Litigation Abuse

Eagle by Carole May Manipulation of the Legal System as an Instrument of Abuse

If you want to make a real difference, become a legal eagle watching over the court system.

We all know that “justice” in the legal system belongs to the affluent and powerful.  But, I think many of you would be shocked to discover how easily the court system can be manipulated as an instrument of abuse.

 Oprah: Is This Justice for DV Victims?

Mike Dowd is my hero.  He’s a New York attorney who has taken on sexual-predator priests, and he’s representing Barbara Sheehan.  He also founded the Women’s Justice Center at Pace University Law School.  It was the first legal center devoted to the issue of domestic violence in the country.

Sandra Boss: Abused by “Rockefeller’s” Attorney 

SandraBossTestifiesSandra Mills Boss is from an upper-middle class family here in Seattle.  Her father is a retired Boeing engineer.  She and her twin sister Julia are uber-competitive.  Sandra went to Stanford for undergraduate work and Harvard for her MBA.  She became a high-level executive in the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Company and currently runs their London office.  She makes more in a week than most folks make in a year.  Her annual salary has been reported between $1.2 and $2 million.

She was married to “Clark Rockefeller,” a Bavarian-born brilliant con man named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter.  He can no longer physically or financially abuse Sandra, but his attorney Jeffrey Denner verbally and emotionally accosted her  in court knowing the cameras were rolling and the sensation of the trial would guarantee it would receive lots of media attention.

Victory for Vernetta!

Vernetta CockerhamIt took seven years and two trips to the appellate court for Vernetta Cockerham to receive justice.  Vernetta’s landmark case holds police accountable for failing to enforce orders of protection.  Her story was featured in the August, 2009 issue of O Magazine.

Bravo, RightsforMothers & Claudine Dombrowski!

You want justice?  Pack the court room with people wearing purple ribbons.

Pit bull abusers have lots of Internet help available to them on how to manipulate the legal system as an instrument of abuse.  They quickly learn they’ll go to jail for physicial abuse.  In jail, they learn that they can more brutally ~ and legally ~ hurt a mother by taking away her kids.  In a strategy as old as Adam blaming Eve for the apple, they turn the tables on their victims.  Women fiercely trying to protect their kids from brutal fathers find themselves called prostitutes and addicts and mentally unstable.  Many find their professional careers blackballed by false accusations and innuendos.

Claudine Dombrowski didn’t go quietly into the night.  She’s breaking down the walls of silence on her blog.  And, she followed in Vernetta Cockerham’s footsteps.  Last week, she and Rights for Mothers packed the courtroom, and Ms. Dombrowski finally got some justice.  The judge opined that she had a First Amendment right to break down the walls of silence.

Nancy P. Tyler: Will Her Nightmare Ever End?

Nancy P. TylerArrest and court records hold abundant evidence that Richard Jay Shenkman intends to kill his ex-wife Nancy P. Tyler.  I am livid that Richard has been allowed to so deftly manipulate the legal system as an instrument of abuse.  The clear pattern is that his brother billionaire Mark Shenkman pays his bail, Richard’s released, and the court proceedings drag on and on.  He was out on $10 million bail when he allegedly kidnapped Nancy on July 7, 2009, held her hostage, and burned their house to the ground.  She had several orders of protection.

Is Nancy Tyler’s nightmare over?  I doubt it.  Even if Richard is convicted, Nancy fears the day he will be released from prison.  Richard has threatened too many times.  Yet, the onus remains on Nancy to keep herself safe.

Barbara Bentley: Dance with the Devil

Barbara BentleyBarbara Bentley’s charming, fascinating, and charismatic late husband presented himself as a retired Navy rear admiral and the descendent of two infamous admirals named Perry.  They were VIP guests of the Navy during Fleet Week in San Francisco.  He had war medals including the Congressional Medal of Honor.  They were invited to President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration and the inaugural balls.  The only part of his story that was true was that he was the black sheep son of Admiral Perry.

The truth was that he was a con man wanted by the FBI for impersonating a US Navy officer.

18 responses to “Litigation Abuse

  1. I have been going through a two year divorce with an abuser who had me removed from our home after I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, told him I wouldn’t take his abuse anymore, and told him I had pictures of bruises and other evidence. He then went to Court during my first week of chemo and said I had abused him one time and had me removed from our home with nowhere to go. In the past two years, I have continued to attempt to fight him in Court with little success. I cannot even get my evidence seen or read and he doesn’t NEED evidence apparently. I have become so disillusioned with the Courts but continue to fight. During radiation, I began writing a manuscript about my cancer and abuse, and it is now with an editor. I am working on a second manuscript about my time battling Cancer and the Court system. Court is much worse than cancer. I could never have imagined what passes under the banner of ‘justice’ in our system. No woman should ever be subjected to such abuse.

  2. Deborah,

    Actually, the stress of abuse takes a significant toll on our health. “Court is much worse than cancer” is absolutely true. I just finished reading Doris Buffett’s biography (she’s Warren Buffett’s big sister). Her daughter lost custody of her grandson to an abusive attorney/ex-husband. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone.

    I wish you well and thank you for your comment,
    Anne Caroline

  3. Wow – your website provides an amazing amount of useful material. My 12 year case of stalking was the impetus to change the NJ stalking law to incorporate third party stalking and elevate the level of the crime. The legislation was written by the detective assigned to my case in 2006. I was also stalked through the family courts. My ex through his attorney illegally subpoenaed the police reports i filed relating to the stalking to try and manipulate them against me in a custody motion where i was accused of suffering from multiple mental illnesses. Justice arrived with a published opinion on the illegal subpoena, an ethics hearing for the attorney who filed the illegal subpoena and the FBI who apprehended the third party stalker who was leaving me voicemail messages threatening to kill me around a series of family court hearings.. To refute the allegation that i was making up the stalking, i had the judge bring the prosecutor into the family court room. In Jan 2010 the third party stalker admitted to stalking and threatening me and to avoid facing federal prosecution he committed suicide by duct taping himself into the shed behind his home in NJ and lighting a fire…….My heart goes out to those women who are in the midst of their struggle with a vengeful ex. Do not give up…go to the court house and start talking to the head of the family division and anyone who will listen. Get in touch with the head administrative judge in your state. Be persistent. You and your children are entitled to a life without abuse.

  4. Karen,

    Thank you for your kind comments. I’m impressed with the response you were able to get. I need to hear that somebody got justice somewhere because so many persistent people just don’t. The system where they live is simply too corrupt for words, and the people who are supposed to be watchdogs are napping.

    Bravo to you for going through this nightmare and making a difference for others walking in your shoes! You have no idea how much I personally needed to read about your victory. So, thank you.

    Happy holidays,
    Anne Caroline

  5. God Bless Us All. I am from Dallas, TX and I am homeless due to a 2 year battle with my abusive ex-husband over a bad divorce./ custody battle. The judge awarded the child to me, but I get a text from my second attorney telling me that the judge has ruled that my 14 year old son stay with his father. No reason or explanation. We go back to court for the final decree signing, my second attorney tells the judge that I am concerned that my son has not been in school for two years and is not being homeschooled. He replies and says “doesn’t mom have the child?” Does he even know the case? Am I suppose to have my son? I am on my third attorney and trying to straighten this out. My husband assaulted me 4 times during the divorce because I was left in the home with my son to take the abuse and my first attorney told me “NOT” to report the abuse. He worked hand in hand with my husband and his attorney to get me out of the house. I did report the abuse and my ex had to serve 24 weeks of domestic anger classes. He then proceeded to get his concealed hand gun license and post a picture on his facebook target practicing with his 9mm ruger. I have not been able to work in 20 years of our 27 year marriage, yet I was given no means of spousal support and was told to keep quiet in court about being sick and on medicine. I lost big time. I have no family here and it is by God’s grace that people have come into my life and given me shelter and food. I have an ongoing arm injury, neck and back injury do to the assault but have received very little help. I am appauled that the judicial system in Texas is so bad. My son sleeps all the time,doesn’t bathe, and has few contact with people. He is suppose to be on ADD and antideppressant medications and is not. His teeth are rotting and he was suppose to have braces. He had sores down his side at one time and I finally got my husband to take him to the doctor after contacting help. They diagnosed it closely related to ring worm. Where is the justice for my son? My husband was able to get a restraining order against me by falsely accusing me of calling him too much. I was callling about my son and my visitation rights as per the court. My ex interferes every time and I have only had my son 3 nights in 2010. My first attorney told me I didn’t have to appear in court and my husband won the restraining order. My husband and his attorney tried to play the mental illeness card in court but no proof since I have multiple doctors I have seen and even went to a psychologist myself and was told I was fine. I was not given any insurance for my medicine and I have high blood pressure and other medical problems. My ex is an IT director at a good company, is educated and making great money. I am a good mother of 2 boys, kept them all fed and well dressed and cared for. I worked on our home fixing it up for 16 years and over night he took it all. If anyone knows of a good attorney that would sit down and listen to my story and find some help for me or anyone to write my story please email me.

    Thank you,

    Dallas, TX

  6. Sheila,

    Sadly, TX is one of the WORST states for women in divorce proceedings. Your experiences are way more common than you might imagine. I’m sorry to be the bearer of this harsh news. But, you aren’t alone in your plight. Not even close.

    There is a national organization based in Houston that claims to provide litigation support when children are in danger. My suggestion is that you call the executive director ~ don’t let them delegate it down the chain of command ~ at the TX Coalition. An attorney they work with impressed the hell out of me when I made an inquiry about another case in Austin.

    I got badly burned on that case and no longer get involved in individual cases. I don’t have the resources to help anyone. In fact, I too am currently homeless.

    My suggestion is that you check out the Rights for Mothers web site ~ she’s currently homeless as well. But, she’s got a wealth of information and expertise on this issue.

    Sheila, I admire your resourcefulness. The one thing I know for sure is that the best help we receive typically comes from the person we see in the mirror. The resources that should be there simply aren’t. It is survivors like us who will create them. We are warrior women who will demand change.

    Good luck and God bless,
    Anne Caroline

  7. Wow! Wow! God bless you for this website chocked full of information. For a while there, I thought I was alone or going insane in this twisted court system. I myself am being abused by the courts, consequently I have not seen or heard from my son for over 5 months (despite the court order granting “supervised” visitation. He is slamming me for my Bipolar (which is a misdiagnosis, I was suffering from depression and severe psychological, mental, financial, sexual…you name it abuse. I got into treatment for my Alcoholism and saw something was terribly wrong, and he tried everything to sabotage my recovery (the treatment center even banned him for my mental well being during inpatient rehab, he started fights with anyone at A.A. I talked to. Needless to say, I left with the clothes on my back. He has the house, all the money (to get out of spousal support he came up with a fake nanny, in which I have to return his money for another woman to raise my 14 year old son). I have nothing, seems being a 14 year housewife and mother is worthless and I am not to get a dime. In the meantime I am homeless, pursuing my Masters in mental health counseling, very involved in A.A. and service. Is there any resources of centers or organizations in the Central Valley CA that can offer information for mothers in this prediciment? Again, thank you for your site, it is a lifesaver to frazzled nerves and a broken heart.


  8. I just got out of a domestic violent situation and my ex ended up with my children, I was wondering if you would have any information about getting around the system? I want and need my children back with me, they are living with an abuser. yes, he manipulated the system to gain custody of my twins. He used the system to abuse me even further. i want to go take my twins but I dont know where to go once I have them back with me. Please help if you have any advice. my email address is
    Danette, Texas

  9. Dear Anne,
    Because I’ve been in her shoes, I am raising emergency funds for a young nursing student I know well, and personally. The father of her six year old son recently used an ex-parte order, alleging child abuse, burglary of his home, and alleging she is schizophrenic, bipolar and threatened his and his girlfriends life . . . and without evidence, the judge entered the temporary order which is to be heard 10 days from today. Through GoFundMe’s website, 29 people raised $1,550 for an emergency legal fund for this girl to 1) defend the allegations (which are false and provably so) and 2) to petition the court for a guardian ad litem as well as filing for paternity for the man. May I ask you to allow her campaign and story to appear on this blog?
    With warmest regards,

  10. Donna,

    I want to applaud your efforts. Bravo! It is good to know about GoFundMe. I am VERY impressed by your commitment and resourcefulness.

    My suggestion is that you leverage FB groups to the max in your campaign. While my web site gets a great deal of international traffic, my readers aren’t in a position to be generous. In fact, most of them are walking in the shoes of the student you are helping and would benefit substantially from your good ideas and enthusiasm.

    So, please come back and let me know how this works out ~ or doesn’t. The issues you have raised are vexing for a significant number of mothers. And, I would love nothing better than to tell them about a strategy that worked.

    May you be abundantly blessed,
    Anne Caroline

  11. Dear Anne Caroline,

    The good news is, it IS working, and I recommend similar campaigns for anyone in a similar position. I will fill you and your readers in on how it worked, how it can work for them and why we should never give up. Our girl has secured an attorney with the funds we’ve raised so far and will be able to be well-represented at her upcoming hearing.

    I invite anyone to pass along, repost or even use this example as a template for their own campaign.


  12. Donna,

    You have made my year! You have NO idea how long I’ve been waiting to hear a story like this one!

    Yes, love wins.

    Actually, I think “love wins” would make a fabulous title for a blog post. How would you like to write it???

    Anne Caroline

  13. Dear Anne Caroline,
    I would be honored to write it and I shall. Let’s continue to communicate with you and please look for my reach-out to you on Facebook.

    Donna S.
    @donnasyed (Twitter)

  14. Donna,

    Thank you. I’ve sent you a private e-mail message (FB isn’t a good way to contact me because I rarely visit and never check my FB messages).

    Good luck!
    Anne Caroline

  15. Dear Anne Caroline,
    I have been trying for 2 years to get out of a legal abuse situation. My situation highlights what is wrong with the system. I am in Ohio, and the ex is an attorney, had his law license suspended, ignores court orders, was even indicted for theft and forgery. And yet, the court system plays right into his hands. Time and time again, I win the battles, but he just creates a new one deliberately. He files motions that have no basis in law. His only intent is to continue to harass me. There seems no way to stop him. If he disagrees with a ruling, he threatens to file another motion in retaliation. And then he does.

    He is a danger to everyone he comes in contact with. He acts like his clients are there for easy pickings for him. He writes contacts that his clients cannot void. Then he runs up their bills and sues them when they don’t pay him.

    I want to do something to highlight him and his kind. To stop the abuse of the court system. To make people like him pay the price that they should pay. He has ignored all court orders, been found in contempt of court multiple times. How can the system let this go on year after year? It is an outrage! His actions should have been halted long ago. His pattern is obvious. Why is there no way to stop a vexatious litigator?

  16. Maxine,

    So sorry to hear you have been experiencing litigation abuse. Sadly, the legal profession is highly attractive to people like your ex who delight in bullying others and relish getting paid to do so.

    In some states, it is possible to file a motion to prevent frivolous litigation, but I have yet to hear that it has successfully stopped an asshole.

    For years this issue has vexed me, and your comment clearly showcases how your ex is drawing you into a playing field where he excels: the courtroom. You aren’t likely to be able to beat him at his own game unless you have unlimited funds to hire an attorney able to crush him.

    My suggestion is that your stop playing by his rules and compel him to meet you in a forum where you excel. We often think that the only solution is via the court system, but I have discovered that the court of public opinion renders justice much more swiftly and effectively.

    Your court of public opinion are mutual family and friends who can and should hold him accountable for his abusive behavior. I know that these cases often divide friends and family into camps, but there is always someone who has a clear sense of justice. My suggestion is that you form an alliance with these people and get yourself what I call “kitchen table” justice. You probably know somebody who can tell him straight out that it is time to get a life and knock it off.

    The abusive man in my life was an appellate court judge. And, this is a huge reason why litigation abuse is allowed to continue ~ the person wearing the robe or the badge is abusive behind closed doors and sees nothing wrong with your ex’s behavior. You’ll never get justice from these folks. Never.

    After years of responding to his abuse, I woke up one day and determined that I was going to live my life on MY terms, and he could go straight to hell. It didn’t stop him from wrecking havoc in my life, but I have discovered that no matter what he does, I can move forward with my life on my terms. He’s retired now, and I have a blog which has a huge international following. If he takes a shot at me, I have the power of the pen and can skewer him.

    Where do you excel? Make him play on your field. Meanwhile, read Tina Turner’s autobiography. There was a time when she was walking in our shoes. Now, everyone asks, “Ike who?”

    Good luck and God bless,
    Anne Caroline

  17. Hello Anne Caroline,

    I am a law clerk who is interested in legal reform as it pertains domestic violence survivors. Specifically, I am interested in how advocates can help shape legislation that protects survivors from legal abuse at the hands of their abusive spouses during divorce proceedings and incidental matters. I read several of your poses about litigation abuse and found them to be directly on point with my interests! I was wondering if you know of any states or countries that have laws that protect survivors from such abuses?


  18. Bravo, Violet!

    It sounds like you would find fulfillment in working for a prosecuting attorney who has a domestic violence unit. These units tend to be created and sustained by prosecutors who have either witnessed or experienced domestic violence. If you are interested in living in D.C., the National Network to End Domestic Violence is the best advocacy organization that I know about. You’ll want to contact Rene Renick. You might want to check into the High Risk Team in Massachusetts which I wrote about several years ago.

    Good luck! Please keep me posted.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Anne Caroline

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