Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law?The appearance they will be out of a job as well as their brethren.
March 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law?
Sir James Munby’s guidelines are being breached
6:24PM GMT 02 Nov 2013
It is a basic principle of British justice that no one should be sent to prison except in open court, so that their name can be known and why they have been jailed. But this has long been one of those basic principles that are routinely ignored in our ultra-secretive family courts.
In a parliamentary answer given by Harriet Harman in 2006, she said that some 200 people had been jailed in secret by the family courts in 2005, and that her government now wanted to open up the courts to ensure that this scandal did not continue. Last May and July, following publicity given to a case in which a woman was secretly sentenced to 12 months in prison for rescuing her father from a care home, where he was being mistreated, the new head of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, issued guidelines reminding his fellow judges that this was against the law, as clearly restated in the Rules of the Supreme Court as long ago as 1965.
In recent years, I have come across many cases of judges continuing to break the law in this way. In one instance, a father who had already lost his two teenage sons because they were held to be “at risk of emotional abuse” from their mother, from whom he had separated, was before a judge who wanted to order the removal for adoption of his third son, aged four. When the father left the courtroom in disgust, the judge ordered his arrest for contempt.
While he was in custody, his new partner, still at home and fearful that the little boy might also be removed, panicked and took him to a secret destination. The judge summoned the father back to court to ask where they had gone. Since his partner’s flight was on the spur of the moment, the father explained, truthfully, that he had no idea. Refusing to believe him, the judge angrily sentenced him in secret to 12 months. The police tracked down the woman, who was convicted of kidnapping the boy but let off with a caution. The father was released after six months in prison, but given a penal notice forbidding him to have any further contact with his boys, all now in foster care, whom he had brought up and who loved him.
In another recent case, a couple whose son had repeatedly run away from a care home were secretly jailed for not disclosing his whereabouts. In October, months after Munby issued his guidelines, three judges in the Court of Appeal upheld their sentencing. Also last month, John Hemming MP protested that the sentencing of a woman to 28 days by another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Theis, was yet another example of “secret justice” in breach of Munby’s guidelines and the law, because, although her court had been technically “open” for the brief period of the sentencing, the case was not advertised and no one was allowed to know the woman’s name or why she was imprisoned.
It seems that Lord Justice Munby has a battle on his hands to persuade judges that it is their duty to obey the law of the land.
March 10, 2014 § 1 Comment
Opinion: Family Court System Expensive, Inefficient And Abusive
On Feb. 26, there was a historic vote at the state Capitol in which family court Judge Leslie Olear was only narrowly reappointed by the legislature. This vote came after public protests which gained media attention and after legislators were called into action to address the serious problems in our state’s family courts. After this vote, some members of the legal community understandably rushed to defend Judge Olear, claiming that the votes against her were politically motivated and only in response to complaints being expressed by a “small number of family court critics.” This is simply not the case.
This vote came after scores of parents, adult children of divorce, grandparents, attorneys and business executives testified until the early morning hours in front of a task force in January, after more than 630 parents signed a petition demanding legislative reforms of the family court’s broken guardian ad litem (GAL) system, and after legislators were inundated with thousands of complaints about our family courts from parents, as consumers of the family court system’s services.
In an op-ed piece submitted to the Law Tribune, Kimberly Knox, president of the Connecticut Bar Association, fell back on well-worn industry rhetoric trying to blame the actual victims in this scenario — the thousands of parents and families who have been financially devastated and unfairly denied access to their children solely due the problems in our family courts. The vote on Feb. 26 was not about a judge and what was in her best interests. The vote was about parents, children, families, citizens and taxpayers and what is in our best interests. The protests and the vote reflected how expensive, ineffective, abusive and damaging our family courts have become.
Unfortunately, Olear did not come before the legislature with a stellar record. In 2011, the state Supreme Court overturned a custody case ruling made by Olear where Chief Justice Chase Rogers expressed strong constitutional concerns. The opinions of the family law attorneys who testified in favor of Olear have a vested interest in doing so. The question should be asked how many parents and adult children of divorce testified – those impacted by the judge’s rulings. It is quite unfortunate that these voices and opinions are seldom solicited or heard.
What legislators heard (and responded to) were complaints about children being arbitrarily separated from their parents and parents forced to pay for supervised visitations to see them. Parents being jailed for not being able to pay outlandish GAL fees. Parents being jailed for not being able to pay outlandish GAL feesThis same scenario has become the operational norm in our family courts, not one only associated with a small number of “high-conflict cases.”
The majority of the family courts’ time is consumed by the growing number of 3,400 or so custody cases it hears. It is the underlying politics and misguided policies of the family court itself which created this crisis – and one which is harming parents, children and families.
The vote signaled that citizens are no longer tolerating the status quo and expecting far better of our legislature and judiciary. It reflects a historic shift in attitudes and approaches towards family law happening not just here in Connecticut, but nationally and internationally as well. Connecticut is characteristically late to the game.
Many states have already enacted sweeping changes in their family laws and made shared parenting a standard. Maine reformed its GAL system last summer, following states such as Maryland, which eliminated GAL immunity. The chief justice of New York State and a task force in Delaware both proposed opening their family courts in order to “eliminate the atmosphere of corruption.” The chief justice of Canada called the country’s family courts “beyond the point of simple repair” and a Royal Commission is examining ways to replace their system with “something else.”
Connecticut’s family courts are in a state of operational dysfunction solely due to a self-inflicted legal monstrosity it created and of epic proportions. We have the largest Practice Book in the country, as our judiciary has essentially been allowed to write self-serving legislation.
None of the people in the fast growing family court reform movement deny that custody cases can be difficult. This is not the issue. The issue is that in this state, we have allowed a very small group of family law attorneys and GALs to directly and adversely impact family court operations in a manner designed to personally enrich them at the expense of parents and families. This has created a situation where 85 percent of the cases before the court involve a pro se party, as no one can afford the agenda being promoted by these individuals. To be clear, this group does not represent mainstream legal thought in this state and many attorneys are increasingly speaking out about this.
Our state’s GALs are almost exclusively family law attorneys who enjoy complete immunity and been granted quasi-judicial authority – this is not common elsewhere in the country. Our GALs are not held to any standard of performance or excellence and they are not licensed or monitored. They are allowed to bill with impunity with the expected results. GALs in this state legally trump a parent’s right to be a parent as soon as they are assigned to case. These individuals are allowed to make life-altering decisions directly impacting children and families as judges routinely outsource their judicial authority to them – for the entire life of a case and child. This is misguided, unethical and simply wrong.
Too many of our judges operate with the misguided belief that parents are to blame and inherently flawed, invalid, and incapable of parenting solely because they have dared to approach the Court for help or have a dispute with the other parent. Instead of making effective rulings, even simple cases are allowed to drag on for months and years as children and families suffer and parents are literally bankrupted in process. Concerns for their clients expressed to the family court by well-meaning attorneys and professionals, fall of deaf ears as these people are shut out of the system.
Along with many others, I attended and watched the recent hearings of a task force assigned to study the costs of custody cases. Ms. Knox did not. This task force failed its legislative mandate as it was chaired by two “full-time GALs” who blocked every effort by other task force members to collect and analyze meaningful financial cost and operational metrics data related to custody cases. This may explain why many legislators have little faith in what the task force ultimately recommended.
In summary, the legal industry and judiciary need to recognize that the world has changed. As with many other movements, social media has brought together thousands of parents, progressive lawyers, former judges, concerned mental health professionals, business executives and legislators on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, uniting us in a common cause. A cause which cuts across all political lines, all social and economic classes, all genders and race classifications.
We have three branches of government because when one of these branches goes astray and operates in a manner which violates the Constitution and ignores basic civil and due process rights, the other two must step in to take correction action. Having no other recourse, citizens have properly turned to the legislature and the legislature is responding – which mirrors what has happened in many other states.
Parents who have suffered for years due to the problems in our family courts are the actual experts and our voices must be heard – not just those of the legal industry. This is the very best way to run a government and court system – for the people, of the people, and by the people.
Peter T. Szymonik is a portfolio manager at UnitedHealthcare, where he works as a liaison between business technology executives and the legal and compliance teams. He is a former member of the executive board at Cummings & Lockwood and has served as the state chair of the Council of Litigation Management. He is also the father of two young sons and has been working with state legislators on family court reform for many years.
March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Nebraska high court again rules father’s consent necessary for adoption
For a second time, the Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that a father who was intentionally misled about the birth of his child can stop the baby’s adoption.
In a ruling Friday, the state’s high court said the consent of the father, listed in court documents as Jeremiah J., is required by state law for the child to be put up for adoption. Further, the high court said the child’s mother, identified as Dakota D., failed to prove Jeremiah met any of the exceptions for consent because she did not show he had abandoned her or the child or that he would be an unfit parent.
Jeremiah learned in June 2011 that Dakota, his ex-girlfriend, was pregnant. Five months later, he was contacted by an adoption agency caseworker who told him he had been identified as the baby’s father and that Dakota planned to put the baby, due Feb. 18, 2012, up for adoption, according to court documents. Jeremiah told the caseworker he did not want that, then tried many times to reach Dakota, but she did not return his calls, records say.
The child was born Feb. 9, but Jeremiah was not told of the birth. He contacted Dakota on Feb. 13, but she did not tell him the baby had been born. Jeremiah also repeatedly called the hospital and caseworker to try to learn of the birth, but they refused to tell him, citing privacy policies. The adoption was put on hold after Jeremiah filed his appeal.
Dakota later testified in court that she did not tell Jeremiah of the child’s birth because she did not want him to know about it during the five days he had to object to the adoption.
A Hall County court ruled in the mother’s favor, saying Jeremiah could have hired an attorney sooner, but the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed that ruling last year, noting the mother’s deception. The lower court then ruled in Jeremiah’s favor, and Dakota appealed, arguing he is not a fit parent because he has an unstable work history, has used drugs and has a criminal record, among other things.
She also argued that Jeremiah neglected the child after she was born, and did not provide financial support for her or the child.
But the state’s high court rejected those arguments Friday, saying Jeremiah’s criminal record consisted of misdemeanor convictions as a teen. The court also noted that Jeremiah has denied any drug use, and that he has a stable job paying more than $12 an hour.
“And in any event, low income or an unstable job history does not alone establish parental unfitness,” Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Michael McCormack wrote for the court.
The high court also rejected arguments that Jeremiah did not provide financial support.
“Dakota clearly does not want to have Jeremiah in the life of the child, and she chose to not provide Jeremiah with a fair opportunity to offer financial support,” McCormack wrote.
Jeremiah’s attorney, Mark Porto of Grand Island, said the next step will be to file a paternity action in an effort to establish custody and visitation issues.
“He’s thrilled that he’ll be able to be a part of his daughter’s life,” Porto said.
An attorney for Dakota did not immediately return a message left Friday.
Weller children file lawsuit against state DSHS look for scrib link great pleading to educate for future ….
March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Weller children file lawsuit against state DSHS
Attorney says agency was told of peril many times before acting
Buy this photoSandra and Jeffrey Weller enter Judge Barbara Johnson’s courtroom for sentencing in Clark County Superior Court March 20, 2013. The Wellers were convicted of imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. Sandra received a sentence of 20 years, and Jeffrey received 21 years. (Steven Lane/The Columbian)
Five children who were abused by their parents in Vancouver have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the state, alleging that the Department of Social and Health Services failed to adequately respond to dozens of complaints about their welfare over an eight-year period.
Jeffrey and Sandra Weller of Vancouver each were sentenced March 20, 2013, to two decades in prison for imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. A Clark County jury found Sandra Weller guilty of nine separate counts related to the twins’ abuse; Jeffrey Weller was found guilty of 13, related to both the twins’ abuse and assaults against the couple’s biological children.
The children’s Seattle attorney, David Moody, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the children Friday in Clark Superior Court.
One of the children’s teachers alone warned the DSHS a dozen times about possible abuse of the children and urged that they be removed from the Weller home, Moody said.
“He has documents he kept,” Moody said Friday. “He has voice-mail messages. There are a number of educators from the local school district who voiced serious warnings to DSHS over a period of years.”
“Those concerns were ignored every time,” he said.
The lawsuit follows a $54 million tort claim the children filed Dec. 18 with the DSHS. Tort claims give public agencies a 60-day notice of a lawsuit and allows them an opportunity to settle a case before litigation.
In this case, the children received no response, Moody said.
John Wiley, a DSHS spokesman, said the agency often does respond to and resolve tort claims prior to litigation.
“However, this case is complex, involving numerous plaintiffs alleging negligence based on activities that occurred over a number of years. As such, it requires more than the statutory 60 days to analyze and investigate the merits of the plaintiffs’ claim,” Wiley said. “It would not be in the taxpayers’ best interest to quickly make a settlement offer on a $54 million claim without a reasonable and diligent investigation into that claim by the state.”
Wiley said the agency has no other comment on the lawsuit at this time.
“We’ll let the court decide the merits of the case,” he said. “We don’t comment on the merits of the case.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the DSHS failed to obtain Sandra Weller’s Child Protective Services history in California, where she adopted the twins with her ex-husband. There were seven referrals about Sandra Weller’s possibly abusing and neglecting the twins and some other foster children who were in her care between 1998 and 2002, the lawsuit states. At one point, the state of California revoked her foster care license and took the twins into protective custody, according to the lawsuit.
Some of the complaints that Washington caseworkers allegedly ignored included allegations of threats against one of the twins’ lives and withholding food as punishment, according to the lawsuit.
For example, in April 2004, the DSHS received a complaint that Sandra Weller had told the 8-year-old female twin that, “If I had a knife right now, you would be gone,” according to the lawsuit. A month later, the agency received another complaint that the twins were “so stressed they are literally pulling their hair out,” the lawsuit states.
In September 2004, there was a complaint that the Wellers locked food cabinets in the house and locked the children in their room, which had an alarm on the door, the lawsuit says.
DSHS social workers visited the Weller home in October 2004. On Nov. 1, 2004, the social worker concluded that the allegations of negligent treatment or maltreatment were “unfounded,” according to the lawsuit.
The DSHS finally removed the children from the Weller home Oct. 7, 2011, after one of the twins left a note about their abuse at her therapist’s office.
“Please, help,” the twin wrote. “Behind the laundry room door is a big wooden stick covered in blood. They use it on me and (my brother) … If you leave without us, we’ll all ran (sic) away.”
The twins were substantially underweight and malnourished when they were taken into state custody, according to testimony at the Wellers’ trial.
They also testified at trial that Jeffrey Weller, often at the instruction of Sandra, regularly beat them with a 42-inch-long piece of scrap lumber. Police investigators found it stained with blood.
Moody, the children’s attorney, specializes in civil litigation against the DSHS related to the abuse of children or vulnerable adults. He said he won the largest jury verdict award against the DSHS — $17.8 million — in February 2000 in a vulnerable adult abuse case in Pierce County in which he demonstrated that the DSHS was negligent by inadequately investigating abuse allegations.
March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Copyright, Child Custody and Cocaine in the County Courts
June 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
Copyright, Child Custody and Cocaine in the County Courts
Once upon a time there was The Steele Law Firm LLC, IL SOS records show it was formed by a 2006 University of Minnesota Law school graduate, John Lawrence Steele Jr. Esq. Billed as a family law firm in 2008 -2011, the Chicago, IL practice, the Steele Law Firm LLC was fighting custody battles and purported pornography pirates. Yes, budding family law attorney, John Steele was devoted to saving children and the tranny porn industry! He started filing suits against 1000′s of John Does, dubbed himself the “pirate slayer” and set out to make cool millions! Despite John Steele having a fine ring to it for a porn name, perhaps the Steele Law Firm wasn’t catchy enough for copyright trolling; seems Steele decided to try on some other names: Media Copyright Group, Steele Hansmeier, Prenda, Anti-Piracy Law Group and the Chicago Family Law Group LLC. Maybe it still wasn’t quite the right fit because in a rather complex web of “stories”, Steele claims to have retired, sold his family law firm to Peter R. Olson of the Peter Olson Law Firm and blogger extraordinaire Solo in Chicago.
Craigslist, where the finest lawyers come to but and sell law firms!
Now, according to a Solo in Chicago blog post by Glenview, IL native and Domestic Relations attorney, Peter R. Olson Esq. – in October 2008 he was checking out Craigslist, looking for God knows what; and he found a law firm for sale. By golly, it just happened to belong to his buddy, John the Pirate Slayer Steele! Despite the fact that Peter Olson had his own law firm and his Des Plaines condo was being foreclosed on and he was being sued by multiple creditors the purchase of a family law firm associated with pornography must have struck him as a solid investment.
No offense to Craigslist! Craigslist is great! Everyone knows that you can get some wonderful and affordable items on Craigslist: intimate encounters, a dorm fridge, slightly used slipcovers, re-homed lawn gnome, law firms – you know, really important stuff! A quick look at the Cook County docket shows that Mr. Steele seems to have dropped all but one or two of his special family clients in the summer / fall of 2011. But who needs clients when you’ve got a *found it on Craigslist* law firm to control! There is still no clarity about who actually owns the Steele Law Firm turned Chicago Family Law Group. Court documents show over a year of changing names, attorney, and firms numbers and stories with no end or truth in sight. Surely, NO ONE has ANY suspicion that they are laundering copyright money through that family law firm. No, doubt the Criminal Investigations Unit of the IRS won’t have any questions about Steele or Olson’s explanation about THAT firm. <cough*cough> Especially after that deposition about not paying any taxes! Nevis? St. Kitts? Offshore accounts? Trusts? Really? Come on guys who owns the CFLG?
So what happens when lawyers go rogue?
Despite Steele’s claims of retirement and the Prenda was solely owned by attorney, Paul A Duffy, Steele seemed to be popping up all over the country at all sorts of court dates. As Steele showed up in court room after court room, some other things seemed to follow. Yes, it was an outcry from many of extortion, lies, belligerent pleadings, threats in the hallway, improper service, questionable rulings in questionable places, and altered states. Claims of identity theft, forgeries, and out and out lies. It seems everyone affiliated with Steele stands accused of being involved with fraud. In time it seems most of the country caught on to the tricks and were no longer going to be fooled by troll games. On May 6th 2013, the Honorable Otis D Wright II issued an order for sanctions against Steele and some his minions in the form of 81k, a referral to the IRS criminal investigations unit and United States Attorney Office and the state and federal bar associations. Further, Judge Wright used words like “moral turpitude” as he described Steele, his minions and their business model. Still Cook County and St. Claire County seemed to be very willing to indulge the same behaviors that other federal court judges felt to be possibly criminal in nature. Oh the men of Prenda fought hard to sue the internet or anyone that dared to speak out about their experiences with Prenda or Steele and they fought to do it in St. Claire County. Gosh, hate much?
Rut-Ro-Raggy! The Feds want to talk to ya!
But it seems that there is a little problem, the Feds are in St. Clair County. Moreover, it seems that a buddy of Steele, James Fogarty was dealing some coke to some judges, Cook and Christ. Christ died of an overdose of cocaine allegedly provided to him by Fogarty. It looks that the drugs and mess don’t begin or end there or with those three people or that court system.
Bloomberg News and fightcopyrighttrolls.com both touched on the Steele – Forgarty connection or at least what they knew about at the time. But is there more to that story? Read the news of the impact that cocaine had in the St. Clair court cases, is it any different in Will County or Cook County?
There were a lot of questionable rulings and the cocaine / dealer connection now explains much of how those rulings came to be in St. Clair Co. but what about the other counties?
Great! We’ve got judges on drugs making rulings for their dealer and Steele is sending dealers to do his dirty work.
How can the average litigant stand a chance of receiving any sort of justice when they are up against attorneys that are allowed to practice despite the overwhelming evidence of their abuse and misuse of the legal process. Seriously, what sort of world do we live in where it’s okay for a lawyer to send a drug dealer to someones home to “serve them” legal papers. Papers which are now really under-fire because a tsunami of evidence has surfaced to show that the “pirate slayer” is really the honeypot pusher. Could it get anymore disgusting?
How can anyone get a shot at justice when the judge is indebted to their dealer; to keep them supplied with cocaine and heroine and to keep their drug problem a secret? It’s an environment where blackmail and extortion flourish and the innocent suffer the worst consequences. St. Clair news has already reported on how rulings were made in favor of the dealer. If you look at Cook County and Will County, is any different? When judges and lawyers get caught up in child porn, trafficking, drugs and dirty money – it’s clear that rulings are made based on vices, not the law.
What about the children in family court? Is this why so many rulings appear to defy both man and God’s law? If it’s not because of a vice, why are so many people crying out with nearly identical stories about their children being sent to live with their abuser? How does the court justify cutting off all contact with the protective parent? Now that the court has embarrassed “Parental Alienation”, how come they always seem to accuse the non-alienating parent of alienation? What is seen frequently is that the alienating parent pretends to be the “friendly parent” and accuses the other parent of PAS. The court then places the child with the REAL PA parent on the grounds that that parent will foster a relationship with the child and the other parent and then the REAL PA parent joins the court in cutting off all contact with the other parent akin to a termination of parental rights. Why isn’t THAT parental alienation? Why are children so frequently turned over to abusers despite the overwhelming evidence? There are cases where the parent is clearly involved in drugs, child pornography, sexual abuse, and other harmful behaviors and the judges punish the parent that offers the court proof. It almost seems like the more evidence the protective parent has, the worse the ruling. The parents with no evidence of abuse and false allegations win. The parents with pictures of the other parent watching child porn on the computer and witnesses of physical abuse lose. Good parents are disposable. Unlike coke and porn, good people and good parents just don’t seem to have much value anymore.
Looking at the fall out in St. Clair, the news lists some rulings that were not made because of the law or the merits of the case, the rulings were made based on vices and personal issues. This has to be eradicated. The very purpose of the legal system is to enforce the law for the betterment of society. When lawyers are allowed to use forged documents, extortion and break the law – justice is denied. Evil prevails. When judges are beholden to their dealers, the law becomes useless. The best pleading or the most skilled lawyer won’t help the case, because it’s decided on a drug deal, not the law. We might as just cancel court and send the judges home, because noting good comes of this situation.
It’s great that the FBI is investigating St. Clair, but they need to come take a look at why Judge Pornlito was allowed to sit on the bench in Will County watching porn on the county computer on the tax payer dollars while making decisions about the futures of children and families. They need to look at why the Cook County Judge(s) in the Lucy Vega case doesn’t want to see the evidence of the father allegedly watching child porn. They need to look at why so many complaints about Due Process and abusive and erratic behavior are posted on the Robing Room about Judge Raul Vega in room 3001 at the Daley Center. They need to look at why Child Representative Jerry S. Goldberg used someone with a history of domestic violence to provide “professional supervision” between alleged abusers and their children. How about the DOJ coming in to take a look at the blatant ADA violations?
It wouldn’t take a big fancy sting. It just takes sitting in a few court rooms for a few days and taking a look at the records. (The complete record)
A check on the ARDC web site shows that John Steele, Peter Olson, and Paul Duffy are still free to practice law today. The judges of Will and Cook County go unchecked.
WHERE ARE THE CHARGES?
We need more Judge Wright’s – to judge right. We need eyes on the court and people to speak out about it and not shut up until the problems are fixed. We need the FBI to look at the similarities in judgments in Will, Cook and St. Clair Co. – maybe that won’t be the only similarity they find. The common threads might be right in front of their eyes. Really, right in front of your eyes.
Thank you for visiting today’s blog posting Willcountyprose @ http://willcountyprose.wordpress.com/
Be sure to come back and read the extra special mid week blog post.
Special thanks to the good guys – doing good work. I like your suit. You do this country proud.
Thanks to the judges and attorneys that are doing a stellar job. Your services are deeply appreciated.
Justice will out!
Read more about Judge Otis D. Wright II and his outstanding command of the law and justice:
Read more about Lucy Vega’s battle to save her son:
Read more about Prenda and his purported porn piracy shakedown:
Read more about the man child rep, Jerry Goldberg used to provide professional supervision between parents and children:
Read more about the rulings St. Clair Co, IL judges made in favor of their drug dealer:
Read more about the suspected collusion between Prenda attorneys and opposing counsel in Cook co and St. Clair co.:
*Be sure to read the “Agreed Orders” linked in the FCT web site. Look familiar?
Read more about what happened to The Steele Law Firm LLC and Chicago Family Law Group LLC:
Read more about how “SJD” (Sophisticated Jane Doe) and Die Troll Die successfully kicked off a movement to fight back against abuse of the legal process:
View the interactive timeline, map and cartoons of the evolution of IMHO fraud:
The timeline has some links to some documents that you might not have expected. Over 360 & growing!
March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Family Court tightens procedures after breach of sensitive juvenile case files
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
A security breach of sensitive information from sealed juvenile delinquent cases at Family Court has left administrators scrambling to notify the people involved and tighten procedures for dealing with those kinds of cases.
The breach occurred in late January when a Family Court contractor, Linda Martinez-Webb, lost a USB flash drive holding 100 confidential juvenile case files, many involving allegations of sex crimes or abuse, said Steve Grierson, who oversees District Court and Family Court.
Martinez-Webb, a retired longtime Family Court clerk, was hired in January to redact the names and personal identification information of juveniles and other people connected to the cases and then copy the cases onto flash drives for a researcher studying recidivism for the court, Grierson said.
Roughly 50 cases on the missing thumb drive had not been redacted, Grierson said.
Martinez-Webb, who retired as a supervisor in the clerk’s office, told court officials that she didn’t know how she lost the flash drive and felt terrible about what had happened. She insisted that she only worked on the case files on Family Court computers.
On Feb. 12, a man Grierson called a good Samaritan informed the district attorney’s office that he had found the drive at a Walgreen’s drug store and turned it in to authorities.
Court officials didn’t learn until after the flash drive was found that it had been taken out of the courthouse at 600 N. Pecos Rd.
Officials terminated their contract with Martinez-Webb shortly after she reported the drive missing. She was being paid up to $10,000 under the contract to redact and copy 1,000 cases for the study, but had only gotten to 200 cases.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli said the man who found the flash drive told the prosecutors that it contained information on juvenile sex offenders, and he asked for a reward.
The man was told there was no reward and that he should give the flash drive to Henderson police, Lalli said.
Eventually, the drive wound up at the district attorney’s juvenile division, where it remains today under lock and key.
Brigid Duffy, who runs the juvenile division, looked at the thumb drive and recognized that the cases were part of the recidivism study and informed Family Court Judge William Voy, who is overseeing the study. Then, Lalli broke the news to Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti.
Grierson said he was “surprised” and “upset” when he first learned about the breach.
It is the first time something like this has occurred at Family Court, and he stressed that sealed records are safely maintained by the court.
“This is a human error,” he said. “It’s not somebody tunneling into our network through a firewall.”
Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti added: “We have no reason to believe it was anything more than an accidental loss of information, but this should not have been out of the building.”
Court officials have since assigned administrative staff to finish purging the juvenile files of names for the study, and Grierson said he’s working on a written policy to deal with handling future research and sensitive Family Court files.
By state law, court officials have to notify anyone whose identity could have been compromised by the breach in a timely manner.
The notifications, however, can’t be done if they interfere with a criminal investigation.
The district attorney’s office isn’t conducting a criminal investigation into the breach, but Grierson said he wants Las Vegas police to look at the case, interview the man who found the flash drive, and wrap up any loose ends before officials make notifications.
Officials were trying to determine whether anyone other than the good Samaritan saw the files.
Both Grierson and Lalli declined to identify the man.