Thursday, November 26, 2015
Mr. Craig Kelly appears to be a politician whom the Guardian ad litem/ Court reform movement could use. He recently gave a speech earlier this month regarding the use of a court appointed expert who by all appearances took advantage of the situation he was in by gouging the divorcing family. This issue is quite common in our Family Court system where judges grant a monopoly to Guardians ad litem and other court 'experts'. We must educate our politicians to the problems within our court systems -
FAMILY COURT RORTS – Speech in Parliament (November 2015);
Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (11:18): Deputy Speaker, this morning I would like to talk about a rort — a rort that is going on in the Family Courts of Australia.
It is a rort that involves excessive fees, price gouging and virtual extortion; it is nothing other than a scam.
I am not going to name names today, but I put those on notice involved in this rort. If necessary, I will name names in this parliament.
Now Deputy Speaker, in a truly competitive market, I have no objection to anyone charging what the market will bear. In our free market, capitalist society, they are entitled to charge as much as the customer will FREELY pay.
However, where we have a situation where the Family Court orders a so-called ‘single expert” to do what is called a 'report' or an 'analysis', the court is granting them a monopoly.
And these people should not be allowed to exploit that monopoly position granted to them by the Family Court, by price gouge and charge excessive fees.
This is an area which should have government regulation where we set and regulate the fees where the Court does grant them a monopoly.
Deputy Speaker, I would like to give you an example of one of the current practices. I have a Family Court order in front of me, and it states that the participants in the Family Court, the father and the mother, should attend a particular ‘Mr X’ (name withheld) on a certain date for a further ‘single expert report’.
It goes on that the cost of ‘Mr X's’ report will be borne equally by the parties and that they will pay the sum of $8,000 each.
So Mr X is entitled to a sum of $16,000. (And parent of the child is unable to pay, they will be denied the right to even see their child, so the child is a victim of this rort as well)
When it was asked how this is calculated, it worked out at a fee of $700 per hour. That’s right Deputy Speaker; $700 per hour.
Now this is for a psychiatrist. If I look at the Australian Psychological Society's national schedule of recommended fees—the recommended fee schedule in place from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016—it sets out the recommended level of fees for an hour of consultation at $238.
So, because the courts are giving this particular individual a monopoly position—
(debate interrupted - Proceedings suspended from 11:21am to 11:34am) (debate resumed 11.34am)
- I will continue where I left off.
I was giving an example of the current practice of this rort whereby the scheduled fee recommended by the professional association is around $238 an hour (that’s $9,520 for a 40hr week – nice work if you can get it).
But in this case because the so-called expert involved has a court-ordered monopoly, they are able to charge what they like.
And they are charging 200% ABOVE the scheduled fee recommended by their professional association — a charge, including GST, of up to $700 an hour.
Deputy Speaker, I have no objection if in a fair, free and open competitive market if they want to charge $7,000 an hour, and someone is willing to pay this of their own free will.
But where the court compulsory orders a participant in the court proceedings to see an ‘single expert’ thereby granting such an individual a monopoly, and they charge such an excessive fee — a 200 % uplift, a $500 per hour UPLIFT (on the scheduled fee recommended by the professional association) — it is nothing other than an absolutely rort.
Deputy Speaker, I am not one for excessive government regulation,however we should have legislation that sets a maximum schedule of fees for these 'single experts' if they are to be given a court ordered monopoly.
For the current situation is very similar to what I remember in an old Chevy Chase movie, 'National Lampoon's Vacation', where Clark W. Griswall (played by Chevy Chase) crashed his car and had to get his car repaired. He pulls out this wallet and asks, ‘What do I owe you?'
And the repairer said, 'How much you got?' And when Clark complains about such price gouging, the repair pulls out this sheriff’s badge.
Deputy Speaker, his is akin to the same situation that we have going on in our Family Court today, and it is totally unacceptable.
Secondly, I have great concerns over some of the secrecy provisions in the Family Court. I would like to quote one Mr J Robert Oppenheimer from the 1950s. He said, which well applies to our Family Court today:
“We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism … We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.”
We need to end a few practices in our Family Court. We need to end the practice of secrecy.
We need to shine a bright light on the practices that are currently going on in our Family Court.
If we are going to continue to have the practice of single experts, a practice which I am greatly concerned about, we must have a schedule of professional fees they can charge. which must be reasonable.
And Deputy Speaker, regarding the current practices—these current rorts that I have outlined — I am putting these people on notice that they are being watched. This parliament is going to shine a light on their activities. (time expired).
If you have been involved in a case which has turned sour or just does not make sense we ask that you contact us at MeGALalaert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
And you thought that Halloween was scary just wait until you try and file a complaint against a Guardian ad litem (GAL). September 1, 2015 consumers of judicial services in Maine's Family Courts were faced with changes in the GAL complaint process.
Could Parents end up singing?
"I'm goin' down
All the way
I'm on the highway to hell" ( AC/DC – Highway To Hell )
Are the new rules and complaint process better for you the consumer of judicial services? Prior to September 1, 2015 we had a set of rules which came in at around 12 pages of fairly easy to understand process. The complaint process was easy to comprehend, almost intuitive. After September 1, 2015 we are faced with a whopping 60 pages of rules which the complaint process comprises a staggering 40 pages+ of process. Comments on Facebook suggest that the new complaint process if good for parents.
Or is it?
While the rules are for the most part remain the same as they were prior to September 1, 2015 the way in which a parent files a complaint has dramatically changed. For the better – we don’t think so – but you be the judge.
Here is a “simple” compare and contrast of the complaint process:
Pre-September 1, 2015
The old rules had a fairly easy to understand process and procedure for filing a complaint if you felt the GAL on your case was or had malpracticed in his/ her role.
1 If the case was ongoing a complaint could be filed with the presiding judge. This was usually done as a Motion. The complaint would sit until after the case was decided.
2 If your case was over the next level was to file a complaint with the Head Judge.
While this process was flawed in so many ways it was a process which anyone could easily understand.
Post-September 1, 2015
Parents/ consumers of judicial services are faced with a process that is multi layered – and takes on the appearance of court room proceedings.
- If the case is ongoing a complaint is filed with the presiding judge. This is done with the filing of a Motion.
- If your case has been decided then filing a complaint is submitted to the Review Board through the Review Board’s Central Intake. A form must be filled out that is approved by the board.
a. Board Counsel receives the complaint
i) Investigates the complaint
ii) Determines whether the complaint falls under the jurisdiction of the rules and determines whether or not the alleged facts – if true – constitute misconduct by the GAL.
b. Board Counsel – Determines no misconduct
i) Complaint is dismissed
ii) Complainant has 21 days to see review of the decision
iii) See 2a. After the review has been completed if the Board Counsel determines there was no misconduct then complaint is dismissed and GAL is exonerated.
c. Board Counsel – Determines misconduct
i) Board Counsel refers case to Board Clerk for hearing before Review Board Panel
ii) Pre-hearing Procedures
1) Board Counsel files formal charges with Board Clerk
2) Board Clerk assigns complaint to 3 member Review Board
3) Respondent has 21 days to file written answer to Board Clerk and Board Counsel.
4) 21 days (no later than) in advance of hearing Board Clerk serves notice to Board Counsel and respondent of date and time of hearing. Written communication is sent to the complainant.
5) 14 days (at least) before hearing Board Clerk prepares for Board Counsel a statement of disciplinary sanction record.
6) Discovery – Takes place 21 days after respondent’s answer (see c.ii.3). Information is exchanged
1) Nature of the Proceedings – Chair of review Board Panel shall decide pre-hearing motions
2) Inability to Properly Defend – If the respondent claims to be incapacitated – Board Counsel may recommend that Chief Judge suspend GAL from roster pending determination
iv) Review Board Panel Decision
v) Appeal of Review Board Decision
The new process is daunting. In addition to the above there is the question of members being impartial. For instance there are several members rostered as Guardians ad litem and members of MEGALI (the trade organization for Guardians ad litem). MEGALI offers its members such services as a chat room, support and advice for GALs to name a few. Imagine submitting a complaint to the Board of a GAL who is a member of MEGALI. Is there any process in place which would/ will prevent the board members from discussing your complaint in the chat room of MEGALI? To our knowledge there is none. Your complaint could be decided even before it has been formally submitted.
“In America 40, 000 men and women every day”
(Don't Fear) The Reaper Blue Öyster Cult
Is this a better process than what we had? Or is this just a scary Halloween trick thrust upon divorcing families in the state of Maine?
MeGAL is a grassroots organization that is fighting for Family Court and Pro se reform. You may find us on Facebook or you can email us at MeGALalert@gmail.com.