Saturday, January 21, 2017

Are Our New GAL Rules and Complaint Process Working in Maine?


2016 was the first year that the new rules for Guardians ad litem were in use for consumers. It is also the first full year that these new rules and complaint process was in effect. For those who don't remember the old rules for Guardians ad litem (GAL) consisted of 14 pages of instruction and simply put that if you as a consumer felt a GAL did not follow the rules could file a complaint with the head Judge. The Judge would determine the merit of the complaint based on both sides telling their story and issue a verdict. The model is similar to the complaint process that just about every business in America uses.

Up to 2014/ 2015 there were no successful consumer complaint brought against GALs that resulted in any form of discipline.

The Judicial Branch determined that this old antiquated process needed improvement. In September 2015 the Judicial Branch unveiled their new and improved rules and complaint process. We as consumers now had 78 pages of legalistic rules to go through as part of this improvement. The portion that covered the complaint process alone covered 30 pages. In addition the process for filing a complaint became a multi layered process that is similar to the complaint process used by the Maine Bar.

So what happened last year?

24 Complaints were filed against Guardians ad litem using this new and improved process which resulted in the dismissal of 24 complaints. No GAL was disciplined in any way, shape of form. But it gets even better. As part of the improved complaint process if you as a consumer feel that the GAL Review Board got it wrong - you may seek review by a public member of the GAL Board. While we do not have a number for how many reviews were sought - we can tell you that none were successful.

100% of the complaints filed resulted in 100% being dismissed.

That is an amazing figure when one looks at how the Family Court system is set up - to encourage conflict. It is even more amazing when one experiences the personal bias of a GAL in a system which provides no actual oversight and management of these court vendors. In Maine we are truly blessed with this perfect system.

MeGAL provides support and education to parents, consumers and representatives about the issues which plague our Family Courts. If you would like more information we encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.


For details on what members of the GAL Review Board have done since inception to help better GAL rules and complaint process we present minutes of their meetings:


2015-10-21 Organizational Meeting of the GAL Review Board
2016-01-19 GAL Review Board Meeting
2016-04-25 GAL Review Board Meeting
2016-09-16 GAL Review Board Meeting


Monday, January 16, 2017

Maine's 128 Legislature to Consider Bills Concerning Guardians ad litem

We are aware of three bills concerning Guardians ad litem which will be up for consideration in Maine's 128 legislative session. Currently all we have are the titles of three bills. They are as follows:

Under the heading of Domestic Relations / Child Custody - found in page 90

LR 688 An Act Concerning Guardians ad Litem and Determinations Regarding the Best Interests of a Child in Custodial Relative Caregiver Cases - Rep Picchiotti of Fairfield

Under the heading of Probate / Guardian ad litem - found on page 94

LR 383 An Act To Ensure Complete Investigations by Guardians ad Litem - Rep Picchiotti of Fairfield
LR 1937 An Act To Repeal the Sunset Date on the Children's Guardian ad Litem Law - Rep Moonen of Portland

We have written to both Representatives for a summary of these three bills to help us determine the impact on the consumers of Judicial Services - Maine's Families. More will be forthcoming on these bills,

MeGAL is working to bring about change to the Family Court process in Maine. We do this through the education of Parents and our Representatives of the issues regarding "Family" Courts and the vendors our courts support. If you would like more information we would encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

http://legislature.maine.gov/uploads/originals/128th-1st-regular-preliminary-list-of-legislator-bills-s-1.pdf

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pro se Civil Rights Abuse not Important Enough for Senator Susan Collins

In 2015 MeGAL approached Senator Susan Collins office for help in supporting the civil rights of Pro se parents who are being systematically abused by the justice system. It was pointed out that across the country over 50% of the "Family Court" cases are Pro se. Maine has the distinction of having 75% of court cases being Pro se.

As a Pro se litigant you are going into battle often knowing little or nothing about the rules of engagement. You are a caveman against a modern day soldier.

In June 2015 the process was started and in September of 2015 her office agreed to help and make inquires into this issue.

Almost two years later we are still being told that the office is working on the issue with the Department of Justice and that something maybe happening next month. This was the same canned answer given a month or so ago and the time before that. For all we know nothing has happened in the past two years other than being told that something maybe happening.

When pushed recently as to why Senator Collins did not go directly to Attorney General Loretta Lynch the staff person replied that the Senator only does that for "IMPORTANT" issues. Otherwise it is low level staff member to low level staff member for issues like ours. We asked if this meant that Senator Collins doesn't consider Maine and other families whose civil rights are being abused in Pro se "Family Court" cases as being important - we were told "Oh No. Every constituent is important! Everyone!".

Yeah sure they are Senator Collins.



That is why something is always going to happen "next" month.

MeGAL encourages you to contact Senator Collins to ask her why Pro se litigants whose civil rights are routinely abused by the system of Justice that should be protecting them. Why is this not important enough for her to pay attention to?

MeGAL is a grass root organization that is working for "Family Court" change and the management and oversight of court vendors like Guardians ad litem. If you are having a "Family Court" issue we encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.


Senator Susan Collins may be contacted by filling out this form

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Best Interest of the child put in jeopardy for years"

According to Superior Court Judge Anita Farris

Can the best interest of the child be put aside by vendors of the courts (GALs/VGALs) in order to win a case? In theory - NO. The reality is that we see this type of behavior happen all the time.

In the case that Judge Anita Farris commented on in Washington state this is just what happened when a vendor was discovered spying.

But it gets even better.

Not only did this GAL/VGAL spy she perjured herself on the stand.

How do our "Family Courts" know that the near perfect vendors they have working as court officers do not turn the other way when something happens? Or use their influence to have those they work with in support services see things the GAL way? The do not and as a consumer of judicial services you have to do things over and above what most consumers will ever have to do.

So much is riding on you doing so

Full Story GAL/VGAL

MeGAL

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Is It Okay for an Officer of the Court to Falsify Reports?

As an officer of the court, a vendor providing services to consumers, you come into your job with certain protections that are supposed to allow you to do your job. Immunity is given to these vendors in the course of providing their service.

What happens though if these vendors fair to do their job in a judicial way. If information they present to the court has been falsified or manufactured? In every state there is a process that one can use to file a complaint - not a process that we would recommend but that is another story.

In 2001 Preslie Hardwick did just that because the social workers working for the state fabricated evidence which when presented to the courts allowed the children to be kept from their mother without cause. In addition false reports were submitted to the court in an effort to keep mother and daughters separated. This was a violation of Ms Hardwick's Constitutional right to familial association.


                                United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

16 years after the defendants allegedly violated parental rights the case came before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California to be hear. The segment presented here is between the Judges and the attorney representing the defendants Pancy Lin Esq. It is a little over 2min in length but well worth watching. Pancy Lin Esq is having a very hard time giving reasons for her clients committing perjury.

While this video segment does not involve a GAL vendor for the court the issues involved could happen. With no active control a Guardian ad litem will operate as she/he sees fit knowing that immunity will protect their lives against any wrong doing. MeGAL participates actively in changing "Family" Court through educational services. If you would like to become involved we encourage you to contact us either through Facebook or by emailing us at MeGALalert@gmail.com


The full court hearing may be found here: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Call to Action This November

Want to make a difference?

This coming November you will have an opportunity to elect state senators and reps who will work for "family" court and Guardian ad litem (GAL) change.

Ask your candidates what their stance on these issues are.

If you do not know who is running call or visit your town office to find out.

Get involved - It is in the best interest of your child.

MeGAL is working to change "Family" Court and part of that change is through political action. Contact your representative to find out if he/ she supports the idea of changing the "Family" Court landscape.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I Am 'Pro se' In This Family Court

I AM 'PRO SE' IN THIS FAMILY COURT: I am one of the 75% in Maine Family Courts who are forced by finances to represent themselves as litigants. This percentage in 2015 was approximately 17,065 Maine citizens forced to go into family court without a lawyer. Of these 17,065 'pro se' litigants, 85% of this group (14,505) must argue their case against a seasoned lawyer. It is an obviously uneven, unfair match.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I lack the legal knowledge, skill or experience to litigate against an educated, experienced lawyer. Our credentials for this vitally important custody contest are grossly unequal.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I do not understand courtroom procedure and practices. I am at a disadvantage against professionals who do. I am a foreigner, who doesn't understand the culture and practices of the legal profession.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I am inept when it comes to the clerical details of filing court papers, their format, terminology, timing, etc. I make mistakes in these matters, because these activities are unfamiliar to me. I am a "bother" to courthouse officials, because I take more time and need special instruction in clerical requirements

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I am frightened to be forced into a ‘zero sum game’, winner take all "contest” in which I have to legally "gamble" for parental rights to raise my child, based on my legal skill in a courtroom "contest”. I simply want to be a part of my child’s life and help him/her to grow up know his/her parent loves him/her.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I do not have the lawyerly skills to play the "money game", and I am easily trapped by a lawyer who does. My experienced lawyer opponents can use legal gamesmanship unknown to me that allow a courtroom “financial shakedown” on me for money I don't have. I lack the lawyerly skills to deal with this trap.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I am charged with being “in contempt" for non-payment of money I don't have, and I have been unable to get a hearing to asses my finances.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I have been threatened with jail without being warned about alternatives, or being afforded an attorney (according to constitutional law) to defend me or seeking a lesser form of action.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I am treated as a criminal abuser with no evidence and with no method of seeking exoneration. Every motion I file costs me money for my defense and may lead to me having to pay the fees of my opponent's. It gets worse and worse.  Trying to straighten this out is bankrupting me and not resolving the issue.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: Even though I have learned a few things about courts and the law from my experiences in court, I will always be outmatched by a trained lawyer.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I am not a social friend of this judge. I didn't go to USM law school with this judge. I don't work with this judge regularly in court on other cases. I don't attend bar/bench functions in this community I don't "vet" this judge for reappointment as do members of the local bar. Unlike members of the bar, I can't influence this judge's re-appointment. I am an alien to the legal culture and legal friendships that are enforced by sharing a common culture and frequent contacts.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I ask myself, why do we have to spend vast amounts of money (which I don't have) to end a marriage in court when many other countries have an easier way? The only people who benefit from American-style divorce are the legal profession.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: Why does my "ex's" lawyer act in ways that aim to exclude me as a parent in my child's upbringing? Doesn't my child need two active parents?  Why are there no plans for full reconciliation?

I AM 'PRO SE' IN FAMILY COURT: I am forced to play a fake role as a litigant in a charade that pretends we are in a court of law. But I am not a lawyer. I am not a member of the legal guild. I am unfamiliar with the rules of the game. My utter dysfunction in my assigned role gives lie to calling this a court of law.

I AM 'PRO SE' IN THIS COURT: Please give me access to justice and end this brutal nightmare.

MeGAL has been working for court change as the system for Family Court is badly broken. If you have been abused or seen others abused by this system we would encourage you to contact your Representative and educate him/ her. You may also contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Has Justice Donald Alexander Absolved Prolman’s Sins?

Justice Donald Alexander's decision in the Gary Prolman Overseers of the Maine Bar case suggests to many "civilians" that oversight of Maine lawyers is in free fall. Can lawyers do almost anything with no consequences? The Alexander decision is so far removed from public opinion and public common sense as to create widespread public disgust and distrust. In one fell swoop, Alexander gives himself, the Maine Bar and the Judiciary a very "black eye". His decision also raises very worrying questions about the law, lawyers, the judiciary and Maine's drug problem.

MeGAL to the Maine Bar:


Stephen Nelson, Esq
President Maine Bar Association

Dear Mr Nelson:

I am writing to you as president of the Maine Bar Association to express deep concern about Justice Donald Alexander's recent "absolution" of the "sins" of attorney Gary Prolman of Saco, (late of the federal penitentiary). The Alexander decision has raised much questioning about the oversight standards for lawyers amongst those members of the public, who have read reporter, Scott Dolan's, story on the topic. Others have read the actual 25 page decision itself, replete with gory details. Without exception, those with whom I have spoken are aghast at the decision. The detailed report of Prolman's unsavory, unethical, illegal activities that are well documented in the body of the Alexander decision, are challenging in the extreme to any public faith in Alexander, the Bar or Maine courts. We ask: is "oversight" of lawyers in free fall? On the topic of oversight, Justice Alexander appears to scorn public opinion. Many non-lawyers (and many silent lawyers) will read several, perhaps unintended, messages from Alexander's decision: (a) that Prolman must be a gigantic political powerhouse within the profession with an intimidatingly large, lawyerly base of support, and (b) the consequences of not restoring his license might lead to an even more frightening problem for the Court: the opening wide of a window on the drug culture of Maine's legal professionals at all levels. Better to keep Mr Prolman licensed and on the "bar team" than suffer the potential consequences of his enmity and that of his "friends".

In his decision, Justice Alexander's reasoning and use of the law seem to readers without a legal background like an abuse of the tools of the law. To many of us Alexander appears to minimize Prolman's illegal and unethical activities. His decision focuses on 2012 when Prolman's house of cards started to collapse, as the "feds" entered the picture. Alexander passes quickly over the lengthy chronicity of the drug and alcohol problems and other associated unethical and illegal actions. And he "absolves" Prolman of his "sins", restoring his license, because he is perceived as repentant. How else would he present and how does Alexander know that the "leopard has changed his spots"? It is more like the actions of a priest hearing confession than a Maine Supreme Court Justice reviewing "oversight" actions of the Overseers. The reasoning is legalistic, but utterly confusing. Non-lawyers sense a legal "shell game" is being played on them.

There are many examples of Alexander's reasoning that seem inadequate. The decision claims that Prolman's self-admitted, extensive drug and alcohol use ONLY affected his business judgement. "That there is NO evidence that his drug and alcohol use affected his law practice or his relationship with clients." This un-grounded opinion demonstrates, a "junk science" theory of brain function. Prolman's frontal lobes, while "under the influence", were apparently uniquely able to segregate "bad judgement" and "normal judgement" into two separate, airtight compartments, a bad one for business, and the other compartment, a normal one for his practice and his clients. It is "junk science" in the service of rationalizing an irrational  decision. With all respect, how does Alexander know that Prolman's practice was unaffected? Has he measured (or sought to have measured) the "half-life", or morning after effect, of alcohol or drugs on professional mental functions? What is the actual cognitive impairment factor, or does he believe Prolman immune to this usual sort of impairment? AA or NA or clinical psychiatry, all experts in addictive illnesses, would point to permanent structural changes in the brain's micro anatomy that always accompany chronic substance abuse. These change translate into actual functions. What happens to judgement, to intellectual functioning, to memory, to ability to calculated, to mood, to irritability? Answer: "not good things". Or … if not blind drunk or drugged, can an addicted lawyer just get by with clients, with "fake it till you make it"? More to the point, is that an acceptable public standard? There is a need to remember the inconvenient fact that addictions are never truly cured. They may go into remission for varying periods, but a "slip" or a fall off the wagon or full recurrence are common. Professionals would say it is the very nature of the higher risks associated with these conditions. Alexander's decision seems to ignore the professional science of addictions.

The conclusion that "reinstatement was in the public interest" is another unsubstantiated personal belief in Alexander's decision. Why is reinstatement in the pubic interest? How has Alexander arrived at this risk-laden conclusion? Mention is made of many letters supportive of Prolman from attorneys (and judges?). In this complex case with layers of intrigue and many twists and turns, one has to ask: who were the lawyers who wrote such letters? What was their relationship with Prolman? Many who read this statement wonder: Were those endorsing him "birds of a feather"? Did they fear that a Prolman without a law license might shine a spotlight on unbecoming actions of others in the profession? How many top shelf lawyers would consider writing a reference for this man? Members of the public can sense enough to know a whitewash job when they see it, and this case seems to requires a shipload of whitewash. The "public interest" in restoring his license, to us, implies that legal skills of any kind are in such short supply that Prolman's skills badly needed. We'd ask further: Is there any residual damage to his brain functioning, due to toxic death of frontal lobe brain cells from chronic alcohol and drug use? As one example, would he still be able to pass Maine Bar exams? Do those attorneys, interviewed by Scott Dolan, who strongly disagreed with Alexander's decision, support relicensing Prolman, or would they demand "witness protection" in return for their testimony? Even Scott Davis, counsel for the Overseers, backed off of an appeal. "The conclusions were not clearly erroneous; consequently, no good basis for appeal" was the quote reported in the newspaper. "Conclusions not clearly erroneous." Really? The Bar just fell in line. But the pubic remains unconvinced.

The Maine Bar earns a giant public credibility problem with this case. This judgement is a terrible advertisement for the functional integrity of bar oversight of its members. However adroitly the law is used to rationalize an admittedly very awkward decision, it isn't convincing to the public, and it adds to public cynicism and loss of faith in the legal profession. It is about damage to public trust that the profession is policing itself "in the public's interest". We suggest that building and maintaining public confidence in lawyers requires a system of true quality assurance. This is not an academic consideration. The legal profession, more than any profession is central to law enforcement and to whether we can all work together, as citizens, to eradicate the drug epidemic that so besets our state and our country.  As leaders, the legal profession needs to face the drug culture within the profession and move to correct it, honestly, courageously, or the "infection" will continue to spread in pervasively damaging ways both to the profession and to society. We propose a state government commission that would assess the scope of the drug problem in the legal profession, which is so strategically placed by its nature to influence the systemic drug problem in Maine for better or worse.. Many would gladly support enabling legislation for this project.

Dr Jerome A Collins
Kennebunkport ME


Addiction is not something that can be turned on or off. It does not just appear as is suggested by Justice Alexander. Addiction and the abuse of drugs and alcohol is something that grips your life in all areas. Did Justice Alexander make the right decision? MeGAL encourages you to research all aspects of addiction and how it may affect your lawyer, GAL and judge. We would also encourage you to become involved in the process of Judicial reform/ change by talking with your Representative. we can be contacted at MeGALalert@gmail.com or finding us on Facebook.

Further resources regarding the addiction of lawyers:

2014-01-07 17 Statistics on Drug Abuse Among Lawyers

2015-07-23 Lawyers struggle with mental health and substance abuse problems at a heightened rate

2016-02-04 High Rate of Problem Drinking Reported Among Lawyers

2016-07-12 'I Could No Longer Live with Myself': Lawyers Reveal Their Struggles with Alcohol ( to reaf the who article you will have to create an account)