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Attorney Karen Winner

Tel: 212-337-3464

Thursday, 14 January 2016 15:25


Written by Karen Winner

Mothers Day at the Battered Mothers Custody Conference

by Karen Winner

Today is Mother’s Day. An untold number of mothers won’t be opening Mothers Day cards from their children.  These are not mothers who lost their children to gun violence or drugs in this country. These mothers  lost their children to abusive ex-marriage-partners. The courts, shockingly, in these cases, favored the abuser, despite evidence of the ex- partner’s domestic violence, substance abuse, and/or documented child abuse and awarded custody to the abusive parent. How could this type of injustice happen en masse? Because children’s safety issues are not a priority in this country. Instead, child safety issues are blurred and become tangled as “custody battles” in state courts that  often use junk science instead of scientifically based-standards, along with the notorious “best interest” legal standard that gives state judges unfettered discretion not to hear or consider evidence.  Many of these mothers not only lose their children but they are punished: “Many of these children were prohibited from any contact or provided only limited contact with the parent seeking to protect the child - despite the fact that this parent had never been found to have harmed the child. In most cases the child's allegations were quite credible,” according to the Leadership Council, a national group of experts -- M.D. s, psychologists, nurses, and lawyers -- who  have presented empirical evidence examining this issue (See: Are “Good Enough Parents Losing Custody To Abusive Ex-Partnersby ” Stephanie Dallam for the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violece”  http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/dv.htl . Some of these mothers take comfort in gathering  each year on Mothers’ Day Weekend -- to not feel so alone and isolated --  this year at the 12th Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference in Albany, New York.  The mothers at the conference will hear from Phyllis Chesler, author of the classic book,  Mothers on Trial, Boston U. Professor/filmmaker Garland Waller, and other luminaries who have been fighting to bring national attention to this criminally under-reported scandal.I am amazed by these courageous mothers who don’t give up the fight. I recognize some of them  in the photos at the Conference (through facebook) from twenty years ago in California. Back then, a Sacramento County Grand Jury  recommended  removing children from the jurisdiction of Sacramento Family Court, after finding that children were being forcibly placed into physical custody with alleged abuser-parent, despite bona fide allegations of sexual abuse. After the Grand Jury’s recommendations were not implemented, the California Protective Parents Association  commissioned me to investigate. That was back in 2000. My 81-page report, “Placing Children at Risk: Questionable Psychologists and Therapists in the Sacramento Family Court and Surrounding Counties” was presented at the state Capitol: “Angry veterans of child custody battles packed a Capitol news conference on Monday and called for closer scrutiny of the state’s family law courts,” wrote Tom Nadeau of the Daily Recorder (Vol. 90 No 98).  Despite the momentary hoopla in the California media about the findings in my report, the situation did not change in California and in the state courts across this country, the scandal continues to this day, whereby judges make wrongful custody determinations, forcibly placing abused children with their abuser-parents. Still, after all these years, still, there is no data on how many abused children are transferred to abusers in the state civil court systems, because the state courts simply don’t keep track of outcomes in these cases. Now, sadly,  there are a whole new generation of children at risk who have been assaulted, raped, and brutalized by parents and these same children are now at risk of being re-raped, re-abused, re-assaulted by those same parents, due to wrongful custody determinations issued by the courts. There are a whole new generation of childless mothers facing Mothers Day. 


 January 14, 2016

A vaccum in accountability, conflicts of interests, secrecy, lack of transparency, all affect the viability of the family courts, nationwide.  These problems are entrenched. Here is an example of reporting from 2008  that drew on a report I wrote in 2000 (before I became a lawyer) about the misconduct of a certain judge and lawyers in Marin Co. California. This story illustrates the rotten infrastructure of vested interests in the hybrid, public-private,  tax payer-funded court systems,  that create nightmares for unsuspecting families.  

  1. (415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

California Flea Terence F. Colyer Emerges From Under The CASA Rock In Washington State 
By Virginia McCullough

Dateline: 10/20/08 (c) 2008 
The insect known as a flea passes through a life cycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult flea cannot survive or reproduce by laying eggs without a blood meal, but it can live two months to one year without feeding. Fleas are bloodsucking parasites of pets, livestock and humans. These insects can travel rapidly by jumping and they are capable of spectacular leaps, covering distances up to one hundred times their body length. 
These parasites called fleas have a human counterpart also labeled FLEAs and these parasites originated in Marin County, California. The California FLEAs consist of a group of lawyers highly favored by the courts in Marin. They call themselves the Family Law Elite Attorneys. The clients of these attorneys are assured that they will win their cases by simply hiring a FLEA. These court jesters joined the tight little club in the early 1980's uniting under the leadership of fellow attorney Michael Buck Dufficy. Every year they would gather for the Memorial Day holiday at Michael and Penelope Dufficy's historic Pioneer Hotel in Sheep Ranch, California. (Click. Sheep Ranch, California -- where the Marin bar bellies up to Judge Michael Buck Dufficy's bar at his Pioneer Hotel by Virginia McCullough, 5/21/01) When Michael Dufficy became a judge in 1990 he celebrated by hosting a huge party for the clique at Sheep Ranch (Click. Odor! Odor in the Court by Matt Isaacs, S.F. Weekly, 10/10/08) One of the key figures in this "elite" club of lawyers was an attorney named Terence Frederick Colyer. In 1997 an employee of Colyer's law firm characterized Terence Colyer as "brilliant" and "highly aggressive" but one "who uses the law like a rapier" often "papering people to death". Papering is described as a legal device of escalating paper filings in litigation with the express purpose of increasing the opponent's litigation cost. The technique depletes the opponent's financial resources resulting in their losing through attrition. Critics of Terence Colyer stated that the right or wrong of a case was of no concern to attorney Colyer. He only cared about winning in Judge Dufficy's courtroom. Mr. Colyer's clients always seemed to be the one who held the family purse strings and could pay the attorney's expensive legal bills. In 1997, the Marin County Civil Grand Jury in California voted to conduct an investigation into allegations of improprieties in the family law court. The decision to investigate was prompted after a number of citizens wrote letters to the Grand Jury, complaining that Judge Dufficy was intentionally flouting the laws and manipulating case outcomes by showing gross favoritism to certain lawyers such as Mauna Berkov, Terence Colyer and Verna Adams, prior to her appointment to the bench in late 1999. At the time, Colyer and Adams, along with Mary Halbert, co-owned a law office which is called "633 Law Offices (633 5th Avenue) according to public records. Terence Colyer, his second wife Jackie Leo Colyer and Dufficy's close friend and associate Verna Adams all enjoyed Memorial Day parties at Judge Dufficy's Pioneer Hotel with the other FLEAs. Criticism escalated after it was disclosed that Judge Dufficy's wife worked as a paralegal for many of the law firms that appeared before Dufficy in court. Litigants appearing before Judge Dufficy were never informed about this potential conflict of interest. In fact between the years 1991 and 1996 Penelope Dufficy worked for the Adams and Dornan law firm signing documents with her maiden name "Thorp" in an apparent attempt to avoid detection. The lines between the official court positions and the FLEAs' ambitions began to disappear. Colyer's one-time, law partner Paul Camera once said, "We called if the 'Verna Factor;' if Verna Adams was representing the opposing side in Dufficy's court, you might as well not show up." The "Verna Factor" extended to her fellow FLEAs and her business and law partners, including, but not limited to, Terence Colyer. As ex-FLEA member Katherine Ballentine Shepherd stated, ""Naturally, we were all ecstatic when Mike (Dufficy) became a judge," Shepherd says. "You can't pay for that kind of access." In 1997 the Marin County Grand Jury voted 19 to 0 to investigate Judge Dufficy. In February 2000 the highly critical Karen Winner Report was issued naming Judge Dufficy and members of the FLEAs including Terence Colyer. The report reaffirmed litigants' testimony before the grand jury citing serious violations of legal and civil rights, as well as violations of the California Code of Civil Procedure and Marin County Local Rules of Court. Finally a recall drive was begun against Judge Dufficy and other judges for their obvious bias in court proceedings. On May 26, 2000 Judge Dufficy resigned from hearing Family Law Court Cases citing health reasons. However, the FLEAs were not ready to give up their devastating impact on families. They rallied around the judges like pit bulls, issuing a point-by-point critique of the Winner Report titled Rebuttal to Winner Report. Old friend and frequent guest of Dufficy's Pioneer Hotel, attorney Terence Colyer, said, "Ms. Winner's just a pen for hire." His second wife Jackie Leo Colyer had also been a frequent benefactor of Judge Dufficy's largesse during the 7 1/2 years she was with her ex-husband. However, on January 2, 2000 attorney Colyer had given Jackie Colyer $1,500 and thrown her out of their home. Colyer's fellow "pens for hire" and the judges they protect, rallied to Colyer's support, just as they had in supporting Judge Dufficy. The former Mrs. Colyer discussed her experiences with the Marin Family Law Courts on her various internet sites all of which were eventually shut down by judges in Marin County. There were several investigations by the FBI into the conduct of Judge Michael Buck Dufficy and his infamous FLEAs. The FBI ultimately declined to bring charges. The California State Attorney General has the jurisdiction to prosecute judges if they violate the penal code. No criminal charges were brought by this office against Judge Dufficy and his FLEAs. The Commission on Judicial Performance has the responsibility to file charges if state judges violate ethics or if they are convicted of any state crimes. This Commission privately censored Judge Michael Buck Dufficy twice for his conduct in two separate cases. The Marin County Grand Jury investigation, the Karen Winner Report, the FBI investigations, the countless complaints from family law litigants, the numerous newspaper articles, the attempted recall of the Marin County Superior Court Judges and the Marin County District Attorney.... all ground to a halt and neither the judges nor the FLEAs were prosecuted. Over the next six years between 2002 and 2008 things quietly returned to "normal". Then, in February of 2008, this reporter received information from a confidential source that FLEA Terence Colyer had hopped up to Washington State and ingratiated himself with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). As a "volunteer" Colyer was using his legal experience in an attempt to influence a Washington state court's decision that would determine whether or not a little three-year-old girl would ever know her mother and her grandparents. Washington's Department of Social and Health Services had given this fragile child to a foster mother. Over the next six months the forced separation of mother and child would become a very high profile case. Terence Colyer was once again in a position to exercise undue influence on a child's life. The CASA organization in King County is described on the Internet in the following manner: Family Law CASA Court Appointed Special Advocates) serves as the voice of children in court when their parents are involved in contested paternity, divorce, and third party custody cases. We work to ensure a safe, nurturing environment for children in high-risk custody cases in King County. The children we serve are from low-to-moderate-income homes, and more than half are six years old or younger. Their cases often involve allegations of domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness. Our mission is to recruit, screen, train, supervise and support the community volunteers who are appointed as CASAs. These special individuals thoroughly and objectively research the children's family and home lives, then generate written reports to the court. These reports provide judges and commissioners with crucial information as they try to sort through allegations and decide on a custody arrangement that will be in the best interest of the child. Family Law CASA began taking cases in the summer of 2003. The organization is assigned to approximately 100 cases per year, and has served more than 400 children since its inception. Our active volunteer currently consists of 168 fully trained CASAs. The program manager of the dependency CASA in King County is Linda Katz and she can be reached at (206) 296-1120. This reporter wanted to find out if Ms. Katz knew about Terence Colyer's past involvement in Marin County's infamous FLEAs. When I called and asked Ms. Katz this question her response was, "We have the greatest faith in Terence Colyer. The rumors you are talking about were generated by disgruntled litigants and a bitter ex-wife." So two things were very obvious: (1) CASA was indeed very aware of Colyer's past and (2) it was apparent that CASA stood firmly behind Mr. Colyer. 
Apparently so too, does DSHS, because CASA's Colyer and DSHS are working toward the same goal, to sever all relationships between mother and the child. Not satisfied with removing the mother from the child's life, these two entities are also seeking to never allow the child to know her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. These two taxpayer supported agencies have apparently determined that this little girl would be better off with the foster mother they have chosen for her. The foster mother is 44-years old Linda Gallez. She is a single woman who is unemployed and who takes the little girl to back-to-back day care facilities from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week. Ms. Gallez has a restraining order in place because she states she is stalked by a man who entered her home with a gun. While in this woman's care the three- year-old child has endured a black eye and has arrived at a supervised visit with her mother with food up her nose. Ms. Gallez also has an infant boy entrusted to her by DSHS. 
So intent is DSHS and CASA to remove the little girl from her mother that a termination of parental rights trial took place in early October before Judge Kessler in Washington. The first three days of the trial were monopolized by DSHS and CASA's Terence Colyer and his attorney Andrew Sachs. Their legal arguments consumed the entire three days that the Judge Kessler had allotted for the trial and the mother and her attorney never got an opportunity to present their entire case. The case will continue today, October 20, 2008. The abuse of this child has not gone unnoticed. Washington State Senator Pam Roach has reported on this case on her blog Pam Roach Reports since August 2008. Recently Linda Gallez, the foster mother and Terence Colyer, the CASA who sides with Ms. Gallez were featured on a blog entitled www.savealexisnow.com. Click. Following is the page about Terence Colyer featured on this site. Click. So California's FLEA has now moved to Maple Valley, Washington. He might have changed his residence but he has not changed his method of doing business. While he does not possess a license to practice law in the state of Washington, he still uses his legal expertise to control other people's lives. Perhaps once you are once a blood sucking parasite, it is impossible to change. 
Virginia McCullough (c) 10/20/08 
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 August 11, 2015


The entire transcript is below:






 JUDGE COZIER: Our next witness is an attorney

24 Karen Winner.

25 Miss Winner?

26 MS. WINNER: Good morning, distinguished panel


1 Proceedings

2 members, good morning, audience members.

3 My name is Karen Winner. I am a New York

4 attorney. And for years I have had a deep interest in

5 how legal consumers are effected by the secrecy

6 surrounding the discipline of lawyers.

7 Before I became a lawyer, I wrote a report more

8 than 20 years ago for the New York City Department of

9 Consumer Affairs -- Mark Green was the Commissioner --

Page 25

10 "Women In Divorce, Lawyer's Ethics, Fees and Fairness,"

11 and it found that the public is not protected from

12 dangerous lawyers.

13 I drafted the Client Bill of Rights that

14 divorce lawyers are now required to give their clients.

15 For decades it has been publicly known that the

16 New York Lawyer Disciplinary System fails to protect

17 consumers from unscrupulous, or incompetent, attorneys.

18 We know that the New York system is too secret and metes

19 out inconsistent discipline due to Individual Practices.

20 And we also know that the system is being held captive

21 to vested interests of lawyers who don't want any

22 changes to the status quo.

23 Consumers have no way of knowing which lawyers

24 are being investigated for serious misconduct. This

25 secrecy leaves consumers vulnerable to financial

26 predators with law licenses.


1 Proceedings

2 What are the ramifications to the secrecy?

3 Because the client is left in the dark about the

4 lawyer's pending disciplinary matter, the unsuspecting

5 client will go to the Office of Court Administration's,

6 web cite, look up the lawyer and see no public

7 discipline under the lawyer's name. And that client

8 then believes he or she is perfectly safe to hire that

9 attorney. The client does not know that the unscrupulous


Page 26




10 lawyer can keep practicing all the way up until the very


11 end of the process. And that can take years. And that


12 whole process remains secret.


13 So what happens when a client unknowingly,


14 hires an unscrupulous attorney who has serious


15 allegations pending?


16 That unsuspecting client hires the lawyer and


17 then the trouble begins. The lawyer won't return calls,


18 or, drags out the case with unnecessary motions or,


19 won't follow the client's objectives, or, starts


20 engaging, in myriad forms of fee abuse, like fee


21 padding, where fraudulent charges are added to the bill.


22 These are real problems and they are ethics violations.


23 The client becomes concerned, starts to loose confidence


24 in the attorney and then finally the client has to


25 terminate the attorney for the client's own best


26 interest.






1 Proceedings


2 Especially, in divorce proceedings where I'm


3 most familiar there is another ramification, changing


4 attorneys carries a stigma. The opposing lawyer will


5 invariably use it as a tactic with the judge that the


6 client who changes attorneys is a difficult client. The


7 judge has no way of knowing due to the secrecy that the


8 client was victimized and terminated the lawyer for his


9 or her own self interest. Even the judge has no way of


10 knowing that the discharged lawyer is under


Page 27




11 investigation.


12 Secondly, the client who has had to terminate


13 his or her relationship with an unscrupulous lawyer has


14 wasted the client's financial investment and a new


15 lawyer has to be hired and the client has to start all


16 over again with no recompense for the lost money.


17 Why should lawyers have special protections,


18 when they are under investigation, business people


19 don't. The average citizen doesn't. If the New York


20 disciplinary system would lift the secrecy and allow the


21 public to see the complaint histories lodged against a


22 particular attorney maybe clients wouldn't need to


23 change attorneys so often because they would have the


24 attorney to be informed and know who has a record. The


25 client would know how to protect him or herself before


26 it is too late.


Monica S. Horvath - Senior Court Reporter




1 Proceedings


2 And publishing a report of complaint histories


3 while they are pending would protect honest attorneys.


4 Because the whole system is affected. The profession is


5 being tainted and honest attorneys are being tainted.


6 Here is some solutions. There should be a


7 consumer alert to warn consumers against lawyers who are


8 under investigation for major misappropriation of funds.


9 Abolish the gag rules that prevent people from speaking


10 publicly about the complaints they have filed. Disclose


Page 28




11 a lawyer's disciplinary history so the public can be


12 informed including private admonitions. Open the


13 hearings to the public just the way that they are opened


14 in criminal and civil proceedings. It will take courage


15 and leadership to institute these reforms. There are


16 powerful interests as everyone knows who will urge the


17 leaders to maintain secrecy but the public's safety


18 should come first.


19 Thank you.


20 (Applause.)


 21 JUDGE COZIER: Mr. Zauderer?

22 MR. ZAUDERER: Thank you for your testimony. I

23 have two related questions on this issue of openness.

24 MS. WINNER: Yes?

25 MR. ZAUDERER: First of all, you referred to

26 criminal proceedings, the fact that they are open. May I



2 remind you that the reason for opening criminal

3 proceedings has been for hundred of years and has been

4 in our Constitution to protect the accused person from

5 secret proceedings. So the analogy of professional

6 discipline proceedings is not exactly accurate.

7 So, relatedly, I would ask you if you are an

8 individual practitioner doing your best and practice

9 honorably and you are a very competent lawyer and as

10 often happens you have a dispute with a client and the

11 client makes a complaint to the Disciplinary Committee

Page 29


12 and says things which in your judgment are either just

13 totally wrong or just totally distortional is it your

14 view that the public should have access to that

15 complaint and would you not be concerned that the lawyer

16 and the lawyer's profession is being unfairly interfered

17 with?

18 MS. WINNER: You know, there are already states

19 that do that. They already have open records.

20 I spoke to West Virginia's disciplinary

21 personnel a few days ago and they gave me the

22 statistics, showing the closed complaints. Including,

23 meritless complaints and all the others. And the

24 lawyers in West Virginia aren't having any problem with

25 it.

26 It is the same in Florida and it is the same in




2 Oregon. And, so, I think that this is like a -- I think

3 that this is a real worry of lawyers. But I think it is

4 a real worry but that is really kind of contemptuous of

5 the public. You know why? Because most people who bring

6 complaints are very serious and sincere, just like

7 people that bring allegations in Criminal Court. And to

8 separate those people and, say, oh, yeah, they are just

9 trying to retaliate because they don't like how it

10 happened, they don't like how the case turned out is

11 really not doing justice to the American people. They

Page 30


12 deserve, you know, more better thinking about them.

13 (Applause.)

14 MR. ZAUDERER: Thank you.

15 MS. WINNER: You're welcome.

16 JUDGE COZIER: Justice Skelos?

17 JUDGE SKELOS: I think that you have suggested

18 that there is perhaps a pattern of recidivism that

19 happens with respect to the lawyers who are under

20 investigation. Is that a fair summary of what you are

21 saying? That a lawyer who is under investigation is more

22 likely to be one who is committing further ethical

23 violations while that attorney is under investigation,

24 is that the claim that you are making?

25 MS. WINNER: Yes. Anecdotally, I have been

26 receiving --

Monica S. Horvath - Senior Court Reporter



2 JUDGE SKELOS: So, my question becomes --

3 MS. WINNER: Yes, yes.

4 JUDGE SKELOS: With the number of complaints that

5 we have in this state is there any empirical evidence to

6 support the fact that once an attorney has a complaint

7 filed against him or her that during the course of that

8 investigation that attorney is then committing further

9 ethical violations jeopardizing other litigants?

10 MS. WINNER: What I can tell you is that I have

11 been receiving complaints about attorneys -- I wrote a

12 book, a national expose, about this in 1996, "Divorce

Page 31


13 From Justice," published by Harper Collins. And I have

14 received complaints for over 20 years about attorneys.

15 And invariably, there have always been multiple

16 complaints about certain attorneys. And when there is

17 just one complaint about an attorney, it seems like

18 aberration, but when there are multiple complaints about

19 attorneys --

20 JUDGE SKELOS: That is what I'm asking you.

21 Okay, you are sort of an academic, I will say.

22 You have written a paper and you have written a book,

23 okay, and I'm asking you in the course of your study of

24 this issue --

25 MS. WINNER: Yeah.

26 JUDGE SKELOS: Which apparently is going on

Monica S. Horvath - Senior Court Reporter


1 Proceedings

2 20 years, have you accumulated empirical data to support

3 the suggestion that while an attorney is under

4 investigation that attorney is then committing other

5 ethical violations involving other clients?

6 MS. WINNER: Well, that is a really good

7 question and I don't know if any researchers can answer

8 that empirically, because the system is secret.

9 VOICE: Yeah.

10 (Applause.)

11 JUDGE SKELOS: If the first complaint is founded

12 and another complaint is filed and that complaint is

Page 32


13 founded, would you be able to match up the date of the

14 first complaint which was founded and then if the second

15 complaint or third complaint was founded you would be

16 able to match up those dates and you would be able to

17 establish that during the course of an investigation,

18 there were indeed further violations --

19 MS. WINNER: I understand.

20 JUDGE SKELOS: I'm just asking, have you done

21 that study or do you know of any such study?

22 MS. WINNER: I can't do it because it is secret.

23 We don't know about the investigations.

24 (Laughter and applause.)

25 MS. WINNER: But I can tell you something, I

26 can tell you something. Because of the way the system is


2 set up, lawyers will, they will retire.

3 I have had situations where a complaint has

4 been made and pending that the lawyer will retire and

5 then there will be other complaints that come up but

6 then they won't be investigated because the lawyer

7 retires.

8 And I helped a family from India, recover

9 $70,000 in funds because their lawyer stole from the

10 settlement agreement when the father was killed in a

11 temple and the lawyer -- the wrongful death reward --

12 stole part of the money from the widow and the children,

13 and that lawyer retired. And there were other

Page 33


14 complaints pending and they never saw the light of day.

15 And I think this is serious problem. And I don't mean

16 to sound strident.

17 (Applause.)

18 JUDGE COZIER: All right, thank you very much for

19 your testimony.

20 MS. WINNER: You're welcome.

21 VOICE: Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant.

22 (Applause.)

23 JUDGE COZIER: Now, I want to ask all of the

24 participants today to try and maintain some control. We

25 have many witnesses to hear from. This is a fact

26 gathering session so we cannot really have outbursts. . .






September 29, 2014

If you are in a divorce proceeding,  there may come a time when you decide to change attorneys. You might have good reason to change attorneys: maybe the attorney didn’t file papers on time, or won’t return your calls, or is ignoring your directives or is milking your case for fees without doing productive work.  However, the mere fact that you exercise your absolute right to change attorneys won’t help against an aggressive opponent who may try and use it as a tactic to undermine your credibility with the judge.   When the judge hears:  “She’s already had four attorneys. Four attorneys!!!”  that is sometimes used as code to the judge to view you negatively as a difficult client: the perception is that you have no good reason to change your attorney, are wasting money with a new attorney,  and don’t deserve to obtain an award of legal fees from the “monied spouse” for the new attorney.

If this should happen to you, the judge may have to be gently educated that people in good faith often change lawyers in divorce cases. One attorney in her article on Huffington Post, said that half of the cases she handles were first handled by another attorney.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carla-schiff-donnelly-/divorce-attorney_b_4003476.html.  At a legal fee arbitration in which I was representing the client against her former attorney, the arbitrator herself said it is well recognized that clients change divorce attorneys all the time, so there should be no stigma against the client.

Here’s an idea:  If the New York court system would lift the secrecy from the lawyer disciplinary system and allow the public to find out the number of complaints have been lodged against a particular attorney, maybe clients wouldn’t need to change attorneys so often, because they would have had the opportunity to avoid those attorneys with the most complaints lodged against them --  indicating patterns of alleged misconduct.  The client would know how to protect her-himself before it’s too late – after the lawyer hiring agreement is signed.  In my work to rescue the family courts and families from attorney misconduct, misrepresentation and greed, I can tell you in the past twenty years,  the same attorney names came up over and over again when people have called me to complain. Certainly, it’s no secret to the disciplinary and grievance committees which attorneys have the most grievances against them.  So isn’t it time to let the public know too? It is time for the matrimonial bar to shed some light on the myth that the client is just being difficult by changing attorneys, and to acknowledge that changing attorneys may be the only way for a client to protect her or his case against an undisclosed ethically-challenged lawyer.







January 23, 2011

Recently I deposed a divorce lawyer who is suing my client for legal fees in a divorce case. The lawyer's hourly rate was $325 an hour -- he considered himself as a seasoned professional, worth the rate. I looked at the lawyer's invoices to the client and saw entries that showed the lawyer was routinely billing his former client for faxes.  Just one fax cost around $70.   I asked the lawyer if he had a secretary. He said he did. Then I asked him why he, the lawyer, did his own faxing, since faxing is not a legal task, but a secretarial and administrative task.  His answer to me: "Sometimes I like to get up and move around. So I do my own faxing." Do you think the client should pay for the lawyer's exercise? 

If you are engaging a lawyer, take a few minutes out to review the invoices you have received. Is your lawyer charging lawyer rates for faxing?  If so, you might be due a refund on those faxing fees. If you have questions about your legal bill, don't be afraid to ask your lawyer. It's your right!  Use it or lose it!

Stay tuned for more tips on how to identify improper charges in legal bills.



June 10, 2010

Welcome to my blog. I've been professionally analyzing and writing about troubled divorce cases for about 20 years and have come to some conclusions. Due to dangerous conditions in divorce court that reward bad behavior, the spouse with the "clout" meaning financial, social or political muscle, usually wins. There are laws on the books that are supposed to level the playing field between the spouses, but they are not consistently applied.  For these reasons, the spouse without the clout needs to make prudent choices. I started this site to give spouses without clout the self-education tools they need to learn how to protect themselves: to avoid or minimize losses, in an effort to prevent financial and emotional devastation from prolonged involvement in the divorce court system.  When I find a notable exception where the spouse without the financial or political clout prevails, I'll report it here. If any reader learns of a case where the playing field has been leveled, and the little gal or guy without the clout is not crushed, send it my way and I will post it.

Case of the Week for June 10, 2010

One recent and stunning case that illustrates the exception -- where the spouse without the clout prevailed -- went to trial in Nassau County, New York (index # 05/20276). The ruling was extraordinary for its narrative breadth in denouncing  a husband who claimed “sudden poverty.” The issue that the case turned on was the husband's credibility – his believability. Describing the husband’s actions as the height of “chutzpah”, the court awarded $65,000 in annual maintenance (alimony) to the wife, and $340,000 in legal fees to the wife’s attorneys.  It took the wife five years of litigation to prove her claims.

The full rul

Divorced From Justice
"Karen Winner’s groundbreaking exposé of the flagrant denials of due process and judicial abuses inflicted on women in our family courts is a clarion call for legislative action."  

Karen Winner
Attorney at Law
252 West 37th Street
Suite 600
New York, N.Y. 10018
Tel: 212-337-3464
Fax: 212-691-6452



Author Karen Winner Esq testifies before the New York Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline