Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Exposed: Twisted Ethics of an Expert Witness, Forensic Child Custody Evaluator- Stuart Greenberg

Mental Health Evaluators have absolutely no business in the Courts past the lining of their own pockets like this ‘perfect example’ below shows. Remove all GAL’s and MHP’s aka “ Therapeutic Jurisprudence” from our Family Courts, they are the crisis in America’s Family Courts.


This is the perverted pig worm con man who offed himself when he
(finally) was arrested for setting up a video camera in the women's
bathroom of his office to tape women peeing. See more stuff on Stuart Greenberg right after he killed himself,
posted at the request of numerous distressed former litigants:
http://www.thelizlibrary.org/therapeutic-jurisprudence/custody-evaluator-Stuart-Greenberg.html

Seattle Times special report: Twisted ethics of an expert witness

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2015427070_greenberg26m.html

 

Stuart Greenberg was at the top of his profession: a renowned forensic psychologist who in court could determine which parent got custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault. Trouble is, he built his career on hypocrisy and lies, and as a result, he destroyed lives, including his own.

By Ken Armstrong and Maureen O'Hagan

 

Stuart Greenberg

Enlarge this photo

Stuart Greenberg

The reporting for this story

To uncover the secrets Stuart Greenberg had buried, The Seattle Times got court files unsealed in the superior courts of King and Thurston counties. Through a motion filed by the state Attorney General's Office, the newspaper also got an order lifted that barred public inspection of Greenberg's disciplinary history. Reporters obtained other documents — for example, Greenberg's emails at the University of Washington — through public-records requests, and interviewed colleagues of Greenberg, as well as parents he had evaluated.

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quotesThis makes me sick to my stomach. Bravo for the Times for running is article. Whatever... (June 25, 2011, by SeaKat) Read more

quotesGreat to see real in-depth journalism at the Seattle Times for a change. Well done! (June 25, 2011, by thirdman) Read more

quotesThe Thurston County judge, if still on the bench, should be recalled for ineptitude. If... (June 25, 2011, by monroesilk) Read more

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Earlier this year, a four-page document with a bland title, "Stipulation for Dismissal with Prejudice," was filed in a civil matter percolating on the King County Courthouse's ninth floor. Hardly anyone took notice. Most everyone had moved on.

But that document — filed by lawyers tangled up in the estate of Stuart Greenberg, a nationally renowned psychologist whose life ended in scandal — signaled the end of a tortuous undertaking.

Greenberg had proved such a toxic force — a poison coursing through the state's court system — that it took more than three years for lawyers and judges to sift through his victims and account for the damage done.

For a quarter century Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress.

At conferences and in classrooms, in Washington and beyond, he taught others to do what he did. He became his profession's gatekeeper, quizzing aspirants, judging others' work, writing the national-certification exam. His peers elected him their national president.

But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies. In the years since Greenberg's death, while court officials wrestled over his estate, The Seattle Times worked to unearth Greenberg's secrets, getting court records unsealed and disciplinary records opened.

Those records are a testament to Greenberg's cunning. They show how he played the courts for a fool. He played state regulators for a fool. He played his fellow psychologists for a fool. And were it not for a hidden camera, he might have gotten away with it.

Stripped of all defenses

In summer 1984, Cathy Graden, a 27-year-old surgical nurse from Woodinville, was summoned to King County Superior Court for an emergency hearing in her child-custody case.

Her lawyer said a psychologist's report was behind the hearing. But Graden wasn't allowed to read the report. Nor was she allowed in the courtroom while the psychologist testified.

The psychologist, Stuart Greenberg, had been hired to help resolve a custody dispute involving Graden's only child, a 4-year-old boy whose bright, goopy finger-paintings Graden taped up all over the house.

Although appointed by the court, Greenberg was paid by the parties. He had interviewed the boy and both parents, and run a half-dozen tests with impressive names (the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist, the Michigan Screening Profile of Parenting ... ).

Graden figured she had nothing to fear. She taught Sunday school; she did volunteer work; she had taken care of her son when the boy's father moved to Alaska after the couple's divorce. "I thought there was no way I could possibly lose this," she says.

Greenberg had arrived in Seattle five years earlier, hired by the University of Washington. A letter written by the department chairman called Greenberg a "last-minute replacement" for a psychology professor who'd resigned. Greenberg's credentials "were on hand," because he'd applied for some other position.

His credentials were acceptable but not extraordinary. He had a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, where his thesis was a word salad: "Stimulus and Response Generalization of Classes of Imitative and Non-imitative Behavior as a Function of Reinforcement, Task, Cues, and Number of Therapists." On Washington's psychology licensing test, one examiner marked Greenberg's professional judgment as "good," his knowledge and skills, "okay."

Teaching, Greenberg earned just $15,300 his first year. His second year, he was assigned only a single evening class. He left the university and moved into private practice. He picked up court appointments in Western Washington as a custody investigator, expert evaluator, arbiter, mediator, guardian ad litem, special master. He became enmeshed in the court system, buddying up to lawyers, judges, fellow experts.

On the stand, he radiated confidence. "He was just kind of a notch above the rest of us," says Nick Wiltz, a fellow forensic psychologist. "He was able to present reports and information in a very powerful way."

But Greenberg also demonstrated dubious judgment and a cavalier attitude toward his ethical obligations, which forbade even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In the early 1980s, Greenberg befriended Stanley Stone, who worked in King County as a family-law commissioner — a position akin to judge with the power to appoint experts and approve their fees. On the side, Stone speculated in oil and gas, wooing investors with fantastical claims about the fortunes to be made by digging holes in Kansas.

Although Stone likewise needed to avoid conflicts of interest, his investors included lawyers and expert witnesses who appeared regularly in family court. One of his biggest investors was Greenberg. The psychologist put in $41,250 — expecting, years hence, a whopping return of $891,000 — and encouraged other courthouse regulars to invest, saying he had "the utmost confidence" in Stone, a good friend.

When the investment vehicle went up in smoke, some investors sued, making the enterprise public. Afterward, Stone says, lawyer disciplinary officials admonished him for a breach of ethics. Greenberg could also have been vulnerable to disciplinary action, but his Department of Health licensing file shows no evidence of that ever happening.

Cathy Graden didn't know about any of this. Nor did she know that her ex-husband's lawyer was also an investor, coming on board after Greenberg touted the potential rewards to her. That made them limited business partners — her ex's lawyer and the expert witness who would testify about her parenting.

The report Greenberg filed in court eviscerated Graden. It said she posed a grave danger to her son; that she was "probably" sexually abusing him; that she was psychologically unstable and possibly paranoid. Greenberg's report said he had interviewed the boy's day-care provider — and this provider suspected Graden of abuse and said Graden had encouraged day-care employees to beat her son.

In court, testifying, Greenberg described Graden as "quasi-psychotic," but said the diagnosis was tricky, because Graden might appear "quite normal." She would likely deny doing anything wrong to her son, Greenberg said, or alternatively, she "might genuinely not remember."

By the time Greenberg finished, Graden, out in the hallway, had been stripped of all defenses — and without a clue to what had just happened. If she appeared normal — well, Greenberg said she would. If she denied hurting her son — that was part of her disorder. If she challenged Greenberg's work or motives — she was paranoid.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Donald Haley said: "The doctor has convinced the court." The judge ordered the boy turned immediately over to his father, with Graden allowed to visit only if supervised by a therapist.

Greenberg was accustomed to such influence. Do judges follow your recommendations? he was once asked. "Typically," he said.

But in this case, Graden refused to go away. She obtained a copy of Greenberg's report. She interviewed the people he quoted. She wore a hidden recorder while meeting with him.

And what she learned, she turned over to state disciplinary officials.

The day-care provider, Krista McKee, told The Times that Greenberg "took what I said and just turned it upside down. He made it sound like I said something about Cathy that I just did not say. I never thought Cathy beat or abused (her son) at any level."

Greenberg also mischaracterized what the boy's therapist told him, twisting benign commentary into an urgent call for the boy to be removed from his mother's care.

Greenberg's work violated a host of ethics rules and laws. If he suspected Graden's son was being abused, he was required to report that to police or Child Protective Services. But he'd done no such thing.

Most disturbing of all, Graden's was not an isolated case.

In 1990, after an investigation that dragged on for years, the state Examining Board of Psychology filed a devastating set of disciplinary charges against Greenberg. The charges, 18 pages long, alleged misconduct in four cases between 1983 and 1986, including Graden's.

The board accused Greenberg of being incompetent and unethical. Of being dishonest or corrupt. Of misusing psychological tests and misrepresenting the results. He was accused of demonstrating bias; reaching sweeping conclusions on hearsay; violating confidentiality; and ignoring damning information about one parent while loading up on another.

In one custody case, he conducted a bizarre analysis of the father's new wife, a flight attendant. He reviewed some letters she may have written (although Greenberg wasn't sure), and some photos of the father's son with temporary tattoos — birds and a dragon, on his shoulders and belly button.

Based on those dubious materials, Greenberg concluded that the woman showed signs of a personality disorder: "Highly abstract thinking, schizoid mentation, hysteroid defense mechanisms, and / or exhibitionistic style." He never interviewed her, or the father, or the son.

Greenberg could have fought the board's allegations. Instead, he admitted violating professional guidelines in each of the four cases. He had been seeing a therapist for four years, he told the board, because he was "unable to fully empathize" with parents in child-custody cases and was not sensitive enough to the impact of his opinions.

The board and Greenberg agreed on a severe punishment: a three-year suspension from doing parenting evaluations. Afterward, he could resume only if the board was convinced he was competent.

Graden got her son back in 1989, when the boy's father died in a work accident. Her son was 4 years old when taken away, 9 when he returned.

Saying one thing, doing another

In 1992, prosecutors for the U.S. Air Force asked Greenberg to be an expert witness in the court-martial of a sergeant accused of raping his 15-year-old stepdaughter. Because Greenberg's suspension applied only to child-custody cases, he accepted.

In articles published in professional journals, Greenberg distinguished forensic psychology from therapy: the latter assists a patient, the former, a judge or jury.

Forensic psychologists should avoid psychiatric diagnoses, Greenberg wrote. In therapy, patients have reason to be honest. That's because they want help. But in court settings, they have incentive to lie. A criminal defendant might want to seem insane, and a parent fighting for custody, as normal as can be.

People taking psychological tests can surmise which answers will lead to which results, Greenberg wrote. Attaching a diagnostic category to someone's description of unverifiable feelings provides "unjustified credibility."

One particular diagnosis — post-traumatic-stress disorder — is especially prone to abuse, Greenberg wrote. Someone claims to have experienced something horrific, and describes symptoms consistent with distress. A clinician diagnoses PTSD. In court, this diagnosis gets used "in a circular argument" to prove the horrific event occurred.

Greenberg preached caution. He practiced something else.

In the Air Force case, Greenberg had the stepdaughter take the Beck Depression Inventory — 22 questions, multiple choice. The first question: 1. I do not feel sad; 2. I feel sad; 3. I am sad all the time and I can't snap out of it; 4. I am so sad or unhappy that I can't stand it. She chose 3. He had her take the Beck Hopelessness Scale — 20 questions, true or false. Question 7: My future seems dark to me. She marked true.

After eight tests and 10 hours of interviews, Greenberg diagnosed the teenager with post-traumatic-stress disorder. (He charged the Air Force $12,360 for this work.)

To Sverre Staurset, the sergeant's lawyer, Greenberg was key to the prosecution's case. He vouched for the stepdaughter's credibility — believe him, you believe her.

Unbeknown to Greenberg, Staurset had rounded up the state disciplinary documents in which Greenberg admitted to conduct both incompetent and unethical. With those records, the lawyer destroyed Greenberg on the stand.

"It was worse than a deer in headlights," Staurset says. "He really came apart. There was nothing left of him."

With Greenberg discredited, the sergeant was acquitted.

For an expert witness, credibility is everything. Greenberg knew that if those disciplinary records remained available, his future looked dim.

Hiding his past

A missing sentence. That's what made all the difference — that, and the state's lack of mettle.

During the disciplinary proceedings, Greenberg had signed a five-page stipulation admitting that he had misquoted witnesses, misinterpreted test results, reached damning conclusions on flimsy foundations. But the document was also supposed to say: "That by entering into this agreement, Dr. Greenberg does not admit to any violation of statute or administrative rules governing the practice of psychology."

"That is boilerplate," says Terry West, who was the Examining Board of Psychology's program manager at the time. "That's standard language in any stipulation."

A lawyer for the state dropped the sentence while merging some documents. Boilerplate or not, that missing language represented an opening — and Greenberg seized it. He let the state know he was thinking of suing. The examining board caved.

Nick Wiltz, the board's chairman when Greenberg was suspended, says: "The thing dragged on and on and on. Then, suddenly, because of this error by this inept assistant attorney general, the case blew up completely."

In spring 1993, the board's departing chairman, David Gossett, wrote an open apology to Greenberg, published in the board's newsletter. Greenberg had been "exonerated" of "all allegations," Gossett wrote. The apology asked "all persons" who had kept an earlier board publication describing Greenberg's suspension to return their copies or destroy them.

For Greenberg, this wasn't enough. The agency's paper trail was still publicly available, meaning he might still be confronted on the witness stand with his past admissions.

So Greenberg went to court, asking for the state to be barred from releasing any records about his past suspension. In a remarkable twist, the Examining Board of Psychology joined in this request. Here was a public body — represented by another public body, the state Attorney General's Office — asking the courts to forbid the state from complying with its public-records requirements.

In King County, Judge R. Joseph Wesley refused to go along. So Greenberg went south, to Thurston County. In 1995, Judge Daniel Berschauer agreed to place the state's records off-limits to the public; also sealed was the entire court file describing Greenberg's secrecy request.

Within a year of getting his disciplinary history sealed, Greenberg was giving seminars to other psychologists on the ethics of parenting evaluations.

Greenberg also fended off another kind of challenge. Cathy Graden, the mother who temporarily lost her son, sued Greenberg, accusing him of falsifying evidence against her. But Greenberg cited a decades-old principle — that, as a court-appointed expert, he was entitled to the same "absolute immunity" accorded judges — and Graden dropped her suit, figuring it was doomed.

Greenberg used the same argument to squelch other lawsuits. He became such an expert on this shield that the American Psychological Association would ask him to deliver an address on: "The Liability and Immunity of the Expert Witness."

'Laundering priests'

Although Greenberg attracted a lot of work, his judgment raised doubts.

The Roman Catholic Church sent priests accused of sexual abuse to Greenberg, to get his take on whether they could be returned to ministry without endangering congregants.

"He was really the go-to guy for the Archdiocese of Seattle, and for the Jesuits, when it came to evaluating and laundering priests," says Ken Roosa, an Anchorage attorney who has represented hundreds of people suing the church.

The enterprise was shrouded in secrecy, making it hard to say how many priests Greenberg evaluated. Asked during one lawsuit, Greenberg estimated "10 to 15."

What's clear is how easily one priest deceived Greenberg.

In 1993, the Jesuits sent Father Jim Poole to see the psychologist. Greenberg interviewed Poole for 10 hours and administered nine tests. Poole admitted violating his vow of chastity, but only to the extent of kissing and sexual touching with women.

Greenberg wrote reports saying he believed Poole was being honest and that therapy arranged by the Jesuits had "substantially remedied" his problems. "I must say that I do not think that he is conning me or himself," Greenberg wrote.

But in recommending that Poole be returned to ministry, Greenberg missed the most horrendous aspects of Poole's history. The Jesuits would later settle more than a dozen lawsuits that accused Poole, decades earlier, of raping or molesting girls as young as 6.

Poole denied raping anyone but admitted French-kissing one child dozens of times, saying: "I found it a way of trying to get across how much she was loved."

Confronted, in a lawsuit, about his misreading of Poole, Greenberg said: "The data is that psychologists are no better than anyone else at determining when someone's lying based on interview."

Greenberg also lacked judgment around the office, some employees say. Jacquie Pickrell, a psychologist who worked for Greenberg in the mid-1990s, says he violated boundaries with women employees and seemed a "narcissist."

One morning he came into the office, looking horrible. He told Pickrell he'd had a dreadful night. He described vomiting — "in horrid detail," Pickrell says — while a foot from her face.

When Pickrell advised him to go home, or at least not infect others, Greenberg went into his office, shut the door, and pouted. The next day he told Pickrell she had hurt his feelings, that he was sick and had needed a hug.

Two other women employees described being "weirded" or "creeped out" by Greenberg. One said he rubbed her shoulders; tried to make her go with him, alone, on a business trip to Alaska; and wondered aloud, while shopping for supplies, if other people in the store thought they were lovers.

An orchestrated performance

As the 1990s rolled into the next decade, Greenberg's past problems faded away.

He published in peer-reviewed journals and spoke all over the country. He chaired the committee that wrote a national certification exam for his field. His peers elected him president of the American Board of Forensic Psychology.

His hourly rate rose to $450. His fees in individual cases were known to climb from $8,000 to $12,000 to $20,000 or more. He got a 39-foot boat — "More Like It," so named because he'd had a smaller boat, saw a bigger one, thought, that's more like it, and bought one to match. He owned two houses on Capitol Hill — one for home, the other for work. His wine collection was worth $25,000.

On the side he worked at the UW as a clinical associate professor. The UW heard whispers of a troubled past, asked the state, and was told there was nothing to worry about. (The judge's sealing order prohibited disciplinary officials from saying more.)

To testify as an expert, a witness must be found qualified. Greenberg turned this into an orchestrated performance. He would hand a script to the lawyer who hired him.

Question: "Doctor, isn't it true that one of your articles has become one of the landmarks in the field?"

Response: "Well, my article with Dan Shuman on the differences between assessment by therapists and assessment by forensic examiners has been reprinted often, yes."

Greenberg's script had 32 questions in all. His answers had the effect of whispering: I am objective. I am humble. I am a giant in my field.

The hidden camera

This is the story Greenberg later told police:

He needed an air purifier. He searched the Internet. A gadget popped up that only appeared to be a purifier. The white plastic box, about 8 inches high, whirred like a purifier, but inside was a hidden camera.

Greenberg placed an order. The item was shipped to him on June 6, 2007.

Greenberg said he planned to spy on contractors remodeling a $1.8 million house he had recently bought for a new home-office. Instead, he installed the camera in his office's bathroom, used by employees and people getting psychological evaluations.

His staff became suspicious. On July 3, a psychologist who worked for Greenberg devised a test. She placed an aerosol can in front of the purifier. If this device was a camera, this would block the view. Within half an hour, Greenberg entered the bathroom, shut the door, and moved the can.

In a scene caught on videotape, he then fiddled with the lens, stared into his camera, smiled and masturbated.

Police arrested Greenberg that afternoon. A detective interviewed him in a small room. Greenberg gazed at the room's video-camera, pointed down at him. In court Greenberg had intimidated. Now his voice was barely audible. He sighed, over and over.

Greenberg told the detective he couldn't resist seeing his employees in partial undress. "I enjoyed it. ... It was fun; it was exciting. ... I didn't do this a lot. I'm not minimizing it. I know it's bad. But I didn't do it a lot."

News of Greenberg's arrest went public. At the UW, a colleague informed the psychology-department chairman that Greenberg gave an annual lecture to students titled "Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology." "Ironic, I know," she wrote in her email.

Three weeks after his arrest, while awaiting charges, Greenberg committed suicide in a Renton hotel room. He was 59.

He left three notes on his hotel bed. In one — addressed, "To everyone I hurt" — Greenberg wrote: "I am inadequate. I just don't know. I am sorry."

He didn't say who "everyone" was. That would be for the courts to decide.

The damage done

When Greenberg died, his personal worth was estimated at $1.7 million. But the claims filed against his estate eclipsed that.

There were claims filed by employees who had been secretly videotaped in Greenberg's bathroom. There were claims filed over cases in which Greenberg failed to finish child-custody evaluations, or did work now deemed tainted or worthless.

Before Greenberg died, some parents in child-custody matters hesitated to criticize his evaluations, fearing any complaint might cost them their children. But since his death, parents have come forward, with women describing bullying tactics, saying he demanded intimate details about their sex lives, and dared them not to answer.

Once the circumstances of Greenberg's downfall became public, courts agreed to take a second look at some of his more recent cases.

In one of them, Greenberg had recommended joint custody in a case where the father had been convicted of beating the mother. Drenched in blood, she had gone to the emergency room and received 15 stitches in her head.

Greenberg branded the mother, a Microsoft employee, as emotionally unstable, saying she complained too much of the abuse she had suffered.

"I was beaten by my husband, and I was beaten up by the system," the woman told The Times. "I was accused of being crazy for not liking being beaten."

After Greenberg's arrest for voyeurism, the woman's lawyer asked to have Greenberg's report tossed out. A King County judge agreed. A new evaluator was appointed — and came to a very different conclusion.

Under the new parenting agreement, the mother is in charge.

Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or karmstrong@seattletimes.com; Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 ormohagan@seattletimes.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

No Way Out But One : Fund Raising Update by Garland Waller (Please spread widely)

Dear Friends: Click here....No Way Out But One for update

Fundraising Update from Garland Waller on Vimeo.

 

Click here to donate even just $5.00 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2038674816/no-way-out-but-one-a-story-of-love-and-justice/pledge/new?clicked_reward=false&logged_in=false&p=0&v=u

We have good news, bad news and more good news. The real good news it that post-production of the full-length version of No Way Out But One is going great. We have received the never before seen FBI files, and we are finishing up our final interviews. This is really going to be a powerful story about one remarkable mother’s efforts to keep her children safe, and the harrowing experience that Child and Family Court has become for so many protective parents and children.

The bad news is that we are coming up on the deadline for contributions to Kickstarter and we have a long way to go. But the other good news is that if we can get a substantial number of modest $5 individual contributions – yes honestly, just $5 will do it – someone will kick in a major grant to help us reach the final goal of $20,000 to complete and distribute the film.

We are deeply indebted to the women and men who have already given generously because we are getting there, but this one particular donor wants to see that there really is a GROUNDSWELL OF SUPPORT. It’s all in the numbers.

If you have already given, thank you and if not, you can still help soooo much. Just post this, send this, get this word out.

Ask friends to compare it to a skipping a latte.... or just give $5 because by adding $5, so many can help reach $20,000 for a good cause. The issue is so important. We, in this group, already know that. The issue of family court injustice affects so many people’s lives.

We are totally dedicated to the project. But we must have this funding to complete all the work we need to do.

So, yes, I am begging, please post this request on FACEBOOK, Tweet it, send it out to your groups – all your groups. It’s a numbers game. Help us win!

Tell your friends, all they have to do is click here....

No Way Out But One

Thank you.

Garland

No Way Out But One

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GAL Power

Also See: The Guardian Ad Litem Scandals - Legislative Reforms Needed http://bit.ly/lSM0x3

   

GAL Power

Marcus Griffith

"As a result, she has viewed all allegations of sexual abuse by her children ... as efforts to discredit her and to gain the advantage in a custody battle, rather than wake-up calls to a victim of child sexual abuse who remade herself into sexual abuse zombie ... "

 

GAL Power

Marcus Griffith

 

Divorced parents with minor children often fight over custody and visitation rights, producing courtroom decisions that are complex and often heartbreaking for at least one parent. This story takes a rare public look into that system for two reasons:

First, it involves the kind of complicated, personal and family situations that make these cases so difficult to adjudicate. Secondly, there is the additional drama of conflict combined with allegations of questionable performances among the justice system officials themselves.

Clark County Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg recently removed two children from their mother’s home, even though no petition for such action was before the court. Schienberg based her temporary decision on an allegedly flawed report prepared by a court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL).

When the mother’s attorney criticized the GAL report and refused to apologize for her comments, the commissioner held the attorney in contempt and fined her $500.

The commissioner’s ruling is under appeal, with a hearing pending. Meanwhile, the two minor children have been moved to the custody of their father. He has issued multiple threats of legal action against the writer and any publication who would publish a story about this case.

In Washington State, court commissioners are appointed by superior court judges. They are not elected by the public, but they have many of the same responsibilities and authorities as a superior court judge.

A family law guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child, often during divorce or custody proceedings. In addition to family law matters, a GAL can be appointed to assist anyone a court deems legally incapacitated. Clark County commissioners and judges appointed GALs 396 times in 2010, according to Superior Court Administrator Jeffrey Amram.

GAL reports are confidential. However, the author obtained a copy of the GAL report from an undisclosed source after concerns were raised about contents of the report and the commissioner’s ruling.

Case didn’t seek custody

In August 2008, the mother received “primary residential placement” of the two minor children as part of a court-approved parenting plan. After more than two years of continuing conflict between the parents, the father filed an October 2010 contempt motion against the mother for violation of visitation rights.

The commissioner, in early December, held the mother in contempt for certain violations. At the same time, she approved a motion to require that transfer of the children for visitation times take place at the Vancouver police station due to conflict between the parties.

In November, the mother filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, asking for restricted visitation time with the father until he received counseling for anger management. The father, responding in December, said there was insufficient proof for a major modification of that plan.

That is the issue before the court that led to the appointment of Vancouver attorney Meredith McKell Graff as Guardian ad Litem to investigate the matter.

According to the mother’s attorney, Vancouver attorney April Brinkman, the GAL report was supposed to be finished by the first of February 2011. However, it was not submitted to the court until May 12, and it came with a blockbuster recommendation that the children be removed from the mother’s home and the father be given primary residential placement.

A source close to the case, who asked not to be identified, said there were significant concerns about the integrity of that 26-page report, which were ignored by Commissioner Schienberg. The source called the report a product of “shoddy investigation” and involved “lies told in court” by Graff.

Background shows need for a GAL

It has been almost a decade since the Clark County parents in this case were divorced. Subsequent battles over custody of their children have included numerous allegations between the parties of child abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and harassment.

The 2008 parenting plan noted the “abusive use of conflict by both parents” as a potential risk to the “psychological development” of both children. Information from various sources and documents reveals disturbing allegations surrounding both parents that make it difficult to sort fact from fiction.

One of the more disturbing allegations against the mother is referred to as the “wiener game.” It was reported to Child Protective Services at an unspecified time, according to the confidential GAL report. While bathing with her children, the report says, the mother “taught each boy how to stimulate himself to erection… then balance an action figure toy on their erect penis. The longer they can hold the toy on their penis is the winner (sic).”

The father allegedly has forced his children to write false accusations against their month, including allegations outlines in a recent police report. In that June 1 report, Battle Ground Officer Joshua Phelps wrote:

“I asked [redacted] about his mom making him lie about things. [Redacted] told me that she did not do that, but their father told them to write that down.”

It doesn’t appear, at this time, that police or Child Protective Services have substantiated allegations against either parent, but due to the long record of conflict it’s no surprise that the court saw need for an independent and objective view of a GAL.

GAL investigation takes a turn

The court order appointing Meredith McKell Graff as GAL instructed her to “investigate and report the factual information to the court concerning parenting arrangements” of the two children. Graff’s final report was unequivocal in its recommendation.

“The children in this matter… are at extreme risk of harm if they remain any longer in the mother’s home,” the report states. “They should be removed immediately.”

Subsequent concerns about the GAL report are voiced prominently by the mother’s attorney in the motion for reversal of Commissioner Schienberg’s temporary order.

High on the list of concerns about the May 12 report is a statement by Graff that she interviewed the references for both parents. That conflicts with her statement of May 24 in which she declared, “I did not interview (the mother’s reference); my legal assistant performed this task.”

Neither statement revealed the actual fact that Graff’s assistant, Heidi Atwood, actually interviewed all four references listed in the report.

“As the guardian ad litem’s legal assistant,” wrote Atwood in her May 24 declaration to the court, “in order to save time… I was given the assignment of calling all the guardian ad litem references and asking them the questions requested by the guardian ad litem ... ”

Atwood is not listed on the court-approved guardian ad litem registry, and there’s no record that she has completed any of the required training to work as guardian ad litem. She is a 40-year-old college student at Washington State University whose only professional license in Washington is as a Notary Public, according to Graff’s law office and state documents. 

A lie in court?

Court transcripts of the June 2 hearing include Graff’s statement that she couldn’t obtain a release from the mother to get medical records. “Because (the mother) did not sign a HIPAA release with her doctor … I did not get medical records from the mother,” said Graff.

However, Brinkman has since filed with the court a copy of just such a release, signed by the mother on March 29 and faxed to Graff’s office, according to Brinkman. 

Further, Graff didn’t need that release to get the information. The court order appointing her includes a signed “release of information” provision giving her access to all pertinent records, specifically including health care records, for both parents.

The GAL report says that Graff has “minimal concerns with the father,” despite the fact that she quoted a 2007 psychological evaluation saying that the father has “issues with chronic and intense anger;” that he is “not able to express negative feeling appropriately;” that he is “over-controlled with brief, impulsive episodes of acting out;” and that he is “sensitive to rejection and has a subtle paranoia that is expressed as jealously or possessiveness. He can be hostile when criticized and has little self-awareness.”

The doctor who conducted that psychological evaluation of the father also evaluated his current wife, saying she is “aggressive and striving,” and “defines her view as the correct one and assumes that to disagree with her is simply a demonstration of one’s lack of understanding.”

Graff’s report did not disagree with that impression, but said the children need a controlling adult in their lives. “Even though the father’s wife may appear to some that she is ‘controlling,’ she is actually what the boys need right now,” Graff wrote.

The report recommended that both parents enter counseling, but held “no reservations” about having the children moved to primary residency with their father.

Many issues of credibility

Graff used Child Protective Services reports to help form her recommendation that the children face eminent harm in the mother’s care. However, none of the allegations against the mother have been substantiated by Child Protective Services, police or the county prosecutor’s office, according to available court documents.  

Graff considered various allegations of both parents to be less than credible.

“The parents — both of them — have engaged in CPS and the police far too often, and too many times with false or misleading information, in order to discredit the other parent,” Graff stated.

It’s not clear, then, why allegations from one side would become grounds for such a significant recommendation. There is also a matter of various subjective and inflammatory words and phrases used in the report.

The report at one point says that the mother “remade herself into a sexual abuse zombie,” and later says a photo of the mother and her new husband “shows them tonguing like reptiles.” Nothing clarified the use of those phrases as part of an evaluation of parenting skills.

The GAL report also indicates that Graff did not interview the children’s doctors, teachers, psychologists or neighbors.

Lack of balance in interviews

Graff — or rather, her assistant, Atwood — interviewed three references for the father but only one for the mother, an imbalance that casts doubt on fairness of the investigation. And despite Graff being assigned the investigation in December, Atwood didn’t start requesting interviews with the mother’s references until May 10, according to numerous court documents and the declaration of a veteran Oregon police officer.

Officer Jason Maddy stated, “The law office of McKell Graff left a voicemail for me Tuesday, May 10, 2011, sometime during the afternoon. Records indicate that the voicemail was the first and only time that Atwood called Maddy. He planned to call Atwood on May 13, but Graff completed her report on May 11.

Maddy, an experienced investigator, was bothered by the one-day callback window. “I would never even think of just calling someone and leaving a message and writing the report the next day without hearing from them,” Maddy stated. He further stated that he “would have been able to provide very important information about how I have seen (the mother) interact with her children.”

Another reference provided by the mother said she didn’t receive the request for an interview until May 11. By the time she called Graff’s law office the report already was filed, and Atwood wouldn’t document what she said would have been favorable statements about the mother.

Even more disturbing, although Graff may have stopped taking statements in support of the mother on May 11, she continued taking statements against the mother even after the report was filed with the court. In her May 24 declaration, Graff references new allegations against the mother that surfaced after the confidential report was filed on May 12.

“I have been now told,” wrote Graph in that declaration, “that the children have been punished for telling me things that the mother did not want me to know or the children to tell me.”

Second-hand allegations

Graff appears to have disregarded her direct observations of the mother’s house in favor of statements from unidentified sources.

“The mother’s home is chaotic and dirty,” Graff stated in her report. However, she wrote that the house was staged to look clean during her lone visit there.

“The mother made a point of having me go ‘say goodnight’ to each boy before beginning the interview,” Graff wrote. “I am concerned this was an effort to get me to walk down the hall to show me that the house was ‘neat,’ rather than how it had been prior to its staging for my visit.”

The report cited an unnamed source who reported to Graff that the mother put a large amount of “stuff” in storage so Graff would not see the usual state of the house.

In contrast, Graff was very impressed with the father’s home, where she made multiple visits. She wrote: “Going in, one feels a sense of peace and calm.” Although records indicate that there was only one investigative interview at the father’s house, Graff wrote, “I have been to the (father’s) home on more than occasion.”

The father’s house is in an upscale neighborhood, and court documents indicate that the father makes substantially more money than the mother. Graff said, however, that those factors were not taken into consideration in her recommendation.

“To be clear,” she wrote, “my recommendation for (the father) being named the primary residential parent is not based on socio-economic factors. I have been appointed in other cases where the recommended placement was for the poorer home of the two parents.”

She continued, in one of the report’s more unusual narratives: “One can be clean, neat, organized, and poor, with clean, ragged clothes and one can have money and worldly possessions and be dirty, chaotic, and provide no supervision for children, along with allowing them to be sexually abused within the grand, expensive home.”

GAL invoices for thousands more

Graff is seeking payment of almost $2,500 more than was first authorized by the court, which wrote in its appointing order: “The guardian ad litem fee is $75 per hour up to $750, the maximum the guardian ad litem may charge without additional court review and approval.”

That full $750 was paid months ago through combined payments from the parents. But according to Graff, she has racked up 41.6 hours to date for a total bill of $3,120. She stated in a court document that it would be “appropriate for the court to order the parties to share an additional $2,370.”

The GAL invoice does not explain how many hours her assistant worked, of whether those hours are included in the billing.

Commissioner’s fully endorses report

The June 2 hearing, held in open court, included specific reference to contents of the confidential GAL report. And Commissioner Schienberg seemed very pleased with the quality of the report.

“First of all,” Schienberg said in the hearing, I want to thank Ms. Graff for her work. I think you did an excellent job; it was very thorough … I think she did an excellent report.”

The commission, however, went beyond stating her positive impression of the report. When April Brinkman questioned the lack of supporting documents in the report, Schienberg was quick to demand that Brinkman apologize to the GAL.

“There’s no evidence to support anything that the GAL has said,” Brinkman stated in court. The transcript record of that statement provides no information on tone, volume, body language or any other factor except the words themselves.

“Excuse me, you’re going to apologize right now to this Court and to Ms. Graff,” said Schienberg, “or I will hold you in contempt. You apologize, now.”

Brinkman declined to apologize, was held in contempt of court and was fined $500.

Schienberg said in the hearing that her decision to relocate the children was based on the GAL report, statements made during the hearing and unspecified “documents in Volumes 4 and 5.” 

According to the court transcript, Brinkman did not receive those documents, and they were not listed in Graff’s report.

At one point, Brinkman asked Schienberg if “the guardian ad litem is supposed to attach any document she used to the report the Court considers?” Schienberg responded:

“Okay. I took the report that Ms. Graff has provided me and her comments, she is an officer of the court. I trust that when speaks to the court, she is not lying to the court. She has an excellent reputation in this court. She is a person who has done a number of guardian ad litem reports, always well done, always thoroughly researched, always coming to an unbiased, no prejudicial conclusion. I value her work.”

Perhaps reflecting the volatile nature of cases before her court, Commissioner Schienberg has attracted a Facebook page entitled “Fire Washington Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg.” The page has 30 members and includes comments from people who have had family law matters before her court.

Schienberg, reached via e-mail with a request for comment on this story, said she could not comment on an ongoing matter.

Legislator interested in case

Washington State Rep. Ann Rivers of the 18th District and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was contacted by the mother with concerns about this case. Rivers confirmed in a phone interview that she spoke with the mother and is “concerned” by the issues raised.

“Anytime we have children put into a destabilized system, families lose out,” said Rivers, adding that she is in the “infancy stage of research” and is seeking more information from state legal staff.

Rivers said she believes that parents should place their responsibility to their children above any personal disagreement with each other. As for certain unusual language in the GAL report, Rivers said it wasn’t the kind of thing she would expect to see in a formal report.

Meanwhile, the author and The Vancouver Voice received emailed threats — from the father’s email account — of legal action if the investigation into this case continues. A June 16 email also suggests that Graff is providing legal assistance to the father and his current wife, stating:

“The guardian ad litem is also an attorney and these minors (sic) attorney, and she informed us today that if you print or allow Mr. Griffith to print a story about these minors, you and Mr. Griffith will be served with lawsuits, liable to start.”

Attorney Meredith Graff did not respond to several requests for comment. For updates on the case, visit the blog, VanVoice Blotter, at www.vanvoice.com.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rene M. Netherton- Court Appointed Child Abuser and Child Trafficker

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500918795

Now this is original--- of course a ‘skank’ bottom dweller Topeka Kansas Attorney would define themselves on facebook—pretty much as she is—only this ‘bitch’ (the doggie pic) has more grit than the other ‘bitch’ Rene Netherton.

The only person she scares is her dead mother Marge., perhaps her dead daddy too.

She literally sold out her own family to be a “nobody”. How honorable.

http://www.webpagescreenshot.info/img/48069-622201151037PM

Screenshot Details:Url: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500918795

Created: 6/22/2011 5:10:37 PM

Mary Jill Dougan Dykes – Court Appointed Child Abuser- Child Trafficking in Topeka, Kansas

 

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=580852953&sk=info

http://www.webpagescreenshot.info/img/209428-622201150217PM

M. Jill Dykes- Court Appointed Child Abuser— Nice profile pic! June 22, 2011

Screenshot details Url: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=580852953&sk=info

Created: 6/22/2011 5:02:17 PM

So how many mothers have YOU DENIED their God Given Right to MOTHER?—Too many. Blood Profit, Child Trafficking.

I bet your daughter is soooooooo proud of you. I wonder what she thinks about what you do to other mothers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why Don’t We End Domestic Violence? Society has the knowledge and ability to prevent a large majority of domestic violence crimes and especially murders.

Why Don’t We End Domestic Violence?

By Barry Goldstein

Society has the knowledge and ability to prevent a large majority of domestic violence crimes and especially murders. It is not like cancer or heart disease which would require some fundamental changes in human behavior to achieve massive reductions. We could easily put together a change in laws, policies and practices and quickly end the danger of domestic violence for most women and children. If we could as readily prevent most of the deaths from earthquakes, tornados, cancer or terror attacks, we would not hesitate to do so. Why should we continue to tolerate the enormous harm caused by abusers? Many of our leaders have spoken of and dreamed of a world without domestic violence. This is a worthy goal, but I am not na├»ve enough to believe we can end all domestic violence in our lifetimes. We can, however create a massive reduction in domestic violence crimes. I say let’s do it.
Background
Our publisher asked Mo Hannah and I to prepare a second volume of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. I decided to write a chapter for the book of a modern tale of two cities comparing Quincy, Massachusetts with Poughkeepsie, New York. I selected Quincy, Massachusetts because they had developed the Quincy Model which had resulted in a drastic reduction of domestic violence homicide. I selected Poughkeepsie, New York because they had been severely criticized for using approaches in custody court that strongly favored abusive fathers. The court system and particularly the judges reacted to the criticism in a defensive and retaliatory manner. Dutchess County has now had a series of domestic violence homicides including the last crime in which the abusive father also killed a police officer. The County Legislature created a committee to study and respond to the series of domestic violence homicides and I am interested to see if they make a connection between the murders and the pattern of mistreatment of protective mothers in the custody court system.
In the late 1970s around the start of the modern movement to end domestic violence, approximately three thousand domestic violence homicides were committed each year in the United States. The frequency of domestic violence homicides did not change significantly until society adopted policies and practices to hold abusers accountable, particularly with pro-arrest policies. The timing of the increased accountability with the reduction in domestic violence homicide supported the belief that these policies led to the reduction, but perhaps what was most convincing was the results in communities that were especially strict in enforcing domestic violence laws. Communities like Nashville, Tennessee and San Diego, California saw even more dramatic reductions in domestic violence homicide as a result of strong programs to prevent domestic violence. Quincy, Massachusetts adopted its model in response to a series of domestic violence homicides and for many years they had no domestic violence homicides in Quincy.
Achieving a Massive Reduction in Domestic Violence Crime
As part of the research for my chapter I have had the opportunity to read about the practices that were so successful in Quincy and elsewhere. I have also read some of the ideas for improving the conditions in Poughkeepsie. We also have the research to establish improved practices in the custody courts. This is particularly important for reducing domestic violence crimes because abuser rights groups have been particularly successful in using common mistakes and flawed practices in the custody courts to undermine the progress society had made elsewhere in reducing domestic violence. The result of the failures in the custody courts has been that more battered mothers are staying with their abusers because they are afraid of being separated from their children and some of them do not survive this decision. Although some have attributed the recent rise in domestic violence homicide after many years of reduction to the bad economy, I believe the problems we see in the custody courts is the more likely explanation. Based upon the research and experience, I believe it would be easy for a group of domestic violence experts to create a best practices model that would result in a drastic reduction in domestic violence crimes.
The basic reforms that would create a massive reduction in domestic violence crime should not be in dispute. Experts may differ about some of the specifics around the edges, but the decisions on those issues would not affect the positive outcome if we included the practices that have been shown to work. We are working on a more complete and detailed agenda for the second volume of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY, but we already know the basics of what is needed. Here is what any reform agenda would include:
1. Coordinated Community Response: The communities that were most successful in reducing domestic violence homicide developed a coordinated community response in which all parts of the community came together to do their part in ending domestic violence. The professionals worked together to coordinate their response and included the domestic violence community as a key resource in the response to domestic violence. The communities had regular meetings to monitor how the campaign to end domestic violence was going and to make adjustments as needed.
2. Make it Easier for Victims to Obtain Protective Orders: Some people disparage protective orders as not worth the paper they are printed on and sometimes it is true, but women with protective orders are safer than those without. Society needs to make it less of a burden on battered women to obtain needed protection by having specified times when the court handles only protective orders so women can get in and out of court quickly. At other times judges should take protective orders before other cases because of the safety concerns. This is important because women may have work or family obligations that make it difficult to wait around the court in order to see a judge. Many judges get frustrated when women seek a protective order and then don’t return for the next court date. Reducing the burdens on victims will encourage them to follow through. At the same time there should be special clerks that help women fill out the forms and prosecutors’ offices should brief victims on the procedures they can expect. Finally judges should take domestic violence allegations more seriously, receive better training and make sure women who need protection can obtain the orders.
3. Strict Enforcement of Criminal Laws and Violations of Protective Orders: The heart of the programs that created a substantial reduction in domestic violence homicide was taking domestic violence seriously. This requires strict enforcement of domestic violence crimes and protective orders. Research demonstrates that abusive men tend to use a cost-benefit analysis in deciding whether to abuse their partners. That is why accountability and monitoring are the best ways to prevent domestic violence. The strict enforcement not only sends a message to the men held accountable, and their children, it sends a message to the entire community. The programs are often launched with important media coverage and those involved in the coordinated community response also help spread the message.
4. Lethality Assessment: The most important purpose of the laws, programs and practices designed to prevent domestic violence is the safety of victims and their children. One of the first things domestic violence advocates learn is safety planning and how to assess the danger. There are several common behaviors of abusers that have been shown to be related to an increased level of danger that domestic violence experts look at in making lethality assessments. These behaviors include choking, strangling or putting his hands around his partner’s throat, assaulting her while pregnant, raping or attempting to rape his partner, killing or hurting family pets, availability of guns, threats of suicide, homicide or kidnapping and a belief she has no right to leave. Incredibly, court professionals rarely use risk assessments or even understand the significance of these behaviors in making judgments about alleged abusers. Criminal courts should be using risk assessments to inform decisions about bail, protective orders and sentencing. Custody courts should use this information in determining custody and visitation arrangements that are safe for the victim and children.
5. Give Domestic Violence Cases the First Priority: Communities that reduced domestic violence crimes gave these cases the first priority. As discussed earlier this means making sure victims can get access to judges quickly so they don’t lose jobs or have to spend a lot of money on child care in order to protect themselves. It means local judges coming to arraignments after hours rather than releasing alleged offenders with an appearance ticket, but no protective order. It also means that custody courts must recognize most contested custody cases involve domestic violence and place a priority on the safety of the children and alleged victims.
6. Best Interests of the Child Should Mean Safety is the First Priority: The most important issue in deciding custody should be the safety of the children, but states usually have a list of factors to be considered and shockingly courts often focus on other less important issues. The second priority should be arrangements that give children the best chance to reach their potential.
7. Use of Current Scientific Research: When domestic violence first became a public issue there was no research to inform professionals about the best way to respond. When professionals modified their practices based on new research it has helped protect victims. Police departments went from practices of separating the parties and having the abuser walk around the block to cool off to a pro-arrest policy. Communities that created more accountability for abusers saw domestic violence crimes reduced. Child protective agencies that have partnered with domestic violence agencies and consulted with their advocates on potential domestic violence cases have been better able to recognize domestic violence and forge arrangements that protect children better. Police and prosecutors need to be aware of the frequency in which abusers involved in contested custody make deliberately false allegations and avoid wasting their resources persecuting their victims before fully investigating the allegations and speaking with the real victims. Custody courts have been particularly slow to modify practices based on current scientific research. They need to recognize most contested custody involve abusive fathers seeking custody as a tactic to maintain their control. They need to limit the role of mental health professionals to their area of expertise which is mental health and not domestic violence. They need to avoid inadequately trained professionals who continue to believe the myth that women frequently make false allegations particularly in sexual abuse cases. The court must also stop permitting unscientific theories like Parental Alienation Syndrome.
8. Retraining Court Professionals: A lot of unfortunate events have combined to create widespread beliefs in a wide range of misinformation about domestic violence. Domestic violence is often counterintuitive which leads to misinformation. The lack of research when court professionals started responding also contributes to the problem. The widespread use of unqualified professionals has encouraged an undeserved confidence in false notions that make them harder to challenge and correct. The media has done a lousy job of covering domestic violence and often fails to understand who the experts are. Accordingly we need to retrain court professionals both to prevent the use of misinformation and to help the professionals learn about current scientific research, domestic violence dynamics and best practices. The training must have the active participation of genuine domestic violence experts such as dv advocates. Professionals working in criminal court must learn the importance of taking domestic violence seriously, prioritizing domestic violence cases and holding offenders strictly accountable. They should particularly learn how communities have dramatically reduced domestic violence homicide. Criminal court professionals must learn that accountability and monitoring are the only approaches shown to reduce domestic violence. Domestic violence is not caused by substance abuse, mental illness or anger management issues. Some offenders may have mental illness or substance abuse and domestic violence issues and each problem should be responded to separately. Custody court professionals must unlearn the myth that women frequently make false allegations of abuse. They need to look at the motivation of alleged abusers and understand the harm to children. They must learn that allegations of child sexual abuse have been totally mishandled and learn best practices to respond to these painful allegations. They also must learn that the way to include both parents in children’s lives that most benefits children is to require abusers to stop their harmful tactics instead of asking their victims to get over their fear and concern.
9. Use of Domestic Violence Experts: We now have a substantial body of specialized knowledge about domestic violence. Courts must stop relying on “experts” unfamiliar with this research and ignorant of domestic violence dynamics and instead listen to genuine domestic violence experts. Courts must stop refusing to listen to these genuine experts and especially until this information is better known to court professionals allow these experts to testify in order to educate the judge and other professionals.
10. Early Domestic Violence Hearings in Custody Cases: A large majority of contested custody cases are actually domestic violence cases. The research is very clear that unless the victim is unsafe, she should have custody and the abuser supervised visitation because that is what works best for children. Accordingly, custody courts can schedule an evidentiary hearing at the start of the case on the domestic violence issue. There is no need for evaluators or GALs as it is a factual issue. This will permit courts to resolve cases in a few hours or less that otherwise would take months or years and provide a huge savings in money and court time. Children also benefit because they don’t have to spend years worried about where they will live. This also avoids less important and distracting issues that only make it more difficult for the judge to understand the issues. This practice is likely to help courts make better decisions as well as quicker ones.
11. Use of Victim’s Advocate: The advocates are used by law enforcement to help and support the victim and provide information and training for law enforcement personnel. They are used in the prosecutor’s office for similar purposes and to acquaint the victim with the procedures. These practices should make survivors more comfortable and thus more likely to cooperate and press charges. In the court clerk’s office the advocate can help victims fill out forms and documents and explain the procedures. These procedures will help provide law enforcement and the courts with needed evidence while encouraging the complainant to continue to participate.
12. New Approach to Child Sexual Abuse in Custody Cases: Although most allegations of child sexual abuse made by mothers are true and deliberately false allegations are rare, 85% of sexual abuse allegations in custody cases result in custody for the alleged abuser and frequently little or no contact with the mother who sought to protect her child. This is a result of the difficulty in proving abuse of very young children and deeply flawed practices. Based especially on the new Department of Justice study led by Dr. Daniel Saunders, we should start by eliminating court professionals who believe in the myth that women frequently make false allegations. Professionals should be trained in best practices that would include understanding why a child might be reluctant to reveal sexual abuse or recant truthful allegations, use of play therapy for young children, avoid giving abusers additional opportunities to silence children and give children a chance to develop trusting relationships with therapists or other investigators before expecting them to discuss the abuse. We particularly need to abandon approaches that retaliate against mothers for good faith allegations.
13. Limit Role of Mental Health Professionals to their Area of Expertise:Mental health professionals are routinely used for evaluations and other services in domestic violence custody cases despite limited and often distorted information about domestic violence. This has contributed to the frequency in which courts place children in jeopardy. Mental health professionals have a role to play when a parent has a serious mental disorder that interferes with the ability to care for the children or other issues related to their field of study and practice. They should be limited to roles they are qualified for and at the very least consult with domestic violence experts on cases involving possible domestic violence.
14. Gender Bias: Over forty states and many districts have conducted court-sponsored gender bias committees that have found widespread gender bias. Other scientific research supports these findings. Women who kill their partner receive seventy percent longer sentences under similar circumstances as men who kill their partner. Women are given less credibility, higher standards of proof and are blamed for the actions of their abusers. Courts cannot do an effective job of responding to domestic violence as long as it continues to unconsciously favor male litigants. Court professionals must be trained about gender bias, attorneys and litigants must be protected and encouraged to raise concerns about gender bias, judges and other court professionals should be transferred, retrained or otherwise disciplined for continued gender biased practices and appellate courts must reverse cases based on gender bias.
15. Improved Police Role in Ending Domestic Violence: Police should make domestic violence cases a high priority and conduct an evidence based investigation instead of just relying on the victim’s testimony. Police must be trained to understand fathers involved in contested custody cases are 16 times more likely than mothers to make false allegations. This means they should take complaints from mothers seriously despite ongoing litigation, but have some skepticism of father’s allegations. They should always speak with the mother to understand the context before making a decision to make an arrest or bring charges. The police must also be aware that abusers tend to be very manipulative, but sometimes the police can use abusers’ sense of entitlement to encourage them to make statements that are actually admissions. Police departments must take precautions to respond to male officers who abuse their partners and particularly use their influence and relationship with other officers to undermine any investigation. There should be no tolerance for domestic violence or covering up domestic violence complaints. Departments should have a procedure for women to have someone in the department they can safely complain to about their partner’s abuse and any assistance other officers provide him.

Can Society Afford to Continue to Tolerate Domestic Violence?

Politicians sometimes justify their failure to do more to stop domestic violence by citing the costs, but the reality is the costs are much greater by tolerating domestic violence. In reviewing a report about the response to domestic violence in Dutchess County, New York, I noticed how often they undermined substantial parts of the plan to prevent domestic violence in order to save small sums of money. The problem is when they are budgeting; they fail to consider the extra money that will be expended as a result of the increase in domestic violence encouraged by the cutbacks.
Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to engage in a wide range of harmful and costly behaviors including crime. Large majorities of the prison population were directly abused as children or witnessed domestic violence. This creates huge added expenses in police, courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys and prisons. It also creates more expenses in substance abuse treatment. This is in addition to the extra similar expenses in directly responding to domestic violence crimes and custody cases based on domestic violence.
An increase in domestic violence crimes also increases health care costs. Not only is the health care system used to heal the immediate physical wounds, but it leads to other medical problems based on the stress of living with domestic violence as well as emotional and psychological difficulties. If the woman has medical insurance his abuse is paid by all of the policy holders through higher premiums. If she does not have insurance she may not be able to pay for the care so that the rest of the public and the government ultimately pays. Many of the health costs are borne directly by various governmental entities.
When victims miss work it harms the economy thus reducing tax revenues. The same is true when women lose jobs because of injuries or repeated court dates. Government programs like unemployment insurance and crime victim compensation may also be triggered. Significantly domestic violence interferes with the ability to reach their potential. It is hard for women to reach their potential when dealing with domestic violence even if the injuries do not prove fatal. Men who commit domestic violence crimes can’t reach their potential if they are in jail and even if they are not jailed the time they waste abusing and harassing their partners can interfere with the ability to reach their potential. Children who witness domestic violence are significantly less likely to reach their potential and if the children grow up to hurt others these third parties also lose the ability to reach their potential. We don’t know if society will miss out on someone who would have discovered a medical cure, developed a patent, created a major new business or is just a productive member of society. All of this represents a massive loss of economic activity that translates into a huge loss of tax revenue.
While the proposal described above would include some additional expenses, it also includes plans that would save substantial tax dollars. Conducting early evidentiary hearings on domestic violence would help courts make better decisions, but also save substantial sums of money and judicial time. A large majority of contested custody cases which are the cases that take most of the court’s time are domestic violence cases. Since mothers rarely make deliberately false allegations of abuse, a hearing for an hour or two will avoid cases that often take many months or years. There will be no need to spend money on evaluators, GALs or other professionals who provide no help in recognizing or responding to domestic violence. Furthermore, as the practices outlined in this article become better known, abusive men will be less likely to commit domestic violence crimes and children will be sent an important message that domestic violence will not be tolerated. This will save significant sums initially and much greater amounts over time as the message resonates.
We don’t have figures on the full cost of domestic violence or the amount of money this proposal would save, but it has to be at least in the hundreds of billions of dollars. In that context attempting to save thousands of dollars by cutting local programs or a few million on programs nationally is counterproductive based on the financial costs and insane based on the human costs.
How to get Started Ending Domestic Violence
It is common rhetoric to say we should end domestic violence. We may not be able to prevent all domestic violence tactics or even all domestic violence crimes, but we know how to quickly create a massive reduction in domestic violence crimes and especially domestic violence homicide. How do we get from here to there?
Just as people in Quincy, Massachusetts, Nashville, Tennessee and San Diego, California came together to make ending domestic violence the leading priority other communities can do the same and it is easier because they have the successes of those communities to look at and a lot of additional research. Individual states can take the lead by adopting the needed law changes and provide funding to implement a program like the one discussed in this article.
This can also be done on a national basis. The President can announce that we will no longer tolerate domestic violence and create a program to encourage communities to implement the practices that work. Grants and other support can be provided to set up pilot projects around the country to demonstrate that these practices will work. Eventually the federal government can make implementation of these practices a requirement if states wish to receive any federal funding for law enforcement and the judicial system. This should be done on a non-partisan basis. Democrats claim to be supporters of women so they should certainly wish to free women from the fear and risk of domestic violence. Republicans regularly propose spending millions of dollars to promote abstinence for children. If they don’t want children having sex with their peers they certainly will wish to protect them from sex with adults. The bills to end domestic violence should be House 1 and Senate 1 to make them the first priority.
Several years ago I gave a presentation with Mo Therese Hannah at the NCADV Conference in Atlanta. I spoke about the success of Quincy, Nashville and San Diego in implementing these practices. After the workshop, a woman came up to me and told me what I said was no longer true. It seems a new administration took over in Nashville, dismantled the successful program and the domestic violence homicide rate went back up. This was disappointing news, but it also confirmed that it was these practices that are the difference between a substantial reduction in domestic violence crime and requiring women’s lives to be impacted by men’s abuse of their intimate partners.
Domestic violence is not inevitable. It can be prevented. Our daughters and granddaughters can grow up in a world in which domestic violence crimes are rare. The worst crime would be if we take the knowledge, research and ability we have to substantially reduce domestic violence crimes and instead find some excuse to force women and children to continue to suffer.
Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence expert, speaker, writer and consultant. He is the co-editor with Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. Barry can be reached by email at their web site www.Domesticviolenceabuseandchildcustody.com

Thursday, June 16, 2011

ONLY 15 Comments out of 1,237 about Domestic Violence in the KS Blue Ribbon Commission’s ‘Feedback from Community and other Meetings and directly-received Documents”

Selected comments from 1,237 comments in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s Feedback from Community and other Meetings and directly-received Documents (56 pages), updated June 15, 2011.

 

15 statements about Domestic Violence

the last statement the only statement dealing with battered mothers in custody disputes.

http://www.kscourts.org/Judicial-Branch-Review/Blue_Ribbon_Commission/docs/GLOBAL%20consol%20working%20list.pdf (open up file, use your tool bar ‘find’ type in “Domestic”(or any other search term)

1. 32. Attorneys using e-filing in Shawnee County for the limited actions cases are very favorable towards e-filing, and noted the system was used for child support and domestic cases also.

2. 4. Domestic and sexual assault victim safety and privacy are critical. Many victims are unrepresented and video conferencing can be very threatening to them

3. 62. It could be dangerous to set domestic violence bonds by phone.

4. 96. If video conferencing is used for domestic violence hearings, the perpetrator will have the edge.

5. 26. A domestic violence case deserves to have immediate access to judge. We're all Kansas people; we all deserve access to justice. The only reason not to have access to justice is political expediency.

6. 29. Domestic and sexual assault victims rely heavily on DMJs; immediate access to the court is critical

7. 42. Access to justice is necessary in order to provide safety for our clients that are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence

8. 68. KLS in civil cases can assist person who meets the legal definition of “poor” or if a victim of domestic violence. KLS can also assist otherwise with the use of forms, the library, etc., but if a true emergency, forms are not enough, and KLS often recommends an attorney because usually a large number of temporary orders might be needed.

9. 139. Sometimes finding enough mediators is a problem. Only a certain number of people want to do it and are good at it. It's hard to qualify as a mediator in the state. It's hard to get mediators qualified in the state; it takes a lot of hours and money to get certified; it takes a lot of commitment. However, it's money and time well-spent. Not all attorneys are good mediators: attorneys are taught to be bull dogs, mediators aren't. Mediators are not required to be attorneys: social workers and paralegals can be good mediators. It's better to have law-trained mediators, if they spend the time to get trained. It's financially difficult for solo practitioners in rural areas to get certified, considering the time and money it takes. Certification has different requirements for civil and domestic mediation.

10. 72. It would help if the forms for domestic abuse cases were in a fillable pdf format and if those forms were available in Spanish

11. 103. Some grant money in Wyandotte County now is used for domestic cases.

12. 161. We could charge more for domestic case filings

13. 34. Domestic courts are a business rather than a judicial organization

14. 89. Emergency access to courts is very critical to domestic violence victims

15. 90. Concern was expressed for not having more cases, especially post-divorce, getting placed with mediators and case managers who are not educated or experienced with domestic violence.

See Kansas Watch Dog for more information about the Kansas Blue Ribbon Commission’s progress or or thereby lack of Progress in Fixing a broken Judicial System

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

STARVING FOR JUSTICE

STARVING FOR JUSTICE

Posted: mamaliberty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For decades now, mothers that have survived domestic violence and family court have continued to scream for justice, now they’re starving for it, literally.  This week in Arizona a mother has made the ultimate sacrifice not only her body but for all mothers that are used and abused by the family court system, she has begun a hunger strike.

In Arizona a judge ordered that a mother be placed in jail for arrears in child support.  Now mind you this mother does not get to see her children in a normal setting to begin with.  This mother, like the thousands of others, is a “non-custodial” mother.  She’s not just a “non-custodial” she is also a domestic abuse survivor, for whatever that’s worth these days anyways.  A domestic violence survivor or victim will receive the worst treatment from the family court system than any other judicial “branch” (besides a rape victim).  But it’s the same if you were raped it was YOUR fault, if you were abused it was YOUR fault.  After 100 years of women in the early 19th century fighting for the right to vote we are still at a place where women are oppressed.  We make less than men, work more and get our children taken away.   Now if all that’s not bad enough at insult to injury when you are thrown into the family court arena.  Now you are “forced” to “co-parent” with your abuser.  That’s right, not only does he have access still to your life he then does everything in his powers (by way of his attorney who is the judges golfing buddy, oh and didn’t I tell ya…the judge knows the abusers dad…they go waaaay back, and the GAL oh yeah he’s golfing buddies with them all too).  Once the abuser becomes the master manipulator that he is and gets by with a  lot of help from his dads friends, soon gets custody.  Then after that it continues with supervised visits (because you are a bad mother in whatever fictitious label they can pin on you) and soon after comes the child support because even though he makes more than you do with working two or three jobs… he can’t do it ALL BY HIMSELF.  My mother did.

Family Court Judges, lawyers, psychologists and other supporters of female victims to interpret the effects and impacts of abuse as equivalent to passivity, incompetence, and poor mental health. So what can women and their supporters do to combat this social problem? http://www.speakoutloud.net/helping-women/language-of-resistance-in-family-court/

Mothers that have been abused should AVOID family court at all costs.  They should run as fast as they can away, far far away from the abuser, because IF there isn’t “placement order” in place at the time of escape your chances are better than him tracking you down and THEN trying to get the children. ALWAYS have your children in YOUR care and custody. Even IF the abuser just wants to take the kids for “one night”.  Do not fall for the trickery. Many mothers have lost their children this way. Either by the abuser claiming HE had custody (just as mine did) or running off with them or even worse, murder.

So with all this in mind you should also be “aware” that these travesties are not something “new” the courts are doing.  This has been going on for decades.  This started in the 1980′s when more mothers returned to work and became more independent and decided they didn’t need a “Mr. Mom”.  When they began the child support system that spurned the phrase “dead beat dad” for the era that’s when the men folk starting fighting back and then abusers caught on that this system could work to their advantage since we wanted equality after all…didn’t we?

We did and we still do, but even in the year 2011 it is far off.  The right to vote, 19 th amendment was the last and only rights that women have in the constitution.  But if you want to count the 14th amendment which states,

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Then again that would mean WE (as in women) have equality in this nation right?  Not really.  With the recent political atmosphere with state governments and their power grabs and war on women’s reproductive rights, we are losing “rights” every day. The women of the 1970′s that started a revolution of women yearning for the Equal Rights Amendment, here we are in the new millennium with only 38 states out of 50 that have “ratified” the ERA.  How much longer?

Now, at this very moment an Arizona mother has taken all she can.  Not unlike the women’s suffragists who went on hunger strikes for the right to place a ballot, she is too.  This mother works two jobs and has limited contact, if any, to her children.  Her abuser has hidden assets and comes from a very “well off” family.  He’s not doing it because he’s starving, he’s doing it because he can.  Years of family court conflicts, collusion and cronyism have taken its toll on this mothers soul.  This woman has decided that she would rather starve and be hospitalized because it matters not what the courts can do to her, THIS is a politicized statement that the family court system is corrupt and we’re not taking it anymore.  We’ve signed petitions, played the niceties with government officials who’ve gave us lip service, we’ve sacrificed our children and our savings accounts, we’ve marched the streets of Washington DC on Mother’s Day, we are done trying to get your attention, we DEMAND it now.

Yesterday was “Day One” of the hunger strike, we are now on “Day Two”.  This mother says she must come up with $2,000 in 60 days or she will be put in jail, per judges orders.  This mother is more determined than ever to get out of the circle jerk of family court.  She’s lost everything but her free will.  Perhaps this will be the one thing that she can control in her life since her abuser and his colluders continue their rage against her.

So Day Two is sliding into Day Three and I know with all my heart that the tenacity of this mother she is not giving up and we need to stand by her.  I cannot with any good conscience not sound the trumpets for the triumphant return of the suffragists spirits to rise again with us and guide us to freedom of enlslavement of the patriarchy  My prayer and mantra is that we begin our first voyage into the unknown world  non-violent protest.  I beg all victims of the family court system  and their allies align their voices and let the world know we will not ignored.  In the same vane as our Foremothers did and their daughters of the 70′s ERA movement. But this time we really DO get equal rights.

Stay tuned as this blog is about to expose EVERY one of the corrupt family court officials from Arizona