SUPERVISING JUDGE: TRANSCRIPT CONTAINS NO REFERENCE TO KEY DOCUMENTS, ONE OF WHICH NEVER APPEARED
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 10, 2018) — As The Post & Email has reported, a Los Angeles domestic violence victim was told last month by a local police department that the DVRO (domestic violence restraining order) approved by Torrance Superior Court Commissioner Glenda Veasey on December 10, 2015 appears to have been canceled by a different commissioner and recorded nowhere officially.
When on February 9, 2018 “Michelle Robinson” spotted the restrained person at the commuter train station she enters and exits each day to and from work, she became frightened, called a friend, and proceeded to the Hawthorne Police Department, within whose precinct the incident occurred.
Last October, Robinson reported a vehicle collision with the restrained person in the Crenshaw section of Los Angeles which she believes occurred intentionally, although the city attorney chose not to prosecute.
Robinson’s fear of Eric Crutchfield is based on an incident perpetrated in her home in March 2015 wherein she sustained visible bruises and damage to electronics equipment and household furnishings. The incident prompted her to oust Crutchfield from her home and apply for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
TROs can be extended by court order or allowed to lapse if evidence is presented to the court that the threat to the protected party no longer exists. It can also be made “permanent,” which by California law constitutes a three- or five-year DVRO signed off by a commissioner or judge for cause.
A child-custody case involving Crutchfield and Robinson’s toddler daughter ended on April 25, 2017 with Crutchfield having been awarded full physical and legal custody. As The Post & Email has reported, Robinson was found to be the “aggressor” of a physical altercation with Crutchfield on December 20, 2015, a finding she disputes but which was used by the Los Angeles Department of Child & Family Services (DCFS) to remove her daughter from her home.
Prior to the child’s removal on March 15, 2016, Robinson had been awarded full physical and legal custody by Veasey. In California and perhaps other states, it is unusual for a previously non-custodial parent, particularly with a history of domestic violence, to be awarded full custody of a child.
After reporting Crutchfield’s February 9 appearance at the train station where she suspected him of “stalking” her, Robinson was informed by the intake officer’s supervisor, Captain Julian Catano, that the five-year restraining order Veasey approved is no longer in effect. Through phone and email contact, Catano told Robinson that a “Termination of Order” he reportedly was given by his department’s “court liaison officer” canceled the December 10, 2015 DVRO. Catano attached the document to his email which is fully titled, “Findings and Order to Terminate Restraining Order After Hearing” (see below).
Robinson responded to Catano that she had never seen nor been provided a copy of the document, which contains a handwritten note stating, “The underlying order terminates the order on 4-17-16” with a modification date of “10-14-16.” The second page appears to have been signed by Commissioner Steff Padilla, who Robinson said presided over an October 13, 2016 hearing held as part of the custody case involving Robinson’s and Crutchfield’s daughter.
Interestingly, Robinson told The Post & Email in a February 25 interview that during that proceeding, Padilla declared that she believed she had the authority to terminate Veasey’s restraining order. However, Robinson said she has never seen the “Points and Authorities” that her attorney, L. Katherine Anderson, said she prepared and submitted to the court arguing against the termination of the order, although she was provided by Anderson a copy of opposing counsel’s P&A document.
Care, custody and control of a child are fundamental parental liberty interests. Courts must provide a parent with fundamentally fair proceedings wherein the parent has a fair and reasonable opportunity to retain or regain care, custody and control of his/her child.
It is our mission to assure that parents receive their substantive and procedural rights and that they are provided legal representation at low or no cost affording them a fair and reasonable opportunity to parent their child. Too many children are lost to the foster care system, and it is our goal to provide legal assistance to our clients to preserve the family and, in those instances where required, reunify the family through the use of innovative, effective, affirmative, and ethical legal principles and skills.
Robinson said that she now believes that Padilla hand-wrote the intended alteration of the December 10, 2015 DVRO and in some way conveyed the document to Crutchfield. Robinson further speculates that Crutchfield provided it to the Hawthorne Police Department after the October vehicular incident to show that he had not violated an active restraining order.
During our interview last month, Robinson pointed out that the case number on the “Termination” document, which begins with “TF,” is that of the Torrance Superior Court DVRO but that the hearing took place in the Los Angeles Edmund Edelman Children’s Court, a dependency court which numbers its cases completely differently. “She can’t do that,” Robinson said of Padilla.
Robinson said that the document appears nowhere in the Edelman file, which she has reported having reviewed on several occasions in its entirety, nor did the Torrance Superior Court possess a copy in its case file, which Robinson reviewed in person on February 16, photographing every page and obtaining a “certified copy” of the 2015 DVRO.
The Post & Email has previously reported on two other families whose children were removed from their care by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) without documentation of abuse or neglect. In both cases, DCFS’s removal of the children was upheld by Edelman Court Judge Marguerite Downing, reportedly without due process or allowing the parents to call their chosen witnesses. In both the cases of the Hendersons and Williamses, the parents wanted to represent themselves rather than use LADL attorneys.
Robinson has now termed the October 13, 2016 proceeding a “sham hearing” which appears to have generated an “off-the-record” document favoring Crutchfield and exposing her to potential danger without her having been notified.
On March 7, 2018, Robinson told us of the “Termination” order, “I am only able to release the document because it was never provided to me at dependency court nor did I ever find it in the Edelman Court file on any viewing occasion (though they may insert it now). Also no court records refer to the document. Otherwise all dependency documents are confidential and governed by WIC 827.”
On November 18, 2016, Robinson wrote a letter of complaint, citing multiple allegations of misconduct, to Presiding Judge Michael Levanas which said, in part:
1. On 10/13/2016 Steff Padilla pretended to rule on Points and Authorities not before the Court. In open court, Padilla assumed authority, overstepped, and stated that she had the power to cancel and overturn an Order issued by Torrance Superior Court. LADL, Inc. and CLCLA participated in this deception from the Bar. There is conveniently no record of Padilla’s ruling that allowed her to claim to illegally supersede Order in Torrance.
On February 14, 2017, Levanas responded with his own letter in which he stated that he had ordered the transcripts of the October 2016 hearing and another hearing from November 7 of that year.
On March 22, 2017, Levanas followed up with a second letter which, although clearly refuting Robinson’s complaints against Padilla, stated, in relevant part:
I am unclear what you mean by Commissioner Padilla “pretending to rule on Points and Authority before the court.” The 10/13/16 transcript does not contain any discussion of any Points and Authorities and no one used the words “Points and Authorities.”