From an advertisement for attorney Melissa Jill Needle:
She “is a lifetime Connecticut resident. She was born in New Haven, raised in Fairfield, and now resides in Westport with her family.
“Attorney Needle is a third generation attorney with deep family roots in Connecticut. Her father, Attorney Charles Needle, was a founder of the Connecticut firm Zeldes, Needle & Cooper in 1971. Since her admission to the Connecticut Bar in 1990, Melissa has exclusively practiced divorce and family law.”
In 2007, the bar association reportedly suspended her from law practice for a while, but she returned to practice. Rutkin, Oldham LLC in Westport, Connecticut, employed her, but she left the firm for unknown reasons.
In 2010, Needle founded Needle Cuda: Divorce and Family Law.
Her partner is Alexander Cuda, the man who successfully got a restraining order against Karen Riordan, barring her from seeing her kids. Needle Cuda’s client is Chris Ambrose.
Another of Needle’s many advertisements reads:
“Attorney Melissa Needle is an experienced litigator for high-net-worth and contested child custody divorce clients and family law clients in Connecticut…”
“She proudly serves clients in Greenwich (including Cos Cob, Riverside, Old Greenwich, Belle Haven, and Glenville) Darien (including Rowayton), Fairfield (including Southport), New Canaan, Ridgefield, Westport, Weston, Wilton — and the surrounding towns and communities.”
Connecticut Attorney Melissa Needle…In or around 2009, CT Family Court appointed Needle to act as the attorney for two children, working alongside the guardian ad litem (GAL) Eric Broder, in the high conflict, high net worth divorce action: Paul Greenan vs. Suzanne Greenan.
Attorney Gary I. Cohen represented Paul Greenan, the father, who is also an attorney.
According to court testimony and records, Needle demanded money from Greenan through his attorney Cohen.
The payments to determine the custody outcome were to be disguised as “drafting fees.”
If Greenan paid Needle, he was told he would get unsupervised and substantial parenting time with his children, and a “fast and favorable” outcome to his child custody issues.
Cohen, playing his part in the enterprise, acting sympathetic to his client, told Greenan that Needle was a “whore,” who would “go away” if he met her demands for money.
Cohen allegedly said this several times to coax his client into the tried and true cash-for-kids plan.
One time Cohen told Greenan in front of his brother James J. Greenan, Jr., a retired DEA agent, that all he had to do to get a favorable outcome on custody was have a check sent to the whore Needle by overnight delivery.
Rather than pay, Greenan discharged Cohen and retained attorney Neal P. Rogan. Needle met with Rogan. Like she did with Cohen, and who knows how many others, she demanded money, according to the filings.
At one point, Needle shouted at the attorney, “Tell your guy to pay me my fucking money,” according to Rogan.
Needle repeatedly demanded sums of money in exchange for arranging the lifting of supervised visitation and a favorable custody outcome.
Greenan consistently refused to pay Needle her cash-for-kids’ demands.
True to her word, Needle and GAL Broder did not recommend joint custody. Instead, they recommended to the judge that the mother get sole custody. For all we know, the mother, who had far more money than the husband at the time, paid Needle the money she sought.
Greenan could not have unsupervised access to his children for over 15 months. He filed a complaint with the CT Grievance Committee, alleging Needle engaged in misconduct. He argued that it is misconduct for an attorney to seek money to influence and affect the outcome of child custody, and to retaliate when her demands were denied. There is no record that the Grievance Committee took action on the matter.
The divorce case went to trial in late 2011.
Greenan brought Needle up on day one of the 11-day trial before Judge Harry E Calmar, a judge most familiar with Needle.
Greenan objected to the now $252,000 bill for Needle and Broder for their services on the case.
Needle rebutted by submitting an affidavit describing in general terms what she had to do while representing the children’s best interests, such as
- attending hearings,
- meetings with attorneys for both parties,
- reviewing the custody evaluator’s reports,
- reviewing emails between the parties’ attorneys,
- dealing with correspondence,
- reading pleadings,
- reading court transcripts,
- looking at financial affidavits,
- attending “numerous” hearings.
It turns out that while she billed for 100s of hours as the children’s attorney, Needle never met the children.
The GAL Broder also billed for 100s of hours representing the children’s best interests. He met the children for a total of 4.5 hours, including an “ice cream visit” at Friendly’s, for which Broder billed $625.
Greenan challenged the reasonableness of the quarter of a million dollars in fees submitted by Needle and Broder, citing Needle solicited bribes in exchange for Broder’s recommendation of joint custody.
Needle told Judge Calmar that “this has been a very difficult case. It’s been going for almost three years.”
Judge Calmar found Greenan was not believable, and Needle and Broder’s fees were most reasonable. He ordered Greenan to pay Needle and Broder.
Judge Calmar also decided Needle and Broder’s recommendation that the mother get sole custody was absolutely right – just as they knew he would.
Greenan was allowed to see his kids for a couple hours on Wednesdays, and every other weekend.
The appellate court upheld Judge Calmar’s ruling, which ordered Needle and Broder to be paid $252,000 based on their affidavits.
Needle and Broder did not submit any evidence – nor was any required – that showed what services provided any benefit to the family.
As her advertisement states: “Attorney Melissa Needle is an active Divorce and Family Law litigator with an impressive track record.”
According to credible evidence, Needle sought payment to influence and affect the outcome of child custody. In retaliation for Greenan’s refusal to meet her demands, Needle caused serious harm to Greenan’s relationship with his children.
She got paid anyway.
Neither was she shy in asking for what she wanted. In making her demands, she used profanity and verbal intimidation to make her point.
If Greenan wanted joint custody, he had to pay for it.
According to Needle’s advertisements, “She is well-known in Connecticut courts as a forceful, but fair fighter; an attorney with great integrity; and as a worthy adversary who does not shy away from litigation if that path is the best opportunity for her client to reach an equitable solution. Melissa understands that divorce is not just about the dissolution of marriage or stop-gap solutions but helping clients develop and negotiate a comprehensive plan for the rest of their lives.”
The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys named Needle | Cuda a Connecticut Top 10 Best Firm in Client Satisfaction in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Attorney Needle has been a Super Lawyer Honoree in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.