From Jakkie Pidanick–NJ judges dismissed from case saying they violated Due Process repeatedly in custody cases

This is very sad.  When judges repeatedly deny parents hearings on custody, automatically give sole custody to one parent over the other without a hearing, etc. it clearly violates due process.

These litigants should also file for a writ of mandamus (supervisory order) and the NJ Supreme Court should tell the family trial courts they MUST hold hearings and listen to all the evidence regarding what is in the best interests of the children.

I don’t know about providing every litigant a free lawyer.  Maybe that can be done on a sliding scale, but who would fund that cost?  Perhaps some of you creative parents out there can think of a way (bake sales and Etsy sales?)

Read on below:

http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202791513430/Judges-Freed-From-Dads-Challenge-to-NJ-Custody-Laws

Judges Freed From Dads’ Challenge to NJ Custody Laws

P.J. D’Annunzio, New Jersey Law JournalJune 27, 2017    | 1 Comments

Judge Julio Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Judge Julio Fuentes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Carmen Natale

A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of several New Jersey family judges from a lawsuit brought by fathers challenging the constitutionality of the state’s child custody laws.

On June 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of 14 Superior Court judges, holding that the judges were not proper defendants in the case.

According to Third Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes’ opinion, the fathers claim that the family courts deprived them of custody of their children and interfered with their rights to the care, custody and control of their children, without a full hearing, in violation of the 14th Amendment.

They specifically allege that court policy denies parents a plenary hearing when one parent loses custody. The fathers further claim that, although mothers and fathers are theoretically treated equally in custody disputes, in practice courts favor mothers. Additionally, they maintain that New Jersey discriminates against indigent parents by not providing them with counsel in a divorce proceeding or other family disputes that results in a loss of custody.

The Family Part judges who were named as defendants in the suit were Lawrence DeBello, Timothy Chell, Kathleen DeLaney, James DeMarzo, Madelin Einbinder, Marlene Lynch Ford, Christopher Garenger, Lawrence Jones, Severiano Lisboa, Anthony Massi, John Tomasello, Sherri Schweitzer, Nancy Sivilli and Maureen Sogliuzzo.

Fuentes said that, before the validity of the plaintiffs’ claims could be addressed, the question of whether the family court judges should even be party to the suit had to be answered. The case was filed under the Declaratory Judgment Act, with the fathers seeking declaratory and injunctive relief relating to the rulings the judges made in their respective custody cases.

The answer hinged on whether the judges in question are neutral arbiters of the New Jersey custody statute, or if they have enough flexibility under the statute and policies that they become enforcers, Fuentes said.

“In this case, because we conclude that the judicial defendants have acted in an adjudicatory capacity and not in an enforcement capacity, they are not proper defendants,” Fuentes said.

“To be sure, the best-interests-of-the-child standard statute gives state court judges broad discretion to determine a custody situation. State court judges also have broad discretion to decide motions on the papers under New Jersey Supreme Court and Appellate Division precedent,” he added.

However, he said, “the state court judges themselves do not have any right to initiate these actions. Instead, a parent must initiate a custody dispute. Nor were the state court judges here given any administrative function.”

Jersey City-based lawyer Paul A. Clark, who represented the fathers, said the the U.S. Supreme Court “has repeatedly allowed state court judges to be defendants when state courts violate federally guaranteed constitutional rights,” and the Third Circuit “has also now adopted an extremely narrow interpretation of the Declaratory Judgment Act which largely eviscerates it.”

“That said, the Court has simply sidestepped and avoided the serious problem here which is that New Jersey, through its court system routinely strips parents of the fundamental right to the custody of their children, and does so in summary, often ex parte proceedings,” Clark said in an email. “Because the Third Circuit decision only said that the judges named as defendants were not the proper defendants we will continue to pursue suits against New Jersey naming other defendants.”

Benjamin Zieman, of the state Attorney General’s Office, who represented the judges, did not respond to a request for comment.

 
 
Advertisements

From Ken Ditkowsky and the WSJ: Chicago Police Officers indicted in cover up of shooting (McDonald)

And you know the entire system is part of the cover up, from the police to city lawyers–they’re all in on it and the ARDC does nothing about lawyers that assist clients in suppressing evidence.  The ARDC only spends its time and money going after lawyers that expose the corruption, and they do it with a vengeance, lock, stock and barrel.

 

CHICAGO—Three Chicago police officers were indicted Tuesday on felony charges of covering up what happened during the fatal shooting of a black teenager by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014.

Detective David March and Officers Joseph Walsh, Mr. Van Dyke’s partner that night, and Thomas Gaffney were each charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice, said Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor in the case.

Chicago Police Release Video of Laquan McDonald Shooting
Police dashboard camera video of the shooting.

She was appointed last year to consider charges against officers who may have lied to protect Mr. Van Dyke, who fatally shot Laquan McDonald 16 times. A grand jury had voted on the three-count indictment Monday.

“The indictment makes it clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence,’ rather it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth,” Ms. Holmes said.

According to court documents, Detective March and Officers Walsh and Gaffney conspired to “conceal the true facts of events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald…to shield their fellow officer from criminal investigation and prosecution.”

They “lied about what occurred and mischaracterized the video recordings” of the shooting to keep the video from investigators and the public, the document added, and the officers created police forms “that contained important false information.”

Officer Van Dyke, who is white, shot Mr. McDonald 16 times in October 2014 after officers responded to reports of a man breaking into vehicles. The officer has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges.

A police dashboard camera video, was released more than a year later after a court order. It showed a dramatically different account of the shooting than was described by officers.

A police report said Mr. McDonald had swung a knife at officers “in an aggressive manner” and that Officer Van Dyke continued firing because Mr. McDonald was attempting to get up and was still armed, according to court documents.

The video, however, shows Mr. McDonald veering away from officers before he was shot, while holding a small knife at his side. When shot, Mr. McDonald immediately dropped to the ground.

The indictment alleges the officers failed to locate, interview or identify witnesses whose information would contradict accounts of Chicago police.

Lawyers for the three officers could not be immediately reached Tuesday. Only Officer Gaffney is still with the Chicago police, a department spokesman said, and he will be suspended per department policy.

The officers could each be facing up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

The shooting and the alleged coverup, including the lengthy delay in releasing the video, led to widespread protests in Chicago and fallout within the police department. A new superintendent recommended that several officers be fired for allegedly lying over the incident.

“The shooting of Laquan McDonald forever changed the Chicago Police Department and I am committed to implementing policies and training to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. “Throughout this investigation, CPD has fully cooperated with prosecutors and will continue to do so.”

The police department was also investigated by the Justice Department, which found a systemic practice of excessive force, particularly against minorities.

Ms. Holmes, the special prosecutor, added that the grand jury investigation is continuing. A spokesman for Ms. Holmes declined to comment on whether more officers might be charged.

The police union said Tuesday they had not yet reviewed the indictment and “do not comment on an ongoing investigation.”

Write to Shibani Mahtani at shibani.mahtani@wsj.com

From Ken Ditkowsky–new SCOTUS cases uphold broad interpretation of 1st amendment rights

With regard to the Lanre Amu case, a lawyer who discovered that Judge Lynn Egan was granting far too many motions to certain litigants appearing before her.  Attorney Amu discovered that certain litigants were being represented by Judge Lynn Egan’s brother’s law firm and this appeared to help that firm win many questionable motions.  Of course, Judge Lynn Egan isn’t supposed to have her brother or his law firm appearing before her.  That would be unethical.  So Crain’s Chicago Business conducted an investigation and found that not only that was true, but Judge Egan was sitting on the Board of various suburban hospitals and also hearing their cases and again,  motions were being won by the defendant hospitals far too many times.  The hospitals kicked Judge Egan off their Boards and apologized for the corruption.
Nothing has happened to Judge Egan for all of this, oh, and in addition, when Attorney Lanre Amu wrote to the Judicial Inquiry Board complaining about the corruption, that’s when the Illinois ARDC went after HIM, accusing him of lying, just as they falsely accused Ken and I of lying, and then put together the same type of court court with a lack of integrity and convicted us all—OF TELLING THE TRUTH.
The people who have done this, Jerome Larkin, Melissa Smart, Steven Splitt and Sharon Opryszek have absolutely no guilt, remorse, sympathy or empathy.  They are part of and assist in corruption at every level of the ARDC.  No wonder why the ARDC has not forced a single lawyer to turn over some 27 videos showing innocent South Siders being shot in cold blood by the CPD.
From Ken Ditkowsky:
Let’s do an analysis of the cases handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States last week.

3) Packingham v. North Carolina

Date Filed: June 19, 2017

Case #: 15-1194

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined. GORSUCH, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Full Text Opinion: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1194_08l1.pdf

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, North Carolina’s law making it a felony for a registered sex offender to access commonplace social media websites is unconstitutionally invalid because it suppresses lawful speech as a mean to suppress unlawful speech.

Respondent passed a law making it a felony for a registered sex offender to access commercial social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Petitioner, a registered sex offender, had a parking ticket dismissed against him in state court. In response, Petitioner posted on Facebook under a pseudonym. A police officer saw the post and confirmed that it was Petitioner by checking court records and obtaining further evidence via a search warrant. Petitioner was indicted by a grand jury and the trial court denied Petitioner’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that the statute violated the First Amendment. Petitioner was subsequently convicted, but his prison sentence was suspended. Respondent never brought any allegation claiming that Petitioner had contacted a minor or performed any other illicit act while on the internet. Petitioner then appealed to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina which reversed determining that the statute violated the First Amendment and failed strict scrutiny review. The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed finding the statute was “constitutional in all respects.” Petitioners then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which granted certiorari to decide “whether the law is permissible under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause, applicable to the States under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The Court determined that the statute was invalid. Using the precedent in Ashcroft, the Court reasoned that the law was overly broad in that it suppressed lawful speech as a means of suppressing unlawful speech.  REVERSED and REMANDED.

[Summarized by: Grant Elder]


While a lawyer and a sex offender are not quite identical, the point is illustrated that Jerome Larkin and the Illinois Supreme Court cannot prevent you from complaining about judicial corruption and in particular the very same factual corruption scandal that was reported in Crain’s Chicago Business!
How does therefore does Larkin justify any claim against you?     In a word – RACISM!    Rule 8.3 of the Canons of legal ethics demands that you do exactly what you did.   Thus, the proposition is presented that Rule 8.3 applied only to a particular group of lawyers and not other lawyers.    The interim suspension suggests that the discrimination is prima facia racial and due to your dark hue to your skin!

Date Filed: June 19, 2017

Case #: 15–1293

ALITO, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–A, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined, and in which THOMAS, J., joined except for Part II, and an opinion with respect to Parts III–B, III–C, and IV, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS and BREYER, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. GORSUCH, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Full Text Opinion: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1293_1o13.pdf

FIRST AMENDMENT: The disparagement clause of 15 U. S. C. §1052(a), which forbids the registration of trademarks containing possible “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” to any “persons,” is viewpoint regulation of private speech that fails First Amendment scrutiny.

Respondent’s trademark application was denied by Petitioner, the Patent and Trademark Office, because it contained an historically racially offensive slur: “The Slants.” Petitioner cited to 15 U. S. C. §1052(a) (the “Disparagement Clause”), which forbids the registration of trademarks containing possible “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” to any “persons.” The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Disparagement Clause facially violated the First Amendment, because it regulates expressive conduct in a manner that does not satisfy strict scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The Court, by majority, determined that trademarks are private speech and not government speech, because Petitioner does not create the content that it reviews in trademark registrations. The Court also noted that once the trademark is registered, Petitioner is prohibited from removing the trademark based on viewpoint. The remainder of the Court’s analyses regarding other narrow doctrines of the First Amendment (including: government subsidy doctrine, government program doctrine, public forum doctrine, and commercial speech doctrine) were split four to four, but the full Court concurred in judgment that the Disparagement Clause would not pass the scrutiny required by any of the doctrines argued. AFFIRMED.

����

It may be disparaging to tell the truth about elected judges who pay large sums of money to be slated for the office of judge and it may not be politically correct in Chicago or any large City to disclose corruption – especially in the judiciary, but if I can call an Asian person a name that is disparaging and be within the Constitution protections, I certainly can call a ‘spade’ a ‘spade’ and a corrupt judge “corrupt!”
Indeed – all the facades have been lifted and the naked truth has been exposed!    Lanre Amu was targeted.    First he was targeted because he exercised his CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.   How dare a Man with a dark color hue to his skin – who is a naturalized American who immigrated from Africa – complain just because a corrupt judge, who just happens to be on the Board of a defendant seeking adjudication in her courtroom will not recuse herself!   How dare such an individual should complain because the defendant’s law firm happens to employ the brother of the judge!   How dare a respected business publication make the same complaint as this *****!
Mr. Amu – to me this situation creates the impression of very serous racism, and with coupled with the discourtesy afforded Diane Nash (a civil rights icon) I can only conclude that JEROME LARKIN and his 18 USCA 371 co-conspirators are the worst kind of racists.
I’ve written to the IARDC, Jerome Larkin and prominent members of the political community demanding Justice for Lanre Amu many times and no relief has been afforded.    I therefore as a REASONABLE MAN must conclude that RACISM AND JIM CROW are the POLICY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS!   SHAME! SHAME!

Ken Ditkowsky

Things not to be believed. When an attorney’s quest to protect her elderly mother from an abusive guardianship turns into a $5 million bond

I have not talked to Barbara Stone in a long time.  The last time I talked to her was to say good bye because “those who are in charge” threatened her that if she continued to speak out against the abusive guardianship of her mother, her mother would end up dead.

I know there are many of you out there that have heard the threat, that is sad and it disgusts me.

I know Barbara.  I have seen her in action. She is smart, a great attorney and helps everyone who comes to her.  I watched her spend hours on the phone trying to help others.

But the Racket in Miami Dade is well entrenched and very, very evil.

I have seen the corrupt court system with states attorneys that run to the judge’s office to talk about the case.

I have seen how Barbara was treated with disgust.

I have seen her files with many, many documents missing.

She begged numerous states attorneys to intervene.  She stood in their waiting rooms and the head attorneys came out, but only to make sure she wasn’t telling others in the waiting room about the corruption.

A client of mine I am helping with ARDC complaints, whose mother was murdered in probate and a $2 million building in trust was stolen from her by a team of OPG attorneys just told me a Federal Court Judge just kicked her complaint for the second time.  They want to hush her up. They don’t want her story of corruption to go to a jury.

Another woman called me today about an evil attorney sister conspired with other attorneys in Lake county to leave her with a $50k distribution of a $500k estate that should have been split 50/50.  Where did her $250k go? I told her to bring in the papers and we would report to the FBI.  I asked her how she found me.  She Googled the ARDC and corruption and this blog popped right up. I said, I am suspended, probably permanently because the Illinois Supreme Court won’t do anything about the corruption and the ARDC and SCOI work together to cover up corruption in Illinois. She said, she knows that, had been to dozens of attorneys and no one would help her with the theft, defamation, lies, slander in probate court in Lake County. They told her to go with the flow, don’t make a fuss, embezzlement by another attorney is no big deal, it happens all the time. The clouted steal and if you make a fuss you will get death threats.  She has seen the corruption and no longer trusts anyone admitted to the bar.

She got death threats.

The file disappeared.  She could not get copies of anything in the Estate for months.

Who does these things?  Judges and lawyers make good salaries. They don’t have to steal.

Now from Ken Ditkowsky on behalf of Barbara Stone.  Please pray for Barbara, I understand she is back in jail again–only for protecting her mother.  A mother she can’t see and who is threatened with death and if you follow her around only for a week, you will see the corruption oozing out of Miami Dade court system and states attorneys.  It’s just so damn obvious.

From Ken Ditkowsky:

Stripped to its core the proceedings against Barbara Stone have their genesis in an illegal attempt by an obviously corruption guardian aided and abetted by an equally dishonest jurist to silence Barbara’s complaint that her mother was being elder cleansed, i.e. she was isolated, dehumanized, doped, deprived of solid food, and set up for a legal killing!.   
 
If Attorney General Bondi does an HONEST INVESTIGATION she will find not only criminal conduct directed toward a senior citizen, but serious health care fraud.    This situation is echoed Nationwide as it is appearing that more and more senior citizens are being swept up by the miscreants as commodities.     Philip Esformes (indicted for stealing a billion dollars using the criminal enterprises of his South Florida nursing homes) is not the only major criminal operating in South Florida and preying on the elderly.
 
Dr. Sam Silver has authored a blog AAAPG that details more of the criminal enterprise that is disgracing Florida and America.    The alleged political roots to South Florida political figures is despicable and reprehensible!     It is not an accident that elder cleansing is a major industry of South Florida!    The breach of public trust coupled with the theft of Federal health care funds bring 18 USCA 371 into play and we hope that not only General Bondi will now act and commence an HONEST INVESTIGATION but that the United States of America will also act and commence an HONEST INVESTIGATION as to the Racketeering venture mergers that exist in concert between the Political elite and the Health Care elite.
 
No matter how well thought out or well drafted the new HEALTH CARE BILL designed to replace Obama care may be IT IS DEAD unless right NOW the United States of America commences action designed to reduce the 700% fraud surcharge.    The Barbara Stone, Mary Sykes, Alice Gore ***** cases all demonstrate the humongous fraud (judicially aided) that robs the elderly of their humanity, civil rights, liberty and property.     How such pernicious judicial and political conduct can be tolerated is incomprehensible.   
 
Please = General Bondi!    Do not take a word that we say as fact – just do an HONEST INVESTIGATION and you will see for yourself just how ‘bad things are’ in Florida and many of its sister States.    This is an emergency situation!

On Friday, June 23, 2017, 11:12:08 AM CDT, Janet Phelan <janet_c_phelan@yahoo.com> wrote:
OK GOT IT!
Ken, it says repeatedly do not arrest based on this information. Can you comment?

On Friday, June 23, 2017, 12:57:50 PM GMT-3, Janet Pipes <j.pipes@comcast.net> wrote:

Hard to understand

From: MetroFax [mailto:NoReply@metrofax.com]
Sent: Friday, June 23, 2017 7:47 AM
To: j.pipes@comcast.net
Subject: MetroFax message from “unknown” – 3 page(s)

Y

to Janet, Janet
When you talk to Ms. Fox maybe you ought to reminder her of the oath that every attorney takes before admission to the bar.
A lawyer worthy of his/her salt will stand up for HONOR, INTEGRITY, and the RULE OF LAW even when justice requires him/her to be politically incorrect, take an unpopular stand, and even when his/her license to practice law is placed in jeopardy by the legal position he/she takes.   The practice of law is a PUBLIC TRUST.   
Here in Illinois we have had the sorry spectacle of JEROME LARKIN the administrator of the Illinois attorney disciplinary commission (IARDC) defile himself and his profession by engaging in an 18 USCA 371 conspiracy to elder cleanze senior citizens and aid and abet the defrauding of the United States of America.   The evidence is been well documented in the MaryGSykes and Probate Sharks blogs.   We are all hoping that the Arizona authorities, and Governor Scott and AG Bondi are better examples of public officials.   As late as this last week the SCOTUS pointed out that First Amendment applied to political correctness and to people of bad reputation.    Government was barred from denying even the most disreputable individuals FREE SPEECH!     Denying lawyers and members of the ‘great unwashed’ free speech = as Jerome Larkin, and the corrupt judge in Stone case have done – is UNCONSTITUTIONAL and contrary to the Rule of Law.   The decisions of the SCOTUS are not suggestions – they are the rule of law.   The fact that Jerome Larkin and other corrupt public officials
Here it is, the absolutely unbelievable:  $5 million bond to protect your mother from probate court (this has to take the cake, why is no one investigation, these monsters belong in PRISON for the rest of their lives)
Case InformationCase InformationState Case No.: 13-2013-CF-029726-0001-XX Name: STONE, BARBARA Date of Birth: 03/16/1953Date Filed: 12/20/2013 Date Closed: 09/11/2015 Warrant Type: PW Warrant Amount: $5,602,654.00Assessment Amount: $853.00 Balance Due: $0.00 Stay Due Date: 09/11/2016Address: 1351 N.W. 12 STJudge: COLODNY, YVONNE Defense Attorney: SCHWARTZ, JONATHANFile Section: F021 File Location: FILE ROOM Box No: Probation Start Date: 09/11/2015 Probation End Date: 09/11/2018 Probation Length: 3 YEARS Probation Type: PROBATION Defendant in Jail: N Defendant Release to: PROBATION, Bond Amount: $0.00 Bond Status: DISCHARGED Bond Type: RELEASED OWN RECOGNIZANCE Bond Issue Date: 03/19/2015
$5 million bond to protect an elderly mother from MURDER.  who does this?
joanne
State Case No.: 13-2013-CF-029726-0001-XX Name: STONE, BARBARA Date of Birth: 03/16/1953
Date Filed: 12/20/2013 Date Closed: 09/11/2015
Warrant Type: PW Warrant Amount: $5,602,654.00
Assessment Amount: $853.00 Balance Due: $0.00 Stay Due Date: 09/11/2016
Address: 1351 N.W. 12 ST
Judge: COLODNY, YVONNE Defense Attorney: SCHWARTZ, JONATHAN
File Section: F021 File Location: FILE ROOM Box No:
Probation Start Date: 09/11/2015 Probation End Date: 09/11/2018
Probation Length: 3 YEARS Probation Type: PROBATION
Defendant in Jail: N Defendant Release to: PROBATION,
Bond Amount: $0.00 Bond Status: DISCHARGED
Bond Type: RELEASED OWN RECOGNIZANCE Bond Issue Date: 03/19/2015
 

On Friday, June 23, 2017, 2:48:20 PM GMT-3, <rgrunds@pshift.com> wrote:

 

 

From Injustice Watch and Paul Abramson–What is the Problem with the Judicial Inquiry Board in Illinois?

Injustice Watch- 

In Illinois, punishment is slow and lenient for errant judges

 Print

Beset by too many cases and too little money, Illinois officials are struggling with their constitutional responsibility to investigate and punish errant judges.

It commonly takes years to act against judges who violate the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct, and the punishment seldom is more than a public reprimand.

An investigation by Injustice Watch, a new organization devoted to exposing systemic problems that impede justice and equality, identifies widespread problems:

• The Judicial Inquiry Board, the agency that investigates judicial misconduct, has seen its budget shrink in recent years even as the number of complaints has grown.

• The backlog of cases has grown, and state officials warn that budget cuts hobble the agency’s ability to accomplish basic tasks.

• Vacancies on the Judicial Inquiry Board went unfilled for years, despite the auditor general’s criticism that the empty seats violated the Illinois Constitution and hampered the agency’s ability to function.

• Fewer than one in 100 complaints to the board end in public discipline, and the most common discipline, when it occurs, is a reprimand.

Judicial Inquiry Board complaints have had limited impact, in recent years, beyond whatever discipline the Illinois Courts Commission imposes. Since 2000, none of the judges who left the bench after a formal complaint have been suspended from practicing law. Judicial Inquiry Board complaints since then have not sparked any criminal charges. Even the judges removed for misconduct continue to collect their judicial pensions that often top $100,000 a year for life.

Ineligible, yet rewarded

In 2004 the Illinois Courts Commission, the agency that adjudicates Judicial Inquiry Board complaints, took the rare step of removing Francis X. Golniewicz III from office as a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Francis X. Golniewicz III

Chicago Sun-Times

Former Cook County Judge Francis X. Golniewicz III.

Golniewicz had used deception to win election, falsely stating where he lived to make himself eligible for election within a subcircuit miles from his home.

Once on the bench, furthermore, he made comments that called his temperament and impartiality into question. In one case, he taunted an African American defendant, “When I’m talking to you, boy, you look at me.” In another case, after jurors returned a verdict with which Golniewicz disagreed, he dismissed them curtly, tearing up certificates that had been prepared to honor them for their service, and declared in a voice loud enough for them to hear, “They don’t deserve them.”

The commission found those actions amounted to finding “a pattern of behavior that violated the judicial canons, demeaned the integrity of the judiciary, and brought the judicial office into disrepute.”

The commission also found that Golniewicz had won election to his judicial seat by deception. Golniewicz had initially been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill a vacancy in 1991, and served through court appointments until he won election in 1993 to a vacancy in the county’s tenth subcircuit, which includes a large portion of Chicago’s northwest side.

To be eligible for that position, Golniewicz, a Democrat, used his parent’s home address. But Golniewicz lived 13 miles away, in west suburban Riverside, with his wife and children. His parents’ home was “a Democratic stronghold,” while Riverside was a Republican stronghold, the commission noted, concluding he misstated his address “to run from the address that provided him the greatest chance of winning.”

Golniewiecz's parent's home

Emily Hoerner / Injustice Watch

Former Cook County Judge Francis X. Golniewicz III’s parents home in Chicago’s northwest side.

Golniewicz's Riverside home

Emily Hoerner / Injustice Watch

The actual home of former Cook County Judge Francis X. Golniewicz III, where he lived with his family in Riverside.

Golniewicz served in that seat for the next 10 years, until he was removed from office. Holding the seat by deceit has proved lucrative: Golniewicz is receiving a pension for the 14 years he served. This year, his pension is more than $89,000.

Golniewicz said in an interview that the pension payments include money he contributed to the retirement account over 14 years of service. “It’s not as if I’m getting something for nothing,” he said.

He told Injustice Watch last week of the disciplinary process, “The process takes a really long time, cases drag on forever, and by the end of it no one cares.”

Scandal Bred Current System

The current Illinois judicial disciplinary system was created in the aftermath of a scandal involving two Supreme Court justices in 1969. The idea was to include in the process justices, trial judges, lawyers, and even non-lawyers.

Two new state agencies were created in 1970: The Judicial Inquiry Board, to investigate complaints of misconduct; and the Illinois Courts Commission, to adjudicate cases brought by the board.

WATCH: Bad Judgment Report on WMAQ, NBC Chicago

Whether the system is ideal remains a matter of debate. “I’m not sure that having that two-tier system is all that effective because what you have is this sort of unknown, these two unknown bodies,” said James Alfini, dean of the South Texas College of Law, who co-authored a book on judicial ethics. “They don’t really report to anybody, so I’m not sure there’s much accountability.”

The question for the agencies as they examine a judge’s conduct is whether it violated the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct. A large number of cases each year are dismissed without investigation because they involve disappointed parties to court cases – many writing from prison – who challenge legal rulings, not judicial conduct.

Cases Go On For Years

In May, the state auditor issued an alarming report. The Judicial Inquiry Board had 311 pending complaints by the end of fiscal 2014, and the auditor warned that “the growing inventory level increases the risk the board’s caseload will become unmanageable.”

Inquiry board officials told the auditor that there were many contributing factors. From 2008 through 2014, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and then Pat Quinn left several non-lawyer seats on the board vacant. The auditor general warned that the vacancies violated the constitutional mandate and hampered the inquiry board’s ability to operate effectively. Gov. Bruce Rauner finally filled three new non-judge member seats this year, bringing the agency to the constitutionally-mandated number for the first time in years.

complaintsjib

Another factor: The increasing number of complaints being filed by prisoners complaining of rulings by the trial judges who presided over their cases.

There also was the issue of money. Cynthia Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics at the National Center for State Courts, said that judicial misconduct boards across the nation struggle with a lack of money that hampers their ability to respond in a timely manner to misconduct complaints.

“I don’t think any of them have enough [money] to do a thorough job, in particular, since they’re constantly being criticized for not doing a better job,” Gray said. “It does cost money to do a good job.”

budgetbyyear

The budget in recent years dropped by more than 15 percent in six years – from $785,000 in fiscal 2009 to $680,000 in fiscal 2015. For the current year, though the state has not yet enacted a budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner proposes the budget be cut another 10 percent, to $612,000.


Listen Retired Judge Raymond McKoski talks about low funding for the Judicial Inquiry Board in Illinois.


Of the six largest states in the nation, Illinois receives the smallest amount of funding for dealing with errant judges, a review by Injustice Watch shows. In Pennsylvania, a smaller state than Illinois, the Judicial Conduct board budget for fiscal 2015 was more than $1.5 million, with a full time staff of 11. The Texas budget for fiscal 2015, was $982,006, with a staff of 13 full-time positions.

The lack of money has an impact. The Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board has only five paid full-time staff, including two investigators for the entire state.

Inquiry board director Kathy Twine told auditors that for the first two years after she arrived at the agency, from 1998 to 2000, there were six to seven employees, who handled an average of 431 complaints each year. From 2012 to 2014, in contrast, the board had five employees, working on an average of 529 complaints in those two years, Twine told the auditors. She told Injustice Watch that there were 526 complaints in 2014, a dip from 546 the year before.

The auditor expressed concern that there is no requirement on how quickly cases should be handled, a problem heightened as the caseload grows and budget shrinks.

budgetpercomplaint

One case, seven years

No case highlights how slowly the disciplinary wheels can churn as much as the case against St. Clair County Associate Judge James C. Radcliffe. In February 1994, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that in 1992 Radcliffe had engaged in conduct that amounted to a “parody of legal procedure” and “violated so many rules of Illinois law – not to mention the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment – that it is not worth reciting them.”

The hearing was over efforts by a vending company and its lawyer to get Radcliffe to issue an injunction that would hinder a state liquor control agent’s investigation into illegal gambling. Radcliffe required the agent to take the stand and answer questions from the vending company’s lawyer about the investigation, without permitting the agent to talk to a lawyer. Radcliffe then issued a temporary injunction to block the agent from “illegally interfering” in the company business.

James Radcliff

Former St. Clair County Circuit Court Associate Judge James Radcliffe.

The Seventh Circuit sent a copy of its opinion blasting Radcliffe to the Judicial Inquiry Board, triggering an investigation and disciplinary proceeding that dragged on almost seven years until the courts commission suspended him for thirty days in 2001.

In explaining the delay, the courts commission noted several “extraordinary circumstances”: An ongoing federal investigation that may have delayed the Inquiry Board investigation; the reorganization of the courts commission after the constitutional amendment; and the resignation of the Judicial Inquiry Board lead counsel.

While those circumstances “explain most of the delay,” the commission order states, “the commission must also accept partial responsibility.” While no other case has taken that long, the process continues to be notable for its plodding pace.

How slow is the process? It took more than five years for the Courts Commission to reprimand Kankakee County Circuit Judge Gregory J. Householter for taking too long to dispose of his cases.

INTERACTIVE: What Happens to Complaints Against Judges?

Twine, the board’s executive director, declined a request for an interview with Injustice Watch, saying, “At this time I am under time constraints with other matters.”

In fact, the staff of the agency struggles to produce the most basic information to the public about its operations.

The agency has not produced an annual report since 2012, which Twine said in an email was the result of budget cuts.

The auditor in May reported that the agency was unable to provide it with basic  information about the types of complaints being filed because it was behind in reviewing and analyzing the incoming complaints.

More than three years, before dismissal

On June 16, 2007, McHenry County Circuit Judge Michael J. Chmiel received a telephone call from a local Republican committeeman and political ally. The official’s brother had been arrested on a felony charge of obstructing justice.

The defendant’s brother as well as his niece, who is an attorney and former prosecutor, wanted Chmiel to hold an emergency bond hearing so that the defendant could avoid spending the next day, Father’s Day, in jail.

Chmiel handled juvenile cases and had never held an emergency bond hearing. He nonetheless convened an emergency hearing that afternoon, and, with the approval of the state’s attorney office, granted the suspect’s release on $10,000 bond.

Word of the hearing spread among other attorneys and judges, and within days the supervising judge called in Chmiel to ask about it. The judges in the circuit held a special meeting, one supervising judge forwarded her concerns to the Judicial Inquiry Board, and by early July the local newspaper had written of the hearing and raised questions of special treatment, records show.

On February 25, 2008, the board charged Chmiel with three violations of the Judicial Code. Not only had Chmiel acted improperly by having ex parte conversations – discussions about a pending case without both parties being present – but he misled the board about his conversations, according to the board’s complaint.

The Illinois Courts Commission voted on November 19, 2010, to reprimand Chmiel.  That was the most lenient form of discipline the commission could impose. The commission ruled that the inquiry board had proven that Chmiel’s acts had created the appearance of impropriety – that he took an action on behalf of a politically connected person he would not have taken for others –- but that the board failed to prove that Chmiel had committed any actual impropriety.

After all, the commission said, it was not improper for Chmiel to hold the hearing, nor for him to have ex parte conversations about the scheduling, as opposed to the substance, of the case. The bail was set appropriately by Chmiel, with the agreement of the prosecutors, the commission said.

Punishment often slow, seldom harsh

Chmiel’s case is one of several involving complaints by the Judicial Inquiry Board based on its complaint that a judge had taken action in a case to help a family or friend, including ex parte discussions – private meetings that, new judges are taught, can be a serious act of misconduct.

The Illinois Courts Commission’s handling of those cases demonstrates how the commission considers a wide range of factors in deciding what to do with the complaint. Among them: Was there a pattern of misconduct or one individual incident? Did the issue involve conduct on the bench? Had there been other complaints against the judge? Did the judge acknowledge acting improperly?

A review of the past cases reveals another pattern: The commission seldom imposes suspensions, and even more rarely considers removing judges from the bench for their misconduct. Of 24 cases decided by the commission since 2000, state records show, more than half were either dismissed altogether or ended in a public reprimand – the lowest form of discipline.

INTERACTIVE: How long did the Illinois Courts Commission cases take? 

Raymond McKoski, a former judge now at John Marshall Law School, said that appropriate punishment for errant conduct is a nationwide issue. Although he said he thought Illinois did “pretty good” at imposing punishment, he said that across the country, “Suspension should be used more often, and maybe removal more often too.”

In Illinois since 2000, six judges were suspended, and three removed from the bench over their conduct. By comparison, in Pennsylvania during that period, 19 judges have been removed from office and 11 suspended, according to annual reports.

McKoski added, “I think suspension does send a message to the public, and maybe the judges, that this conduct will not be tolerated.”

The commission issued a reprimand in 2005 to the presiding judge of the DeKalb County Circuit Court, Kurt P. Klein, who had talked ex parte to a military recruiter about a potential recruit’s enlistment being delayed because of pending charges related to marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession. Klein assured the recruiter that he “believed something could be done,” arranged for the cases to be transferred to him, and then at the next hearing told the State’s Attorney that he hoped the cases could be resolved so the recruit could enter the army. The charges were quickly resolved.

Klein told the courts commission, “I sincerely regret my violations of the Judicial Code,” adding, “my conduct was unquestionably wrong and will never be repeated, no matter how compelling the circumstances.”

Cook County Associate Judge Douglas J. Simpson was publicly censured by the commission in 2011 as a result of his actions on behalf of a car detail shop owner who had a pending case before another judge. After he learned of the pending case while he was having his car detailed, Simpson went to the chambers of the assigned judge, to tell him the business owner was a “good guy.”

Simpson then sought to talk the other judge out of reporting his misconduct. The Judicial Inquiry Board had urged the Illinois Courts Commission to suspend Simpson, but the commission opted for the lessor censure, noting that other judges had attested to Simpson’s good character and the fact that he quickly later apologized to the other judge.

One judge who did get suspended over an ex parte discussion was Cook County Circuit Judge Charles M. Travis. The courts commission suspended Travis for one month in 2003 – a punishment that was jointly recommended by the judge and the Judicial Inquiry Board – for ethical violations.

Judge Charles Travis

Chicago Sun-Times

Former Cook County Judge Charles Travis.

Among them were Travis’ actions after a Du Page Circuit Judge issued a warrant for the arrest of his daughter in 2001. The trouble started when Downers Grove officials cited Cherie Travis for dumping coffee grounds and cat litter on a vacant lot next to her property. The warrant was issued when she failed to either pay the $75 fine or appear in court.

Travis called the Du Page Circuit chief judge, identified himself as a judge, and said the warrant should be quashed, the evidence of her arrest be expunged, and that either the court or the police apologize to his daughter.

Non-judge occasionally dissents

Most of the time, the courts commission issues its orders unanimously. But in two cases, commission member Paula Wolff, a non-judge member of the commission, objected as the majority voted to dismiss the complaints entirely.

Wolff contended that a reprimand should have been issued to Associate Judge Christopher G. Perrin of Sangamon County for the actions he took after his daughter received a traffic ticket for driving down a closed road. Perrin talked first to a police officer in the courthouse; then to a supervisory judge, and finally to the traffic court judge assigned to the case.

Perrin casually told the assigned traffic court judge that on the day his daughter was supposed to be in court she would be out of town, traveling with a church group to refurbish housing for the poor. The assigned judge dismissed the case, and falsely noted that he did so at the motion of the state’s attorney’s office, according to the courts commission order.

To the majority, “This is not a judicial corruption case,” since Perrin had not asked the assigned judge to take actions to dismiss the case. The majority felt that a private admonishment by the Judicial Inquiry Board would have been appropriate, and that no public action was called for.

But in her dissent, Wolff noted that Perrin, a new judge, had specifically been trained to know that these conversations constituted inappropriate conduct. Perrin made three mistakes designed to exert special influence on behalf of his daughter, she wrote.

“These actions go to the heart of the Code’s prohibition of ex parte communications and appropriate judicial conduct.” To not sanction Perrin, Wolff warned, will “serve as guidance for all the judges who now serve and will serve in the future.”

No decision once judge resigns

Twice in recent years, judges who faced discipline chose to step down before the commission took any action. In states such as North Carolina, that resignation would not stop the commission from ruling on the misconduct. But not so in Illinois, where the courts commission ruled in 1987 that it has no authority to rule in the cases of judges once they resign.

One such case involved Kane County Circuit Judge James T. Doyle, who faced a 2005 Judicial Inquiry Board complaint accusing him of abusing his position as chief of Kane County’s drug court.

The inquiry board said Doyle had repeatedly violated defendants’ rights, forcing them to admit to drug use and sending them to jail without telling them of their rights or making sure they were represented.

After the chief judge warned Doyle of the need to honor defendants’ rights, Doyle took defendants into back rooms, where no court reporter was present to record the proceedings, and continued actions the board concluded violated defendants’ rights, the complaint states. In one of many cases the board cited, Doyle sent a defendant to jail for 69 days, marking on the file that the defendant had violated his probation, though the defendant was not on probation and was given no opportunity to be heard.

Doyle stepped down before the commission decided his case, but remained an active advocate of drug courts.

Former judge McKoski, who has studied judicial discipline nationwide, said he is supportive of states who continue to hold hearings on misconduct even after a judge steps down.

“It’s giving the public an accurate picture of what that judge did good or bad,” McKoski said. “The public has a right to know if judges are performing in accordance with ethical rules.”

Now off the bench, Doyle is collecting an annual judicial pension – this year, earning more than $128,000.

Pension intact despite penalty

In fact, judges who are disciplined still earn their pensions, which includes both their contributions and significant contributions from the state general fund, after they leave the bench.

After Associate Judge Joseph C. Polito admitted that that he had been repeatedly using Will County work computers to access pornographic websites during work hours, the courts commission called his actions “highly inappropriate behavior,” and “an inexcusable waste of judicial time.”

Judge Polito

Chicago Sun-Times

Former Will County Judge Joseph Polito.

As it suspended him for 60 days, the Illinois Courts Commission noted a more severe sanction was unnecessary since Polito said he would not seek reappointment when his term ended. Polito stepped down from the bench July 1 and began collecting his pension, valued this year at $6,415.78 per month.

Even the rare judges removed from office, like Golniewicz, are collecting their pensions.

In May, 2014, the commission removed Cook County Circuit Judge Cynthia Brim, based on a series of incidents that were attributed to her significant mental illness. In one incident, Brim attacked a sheriff’s deputy in the lobby of the Daley Center, and was later found not guilty by reason of insanity in the case.

Cynthia Brim

Justice at Stake

Former Cook County Judge Cynthia Brim.

When she was removed,  a court spokesman said her $184,000 salary as a judge would stop immediately. What nobody said: Her pension for life would then start; this year, Brim is due to collect $152,438.40 from the state.

 

From CNN–Sick, fragile and raped, the story of US nursing homes

There is no doubt in my mind that the current nursing home situation does not work.  Often, nursing homes are very, very dangerous places to be.

Carol Wyman was sexually assaulted in a nursing home–her detailed diary records how she would lie in bed at night and  a male nurse would crawl in beside her and masturbate next to her or on top of her.  The situation occurs far too frequently and there is really no over sight of who nursing homes hire.

Nursing homes are just slums and ghettos for the elderly.

From CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/

Some of the victims can’t speak. They rely on walkers and wheelchairs to leave their beds. They have been robbed of their memories. They come to nursing homes to be cared for.

Instead, they are sexually assaulted.

A CNN INVESTIGATION

Six women. Three nursing homes. And the man accused of rape and abuse

Luis Gomez appeared to many to be the perfect nursing aide. He loved his job and went the distance for residents in his care. But now a different image has emerged: Gomez, who insists he is innocent, is accused of being a serial abuser — moving from facility to facility despite a history of allegations against him. CNN documents his trail.

OPINION

My mother was raped at 88

A daughter describes the resilience that helped her family not only heal but fight for reform.

The unthinkable is happening at facilities throughout the country: Vulnerable seniors are being raped and sexually abused by the very people paid to care for them.

It’s impossible to know just how many victims are out there. But through an exclusive analysis of state and federal data and interviews with experts, regulators and the families of victims, CNN has found that this little-discussed issue is more widespread than anyone would imagine.

Even more disturbing: In many cases, nursing homes and the government officials who oversee them are doing little — or nothing — to stop it.

Sometimes pure — and even willful — negligence is at work. In other instances, nursing home employees and administrators are hamstrung in their efforts to protect victims who can’t remember exactly what happened to them or even identify their perpetrators.

In cases reviewed by CNN, victims and their families were failed at every stage. Nursing homes were slow to investigate and report allegations because of a reluctance to believe the accusations — or a desire to hide them. Police viewed the claims as unlikely at the outset, dismissing potential victims because of failing memories or jumbled allegations. And because of the high bar set for substantiating abuse, state regulators failed to flag patterns of repeated allegations against a single caregiver.

It’s these systemic failures that make it especially hard for victims to get justice — and even easier for perpetrators to get away with their crimes.

“At 83 years old, unable to speak, unable to fight back, she was even more vulnerable than she was as a little girl fleeing her homeland. In fact, she was as vulnerable as an infant when she was raped. The dignity which she always displayed during her life, which was already being assaulted so unrelentingly by Alzheimer’s disease, was dealt a final devastating blow by this man. The horrific irony is not lost upon me … that the very thing she feared most as a young girl fleeing her homeland happened to her in the final, most vulnerable days of her life.”

Sonja Fischer is shown here in earlier days. She is pictured at top of this story during the last years of her life, with her daughter Maya’s haunting quote.

Maya Fischer made this statement in court at the 2015 sentencing of a nursing assistant convicted of raping her mother. Choking back tears, Fischer detailed her mother’s story — recounting how she had fled Indonesia as a youth with her family to escape the rape and killing of young girls by Japanese soldiers, only to fall victim decades later to a man whose job was to care for her.

A fellow caregiver saw male nursing assistant George Kpingbah in 83-year-old Sonja Fischer’s room at 4:30 a.m. on December 18, 2014, at the Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis. A bare leg was on each side of his hips, and her adult diaper lay open on the bed. When the witness noticed the 76-year-old aide thrusting back and forth, she said she knew a sexual assault was occurring.

Kpingbah ultimately pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a mentally impaired or helpless victim and was sentenced to eight years in prison. In an emotional statement directed at Kpingbah during sentencing, the judge told him he had done more than ravage the lives of his victim and her family. He had betrayed the public trust granted to caregivers who have such intimate access to the sick and elderly.

“You violated (a) position of authority, a position of trust,” Judge Elizabeth Cutter said at the sentencing hearing. “The ramifications of what you did are so far-reaching. … It also affected everyone in that facility. Everyone who stays in that facility. Everyone who works at that facility. It affects everyone who has to place a loved one in a facility.”

Kpingbah apologized at the hearing and said he planned to take his Bible with him to prison. His attorney asked for leniency. Kpingbah had endured his own personal struggles as a refugee, the attorney said, fleeing Liberia after many of his family members were killed. Kpingbah’s one “unspeakable act,” he told the judge, was completely out of character.

Yet in court documents uncovered by CNN, prosecutors revealed it wasn’t the first time Kpingbah had been investigated over sexual assault allegations. Personnel records obtained by prosecutors during the investigation and reviewed by CNN show Kpingbah was suspended three times as Walker Methodist officials investigated repeated accusations of sexual abuse at the facility, including at least two where he was the main suspect.

The earliest complaint was in 2008, when police investigated allegations he had engaged in sexual intercourse with a 65-year-old who suffered from multiple sclerosis. In another case, an 83-year-old blind and deaf woman who lived on the same wing as Fischer’s mother said she was raped multiple times — always at midnight. Police investigated her report just seven months before Fischer’s mother was assaulted. While the woman could not identify her assailant, Kpingbah was suspended by the facility along with several other male staffers who were on duty during the nights of the alleged assaults.

None of these allegations were found to be substantiated by the facility or the state. For years, Walker Methodist kept Kpingbah working on the overnight shift. Until that early morning in December 2014, when someone caught him in the act.

In that instance, the Minnesota Department of Health found that the facility acted immediately to ensure the resident’s safety and promptly removed Kpingbah. The state also noted that the facility had previously provided Kpingbah with required abuse training. As a result, the facility was not cited for any wrongdoing; only Kpingbah was held accountable for the assault.

Maya Fischer had no way of knowing about the previous allegations against Kpingbah uncovered by CNN. But she sued Kpingbah, who agreed to an unusual arrangement in which he is on the hook for a massive $15 million judgment only if he abuses again.

Walker Methodist refused to comment on the previous allegations against Kpingbah, who worked at the facility for nearly eight years, but said in a statement that it fully cooperated with authorities and that “the care and well-being of all of our residents and patients is our primary focus.”

CNN reached out to family members of other residents who earlier reported they were sexually assaulted at Walker Methodist during the time Kpingbah worked there (though he was not deemed a suspect in every case). They said the officials there were quick to dismiss the residents’ claims as hallucinations or fantasies.

What should we investigate next? Email us.

“Walker Methodist certainly failed to handle this appropriately with my mother and other residents, and there should be consequences,” said the son of the first alleged victim after learning of Kpingbah’s rape conviction from CNN.

A son of a different alleged victim, who had accused an unknown perpetrator, said he was irate he was never told that a pattern of complaints had emerged against a single caregiver. Had he known of this pattern, the son said, he would have taken his mother’s report of abuse more seriously. Instead, he trusted Walker Methodist.

The Minnesota Department of Health told CNN it is barred by state law from releasing the identity of anyone investigated over an allegation that has not been substantiated, regardless of the number of allegations.

But both family members of these two alleged sexual assault victims also questioned the state health department. How effective is its oversight if it was aware of the multiple reports of abuse at Walker Methodist and still could not intervene?

When pressed by CNN, the agency said that the reports occurred during a time when a paper system was used and that it has been working to modernize this system in the hopes of “flagging such patterns.”

A daughter’s heartbreaking story

ABUSE AFTER ABUSE

Some accounts of alleged sexual abuse come from civil and criminal court documents filed against nursing homes, assisted living facilities and individuals who work there. Other incidents are buried in detailed reports filed by state health investigators.

A 76-pound North Carolina nursing home resident who was so cognitively impaired she required assistance with even the simplest daily tasks reported that a nursing aide, behind closed doors, pushed her head toward him and forced her to give him oral sex.

The third time a resident of a Texas nursing home was raped by a nurse, the assailant ejaculated in the victim’s mouth and on her breasts. When he left, desperate to hold on to whatever evidence she could, she spit the semen from her mouth into her bra and kept the unwashed bra for three weeks. “That’s all I have,” she later told state investigators.

In Iowa, a woman who depended on a walker to move around and couldn’t bathe herself reported that a nursing aide sexually assaulted her in the shower. But the facility never flagged this accusation to authorities because the aide had left the country.

An 88-year-old California woman who’d only had sex with one man her entire life — her husband of nearly 70 years — said she awoke in her nursing home bed with her catheter removed and her bed wet. The next thing she remembered was seeing an unknown male nursing assistant staring at her naked body. “This is why I love my job,” she remembered him saying, according to what she told police. Weeks later, the woman complained of severe vaginal pain and “oozing blisters,” and she was eventually diagnosed with incurable genital herpes. To this day, the identity of the alleged perpetrator hasn’t been determined.

And finally, in a small town in North Carolina, a nursing assistant continued working for years despite multiple reports of alleged abuse. Only after a defiant nurse reported the abuse to police was he fired and arrested. Luis Gomez, 58, is in jail awaiting trial and maintains his innocence.

Most of the cases examined by CNN involved lone actors. But in some cases, a mob mentality fueled the abuse. And it’s not just women who have been victimized.

CNN FOUND MORE THAN 1,000 NURSING HOMES HAVE BEEN CITED FOR MISHANDLING SUSPECTED CASES OF SEX ABUSE.

For months, a group of male nursing aides at a California facility abused and humiliated five male residents — taking videos and photos to share with other staff members. One victim, a 56-year-old with cerebral palsy, was paraded around naked. Another, an elderly man with paralysis who struggled to speak was pinched on his nipples and penis and forced to eat feces out of his adult diapers. He was terrified his abusers would kill him. While the aides lost their certifications, an investigation by Disability Rights California found that many of them never faced charges.

Another group of nursing aides, teenagers in Albert Lea, Minnesota, tormented at least 15 male and female residents, many of whom suffered from Alzheimer’s. The female aides struck, poked and rubbed the residents and touched their breasts. They inserted their fingers into one resident’s rectum. They rubbed the residents’ crotches and laughed. One aide pulled down her own pants and sat on a female resident’s lap — humping and groping her. “I was basically appalled by the callous disregard for human decency,” a judge later said. Two of the abusers, who were 18 at the time and convicted of disorderly conduct by a caregiver, served 42 days in jail. The other teens were tried in juvenile court and faced no jail time at all.

AN UNTRACKED ISSUE

Despite the litany of abuses detailed in government reports, there is no comprehensive, national data on how many cases of sexual abuse have been reported in facilities housing the elderly.

State health investigators examine all types of abuse reported at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, whether reported by the facilities or flagged by complaints to the state from witnesses, family members or victims. In the case of nursing homes, state officials typically conduct these investigations, as well as routine inspections, on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates the more than 15,000 facilities that receive government reimbursements that pay for many residents’ care. Both state health agencies and the federal government then use the information to rate facilities and issue financial penalties for the worst offenders.

HOW SAFE ARE YOUR ELDERLY LOVED ONES?

There’s no way to know about abuse that goes unreported. But you can look up the name of a nursing home in federal inspection data and see whether it has been cited for sexual abuse or other issues in the past three years. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the federal Nursing Home Compare website to look up facilities by name or location.
  2. On the first page of results, you will see a star rating for the facility based on factors such as staffing levels. A history of abuse or other inspection problems will typically be reflected in the “health inspection” rating.
  3. Click on the health inspection rating to see a summary of the facility’s most recent inspection.
  4. From here, click on “View all health inspections.” For details, go to a specific date and click “View full report.”
  5. From the main profile page for the facility, click on “Penalties” to see if an inspection resulted in fines or payment denials.
  6. To view older citations, download archived reports here or file a public records request here. Some states may also offer detailed information. A list of state websites is here.

CNN surveyed the health departments and other agencies that oversee long-term care facilities in all 50 states. Of the states that could provide at least some data, the responses varied widely.

Illinois, for example, said 386 allegations of sexual abuse of nursing home residents had been recorded since 2013, 201 of which involved a caretaker. Hawaii said eight allegations of sexual abuse were investigated between 2011 and 2015 — five of which involved a caregiver. And when states provided a further breakdown of how many allegations had been substantiated, the results demonstrate just how few accusations end up being proven — whether it’s because of the extreme hurdles posed by aging victims, the destruction of evidence or half-hearted investigations by facilities and regulators.

Of the 386 cases in Illinois, 59 were considered substantiated. And in Texas, 11 of 251 sexual complaints in the 2015 fiscal year were substantiated. Wisconsin said it didn’t have a single substantiated report of abuse in the last five years.

But most states could not say how frequently abuse investigations involved sexual allegations, often stating that sex abuse allegations are not categorized separately from other forms of abuse.

The federal government doesn’t specifically track all sexual allegations either.

More than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported since 2000 in long-term care facilities (which include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities),according to federal data housed by the Administration for Community Living. But agency officials warned that this figure doesn’t capture everything — only those cases in which state long-term care ombudsmen (who act as advocates for facility residents) were somehow involved in resolving the complaints.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services lumps sexual allegations into a category that includes all kinds of abuse, such as physical or financial. The agency said this is because it takes all forms of abuse seriously. When asked by CNN, the agency conducted a specialized search using sex-related keywords. But because not every case was sexual in nature, CNN had to review each case individually to filter out any irrelevant citations.

The reports show that 226 nursing homes have been cited for failing to protect residents from instances in which sexual abuse was substantiated between 2010 and 2015. Of these cases, around 60% resulted in fines, which totaled more than $9 million — though only 16 facilities were permanently cut off from Medicare and Medicaid funding. (Because the federal government only regulates nursing homes, this analysis did not include assisted living facilities.)

But these statistics only tell a small part of the story because they fail to capture the many instances in which nursing homes have been cited for mishandling allegations of sexual abuse in other ways — ranging from botched investigations to cover-ups.

Using inspection reports filed between 2013 and 2016 and a similar sex-related keyword search, CNN conducted its own detailed analysis.

The result: CNN exclusively found that the federal government has cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse at their facilities during this period. (This includes some of the cases provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.) And nearly 100 of these facilities have been cited multiple times during the same period.

Complaints and allegations that don’t result in a citation, which the government calls a “deficiency,” aren’t included in these Medicare reports. In addition, national studies have found that a large percentage of rape victims typically never report their assaults. So these numbers likely represent only a fraction of the alleged sexual abuse incidents in nursing homes nationwide.

Want to know how we did this? Click here for information.

Of the instances examined, at least a quarter were allegedly perpetrated by aides, nurses and other staff members, while a small portion involved facility visitors (including family members) or unknown assailants. And while most citations dealt with cases of residents abusing other residents, accusations made about caregivers and other workers tended to be far more serious, involving allegations of forced intercourse, oral sex, digital penetration and other forms of sexual assault.

Follow the trail of rape allegations against a nursing assistant in the second part of our series.

The stories found in these reports range from sad to sickening.

An aide admitted to urinating in the shower while a female resident was inside it, showing her his erect penis and kissing her — then warning her not to tell anyone. A nurse overheard two aides talking about how a resident had been given a lap dance that made him ejaculate. A woman was found gagging and trying to fight off a male resident who had his penis in her mouth. Family members viewed video footage of an aide repeatedly raping their loved one, who was on feeding tubes, after hiding a camera in a stuffed animal in the room.

CNN’s analysis found that the nursing homes themselves are a large part of the problem. More than 500 facilities had been cited for failing to investigate and report allegations of sexual abuse thoroughly to authorities or for not properly screening employees for potentially abusive pasts. One nursing director told a state inspector that “if the facility reported all allegations it would be numerous and the State Agency wouldn’t want that either.”

Because of this lack of investigation or reporting, it’s hard to determine how many of the alleged cases of abuse were substantiated or resulted in criminal proceedings. But at least several hundred were confessed to by the perpetrators or observed by witnesses.

Amid the reports of sexual abuse were hundreds of stories that painted scenes of chaos:

Residents climbing into other residents’ beds and eating their food. Running wildly up and down halls. Pulling out knives and other weapons. Hallucinating about snakes coming out of heads and little boys hiding in the curtains. Urinating in wastebaskets. Drinking and doing drugs. Falling asleep in the bathtub. Stealing walkers. Choking and hitting people with fists and wheelchair parts. Escaping out windows. Drinking lotion and oven cleaner.

Such a challenging environment provides some context for how serious allegations of sexual assault could be overlooked.

AN UNCHECKED ‘EPIDEMIC’

It’s rarely talked about, but sexual assault in the very facilities tasked with caring for the elderly is hardly a new problem, with cases dating back decades.

It’s happening all over the country. In cities, the suburbs and the countryside. In nursing homes housing low-income residents on Medicaid. And in centers where people pay thousands of dollars out of their own savings to be there. They’re owned by huge corporations and regional chains but also by nonprofits and mom-and-pop small business owners.

And the issue is only becoming more pressing as the elderly population booms, with the number of Americans over age 65 projected to more than double between 2010 and 2050.

Sign up to receive updates on this and other CNN investigations

Yet the facilities that currently house more than 1 million senior citizens typically pay low wages to nursing assistants (about $11 or $12 an hour), making it difficult to attract and keep quality workers. And during the most vulnerable hours, the night shift, there are often few supervisors.

The abuse is “an epidemic,” said Mark Kosieradzki, a Minnesota attorney who has represented a number of victims and their families, including Fischer, the woman who recounted her mother’s rape in court. “Predators find elderly patients to be easy prey. Those patients often have dementia. They can’t say what happened, or are not believed because many people find it inconceivable that a 28-year-old caregiver would want to rape someone’s grandmother.”

Kosieradzki and other experts who advocate on behalf of the elderly say strong federal and state laws are in place that require abuses to be reported and investigated. The problem, they say, is that these laws are not always followed by the nursing homes. And while federal and state officials told CNN that regulators aggressively investigate complaints and hold facilities accountable, critics say their enforcement isn’t tough enough. And investigations by facility and state officials are often cursory at best, rarely going deep enough to meet a difficult burden of proof.

Many nursing home employees promptly report abusers to authorities as required by federal law and assist in the investigations. But in numerous examples of abuse uncovered by CNN, the facilities themselves have made it possible for violent rapes and sexual assaults to go unchecked.

In these facilities, allegations are routinely questioned or dismissed because victims have cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Workers often lack the specific training needed to spot sexual abuse — keeping reports of abuse from ever reaching authorities. And the reputation and safety of the facility may take priority: There’s often a fear that bringing investigators into a cash-strapped facility may expose other issues, threaten a nursing home with closure or open the door to costly lawsuits.

Most sinister of all are administrators and employees who actively impede investigations.

“There are some situations where they don’t realize it’s happened, and they don’t want to believe it. They just don’t understand it,” said Ann Burgess, a well-known nurse and Boston College nursing professor who specializes in the assessment and treatment of elderly sexual abuse victims. “There are other cases where they try to cover it up. … They blame the victim.”

At one Colorado facility, nursing aide Antonio Nieto had already been accused of raping one female resident in her bed at Broomfield Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center when an allegation emerged from another woman. Prosecutors say the facility allowed Nieto to return to work after the first alleged assault because the facility had found the woman’s claims to be “unfounded.” The facility, which has come under new management since the assaults, said it allowed Nieto to return to work only after being told the police investigation had stalled and no criminal charges were expected.

He was fired after the other victim came forward. Nieto was ultimately sentenced to 24 years to life in prison. Broomfield paid a $51,837 fine, a paltry sum in comparison with the millions it received in annual government reimbursements for patient care.

Nursing assistants Andrew Merzwski, from left, Antonio Nieto and George Kpingbah were all convicted of raping elderly residents.

When the chef at an assisted living facility, was arrested in Louisiana last year in the alleged rape of a 78-year-old resident, a director at the facility, Julie Henry, was quick to issue an emotional statement to local media — claiming the company was “shocked and disheartened.” But not long after, Henry was arrested, accused of orchestrating an elaborate cover-up of the abuse. According to police, she had tried to prevent an investigation by instructing staff not to report the incident. She asked employees at the assisted living facility, Beau Provence Memory Care, to hand over all evidence to her, which she then allegedly destroyed. The chef, Jerry Kan, was indicted on a first first-degree rape charge and has pleaded not guilty. The case is ongoing and his attorney declined to comment.

Henry has not been indicted, and her case is under review. Henry’s attorney said he is confident the continued investigation will result in her exoneration. “The resident and the cook, Mr. Kan, initially denied anything had occurred, creating confusion as to whether this was a reportable incident. When it was learned that an incident had occurred, Ms. Henry cooperated fully with the police and continues to do so,” he said in an email. Beau Provence said it was working with police and the state health department to “verify the facts behind these allegations,” but said it could not comment further on an ongoing investigation.

Even in facilities where there were no allegations of an orchestrated cover-up, documents examined by CNN showed a failure to preserve evidence. A resident who alleged abuse would be given a shower, for instance, or the crime scene might be disturbed by the washing of bedsheets. As a result, possible DNA evidence was lost.

In Minnesota, officials transferred an 89-year-old resident at the Edgewood Vista assisted living facility to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital after she reported being raped. A certified nursing assistant, Andrew Merzwski, 28, admitted to having sex with the resident but claimed it was consensual. A director at the facility believed him and blamed the victim — who suffered from dementia — telling the sexual assault nurse who examined the victim that the resident was a “flirt.”

“She (had) come forward and spoken out against her facility and she was locked in a room,” the nurse examiner, Theresa Flesvig, told CNN. “She felt like she was in prison. She felt like she was being punished.” Her rape examination didn’t occur until almost a week after the alleged assault. Flesvig said she discovered clear physical evidence of assault, one of the largest vaginal tears she had ever seen. Merzwski pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced in 2014 to 53 months in prison, while the state disciplined the official who had sided with him. Merzwski’s attorney declined to comment.

The facility said it couldn’t comment on details of the specific case, citing privacy reasons, but did acknowledge that officials had learned from the incident. “What we learned was we weren’t prepared for anything of this nature,” said Michael Johnson, chief nursing officer for Edgewood Management Group. “We had to do better.”

Sometimes police and state investigators also fail to take complaints seriously. In one instance, a police report reviewed by CNN cited an administrator’s statement that the victim was an “avid viewer of the television show ‘Law and Order'” as a reason to dismiss her allegation. “Hallucinations seem to revolve around episodes of the series,” the officer wrote. As a result, there were no arrests, the rape kit was not tested and the case was closed.

Inside the mind of a nursing home rapist

“The ‘victim’ of this investigation has made similar allegations regarding suspects that do not exist, are physically unable to have committed the act she accuses, etc.,” the police department told CNN in a written statement. “The ‘victim’ suffers from mental illness and hallucinations, her statements are inconsistent and unfounded.”

In the Minnesota case involving nursing aide Kpingbah, the state investigator wrote that the first alleged victim had a “lengthy history of falsely accusing male caregivers of sexual inappropriateness” and “sexual promiscuity and inappropriate boundaries.” When CNN showed this victim’s son the state’s report, he said the characterizations were false.

Asked about this by CNN, the Minnesota Department of Health said the claims had been taken seriously and investigated. “In hindsight and according to current report writing practices, MDH regrets the wording of this statement and apologizes to the family for this insensitive statement,” the agency said.

While assailants such as Kpingbah have ended up behind bars as a result of their crimes, many never face charges.

The older the victim, the less likely an offender will be convicted of sexual abuse, according to a study of the elderly sponsored by the National Institute of Justice. And victims who lived in facilities were even less likely to see their assailants face charges and guilty verdicts.

In fact, victims with dementia and other diseases are often considered such unreliable witnesses that even cases in which an assailant confesses to the crime can end up being thrown out or result in little punishment for the defendant. That was true in the case of Walter Martinez, a St. Louis nursing aide who faced felony rape charges and years in prison after confessing in a resignation letter to abusing two elderly residents sexually. Martinez ended up receiving two years of probation after the alleged victims died or suffered from such severe dementia that they weren’t able to testify.

His attorney told CNN that despite the resignation letter, Martinez had never pleaded guilty to the conduct he was charged with and was prepared to defend himself in court. “Mr. Martinez had gone to counseling and admitted that he had sexual thoughts while performing his regular job duties. He felt tremendous guilt for having these thoughts and that is when he used the term ‘sexual abuse’ in his resignation letter,” he said in an email.

In the case of the Texas woman who saved her bra for weeks as evidence, a suspect was arrested and indicted in the alleged rape. But court records show that prosecutors couldn’t secure the alleged victim’s testimony. The case was dismissed last year despite the fact the DNA from the bra matched a sample taken from the accused. The lab said the chances of the DNA being from anyone else was less than 1 in 983 trillion.

Even those facilities that actively impede investigations or cover up abuse often get little more than a slap on the wrist. The vast majority of nursing homes with horror stories chronicled in the inspection reports are still in business, accepting new residents today.

“How hard is it to shut one down? It is almost impossible,” said Tony Chicotel, a staff attorney at the nonprofit group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “The worst nightmare for the state regulators is a facility closing — because the residents oftentimes have no place to go.”

So instead, government regulators levy fines and withhold Medicare and Medicaid payments in the hope of getting facilities in line. But even when penalties are imposed, which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says are meant to push a facility to correct a given issue as soon as possible, the fines are often shockingly small.

When a facility in Texas failed to take proper action after an elderly man said he was raped and drugged, authorities punished the home with a $116,500 fine and by temporarily banning it from receiving government reimbursements for new patients. But the fine was ultimately cut almost in half, based on the facility’s “financial hardship.” And the ban lasted only 11 days.

A facility in California — which allowed a licensed nurse to work for weeks despite reports he had sexually assaulted a female resident multiple times, kissing her and fondling her breasts — was fined $22,000 by the state.

And then there is Walker Methodist in Minnesota, where 83-year-old Sonja Fischer became the victim of the same kind of violent assault she had fled so many years ago. There she was raped by an employee the facility knew had been the subject of abuse allegations for years.

“She was unable to speak, unable to move,” her daughter Maya recounted just a few weeks after her mother passed away last year. “She couldn’t even cry out when this was happening to her.”

The facility where she was victimized received no penalty at all.

CNN’s Ana Cabrera, Sara Weisfeldt, David Heath, Sergio Hernandez and Andrew Bloomenthal contributed to this report.

NURSING HOME SEX ABUSE: 5 THINGS THAT NEED TO CHANGE

Legal advocates, government regulators, criminal investigators and medical experts agree that sexual abuse in nursing homes can be extremely challenging to prevent and detect. But they say many facilities should be doing much more to protect vulnerable residents.

  1. “When you have a sexual assault claim, you shouldn’t go to a conclusion she’s a problem patient. You should investigate as a sexual assault until proven otherwise.” — Dave Young, district attorney for Colorado’s 17th Judicial District
  2. “Preserve evidence! Don’t bathe or change clothing, sheets, etc., when an assault is suspected.” — Sherry Culp, Kentucky long-term care ombudsman
  3. “Most abuse is undetected and never reported mainly because observable signs are missed or misinterpreted. A little training could go a long way.” — Tony Chicotel, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
  4. “As with nearly every type of abuse and neglect seen in nursing homes, the better staffed the facility the less likely sexual abuse will occur. This is a crime of opportunity, so the more supervision the better.” — Kirsten Fish, elder abuse attorney
  5. “There needs to be a reporting system. …The system doesn’t keep track of cases that haven’t been substantiated, [and] their rules for substantiating a complaint are just astronomical. It’s virtually impossible to substantiate a complaint.” — Lt. Chris Chandler, Waynesville, North Carolina, Police Department

 

Do a good deed — donate some law books to prisons today

As many of you know, the prisons are filled with many people who are innocent.  They have to write their own appeals, gather their own evidence and have no money for an attorney.

I was shocked to find out that many prisons do not have the law books that prisoners need (specifically Moultrie County, Illinois).

So if you would like to do a good deed, here are some books for $25 on sale and maybe you can ship them to prisoners that do not have a set of law books to help them out.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/LAW-BOOKS-Illinois-Compiled-Statutes-1992-9-volumes-/182595663629?hash=item2a838cb70d:g:uVEAAOSwHjNWBxY0

This would be a great project for someone to take on–get donations of money and then buy law books cheap and make sure prisons have what they need to help prisoners.

JoAnne