Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Our Representatives from Sen David Dutremble

Parents, family members and friends are outraged over the recent "promotion" of Hon Jeffrey Moskowtz to Deputy Chief Judge. Senator David Dutremble  recently wrote to all of Maine's representatives, Gov. Paul LePage and the Judicial Branch concerning this "promotion". Both Sen David Dutremble and Rep Lisa Villa in questioning this promotion are doing what they were elected for. To represent the interest of you the constituent and not special interest like we see in the divorce industry (MEGALI - comes to mind as an example). They are both questioning the reasoning of this promotion as are many people who have been hurt.

We are publishing the letter from Sen David Dutremble to our representatives below as we feel it is a powerful letter which raises some serious questions. The email address of those who were CCed have been removed for the purposes of this post:

From: Senator David E. Dutremble
Date: Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 10:47 PM
Subject: Re: communications from Lori Handrahan - Justice
To: Lisa Villa

Hi Lisa and all attached,

The recent string of emails raises enough concerns with the way things are run in the family courts.  It puzzles me why the entire legislature does not jump on board and ask for audits of the system(s).  Does it really puzzle me though?  Not really, there are many who tend to lose substantial gains if we allow a full audit.  We need more people like Lisa standing up for the people of Maine and I am continuing to be by her side and do what is right for the people of Maine.  

I have been watching the string of emails between Lisa, some high ranking officials and our constituents who many have been victimized in the family courts.  Lisa and I know there is an ongoing problem within the court system because we have been fighting it and we have lived it.  This is the reason I write this email so thousands of others do not have to go through the same process that us and many others have gone through.

I have heard legislators say, "there are winners and losers in family court and the only reason you're upset is because you lost".  My first reaction is, this is a person who has never had to use the family court system!  I would invite everyone to go spend some time in the family court system for a day, I think it would horrify you!   Why would it horrify you?  Because of a term commonly used in the courts "the best interest of the child"  yet this term has never been defined with a true meaning.  When a divorce takes place and the parents cannot agree on the custody of the child.  The court appoints a  GAL "guardian ad litem" to oversee the child's best interest.  I ask, How does this complete STRANGER know what the best interest of my child is?   When a court rules and says you can no longer see you child, it does change you!  It changed me!  At first it made me mad!  Really mad!  I wanted everyone in the system to pay for not being able to be with my kids half the time.  As a matter of fact, I almost killed myself because I thought it would be easier then to continue the fight for my kids.  My attorney told me the longer I try to fight in court, the longer it will take and the cost will be astronomical and they will break the bank, it's just how the system works.  If you think this is only affecting a small amount of people who are disgruntled, I would ask you to watch a movie called "Divorce Corp".  It took me three times to get through the whole movie because it's so upsetting.  Family Court is a problem throughout the United States and this movie will open your eyes.  I am no longer disgruntled at the system for my divorce because I was able to work out an arrangement without the court or the guardian.  As a matter of fact as soon as the lawyers, guardians and the courts were out of the picture, I was able to do more with regards to seeing my children and currently my daughter is away at college but I have my son week on and week off.

There has been a lot of questions around the recent appointment of Judge Moskowitz to oversee Guardian ad Litem work.  Several people have raised concerns with this appointment and have had less then favorable outcomes in the family court that was overseen by Judge Moskowitz.  So one must ask, Is it truly people who are disgruntled or is it truly a problem within his court?  I have my suspicions from what I had been through but I won't judge the judge.  Instead like the court system, I will ask OPEGA to be our Guardian ad Litem!  Let them do the inquire why so many people have had complaints about Judge Moskowitz and the Family Courts.

A friend of mine from Maine Guardian ad Litem Alert, wrote the following inquire and I think it's a reasonable set of questions that should be answered prior to Judge Moskowitz overseeing the Guardian Ad Litem program.  Many of you will say, there's those disgruntled people again, etc., etc.   That's what we hear all the time.  I also hear, If I get one more email from them I swear!  

However, I would ask these questions!

Why is this organization growing?  Why am I getting emails everyday about the system and how it has failed the many people we represent?

I am writing you at the request of many of our friends associated with Maine Guardian ad litem Alert, who have been dismayed by the news of the recent promotion of Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz to be Deputy Chief Judge of the Maine Districts Courts.  The appointment comes as a shock to many members of the public, who consider Judge Moskowitz the least likely candidate for appointment to this very important, pivotal office within the Judicial Branch operations.  We ask who was party to making this decision?  Why was he chosen over other candidates?  What was the objective basis for choosing him in terms of knowledge, skill and experience leading to this decision?

Judge Moskowitz is one of 4 family court judges about whom we consistently hear significant complaints from users of his court, victims of his actions.  A few amongst many of the complaints we hear fairly regularly are:

1.) A harsh, abrupt, demeaning manner, lack of courtesy, irritability and impatience with parties; especially those who may not concur with his thinking.

2.) An apparent lack of knowledge of the law, as it applies to Guardians ad litem.  He seems to have general knowledge, but seems not to know specifics.  It causes one to wonder about his knowledge of the law in other aspects.

3.) 'Pro se' representatives now constitute 74% of those appearing in family courts, a serious "access to justice" problem for the public, the legislature and the Judicial Branch.  Reports we consistently receive tell us that Judge Moskowitz is rude and demeaning to 'pro se' representatives, who are usually 'pro se' because they can't afford lawyers' services.  They are not there to provoke the judge, and overbearing judicial intimidation does not improve the situation.

4.) There are those who report that Judge Moskowitz conducts family court matters in a manner similar to his conduct of the so-called "drug courts", dogmatically, high-handedly.

5.) His judicial impartiality we are told by informed sources is a problem.  A too active expression of views that differ with the judge's is said to prejudice future appearances in that court.  The word on the street is, if you don't curry favor with him, don't plan on returning to his court!

6.)  By report the drug court operation is reportedly problematic from the perspective of serious concerns expressed about "Constitutional due process" issues, 'ex parte' communication, etc.

The details we hear differ from case to case but there is enough common concern raised to present a picture of a judge, who appears not to be functioning well in the public interest.  In our opinion, without further investigation of a formal nature, he does not seem to be suitable for a key, highly influential  leadership position in the District Courts.

Moving away from the recent Judicial Appointment, I will move into another area that has gained many email inquires and responses,

Lori Handrahan:

I know here it comes, Oh that crazy lady!, she's a nut job, she's mentally unstable, she's off her rocker!

These are just a few of the terms I hear when Lori's name is mentioned.

I my heart I have to ask, why is she fighting?  Why doesn't she give up?  What drives her?

I know what drove me when I was fighting the court system!   MY KIDS!   Is this what drives Lori?  According to her many emails it is.

I know Lori has made many other complaints against people in Maine from the Attorney General, Chief of Police, Attorneys and Judges now I'm not going to side with Lori because I don't even know her.  One does have to ask them self, Why are so many people upset by her allegations?  Why has she been banned from the state of Maine?  What harm would an internal audit of the system do?

Knowing the fight I had with my divorce and knowing that the system was there for anything but the best interest of the child, it makes one wonder.   Was she wronged in her case involving her daughter?  There are many people in this state alone that are not allowed to see their children due to some courts ruling stating it was the best interest of the child!  It makes me wonder if in fact there was wrong doing within the court system.

Lisa has raised very important issues and I support her efforts whole hearted!

I would also request an audit of the Handrahan case,

I would also request an audit of Judge Moskowitz being promoted to oversee the Guardian ad Litem program and his prior dealings within his court room.

I would also request that the entire Family Court system be reviewed to see if in fact it's fighting for the best interest of the child.

I believe that there is no harm in requesting these audits, and if no wrong doing has occurred it would be a lot easier for me to be able to return to my constituents and say, there was an independent audit done and these were the findings. 

Last I would again ask that everyone watch the movie called, "Divorce Corp" and witness first hand the million dollar industry that Family Courts have become!


Senator David E. Dutremble

Senator David E. Dutremble
Representing District Four
Arundel, Biddeford (part)
Kennebunk and Kennebunkport


(207) 229-6587

***Please note that any communications to or from your state senator sent via email could be considered public records and are therefore subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Access Act.***

If you have had issues with a Judge and or Guardian ad litem we would encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com of find us on Facebook.

In addition there is a Community Meeting to Discuss - Family Court Judges and GAL oversight on Friday May 2, 2014 from 4 pm - 8 pm at the Maine Community Center, 21 Nelson Rd South Portland.

The State of Maine Judicial Branch says there has never been any complaints about the judges in the Family Court system. This is an opportunity for you to share your concerns about Family Court Judges and Guardians ad litem. The data collected will be used for legislative reform and action.

You do not have to be directly related to the case - you can be a family member or a friend who experienced the Family Court system. You can also testify anonymously if you so choose. Please bring your case/ docket number. Testimony length may be limited based on the amount of people who show.

If you would like to testify but are not able to make it. Please email MeGALalert@gmail your testimony. You are not limited - currently - by time if you decide to email. Emails received by Friday morning - 9 am can be read at the meeting if you so choose to have us read on your behalf. Please indicate in the email that you would like us to do that.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Is Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz promotion good for Maine's Families and children?

It is now official that the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz has been named Deputy Chief of Maine's District Courts. He is taking over from Deputy Chief Judge Mullen who is moving on to a Superior Court position.  How Moskowitz was selected and why he was selected among all of Maine's many district judges is a mystery to the public (and to the Legislature for that matter). Has he been promoted because of outstanding knowledge, skill and experience - or skills be damned - he is a "Buddy" of the courts? 

The soon to be Deputy Chief Judge Moskowitz has been a judge since 2008 and has had an interesting career in that time with many challenges and much controversy.

Starting with the case of Dr Lori Handrahan in 2008 and ending with the Dalton v Dalton case of 2013 there have been countless parents (and their children) that have reported suffering from decisions made in his courts. The Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz is one of four judges whose names consistently are reported to us by divorcing families as victims of his actions - after often high handed courtroom management and decisions that are hard to understand.

Though we do not know him personally, The Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz has been repeatedly and consistently characterized by others as being irritable, harsh and  lacking in basic courtesy towards those in his court. This has been an especially common report from those who are represented  'pro se'. Intimidation by the judge, criticism of their lack of legal knowledge and courtroom sophistication is a complaint of those forced to do "pro se" by their inability to afford a lawyer (74% of cases). The judges attitude compounds the statistically huge "access to justice" problem. Being treated by a judge like a "low life" does not improve the confidence of already frightened people. We hear reports that the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz has displayed a lack of knowledge and understanding regarding to the rules for Guardians ad litem - This is the yardstick for measuring a Guardian ad litems performance. Yet, as deputy chief judge he will now be responsible for handling complaints regarding Guardians ad litem. Is there no better judge to have responsible than someone who is reported to have no clear concept of the rules governing those he is responsible to manage.

The Drug Court that the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz rules over is reported in the press to be a conflicted mess straying from its original blueprint, and a legal challenge has been raised by the Superior Court in Bangor about violations of the constitutionally mandated due process that many users of those courts receive. There is also the issue raised of flagrant 'ex parte' communications that the teamwork design of drug courts makes unavoidable and inevitable.

We ask: is Moskowitz the caliber of judge we want in our court? Has the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz truly had such a brilliant jurist as to warrant a highly significant, influential and pivotal promotion? Is he a respected leader in law and justice? Or is it because there is so much controversy surrounding this judge that by moving him upstairs  Chief Justice Saufley et al are better able to keep an eye on his functioning?

Enough complaints of damage and abuse have been reported by divorcing families entering this court house that we feel it is time for an outside inquiry, a formal legislative audit of the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz' courts as well as the District Courts in general. In addition to our call for an audit by the legislature, the Hon Jeffrey Moskowitz is coming up for review of his appointment in 2015 - it is time for people to let our representatives know how we, the public access this Judge.

If you have suffered through Judicial abuse - either through the hands of a Judge or Guardian ad litem we ask that you contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com of find us on Facebook.

Related articles where the Hon Jeffery Moskowitz has had some influence:

PPH - Maine attorney general enters fray over divorce case

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

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.


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:


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".


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.