Monday, October 6, 2008

Lawyers complaining about bad judges?

The below [found here]

Good Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Falls Prey to a Judge With Her Own Agenda!

It goes without saying that clients of Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys bear their own set of risks when it comes to having their cases heard before justices and magistrates of the Rhode Island Family Court. It is the nature of the beast of our legal system. Nothing that is worth fighting or arguing for comes without its risks and Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys are no exception. But make no mistake about it, the price a Rhode Island Divorce Attorney may pay for zealously representing you may be greater than you might imagine. For a Rhode Island divorce attorney in the early years of building a law practice a judge has the power to ruin a legal career, even one built on hard work, integrity and high moral standards.

Enter Associate Judge Laureen D'Ambra to the Rhode Island Family Court bench. Appointed for life, Associate Judge Laureen D'Ambra was entrusted with Washington County Family Court's Domestic Calendar covering not only divorce and child support matters but also placement and protection from abuse matters prior to the September 1, 2008 rotation of judges.

Entrusted with the various cases and controversies presented before her, Judge Laureen D'Ambra had a broader obligation to consider, not just to the individuals present in her courtroom but also how her decisions affected the broader family unit.

Sadly, I was only one of many attorneys practicing divorce law in Rhode Island who discovered all too quickly that Judge Laureen D'Ambra was ill-prepared for the Washington County Domestic Calendar. Judge D'Ambra's lack of fundamental knowledge about divorce proceedings and family law principles of Rhode Island Domestic Relations Law was evident in statements she boldly professed on and "off the record" of the court.

It goes without saying that more senior and knowledgeable judges such as Judge Stephen J. Capineri and Judge Howard I. Lipsey, and magistrates such as Magistrate John J. O'Brien, Jr. and Magistrate Jeanne L. Shepard would not make not such statements. This is not purely based upon their experience but because they make concerted efforts to know the law entrusted to them and they remain informed about cases affecting their decisions.

In my humble opinion, a true jurist realizes both the power and responsibility that has been entrusted to him or her. Though perhaps reasonably unfamiliar with constantly changing procedures and policies in the family court system, a true jurist is nonetheless cognizant of the fundamental statutes and case law that will factor into the decisions the jurist will deal with on a daily basis during his or her tenure.

To the average citizen, the family courts are the embodiment of justice for family related issues within Rhode Island. Citizens reasonably and rightfully expect that judges and magistrates will undertake their duties in such a way that the law will be upheld and that justice will be afforded to those who come before the family court in honesty looking for it.

Family law practitioners not jaded by long continued practices that hold lawyers up as icons of disrepute may likewise hope to strengthen the public view by promoting justice in their cases.

However, as Socrates spoke in one of his countless orations, "It is not uncommon for two people of similar mind to disagree as to the meaning of something upon which two minds would be expected not to differ." Thus, it is most certainly reasonable that neither Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys nor their clients will always agree with the decisions made by the judges and magistrates of the Rhode Island family court, including Associate Justice Laureen D'Ambra.

There is, however, a substantial difference between a jurist who makes decisions reasonably in conformity with the law and those who make decisions with a total disregard for the law or worse yet a lack of knowledge of the area of law in which they are expected to serve the public.

After more than a year of contemplation following an event I was subjected to by Associate Justice Laureen D'Ambra I have decided that my story is a tale best told to illuminate Rhode Islanders and fellow Rhode Island practitioners of the possible dangers of practice here in Rhode Island and particularly before Associate Justice Laureen D'Ambra.

In July of 2007, I was the attorney for the defendant in the divorce of Sullivan v. Sullivan before Associate Justice D'Ambra. Prior to the beginning of the trial, I raised an issue regarding property held in Mrs. Sullivan's name in Connecticut during the marriage. I expressed to the court that it was my intention to prove that the Connecticut property had been co-mingled with marital assets, that the Defendant had worked on the property and thereby enriched it and that the Connecticut property was, in fact, a marital asset.

The result? Prior to hearing any evidence and seemingly unaware of case law regarding this issue Justice D'Ambra asked one question.

Justice D'Ambra: "Is Mr. Sullivan's name on the deed to the property?"

Attorney Pearsall: "No, but . . . [cut off by the judge]"

Justice D'Ambra: "Then he's not getting any of it and I don't want to hear it at trial."

At the beginning of the plaintiff's case in the trial, the Plaintiff called a Connecticut resident to the stand. A subpoena was issued and served upon the Plaintiff's witness requiring him to return to court to be called by the Defendant in the Defendant's case-in-chief as is his right.

Opposing counsel objected that it was burdensome to require the witness to return to court when he was there at the moment. Despite the prejudice to Mr. Sullivan, Judge D'Ambra unilaterally quashed the subpoena and told the witness he did not have to return. Judge D'Ambra then insisted that I ask all my questions of the witness upon cross-examination, thereby limiting me to the scope of direct examination questions. It also prevented me from the additional time to gain additional information about the witnesses' testimony to attack his testimony and impeach his credibility.

On one particular date scheduled for trial Mr. Sullivan was shaking his head and passed me notes about various issues as is typical in court proceedings as clients make notes on issues and particular points they believe needs to be addressed. As I recall it was Judge D'Ambra's attempt to force the parties, particularly Mr. Sullivan, into a settlement and it conveniently took place "off the record." During the discussion, Judge D'Ambra stopped and addressed my client, Mr. Sullivan, directly.

Though brief, the exchange was as follows:

Judge D'Ambra: "What is your problem, Mr. Sullivan?"

Mr. Sullivan: Um..ah...[sitting there stunned].

Judge D'Ambra: "What do you want out of this Mr. Sullivan?"

Mr. Sullivan: [Looking at me for approval to speak.]

Attorney Pearsall: [Knodding for Mr. Sullivan to stand and speak.]

Mr. Sullivan: "I want to tell my story. I want to tell what really happened."

Judge D'Ambra: "Well that's not going to happen. You're not going to get to tell your story."

Significantly, the plaintiff called a witness on the first day of trial from Connecticut. The man was her ex-husband with whom I knew from case research had continual contact and business dealings with Mrs. Sullivan.

My client was certain the ex-husband lied and that documentation could be obtained to proved that he had lied on major issues. A subpoena was issued and served upon the ex-husband in Rhode Island to call him in the presentation of our case.

As legal practitioners know, service within the state's geographical boundaries creates jurisdiction over the witness and requires the witness to appear.

Despite our right to call this witness in the case-in-chief, Judge D'Ambra quashed the subpoena and limited me to cross-examination of the witness thereby prejudicing Mr. Sullivan's case and compromising his right to call witnesses in support of his case.

However, these were minor in comparison to what was to occur to me and would continue to the present date.

Several days into the trial, specifically on Monday, July 23, 2007 at approximately 2 p.m. we were to begin the second day of Mr. Sullivan's case.

I walked into court prepared to question the next witness. Suddenly Judge D'Ambra took on a serious tone and called witnesses, specifically the assistant court clerk, the clerk of court and one of the sheriff's who testified that they smelled marijuana emanating from me on the previous Friday that the judge had heard Mr. Sullivan's testimony.

It took me more than a few minutes from the shock to realize what was occurring, not only in front of witnesses, counsel and sheriffs but BY them.

I requested immediate drug testing in the Providence Family Court to prove the allegations false and that is precisely what occurred an hour later. I was cleared of any marijuana on the previous Friday due to marijuana's latency in the human system.

It was perhaps most shocking because I have been an anti-drug advocate on all levels since my teenage years and I remain so today. Those who know me know that I am the last person to be accused of drug use.

However, the full nature of what happened can only be appreciated by reading the transcript of the proceeding.

Shortly I will post the transcript which is a matter of public record and explain the aftermath of what in my opinion was a tremendous act of judicial misconduct by Judge D'Ambra and what I believe was a strategic move as well.

It is perhaps the events that followed after I sped to Providence and thought I cleared my name by a completely "clean screen" for any form of drug or alcohol use that became most troublesome.

The following day, unbeknownst to me, Mr. Sullivan had been directly corresponding with the opposing counsel, Attorney Lise Iwon regarding the case without contacting me and proposing settlements while I remained his counsel of record.

I would not and could not continue as Mr. Sullivan's attorney on ethical grounds and filed a motion to withdraw with the court. While the court was held up with another matter Mr. Sullivan formally terminated my services so that he could speak with Attorney Iwon about settling the case.

I approached Judge D'Ambra and presented the original test results showing that I had tested "clean" by the Rhode Island Family Court's lab system. The form was quickly taken from me. No apology. No statement on the record about the proceedings. I was excused and Judge D'Ambra noticeably made sure I had exited the courtroom before she continued with the proceedings which I later understood were settled that day by Mr. Sullivan and Attorney Iwon under terms that in my professional opinion were horrendous and which compromised a civil action he had going. Mr. Sullivan had previously rejected terms similar to those finally agreed to on the record. Later he would blame me for the settlement he himself agreed to with Attorney Iwon.

Yet the story doesn't end here, rather this was it's beginning. It should be of interest both to Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers and to individuals who come before Judge D'Ambra in any divorce matter.

Within five (5) days after July 23, 2007, on which the accusations were made against me, I was receiving calls from colleagues asking what happened with Judge D'Ambra. Within seven (7) days I began to receive my first cancellations from established consultations who cited rumors that I had drug addictions and they could not risk their family law matter on a lawyer who was subject to such rumors.

Within the tenth (10th) and fourteenth (14th) days following July 23, 2008 I was in various courts sitting behind numerous attorneys who conveyed the story of the allegations to each other even though many of them did not know me by sight and were unaware that I was sitting right behind them.

In one case, one practitioner conveyed that I had been accused of being on marijuana during the course of a trial and that it was uncertain as to what I did or if I had cleared my name.

In another instance I overheard three practitioners who did not know me by sight discussing it and the allegations were not of marijuana use but rather that I had been using "cocaine" during a trial and there were concerns that I might have to be restrained when allegations came to light.

In yet another instance, the story escalated that it had been determined that I was a "heroine addict" due to my abnormal performance in court and Judge D'Ambra had ordered me to go for random drug testing.

In another case, I was simply a drug addict and Judge D'Ambra had addressed my conduct on the record and it was uncertain if a complaint would be filed against me with the Professional Conduct Committee or if disbarment might be considered.

Now keep in mind, that within 2 weeks I went from representing a client in a trial to being accused of marijuana use which was proven to be unfounded, to being talked about so much by my legal colleagues with extraordinary embelishments that were threatening to tear my reputation and my practice apart.

Within 5 weeks , I had lost approximately mor than a dozen consultations and one existing client who felt the rumors might carry over to the chances of success in the case.

My office phone stopped ringing. I heard court clerks, courtroom sheriff's and even judges discussing the matter. The allegations and the fact that I had cleared myself leant nothing to the situation because noone checked on the "facts". Clearly rumor and conjecture have more value among my colleagues in the Rhode Island Bar than evidence and truth.

Our economy was beginning to worsen and my demise at the hands of Judge D'Ambra came at the worst time possible. By association the colleagues in my office share suffered as well.

With little left to lose, I filed a Complaint with the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline against Judge D'Ambra. An investigator was assigned to the case and presumably a subcommittee was formed to review the facts of the case. I was told I would be interviewed. In fact, I informed the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline and their chosen investigator that I had additional evidence, which if necessary could be presented at hearing and/or to the investigator when it came time for my interview.

My Complaint against Judge D'Ambra related to her direct violation of the Judicial Canons in at least three instances. After seven months of what I can only suspect was stalling and allowing the matter to grow stale, I received a call from the Commission's inspector to "soften the blow" that I would be receiving a letter of dismissal from the Commission regarding my complaint.

The commission could find no basis after investigation for my complaint. A copy of my Complaint against Judge D'Ambra to the Commission on Judicial Discipline and Tenure is attached for public consideration and comment.

August 24, 2007 Complaint Against Judge Laureen D'Ambra

February 28, 2008 Dismissal of Complaint Against Judge Laureen D'Ambra

[To be continued... and you'll hardly believe what happened next.]

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall
70 Dogwood Drive, Suite 304
West Warwick, RI 02893

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My Comment:

You bring up some interesting points.

Many judges don't have to have experience and the proper qualifications. They may have known the right people or when to make a big campaign contribution.

Judges are immune from almost all civil and criminal prosecution, so anything goes.

They often can rule like monarchs from the bench for life.

If lawyers actually do their jobs against the will of the judge, they can be disbarred, arrested, and put in prison.

Just ask former candidate for Governor in Massachusetts. She went down to Rockville Superior Court, was critical of the way Judge Jonathan J. Kaplan ran a kangaroo court, put the information out on her blog.

Kaplan called judges in Massachusetts to make sure Attorney Barbara C. Johnson was disbarred. She didn't take the information off her blog was arrested and put in prison.

If you want to know what is wrong with the Judicial system in short, google "Judencia"

-Steven G. Erickson


Barbara C. Johnson said...

I have told Steve Erikson many times that his information is WRONG and not to publish it.

I was disbarred and put in prison for civil contempt. I believe one time was criminal contempt and I should have had a jury, but I was denied my request for one.

I was in front of Judge Jonathan J. Kaplan in Rockville Superior Court on a motion for PRO HAC VICE admission to the CT bar.

Kaplan did not allow me pro hac vice because he said I would sue the judges. That was untrue, but it IS what he said. He allowed the D.A. to be at the pro hac vice hearing. She should not have been allowed to speak, even if she were present.

A Kangaroo Court had NOTHING to do with the hearing before Kaplan. I never saw him in a regular court session.

I do NOT have a blog. I do not have the patience to moderate a blog where all kinds of people, sane and insane, rational and irrational, can post something they themselves call informaton.

I have no idea what Kaplan did or did not do. Neither does Stave Erikson. Kaplan had no reason to do what Erikson wrote. I was already being investigated.

I have no blog. Never had a blog. I have a website. I was not put in jail because I did not take anything off my website,

Barbara C. Johnson

The_SRV said...

I have a lot of respect for Barbara Johnson.

There is a link above to the interview I did with her back in 2006. I took notes in the conversation I had with her before the interview.

I believe Judge Jonathan Kaplan was a contributing factor in Barbara Johnson being disbarred, arrested, and being put in prison.

If Connecticut Judge Kaplan was calling Judges in Massachusetts to act to disbar Johnson, Kaplan was a contributing factor, period.

Judges have a way of silencing and intimidating anyone into silence if even pressure is applied. Spending the rest of one's life in jail just for expressing one's opinion is a high price to pay.

The_SRV said...

my email is

I think we are fighting from the same side. So, let's talk.

Please leave me a number to call you, and best times to call.

nootkabear said...

Now I see why the attorney and the newspaper man I was talking with said "We're scared" when asked about going against Judges.

The attorney would not even force the Court to Enforce a Settlement Agreement that had been signed by both sides attorneys and neither attorney would file the agreement with the Court. I tried to have the Settlement agreement enforced, the attorney filed a Motion, or should I say went through the Motion of filing the Motion. I have no idea what the Judge said to the attorney, but the Motion to Enforce was never seen again and never showed on the Docket.

nootkabear said...

I have been a long time fan of Barb Johnson, without her website, I probably would not have gone into US District Court as soon as I did. She took much of the fear out of it.

Of course, we didn't win, but going against who we listed as defendants, it is understandable after all I have read here at The Get Justice Coalition.

I am only wondering when it will be us getting arrested by those suffering from "The Good Ole Boy Syndrome".