Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Because my ex abused my son/ daughter, this stranger (GAL) is deemed a more capable parent than me"

Parents 'prescribed' court ordered anger management.

Is it any wonder then why any parent when faced with a similar situation would feel anger towards a custody situation they find themselves in? Court vendors (Guardians ad litem, Parental Coordinators and other court experts) have been “prescribing” courses in anger management for quite some time. One Senior GAL is on record for recommending this because one of the parents was “caustic and controlling”. Are these parent(s) who are given these “prescriptions” by court vendors really in need of anger management? Or is this the “prescribers” attempt to control (and need to punish) the parent(s) as a result of an unfriendly or hostile interpersonal situation? The courts and court vendors appear not to have given much thought or “prescriptive” precision in recommending “anger management”.

Anger is an emotion and is not recognized as a diagnosable form of mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Anger is not a primary condition but is a secondary emotion and is a part of many situations. The courts order and or prescribe “anger management” without the knowledge, skill or professional experience to know what they are doing with this alleged tool. The courts and their vendors(GALs, Parental Coordinators and Special Masters) are not clinicians trained to “prescribe” anything, they are reporters to the courts. In making these 'prescriptions' the courts and officers of the courts never describe the anger as being mild, severe, appropriate, inappropriate, controlled or out of control. If it is secondary to psychosis, drugs or alcohol or whether the anger is threatening the safety of others. In 'prescribing' therapy the courts and vendors of the courts do not set goals or an end point to 'anger management'.

So are the courts helping the parent(s) that are 'prescribed' treatment or are they delving into an area that they have no business being involved in? Causing more harm to the parent(s) in an attempt to control and manipulate them. It appears that the courts in 'prescribing' 'anger management' are doing nothing more than playing witch doctor in their pseudo-psychological, court 'prescribed' punishment for what is perceived as bad behavior. The reality is that the parent(s) are showing their frustration with a process that is so twisted and warped that it is devoid of any reality.

If you have fallen victim to court 'prescribed' therapy please contact us at for support or like us on Facebook for up to date information.

Your voice and opinion matters - please take a moment to take our anonymous survey on the state of Family Court [LINK].

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Speak Out - 2015 Survey on the State of our Family Courts

As a consumer of Judicial Services rarely have you ever been given the opportunity to provide feedback to your Family Court system on how they are doing. There is no exit survey on the experience you just had. As a result our Family Court system has no idea on how well (or badly) it is doing.

Until now.

We want to know what your experience has been as a consumer, lawyer, judge or Guardian ad litem (and other court vendors) within this system. The data collected will be used and provided to our representatives as well as the Judicial Branch and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The survey on the state of our Family Courts asks 13 questions anonymously and provides you an opportunity to expand on any and all of the topics.

In January 2016 we will be publishing the results of this survey.

2015 State of Family Courts [ LINK ]

Saturday, December 12, 2015

It is High Time for Court Reform - Current Process Invites Problems

In his recent "Maine Voices" opinion piece, Portland attorney, Peter Murray, has written a thoughtful, serious analysis of troubling symptoms coming from Maine's probate courts, along with a call for reform and his thoughts about how to do probate reform. In so doing, he appears to use as inspiration the recently reported symptoms of the Biddeford Probate Court and Judge Nadeau. It is encouraging for members of the public to hear a distinguished lawyer "thinking out loud" about any form of court reform, and Mr. Murray is to be congratulated for his courage and public spirited effort.  However, in our view, there is a great need for a much broader, more extensive public "conversation" about court reform, a conversation not limited to just probate courts, nor limited in participation to the "legal guild" talking to itself.

Our observation is that there are troubling symptoms pouring forth from other types of courts, as well that merit public conversation. We are aware of widespread, public dissatisfaction with Maine's family courts. There are also "noises" calling for reform of criminal justice systems. While not claiming expertise in these matters - to us (and many others) there appears to be considerable symptomatic "smoke" in these various court sub-systems. Is there also "fire"? In this connection, it should also be noted that Maine courts seem to get consistently low grades (F) in national surveys, and also that a numerical grade of 43% (out of 100%) is not a brilliant grade. These outside evaluations suggest that we have no cause to be smug about the functional quality of our Maine courts. What to do and how to do it is a conundrum. Who is to take charge?  Who is to investigate, what is the nature of the problem(s) and who is to take responsibility for systemic repairs or remodeling?

To many, there is a problem with simply correcting a symptom. As an approach, it often ignores other fault lines in a total system and is inadequate for any complex systemic problem-solving. There is also another problem-solving danger for court reform: that of attempted "solutions" to such problems getting trapped by the perspective of a particular professional culture. An outside evaluation of the entire system and how it is working for client users, the public, is needed. We would ask the decidedly, populist question: who owns the court system (probate and otherwise)? For whose benefit are they working?  How do taxpayers fit into making the change-decisions involved in court reform? Many people today will feel that a "guild knows best" approach is elitist, exclusionary and wrong. These comments are not intended to be disrespectful of Mr. Murray. As we move forward, there will be more and more populist questions asked by a consumer-oriented public that is used to the open systems of media.  Paternalistic, professional answers by themselves will not suffice.

In this regard, Mr. Murray's remark that voting invites "problems for judges", comes across as distinctly exclusionary. With all due respect, it is "tone deaf" for populist times. No question but voting for judges does invite problems. The "root" problem he proposes to avoid is called "democracy". Democracy is a messy business. However, many would say: so is the current process admired by Murray for the selection of district and superior court judges. It operates below the public's radar:  Behind closed doors, oligarchic bar grandees select judicial nominees, these are then privately sold to the governor and then rubber-stamped by the legislature that is presented a near 'fait accompli' the tidal movement of which is difficult (nearly impossible) to reverse. The current judicial appointment process doesn't inspire awe or respect in the public who "consume" court service. The potential for cronyism and patronage in the current opaque process is nearly unlimited.

We would suggest to Mr. Murray et al that there is a serious need for an in-depth look at the total court system, that there is a need for a thoughtful, careful analysis by outside consultants who are experienced in advising on the rehabilitation and repair of large government systems. Some of the consulting resources of a Harvard Business School might come to mind- just as an example. To us, Mr. Murray appears to be prescribing a "band- aid" to cover probate courts. The public wants and deserves much more.

Mr. Murray has made a brave beginning to a much needed court reform "conversation" in "Maine Voices" of the PPH.  For this he deserves our thanks. However, this "conversation" needs to continue and expand bringing in those "civilians" who use (and pay for the courts) while being denied the input of normal ownership. Those "who pay the piper" ought to have something to say about the "tunes" that get played. We all - "civilians" and legal professionals alike - need technical help from out of state consultants in how best to get our arms around the problem and how to set direction for the best interests of the public. 

We'd sincerely ask that the Portland Press Herald continue this much needed "conversation" about Maine court reform.

MeGAL has been working towards reforming Family Court vendors (Guardians ad litem and the use of 'court experts') as well as Family Courts. We can be contacted at or finding us on Facebook.

Maine received an ( F ) recently in many aspects of our state government. Regarding Judicial Accountability Maine received a score of 43 ( F ). This is not the first time Maine has received an ( F ). For further information about Maine and other states follow this [ LINK ].

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Judicial Branch - Your Complaint has been filed -

The question is will it be filed between "It sucks to be you" and "We really don't care what you think"? Or will they give it the attention you feel it deserves?

In researching complaints and the complaint process you should be aware that very few consumers of judicial services are successful. Out of thousands of complaints that we have seen those who have had any success can be counted on one hand. Set your expectations low – very low.

There are things which you can do to make your complaint stand out and have some bearing on the quality assurance process.

In talking with consumers of judicial services about why there is something wrong with their case I often hear every detail – in detail and how it relates to them. It is like they have a machine gun and just unloaded the clip. They feel the courts should know everything. The courts do not need to be presented with everything. Why? In telling the courts everything you are also showing your hand to the person you are filing the complaint on. In the end you have nothing left to play when it will count.

Keep it short and to the point – you are playing by their rules and it is their game. You need to be able to relate to the way the courts think and talk. Writing a 20 – 30 page complaint about the lies and abuse you went through in story form will fall on deaf ears. I can tell you from personal experience that it is hard to read through and make sense of what someone is complaining about in this format. The first complaint I filed with the judge about the Guardian ad litem (GAL) was in this format. Looking back at what I wrote – it was terrible – even though the points being made were valid then and still are. On the other hand the second complaint to the courts and the one to the licensing board were written in a way that could be understood by the person(s) reading it. It was short – maybe three pages or so and they referenced statutes, laws and/ or rules and why the GAL had malpracticed as it related.

Another issue is a sense of urgency in filing a complaint. Gotta have it in tomorrow! You have time. As the SOS band sang “Take your time do it right”. Time is on your side and use it to your advantage. Write your complaint then return a day or two later – reread it. Read it out loud - you will pick up on awkward lines and thoughts. Have a family member read it or someone you trust. The more eyes that  see it and offer an opinion the better for you in making your complaint understood.

In filing a complaint you are providing the judicial branch the quality control which their system lacks. Keep in mind that there is a high probability that your complaint will go nowhere. With that being said it will be part of the record and can be used at some point in the future when the courts become more consumer oriented as opposed to the current mind set of stakeholder oriented.

One other thing – while we tend to think in terms of our reality – 21st century mindset on consumer issues and relations. Our courts are woefully behind the times lagging behind society by decades and in some cases centuries. It is also a closed group with its own lingo and customs which can be frustrating to no end. Part of their process is keeping issues compartmentalized. Don't. Let others know what it is that you are complaining about. Educate your representatives before filing. Educate your family and friends but do it with grace not as a child. In letting others know what your complaint is about it becomes harder for the courts to sweep the issue under a rug.

MeGAL is a grassroots organization trying to bring sanity to an insane system. We can be reached through email at or finding us on Facebook.