Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Notice of Opportunity to Comment - Proposed Amendment Rules for Guardians ad litem

The Judicial Branch is looking for comments regarding the proposed amendments to the rules for Guardians ad litem. This is an opportunity to express your thoughts on what future parents/ consumers will have to work with. Your experience with Guardians ad litem may have an impact on whether or not this amendment is used, canned or modified. That experience will mean nothing unless you respond by December 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm. Silence gives consent.

Want some ideas -

There is an abundance of ambiguous words and statements - "fair", "cultural sensitivity", "professionalism" and "ethics". While is is nice that these ideas are incorporated there is no way to define what or how these ideas will be applied. There is no defined means of testing whether a Guardian ad litem has been "fair" as example.

Training has been increased from the 16 hours Guardians ad litem go through and there is defined curriculum. Is this enough?

What is the best interest of the child? The phrase is used multiple times. While Maine has attempted to define this concept in statutes there is no means for testing whether a recommendation made by a Guardian ad litem is in a child's best interest. It tends to be based on the bias that the GAL brings to any case. Is taking a 4 year old to a bar late at night and exposing that child to violent adult behavior in the child's best interest? A Guardian ad litem thought so - the courts agreed - and the practice was allowed to continue.

You do not have to write a book, a single line comment is fine.

The Judicial Branch has a web page with instructions that may be found here:

For a pdf copy of the proposed rules:

Because we do not know if comments will be posted - please CC any correspondence to so that comments may be available for others to see.

Comments that parents/ consumers sent in and CCed MeGAL may be found on the blogs "Voice of the People". To date there have been no postings on the Judicial Branch web site and it is not known whether they will be publishing any.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bomb Threats and Secrecy – How the Overseers Handle Discipline of Lawyers

Recently, there have been two lawyers who have faced significant complaints before the Overseers of the Bar. We ask: Did the bar provide the oversight and management that the public expects?

One of the lawyers,  Ron Hoffman, was brought before the board because he called in two bomb threats to Academy Hill and G.D. Cushing elementary schools within two minutes of each other and saying that "there is a bomb in your school!". The calls resulted in the evacuation of over 350 children and worried countless teachers and parents as a result. The calls produced anger and confusion amongst both children and adults in the community as school officials testified.

Ron Hoffman had lied to the police when confronted about the bomb threat calls. Your average person on the street calling in a bomb threat would find themselves incarcerated and facing the loss of a job. Ron Hoffman told the board that there were medical conditions he was suffering from, and that the treatment from his doctors was not proper. It was bad medical treatment; not his bad judgment that caused the alarming behavior. The board felt that Ron's newly revised regimen of counseling and medications should allow him to continue practicing law.

Another lawyer, Charles Bean Esq, has been before the board four times in nine years. The first time before the board was back in 2006. Then again in 2006, 2011 and finally in 2013. In 2013 the board appears to have had enough and ordered that his resignation be given to Justice Andrew Mead. There is no public reason given why Bean resigned. The records are sealed and will only be made public should Bean decide he should seek reinstatement to the Bar.  Yes, "Reinstatement to the Bar" he may still return to serve the public at some future time.

If one visits the Overseers of the Bar web site and searches for the latest on Charles R. Bean, Esq. one can find his case dated October 29, 2013. Clicking the link brings the reader to a very brief background on Charles Bean Esq. Then refers to Maine Bar 7.3(g) which is "Disciplinary Proceedings: Other Provisions" and subsection refers to "Resignations by Attorneys Under Disciplinary Investigation". Basically what Maine Bar 7.3(g) says is that the lawyer is guilty of the crimes he has been accused of doing. It does not go into other areas where the lawyer may have violated the Maine Bar Rules. We are left with the feeling that what Charles Bean Esq. has done must truly be horrendous. Compare THIS  to the relative slap on the wrist that Ron Hoffman Esq received for calling in a bomb threat.

Is the Overseers of the Bar, as a private not for profit organization, able to police those they are entrusted to license and provide oversight for? Can they hand out a fair and equitable disciplinary action that is in the public interest Think about this - in these two cases has the legal standard of Maine lawyers been improved by this process? What about those who complained about these two lawyers - are they pleased by the outcome?

If you have any thoughts on the Overseers of the Bar we would encourage your comments here or on our Facebook page. You may also email us at

Further Reading - Is this Really Oversight? How the Overseers of the Bar Operates.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is this Really Oversight? How the Overseers of the Bar Operates.

The Overseers of the Bar has by all appearances an open process of complaint for the public. If I was researching a lawyer I am able to view 13 years of complaints brought against 247 lawyers. Each decision has a link provided so that I can see what the complaint was about and the outcome - the decision handed out to that lawyer. While the disciplinary action is written out in a way that only a lawyer could love (legalistic, specific and dry) it dose give the reasoning behind the decision.

What do the numbers show us?

There are currently 247 lawyers that have complaints where decisions have been handed out by the Overseers.  Those decisions amount to a total of 362.

Of the 247 lawyers who had complaints 179 appeared before the Overseers only once. The balance of 68 lawyers appeared on multiple occasions. Of those 68 lawyers 29 appeared 3 or more times. In terms of the decisions handed out those 68 lawyers had 183 (or 50.55%) of the decisions handed out to them.

What was the order  that the Overseers of the Board handed out to these lawyers. There are 43 categories that summarizes what action the Overseers recommends. Most mean nothing to the casual observer - maybe this is intended. The focus is on those that have meaning.

Reprimand is the most popular order given out to a wayward lawyer. This was handed out 36% of the time or 131 instances. Suspension is another popular order being handed out 4.7% of the time. Dismissal was handed out 8 times in 13 years. What is interesting is that 17 lawyers resigned and only 5 were disbarred. Those that were disbarred represents only 2% of the population who manages to make it to this point.

It is important to reflect on these numbers as it speaks to the process that the Overseers has in place and their ability to provide oversight to the lawyers that they license. Is the Overseers of the Bar able to provide effective oversight of those they license? Is the process that is in place a fair and equitable process to consumers of legal services as well as to lawyers? Or does the process favor lawyers? Is the process one that the average consumer can understand and easily navigate through?

What is not clear to anyone is how many times complaints were started against a lawyer and then was dropped because of the financial cost and time it would take. Or was weeded out at one of the many layers that is intended to make the process fair. Of those lawyers that had multiple complaints - how many more were started but were never completed or weeded out? The result of such filtering would be to allow a problem lawyer to continue and cause pain and suffering.

If you have any thoughts on the Overseers of the Bar we would encourage your comments here or on our Facebook page. You may also email us at

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Father says No to Child's demand of McDonald's - and loses visitation

What should have been a Happy Meal has turned out to be anything but this for a New York father in a hotly contested divorce case. The court appointed shrink Dr. Marilyn Schiller is branding the child's father as being incapable of caring for his 4-year old son for refusing McDonald's.

The father is fighting back against Dr. Schiller for defaming his character.
On October 30, 2013 father and son were preparing to go out for dinner. The son demanded McDonald's and the father said no. According to reports that son then "threw a temper tantrum" for being denied the Golden Arches. The fathers reasoning for refusal was that he felt his son had been eating too much junk food. So like any good parent he offered his son two options -

1. Pick another restaurant
2. No dinner at all

His son chose the latter and upon retuning back to his mother told on his dad. The mom promptly told Dr. Marilyn Schiller who in turn reported this incident to the presiding judge. Dr. Schiller made the recommendation of having the fathers visitation time reduced. Refusing a child McDonald's must be like burning a child with a cigarette, abusing a child or some other life altering event - at least according to Dr. Schiller.

Who is right here? The father for trying to be a good parent and not giving into the demands of a child and "exercising reasonable parental prerogatives"? Or the court appointed psychologist for recommending a more restricted visitation schedule as a result of not giving into the demands of a 4-year old? If the court appointed psychologist is right in her reasoning that denying McDonald's will cause so much harm to this child that the father's time needs to be restricted then many who are reading this have been hurt by our parents refusal to take us to McDonald's when young. What does it say about the Mayor of New York - Bloomberg - who is trying to curb the unhealthy eating choices that New Yorkers make - like McDonald's and other artery clogging eating establishments -  that he is so much against. Would Bloomberg be considered a bad parent?

Although this is an extreme example of what is wrong with the family court system (the divorce industry, Guardians ad litem and other family court leaches) it does call into question about who really knows what is best for our children. In this case it appears Dr. Schiller and the mom knows what is best (sarcasm intended) - by giving into the demands of a 4-year old. The father does not (again sarcasm intended) because he refused as a parent to give in to his son, his child. What is the lesson that we can take away from this - that as a parent you do what your child wants - no matter how much it goes against your core values as a person or parent. Because if you don't the courts will take what is precious to you as they know what is best (sarcasm intended).

By the way - the mother took her son to McDonald's - reinforcing her son's bad behavior and the opinion of Dr. Schiller.
For support please contact us at or like us on Facebook.

For further reading on this case:
Yahoo! Shine

NY Daily News

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"New Guardians ad litem do not have the experience" Sarah Stark Oldham

In state of Connecticut parents and consumers have been dealing with a horrific family court and Guardian ad litem mess for years. The situation is so bad that families have been bankrupt emotionally and financially as a result of the process. On October 31 the task force that was created to investigate legal disputes involving the care and custody of children heard from a number of people.

One of those who  gave testimony was Sarah Stark Oldham. Ms Oldham is the President of the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. During her testimony she defended the role of Guardians ad litem and the training of GALs. At one point Ms Oldham was asked why out of over a thousand certified GALs a judge would choose only out of a handful of Guardians ad litem - the response to that question was as stunning as it was troubling:

“Well, I think judges assign cases to a GAL who they think can handle the case and many of the new Guardians ad litem do not yet have any experience or the qualifications required to be assigned.”

The silence in the hearing room was deafening….

Rep. Minnie Gonzalez held up the list of court certified Guardians ad litem and said:  “I’m sorry, if we are now certifying GALs, then every one of the people on this list should be able to handle a case – otherwise what is the point of certifying them?”

“Well, they just have to take the classes, there is no test at the end or way for them to pass or fail.”

Thank you Ms. Sarah "Sally" Stark Oldham.  Thank you.

What Ms. Sarah "Sally" Stark Oldham confirmed for Connecticut and many other state Guardian ad litem education programs is that the training to become a Guardian ad litem is minimal at best and does little to prepare an up and coming Guardian ad litem on how to handle the complexities of a divorce/ custody. That Guardians ad litem are unleashed on an unsuspecting public able to make life changing decisions on people that they have little or no knowledge of. Decisions that have far reaching consequences and impact - yet are protected by a court system when a Guardian ad litem malpractices.

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