To The Rockland Voice Editor,
I would like to share my experiences with the Rockland County Courts. I feel what I am going through is not just happening to me; for every case like mine, I am sure there are many others suffering through the same injustice. Before I continue, one thing I want to make clear is that there are attorneys and judges who do not participate and I’m sure that they are as disgusted by what goes on as any other decent person would be, especially since we, the taxpayers, wind up paying for all of this.
I filed for divorce 5 ½ half years ago. My expectations of what I thought our Courts of Justice would do turned out to be completely out of touch with the reality of what goes on. I expected Justice and Due Process. Over the 5 ½ years I received the complete opposite. My case was first in front of Judge Berliner, who was then transferred to Westchester County, NY and Judge Alfieri was assigned as the Judge presiding over my case. During the time I was in front of Judge Alfieri he chose to ignore legal procedures; failed to read documents filed for my case, yet listed those documents in his decisions; couldn’t recall anything about my case; haphazardly restarted the case from the beginning after three years; and overturned his own decisions. Judge Alfieri’s actions forced me to have to go to the Appeals Court for relief.
In my opinion, Judges not fit to be on the bench are only part of problem with the Courts. Attorneys are much more the root cause of the problems with our Justice system. My experience over the past 5 ½ years has been that the attorneys on my case do what is best for themselves first (i.e. billable hours, etc.), other attorneys second, and the Court third. What’s best for their client doesn’t seem to even enter into it, unless it happens to align with one of the above. For attorneys it’s all about the money; how much do you, as the client, have and how much can the attorney take? The attorneys and, to a lesser extent, judges, feed off of each other and the process drags on and on for all the wrong reasons.
In my case, I have a spouse who is a German National, currently living in Switzerland, who holds a high position in a large multi-national corporation (Philip Morris International). My spouse has the financial resources to keep filling the pockets of his attorney to try and “break my will” (as my ex-attorney wrote me) and can go along with this “process” as it brings him no financial nor emotional harm as he continues to earn a high salary and live his life overseas. For me, I have everything to lose. I am a mother and care for my children whom I love and don’t feel should be used as a means to get even. Children are blessings, not pawns to be used in a divorce, but for a spouse who has no bond with them and lives a good life overseas, this “game” appears to be a win-win situation for him, as he has nothing to lose emotionally or financially and I do. I am forced to pay the costs for attorneys from my life savings.
It’s been 5 ½ years and the games between the attorneys continue, which has forced me to represent myself as a pro-se litigant. Since going public with my story, my case is no longer in front of Judge Alfieri and has been moved back to Judge Berliner, who now wants this case to move to trial. Opposing council, Ms. Holtzman, knows Judge Berliner has not been part of my case for 5 years and is not completely up on what has transpired during that time. Ms. Holtzman continues to go into court building smoke screens and appears to have no problem providing misleading information to the Court. For example, back in August of 2011, Ms. Holtzman was supposed to have issued an Order as part of a settlement deal. She failed to do so, and when Judge Berliner asked her to submit an Order that would take care of Custody and Visitation, Ms. Holtzman dragged out an old order from 4 ½ years ago and submitted that, without sufficient notice to my ex-attorney, and the Judge signed it. The Order Ms. Holtzman submitted to the Court fails to address Custody and addresses issues that are now moot.
It is very costly when an attorney provides false information to the Court, as Ms. Holtzman has repeatedly done. One pays an attorney to represent them, and to provide complete and accurate procedural history for the Judge what is actually going on and to get each side clearly, concisely and truthfully on the record. However, often that isn’t the case. When one attorney takes over, appears to be a favorite of the Judge, the other party and their counsel is denied their rights to fair and impartial rulings, most importantly, the facts are twisted, all evidence is not weighed in the decision process, and it escalates into a costly dance to bring back the issues that were, in my opinion, maliciously misrepresented.
No one can receive justice when an attorney, who was hired to protect that client, holds information back from the Judge and completely fails to note what is in the best interest of moving a case forward quickly, especially one that is 5 ½ years old. When that happens, it becomes clear that the attorney is then assisting the opposing attorney and yet gets to bill you over and over for issues you point out they did not handle properly previously. It has been my experience that attorneys are happily filling their pockets with your money, all the while making busy work with the opposing attorney and convincing you that you have to keep fighting in order to get the results you desire. Due process is thrown out the window and so many are left financially ruined, their families harmed and a case that started off with relatively simple issues that could be addressed and handled quickly and fairly, is dragged out for profit. My divorce was supposed to be a simple one. I had a spouse who was already living outside the USA for 3 years, and had no intention of moving back. Yet, here I am 5 ½ years later, no end in sight. During this ordeal, it was clear to me that everyone brought on knew each other well. From lawyers to forensics to “therapists” to the choice of the “lawyers for the children,” they all continue to make matters worse at huge financial and emotional costs.
It is now my opinion, after being dragged down this rocky road, that money drives this issue. It is clear that no one cares how far down they drag you – only that they make the most profit off your misery. The longer the case proceeds, the more money they all make. I hope there will be a unanimous “Ah Ha” moment for those locked in: to realize their attorney is not their friend. That the attorneys involved could be the cause of the contentiousness and anger directed towards the other party on purpose for profit. Regardless of what the truth of the matter was originally, excuses, games, stalls and delays appear to rule the Court system. Excuses, games, stalls and delays appear to rule the court system in Rockland County.
Deborah Goodman – [Lempa]
Pearl River, New York
THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE EDITORIAL STAFF AND CONTENT ARE THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE AUTHOR.