Color of Law Custody Cases

Color of Law Custody Cases
Rhode Island and other states often violate civil rights in civil courts when officials threaten to separate children from protective parents who are their lifeline. These cases may include "color of law" abuses that push the boundaries of law. Judges who allow color of law abuse in their courtrooms are guilty of "color of office."

In Family Court, we give judges ultimate power over people’s lives while taking away their curiosity, concern, and even their ability to inquire about what is really happening in these cases. This transfers the power to guardians ad litem and lawyers. These officers of the court can convince a judge--through false allegations that are frequently off the record--to remove children, imprison innocent parents, then bankrupt them through years of frivolous motions, and forbid them to talk about it--all under color of law.

In domestic abuse custody cases, this enables the abusive parent to gain extraordinary power and control over the protective parent and the children.

Here is more information about color of law:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

4. Gagged again!

A mother who attended the JNC interviews on Tuesday gave me her name afterward. I'm glad she did it then and told me about her case, because DCYF and Family Court are now trying to take away her Constitutional right to talk.

She told me she definitely planned to offer public comment to the JNC on the 17th. Though she is now forbidden to talk, others with more information about her case are free to speak and welcome to contact me at

DCYF and a team of lawyers tried to gag me once from telling the story of "Molly and Sarah," now at

One lawyer, William Balkun, even tried to gag a protective mother from talking to me. (I will find his amazing motion and post it here. Click twice to enlarge it.)

I have not researched the details of Faith Torres' story, but I think you will be hearing more about it:

Judge bars R.I. mother from talking about custody case
7:24 PM Fri, Aug 13, 2010
Journal staff writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Family Court judge has forbidden a woman from talking about her custody case with anyone, including the media, or posting anything about the matter on any blogs or other sites on the Internet.

The woman, Faith Torres, has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the gag order, but declined comment for fear of violating it.

"This court order is a blatant violation of the First Amendment,'' Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU's Rhode Island affiliate, said. "If she believes she is being treated unfairly, or if she just wishes to make people aware of her case, she should be able to do so free of a court-ordered gag rule.''

The judge's order is so broadly worded, Brown said, that "Ms. Torres faces contempt of court charges if she discusses the case with her mother..."

By law, someone who violates a court order and is charged with contempt of court can face imprisonment.

Family Court Judge Debra DeSegna issued the gag order -- which applies not only to Torres but also her lawyers -- on July 29 at the request of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.

DeSegna was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Neither Acting Family Court Chief Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian nor Associate Judge Karen Lynch Bernard, who was filling in for DeSegna and signed the Torres order on Friday, responded to requests for comment.

Joanne H. Lehrer, the DCYF director's chief of staff, said Friday that she could not discuss specifics of the case. However, Lehrer said, it's not unusual for the agency's lawyers, particularly in custody cases involving domestic disputes, to draft such "broad brush" orders and ask the judges to enforce them to "protect the confidentiality of the child." (Emphasis added)*

The gag order issued by Judge DeSegna in the Torres case is contained in paragraph 4 of a 1 ½-page ruling that details the conditions under which Torres is allowed supervised visitation with her oldest child. It states:

"All parties to this action, including the Plaintiff and Defendant, and all counsel are restrained and enjoined from discussing any of the within court proceedings and related matters involving the children with any third party, including but not limited to members of the media, postings on blog, and/or the internet."

Torres said at the time that her lawyer, Jodie Gladstone, objected to the order but the judge overruled her.

Several calls to the Providence law firm where Gladstone practices went unreturned. A woman who answered the phone at the firm told a reporter that Gladstone could not respond due to the court order.

*In cases I have researched, this has nothing to do with "protecting the confidentiality of the child," but attempts to protect DCYF from lawsuits for color of law offenses and for violating the Constitution. I am posting a followup article from the Providence Journal here:

Judge lifts gag order in Torres custody battle
01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, August 18, 2010
By Tatiana Pina
Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — Faith Torres left her credit card and other valuables at home Tuesday when she went to Family Court. She didn’t know how her hearing was going to go, and she might be spending time in jail.

Torres is in a custody battle to get her children. On July 29, Family Court Judge Debra E. DiSegna had ordered her not to talk about her case with anyone, including the media, or post anything about it on the Internet. Torres feared DiSegna would find her in contempt of court because she had contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, and a story had appeared in Saturday’s Journal.

But after conferring with lawyers for about an hour Tuesday, Judge DiSegna lifted the gag order, though she forbade Torres and her lawyers from identifying her children or giving out confidential information about them in regard to the case.

“I was hoping for the best,” Torres said after she got out of court. “I was prepared for the worst.

“I thought I might have violated the order. … I was happy she kind of lifted it.”

But Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU’s Rhode Island affiliate, said DiSegna’s new order is still too broad, and still violates the First Amendment.

“The ACLU remains concerned about the validity of orders like these in the absence of the consent of both parties to the case,” he said via e-mail. “While parents should always be mindful of sharing private information about their children in open forums, we continue to believe that neither DCYF nor the courts can impose broad prohibitions on parents from publicly discussing their own case, as even the revised order continues to do. …

“Protecting the privacy of children is important, but so is the ability of parties to shed meaningful light on the workings of our courts.”

Torres, 29, is trying to regain custody of her children. Three of them live with her, although they remain in state custody. Her fourth child, the oldest, lives with the child’s father, Genaro Fernandez. Torres wants her eldest child to live with her.

The gag order was issued at the request of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. Joanne H. Lehrer, the DCYF director’s chief of staff, has said it is not unusual for the agency’s lawyers, particularly in custody cases involving domestic disputes, to draft such “broad brush” orders and ask the judge to enforce them, to protect a child’s confidentiality.

Shortly before the July 29 hearing, Torres had contacted a reporter at the Providence Journal about her battle to regain custody of her children. Torres said at the time that she was trying to start an organization for women who were victims of domestic violence who had lost custody of their children. She said she formerly worked as an account manager for a properties firm and an assistant administrator for a medical clinic. She is currently unemployed.

Torres said she had participated in parenting classes, psychological evaluations and counseling for victims of domestic violence, and has still been unable to regain custody.

Torres asked a Journal reporter to attend her Family Court hearing July 29. When the reporter contacted DCYF about attending the hearing she was directed to contact the court, but the acting chief judge for Family Court did not respond to the request. On the day of the hearing, Torres said, the judge ordered that anyone not participating in the case leave the courtroom.

On Tuesday, DiSegna allowed a reporter in the courtroom for Torres’ hearing, where Torres told the judge that the court visits were financially draining for both her and Fernandez.