Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lawyers, Divorce Industry Like Mike - Should You?

We try to stay clear of partisan politics. After all, children's welfare in divorce and custody shouldn't be a partisan issue. So we try to remain "non-partisan",

BUT ...

Quite frankly, from the perspective of our Family Court, and Guardian ad litem (GAL) reform concerns, we "Don't like Mike" - that is Mike Michaud, one of ( 3 ) candidates running for Governor of Maine. In fact we would say to our GAL and Family Court reform friends, "Vote for anyone else for Governor, but not Mike!"

It's nothing personal, Mike, its your "special interest" lawyer friends, supporters and the fundraisers who we don't like! It is Maine's divorce industry that is "hell bent for election," divorce bar lawyers raising money for "Mike" like it is going out of style and the other, so - called "impartial" divorce industry people silently cheering for "Mike". They are hoping that he wins and that his gratitude for their support will preserve the very lucrative 'status quo' in our creaky, old, dysfunctional, Family Courts.

ASK YOURSELF - WHY DOES THE DIVORCE INDUSTRY SO AVIDLY SUPPORT MIKE MICHAUD? Why are lawyers, law firms and the judicial branch supporting Mike? The financial investment they are making in Mike Michaud is an investment in keeping the family court as we know it. It is an investment in their retirements, their children's education and their way of life.

Take a look at some of Mikes supporters:

Michael Asen Esq (MittelAsen) - has helped fund raise for Mike on several occasions - 07/25/2014; 08/11/2014; 08/14/2014;

Michael Asen Esq has also been quoted by the Portland Press Herald as saying “My highest priority is making sure we don’t have another four years of this governor.” in an August 12, 2014 posting and referring to Gov. Paul LePage. Remember Gov. Paul LePage signed the Dutremble bill LD 872 "An Act To Improve the Quality of Guardian ad Litem Services for the Children and Families of Maine" which the Judicial Branch hated as did lawyers and Guardians ad litem. Michael Asen Esq is also the chair of fund raising for Maine lawyers who like "Mike".

Diane Dusini Esq (MittelAsen) - has helped raise money for Mike on at least one occasion - 08/11/2014. It should be noted that is also the President of the Maine Bar.

Stephanie Cotsirilos - former Wall Street Lawyer - has helped raise money for Mike Michaud - 08/11/2014.

Robert Gips Esq (DrummondWoodsun) has helped raise money for Mike Michaud - 08/11/2014.

Neil Jamieson Esq (Prescott Jamieson Nelson & Murphy) has helped to raise money for Mike Michaud - 07/21/2014; 08/11/2014.

Brett D. Baber Esq (Lanham Blackwell & Baber) has helped to raise money for Mike Michaud - 08/11/2014.

Janis B. Cohen Esq. has helped to raise money for Mike Michaud - 08/11/2014.

Elizabeth Scheffee Esq. (Givertz Scheffee & Lavoie, PA) has helped raised money for Mike Michaud - 08/11/2014.

Richard S. Berne Esq. (Law Office of Richard Berne) - is helping Mike Michaud with campaign contributions - 08/11/2014.

WHY DO THEY LIKE "MIKE"?  You can bet that it isn't just out of the goodness of their hearts, and it isn't because the divorce bar wants our kind of Family Court or Guardian ad litem reform.  They expect that "Mike's" "pay back" for their financial bucks will be strong support for the "divorce bar".  Keep lawyer privilege!  Keep our family courts as they are - a gold mine for lawyers and the Divorce Industry. Keep consumers out of this unregulated "industry".  "Mike" has a political  reputation for being an obedient,  good, ol boy. The divorce bar and their good friend, Senate President Justin Alfond ( 07/21/2014; 08/11/2014; 09/23/2014 ), are banking on a tight relationship with "Mike". Alfond is reported to have already told Senators in his caucus, enough already with GAL reform; the lawyers don't like it!

WE'D BET THAT MANY WITHIN THE JUDICIAL BRANCH ARE ALSO SILENTLY SUPPORTING  "MIKE" TOO (and not just their "prayers and good wishes"!). He is their kind of guy; supporting the interests of the "divorce industry" and will not supporting Family Court or GAL reform - just exactly as they are.

DO YOU SUPPORT THE "DIVORCE INDUSTRY"? A vote for "Mike" supports the divorce industry and perpetuates our victim-hood in Family Courts. Use you precious vote thoughtfully, carefully and in the best interest of our children. Your vote can make a difference. Please, friends, anyone but "Mike" for Governor of Maine, please!

We'd also say, check out where our candidates for the Maine Senate and House of Representatives stand on our reform issues. We're splitting our vote on these candidates depending on whether they support our family court and GAL reform positions. For us, it's not about Republican or Democrat; we call ourselves "Childocrats"!

JOIN THE CHILDOCRAT PARTY TOO!

MeGALert is a grassroots organization and like minded people who have a vested interest in the states Family Court process and reform. Please feel free to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Judicial Branch - How Do Pro se Litigants Feel About Their Court Experience?

With the non-response response from the Judicial Branch we reach back out asking whether or not the Judicial Branch has interest in the Pro se problem in Maine.


From: J M Coll <jacol1@xxxxxxxxxx.net
Sent: Sep 30, 2014 11:46 AM
To: Mary Ann Lynch <mary.ann.lynch@xxxxx.xxxxx.gov
Cc: "ddusini@xxxxxxxxxx.com" <ddusini@xxxxxxxxxxx.com, "Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com" <Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com, "ddutrem1@xxxxx.com" <ddutrem1@xxxxx.com, Beth.Ashcroft@xxxxxxxxxxx.Xxxxx.gov, Governor@xxxxx.gov
Subject: Re: Our 'Pro Se' conversation on Wednesday

Mary Ann Lynch, Esq
Media Counsel
Maine Judicial Branch

Dear Mary Ann,

Thanks for your very prompt reply to my e-mail (on a Saturday morning, no less!). It is useful to get an official Judicial Branch position so quickly.

About the content of your reply, what can I say?

Your response to my e-mail is masterful. You “defend the J.B. fort valiantly”, but in all fairness, I wasn’t intending to attack the “fort” in any way - either in our very brief phone conversation, or in my subsequent e-mail to you. The email was intended as a simple clarification (expansion) of points in our conversation that you asked for. You suggested “a proposal”, if I recall. Despite disclaimers by me that my remarks are not a "proposal", you seem to have over determined them as such.  In my opinion, a position statement or an actual proposal about ‘pro se’ reform issues would need many inputs from many people - not just you or me.

The tone and focus of your reply, however, deflects attention from the serious ‘pro se’ epidemiological questions that I actually raised in the email, and that need answers to be used as “tools” for any serious problem solving. So ...  let me repeat the questions:

  • WHAT SHOULD THE GOALS FOR  ANY ‘PRO SE’ CORRECTIVE INTERVENTION BE? 
  • WHAT IS THE NATURE OF MAINE’S FAMILY COURT ‘PRO SE’ PROBLEM?  
  • DOES HAVING A LAWYER MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN OUTCOME OF DIVORCE AND CUSTODY?  
  • HOW DO ‘PRO SE’ LITIGANTS FEEL ABOUT THEIR COURT EXPERIENCE?  
  • HOW DO FAMILY COURT JUDGES FEEL ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH ‘PRO SE’ LITIGANTS? 
  • HOW DOES THE DIVORCE BAR SEE THE ‘PRO SE’ PROBLEM?

I am reasonably certain that neither you nor anyone in the Maine Judicial Branch currently has answers to the above vital problem-solving questions. I am sure there are opinions and anecdotes, but no actual hard, working data.

I also suspect that these questions, and their use in data collection and subsequent use of such data in targeted problem-solving, may appear to be an unfamiliar problem-solving model to the Judiciary, its “stake holders” and to the usual problem solving ‘modus operandi’. They are a classic population-oriented, conceptual approach used since the 19th century in assessing and planning for issues in question for large, under served, at risk populations. With all due respect, I would contend that a “stake holders” committee is not a tool for solving an ever expanding epidemic of ‘pro se’ representation. Perhaps a legislative audit might be able to seek data and suggest remedies. Please, note in the previous sentence, the key word,” perhaps”! “Perhaps” you and your colleagues might wish to propose another approach to the same problems at hand.

As for your worry about “violation of the separation of powers”,  I hope I don’t appear to be someone, who - in a public conversation - would (God forbid!) ask the Judicial Branch Media Counsel to violate either the US or Maine Constitution! Legislative audits of Judiciary functions have been done by other states who revere the constitution every bit as much as we Mainers do. In Maine, we have the brilliant precedent of the 2006 legislatively approved audit by OPEGA of the Judiciary’s Guardians ad litem program. As I understand it, any of the 3 branches of government may propose a bill. You/your branch of government submitted a bill in 2013 dealing with GALs, using Senator Valentino as sponsor. It was hardly a unique event! As a firm believer in our constitutions - state and federal - I think we could study the epidemiology of ‘pro se’ and how to correct it without creating a constitutional crisis! “Where there's a will, there's a way”!

The "child's best interest" question that you raise, is another item that needs serious study and correction. In my opinion and that of many others, this one concept is the root of much that is wrong about family courts. It is the heart and soul of a lawyer-directed, inter-party competition, generating all of the most malignant contention in a divorce. It is the powerful driver of “billable hours” and thereby out-of-control lawyer’s bills! It serves “No one’s best interest”, least of all the child! If it requires legislation, what’s wrong with proposing it? What’s wrong, one suspects, is that if a corrective law were passed, the family court bar would metaphorically speaking  “go on food stamps”. That’s why the ‘status quo’ is so hard to change. But let it not stop us from trying!

Calling the divorce bar the “divorce industry” may offend you but is not far off the mark or disrespectful when one  does a detailed, “connect the dots” study (as we have done) of how members of this powerful group operate to preserve a very lucrative, privileged  ‘status quo’.

It would be helpful to get an expression of interest from you about a legislative audit of ‘pro se’. Any interest at the Judicial Branch? Or should we pursue this along other avenues?

Sincerely,

Jerry Collins

If you have had an issue with the court system we encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com. Or find us on Facebook.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Pro se Problem in Family Courts - The Judicial Branch Response

September 26 a follow up email was sent to Mary Ann Lynch with the Judicial Branch regarding a conversation which took place on September 24, 2014 regarding Pro se problems. We published that email on Sunday September 28, 2014 so the public could read about the very real concerns of Pro se representation in the Family Court system. That letter/posting may be found here. There were several points that were emphasized in that letter to the Judicial Branch:

1. What should the goals for any Pro se intervention be?
2. What is the nature of Maine's Pro se problem?
3. Does having a lawyer make a difference in outcome of divorce and custody?
4. How do Pro se litigants feel about their court experience?
5. How do Family Court judges feel about their experience with Pro se litigants?
6. How does the Divorce Bar see the Pro se problem?

The points were made as some possible questions that could be asked in trying to solve the Pro se problem. They were not intended as a proposal but as a means to start a conversation about planning.

In response to that email and as a follow up to the conversation - we have the following email from the Judicial Branch.

From: Mary Ann Lynch <mary.ann.lynch@xxxxxx.maine.gov>
Sent: Sep 27, 2014 7:25 AM
To: J & M Coll <jacol1@xxxxxxxx.net>
Cc: "ddusini@xxxxxxxxxx.com", "Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com", "ddutrem1@xxxxx.com"

Subject: Re: Our 'pro Se' conversation on Wednesday

Thank you for your follow up. Your letter raises issues you did not raise in our conversation on Wednesday. For instance "defining custody-50/50" fundamentally changes the current law, that is,   "the best interest of the child standard."  I suggest this type of question is a question of what the state law should be, and the resolution lies fundamentally with the Legislature. It would a violation of the separation of powers for the court to become involved in efforts to change amend the substantive law. If your goal is to change the substantive law on family issues, you should bring these issues before the Legislature.

You also did not mention in our conversation Wednesday an audit or study to be done specifically by OPEGA. As you may know, the Court currently is reviewing the report of the Family Division Task Force. These recommendations are before the Court after a year of study and 8 public hearings conducted all around the state.  This report contains proposals and recommended changes to the court procedures governing family law matters. The Task Force report focus is on improving public service by, among other things, eliminating court events that cause unnecessary delay, and improving procedures to promote prompt and more effective resolution of family disputes. The comment period just closed, and the Court is now considering the report and the comments. It is premature to undertake another study, before the court has acted on the recommendations now before it. More fundamentally, an audit by OPEGA raises substantial separation of powers issues.

Your discussion of the significant challenges presented by people proceeding without lawyers, most likely because they cannot afford lawyers, is a subject that the Court has worked mightily over the years to address, (with proposals to the Legislature to provide civil legal services to low income Mainers and to encourage lawyers to provide free legal services. Indeed, in the next few weeks lawyers across the state will be recognized for providing free legal services to their fellow Mainers.). But the problem is not just one experienced in family matters.  It is a problem that cuts across every civil docket in our courts. Any study of the issue needs to address all civil dockets, not just family matters.  We welcome a renewed interest in this problem.

Finally, I do not think the continuing disparaging and pejorative characterization "of the divorce industry," is particularly helpful or productive.  I suspect I will be accused of stifling discussion. That is not my intent. My intent is to accord all involved with respect.

Mary Ann Lynch


If you have had issues in Family Court as a Pro se litigant we ask that you contact us at MeGALert - MeGALalert@gmail.com