Original Article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/01/new-book-reveals-web-of-corruption-in-family-court/

New Book Reveals Web of Corruption in Family Court

by Janet Phelan / January 17th, 2016

I’ve been writing about the abuses going on in adult guardianship proceedings now for over ten years. Details regarding the physical and financial abuse of seniors and disabled are nothing new to me. One might have thought I would have been prepared for The Worst Interests of the Child, by Keith Harmon Snow. But I was not.

“This book is about the organized crime of Family Courts in the United States,” writes Snow in the preface to this book. Keith Harmon Snow is an award- winning journalist, photographer and writer who has worked in 45 countries. He worked as a journalist accredited with the United Nations Observer Mission in Congo (MONUC), as a human rights investigator for Genocide Watch, and as genocide investigator for the United Nations in Ethiopia.

In this compelling and disturbing book, Snow has launched an expose of Family Court in Connecticut, although his research and findings are echoed in courts across America. The victims in his study, like the victims of guardianship court, are vulnerable and cannot protect themselves. However, unlike the elderly victims of guardianship court, these young victims are just beginning their lives. The scars from the abuses that Family Court refuses to address, refuses to protect them from, will be carried throughout the rest of their lives. Through no fault of their own, through the unfortunate happenstance of being born the child of a predator, these children have received, as Snow so aptly states, a life sentence.

Snow writes: “The problem with Family Courts is that financial interests outweigh the judicial issues, and the entire legal system has been geared to support the financial plunder of clients. This is most evident by examination of the behavior of lawyers who take cases for both perpetrators of abuse and protective parents (not only, but usually, the mothers).”

His investigation reveals a seamy web of professionals—lawyers, judges, guardian ad litems, psychiatrists and supervised visitation companies—whose back room connections well serve their own financial interests at the expense of an abused child’s welfare. As Snow repeatedly demonstrates in multiple case histories, the protective parent’s resources are drained by these professionals, as she seeks to do whatever is financially necessary to protect her child.

This includes, but is not limited to, hiring expensive (and often complicit) attorneys, submitting to psychological examination and testing by evaluators cherry-picked by the court, paying for supervised visitation at exorbitant rates (often over $175 an hour), paying court ordered child support payments when the child has been remanded into the custody of the abusive parent, paying the abusive parent’s legal fees and more.

The Worst Interests of the Child focuses on the case involving the minor child Max Liberti; however, the book is peppered with examples from a multitude of similar cases, in Connecticut and elsewhere. One is introduced to a series of players—judges, lawyers, guardian ad litems and psychiatrists—whose actions in the Liberti case, as well as in other cases, reveal a playbook by which an ostensibly endangered child is put at further risk by those pledged to protect him.

The purpose, states Snow, is self enrichment for the players. “Behind the judicial abuse is a… bureaucracy of highly paid “professionals” whose profits accrue in direct proportion to the level and duration of conflict they can create and maintain between the parents,” he writes.

And the money to be made is significant. Not only is the protective parent’s assets drained through attenuated court proceedings, through lawyers, evaluators and visitation agencies. The mammoth federal agency, Health and Human Services, maintains a $51 billion a year budget for children and families. This money is earmarked for such programs as “foster care and permanency,” “social services,” “child support enforcement and family support,” among others.

All in all, child abuse is a lucrative industry.

Interestingly, the same names pop up in a number of the cases discussed in this book. We will meet Dr. Kenneth Robson, pedophile expert, who worked at a large and apparently rather posh facility where the Catholic church sent its errant priests for unsuccessful “rehabilitation.” Robson, we will see, is an evaluator of choice in cases where there are allegations of sexual abuse, and errs repeatedly in favor of alleged abusers, turning the tables on the protective parent and facilitating the abuser to gain custody of a minor child.

We will meet Nick Sarno, aka Nicolas J. Siconolfi, aka Nicholas Sicinolfi, who owns a visitation supervision company called N.J. Sarno and Company, which holds supervised visitations in the parking lot of the police department, and who packs a weapon which may not be entirely legal. His visitation supervisors do not have social work degrees, in fact, may not have any training at all in domestic violence or sexual abuse. Snow reports that the Sarno company, which is not listed as a visitation company in a national directory for Supervised Visitation Providers for Connecticut, is charging some parents upwards of $10,000 a month for supervision services.

We will meet Judge Lynda Munro, Chief Administrative Judge of Family Matters for the state of Connecticut. Munro, whose name appears as judicial officer in a number of the cases cited in this book, regularly seals records which would raise questions as to her proper administration of justice. In addition, Munro, as a member of the Connecticut Practice Book Rules Committee, “has been a key figure in a clear conspiracy to rewrite and reformulate changes that enable Family Courts, judges, lawyers and custody evaluators to make their own rules and violate laws with impunity,” writes Snow.

The Practice Book governs jurisprudence in Connecticut and Munro meets in secret with her committee members. Snow writes that “…the public record that has being (sic) presented afterwards has been adjusted to obscure the Actual discussions and decisions. Any changes to Practice Book Rules should be subject to public hearings. ” Snow brings to the fore questions as to the legality of this Committee, stating “the state’s Executive Branch—rulemaking and lawmaking—should be separated from the Judicial Branch.”

We will read, in some detail, Judge Munro’s peculiar brand of in -court shenanigans when she adjudicated the Liberti case and “delivered Max Liberti to his father on a silver platter.”

We will read, with dismay and growing comprehension, how newspapers like the Connecticut Mirror cover for these judges. Snow traces the connections between the newspaper and the court system and reveals the names of Family Court lawyers and spouses of Family Court judges and other connected parties who are sitting on the newspaper’s board of directors. “It is clear,” writes Snow, “why any coverage of family court issues by the Connecticut Mirror would seek not to offend the “good name” and vested interests (of these individuals).”

We are also introduced to brave and relentless parents who have lost everything in their battle to protect their children. Bankrupted, and having lost their children to the abusers, they still do not give up hope. Most of these are ordinary, middle class women who had the misfortune of marrying men who turned out to be pedophiles. Their spouses’ predilections end up costing these women everything, against all conceptions of justice.

Snow, however, does not plumb the depths of the federal involvement in the trafficking of children through Family Courts. He appears to be aware that the problem may extend up to the national level when he writes: “We do not want and we do not need any more secretive investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, or the Attorney General of the United States, because it seems they cannot be trusted…”

The Worst Interests of the Child provides long overdue revelations as to the malfunction of the justice system in Family Court. Snow has produced a horrific and exquisitely well-documented account of justice, American style. It is high time that the Family Court system received such diligent and honest scrutiny. One can only hope that the abuses going on in guardianship court and the malfunction of criminal proceedings ravaging whistleblowers and human rights defenders will also someday receive similar attention.

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2 responses »

  1. yanasupport says:

    Thank you for this post and book. It is hard to read because it is so depressing. I am a survivor who was sued 5 years after my divorce by my abuser for the custody of our teenagers.

    Though they were thriving, happy growing children who saw their abusive father weekly. But, I maintained the parenting control and my ex and his wife found a way to use the court to try to take back control.

    The entire system forced me to ignore the violence of my ex, who beat me many times and choked me while I was pregnant, and pretend that he was a “normal” dad. His attorney often baited me and tried to get me to say he was a “bad” dad so he could prove his claim that I was an alienating parent. My ex didn’t even deny any of the marital abuse. He admitted under oath that he did it all.

    Yet, my children were forced to live under a new “parenting agreement” that gave my ex lots and lots of control. Thankfully he only received a little more time (still less than 30% of the month) but he got co-parenting, decision-making rights, which became his vehicle for control.

    He did everything from weighing in on my daily parenting, accusing me of all sorts of false maltreatment of the kids, to involving the parenting coordinator 100s of times with angry accusation and assigning false motives to what little he knew about me. I remained business-like in my tone 99% of the time and tried to stay in as much No-Contact as the court required. Always followed the court order, though he didn’t and often accused me of breaking it. He asked for judicial review of my actions twice in the first year after the suit and was denied, yet he kept asking until finally the parenting coordinator told him he was going there too much … but without telling him to stop.

    Her treatment of him was shocking in what she allowed from him and she broke out parenting agreement many time as well as state law. For example, she forced us to bring in our children so she could speak to them, which is not allowed in state law. She also tried to get us to come to her office weekly for her “help” in working together cooperatively, and charge us for the sessions.

    Thankfully, I had a well written order than clearly didn’t allow it. It was clear that this was a revenue stream for her and maybe even an ego boost. However, it was not about the best interest of our children. My kids suffered for years after the custody suit and still struggle with the idea that their father sued their mother about where they would sleep every night.

    They are still struggling with trauma. Their lives changed also after the suit because they learned that if they spoke about their parents to the other, there could be unintended consequences. They also didn’t know who “permission” they had to get to do certain things … like drop a class at school or get their driver’s license. It was horrible for them.

    One time, their father called for judicial intervention when my 15-yr-old son complained to his Dad that I wouldn’t let him go to an activity. The next thing my son knew, I was being called before the authorities to explain myself. He felt horrible and guilty. I was shocked again that an entire system has been created to allow authorities to second-guess the minor parenting decisions of a teenager. What’s next, teenagers can call the judge if their mom grounds them? Which is essentially what happened. Thankful, my son realized how stupid this was.

    Of course, it was still very confusing and my children have had to learn that they have to watch what they do, because family court is going to make stupid moves. It is time for a change for sure.
    Thank you for this work. It is very important and I hope that change is coming.

    I write more about this on DivorcedMoms.com under Thriving In Crazy Land and on bruisedwoman.com and a online support group at yanasupport.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thank you for sharing your story. I’m very sorry for the struggle you’ve endured for so long. It’s very sad, indeed. We are networking and connecting with many others who have shared similar experiences, and together, our voices will be heard. We are currently working in tandem with the National Coalition for Family Court and CPS Reform, and with people of power within the system, and we hope to see some justice brought to our region in the forseeable future. Please keep in touch with us. United we stand!

      Like

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