispute in a pending matter seems to raise a serious question of impartiality.”

Ronald Rotunda, a professor at Chapman University law school in Orange, California, said: “What judge Kent did here seems odd. The husband makes over a half million a year, she makes $13,000 a year, and the judge orders her to pay child support (which is tax free to him and not deductible for her).”

But when Margaret Besen protested, she found no relief. When she asked Kent to recuse himself, he refused. When she complained to the state watchdog responsible for investigating judicial wrongdoing, writing two letters, they blew her off. In a terse response this June, the New York Commission for Judicial Conduct reiterated its initial decision, stating that “there was insufficient indication of judicial misconduct to justify discipline”. When a panel such as the CJC declines to get involved, the plaintiff has little recourse.

This was not the first time a litigant raised questions about Kent’s integrity.

Donna Schuler, also a divorcing mother in Suffolk County, asked that judge Kent recuse himself from her case in 2011 after claiming his unwarranted delays and stalling had drained her financially. Schuler was also rebuffed when she asked the commission to step in and remove Judge Kent from her case.

A culture of judicial impunity

Critics of the Suffolk supreme court claim a culture of rule-breaking exists, pointing to a red-faced moment in 2007 when Marion McNulty, then the county’s top matrimonial judge, was admonished by the state’s disciplinary panel for aggressively fund-raising for her favorite charity, a women’s nonprofit, while on the job. McNulty went so far as to hit up attorneys for checks in the courthouse, a blatant violation of ethical rules.

But a culture of judicial impunity extends far beyond Long Island’s county courts. Indeed, even the US supreme court has been tarnished on this issue.

Justice Steven Breyer owned $215,000 in health-care stocks when deciding on the legality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012. Justice Samuel Alito’s portfolio included $2,000 in stock in The Walt Disney Co. in 2008, the year the court heard Disney, FCC v. Fox Television Stations. And perhaps most famously, justice Antonin Scalia has participated in the Bush v. Gore case, even though his son Eugene’s law firm represented one of the parties. In another case, Scalia remained in the panel despite having gone on a duck hunting trip with former Vice-President Dick Cheney while he was being sued to reveal the details of secret meetings he held with oil company executives in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After his vacation with Cheney was revealed, Scalia scoffed at the suggestion he was compromised and defended his decision to remain on the case. “I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned,” he said in a 21-page memo. “If it is reasonable to think that a supreme court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined.” But Sen Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat, implored Scalia to withdraw. “Instead of strengthening public confidence in our court system, Justice Scalia’s decision risks undermining it,” he stated.

In fact, US supreme court justices enjoy a special privilege: they are the only judges exempt from the federal Code of Conduct, which demands judicial impartiality and prohibits a jurist from presiding when he or she has “a personal bias concerning a party to the case”.

Restoring court’s battered integrity

Recusal issues often spur judicial complaints. But the watchdog panels that evaluate them, both on the state and federal level, are not courts and therefore lack the authority to review the merits of a litigant’s case. Even a substantiated charge of misconduct won’t change the outcome of a ruling or verdict; it merely opens the door for a new appeal to be filed, which for beleaguered litigants can be costly, time-consuming and often not worth it. Many do continue to fight. Others simply vent.

The online vitriol directed at unscrupulous judges, which began in the mid- 2000s, has built to a howling digital crescendo. Websites including The Robe Probe, The Judiciary Report and The Robing Room, which rate judges the way Yelp rates restaurants, are rife with railing as embittered, mostly anonymous plaintiffs rip into judicial decisions they feel were biased or corrupt.

Mounting criticism led to a remarkable development last year. The chief justices of each state gathered and declared that something had to be done. They implored lawmakers to enact legislation that might restore their courts’ battered integrity by forcing more transparency on their systems and holding judges accountable when they engaged in unethical behavior.

“Fair and impartial justice requires that judges act without regard to the identity of parties or their attorneys, the judge’s own interests or likely criticism,” said the resolution of the Conference of Chief Justices in January 2014. A judge should step away when there is “actual conflict or bias or other impropriety…or when a reasonable disinterested person would conclude that an appearance of impropriety exists.”

The decree was set in motion by a precedent-setting 2009 Supreme Court decision involving a dispute between two West Virginia coal companies that had done business with each other for years – until one went bankrupt – leading to a judicial scandal that inspired a John Grisham novel.

In an appeal of a case in West Virginia court, A.T. Massey Coal Co. CEO Don Blankenship spent $3m to elect Brent Benjamin, who ultimately provided the swing vote that overturned a $50m judgment against his company. Benjamin rebuffed repeated demands that the newly elected justice recuse himself because of his obvious conflict.

The US Supreme Court ruled that Benjamin’s bias was so extreme that his failure to step aside violated Caperton’s right to due process under the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. The case, which spawned Grisham’s 2008 best-seller, “The Appeal,” underscored the kind of underhanded dealing that has stained the judiciary.

A further nudge for reform came last year when the Center for Public Integrity published a report on financial conflicts of interest. Among its findings: on 26 occasions in the preceding three years, federal appellate judges ruled on cases involving companies in which they owned stock or where they had a financial tie to an attorney appearing before them.

It also created a grading system to gauge how diligent each state was in collecting personal financial information from its judges, including stock ownership and outside sources of income, and how accessible that data was to the public. The center said that 42 states, plus the District of Columbia, failed its test. Six others earned a D grade, while two – California and Maryland – got Cs. California’s score, 77, the highest of any state, was seven points below the federal government’s grade of 84.

The report highlighted the type of conflict that can be most readily identified and that doing so requires full disclosure from the judges. Stock ownership, even if minimal, should automatically disqualify a judge from hearing a case, many experts believe. “If a judge owns a single share in a company involved in a case, he should recuse himself instantly,” says Rotunda, a leading law scholar.

It’s been more than two years since Margaret Besen has seen her children, who are now 12 and 16. There’s no money to pay the court supervisor, so they can’t visit. Nor does Besen have the funds to continue fighting. Kent retired shortly after making his decision.

“The hardest thing in my life is that I can’t be with my children and I can’t have an impact on my children’s upbringing,” Besen said over coffee at a Long Island diner. “A lot of people do not have any idea how the judicial system works or doesn’t work until you’re in it. We think we’re in a democratic society. We think we’re run by rules. But they are not being upheld by the court at all.”

This story was produced in collaboration with The Contently Foundation for Investigative Reporting.

Continue reading Exposed Corrupt Family Court Judge

Aggressive Divorce Lawyers Hurt Parents and Children.

YouTube Channel Art - 2015Couples in Florida who are considering divorce may think that hiring the most aggressive lawyer will be a beneficial move. In reality, these attorneys may be entirely counterproductive to a couple’s uncontested divorce, which would likely benefit instead from a resolution-based process. Despite commonly-held notions about aggressive lawyers, such attorneys can actually be detrimental to an everyday divorce case.852e6-florida2bcommission

Experts in Florida say it is important to distinguish between those attorneys who are passionate about their profession and those who are looking to be adversarial in order to drive up court costs. Unless you are dealing with a high-conflict divorce situation, an aggressive attorney might not be for you.

Most professionals agree that good attorneys try to resolve cases before they ever get to the courtroom. Only a select few cases can benefit from aggressive attorney tactics, as these practices can destroy any shred of a relationship remaining between the parties. Further, aggressive attorneys tend to provide costlier services because of the deluge of paperwork required to strong-arm the other party.

Many attorneys prefer a more collaborative approach to divorce because it prevents the children from becoming the victims of such contentious litigation. A passionate and enthusiastic attorney will know how to advocate for your rights without creating a maelstrom of negativity.the-mafia1

It is important to remember that aggressive lawyers are less likely to fare well because judges find their tactics to be fatiguing. Most judges maintain a mental list of attorneys they find intolerable. Those lawyers’ attitudes and behavior can negatively affect a judge’s ruling. Even scheduling complaints may be ignored by judges who find a particular attorney too difficult.

Most divorces do not require the services of a “bulldog” attorney who will create an adversarial environment. Instead, consider using alternative divorce methods that encourage collaboration and foster a spirit of cooperation among the participants. Assertive attorneys are assets; aggressive attorneys may be liabilities.Lawless America - 2015Aggressive Lawyering Is Counter-Productive

“Unfortunately, lawyers throughout the country are not exactly revered for their congenial nature or their civility toward each other. To make matters worse, TV, movies, and dramatic fiction play to an audience that expects lawyers to shout at the witness during cross-examination – ‘YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!’ The unfortunate ‘truth’ is that even in the real world, many lawyers market themselves as being ‘aggressive’ or are endorsed by other lawyers as such.

Continue reading Aggressive Divorce Lawyers Hurt Parents and Children.

Tampa Tribune Article – Eliminate Legal Representation in Family Courts

Sen. Jeremy Ring points out what is MISSING from alimony legislation including attorney fee caps, citing this as the single biggest issue in Family Law, and, without addressing this issue, he and many others cannot support similar proposed Family Law legislation. Curious then, that the Florida Bar FLS leadership now SUPPORTS destructive anti-woman, anti-child, anti-stay-at-home mother, anti-family bills like Sen. Kelli Stargel‘s and Rep. Colleen Burton’s Family Law/Alimony Reform Legislation. Clearly, Florida needs an independent Task Force created to properly study Family Law/Alimony Reform legislation to ensure that it is properly vetted, based on economic FACTS, and not harmful to Florida’s vulnerable mothers, women and children for whom attorneys fees are typically out of reach. In 2016, the bills again support wealthy breadwinners, disregard the issue of attorney fees, all while creating a wealth of work for Florida attorneys.

demand-family-court-reform-florida-2015Senate passes bill that helps give divorced parents equal time with their children | Tampa Bay Times  ~~  This article is very bias and discriminating. Perhaps you're not affected Good - 2015The writer cites extreme examples that very rarely happen in family courts to say that 50/50 timesharing may not be good.Lawless America - 2015 Perhaps the writer is a lawyer??dysfunctional-family-courts-2015

TALLAHASSEE — Judges soon may have little choice but to give divorcing parents equal time with their children.florida judges - 2015

The Senate on Tuesday passed a change to divorce law that would require judges to presume that it is best for children to split time equally with both parents and to issue a detailed order if they deviate from that standard.

Under current law, judges are supposed to consider 20 criteria, the child’s best interests and “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” when they write an order. But Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who sponsored the legislation (SB 250), says the child’s well-being is an end goal and that to accomplish that, it’s in the best interests of kids to split time evenly with both parents whenever possible.We need a winner - 2015

The majority of senators agreed, passing Lee’s bill on a 23-15 vote. The legislation hasn’t been supported by the House yet, but other changes to divorce law remain under consideration.

“As we look at other child welfare polices that we enact, we always start with the assumption that if it’s in the best interest of the child, we want both parents involved and that we want both parents to take responsibility,” Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said.

Some research indicates children are likely to be better adjusted when parents have joint custody.

“ALL RESEARCH”

INDICATES CHILDREN ARE BETTER ADJUSTED WHEN PARENTS HAVE EQUAL JOINT CUSTODY (LEGAL AND PHYSICAL) !!!!

In 2002, Robert Bauserman, then a psychologist at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, compiled studies that compared children growing up in joint custody arrangements to those living with one parent.

In general, Bauserman found, children who spent some time with each parent had fewer behavioral problems, higher self-esteem and did better in school.

Parents, on the other hand, tend to be more satisfied if they don’t have to split time with their children with an ex-spouse, according to Bauserman.

BULLSHIT!!! NOT TRUE!!!!!!

But opponents to the timesharing bill, including Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, say there isn’t sufficient data to indicate that splitting time evenly between both parents is the ideal place to draw the line. They argue doing so could simply lead to backlogs in the courts as parents unhappy with their custody agreements ask judges to reconsider their timesharing.

Critics further raise concerns that creating a 50/50 starting point for court orders could prejudice judges and that it meddles too much with judicial discretion.

MORE BULLSHIT!!!!  CREATING 50/50 PRESUMPTION WILL ELIMINATE JUDICIAL PREJUDICE AND STOP ABSOLUTE JUDICIAL DISCRETION WHICH IS WHAT IS HARMING FAMILIES NOW!!!!

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Bad Florida Lawyers

60f39-state2bjudges2bare2bclowns2b-2b32bring2bcircus2b-2bafla2bblog2b-2b2015This lawyer was forging judges’ signatures on order. Not good:

Miami lawyer is facing multiple forgery charges after investigators found he forged the signatures of seven different Broward County and Circuit judges on documents related to civil cases involving structured settlements, according to court records.

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