One of the principal reasons that the New York Divorce Industry has a license to steal is because the Divorce Industry of New York is completely insular with the rubber-stamp approval of the NY legislature. As per the New York State Constitution lawyers, elected judges and their staffs self-regulate ethics. Only lawyers set the business ethics rules for lawyers and only volunteer lawyers enforce business ethics rules in New York. Only judges and lawyers set the rules for judges and only volunteer judges enforce judicial ethics. The New York legislature enables the system by allowing insiders to create complicated rules for the system. There is no tax-money for proactive enforcement of business ethics for attorneys and judges so contested divorce is a buyer-beware market where victims must initiate business ethics inquiries – which fail most all the time.
It’s easy to rant, but I’ve come across a real-world example recently in New York Senate bill A-7645 that clearly illustrates my point. This legislation takes on the much needed topic of spousal maintenance reform in New York. Great idea and I’m not going to get into the technicalities of the bill because frankly, it’s ridiculously complicated and there are many blog posts about it from actual lawyers. Neil Kahn has an excellent blog post on this topic, as usual, for anyone interested in the details and you can read the text of the bill here.
What I take issue with is the insular nature of the bill that once again allows the predatory divorce industry to write its own rules without involvement from outsiders. The bill was initiated by a group of divorce attorneys and judges (New York’s Chief Administrative Judge, The Honorable A. Gail Prudenti, upon the recommendation of her Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee. In developing this measure, Justice Jeffrey Sunshine, chair of the Advisory Committee) and was passed with the blessing Gov. Cuomo, an attorney himself. Sheldon Silver wrote the last spousal maintenance reform bill in 2010 with Hon. Jonathan Lippman and we know about their ethical problems. My question is why are there only divorce industry insiders involved in the reform effort? Why not include other voices such as from parent’s rights groups, active scholars in the field, public interest groups or others who could expand the conversation? It’s great that Governor Cuomo wants to reform spousal support by why does the conversation only includes attorneys and judges?
While the bill does offer potential relief for some cases it is also tremendously self-serving to the attorneys and judges who comprise the Divorce Industry. You most likely need to hire an actuary to figure out the complicated mathematical spousal support formulas accurately because it’s unlikely an attorney will compute the figures accurately. It’s even more unlikely that two attorneys will come to the same calculation or that a pro se litigant will be able to navigate these formulas. This bill is so complex you can be assured that attorneys fees will go through the roof arguing about the new formulas. A new breed of expert at $300-1000 per hour will be needed to compute the formulates, most likely one for each side! Then of course the new laws have to be tested in appeals which will lead to more costs.
Complication = Litigation = Attorneys and expert fees.
So the attorneys get a nice fee-raising mechanism with very complex formulas, what do judges get?
What blows me away about this bill is section three. This section illustrates how controlled chaos is used to drive up frivolous billings in this fraudulent industry. After laying out ridiculously complicated mathematical formulas that will most likely require an actuary to decipher section three allows judges to do whatever the fuck they want. This section allows the Judge to adjust the order when they feel the amount is ‘unjust’. Totally cool idea, but why in the fuck put victims though endless expensive legal fights when the judge can do whatever they want if they feel the math is unjust. Imagine the costs of appealing because a judge felt that math was unjust. How the fuck can you even quantify unjust math when the system itself is unjust? What happens when an insider attorney who’s paying off a judge asks a judge to change a support order because it’s ‘unjust’. Good luck appealing ‘unjust’!
Section three also allows bench orders for support to be issued which evidently is new. I have no idea if this is good or bad but anyone who hasn’t gone through the great New York Divorce Fraud couldn’t imagine the high costs of court orders in matrimony courts in New York. After a judicial decision In New York divorce judges don’t write their orders, attorneys write the orders based on transcripts at $6 a page or terse decision documents. Before a Judge gets the order to sign divorce attorneys write the orders and typically insert extra crap into the orders. Then the attorneys argue about it, submit it, change it, resubmit it, argue more and eventually the judge accepts the order and signs it months later. At $400-700 an simply writing down an a judges order after an decision can drive billings into the tens of thousands of dollars These fees are not expected by first-time litigants and are never disclosed as potential costs – buyer-beware.
I’ve spared you the mathematical details of this convoluted legislation but let’s just say its complexity is commensurate with the IRS tax code. Passing such complicated legislation in the federal government would hopefully be called out by opponents but in the broken political system of New York there are no outsiders involved so there are no dissenting voices. No other opinions count but those who benefit financially from the complexity this bill creates. We have no opposition in New York state government to the Divorce Industry and with the highest taxes in the country and a wealthy tax base there’s no end to complex government systems in New York.
Despite the noble intentions of this bill and the illustrious team that created it, this bill is a pile of complex crap that will only further the billings of the fraudulent Divorce Industry of New York. The license to steal continues.
As I end most blog posts I will point out that only intervention of the Justice Department will break up the Divorce Cartel of New York. Self-regulations isn’t working, volunteer ethics enforcement isn’t working, victim based ethics enforcement isn’t working either and New York legislature is a rubber-stamp for the industry. The Divorce Industry of New York bankrupts more families than any other corrupt industry and it does so with the collusion of elected judges. The damage that financial fraud of the NY Divorce Industry causes to children and parents can far exceed the emotional toll of divorce and can even lead to violence and loss of life. Literally billions of dollars are stolen from New York families by the predatory New York Divorce Industry and this complex bill is a clear example of how it’s done.
Where is Preet Bharara when it comes to the civil rights of New York families? We aren’t the financial industry with mega fees. We aren’t an in-vogue group that needs protections that can grab headlines. We don’t have civil rights of due process in New York civil courts. We aren’t dirt poor and we generally aren’t effected when we are mega rich – we are mostly middle class victims. In other words, super uncool. Wake up Preet to the fraud that’s going on around the corner from your federal court offices in White Plains and NYC.
I'm sickened by the Washington Post reporting on child support arrears accrued by convicted felons. I've been writing for years about the horrors of the Bradley Amendment and to see Eli Hager of the Marshall Project turn the horrors of our child support laws into an issue that effects criminals COMPLETELY distorts the picture. Shame on you Eli Hager for casting the problem of child support reform in this racist tone. Millions of responsible parents are in financial jails due to no fault of their own because of harsh child support laws yet your arrogant group only focuses on the slim-minority. Read the racist comments in the Post article and you'll see the vitriol that Hager tapped into.
Hager is someone who should be able to understand basic law but I haven't read such a load of crap by an educated person on this topic in quite some time. Hager is capitalizing on negative stereotypes of parents who are in support arrears to call attention to his political agenda. The VAST majority of parents with support arrears aren't criminals, just as the vast majority of people who fall behind on bills aren't criminals. It's amazing that Hager could even get this published with the negative stereotypes he promotes.
Even more mind boggling is how President Obama took up the rights of prisoners but refuses to look at the terrible situations the Bradley Amendment creates for ordinary Americans. Hager's own numbers show that the draconian Bradley Amendment is only collecting about 12% of arrears, yet it's ruining the financial lives of millions.
The only beneficiaries of the Bradley Amendment are the electronic payment networks. Both the Bradley Amendment and a follow-on, S.508 are sponsored by New Jersey senators. Why? Because Lautenberg (RIP) was CEO of ADP, one of the largest payroll processors in the world. Who's going to garnish all those paychecks after all? Look at the lobbying sponsors for S.508, they are payment providers. The Marshall Project should be asking why the people who build electronic enforcement systems are the ones driving legislation.
The child support arrears problems can't be solved with a mechanized one-size-fits-all solution as the Bradley Amendment built. It's a mystery why the Marshall Project resorted to exploiting racial stereotypes to advance this issue. The Marshall Project further stigmatized people in arrears and did a disservice to hard working parents, while making us all look like criminals. Regardless of Hager's background and position he is wrong on this issue. Child support reform should apply equally to ALL, not just criminals.
The Bradley Amendment applies equally to every non-custodial parent in the country. Period. If you are black, white, yellow, brown, orange, tattooed, striped, pink you are bound by the punishments of the Bradley Amendment if you owe more than $1500 in child support for any f'ing reason. Yes, jail is one of those reasons but other reasons can include being sick, losing your job, employment gaps, income gaps, being taken hostage, deploying to active duty, being a crime victim, getting into a car accident, death of a parent, or any other unforeseen or planned event you can imagine.
Hager, anyone who owes child support is governed by the same f'ing laws. It's not just criminals.
FINALLY!!! A case that gives me hope and should give all victims of divorce fraud inspiration. As the New York Law Journal reports - A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has levied a $317,000 sanction against a law firm and two of its partners in a matrimonial case, saying they made "misrepresentations and knowingly false statements to the court."
In this case the family members of one of the victims decided that they wanted to show the ex-wife a thing or two. The ex-husband didn't want to fight but the parents had money and they decided to fight. The parents paid the lawyer and the lawyer promised them blood. He rightly promised that he could make the wife's life a living nightmare and that he could do this because he knew everyone in the courts and could get what he wanted.
The problem here is that the attorney promised this to the parents who weren't his client. All the communications weren't confidential so they could be reviewed as evidence. For ONCE an elected Judge called out the scam and heavily sanctioned the law firm with a $317,000 penalty! Read the decision here: http://nylawyer.nylj.com/adgifs/decisions15/083115gesmer.pdf
God bless Judge Gesmer - she is part of the solution.
One of the central false premises of the New York Divorce Industry (NYDI) fraud of is that victims cause their own problems. The NYDI has the power to put any parent or child under tremendous duress with massive bills and dehumanizing, nonsensical court orders for no apparent reason and with no protections or speedy recourse for the victims. Once a victim is under duress the downward spiral begins. Under the broken microscope of the NYDI normal problems are stoked to become major crisis. For many, the end to the spiral is financial ruin and/or banishment from a child's life. Lives are forever changed because the NYDI has no legislated limits to the damage they can cause while using the victims behavior as their excuse.
While victims pay a tremendous price for perceived bad behavior the reality is the opposite for the NYDI. Rather than punishing bad behavior the NYDI handsomely rewards itself for the chaos it creates. Chaos churns billings, mistakes mean redo of motions that generates more billings, petty arguments driven by false hope of attorneys and collusive judges generate mega-cash as parents trash each other in meaningless tit-for-tat filings. Once the money runs out and families are destroyed the victims are generally in such a mess that they can't fight back and another example of the perfect fraud is in the books. Victims of nydi fraud pay a massive price for bad behavior while the NYDI, with no supervision or proactive disciplinary body, profits from the bad behavior they manufacture with duress.
The victims are the problem. Attorneys profit from chaos they create. Judges exacerbate chaos and billings by issuing capricious and demeaning orders that increase duress. Once a victim is stuck in the NYDI fraud there is no recourse and no escape without an immense price.
Cahn writes about a case in Putnam county presided by Judge Grossman where a parent is put in jail for 15 days for the crime of incredible frustration. As soon as I read the first paragraph the alarm bells went off in my head signaling a NYDI rip off and I had to dig deeper.
The Victim Is the Problem
The first victim blaming clue was the name calling and negative characterization that Cahn and the Judge invoke. As Cahn gleefully points out Judge Grossman charged the parents with 'acting like children' by throwing tantrums, name calling, nasty emails, etc. Judge Grossman and Cahn agree the father deserved to be in jail because he set a nasty example for their children with mean emails and fighting. Before I go on, stop and imagine a world where every married parent who set a bad example for their children is put in jail. Having a judge that will do this during a divorce is the wet-dream of the NYDI. Billings galore in the Chaos Bonanza.
So the stage is set. Judge Grossman says 'the parents should know better' since one is a cop and another a psychotherapist. Even Cahn, a casual observer can't help rubbing in that the parents are terrible people. Now that the stage is set the family can be ripped off with impunity by the NYDI.
Judge Grossman is careful to include loads of garbage emails in his ruling from expensive attorney filings to prove how 'terrible' the parents are. It's important that Judge Grossman shows that he's putting this parent, who is a policeman, in jail for good reason - he's frustrated and he's setting a really bad example.
No Consequences for Bad Behavior of Attorneys
What I find interesting is that after trashing the parents Judge Grossman comments about the disgusting behavior of the attorneys in the case. "Counsel for each of the parties has personalized the conflict to the point where they are incapable of communicating effectively beyond a litigating posture, to promote their clients' interests'.
Hold the Internet, did he just say what I think he said? Some cop who puts his life on the line everyday is being put in jail for cursing emails when the Judge admits that the attorneys are stoking the arguments? The Judge goes so far to say that the attorneys representation is so bad that it's ineffective yet they weren't sanctioned? A father goes to jail for bad behavior yet the bad behaving attorneys only get honorable mention in the ruling. They get to bill 1000% for their shoddy work and the problems they create while one parents goes to jail and the other is living in a basement apartment.
Arbitrary and dehumanizing judicial orders increase duress
The victims are the problem in this case and we see that the punishment for misbehaving victims (financial ruin and jail) are far worse than for misbehaving attorneys (huge billings, slap on the wrist). Now let's dig a little deeper and see if there's any reason that the 'people who should know better' are so frustrated. Here's where arbitrary rulings and abuse of judicial power come into play.
As I said, the NYDI thrives on making everyday situations into chaos with hyperbole and arbitrary moral standards. Things that happen regularly in married or non-litigating divorced couples can become major crimes under the broken microscope of a NYDI rip off scheme. Judges have unlimited power to impose any sanctions they deem fit and as we'll see in this case the consequences can be very bad, and in my view unconstitutional. It's not too difficult to imagine the frustration you would feel if you had to submit to an alcohol test anytime you wanted to see your child yet you had not committed any crime.
The supreme and family courts of New York aren't criminal courts. There is no guarantee of due process and there are no evidence standards. A Judge can arbitrarily set harsh punishments and demeaning conditions for any reason they choose. A judge can order demeaning supervised visitation at $250/hour, jail, wage garnishment, asset seizure, banishment for children, you name it, there is no limit. Overturning a Judicial decision is near impossible once you've been bankrupted by the initial proceedings. Even if a terrible ruling is undone years later the damage is done and there is no way to turn back the clockIn this case the Judge created absurd stipulations that no doubt increased the stress level of the parents.
According to Judge Grossman's ruling the Father had been 'under the influence of alcohol' for some visitations therefore the father had to submit to drug screening to see his child. The father wasn't arrested for DUI or similar offense, but the Judge allowed the mother to execute hair folical drug tests in order for father to see his child, "Twice, during the 180-day period, the father had tested positive for alcohol." Really? I could imagine this to be incredibly frustrating and driving my stress level sky-high and I'm not even involved. So if you bother to read Cahn's blog post and see the angry emails the father sent keep in mind the duress he was under. Think of how frustrated you may feel having paid over $10,000 in motions to get this result.
Every letter from the wife's attorney outlining nasty emails cost thousands of dollars at the typical rate of $450 an hour. Every response cost even more, and attorneys tend to advise clients to respond to every allegation. Remember that in the fucked up rules of New York custody each parent has to fight for full custody unless they can settle. The stakes are high which further increases the stress level for all involved.
This leads to the mind set of the mother. No doubt her attorney convinced her that her husband is some kind of monster and that she's doing the kids a disservice if she DOESN'T fight for full custody. As the angry emails point out the mother is having financial difficulties and living in a basement apartment. She's fighting for her survival in her mind. She's been put under as much duress as her husband and it's nearly impossible for either of them to act rationally in this frame of mind.
The perfect setting for a NYDI ripoff.
The victim is the cause of their own problems. Victims pay a massive price for their supposed shortcomings while the attorneys who exploit bad situations are heavily rewarded. Judges have unregulated powers to place tremendous duress on litigants and their families while NYDI fees can bankrupt a family. This cycle continues until the assets of a family are drained.
I've been writing different versions of the same blog post for 5 years now and I'm sad to say that I've done nothing to change the situation. This is a situation that will perpetuate forever until the Justice Department and Preet Bharara in particular begins criminal investigations into Judicial conduct in the matrimony and family courts of Westchester or another New York county in his district. There must also be an inquiry into the efficacy the attorney discipline system in New York. Without proactive ethics enforcement families who naively enter into the NYDI will become unwitting victims and pay tremendous costs.
It's been a while since I've written on this blog, but only because of normal rhythms of life. Every week I'm reminded by readers that what I wrote about the corrupt business practices of the New York Divorce Industry in 2010 and 2011 stands unchanged in 2015. Every day in divorce and family courts across the New York Metro area open corruption runs rampant.
Elected judges aren't working for the people that elected them but rather the political groups that got them on the ballot in the first place. This is where the NY Bar, a well funded and powerful lobbying machine, crosses the line from private industry and into elected politics, however without the accountability of elected officials. An elected Judge is only accountable to the secretive judicial conduct committee which is staffed by volunteers and ex-elected or politically appointed judges. The JCC can't supervise the courtroom behavior of a judge nor can administrative judges supervise and regulate the behavior of an elected judge in the courtroom.
With no accountability and billings for attorneys and experts that easily exceed $500 per hour elected judges surely understand the immense wealth they can generate for the attorneys who appear before them. A simple frivolous last minute cancellation can ring up over $10,000 for each party in wasted and new legal fees. Adjournment is just one example of how a Judge can help a friendly attorney jack up the fees and frustrate honest attorneys. Other methods include allowing unending frivolous argument, ignoring the rule of law, yelling, intimidating, threatening and bullying pro se and preclusion. There are many tactics a corrupt judge can use to take children from a poorly represented parent, bankrupt a family and damage the emotional health of families stuck In a corrupt courtroom yet victims have no protections. A child taken from a parent on false pretext can't due to get their childhood back. A family who's house was court ordered to an attorney to pay legal fees can't just rebuild a home.
There are laws against a contractor ballooning a bill based on initial estimate. Imagine a contractor that drove up to your house and slammed a wrecking ball through the middle of the structure without permission Now he comes to what's left of your front door with a bill thats more than the value of the house to fix the mess he made. This contractor would most likely end up in jail. However, a divorce attorney who does the same thing, analogously, gets an elected judge to court-order the assets of the family as compensatoon for the house he knocked down.
There is no New York politician who can fix the New York Divorce Industry. Most politicians in NY are members of the bar, including Cuomo and the NY Bar is too powerful to allow criminal investigations of politically connected judges and attorneys. Attorneys, like judges, also self regulate in secretive, part-volunteer, state-funded ethics committee. Based on New York Law only attorneys can regulate the business practice of divorce attorneys. Donald Trump will sooner call himself a moronic douchebag before attorneys will regulate their own business practices. Forget about proactive ethics monitoring though, it's entirely up to victims to prove they were treated unlawfully.
Only the Justice Department and Preert Bharara in particular can fight the judicial corruption that is common in the family and matrimony courts in the 9th, 2nd and surrounding NY judicial districts. Where there are families with assets there is a corrupt divorce industry waiting to victimize common family events.
So while I haven't written for a while I haven't forgotten. I'm reminded of judicial corruption every two weeks by a massive wage garnishment but I know others who have lost their children, mental health and even their lives to the corrupt NY Divorce Industry.
When a victim is going through the worst of their ordeal it's good to know that their experience isn't singular. It's all too common to be stressed to the limit by the unchecked powers that elected judges have. Based on the comments I recieve I'm glad to know that I've verbalized the frustration that many victims feel.
Thank you to all who read and comment on this blog. As always I encourage every victim to report their cases to the local civil rights division of the U.S. justice Department. Nothing will change without criminal prosecutions and that has to come from Preer Bharara and others like him.
Kudos to Jorge Fitz-Gibbons at Lohud.com for his article on tax fund abuses of the New York Divorce Industry, Court records shine light on tax-funded family court law guardians. Fitz-Gibbons focuses on lack of accountability in the system of taxpayer funded legal guardians and points out flagrant violations of New York law that costs tax payers millions of dollars a year.
Fitz-Gibbons asked Hon. Alan Scheinkman, Chief Administrative Judge of the 9th district of NY, important questions about the legal guardian assignment system and the responses illustrate a fundamental problem with the New York Divorce Industry - self regulation. Officials empowered to reform the predatory business practices of the Divorce Industry of New York don’t think anything is wrong with a system that bankrupts families and sucks up hundreds of millions of tax dollars with no checks and balances. New York lawmakers and judges don’t get it when their friends and family are living off of the broken system.
I’d like to focus on a quote from Hon. Scheinkman (directly copied):
Scheinkman said the public law guardian system is "significantly undervalued" with the $75 per hour cap, when privately paid attorneys charge between $400 and $500 per hour for the same matrimonial and family court work. .......
"But if they put in this time and they did the work, then I'm not sure what the issue is," Scheinkman said. "I'm not sure how you could get a better deal for the taxpayer. ... If you believe that it's important for children to be represented, wouldn't you want them to have really good folks and pay them a more competitive wage?"
First of all what data does Hon. Scheinkman have to evaluate the quality of a legal guardian's services? Does he have measurable criteria to quantify what constitutes a good or bad job by a legal guardian? Do clients of legal guardians submit reviews of their work? Is the work of legal guardians reviewed by peers to evaluate if children of divorce are getting the most effective representation? Is there an organization that monitors the work of legal guardians and judicial assignment practices in Westchester? If something is going wrong with legal guardians services what are the rights of children and parents to challenge the efficacy of the services?
I’ll save you the Google searches because there are no answers for any of these questions. There is no accountability for the work that legal guardians are appointed to do. They are appointed, they show up and they get paid by the hour with few strings attached until the case is disposed one way or another.
The concept of a legal guardian in New York is faulty to begin with. In the vast majority of cases the last thing a child of a contentious divorce needs is another attorney yet that is what judges order in the majority of divorce cases where custody hasn't been decided. Children are scared and confused in divorce, just as most parents are, and an unknown court-appointed lawyer calling children out of the blue does nothing to ease their minds. Any child is petrified when these strangers call or visit, if they even bother calling or visiting, and as attorneys they have little more than workshop training and instinct to provide support for children in these stressful situations. Of course there are extreme cases where a child may need independent legal advice but this is the exception and not the norm. Regardless of necessity, once a guardian is appointed their payment is court-ordered and they have very little actual legal work to do in the vast majority of cases.
In Scheinkmen's world New York State is getting a great value by paying a tax-payer funded legal guardian $75 an hour to do nothing when the attorney could be making over $400 an hour in private practice. Hon. Schemkmen diminishes $75 an hour but the reality is that many people would be quite happy with a $150,000 job which $75/hour translates to. Furthermore, attorneys volunteer to be legal guardians and only in rare cases will New York State pay $75/hour for a legal guardian. In most cases legal guardians are paid by parents and their rates are minimally $250 an hour. Even at $75 per hour taxpayer funded legal guardians are consuming tens of millions of tax dollars per year throughout NY State and there is no accounting of the fees paid privately to legal guardian. New York families are court-ordered to pay hundreds of millions a year to support the legal guardian system and it deserves scrutiny.
If a legal guardian consumes thousands of dollars of tax funds at $75 an hour, and does hardly anything but show up to court, is that really a value for New Yorkers just because the attorneys could’ve been paid more elsewhere? Clearly the answer is no, there is no value for taxpayer paying attorneys who have no real responsibilities, even at $75 an hour. Think of ‘supervisors’ in corrupt construction projects that have no responsibilities and are hired to sit around just because they have connections. This is exactly what the legal guardian system mirrors since the guardians do scant legal work in the vast amount of cases they work on, unless showing up is defined as work.
Fitz-Gibbons does an excellent job pointing out abuses of taxpayer money in the legal guardian system and his reporting illustrates how disconnected the insiders in the divorce industry are from the families they victimize. As I’ve maintained since I started this blog in 2011, only outside forces can fix the corrupt NY Divorce Industry. Self-regulation of attorneys and judges isn’t working and there’s just too much tax-payer and private money being ripped off by Divorce Industry to ignore.
Thank You Mr. Fitz-Gibbons for being part of the solution, all of us advocating for reform of the business practices of the Divorce Industry of New York commend your focus on this important issue.
Watching the Sheldon Silver corruption developments I'm thinking how the principles of corruption apply to New York matrimony judges. In the case of Sheldon Silver it's alleged he was paid by a law firm to steer business to the firm and influence judicial decisions while shutting down ethics inquiries. In the case of matrimony judges (matrimony is inclusive of family and supreme courts), the corrupt flow of money is reversed as money flows from elected officials to a small industry with no accountability to taxpayers and no proactive ethical supervision to worry about.
The crux of divorce industry corruption stems from massive sums that elected judges award to powerful attorneys and experts, and allow powerful firms and experts to squander in bogus proceedings. There are myriad active mechanisms for an elected judge to hand out money in contested divorce including fee awards, 18b assignments, legal guardianship appointments, custody evaluator appointments, financial evaluator appointments and more. Besides these active handout mechanisms a matrimony judge has passive tactics at their disposal to bloat legal bills such as last minute cancellations, bullying tactics that silence court arguments, pro se intimidation and countless other delay tactics. Hours of pre-hearing preparation are rendered useless when a judge bullies, cancels, delays or ignores procedures. No doubt, elected judges play an active role in the New York divorce fraud that rips off New Yorkers of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Is a judge that helps an attorney bloat legal bills corrupt? Is a judge that intimidates pro se and cuts off productive discourse corrupt? Is a judge that allows blatantly false statements to be used as the basis of critical decisions corrupt? Is a matrimony judge who ignores published courtroom procedures corrupt when the costs of litigants soars? Is a judge who favors a powerful insider attorney corrupt?
In my uneducated viewpoint the nature of matrimony courts in New York has a very big role in answering the question of what constitutes corruption. First off there is a huge amount of money flowing through each court process from legal and expert fees to court costs to equitable distribution awards. There are no limits to the fees in divorce and it's not uncommon for families to lose all their assets to an out of control divorce process. Matrimony courts are civil courts and as such there are no constitutional protections of due process and no public access to the courtroom so everything happens behind close doors. Furthermore there are no juries so a judges whim rules the case with immense ramifications for families. Finally, there is no proactive supervision of the courtroom behavior of elected judges or review of their fee awards. To top it all off, once a judge makes a ruling the only way to appeal is to go the same appeals court and processes that large companies and powerful tort parties use. The cost of printing seven copies of a transcript for an appeal is enough to bury the appeals of many New Yorkers let alone the time and outrageous legal fees and risks of appeal.
Surprising as it may be, there is no accounting of a judges fee awards which makes hiding corruption quite easy. There's no effectiveness ratings for any appointed resources such as a legal guardian or expert and experts aren't required to register their fee awards. Court-appointed neutral custody and financial evaluators are allowed to become expert witness for either party once their neutral reports are complete. Fees often double after the court-ordered work is complete and of course none of these experts fees are accounted for.
Bottom line is that New York divorce courts are a gross mix of elected officials, shady ethics and zero accountability. The results are quite predictable and without criminal and ethics investigations the state of affairs will never change in New York divorce courts. Elected officials, lots of money, no supervision and no accountability is a recipe for corruption that New Yorkers blindly accept as the status quo.
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?
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.
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.
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:
CC: Lee Higgins
David McKay Wilson
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.