WITH A NON-RESPONSE

by Sharon Rondeau

https://newsroom.courts.ca.gov/news/judicial-profile-judge-michael-i-levanas

(Apr. 12, 2018) — On March 19, 2018, this writer contacted by certified mail Los Angeles County Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael I. Levanas as the result of a question arising from the issuance and apparent rescission of a 2015 restraining order.

The protective order was issued by the Torrance, CA Superior Court, Family Law division, on December 10, 2015 by Commissioner Glenda Veasey. The person protected, “Michelle Robinson,” was the mother of a then-11-month-old girl, who had requested the order after a domestic violence incident earlier that year which caused her to expel the father of her child from her home.

A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was granted, and the December 10, 2015 order made it “permanent” under California law for five years.  Along with the order of protection, Robinson was granted full legal and physical custody of the couple’s child.

In a series of events described in earlier reports, the toddler was taken from her mother’s custody in March 2016 by Los Angeles DCFS and given to the father, Eric Crutchfield, through proceedings at the Edelman Children’s Court. In April 2017, full legal and physical custody was awarded permanently to Crutchfield along with a restraining order Crutchfield requested against Robinson.

Robinson has appealed the custody ruling, and a hearing date has been scheduled for May 2018.

Last October and again in February of this year, Robinson and Crutchfield encountered each other in what Robinson believed were clear violations of her five-year restraining order. She therefore contacted the Hawthorne, CA Police Department to report the two incidents, as they both had occurred within that jurisdiction.

The HPD subsequently informed Robinson that her restraining order could not be found in the state’s online system known as “CLETS” and that an order overriding it issued by Commissioner Steff Padilla had supplanted it. That assertion was followed with an email from HPD Capt. Julian Catano with an attachment titled “Findings and Order to Terminate Restraining Order After Hearing.”

Although Padilla had presided over a dependency court hearing on October 13, 2016 regarding the five-year restraining order and indicated that she believed she had the authority to override it, Robinson was never notified afterward that the order was abridged or terminated in any way.  She checked both her child’s file at the Edelman Children Court and the Family Law file in Torrance and found no document memorializing the decision allegedly made by Commissioner Steff Padilla dated October 14, 2016.

Asked the source of the document, Catano would say only that he obtained it from his “court liaison officer.” After Catano failed to respond to an email from this writer questioning the origin of the alleged termination order, The Post & Email filed a Freedom of information act request with the HPD for all documents containing the words “court liaison officer” dated between October 14, 2016 and March 30, 2018.

On February 16, 2018, Robinson went to the Torrance Superior Court to request a new restraining order given Catano’s contention that Veasey’s order had been canceled by Padilla’s order. She was refused a TRO but given a court date of March 2. On that day, Crutchfield appeared and requested more time to prepare his arguments against the issuance of a new restraining order.

The matter was continued to March 23.  On that day, in an approximately five-minute hearing, Veasey stated on the record that she never canceled the restraining order and that Padilla had no authority to do so. A Minute Order to that effect was issued which Robinson later provided to the HPD.

Catano had informed Robinson that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) also had the Padilla “termination” document uploaded to its website. Robinson subsequently contacted the LASD, providing the Minute Order issued on March 23, 2018, and asked that that order be entered in the LASD’s online system.

The LASD said it could do nothing to resolve the contradiction between Veasey’s order and Padilla’s apparent order until it heard directly from the court.

Last week, Robinson returned to Torrance to request a new restraining order and is awaiting a decision.

On March 29, 2018, The Post & Email sent a second letter to Levanas reflecting the the March 23 Minute Order, enclosing a hard copy of the electronic version of the document Robinson provided to us. Rather than making an inquiry as we had on March 19, our letter was intended to report possible wrongdoing and other anomalies in the dependency case, including a discussion of “Points & Authorities” which Robinson said took place during the October 13, 2016 hearing but which Levanas said appears nowhere in the transcript from that day.

According to Levanas, there is no transcript for a November 18, 2016 hearing which Robinson said took place.

The following is the response we received from Levanas on Tuesday. As before, The Post & Email has redacted the case numbers for privacy reasons.

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