New York Divorce Reform The Shame of New York

16Dec/140

Who Do New York Divorce Judges Work For?

I've been speaking with a few people in miserable divorce proceedings and one commonality between all cases I speak with is a grumpy, angry judges.   At the root of most divorce industry rip offs is Judges who's loyalty to the Divorce Industry supersedes their responsibility to the voters who elected them (in New York) and the tax payers who pay their salaries.

Rude judges are gold mines for the Divorce Industry. I speak with so many frustrated, honest parents who simply can't afford an attorney and have simple issues that see their cases blow up by the scalding of a grumpy judge who won't even listen.  Rather than try to sort through issues, grumpy judges demand that tax payers spend tens or hundreds of thousands on the Divorce Industry rather than try to solve simple matters without attorneys.   I speak to people who prepare for weeks with their attorneys and convince themselves that they have air-tight arguments only to find their lawyers blasted by rude judges and sent out of the court with nothing accomplished in the court date.  Think of the gift the grumpy judge just handed out.  First of all they got a big ego boost by being able to yell without response, then they toss you out before they have to do a minute of work then your lawyer bills you for the court appearance and preparation that has to be done ALL OVER AGAIN.

One of the funniest examples I heard was from a friend in White Plains Supreme Court.  A motion was being presented by a powerful attorney in White Plains but when the Judge reviewed the documents there were hand written remarks based on pre-court discussions. The Judge told the powerful attorney that she had enough staff to have the document typed and adjourned until the attorney retyped the document.   The powerful attorney put on a great show in her pink Christian Louboutin pumps and demanded that the Judge reconsider but it was too late.   Great show by the attorney but total bull shit.  The angry pink-pumped lawyer billed my friend $500 an hour for the re-type, adjournment and travel time.   By being a complete asshole the Judge bought the powerful attorney three or four new pairs of hot shoes while the child who raised the abuse allegation never had their case heard after lawyer money ran out.

Angry Judges who adjourn at the last minute cost the citizens using the courts tens of thousands of dollars on each adjournment.  Judges who take children from pro se litigants and torment parents in closed door court rooms cost uncountable damage to children and families.

One of funniest things I hear is they mythology that judges hate people who make more money than them.  I know plenty of people in Westchester who make more than the 140k a Supreme Court judge makes and somehow this income inequality upsets judges to such a degree that they are justified to any abhorrent behavior.   Countless lawyers have told me not to argue modifications because I make more money than a Judge.  Somehow this is grounds for a judge to become a total jerk to a taxpayer.  Mind you that I didn't seek election to get my job and I can be fired tomorrow while Judges are never fired in New York and are voted to 10 year terms.

The reason that Judges can torment citizens rather than help them in New York at least is because of lack of supervision.  Elected judges hand out hundreds of thousands or millions of fees to a small group of attorneys, experts and guardians and there's not a single entity in New York that reviews the fee assignments and business dealings of Judges and their assistants.  The administrative judges who run the local New York courts have no right to monitor the court room demeanor or procedures of divorce or family law cases and the only people who have the authority to monitor a judges behavior is the Judicial Conduct Commission. The JCC is staffed by volunteer judges and has no funds for proactive enforcement.  So in other works a Judge can be a total jerk in court and be a blatant employment agent for the Divorce Industry and no regulatory authority will every know or care.

This is why my advice to everyone is stay the hell out of court.  You never have an argument of a combative jerk of a judge won't let you speak.  You'll never win a case if a Judge decides to be angry at you if you make more money than them.

So I'll close with a question; Who do you New York Family and Supreme Court Matrimony Judges work for?  Taxpayers or the divorce industry?   Where should an elected Judges responsibility lay?   Taxpayers or the divorce industry?    Should the fee awards of elected judges be counted and monitored?  Should judges demeanor be monitored in civil court, where there's no constitutional protections of due process and no jury?

1Nov/140

Tax Payer Accountability, New York Style

The Divorce Industry of New York is immune to any scrutiny at any level of  government or law enforcement.  I maintain it's one of the most disgusting examples of a joint criminal venture between a state and a private industry that you can find in the USA.   Any unwitting victim that walks into a New York Divorce Industry fraudster could lose everything they have based on trickery, unethical business practices and fear tactics.   Elected Judges help the system along by creating hostile courtrooms that bully taxpayers and intentionally aid the corrupt divorce industry by prolonging matters, adjourning cases at the last minute and favoring insider attorneys.

New York turns a blind eye to the financial ripoff schemes of the Divorce Industry by establishing volunteer, self-enforced ethics committees that rely on a part-time staff to review the business practices of the Divorce Industry.  Judges and Lawyers are only accountable to taxpayer funded, secretive ethics committees while court experts and the judges administrative staff, who carry on the day to day corrupt activities have no accountability to anyone.  Elected Judges order tremendous fees for their friends in both family and supreme court.  An elected judge can easily order $200,000 fees for a single person in a single divorce case with no questions asked.   However, this situation is exacerbated in the Family Court system.

In the Family Court system elected judges not only court order massive fees to experts and attorneys, but they also assign taxpayer funded attorneys to poor New York families via the 18b program.   I analyzed the 18b assignment patterns in White Plains Family Court and as I've reported extensively in my blog, 80% of the 1028 assignments in Q42013 went to about 30 attorneys while about 65 attorneys shared 20% of the assignments.   The top attorneys were appointed over 70 cases while over 20 attorneys had fewer than 2 assigned 18b cases.  Something seemed odd to me with such a top heavy assignment pattern.  After more research it came as no surprise that the attorneys who receive the most 18b case assignments also have the most retained cases as well.

I was watching the highlights of the arraignment of Hannah Graham's alleged murderer and the Judge was livid about the idea of the same attorney representing the accused in two cases.  The Judge said there was no way that the attorney could do an adequate job in both cases.  Now juxtapose this reaction against the status quo in New York.  In Virginia a judge is so concerned about the rights of a predatory killer that he demands the attorney not overbook himself, but in a New York Family Court, where the lives of children hang in limbo, our elected Judges are quite comfortable assigning cases to attorneys with over 100 active cases.  There are over 100 attorneys on the 18b roster for White Plains Family Court yet the interest of poor families is put behind the interests of judicial favors to powerful attorneys.

When I did my accounting of the 18b system for one quarter it was clear that New York does it's best to obscure any traces of crimes of this industry.  In my view I thought I had a story .   When elected judges are handing out over 4 millions of dollars in 18b fees, in one quarter alone,  to about 30 lawyers while about 65 attorneys split less than a million in fees I thought that this top-heavy assignment patter would raise some interest.  Nope.  It's all good in New York.  We are all good if our elected judges are handing out millions of tax payer dollars to a small group of attorneys with no supervision or accountability of the level of service provided.   We have bidding processes in every aspect of government, but in this little fantasy land in Family Court money flows freely with no questions asked from elected officials to a small group of insiders.

The only accountability for the 18b program is a report that shows the expenditures filed by the County Executive.  I've asked County Executive Astorino's office multiple times for the 18b expenditure report to see if my calculations would be in line with actual expenditures.   I wrote more than a few times that Astorino had violated the law because he didn't file these reports but then I learned about FOIL.  No way was Astorino's office going to be helpful to an ordinary Joe like me so I finally filed a FOIL request to see his 18b expenditure report.   What I found is illustrative of my point that New York lets the fraud of the Divorce Industry persist by simply sticking it's head in the ground and not looking.

Astorino's reports show that each year Westchester County taxpayers are paying about $18,000,000 to fund the 18b program.   However, there's no breakdown of Family vs. Criminal court, no tally of which attorneys receive the money and no report of the efficacy of their legal services.  I submitted further requests to get the detail of the reports but was advised that the scant reports that I've attached are all the accounting New York requires.   Astorino submits a top-line number and that's the end, no questions asked.  With money so tight in Westchester County it's great to see $18mil of taxpayer money going to the local legal industry with no accountability whatsoever - every year.

Review Rob Astorino's 18B Reports Here - Westchester County 2010 18B reportWestchester County 2011 18b reportWestchester County 2012 18b reportWestchester County 2013 18b report

So as I began, I'm shutting this blog down soon.  It's a huge time suck, it hasn't changed a thing and it's earned me a few lawsuit threats and strange investigations.  I want to pursue other blogging interests so this will be the last post for a long time.  As always I urge any victim of the divorce industry to file a complaint with the US Justice Department in your region.

Filed under: 18B Abuse, Pro Se No Comments
25Sep/140

Why the predatory Divorce Industry of New York wil never reform.

Like me, many of the readers of this blog want to stop the corruption and predatory business practices come to an end.  No one likes being bilked for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, not to mention suffering through life-shattering stress, simply because they need to use the tax payer funded divorce and family courts of New York.  No one wants their children and/or businesses to be used as tools of extortion by the predatory divorce industry of New York.  No one wants to be bullied and emotionally tortured by mean judges in court rooms with no juries.  No one wants to see tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of lawyer fees flushed down the toilet when a collusive legal secretary for a judge works in cahoots with a court insider to cancel a court date at the last minute.  However, this predatory behavior will continue forever because this is the accepted business practice in New York.

I've written hundreds of blog posts, filed complaints with ethics committees, encouraged others to do so and tried to get the attention of the press to draw light to the abuses of this predatory industry all to no avail.  Simply put, no one who could help give a shit about it.  It's easy to write off all the victims of this predatory industry as wackos or hysterical.  It's easy to listen to the hollow arguments of the Divorce Industry and nod your head as very rich fraudsters speak in calm legalize to explain a predatory system.

So here's yet another concrete example of the fact that divorce reform doesn't matter to anyone who could help.  I recently wrote letters to lohud.com, our local paper in White Plains to see if they would report on the 18b abuses I've reported on my blog.  Crickets.  One of the largest tax frauds in New York is simply not interesting.  Here's the letter:

Mary Dolan

News Director

Lohud.com

CC: Lee Higgins

Investigations

David McKay Wilson

Tax Watchdog

September 15, 2014

Dear Mary, Lee and David,

CE Rob Astorino is becoming increasingly brash in his criticism of Gov. Cuomo on ethics but CE Astorino is grossly negligent in his own backyard in one very serious abuse of the taxpayer money – the 18b legal representation system. The 18b system provides taxpayer funded legal assistance in Family Court to poor families and children.   The only accountability for how this money is spent according to the 18b law is via accounting that the County Executive is required to file by the 18b law. In my research County Executive Astorino has never filed an 18b accounting report for White Plains Family Court. I’ve made repeated verbal and written requests to Astorino’s office for this report yet they fail to point to the location of the report or disclose it’s content.

Why does this matter? This matters because over $100 million in legal fees are handed out by elected judges in White Plains Family Court every year to a very small group of court insiders. In my analysis of Q42013 Family Court 18b assignments in White Plains 80% of the 1028 active 18b cases were assigned to only 38 attorneys generating over $41mil in legal fees while 65 attorneys shared only 178 cases worth less than $900,000 in legal fees. This is a very alarming top-heavy case assignment pattern and as a tax payer funding this top-heavy assignment I’m outraged that Astorino will not do his job as required by law to account for 18b spending.

NO OTHER elected officials in Westchester County has the power to hand so much federal and local tax money directly to a small group of professionals with no questions asked as Family Court judges can do. There are no tests to determine of the top 38 attorneys are providing good service to the poor parents and children they represent and there’s no review of the effectiveness of the representation they receive.   Why are poor families being pushed to a small group of attorney, many of whom have over 100 active full-rate and 18b divorce cases simultaneously while there are 24 attorneys registered in the 18b program who have only a single 18b litigant assigned to them? The top 10 18b attorneys had 458 active 18b cases while the bottom 50 attorneys had 106 18b litigants. I run a divorce reform blog and it’s no surprise to me that the top 18b attorneys are the most powerful in Westchester Family Court and the attorneys I hear the most complaints about.

Before County Executive Astorino goes around criticizing Gov. Cuomo on ethics, which he deserves, Astorino has to clean up the filth in his own jurisdiction. While there are many complaints about the NY Divorce Industry, this is one area where concrete proof shows that elected officials are favoring a small group of professionals and showering them with millions of taxpayer dollars. Astorino has power by the 18b laws to question how this money is being spent and attack the corruption that operates openly in the Family Court of White Plains.   Astorino is negligent by abdicating his responsibility to file and publishing an accounting of the 18b assignments by our elected judges in White Plains Family Court. These reports shed light on the immense tax payer handouts that court insiders receive from elected judges and are a glaring symbol of the corruption that so many families suffer in the White Plains Family and Matrimony Court System.

12Sep/140

What if Ray Race was getting divorced in his old home town?

Watching Ray Rice's life come apart due to his own stupidity I can't help thinking of all the parents in New York who lose access to their children forever because of the mere allegation of abuse.  In New York, and according to many, in New Jersey and Connecticut, the mere allegation of an ill-temper can cause a parent to be banned from their parents completely, without any supporting evidence whatsoever.   If Ray Rice were going through a divorce in his home town of New Rochelle and his wife had a powerful attorney he undoubtedly would be banned from seeing his children or at least be required to use humiliating supervision at a rate of $150 an hour.

If Ray's wife simply claimed she was hit or the child was hit, even without video, he could face the penalty of not seeing his kids ever again.  Of course even no-job Ray Rice has enough money to fight and would be able equalize the playing field in some regards but many parents can't afford to fight temporary rulings that ban a parent from their child with no due process in preliminary hearings.  On the other hand, Ray Rice and others like him with lots of money for the right attorneys could easily have their spouse banned from their children with the right attorney with nothing but unproven allegations.  There are so many hands to feed in a NY contested divorce including open-handed charlatan 'forensic psychologist' earning court-ordered rates exceeding $350 an hour into the mix, visitation supervisors, legal guardians, attorneys, experts, etc. that kids become pawns if ripoffs.

There is no absolute right to earn the money that Ray Rice earned as a great player and his own mistakes have cost him the privilege of an NFL career, despite his abilities - yet he's still a parent.  Sadly though, there is no right to be a parent in New York and and  unproven allegations can cost children their parents for the rest of their lives, even if they keep their jobs.

Luck for Ray Rice and his daughter that he's not in a New York Divorce.

7Sep/140

The Bradley Amendment – The Rockefeller Laws of Divorce

The Rockefeller Drug Laws blindly handed out jail sentences of 15 years to life to anyone in New York convicted of selling more than 2 ounces of cocaine, marijuana and opiates.  While this law seemed like a good idea in the seventies it ended up ballooning the prison population of New York and costing tax payers millions of dollars to incarcerate so many people.  Over time these New York laws were repealed and scaled back but not before ruining the lives of many people rotting away in jails for no good reason.   These laws destroyed the lives of many who made small mistakes and posed no real threat to society by applying a one-size-fits-all punishment regardless of circumstance.

In this regard, the Bradley Amendment is the same as the Rockefeller Laws since the BA created a one-size-fits-all punishment to anyone who builds up child or spousal support debt over $1,500.  The Bradley Amendment seemed like a great idea, who doesn't want children supported by parents?  The Bradley Amendment attempted to fill the gaps between different state laws to create a uniform penal code for support offenders.   The Bradley Amendment federalized divorce and gave local courts unprecedented powers as divorce debt became a federal debt that is enforced beyond the grave and makes debt immutable for any reason.  Unlike the Rockefeller Laws which at least had constitutional protections for offenders, there are no constitutional protections for divorce.  In fact, the Bradley Amendment removes due process explicitly by removing any right of appeal and judicial discretion.    States that don't participate in these networks will be denied federal grants from HHS, which makes up a huge part of many states budgets.

The Bradley Amendment mandated a nationwide computer network so that parents can be tracked all over the country.  Punishments of the BA include 65% wage garnishment, jail, destroyed credit, tax refund garnishment, loss of professional and drivers licenses and much more.   These punishments follow parents past the grave and, regardless of circumstance, can never be changed.  A parent who becomes ill with cancer and loses income is treated the same as the parent who hides income and refuses to pay support.  A parent who loses their job for any reason is treated the same as a parent who chooses to disappear and avoid their responsibilities.  Even a parent who is taken hostage in Iraq is treated the same as a parent who chooses to stop working rather than pay.

Since the matrimony and family courts of the USA don't have constitutional protections many of the proceedings that lead a parent to a state of arrears are unfair and without due process.   Since each state funds child support courts differently and have different laws for support modifications it's often impossible to get modifications in support in a timely fashion.  For example, in New York a support order can't be changed for any reason within three years of a final verdict.   Support arrears can start in the preliminary components of a divorce trial which can last years.   For example, if a divorce proceeding takes 2 years until final verdict and support was set in the first hearing, which is common, it could take five years until a parent in New York can even ask for a modification.  If a parent loses their job or business during the divorce, which is pretty common, by the time the five year mark comes and adjustment is allowed, it may be too late and tens or hundreds of thousands of arrears can be accrued which translates into financial jail that can last to the end of a parents life, and beyond.

It's time to take another look at the Rockefeller Laws of Divorce, the Bradley Amendment.  Not every parent who accrues arrears is bad and not all support rulings are just.  This federal legislation from 1986 was sponsored by the payment providers who benefit from big computer collection networks.  Just as the Rockefeller Laws failed New York and ruined lives with uniform punishments that remove judicial discretion the Bradley Amendment is destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of responsible parents who are hard working and honest.  It's time to repeal or at least re-examine the one-size-fits-all approach of the Bradley Amendment.

4Sep/142

Another Victim of the Divorce Industry Takes Their Life

Sad to report another parent who lost everything to the corrupt Divorce Industry of White Plains and with no hope left of seeing his family decided to take his life.    This parent lost everything he had in a sham trial about ten years ago.   The  divorce lawyer of the living spouse took 100% of the proceeds of their house closing while the family still owed hundreds of thousands in legal fees.

There had been no criminality, no child abuse of any type and besides the fighting of two intransigent, frustrated parents there was no history of police intervention.   One parent hired a classic 'insider' white plains attorney while one parent couldn't afford a full-time attorney.   The parent without the attorney lost complete access to their two young children.  No calls, no emails, no letters, no birthday wishes, no supervised visitation, no contact - at all.  This was a parent that was deeply committed to the lives of the children and was involved in all aspects of school and family life.  However, in the court of White Plains, especially for pro se litigants, evidence and humanity have no voice.    Those who pay the right people win and those who can't pay lose everything.

Imagine losing all of your assets, access to two young children for the rest of your life and then, after taking your own life, the children aren't even aware because one parent has completely erased the other.   This is NOT what federal and state funded courts should be doing in the US.  Sadly the US Constitution doesn't apply in New York matrimony courts so there's no civil rights protections, ethics enforcement or scrutiny of the elected officials running these corrupt courts.   Preet Bharara, the FBI and DOC are rushing to find the culprit for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo release but when it comes to defending families and fighting the corrupt Divorce Industry of New York the DOJ and Preet Bharara don't think it's worth the bother.   There are no big payoffs like they get when fighting with banks, there's no headlines to be grabbed when fighting celebrity nude photo releases and there's no panache in defending the civil rights of children and middle-class families.

Hopefully this terrible loss of life and destruction of a family will lead to faster action on attacking the corruption of public officials that's so prevalent in New York Matrimony Courts (family and supreme).

 

2Sep/140

FBI races to fight naked pictures but ignores Families.

Always amazing how fast the Justice Department and FBI will rush to get involved in headlines while ignoring rampant corruption in the Divorce Industry of New York. Four years since I've been reporting on judicial corruption and poor ethics policing of the predatory Divorce Industry with clear data points there's no response from Preet Bharara or the FBI. Jennifer Lawrence has a booty shot on the Internet and the FBI races in.

As I first reported years ago, New York grants a license to steal to the Divorce Industry backed up with volunteer, part time ethics and twisted laws that place the Judges, Experts, Attorneys and their staff who comprise the system above the law. We elect our Judges in NY and no other elected official has the ability to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars directly to a small unregulated group of insiders like Family Court judges have via the 18b system. Signs of abuse are rampant yet this massive abuse of taxpayer money doesn't make the radar of tough guy Preet Bharara.

Someone posts a naked picture of a celebrity and Preet calls in the troops but when a family is financially and emotionally ruined by a predatory industry you can hear a pin drop.

26Jul/140

Rick Astorino calls Governor Cuomo what?

As reported July 23rd, 2014,  Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino called Gov. Cuomo the most corrupt Governor in New York history.   My message to Rob Astorino is before criticizing, do your part to clean up the corruption that operates openly in the family and supreme courts in White Plains.  If Astorino wants to prove that he can do a better job than Cuomo at attacking corruption of elected officials then now's the time to act.  County Executive Astorino has a very unique and powerful role to fight corruption of elected judges yet he's been abdicating his responsibility, and breaking the law, by not doing his part.

Astorino can help fight corruption in the NY Family Court by filing 18b expenditure reports as required by law and making them available to tax payers for review.  The biggest fingerprint of corruption that I've found in the Westcehster County Divorce Industry is an extremely top-heavy assignment pattern of court-appointed 18b counsel in family court.  In my analysis there were 1028 active 18b cases in Westchester Family Court in Q42013.  850 of these cases were assigned to 38 connected attorneys while 61 attorneys shared 178 cases.   The top 38 attorneys are assigned so many cases that they could never do a good job or the families they are supposedly helping with average handling 28 cases and the top handling over 70 cases.  Moreover, the top 38 18b attorneys are splitting over 45mil in tax payer funded legal, expert and expense fees handed directly to them by elected judges while the bottom 61 attorneys split $890,000 in tax payer funded fees.  18b costs are buried in the UCS budget and there's virtually no accounting of the money spent in family court if Astorino doesn't do his job. 

No other elected official in Westchester County can hand out so much money directly to close friends with no supervision as an elected Family Court judge!  The only check and balance for the 18b program is the accounting that CE Rob Astorino is supposed to provide, by law, to the tax payers of New York.  However, Mr. Bigmouth Astorino has refused repeated requests for these reports.  This is a clear violation of law and contributes heavily to the corruption that grips the contested divorce industry.

The fundamental  reason that the divorce industry can rip off families and destroy the lives of children in Westchester as a business model is simple - no one with authority is watching and holding judges, court staff, attorneys and experts accountable to even basic levels of ethical business practices - including Astorino.  Rob Astorino could easily shed light on corruption in the Westcehster familly court by publishing 18b expenditure reports and he must act to prove that he's better than Governor Cuomo.

Before Astorino runs around criticizing Cuomo he should fight corruption in his own back yard.

24Jun/140

New York Adds More Family Court Judges – Why this is a bad idea.

It's a sad day in New York when one of the biggest wastes of taxpayer money, the Family Court System, is expanded without any fundamental changes.   In many counties in New York the Family Court System is more a platform to fleece unwitting families than anything else.  The Family Courts if New York are too close to the corrupt Divorce Industry and too opaque for regulators to notice.

No other elected official in New York besides a Family Court judge has the unilateral power to directly hand out millions of taxpayer dollars directly to a small group of insiders with no accountability whatsoever. In Q42013 in White Plains alone there were over 1000 active 18b cases equating to about $41million in tax payer funds being directly handed to insider divorce attorneys able to grab this money .  My simple research from publicly available records shows that 80% of these 18b cases were handed to 36 attorneys equating to $40mil in billings while 66 attorneys split 200 cases totaling about $1mil in legal fees. 80% of the 1028 18b cases in q4 2013 were handed to just 36 attorneys

To rephrase our Family Court Judges in White Plains handed out over $40mil in fees to 36 court insiders with no questions asked and no accountability.  Certainly poor families don't have a say in the counsel they are assigned and since there's no data or performance tracking they couldn't make an informed decision if they were allowed to. What poor mother facing the loss of her children to foster care would choose an attorney with over 200 litigants when the 18b roster has qualified attorneys with only 20 or 10 active cases?

County Executive Rob Astorino is required to account for 18b money by law and has not filed 18b reports. Huge chunks of taxpayer money are being handed out by our family court judge and taxpayers need accountability for how this money is being spent.

It's no surprise that the attorneys who receive the most 18b cases are also the most active in White Plains for retained cases.  The problems with scheduling in Family Court arise from insider attorneys representing over 100 litigants simultaneously, many taxpayer funded, not because we don't have enough judges. .  It's mathematically impossible to efficiently schedule attorneys who have over 50 active litigants, many before the same few judges.  Scheduling conflicts are impossible to avoid in the current top heavy 18b assignment system in Family Court.

New York would have to add over 1000 Family Court judges to make a difference in the system given the current inefficiencies in the 18b assignment systems.  25 FC judges does nothing but increase the velocity of taxpayer handouts via the 18b system.  This money would've been much better spent on pro se education programs, since over 30% of all litigants in White Plains FC are Pro Se, 18b assignment reforms or enhanced ethics enforcement for the sitting family court judges today.    So many families are destroyed by mean, abrupt and collusive Family Court Judges who collude to fleece families with no recourse for the families who are ripped off.

Adding more FC judges with increasing transparency in the Family Court system is simply irresponsible.

19May/140

Tax Payer Fraud in White Plains Family Court 18b Program

One of the most disgusting taxpayer frauds going in New York
is the 18b legal representation program in White Plains Family Court.  The 18b program provides free legal assistance at a judge or magistrates discretion to parents and children - sounds like a great idea for sure.   The problem is that what actually transpires is a money grab by court insiders. Attorneys with over 100 active cases in family court are being handed the vast majority of 18b cases, 80%, while many qualified attorneys have only a single 18b case.

No other elected official in New York besides a Family Court Judge or Magistrate has the power to literally hand out millions of taxpayer dollars directly to a small group of people with no accountability.  Imagine if each New York Senator could hand out $4,000 to anyone they see fit with no questions asked. Well that's what Judges and Magistrates do in Family Court in New York under the 18b program.

I've analyzed the 18b expenditures of White Plains Family Court for Q4 2013 and here's some incredible facts I dug up:

1.  The top 36 18b attorneys in White Plains Family Court represented 825 18b litigants with an average of 23 cases while the bottom 65 attorneys in the 18b program had 203 18b cases combined, with each attorney averaging around 4 18b cases .   Red flag?? Are insiders getting favoritism or are these top 36 attorneys the best in the 18b program?

2. The top 36 18b attorneys are entitled to about $3.3million in direct taxpayer paid legal fees (plus expenses) while the bottom 65 18b attorneys split about $810,000 in taxpayer paid legal fees.    Seem a little top heavy?

3.  Westchester County Attorney Robert Francis Meehan had about 980 active cases in WP Family Court alone in Q4 2013.  Are poor families completely screwed in WPFC with this type of representation? While unrelated to the 18b program it's a staggering number for his office.

4.  There's not a single publicly available measurement of the effectiveness of 18b representation.  One powerful White Plains Attorney   had  over 70 18b cases in my sample period equating to $288,000 in taxpayer paid legal fees, plus expenses.  Is this attorney such a better advocate for poor families than the 50 18b attorneys with 5 or fewer 18b litigants?  Never met the guy and he may be the best lawyer ever but in my sample period he had over 150 active cases , including 72 18b clients. Is this the best choice for poor families?

5. There's not a single public accounting of the 18b handouts in  WPFC.  Money is handed out to whoever a judge or magistrate likes, regardless of their MEASURED effectiveness.   An attorney who shows up unprepared and is able get last minute adjournments time and time again can easily consume $4000 in legal fees, the 18b maximum, plus expenses, without doing a single thing for the families they represent.

6. County Executive Rob Astorino is in violation of New York Law and hasn't filed 18b expenditure reports for WPFC as required by the 18b program.  Since no one is counting how much money our elected judges and magistrates are handing out and there's no accountability for the performance of the attorneys who receive this money the 18b is nothing but a slush fund for court favorites.

7.  Poor families are getting screwed in the current 18b system in White Plains Family Court and a few connected attorneys are getting rich off us taxpayers with no questions asked.

8. The top 20 18b attorneys in WPFC represented over 1500 litigants including over 680 18b litigants  in my sample period.  Do you think the top 20 18b attorneys spend a few minutes in court each day?  Perhaps they are in court every day all day?  Is it possible that the most familiar faces are getting the most money from our elected judges and magistrates and not the best attorneys?

9. Of approximately 7000 litigants in the court, 1028 were pro se. There are many datapoints to show that pro se are screwed worse than anyone in our family courts. How can a State allow a court to be predatory to 20% of litigants in the court? If 20% of litigants can't afford lawyers shouldn't New York at least start to track what's happening to pro se in our family courts?

The Family Court system of New York has all kinds of legal nonsense to try to legitimize the horrible things they do in the name of money.  Reading the application to be an 18b attorney in Family Court is certainly interesting but to see how this program is implemented it's clear that this program has no accountability.  To have such a self-important application when judges and magistrates are simply handing millions of our tax money to the same over-worked attorneys time and time again is morally reprehensible.

Ripping of taxpayers is the run-of-the-mill in New York politics and I can't see why anyone in the DoJ would even care about it, but I can't imagine that there's no one that cares about what's happening to poor families in the middle of the system.   Clearly poor families aren't getting effective representation in this system because it's physically impossible for a small firm to represent over a hundred litigants at one time, especially when some are paying $450 an hour and some are taxpayer funded at a far lower hourly rate.

I have data to substantiate my numbers and anyone with Excel and a few hours on their hands could replicate my data.  Taxpayers are being ripped off in the White Plains Family Court 18b program and it's time for some accountability to the taxpayers for the vast sums we are paying for the 18b program. We need transparency, accountability and perhaps graft investigations to end this system.  Let's hope it comes soon.