While many are oblivious to the scandal that is Connecticut Family Court, and most judges are entrenched in keeping their territories safe from criticism, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher, presiding judge of the Regional Family Trial Docket, is outspoken.
He knows the Family Court system in his state stinks and he said it: Politely, of course, but the fact that he put it on the record at all shows how bad it is.
Here is what he said, “There are those who say the Family Division of this court currently isn’t serving the public interest very well. The undersigned is one of them. Indeed, the undersigned is not alone in hoping for a better system. The leadership of Connecticut’s Judicial Branch has been giving the Family Division special attention precisely because it has openly declared that our system can better serve the public….
“Sometimes the problems in the Family Division appear to be the process that has grown up over time. It’s slow. It’s cumbersome. Cases haven’t moved quickly enough, glacially in some instances. The pandemic hasn’t exactly helped.
“In some cases, over-analysis by costly experts and guardians-ad-litem has unfairly delayed cases from getting decided or has even financially broken the parties with enormous expenses. Judges traditionally don’t police this aspect of a case, so it has too often gotten out of hand. This court wrote about this issue in its decision in Templeton v. Kannan.
“But sometimes, it’s about the lawyers. Sometimes the lawyers waste time. Sometimes the lawyers tie up a case for years with frivolous motions, harassing discovery, and baseless accusations that divert the court in custody cases from where it should focus like a laser: on getting a decision about the best interests of the children and allowing that decision to be reviewed by an appellate court if needed.”
Connecticut is a small state and the legal community is as avaricious as anywhere else, maybe worse, because of propinquity. Though there are 3.5 million people, and 21,000 lawyers, the state is only 112 miles wide and a two hour drive separates one lawyer from one end of the state to a lawyer from the other end.
Lawyers meet more easily in Connecticut than say in Colorado, which has the same number of lawyers, but is 19 times larger in size and has 60 percent larger population.
Judge Moukawsher, tempering his words, masking the harsh truths with studied understatement, deserves to have his words analyzed a little.
He said the Connecticut Family Court, “isn’t serving the public interest very well.,,, [it’s] slow. It’s cumbersome. Cases haven’t moved quickly enough- glacially in some instances…””
For a judge to admit this is novel. And credit goes to Judge Moukawsher for admitting it. The Family Court system is one where judges rule over the destiny of disputing parents and their children, with no input from the people. There is no jury, which is always a recipe for corruption.
If ever the adage was true that “it’s good to know the law, but it is better to know the judge,” it is not true in Family Court. For there is no law. Everything is based on opinion. The opinion of the judge, So one does not need to know the law. One need only know the judge.
Moukawsher, in his critique, added, “In some cases, over-analysis by costly experts and guardians-ad-litem has unfairly delayed cases from getting decided or has even financially broken the parties with enormous expenses.”
What is a guardian-ad-litem or GAL? She is a lawyer. According to the American Bar Association, “A lawyer appointed as ‘guardian ad litem’ for a child is an officer of the court appointed to protect the child’s interests without being bound by the child’s expressed preferences.”
GALs like other lawyers bill by the hour and the more strife they provoke or uncover, the more they can bill,
GALs are lawyers with no special knowledge of the needs of children. In the Ambrose case, which we have been reporting on, the GAL, Jocelyn Hurwitz, has billed almost $200,000 yet has met the children four or five times and the case is not half over
Moukawsher adds with a bit of irony, “Judges traditionally don’t police this aspect of a case, so it has too often gotten out of hand.”
Actually most judges DO police GALs and other experts. They police them to ensure they get enough billings and with the extra billings permitted for the GALs and mental health experts comes more billings for lawyers for the parties on the case. Custody evaluators, therapists, psychologists, social workers etc. are brought into the case by the GALs who are brought into the case by the lawyers and approved by the judge.
It’s a referral business and everybody who plays along makes more money.
High conflict custody and divorce disputes with affluent parents means everybody in the business is happy.
Moukawsher adds precociously, “Sometimes the lawyers waste time. Sometimes the lawyers tie up a case for years with frivolous motions, harassing discovery, and baseless accusations that divert the court in custody cases from where it should focus like a laser: on getting a decision about the best interests of the children.”
The good judge ought to know better, and of course he does: Family Court is never about the best interest of the children. Why would lawyers care about that? Lawyers care about billing. And if anyone can make a case that lawyers are more ethical or compassionate toward children than other breed of humankind, I have yet to hear it.
A laser focus there is — on billing.
Family Court is about lawyers transferring assets from disputing parents into their bank account.
Divorce and custody lawyers on opposing sides often conspire with each other, pretending to write angry letters to each other for their clients, pretending to zealously represent their client, but really, with a wink and a nod, working to provoke the fight, to enlarge it, to get the parties angry with each other and bill more as they file frivolous motions, harassing discovery, and baseless accusations.
The truth is naked greed trumps the welfare of children in Family Court and Judge Moukawsher was good enough to announce it publicly.
As for Judge Moukawsher, he was appointed to the Connecticut superior court in 2013.
He worked in business, politics, and law, A graduate of The Citadel Military College and the University of Connecticut School of Law, he was a banking lobbyist, a member of the Connecticut General Assembly, then special counsel to the Connecticut senate president and counsel to the Commerce Committee.
Significantly, Judge Moukawsher was counsel to the Connecticut Democratic Party and outside counsel to Congressman John Larson when he was chairman of the House Democratic caucus under Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In 2000, he was a partner in an investment banking boutique, and conceived of, wrote, and won passage of a $500 million program of urban investment tax credits for Connecticut allowing a form of corporate welfare meant to spur development of government social engineered projects.
Before taking the bench, as a lawyer, Moukawsher became an expert in pension law fraud, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen and defrauded pension funds for plans and plan participants. He was co-counsel in CIGNA v. Amara, which led to a Supreme Court ruling impacting the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
Moukawsher practiced before seven U.S. courts of appeals and 13 federal district courts from California to Connecticut.
He was chairman of the Employee Benefits Committee of the American Bar Association and a fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel.
He was a contributing author and editor of the Employee Benefits Law (BNA), a regular speaker on employee benefits law, including at Georgetown University Law Center, the Federal Judicial Center, the American Bar Association, The Pension Rights Center, and Thompson Reuters. He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
On the bench, Judge Moukawsher has sat in criminal, and civil courts, and of course, Family Court, the cesspool of our legal system and the one where the jury – 12 of the people – are excluded – in contravention to the US Constitution and common law,
Judge Moukawsher was good enough to explain it — the Family Court system is driven by money. Naked greed,
He said it politely. Children who have lost their parents and parents who have lost their life savings – in the hands of lawyers, GALs and mental health experts – presided over by a biased judge, have said it more bluntly.
The system is corrupt. It will always be corrupt. And we will explore the judge’s view of it, alongside others’ views.
Yes, as Judge Moukawsher has said, Connecticut Family Court is rotten to the core and — we intend to prove it.