Connecticut Judge Thomas J. O’Neill granted Christopher Ambrose’s petition for Restraining Orders
Karen Riordan is now barred from seeing her children, Mia, 16, Matthew, 16 and Sawyer, 13, for one year.
After a two-day hearing, Judge O’Neill that Riordan had abused their three children by forcing them to make false claims against Ambrose
Ambrose petitioned the court on the teenager’s behalf, even though all three teenagers recently escaped his Madison, Connecticut home.
Attorney Alexander J. Cuda of Westport, Connecticut, represented Ambrose.
Riordan represented herself.
Riordan must stay 100 yards away her children
Who is Judge O’Neill?
Thomas J. O’Neill was sworn in as a Connecticut Superior Court judge on May 4 of this year. He was nominated to serve on the bench by Governor Ned Lamont and confirmed by the General Assembly.
O’Neill was recently a partner at the national law firm Day Pitney LLP in the firm’s Stamford, Connecticut office.
A civil trial attorney, O’Neill represented clients in complex litigation, including claims for fraud, commercial lease disputes, corporate dissolutions, claims for breaches of fiduciary duties, and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), according to a press release previously issued by Day Pitney LLP.
There is no mention of any previous family law or family court experience for Judge O’Neill.
Last Minute Switch of Judges
This case was recently with Judge Gladys Idelis Nieves. Judge Nieves was appointed to the bench by Governor Lamont in 2021.
Before joining the judiciary, Nieves presided as a Family Support Magistrate in the Connecticut Judicial Branch, a position she held since 2014. Before that, she operated her own private practice, the Law Offices of Gladys I. Nieves. She specialized in family and child welfare litigation, including child abuse and neglect.
Nieves also spent time as a senior staff attorney at the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society in South Bronx, New York, and a litigation associate in the Pryor, Cashman, Sherman & Flynn law firm.
In other words, the last judge, who refused to bar Riordan from her children, had family law experience.
Judge O’Neill seems to have none.
On top of that, this case involved Jennifer’s law, a relatively new law enacted in 2021 by the Connecticut legislature.
The law expanded Connecticut’s definition of domestic violence to include coercive control, which is “a pattern of behavior toward a person who is, or has been, an intimate partner or family or household member… which causes fear or harm to such person or restricts such person’s freedom of action.”
The law identifies examples of coercive control, including physical violence, the threat of physical violence, stalking and cyberstalking, isolating a person from family, friends, and other sources of support, denying a person resources needed for independence, and manipulative control over a person’s activities.
All these malignant behaviors have been attributed to Ambrose, not Riordan, by his teenage children.
Why was Judge Nieves, with decades of family law experience, substituted for Judge O’Neill with no family court experience, in a case dealing with such an emerging area of law – Jennifer’s Law?
Did Riordan Have a Meaningful Opportunity To Be Heard?
Judge O’Neill found Ambrose established Riordan exerted coercive control over the children.
The factual basis for many of these claims against Riordan came from findings and orders made by Judge Gerard Adelman in early 2022.
Since then, many legally significant changes to the factual record have occurred. Mia and Matthew filed petitions with the Superior Court, Juvenile Division, alleging verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by Ambrose.
The filed petitions allege that underage drinking, drugs, and sex regularly occurs, with children as young as 14 having sex with men as old as 23.
According to records obtained from the Connecticut DCF, an allegation of sexual penetration was lodged against Ambrose.
Also, respected psychiatrist Dr. Bandy Lee, M.D., identified Ambrose as likely psychopathic,
At the hearing before Judge O’Neill, Riordan attempted to show that Ambrose committed domestic violence through threats, abuse, harassment, verbal humiliation, and general psychopathy.
Judge O’Neill ignored it.
Riordan attempted to call Dr. Lee to testify. Judge O’Neill would not allow it.
Riordan requested an adjournment to call Mia, Matthew, and Sawyer – the supposed victims – as witnesses. Judge O’Neill denied the request.
Judge O’Neill allowed non-public attorney grievance information supplied by Ambrose’s attorney, Alex Cuda after having been improperly disclosed by attorney Edward Nusbaum.
Judge O’Neill’s inexperience with family law was evident in his failing to address:
- How the TRO is supposed to take effect, and where the children are supposed to live because they were residing with their mother?
- Did Judge O’Neill intend to send the children to foster care?
- Did he expect they would be forced back to the father?
- Or didn’t he think that far?
- How can Jennifer’s Law be the basis for the TRO petition? Jennifer Dulos and Jennifer Mangano, the women after whom the law was named, were both victims of murder by their ex-spouses (who both thereafter committed suicide). Jennifer’s law was intended to be a “safety valve,” allowing Court intervention before a situation develops fatally violent where there are existing tell-tale signs and concerns.
Does Judge O’Neill (or anyone else) think 110-pound Karen Riordan will personally and physically harm Christopher Ambrose?
Riordan may have a chance to have the order rescinded on appeal. In the meantime, what happens to the children?
The Appearance of Impropriety
Is Judge O’Neill this “green” in family law? Or was he placed on this case as a “contract?”
Something stinks here. The appearance of impropriety is overwhelming.
First, why was Judge Nieves taken off the case?
The July 21, 2023, hearing before Judge Nieves, saw her tell Ambrose she would not force the teenagers to go to him.
Would Judge Nieves have made a ruling that would have rendered the children homeless or wards of the foster care system?
Judge Nieves told Ambrose’s attorney Christopher Goulden that his motions made no sense.
Attorney Chris Goulden could not secure the arrest of Riordan so he was fired
Goulden told Judge Nieves what Ambrose was after:
“We are willing to withdraw all the motions if the court schedules an emergency motion to arrest Riordan,” Goulden said.
Ambrose sent Goulden in to get Riordan thrown into jail.
After July 21, it was clear that Goulden had no “firepower” and was not willing to get “dirty” enough, not for Ambrose.
Then, Ambrose hired the biggest gun he can — the former Chair of the State Bar Association, Family Law Section, Alexander Cuda, as the “hatchet man.”
Cuda has the right friends in the State Bar and the judiciary
Within days of Cuda’s arrival, Judge Nieves is “exited” from the case. Judge O’Neill is “assigned.”
What could a favorable Ambrose ruling do for Judge O’Neill’s career? What could a favorable ruling do to protect Judge Jane Kupson Grossman and Judge Gerard I. Adelman’s previous rulings that found no abuse – sexual or otherwise- by Ambrose? Especially in light of glaring evidence contained in police reports and medical records from 2020 and 2021 that those judges failed to consider.
What could a favorable ruling do to protect Connecticut DCF for failing to investigate credible allegations of sexual abuse? Especially with new evidence of abuse coming to light in the children’s Juvenile Court petitions.
It’s no secret that his former law firm Day Pitney LLP would love to see Judge O”Neill moved to the commercial division. More “big money cases” means more of a chance for Judge O’Neill to rule in favor of lawyers in big money cases.
In Connecticut courts, following the money is the surest way to discover what really happened.
Was tanking Riordan’s case, ruining the children’s happiness, the price for moving Judge O’Neill’s down the hall to hearing “big dollar” commercial cases?
What Connecticut Court Administration official made the decision removing a critical and legally complex “first impression” case on Jennifer’s Law from a seasoned family court jurist with decades of family law experience and handing it to a “greenhorn” both on the bench and in the legal area.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Granted, Judge O’Neill may just be “green” and not recognize the fundamental difference between cases about money and true justice.
On the other hand, “green” might have been the motivating factor in Judge O’Neill’s outrageous decision in the Ambrose v. Riordan case.