Did the Overseers of the Bar Protect the Public or Kill the Messenger?

“Kill the Messenger” is the message we heard in the complaint before the panel at the Overseers of the Maine Bar in Augusta on June 17th at 9 am.

As non-lawyers, we have been appalled by the Maine Supreme Court’s handling of a lawyer, who tried to appeal lower court abuses in the contentious case of Dalton v. Dalton. To this untrained reader, the Supreme Court’s “first team” (Saufley, Mead, Alexander, Gorman), while appearing to keep their own hands clean, wrote a decision, which essentially gave a blueprint to the Board of Overseers of the Maine Bar for a ‘sua sponte‘ complaint against the lawyer in question. To public readers, this decision looks like the Court was giving hand signals to the Overseers to end to this lawyer’s career in law. And… counsel for the Overseers, has essentially followed the Court’s blueprint. He delivered a “petition” which many readers would say was a call to the Overseer’s complaint commission for licensure death.

It is a powerful “shock and awe” move for the judiciary and its affiliates, and a Maine lawyer’s career hangs in the balance. What did she do that got her in this powerful judiciary line of fire? What are the charges (crimes?) against her that provoked this kind of “nuclear” response from Maine’s highest court and the legal minions at the Overseers? Murder, rape, arson, bomb threats, physical/child abuse, theft, psychotic behavior in court, lies, slander? None of these are in question, or the complaint and request for sanctions would most likely have been less stern. The Overseers claim in their policy statement on their web that their –

purpose is not punishment, but protection of the public AND THE COURTS from attorneys who have demonstrated by their conduct that they are unable, or likely to be unable, to discharge their professional duties.”

Our impression is that this case, both in its own right and in the lessons it carries for the profession, is about protecting the courts – not the public. We would add, in our view, it is about protecting courts from themselves and serious errors in judgement at all levels – bottom to top – in this case.

In a nutshell, the sanctioned attorney challenged (a) a Guardian ad litem‘s use of flagrant “junk science” in Dalton v Dalton to determine custody (and mandatory treatment of a young child) and (b) the court’s unquestioning endorsement of this GAL’s primitive clinical voodoo. Two “officers of the court”, in effect, used witchcraft to make significant decisions with lasting emotional impact on a mother and child. At issue is the GAL’s unlicensed, unauthorized, totally bogus diagnoses of “Post traumatic stress disorder” in a child who was involved in a custody dispute. The Guardian ad litem, a Social Worker by underlying profession made this medical/psychiatric diagnosis without recognizing 2 inconvenient facts: (a) Social Workers don’t make medical diagnoses of any kind, and (b) Guardians ad litem at the time she made the diagnosis were not supposed to use their underlying clinical profession in their role as “officers of the court”. She compounded her errors by referring the child to a clinical colleague for “scream and hit therapy“, a professionally discredited “therapy” that has no scientific recognition. Nowhere in this entire clinical transaction was there a use of a medical clinician qualified to obtain a clinical history, conduct a physical and neurological examination, order and review laboratory and clinical tests, consider a differential diagnosis, consider various treatment options and then – only then – institute appropriate treatment.

The entire mistreatment ought to be a shameful embarrassment to any civilized, enlightened society. It is a tragedy for the child and her mother to be forced into this situation and ordered into an unrecognized form of  treatment. It is court authorized clinical experimentation. Forced treatment is always to be questioned; forced submission to a discredited therapy is frankly, court ordered child abuse and has no place in a free democratic society. It is an unbelievable totalitarian nightmare that is wrong by any standards one might apply.

But what is the bottom to top judiciary system to do with this admittedly “awkward”, indefensible situation?  Distract public attention with “sound and fury”! It infers that the court was fine; it was the lawyer, who was abysmally lacking in knowledge of her profession. Her actions in court “attacked” the judge though witnesses say that she never raised her voice. She used- gasp, shudder- “leading questions”. Though “leading questions” and many of the other supposed professional “crimes” listed by the Supreme Court (and later by counsel for the Overseers), got corrected on the spot in the lower court at the time, the damage to the law one gathers is incalculable! Were the consequences of the Supreme Court decision not so serious, one would be tempted to laugh at their predicament: having to defend clinical “witchcraft” as basis for custody in the lower court. But a mother and child have been impacted by this “witchcraft” and the career of an attorney hangs by a thread because she called it “witchcraft”. There is the additional worry about the precedent of using “junk science” and “witchcraft” as acceptable standards in family courts.

As “grass roots” observers, our concerns in this case are several fold: (a) Junk Science as a basis for judgement is beyond wrong and needs some correction, such as a ‘sua sponte’ complaint about the “officers of the court” at all levels of this case for using incredibly abusive standards (b) The attack on a lawyer who had the courage and decency to say truthfully, “The Emperor has no clothes!” The example of an irrational attack by Maine’s highest court and by the Overseers on this lawyer will send a terrible message to other family court lawyers: don’t you DARE tell the truth about malfunctioning of “officers of the court”. “Yell therapy” is perfectly OK if a GAL and judge approve it. Scientific opinion be damned! (c) The blind support of the Supreme Court defending “junk science” and out to get the asker of “leading questions” ( and the like)  is all too reminiscent of the movie, “Spotlight”, and the abusive power plays it documented.

It is an “access to justice” situation ‘par excellence’, if our most courageous messengers to the court “get killed” when they deliver an honest but unwelcome message.

In our opinion there is a relatively immediate need to correct the abusive judgements of the judiciary at all levels in this case, so we can correct the shame of it. We would also propose a well-chosen (not just lawyers and judges) Maine Family Court Commission to study the terrible symptoms emerging from Maine’s family courts, the growth of ‘pro se’ litigants, to diagnose and correct problems, including re-design of the system and to propose legislation. “Scream therapy” has no place in court mandated treatment (OR ANY LEGITIMATE TREATMENT PLAN) for child or adult!

MeGAL is working to reform “Family” Courts and the vendors the court system use (Guardians ad litem) through educational means and legislative action. We would encourage you to get involved in the process to bring about change. You can do this by contacting us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or finding us on Facebook.