Saturday, May 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Judiciary Committee on Confirmation of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz


In an effort to have government transparent we are publishing the following letter to Sen David Burns. The letter deals with the confirmation deliberations that the Judicial Committee had over a weekend before a unanimous vote was given. It was emailed to all committee members the Senate President and the Bangor Daily News as well as the Portland Press Herald. We are presenting to you the letter:

May 23, 2015
Senator David Burns
Chair Judiciary Committee

Dear Dave,

I’m writing you as chair of the Judiciary Committee to ask that you help us understand the committee's "deliberations" on the reappointment of Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz. Like many people who followed the May 12 proceedings, I'm puzzled.

What we witnessed that day was the committee entering the hearing room, sitting, and immediately giving a round of 13 "yeses" – with no comment and no questions. It was a stunningly synchronized delivery, and many people are wondering how this degree of orchestration was achieved.

From some of the committee members, we've heard a variety of “explanations” that shed little light on what actually transpired to arrive at a unanimous decision, and Sen. David Dutremble related some of these in his speech from the Senate floor on May 15. The Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald both have published several stories on the Moskowitz reappointment, but there clearly is more to this than was reported.

We'd like to understand why you chose not to include the public in your committee's deliberations on this "controversial judge."

I greatly would appreciate a reply. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Jerry Collins

MeGAL supports any effort to bring about Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. Please contact us if you have had any issues in or with either at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Senate Confirmation of the Hon. Jeffrey Moskowitz

In the end the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz was confirmed. We saw that it was going to happen. That the establishment and big money lawyers were going to ram it down our throats.

The flurry of activity behind the scenes. The letters that all of you who wrote in last minute attempt to sway the Senate to do the right thing - was not in vain.

We were inexperienced and trying to accomplish the impossible with no money or resources. We were up against the legal industry who has all of that.

What is interesting is how the Chair of the Judiciary Committee - Sen Robert Burns viewed the testimony saying that there was a lot of positive testimony for the Judge. Or to quote "Our committee had had overwhelming... supportive testimony" ( 18m37s - LINK). If we relied on this litmus test on whether or not a judge is qualified then the committee charged with vetting is nothing more than a front for who is our most popular judges. At least as far as lawyers are concerned - as consumer opinion is not as highly sought after as that of lawyers.

Sen, David Dutremble should be commended for giving a voice to the parents and consumers of judicial services in this judges court. we have said it before and we will say it again. He is a hero. For standing up for the people of Maine and not bowing to the pressure from the legal industry. We cannot thank him enough for sticking his neck out for us.

MeGAL is advocating for Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. The confirmation of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz  can be heard here. Please allow for loading (or downloading) as the file is 10.9 megs. If you have a story please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Has Transparency Been Lost with the Judiciary Committee?

It would appear so at least with the reappointment of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz. After heated testimony was given on May 7th 2015 both for and against and a delay for confirming the judge until May 12, 2015.

May 12 we heard in a very brief ceremony with 13 yea votes or a unanimous decision by the Judiciary Committee for the reappointment of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz. No comments by members - like we had with the confirmation of the Hon. Patricia Worth - just the vote. All over in less than 5 minutes (Full audio may be found here).

From May 7th to May 12th we hear that the committee spontaneously deliberated on the topic of the reappointment of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz. During the weekend as we understand it new material was introduced to support the Judge Moskowitz which included audio and transcripts of cases. All of this was new to many who have been following this confirmation. What should be a transparent process has become cloudy for the public.

All legislative meetings and deliberations are required to be public - to maintain transparency. All testimony - evidence or data - is to be registered with the Clerk and made available to the public as we understand it. This weekends activities has set a chilling precedent for our state government. Think about this - if the content were instead a social issue (abortion, LGBT as examples) would there be blood in the streets for what happened? Policy being decided behind the scenes?

We are asking the Senate to consider delaying the nomination of this judge so that a more through investigation can be carried out. An investigation that would involve more than the mere opinion of lawyers who work within the system.

MeGAL is working to bring about change in the Family Court and Guardian ad litem system. If you have had issues within the Family Court system we would encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.


Today (May 19, 2015) it is expected that the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz will be confirmed and reappointed as Judge for another seven years by the Senate with Sen David Dutremble being the only Senator speaking out against the reappointment. The proceedings in the Senate start at 10 am and it is unknown exactly when the confirmation will take place. We believe sometime soon after the the opening prayer.

If interested in the proceeding please follow either of the two links.

For Audio:

For Video:



Thursday, May 14, 2015

From the Mouth of Kenneth Altshuler Esq - Frat Boy Support of Judge Moskowitz - WGAN 560

WGAN AM 560/ FM 105.5 Ken & Mike's First Take. The hosts Kenneth Altshuler and Mike Violette talk about the unanimous vote for reappointment of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz. We present the transcript of the banter between the two radio hosts. Crass? Ignorant? Tasteless? You be the judge.


Mike: Ya Boy!

Ken: Victory

Mike: Ya Boy! District Court Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz overcoming a courtroom controversy and heavy criticism but of course getting bolstered by the testimony of Kenneth P Althsuler Esq.

Ken: I don't think I put it over the top

Mike: I think you cinched if for him. Unanimous vote of approval Tuesday he's going to be back on the bench. Good for the judge..

Ken: So let me.. So let me take this moment ti also say that these people who complain. First of all three lawyers. Oh four lawyers came out against him

Mike: Uhh.. Mathew Nichols awww..

Ken: Seth Berner was one.

Mike: Darrick Banda and William Bly

Ken: Yeah and I don't know the last two. And look I'm fine with lawyers

Mike: They must be ambulance chasers huh?

Ken: And by the way let me make it really clear there have been judges..

Mike: These are the kind of guys who hang out at the emergency room at the hospital waiting for clients?

Ken: That.. That I have been opposed to and I have sent letters to the Judiciary Committee saying this judge is a bad judge. Don't reappoint this judge. One judge I opposed didn't get the reappointment. Not because of me but because everyone hated him.

You know this was.. You know once again being a judge is not a popularity contest.

Mike: Nope

Ken: And if you're popular you are probably a lousy judge. This judge is one of the best two or three judges in the state - SHUT UP!

Mike: Aww you poor little dears... You lost your case...

Ken: The people with the GALalert - which is a organization against Guardian ad litems.

Mike: Yeah

Ken: and who said that the public is not involved enough in the selection process of judges that’s why we don't have elected judges. Because we have crappy judges when that happens. Go down to Alabama. You know what happens when you have elected judges? All of the lawyers donate to both campaigns.

Mike: Yeah. Look I'm an advocate for electing the attorney general and the secretary of state but we can't be electing every judge.

Ken: Exactly right.....


WGAN First Take - skip ahead to 10m53s for segment 5 dealing with Judge Moskowitz.


MeGAL is working to right the so many wrongs that we find in our Family Courts and Guardians ad litem unlike Kenneth Altshuler Esq. We feel the 26% (Kenneth Altshuler and other lawyers associated with the Divorce Industry) has taken advantage of the majority long enough. We encourage you to contact us with your story or look us up on Facebook.

2015-05-14 BDN Maine Senate puts off vote on judge who issued gag order on press

Maine Senate
2015-05-14 Me Senate 2-1 Confirm Of Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz - Sen Burns to Table

2015-05-13 Transcript of the First Take segment on the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Was the Public Bamboozled by the Power Players on Reappointment of Judge Moskowitz?

The Maine Bar Association scored a cruel triumph over the people who use the Moskowitz court. From start to finish the Moskowitz re-appointment was about the "power players" in the Maine Bar.  These "powers" use this court to further their interests, and they wish to have no interference from public users and 'pro se' in the Moskowitz court. To that end, Bar special interests moved strategically to silence, intimidate and discredit public opponents. Josh Tardy was a superb lobbyist with enviable skills in selling damaged goods to naive buyers on the committee. The Governor and others, once again, have bought yet another unfortunate Tardy "product".

What is sad to report is the behavioral message from the Judiciary Committee as it has abandoned the public: "Three cheers for the Maine bar!"

MeGAL is working for Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. If you have had issues we ask that you please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Further reading can be found:

2015-05-12 PPH Members of the Judiciary Committee vote unanimously to recommend to the full Senate that Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz be reappointed.
2015-05-12 BDN Committee endorses reappointment of Maine judge who issued gag order

2015-05-10 Questions that we hope the Judiciary Committee will ask Judge Moskowitz

2015-05-12 JCH - Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz - Confirmation Hearing

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Questions that we hope the Judiciary Committee will ask Judge Moskowitz

Senator Dutremble
Dear Senator Dutremble:

Regarding the re-appointment of Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz

As supporters and constituents we are asking you to forward this questionnaire to the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature.

Many people watching and listening to the Judge Moskowitz re-appointment hearings on Thursday, May 7th, were amazed that members of the Judiciary Committee asked no questions of Judge Moskowitz. Reporter, Scott Dolan noticed the fact of no questions from the committee too in his story. Probably most Judiciary Committee members had never appeared in the Moskowitz court, many may have never appeared in any court, so the absence of questions from the committee may have been based on a lack of personal experience.

Because of widespread concern that Judiciary Committee members can't fully exercise their constitutional responsibility without an interrogation of any Judge that digs into questions of critical interest to the public, and because the public has been largely shut out of the re-appointment process and intimidated by Mr Tardy in an earlier hearing, we offer the following questions for Judge Moskowitz to members of the Judiciary Committee, our elected representatives. We hope they will speak for us. We don't think they can make a grounded, intelligent, thoughtful decision without answers to these questions:

Best Interest of the Child
  1. What does the Best Interest of the Child standard mean to you?
  1. With regards to the Best Interest of the Child should a higher evidentiary standard be applied to fit parents?
  1. Should the Best Interest of the Child standard be used where termination of parental rights has already taken place?
  1. Tell us about a time when you applied the Best Interest of the Child standard to arrive at a decision even though personally, you may not have agreed with the outcome. -or- Tell us about a time when you personally felt that deviating from the Best Interest of the Child standard was appropriate. What was your thought process?
Parents
  1. How does a divorcing parent on supervised visits achieve unsupervised visits?
  1. You said that mistakes give one the opportunity to improve — how do you give that opportunity to parents in your family court matters that you deem have made “mistakes” serious enough to put them on supervised visits?
  1. How does a divorcing parent on supervised visits achieve unsupervised visits?
  1. Do parents in family matters in your court room have at least the same as parents in child protection matters?
  2. Do you view family matters as a zero sum game with one parent as the winner and one as the loser?
  
Process

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma. How did you handle that situation?
  2. Without mentioning names, tell us about a difficult family matter decision you have had to make? What was it, what options did you consider, and what was the outcome?
  3. What is the typical way you handle conflict in the courtroom?
  4. When a decision of yours is successfully appealed, what action if any, do you take to learn from that decision?
  5. Describe a time when you became frustrated at a pro se litigant. How did you handle that situation?
  6. What words would you use to describe your demeanor in the courtroom?
  7. Do you make decisions before hearing the case?
  1. Do you use the rules of evidence to arbitrarily exclude evidence you don't want to hear?
  1. Do you use the rules of evidence to arbitrarily exclude evidence that doesn’t support the party you favor?
  2. Have you ever changed an order without a hearing?
  3. When the day's testimony is over and you go back into your chambers to consider the case, what is your process for reviewing the day's information? Do you have a system? Checklist?
  4. Are there times when you do not actually need a process after a hearing because you've been processing and making decisions in an ongoing way throughout the proceedings?
  5. Do you have a minimum amount of time you require of yourself for review?
  6. Because of the caseload you face, how much pressure do you feel to make decisions more quickly than you'd like?
  1. If you find yourself becoming annoyed/agitated/angry/frustrated, what steps do you take to calm yourself and stay impartial? Do you have a/what is your method for doing this? Do you ever take a recess to compose yourself?
  1. How do you keep your own personal ambitions/aspirations from interfering/influencing your decisions? i.e. What if a lawyer who could personally benefit you or your career is trying a case in your court?
  1. Along those lines, under what conditions would you recuse yourself from hearing a case?
  2. Please describe – with examples – how you view your discretionary powers. What does and doesn't fall under "broad discretion" for you?
  3. How do you keep yourself from being more permissive or forgiving ... in any small way ... of a person representing him/herself when the other party has representation of a lawyer?
  4. Under what circumstances would you change an order at the bequest of one party involved in a case without requiring another hearing?
  1. Please offer a few examples of the kinds of behaviors or comments on the part of defendants or plaintiffs that would automatically prejudice you against them – in terms of considering their credibility or anything else?
  1. Under what circumstances would you allow a child to testify in open court?
  1. Please give us a sense of how frequently you feel confident and peaceful about the decisions you hand down?
  1. How often do you look back on your decisions with regret? With self-doubts? And ... what do you do about it when this happens?
  1. What words would you use to describe your demeanor in the courtroom? What do you do to maintain the demeanor you aspire to?
  2. How do you determine when it's okay to exclude evidence?
  1. What words would you use to describe your demeanor in the courtroom?

Guardian ad litem

  1. When a Guardian ad litem is assigned to a divorce/ custody how do you provide oversight and management of this court officer?
  2. Has a Guardian ad litem ever come to you to discuss a case ex parte?
  3. (Three part question – please allow an answer to first before asking the second and third):
    1. Have you ever incorporated a Guardian ad litem’s recommendations verbatim into your decision?
    2. In doing so – have you not in fact given your authority over to a Guardian ad litem?
    1. How do you know if the Guardian ad litem made a bias recommendation?
  1. Please discuss how you apply the Rules for Guardians ad litem in your courtroom. Provide an example.
  2. How do you handle attorneys and Guardians ad litem who are caught lying in the courtroom?
  3. How do you ensure that a Guardian ad litem follow the GAL Rules?
  4. What action have you taken against a Guardian ad litem who do not follow the GAL Rules?
  5. What about a Guardian ad litem who take actions not authorized by the Rules?
  6. Do you permit or exclude testimony about Guardian ad litem bias?
  7. Do you permit or exclude testimony about Guardian ad litem misconduct?
  8. Are you troubled by the perceived alliance between certain law firms and Guardians ad litem?
  9. Are you interested in testimony that demonstrates a Guardian ad litem lied in the GAL report or is that “not relevant"?
  10. Please describe your feelings about the current rules in place that govern Guardians ad litem. Are they comprehensive enough? Fair? Should they be changed?
  11. How important is it to you that Guardians ad litem strictly follow GAL rules? Are there times when it's okay for them not to? If so, give a few examples of times when it would be okay to "bend the rules?"
  12. How do you ensure that a Guardian ad litem follow the GAL Rules?
  13. How do you know for sure if they have or haven't followed the rules?
  14. What action have you he taken against a Guardian ad litem who does not follow the GAL Rules?
  15. When would you permit or exclude testimony about a Guardian ad litem bias and/or misconduct?
  16. Please describe your feelings about a perceived an alliance between certain law firms and Guardians ad litem?
  1. When one parent or the Guardian ad litem accuses the other parent of abuse, do you think the opinion of the Department of Health and Human Services is relevant?
  1. Are you interested in testimony that demonstrates a Guardian ad litem lied in the GAL report or is that “not relevant"?

MeGAL is working to bring about change to a badly broken Family Court and Guardian ad litem system. These questions came from concerned citizens and parents who have experienced this court. If you would like to find out more please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Audio testimony given may be found on our "Voice of the People" under the heading "Testimony Regarding the Re-Appointment of Hon. Jeffrey Moskowitz before the Judiciary Committee.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"All Judges Should Obey the Law, Like Anyone Else" US Associate Justice Elena Kagen

Must Maine Judges obey the law, "like anyone else"? It is a vital issue that must be decided by the Judiciary Committee of the Legislature as a result of this re-appointment hearing.

1.) WE OPPOSE THE RE-APPOINTMENT OF JUDGE JEFFREY MOSKOWITZ. We base our position on widespread reports from informants whom we know well, who have experienced in his court a repeated pattern of rudeness and disrespect, failure to follow the law, use of Guardians ad litem outside of their mandated functions and abuse of judicial discretion to operate by judicial whim. Please, be assured, we are not here to whine about a "bad custody decision"; we are concerned exclusively with a judge following the law, which we shall detail further on.

The family court system is destined to collapse from a loss of moral integrity, if its judges don't  follow the law themselves. And, remember Judge Moskowitz is a leader of judges in his position as Deputy Chief Judge.

2.) ATTACKING WITNESSES. Before addressing specific symptoms of the Moskowitz court that cry out for  a formal audit, before considering re-appointment, we would briefly like to strenuously object to the current public-unfriendly judicial re-appointment procedure. It leaves out people with actual experience before the judge at every step of the process. From the back room decisions between the Governor and his Judicial Selection Committee Chair, Joshua Tardy, to the opaque negotiations between various players for who gets listed for re-appointment, to the hearings before the Judiciary Committee when these re-appointment decisions have already been cast in concrete, the public is a decorative afterthought. Re-appointment is almost exclusively "private property" of the political leaders of the Maine Bar. Public stay out; public shut up. There is absolutely no room for meaningful opposition or other input from the public. This was made all too clear in the recent unprecedented attacks on witnesses, who testified before this legislative committee by Mr Tardy. Who in their right mind would risk public testimony and face such attacks from the Chair of the Judicial appointment/re-appointment committee? And for witnesses not to be allowed a chance to rebut  Mr Tardy's allegations by Chair, Senator Burns, was unfair and unnecessary.. THERE WERE POWERFUL REBUTTALS, firmly grounded in the truth and in facts. We can NEVER, in good conscience, encourage the public to bear witness about judges before Senator Burn's committee, without some understanding of the Committee chairman that they will be treated with normal respect and human dignity and that they will have some protection from future judicial caprice.

THE JUDICIAL VETTING PROCEDURE. The judicial vetting procedures for re-appointment seems based on a survey questionnaire sent out  to members of the bar to evaluate judges at 2 and 6 year intervals. This type of consumer survey is typically completed by motivated respondents and ignored by others. Though it has more pretentious claims, it is essentially a "popularity contest". Which judges do lawyers know and like? Which judges are "lawyer-friendly"? Though Tardy was unwilling to share the current survey with us, when asked, one wonders about the ratio of questionnaires mailed out to responses returned, the quality of responses, the number of "no responses". And the number and type of negative replies? These questions are vital is assessing the validity of the vetting survey instrument. Without a survey design that can address such questions, survey results are statistically meaningless razzle dazzle.

In the light of his much publicized role in the Great Northern Paper Company debacle, we feel that Mr Tardy was an unfortunate choice to lead the judicial re-appointment process. How can the judicial re-appointment process not be tainted by Mr Tardy's unfortunate marketing of the Great Northern Paper Company to the legislature - and its even more unfortunate aftermath for Maine taxpayers?  Ramming through a judicial re-appointment by using raw political force and power, while discrediting all public objections, does not inspire confidence. It is not a thoughtful, open, public  process for serious decisions about our courts. What kind of an outcome can the public expect from such a process?

3.) 74% 'PRO SE', AN INCONVENIENT FACT. We would remind you of a large but inconvenient fact. As far as family courts are concerned, the divorce bar is a minority group (26% of cases) that controls 99.9% of the re-appointment process from start to finish. Where are the majority 74% 'Pro se' in the re-appointment decision making process? Isn't something out of balance? This is a true blind spot in  Judicial Branch thinking, in the Governor's conceptualization of a judicial re-appointment committee. In fairness and in connection with the actual reality of today, it needs correction.

4.) VOICE OF THE PUBLIC: WHAT THE PUBLIC SAYS ABOUT JUDGE MOSKOWITZ;
See Appendix for detailed quotes of various" voices of people" who have actually appeared before Judge Moskowitz and who have shared their experience with us. The thrust of the "voices" seems to be a repeated pattern of courtroom intimidation - or what might in some cases be called bullying. There are reports of a failure to follow the Rules for Guardian ad litem that is noted by our respondents so frequently that one wonders, does the judge know the rules for Guardians ad litem, or is he outsourcing  a wild form of total, 'ad lib',  judicial discretion to Guardians ad litem? There are reports of a failure to listen to all evidence. There are reports of failure to present a plan for reconciliation when custody sharing is uneven, and failure to respect witnesses and consultants. In our opinion, these comments are a "heads up", a warning to those involved in deciding re-appointment. There seems to be an awful lot of "smoke" coming from this court. The "smoke" cries out for a formal legislative investigation, an audit of this court. At the end of the day, one asks, "Is this the "rule of law"? Is this what Maine citizens want, is this what the legislature approves of?

5.) By your decision about re-appointment, you send a message to the judiciary and to the public. Will it be: we need to look into this further, or will it be judges can do whatever they like. Judicial standards be damned. Public be damned; don't bother your legislator. Mr Tardy and the powers behind him are "lobbying" hard for a "no judicial standard" standard. There are rules, but no enforcement, no supervision. It is all 'ad hoc' decided by a committee of peers, if they get a complaint. There is no functional way by which the public, taxpayers, may judge a judge or get a complaint followed by "corrective action". There is, effectively NO protection for the public.

Admittedly, the choices are stark. There is a questionable vetting process, with questionable vetting leadership, making use of flagrant suppression of any and all opposition. There have been no public challenges to judicial re-appointment in 20 years. To do it with integrity requires that the committee collect its own data, do its own 'vetting, make its own decisions. It is up to you.

Jerome A Collins
Kennebunkport, Maine

MeGAL is working to bring about change regarding our Family Court system and Guardian ad litem role. If you have had issues within the court system we would invite you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

APPENDIX- VOICE OF THE PEOPLE REGARDING DEPUTY CHIEF JUDGE MOSKOWITZ



Friday, May 1, 2015

May 7, 2015 Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz expected to face opposition in reappointment

Many thanks to Judy Harrison (BDN) for the recent article: “Judge who levied gag order expected to face challenge in reappointment

The article is about Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz and the issues surrounding his court room and the endorsement by Judicial Selection Committee (headed by Joshua Tardy Esq.) to Maine's Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary. May 7, 2015 will see the confirmation hearing of this judge at 2 pm.

It is also the story of one woman's experience in this court. She is not unique in the experience. It is a story of personal pain.

In addition we have a survey asking anyone who is willing to voice an opinion on his reappointment. The public (majority) was left out of the process. A committee consisting of lawyers ( headed by Joshua Tardy Esq. ) conducted a survey which went out to members of Maine’s Bar (minority). The results of our anonymous survey will be presented to the committee on May 7 and posted online. To take the survey click here. Survey will open in a new window/ tab.