“A VESTED INTEREST”
At the beginning of her story, Irene reported that completely unexpectedly, her ex-husband filed for divorce when their child was an infant less than three months old. While Irene was still breastfeeding, her soon-to-be ex decided to press for increased custody, very aggressively through Torrance Superior Court Commissioner Glenda Veasey, a course of action Irene said has proven highly successful for him.
Irene is convinced that Veasey is partial toward her ex-husband’s wishes and has provided examples, quoting from court transcripts, of Veasey’s decisions announced from the bench, seemingly on a whim.
In 2015, a costly custody evaluation was completed awarding Irene’s ex-husband 30% custody. Dissatisfied, last June he petitioned the court for not only “50-50” custody, but also “sole legal custody,” which, if granted, would award him sole decision-making over the child’s education, medical care and extra-curricular activities.
Veasey then ordered a second custody evaluation, currently under way, with the evaluator chosen from the father’s list of names.
Despite the June 2017 petition and pending second evaluation, Irene’s ex-husband filed a duplicate custody-change request last December resulting in a February 2018 hearing (which also occurred shortly after Irene tried to have Veasey recused from the case for bias). In Part 2, Irene described the outcome of that hearing:
Veasey changed the final judgment orders and gave him a 67% increase in his physical custody without the evaluation, without there being any change in circumstances, without an expert’s opinion as to whether it would be in the best interest of the child, and without asking my ex to present any evidence as to why the custody orders should be changed now.
Irene is concerned for her daughter’s emotional well-being given certain alarming behaviors she has noted since the divorce, especially since she started spending extended weekends with her father. The child’s pediatrician recommended that she see a child therapist, as did a gastroenterologist (who believes the child’s symptoms are anxiety-related), but Veasey has overridden the recommendation because the child’s father opposes it. The girl’s extra-curricular activities, which Irene said she very much enjoyed and Irene was willing to continue providing, have been similarly placed on hold pending the outcome of the custody evaluation.
In her narrative, Irene faults not only Veasey, but also the supervising judges she contacted who, either due to incompetence or an unwillingness to act, have allowed the judicial malfeasance to continue.]
Family Court Corruption and the Failure of Due Process; and How it Promotes Bias
As I have mentioned to you, this case suffers from very clear bias against me as well as definitive misconduct and inappropriate action by the Commissioner Veasey (“Veasey”) which always seems to favor my ex husband’s requests; there has never been an error in my favor. What makes this issue worse, is there doesn’t seem to be any recourse or forum to correct these abuses and failure to give me due process as guaranteed by the US constitution.
After a year of very biased rulings, such as the ruling where I could not add my last name with a hyphenation to our daughter’s last name, and after several inappropriate comments against me by Veasey, I decided to write to the Supervising Judge in 2013. There is both a supervising judge for the Torrance Courthouse and also for all Family Law in LA County; in this case I wrote to the Supervising Judge of Family Law, Judge Scott Gordon.
In my 2013 complaint letter to Judge Gordon I explained my belief that Veasey displayed bias in her rulings to date. I received a response from Judge Gordon stating he would investigate the matter AND also inform Veasey, which was concerning for obvious reasons. I immediately replied with another the letter to Judge Gordon, asking why he would inform Commissioner Veasey of my complaint that prompted an investigation, thereby increasing the likelihood of bias? The California Constitution and the rules governing the Commission provide for confidentiality of complaints and investigations. During the investigation process, considerable effort is made to protect complainants’ and witnesses’ identities. If the matter is sufficiently serious to warrant the filing of formal charges, the case becomes public and the charges and all subsequently filed documents are made available to the public, and any hearings in the matter are open to the public. I received no response from Judge Gordon on my second letter asking why he would breach those confidentiality rules.
Putting aside the very visible bias by Veasey; most of her actions were done within the Rules of Court, but grossly abusing her discretion such as in her proclivity against granting me any type of monetary award, for example, when I requested my ex contribute to my attorney’s fees based on family code 2030, and because I was unemployed making no money. Veasey intentionally delayed my request by either reserving or continuing the matter seven (7) times, on 10/03/12, 01/23/13, 05/28/13, 06/25/13, 09/19/13, 10/03/13, and 01/14/14; finally holding an evidentiary hearing for attorney’s fees on 04/15/14 (almost two years after the divorce began). However at that hearing Veasey stated my Keech declarations and invoices of legal fees, which I had submitted per her instructions and that had been prepared by my previous attorneys, was not enough because opposing counsel had objected to (98%) of them on the grounds that they are heresy and I hadn’t produce those attorneys to testify to the declarations (which would have cost me about $2,500 per attorney to show up, if they were even available). I was representing myself at that hearing (“In Pro Per”) as I could no longer afford counsel, and hence was requesting attorney’s fees, but I was not able to make any effective argument against my exes’ attorney. Veasey had also misapplied the law; for which I could appeal; but more importantly, through an abuse of discretion, she had boxed me into a “no win” situation; this would not be the last time Veasey would do this to me.
As litigation continued over the next couple of years, with the biased rulings I have mentioned before (many of which infringed on my civil liberties), it cost significant time, money and emotional energy; I could afford an attorney less and less, and would more often represent myself in court, but would consult an attorney before any hearing. This is when I saw a pattern that was extremely disconcerting. In most rulings, abuse of discretion and misapplication of law can be appealed, but misconduct and inappropriate actions, that go against the published Rules of Court or State Statutes, cannot be appealed and it is not clear what governing body can correct those errors, if any. Also those the Rules and Statutes, that govern how the courts work and which are suppose to ensure due process, are complicated and very hard to understand without a law degree, or lawyer on retainer.
As I mentioned before, by late 2016, to help alleviate our daughter’s negative reaction to extended weekends (4 consecutive days and 3 overnights) because I felt it was due to the schedule, I filed for a simple shift of overnights NOT a reduction in my exes’ custody. What ensued was a calamity of abuse of discretion, misapplication of law, and more importantly, of misconduct and inappropriate actions taken by this Court; Veasey often did what ever she wanted to block my efforts, and to promote my exes’ requests; plus, I was often without an attorney. In summary, here is what happened:
- In fall of 2016, I filed the request; at the 11/29/16 hearing, Veasey refused to hear my proof and from my multiple witnesses to the our daughter’s concerning behaviors, but instead ordered a psychological assessment by an expert and for parties to submit names for potential experts (child therapists) by 12/06/17; and set an evidentiary hearing for 02/28/17 where this expert would come and present its findings and observations of the Child. This seemed overboard for such a simple request, which she had the discretion to grant (and later granted far more to my ex without any expert testimony), but I complied.
- I submitted my respective names by 12/06/12, but my ex failed to submit his names by the deadline.
- On 12/06/16, I also sent my ex my proposed Order After Hearing for him to agree, which if he did, we would submit to Veasey for signature. This was the normal procedure (for the moving party to send the other party the proposed Order). In my proposed Order, I included all the rulings Veasey had made at that hearing, including that she had ordered an assessment of our daughter, had set a hearing for 02/28/17 and that we are required to submit names by 12/06/16. My ex indicated to me that he did not agree with my proposal, and WITHOUT letting me know, he filed his own version of the proposed Orders, which changed the deadline allowing for the submission of therapists from what Veasey had ordered, and was also completely silent on the psychological assessment (that Veasey had ordered at the hearing).
- On 12/06/16, Commissioner Veasey issued a Minute Order selecting Ms. Asanovich, LMFT to perform the assessment and I contacted her letting her know she had been selected.
- On 12/20/16, my ex filed an ex-parte request to i) extend to the time to select a child therapist; ii) revoke the appointment of Ms. Asanovich; and iii) select Dr. Dannacher as the child’s therapist to perform the assessment (a therapist that had previously worked with our daughter). Since Veasey’s Court was dark for the holidays on the day of his ex parte request, Commissioner Maria Puente-Porras, presided over the hearing and denied my exes’ request after taking both our papers into consideration. I was amazed at how professional and fair Puente-Porras was; she ruled correctly; the experience was night and day from going in front of Veasey.
- On 12/28/16, Veasey, now back from vacation, took two inappropriate actions:
a. Veasey signed my exes’ proposed Orders, which contained incomplete and incorrect information and deliberately omitted orders she made at the 11/29/16 hearing. Veasey did so despite my objections, which I submitted to her Clerk via a letter, stating that: i) his proposed Order was improperly submitted, ii) his proposed Order contained numerous errors (as pointed out in my letter), and iii) he disregarded the fact that I was the moving party and I should be submitting the proposed Order (per the Rules of Court); and
b. Veasey issued a Minute Order, without holding a hearing, making the following orders: i) she overruled Commissioner Puente-Porras previous ruling, which already DENIED my exes’ request to extend the time to select a therapist; ii) she revoked her own previous order appointing Terri Asanovich as the therapist, which was also already DENIED at the ex parte hearing by Commissioner Puente-Porras; and iii) and she extended the time to submit names of therapists until 01/13/17.
7. On 01/04/17, I filed an ex-parte request for: i) the 02/28/17 evidentiary hearing to be continued as more than a month had passed and there as still no therapist selected by Veasey; ii) that Veasey provide grounds and clarify her previous rulings of 12/28/16, where she overturned Commissioner Puente Porras’ ruling, and also revoking her own orders selecting Ms. Asanovich as the therapist, and extending the deadline to submit names of therapists; and iii) to immediately select this child therapist for the 02/28/17 hearing. I was summarily DENIED, and Veasey would not take the Bench to explain nor put in writing her reasons for denying my ex parte requests.
8. On 01/17/17, Veasey made a “Ruling on a Submitted Matter Entered”, again without notice or holding a hearing, via a Minute Order. In that ruling, Veasey stated that she had not appointed a child therapist, that parties were not in agreement to select one, and furthermore, that she had NOT ordered any type of psychological assessment, therefore the Court did not need to select a therapist. That ruling was in complete conflict from all the previous minute orders on the matter, plus it still kept the evidentiary hearing for 02/28/17 on the calendar. This was completely contrary to the orders she made per the Transcript of that hearing. It very much felt like she and my ex (or my exes’ attorney) had had independent conversation and colluded on this plan, which is probably why he went against the Rules of Court and submitted his own Order omitting the assessment of the child all together.
9. At this point, Veasey had literally placed me into a “no win” position; an evidentiary hearing was still to be held, but she refused to appoint an expert to provide a report or testimony at that evidentiary hearing.
10. On 01/30/17, I filed again, an ex-parte motion, requesting: i) that the 02/28/17 evidentiary hearing be continued as there was less than a month for any therapist to assess, evaluate, or work with the Child, before the evidentiary hearing; and ii) that Veasey immediately appoint a therapist to see/work with the child. My requests were again summarily DENIED, and Veasey would not take the Bench nor put in writing an explanation or the reasons for such a ruling. She often does this, unlike my experience with any other judge or commissioner.
11. On 02/28/17, that evidentiary hearing was held. As expected, my request was denied without prejudice and Veasey stated that, “I had failed to provide any expert testimony to support my allegations”; as Veasey put an impossible burden of proof onto me. Furthermore, Veasey conducted the hearing in the most inappropriate manner, not as a bona fide evidentiary hearing, but as a complete “free for all”. She did the following:
a. Allowed my ex to submit a declaration not applicable to this evidentiary hearing where he requested the Court: i) award him 50% parenting timeshare; or ii) order a 730 evaluation (if the Court would not award him 50% timeshare), without presenting any grounds or change of circumstance for the ordering of an evaluation;
b. Allowed my ex to submit a declaration from Dr. Dannacher (the previously mentioned therapist that had not worked with our daughter for over a year prior to 02/28/18). Furthermore, the therapist recommended a full 730 evaluation, in support for my exes’ request (which was unethical and inappropriate as she had worked with the child and should not be advocating for either parents’ request in Court);
c. Interrupted and stifled my counsel, Edward Ovetsky, when he asked why did Veasey ever appoint Terri Asanovich to begin with, by yelling at him that “No. [she] did not ever appoint Terri Asanovich at anytime”; although the Transcript and minute orders contradicted Veasey’s statement;
d. Stated on the record that she never ordered the child to be observed or assessed, even though her statements in the Transcript of the 11/29/16 hearing were, “. . . we need to have another expert come talk to [the child] and come render opinions, then I am saying if you cannot agree on that, then I am creating a mechanism whereby you all give me recommendations, and I will appoint one of those recommendations to be a therapist, to talk to [the child], to be prepared to come testify as to their findings . . .” and “If the parties do not agree on who would be the appropriate child psychologist, expert to determine what is going on with [the child] and are unable to do so within seven days of today’s date, each side may submit names and resumes of proposed psychologists, and the Court will appoint somebody to do it.”
e. Stated on the record that “[she] gets stacks and stacks of papers asking [her] to sign them every day . . .” implying she couldn’t or wouldn’t review paperwork in a complete manner to make proper and correct rulings;
f. Stated on the record that she revoked her own order dated 12/14/16 because there had never been an agreement between parties to have the child evaluated when she said, “I thought, when you submitted those [names of therapists], that there had been an agreement, a joint agreement for you all to have her evaluated.” Of course there was not agreement by the parties that is why we were in Court; furthermore the minute order Veasey issued on 12/28/16, stated she revoked the order to select Terri Asanovich, because it was “premature” not because we were not in agreement and extended the time to submit names. Most of what Veasey said at that hearing was just untrue and a fabricated excuse to justify her ruling. The reality is that Veasey had ordered an assessment because she said she could not take my word since I was not an expert and wanted to hear from an expert before she made any decision. Now my ex was opposing it, because he knew what the result would be and Veasey wanted him to prevail and didn’t want to show grounds to deny his requests for additional custody;
g. In chambers, she stated to my lawyer, that there was an AUTOMATIC evaluation in place in the current judgment (which is again entirely and categorically untrue), when my exes’ lawyer, William Glavin, indicated that my ex will ask for a full scope evaluation; again giving the appearance of communications outside of the courtroom between Veasey and Mr. Glavin; and
h. In chambers, she made inappropriate and negative remarks about my breast-feeding our daughter from years ago, about my other parenting choices, and that I am entirely the cause of all these hearings.
12. This entire sequence of Veasey’s errors, conflicting rulings, gross misconduct, and inappropriate action taken by Court, was referred to the Honorable Eric Taylor, Supervising Judge of Torrance Courthouse; and the Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis, Supervising Judge Family Law Division for Los Angeles. On 06/05/17, Judge Lewis replied to my complaint letter and indicated that, “[he agrees] with [me] that there appears to be an inconsistency between the clerk’s minute orders and the transcript.”
So despite all these inappropriate actions, which go beyond abuse of discretion, it was not clear to me (nor to any attorney), where I could turn to get these actions corrected. Also, despite Judge Lewis’ findings, that Veasey’s rulings were inconsistent with the Transcript; he did NOT take any action. It should be noted that there was previous allegation of corruption and bribe taking that implicated Veasey and others including Judge Lewis back in 2014 (which resulted in a documented appeal).
I pretty much knew what would happen from here, but I continued on my quest to get our daughter assessed or seen by a child therapist. I later filed to get a therapist on board; I was denied. My ex filed to get 50/50 physical custody and sole legal custody, and of course, Veasey ordered a costly custody evaluation. So I decided to go along with the evaluation, as I had no choice, and hoped the evaluator would recommend that our daughter be evaluated or assessed by a therapist, because through all this, our daughter’s emotional distress got worse and worse, and time was passing by. It also seemed silly and absurd to have to pay for an expensive evaluation to get my daughter assessed by a child therapist, but I had no choice.
As I mentioned before, in this evaluation, every party my ex has introduced into this evaluation has had a troubling disciplinary history. In particular, I discovered he was seeing with a therapist himself (Dr. Berkowitz), and planned to include her as an expert collateral in this evaluation, most likely to certify that he was “emotional stable”. What was more troubling is that: i) I had met with Dr. Berkowitz and had consulted her on a number of issues for over six months before he started seeing her, hence a conflict of interest existed (she had even offered her services as the evaluator in the second evaluation – which I later found she was barred from doing because of misconduct); and ii) as I did my home work and checked out Dr. Berkowitz, I discovered she had such a very troubling disciplinary history (including a court ordered prohibition against being involved in any way in any family law case, and taking inappropriate payments/financial fraud). I wanted Dr. Berkowitz recused and not tainting our evaluation. So I filed to have her removed, again I was denied due process, due entirely to Veasey’s misconduct. The following is what happened in this situation:
- On 08/17/17, I filed an ex-parte request to enjoin my exes’ therapist from participating in the child custody evaluation. Veasey set this specific issue for a normal hearing on 10/11/17.
- In anticipation of the 10/11/17 hearing, my ex and I filed multiple pleadings and documents on this issue, including my Supplemental Declaration and Reply Declaration, as his 64 page Responsive Declaration with exhibits that contained a declaration from Dr. Berkowitz. My ex and I both presented ourselves in Court the morning of the 10/11/17 hearing of.
- That morning, when I checked-in for said hearing, at 08:30 am, the Bailiff told me that there was no hearing today as it was taken “Off Calendar”; I was referred to the Court Clerk as to why. When I asked the Court Clerk why, I was told that Veasey had already ruled on the matter, there would be no hearing, and the matter was now “moot”. I then asked to see the ruling, or be pointed to where I could find the ruling, but the Court Clerk would not or could not do so.
- Around 10:30am, the Court Clerk asked me why I thought there was no ruling. I explained to her, that the matter had been previously brought for ex-parte hearing, but had been set for a regular hearing per Veasey’s instructions on 08/17/17; and further explained there was no ruling made on this matter plus I let her know of the voluminous paperwork that had been filed by both parties in anticipation of this hearing. The Court Clerk finally seemed to understand the confusion, and said she would talk to Veasey; after which the Court Clerk told me that Veasey will take the Bench soon and I could wait to see if Veasey makes mention of the matter.
- I waited until 11:00 am and then saw my ex leave the courtroom; at which time I looked to the Court Clerk for an explanation, to which the Court Clerk only motioned that there would be NO hearing and I should leave. I even tried to present the Court Clerk a copy of the Minute Order from 08/17/17, indicating the matter had been set for a regular hearing, but the Court Clerk refused to allow me to come to her table or receive a copy of the minute order.
- I remained in the courtroom, hoping to be heard or presented with the ruling, only to be entirely ignored by the Court, until 12:00pm, at which time Veasey left the courtroom without addressing my request to be heard or be provided a ruling on the matter, as did the rest of the Court.
- My Request for Orders, set for 10/11/17, was summarily dismissed by Veasey’s deliberate action, without any reason and without any previous notice that the matter had been taken “Off Calendar”. In doing so, Veasey entirely denied my right to due process, and right to a fair trial, as set forth in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In speaking with other attorneys, who had been present in that courtroom that morning, and who witnessed my ordeal, they commented to me that they believed the conduct of the Court/Veasey was improper, unfair, and a gross violation of Rules of the Court and of my basic rights to due process.
- Of course, I immediately wrote to the supervising judges on what had happened. For months, I received letters from various judges saying they would be looking into the matter on behalf of Judge Lewis, etc. Until I finally received a definitive response from Judge Lewis in which indicates that he does not find that Veasey did not rule on the matter that was set for hearing on 10/11/17, although he does not point me to that ruling; but rather goes on to say that he will speak to Veasey about her disparaging remark to me during that hearing, which is honestly the least of my concerns. To date, I cannot find a ruling on this matter, as it was summarily dismissed by Veasey’s inappropriate actions and I was denied my right to due process. Judge Lewis completely avoided the issue, not just that I was never informed that the hearing was taken off calendar, but that Veasey clearly avoided to hold a hearing where I would have presented such blatant proof of how my ex surrounds himself with unethical, questionable, and unscrupulous professionals, all in his attempts to obtain more custody. The court ordered prohibition against Dr. Berkowitz participating in any family law case was enough and I suspect that there was no way around that, so Veasey just cancelled my hearing. On top of that, Dr. Berkowitz herself had emailed me, say that I was causing unnecessary problems by trying to remove her from the evaluation and pretty much insisted she needs to be involved; which is troubling because the point of a therapist isn’t so they can testify in an evaluation, but so they can treat the patient (and she could still work with my ex even if Berkowitz is excluded from the evaluation); again very suspicious.
Following that experience, I decided it was time to file to recuse Veasey due to her bias that was clearly affecting not just my ability for cause and bias. So on 11/03/17, I filed for that recusal of Veasey for cause, in a VERIFIED STATEMENT OF DISQUALIFICATION OF COMMISSIONER GLENDA VEASEY PURSUANT TO CALIFORNIA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE §170.1(a)(6)(A)(iii) and §170.3(c); AND DECLARATION OF RESPONDENT IN SUPPORT THEREOF.
Instead of complying with the mandatory provisions of Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §170.3(c)(5), which requires Veasey to respond in a statement and then both of our papers would go to a panel of three supervising judges, who decide on the issue, Veasey summarily struck my Verified Statement, without providing her required Verified Answer to my Verified Statement. While Veasey issued a written order, it merely recites in general terms the supposed grounds for refusing to consider my Verified Statement, without actually setting forth specific reasons applicable. The failure to address the Verified Statement on its merits is further evidence of bias (or the appearance of bias) by Veasey. I can’t help but believe that an honest judge would just remove themself from the case, knowing that any other judge would rule the same way as it shouldn’t matter who is presiding over a case. Veasey seems to have a vested interest in remaining on this case.
As expected, at the next hearing, following my attempts to recuse Veasey, which my ex only filed after my efforts were completely blocked by Veasey; she granted my ex a huge change in custody without any expert opinion, without any grounds, even though the custody evaluation was pending; which Veasey said she could not do a lesser change to custody without an expert opinion even though I presented grounds, when I made my request. Veasey had so visibly ruled vindictively against me.
And the worst part about all of this, I have no idea where I can get anyone to review her actions or have any recourse to correct these things, such as her summarily ignoring statute and facing the panel of judges. Veasey makes up the rules as she goes along, supervising judges review and find some issue, but nothing gets done. Meanwhile, I am denied due process, my civil rights are violated, and worse my daughter is denied critical mental healthcare, at a tender age and this could all have long lasting negative effects on her. It is unfortunate that Veasey does not seem to be held accountable by the law in any way and there are no checks and balances. It appears judges cover up for each other. The above-mentioned issues have now been sent to the Commission on Judicial Performance in San Francisco for their investigation, which I do not have much hope and trust in. I wrote to this organization back in 2013, and nothing was done then.
In summary, family law needs major changes. Judges, commissioners, custody evaluators, and attorneys need to be held accountable for their actions and there should be an oversight in the Family Courts when orders on custody and visitation are being made. Immunity should not exist when laws are violated. Custody evaluators should be responsible for providing an in-depth evaluation with substantiated findings and evidence to support their recommendations. Fees and rates should be determined based on financial ability to pay. Licenses need to be enforced and updated and the public should be aware of the unethical and unconscionable antics of these evaluators, attorneys, and judges. The children of our future and the public depend on a just, fair and impartial judiciary.
 As I have mentioned before, appeals can take years and cost upwards of $20,000, which would further put me in financial hardship, possibly for years while I appeal decisions.