Saturday, April 19, 2014

Constitutional Issues - Marisa Ringel testimony to Supreme Court

Connecticut has had a string of hearings dealing with Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. It is much needed there as it is in just about every state in the union. The following is written testimony that was presented to the Supreme Court in Hartford. While this parent speaks specifically to the rules for GALs in that state the general idea is one that can be applied in every court room especially here in Maine.

This woman is saying that absent of any abuse or neglect - every parent should have a fundamental right to parent on an equal basis and that no parent should be forced into 'supervised visitation' absent of neglect or abuse. Yet how many parents are forced into that position by a Guardian ad litem or Family Court?

Supreme Court in Hartford
Public Hearing on Rules and Forms
Written Testimony of Marisa Ringel


April 14, 2014


Justices of the Supreme Court and/or Committee of Justices members:

I am hear today to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The 14th Amendment clearly 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.”

In Stanley V. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651; 92 S.Ct. 1208, (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court stressed:

“The parent-child relationship is an important interest that undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection. ..A parent’s interest in the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children rises to a constitutionally secured right, given the centrality of family life as the focus for personal meaning and responsibility.”

It is my suggestion that the Connecticut Practice Book incorporate these two quotes to open Section 25.

Every parent, absent abuse or neglect, in the Constitution State should have a fundamental equal right to parent their children without the interference of government.

While there is legislative authority granted to provide for various awards of custody in the State of Connecticut, there does not appear to be any specific legislative authority for a judge in the State of Connecticut to force a parent into “supervised visitation” absent abuse or neglect.

Yet, in the family courts of the State of Connecticut, “supervised visitation” is often ordered without any justification that a “child’s welfare” is in danger.

Therefore, I am proposing a new Practice Book Rule 25-70:

“No judicial authority shall have the right to issue an order of supervised visitation without conducting an evidentiary hearing to establish whether there are grounds for an order to show cause that “clear and present danger to the physical/psychological well-being of a child” exists that requires an limited time order of supervised visitation.

No order of supervised visitation shall remain in place for more than three months, without conducting another evidentiary hearing at which any party can call witnesses, including those supervising the visitation, to report to the court on their observations of the parent-child interactions.”

There are reports in Fairfield County of supervised visitation which have been in place for more than two years, in which fees in excess of $20,000 have been paid by a parent to conduct a once a week four hour visitation.

Supervised visitation cannot be seen as a “first option” response from a judicial authority to make parenting time “unaffordable” or a “punitive measure”.

The 1886 Supreme Court decision in Yick Wo v. Hopkins 118 U.S. 356 stated:

“Law and court proceedings that are ‘fair on their faces’ but administered ‘with an evil eye or heavy hand’ was discriminatory and violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Family courts must provide divorced parent the same rights and obligations of their children as if still married.  Otherwise, the court is administrating a criteria in a manner which discriminates against a class of citizens based on “un-married status”.

Such discrimination by the family court judges against any class of citizens who are no longer married would constitute a violation of Title 42, Section 1983.

Each of us who is speaking today, is a victim of orders of “supervised visitation” at the current time or in some past order issued in the family court system in Connecticut.

Each of us has been and has always aspired to be a “fit parent” and have been “humiliated” and “degraded” by a family court judge who has abused their powers in administering family court justice through ordering “supervised visitation” without an order to show cause.

This authority to order supervised visitation has no statutory authority and is therefore an abuse of discretion and must be curtailed.

Marisa Ringel

If you are having issues in Family Court and are looking for support please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com. Or find us on Facebook.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Questions we would like our Judges to answer

Dear Member of the Maine Judiciary Committee of the Legislature,

Re: Judging judges: hearings on judicial appointments or reappointment

At MeGAL we are writing you-in our role as grassroots advocates for Guardian ad litem and family court reform-about your committee’s work on judicial appointments and reappointment. You will soon be reviewing the appointment status of a number of judges. From our perspective, it is “a moment of truth” - the question being: are these judicial candidates good for the public who use Maine’s family courts? Historically, judicial confirmation activity has been largely a series of privileged decisions by a special interest oligarchy composed of the Maine Bar and members of the Judicial Branch, with a near automatic, stamp of approval from your committee. We would strongly argue that public users of family courts also have a vital interest in this topic. Bad or inadequate judges are a public hazard. They can cause untold cruelty and harm to families and children with bad judicial decisions. Yet,they are virtually impossible to correct or remove using judicial review procedures - just check the numbers of corrective actions yourself. We know of none. We look to the legislature to act to remove judges with a troubled public record. As a start, we would suggest a series of questions for judicial candidates, the answers to which ought to be tied to decision making by your committee.

There is a time - limited window of opportunity defined by your confirmation hearings. We propose these standardized questions as a sort of a “job interview” by committee members for judicial candidates. It is a way of making enlightened Committee decisions about the judges who come before you. It is about the legislature responsibly judging judges for public protection.

Here are our “job interview” questions:

1.) Do you feel that judges ever make mistakes in their judgments? Do the current mechanisms for correcting judicial mistakes work? How many judges have ever received correction or removal from the use of these mechanisms? What mistakes have you made? How do you correct mistakes you have made?

2.) Maine has a statistically serious "access to justice" problem. 74% of people using family courts are represented 'pro se' and receive second class court service as a result. What do you think needs to be done in your court to improve "access to justice" for 'pro se' representers? What plans to improve "access to justice"do you support for the Judicial Branch as a whole?

3.) Do you afford a 'pro se' person, as their own case advocate, the same rights and privileges as lawyers? Do you become irritated or openly conflicted with 'pro se' advocates? How do you separate the dual client and advocate roles with 'pro se' advocates?

4.) During any attorney conferences by phone or in chambers how do you handle 'pro se' advocates? Are they always included with lawyers and Guardians ad litem in such sessions? If not, why not? Do you feel that failure to include ‘pro se’ advocates in such events further diminishes “access to justice” by sending a derogatory (“you are not equal”) message to those forced to self represent?

5.) Have you ever found errors or bad practices in the actions of Guardians ad litem whom you’ve appointed; who work in your courtroom? What kind of errors have Guardians ad litem appointed by you made? How many Guardians ad litem have you ever sanctioned? Sanctioning by judges is extremely rare. Is this because you consider Guardian ad litem functioning "flawless"? What are common mistakes made by Guardians ad litem? What do you do to improve the performance of Guardians ad litem in your court?

6.) How do you handle complaints from parties about a GAL? What tools do you use to evaluate GAL performance, complaints about Guardians ad litem? Do you regularly use the Rules for Guardians ad litem to evaluate such complaints? How well do you know the Rules? Do you keep a copy of Rules in your chambers?

7.) How would you suggest that Guardian ad litem performance might be improved: specific course content, a supervised internship, personal tutoring, supervision, "corrective actions", other - what would you suggest? Please, give details.

8.) What “tools” are most useful to you for psychologically evaluating a parent? How do you handle clinically privileged, personal information? Do you allow all parties in a contentious divorce full access to confidential personal therapy records? What ethical standards of protection for this information do you observe in order to preserve treatment? Would you like to see a seminar or some teaching sessions for judges about this topic? Are you aware of federal standards for disabled children? How do you comply with these? Have you ever been criticized for noncompliance with professional standards of clinicians?

9.) How would you address complaints from parties about "junk science" used in court? Do you know what “junk science” is? What types of “junk science” and “junk therapy” are commonest in courts? Do you have reference sources within the Judicial Branch that might be used to identify "junk science" and eliminate its use? How do you decide the validity of proposed treatments for parties in your court? Do you order unorthodox or experimental treatments/counseling, such as “scream” therapy (one of many examples)? Why? Does court mandated, forced therapy for parties work? How enduring is mandated court treatment? What are the arguments pro and con for this practice?

10.) How many appeals have been made about your family court decisions. Which of your judgments have been disputed? How often have you dismissed motions from parties for “findings of fact and law”?

11.) How, and in what areas, do you need to improve your knowledge, skill and experience as a judge, if reappointed? What steps will you be taking? When?

Do you feel that these questions are unnecessary, because you see “no problem” with the ‘status quo’ in Maine’s family courts?

Thank you for your participation in this review.

Sincerely,

Maine Guardian ad litem Alert.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Credibility determinations are left to the sound Judgment of the trier of Fact

One (out of many) of our favorite quotes from a Maine Supreme Court decision has the ring of final authority that is almost biblical.  To us, it  effectively seems to say, folks,on this sacred verity there is no possible rebuttal.  It’s almost, “God is speaking!”  But, ... and not to disrespect God, here is the quote- and our rebuttal:

SUPREME COURT: “ NO PRINCIPLE OF APPELLATE REVIEW IS BETTER ESTABLISHED THAN THE PRINCIPLE THAT CREDIBILITY DETERMINATIONS ARE LEFT TO THE SOUND JUDGMENT OF THE TRIER OF FACT”.

OUR REBUTTAL: To us, this is a statement of a nice ideal, or a “wish-it-were-true”- not the reality that the public experiences. If all judges possessed super human "infallibility", it might be true.  But they don't.  They are subject to human error, just like all other mortals.  In the case that lead to this quote, the judge was far from infallible about Guardians ad litem. He gave a vivid indisputable demonstration of his legal fallibility, when he improperly  referred a complaint about the Guardian ad litem in an active case that he was judging to the Chief Judge of the District Courts. Key issues: (a) the case was being actively argued in HIS court.(b) by the “rules” as stated on the Judicial Branch web site, he himself  is supposed to address and judge the merits of  complaints about Guardians ad litem in active cases in his court.

Despite being told by the untrained  'pro se' plaintiff that he was mistaken in making this referral he insisted on making this very inappropriate referral in violation of the Maine Rules for Guardians ad litem. If he didn't know the actual written Rules for Guardians ad litem with respect to complaints against Guardians ad litem, one has to  ask what else didn't he know about the Rules governing Guardians ad litem, and how could he judge a GAL's functional performance, absent full knowledge of the standards for the job?

The God-like quote above is a clear example of demonstrated  bias that favors an inept, uninformed judge, and it disfavors the ironically more informed  party who was represented 'pro se'. The decisions coming out of this flawed process both shape and distort  the actual facts to maintain an image that all is well in the courts, both probate and Supreme. This is not true in this case where the language of the decision and the actions of the lower court attempt to bamboozle a 'pro se' representative with statements that are provably false.

The court's decision raises a serious question about public "access to justice" and a constitutionally guaranteed "equal protection of the laws (for everyone)"! A 'pro se' representative, even with some "home study" can never match the skills of an experienced lawyer or the highly empowered (though in this case an uninformed) judge. It is an unequal legal conflict between "a peashooter vs a cannon".

So much for “CREDIBILITY DETERMINATIONS ARE LEFT TO THE SOUND JUDGMENT OF THE TRIER OF FACT!

Maine has a 74% ‘pro se’ problem. 74% of court cases are receiving unequal access to  justice in Maine courts. It is a class discrimination “secret” that flies under the radar. It violates the US Constitution. For constitutional compliance and respect for “the rule of law” it needs correction asap!

For support please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com and you may also find us on Facebook.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Will your online petition make people aware of the issue?

You are upset because the system has betrayed you - you want to take action and show that they are wrong, corrupt or biased. What do you do - get an online petition going to show the powers that there is a problem and that people back you up. Before you go to one of many sights that offer up online petitions are you prepared to do some hard thinking and ask yourself some difficult questions before posting that petition?

Some things to think about while you contemplate the idea:

GOALS: It is critically important to have clear aims for any petition.  Who are you petitioning?  Exactly what do you want them to do?  Do they have the legal power/authority to do it?  Are they apt to respond to an Internet petition?  Have they ever responded to a similar petition like yours before?  Have you tried other methods to solve the problem about which you are petitioning?

NUMBERS NEEDED? How many petitioners do you think you can get to sign your petition?  Beyond your family and friends are there a large number of people who understand the issues you are raising and who will back you because they share the  views you express in the petition?  How many signers will you need to have any significance?  For an in-state project, it might take several thousand signers before anyone takes notice.  For a national project you will need hundreds and hundreds of thousands.  You are aiming to make a grass roots statement of political power.  Can you get the numbers to "speak" power? How?  Large organizations and governments don't respond to midgets.

DEFAULT POSITION: If the petition falls flat- with little to no response or action- what is your fallback plan?  Shouldn't you have other ideas in mind, or do you just drop it?

RISK MANAGEMENT: What are the risks for you and others who might sign an Internet petition?  Have you run the petition idea by your lawyer and/or others with experience?  Is it well-written and clear; does it avoid name calling or slander?  Have you considered whether the petition will make matters better or worse?  What if it fails to get the desired response?  Will it improve or damage your image, your credibility, your thinking, your ideas, your original aim?  Are there legal ramifications that can come back to bite you and those who sign the petition?  If the petition fails in its expressed aims will there be backlash?  Will it infuriate others in the system you are petitioning - and cause them to close their ranks?

DISTRACTION: Is the petition a waste of time in the sense of being a time-consuming distraction from actual things you might do with less risk and greater potential payoff?  Are you avoiding the hard emotional work that might have greater benefit?

Getting 25 or 50 of your friends to sign your petition is probably useless. They are signing it just for that reason - being your friend or family member. On the other hand if you talk with 25 or 50 strangers of which some end up signing is in the end more beneficial to your cause. You have created an awareness of your issue which you can then build upon. To put it another way - a person in power can ignore hundreds or even thousands of signatures. It becomes harder though to ignore 25, 30 or more who are screaming at their door - writing letters and becoming involved in your cause.

REMEMBER: The American Revolutionary players tried unsuccessfully to petition King George.  The fallback position was the Committees of Correspondence and then the  Revolutionary War.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

FOUR QUESTIONS FOR MAINE’S FAMILY COURTS

Maine has four pressing very functional questions for Maine's family courts.  They have been raised repeatedly by many citizen users of these courts, and the absence of clear, understandable answers poses a significant intellectual barrier to justice in these courts.  At present the answers to these questions seem like a sort of lottery or, worse, a guessing game for the public.  We would insist that the intellectual challenge of answering them isn’t beyond the ability of the courts and also that it shouldn’t be a different answer every time the issues come up,

1. Education for Guardians ad litem (GALs), judges, lawyers and the public about the content of the rules for GALs  and how to use them is vital. While the court’s’ experience may be different, it is our impression and that of a good many others that Guardians ad litem, judges, lawyers frequently have only a “general knowledge” of these important rules. The public who dig into them assiduously are often better informed on details. Our opinion is that a “general knowledge ” of the rules is insufficient for court professionals, if the rules are serious and to be used both to define the role and the role boundaries of a GAL. In our opinion and that of many, knowledge of the rules is so essential that it should be taught in depth and tested and retested after some period of time. The essential question is: do these court professionals have an exact knowledge of the rules, as a  core “tool of their trade”?  How do we know?  A test would help confirm that teaching has sunk in.

2. In our experience the question often arises as to whether a Guardian ad litem is “commanding” a party to perform a certain action or merely alerting the party to a “suggestion” the GAL will subsequently make to a judge. This is particularly troublesome when a GAL is addressing actions that fall outside of the specified GAL role. As we are sure the courts must be aware, this is a point of huge contention and would benefit from clarification of the issue, along with teaching re-enforcement.

3. In virtually every occupation, there is a routine, regular, standard procedure for managerial correction and improvement of performance. No one is considered “perfect”; every human makes mistakes (major or minor). One of the problem that consumers feel about GALs is the apparent lack of a managerial mechanism for helping a faltering GAL to improve performance, such as focused education on a particular skill, special reading, following a mentor, personal counseling, etc. It would both help a GAL  and bolster public confidence that performance will improve.

4. Finally, we raise the very vexed question of Guardian ad litem actions outside of the role boundaries defined by rules. In virtually every other profession in the world this would be considered unacceptable, and a range of in house sanctions would be applied ranging from severe warning , to loss of job, to legal action. This area is in enormous need of clarification, unless one is granting GALs a degree of near infallibility that even the Pope doesn’t claim!

It is long overdue for the court to give those who use family courts answers to these  simple questions.

For further information and support please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.


For related postings:
Would you want a Guardian ad litem with this kind of training?

The Ethics of My Cousin Vinny - Is this Really Guardian ad litem training?

Guardians ad litem praised for doing a poor job… and a pat on the back



Child Custody - An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Maine Voices: We must work together to ensure justice truly is for all in Maine - a response

Dr Jerome A. Collins response to Hon. Andrew Mead opinion.

To cut to the chase in my response to Justice Mead: the fundamental issue is how can democracy in America survive, if one of its major institutions, the Judiciary, is not fully and equally accessible to 74% of those 'pro se' (self representatives), who use family courts?  The 74% ‘pro se’ statistic comes from a very reliable source and was personally communicated to me after I submitted my essay for March 12th publication.  It is an astounding piece of data.  For context, it should be noted that the ‘pro se’ percentage varies from state to state and province to province in Canada, but it is better than 50% virtually everywhere.  Fundamentally, it means inequality of judicial service for the 74% that are forced by economics to do “do-it-yourself” lawyering.

In any democracy, courts of law are the major, socially approved "problem-solving" institution for society.  And when this is drastically unequal, our courts are in the embarrassing position of offering  a two tier quality of service.  Good quality justice for those who pay; second class justice for that very large demographic, the economically disadvantaged middle class.   It can only be seen as a major scandal for any democracy!  It raises many questions: How long has this been developing, why hasn’t the public been made more aware, when may we expect solutions?  My hunch is that current efforts at a repair of access to justice may suffer from the professional make up of those doing the problem-solving.  An overbalance of lawyers in the problem-solving, for example, may skew the perspectives of the problem.  Lawyers, after all, don’t have an access to justice problem!

It is nice to learn that The Justice Action Group is  working on a solution, but the access to justice problem seems to be escaping them.  As they work, it grows by leaps and bounds.  The 74% 'pro se' statistic is not a static; it is growing both here in Maine and in other states.  All the nice charitable basket of mini proposals that the Bar is developing, are not systemic solutions; they don’t touch 74%.  They seem "tokenistic", a band aid on a metastatic cancer that will not stay covered.

Justice Mead et al  need to look North to Canada and study some of the much more creative solutions being proposed for Canada's "Access to Justice" problem.  Canadians are saying that everyone, all citizens should have equal access to justice.  Must we in Maine settle for less?

Our strong suggestion is that a much broader problem solving process is needed asap.  We are talking about one of the pillars of any democracy, its system of justice.  The 74% statistic is a clarion call for more than just “repair” from a professionally composed, well-intentioned committee!

We need a major commission sponsored by all three branches of Maine’s government!  And we need it asap!

Jerome A Collins, MD
Kennebunkport, Maine 04046

For further information on the Family Court and divorce industry crisis please email at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook. In addition the report by Canada "Access to Civil & Family Justice - A Roadmap for Change" may be found here.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Child Custody - An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521

It isn’t often that most people have a chance to read an actual divorce and custody story that is being appealed to Maine’s Supreme Court, as we write this. Child custody appeals are relatively rare. Most people, who might wish to appeal, are intimidated by the process; many are discouraged by lawyers, who don’t wish to offend a lower court judge by asking a higher court to intervene and correct a decision. Then, there is the huge amount of work involved and the not inconsiderable expense.

The process starts with a heartfelt disagreement with a lower court judgment and with the handling of the law in that court. It requires courage to challenge a family court judgment. It also always embodies a determined love of one’s child (children). In effect the appellant is very publicly saying - but in polite legal language - to the court, “You are dead wrong! Your judgment is not only unfair but badly arrived at. The tools you are using and the reasoning process are seriously defective!  I strongly protest!” How a skilled attorney approaches this problem and chooses the most important issues out of a welter of possible “plots, subplots and very involved stories” is a matter of legal judgment. Most of us, as parents and family would get lost in a morass of the details that go into a custody fight. The enclosed brief of this particular case demonstrates the vitally necessary partnership between lawyer and client. It is a union of “heart and courage” and ”head” - the level, focused intellectual crafting of the case essentials by a lawyer. It will be, I guarantee you, a most interesting and informative “read”.

We’ve been hearing from family members some of the unbelievable details of this case, Dalton vs Dalton, for just over a year. We have held our breath each time there has been a court hearing, hoping for fairness, for a reasonable turn of events, for a review of hard facts and for correction of a frightening nightmare of misperception being acted out in court. But the process seemed only to get worse as time went on. The extreme and inaccurate views of the court and a Guardian ad litem have, unfortunately, become ever more rigidly entrenched. Hence, the difficult decision to appeal.

We have to say, in no way to diminish this very troubling case, that from our experience with many other friends, the clumsy handling of this case in this court is, unfortunately, by no means unique. This case is a poster child for other very similar cases, and it is an urgent clarion call for urgently needed Family Court Reform in Maine. Like most Family Courts in America today, Maine’s courts are in the views of many, badly broken, dysfunctional and urgently in need of reconceptualization and reconstruction. They have lost their moorings in the law, and they are cruelly hurting many of the families and children that they are supposed to serve.

Please, read the enclosed pdf with the details of the Supreme Court Appeal and see what you think.  By all means, share it with friends and legal professionals.  Ask the questions: “Is this how our courts should function?  Is this your image of what you would expect from a court in a democratic society?”

Finally, who is in charge, where’s the oversight?

To view the case click on the link - Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521
for a copy of the brief that has hyperlinks to the referenced cases - please click here:  2014-02-23 Dalton V Dalton - ME Supreme Court Brief. This pdf will have to be downloaded in order for the links to function. The Maine Guardian ad litem Institute (MEGALI) the trade organization for Guardians ad litem will be submitting an amicus brief. The request may be found here (MEGALI).

For more information please contact MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook





Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Open Letter to a Maine Family Court Judge

Maine Family Court

Dear Judge,

I am writing this open letter, both for public educational purposes and as a “heads up” for the courts.  Along with other observers, I feel serious concern about recurring reports of  human rights violations emanating from your court in an ongoing  family dispute over child custody.

In one case in question, the “back story” has been going on for a considerable time, and the core issues in the case are not uncommon. One party’s aim seems to be to keep the other party from any normal custody sharing of their minor child. The strategy being used to achieve this is also a very common one: repeated allegations of abuse, anger and poor control. Despite the fact that the standard investigations into these allegations have found no substance to them, the allegations are repeated over and over.  As we know, this tactic can be an effective courtroom maneuver to hold off “the enemy”. This type of dramatic claim effectively renders the court nervous and indecisive.  No evidence appears to be enough to lay such allegations to rest.  The accused party is unable to escape this persecution. There will be no end to strategic claims. So the court, not uncommonly, orders therapy; therapy for unspecified purposes or problems, with unspecified goals or end point, presuming that it might do some, nonspecific good, or at the least it puts off a decision. The court fails to realize that only a hungry therapeutic charlatan will accept a “therapeutic” task from a referral source that lacks a treatment focus (diagnosis), goals or a definable end point. Our core question is: what is the specific clinical problem for which therapy is being ordered? Key words: “Clinical problem”.

Most of these scientifically unfounded therapies with claims to treat some character trait which a judge finds undesirable are “junk” and produce no measurable or sustainable results. They are ordered by the court often under threat of “contempt”. And those subjected to this court prescription must pay for questionable therapeutic “goods”. They are a human rights affront, and they are such a regular part of the Maine family court ‘armamentarium’ as to be imagined by many as having some proven therapeutic validity (they don’t!).  It is about court enforced bogus therapy for non-criminal family court parties. Conceptually, it is akin to doing experimental treatment on people under order from the court! One asks, “Is forced participation in questionable “therapy” acceptable in a democratic society?”

Even more troubling to many observers, than “Junk” therapy is the not uncommon forced disclosure of a party’s personal therapy by family courts in  non-criminal cases.  It appears as if nothing is considered “privileged” in some courts but one’s attorney-client conversations. There are well-established, professionally-endorsed, standard protocols for disclosure of personal clinical information. They call for a freely granted informed consent for disclosure by the one who owns the actual information, the client. They also require that casual, speculative remarks made by a patient about others, who might be harmed by disclosures made in therapy, be redacted.  Patients will commonly talk about all sorts of people in their lives who may be harmed or damaged by publicly disclosing such comments. They are made by a patient who has assumed total confidentiality at the time of making them. Unredacted disclosure of this information and insensitive, unprotective handling of the content might spotlight (and harm) innocent persons and lead to further additional legal problems. We are told that opposing lawyers frequently desire a “peek” at these records and so does the lawyer’s client, the opposing party. The common claim we have heard is that it will ease the opponent’s mind to see what is going on in the therapy of the other side. We’d ask, to what purpose would the judge allow for such forced sharing with an open adversary? How will this disclosure help to achieve shared custody or benefit the child? How will the opposition read and (more importantly) understand the process from a therapist’s notes or- worse- a face-to-face interview with another’s personal therapist? The therapy will be “trashed by such a violation of confidentiality, and there will be a concomitant violation of the necessary trust for personal therapy. What sort of person is so grossly disrespectful of the individual privacy needed for personal healing as to demand a “peek” at therapy notes and in the process destroy the future of trust-based therapy?  Why would a court support this obviously demeaning, unethical request? It is a rude, destructive assault on treatment and on the person in treatment.

We are not trying to blame just one particular family court judge in our expression of concern about “human rights”. Unfortunately, we hear these gross, human rights violations all too often in many parts of the system. It desperately needs oversight and correction.

We write this in order to ask, “How can we correct these frightening human abuses? One suggestion is that the Maine legislature endorse a formal audit of selected courts to assess the occurrence of these substandard practices. While one might choose to audit all of Maine’s family courts, we’d suggest that given scarcity of resources for this undertaking that priorities might be given to courts in Biddeford, Rockland, Belfast and Portland. We’d be pleased to supply more specific details upon legitimate request.


Sincerely,

Jerome A Collins, MD

cc Megalert.


For more information on the issues involved with the states Family Courts, Guardians ad litem and court stakeholders contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com of find us on Facebook.