Family Law Facilitator Lollie Roberts Gives False Info To Indigent Pro Per Litigants - Coordinates Cover-Up with Court AdministratorsColor of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals
A Sacramento Family Court News Exclusive Investigative Report. Part 2
|Lollie Roberts, the Sacramento County Superior Court Family Law Facilitator has directed her staff to dispense false information about the state law mandated Notice of Entry of Judgment FL-190 form, a whistleblower charges.|
In a scheme allegedly coordinated with family court administrators, Sacramento Superior Court Supervising Family Law Facilitator Lollie Roberts has directed her staff to dispense false information to unrepresented, pro per family court litigants. Roberts' objective is to help conceal serial court rule violations by family court employees, according to information and court records leaked by a family court whistleblower to Sacramento Family Court News. One goal of the alleged plan is to eliminate pro per appeals by withholding from litigants without attorneys critical appeal rights notifications required by state law, according to the whistleblower, who provided the information on the condition of anonymity because they could be subject to retaliation for the disclosure. The appeal notice is part of a mandatory Judicial Council form, FL-190, which under state law court clerks are required to file and serve after a family court judge issues an appealable order. As we previously reported, court administrators have instructed court clerks not to issue the paperwork.
To continue reading this article, which is Part 2 of our series Color of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals, click here.
The Conspiracy to End Pro Per AppealsAs our series of reports documents, the alleged contrivance involves ensuring that unrepresented, financially disadvantaged pro per family court parties do not receive notification of their right to appeal court orders related to child custody/visitation, support and other judgments that can immediately be appealed. Other parts of the plan include obstructing the appeal fee waiver process, imposing an illegal 60-day appeal time frame where the lawful time frame is 180-days, and impeding the ability to obtain a court reporter at trial court hearings, and a court reporter transcript, without which an effective appeal is impossible. Participants in the scheme allegedly include family court administrators, employees and clerks, judges, and judge pro tem members of the Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Section.
The function and duties of the Family Law Facilitator for each county in California are specified in the Family Law Facilitator Act, Family Code Section 10000-100015.
Facilitator duties include assisting "unrepresented and financially disadvantaged litigants in gaining meaningful access to family court."
California Rules of Court rule 5.430 sets out the minimum standards for the Office of the Family Law Facilitator. The minimum standards include knowledge of family law procedures and child support law. In addition, Appendix C of California Rules of Court provides guidelines for operation of the facilitator's office. The guidelines include providing competent legal information, including procedural information and education so that litigants will have increased access to the court.
As we reported in Part 1 of our Color of Law series, a family court whistleblower alleges that Sacramento Family Court Director of Operations Julie Setzer, Court Manager Colleen McDonagh and Supervising Courtroom Clerk Denise Richards have directed court employees to ignore state laws that require family court parties to be notified of their appeal rights and the time frame within which an appeal can be filed. The notifications are part of a mandatory Judicial Council FL-190 Notice of Entry of Judgment form that must be filed and served by court clerks after any family court hearing which results in a judgment regarding child custody or visitation, support, or any other appealable order. To read Part 1 of the series, click here.
Family Law Facilitator Dispenses False InformationCourt records provided by the whistleblower indicate that Family Court Facilitator Lollie Roberts has instructed her staff to notify unrepresented, in pro per family court litigants seeking help that the Notice of Entry of Judgment is only required for a final judgment, issued at the conclusion of a divorce, separation or nullity. The information is demonstrably false and can ultimately result in a waiver of critical appeal rights of orders involving child custody, support, and other appealable orders. When the FL-190 Notice of Entry of Judgment form is not served on unrepresented and financially disadvantaged pro per litigants, most are unaware that they have a right to appeal the order, and after 180-days the right to appeal the order is lost forever. In Part 3 of our Color of Law report, additional court documents leaked by a family court whistleblower indicate that family court administrators have implemented an unlawful policy that condenses the 180-day appeal time frame to just 60-days.
|In assessing whistleblower claims, Sacramento Family |
Court News relies on the gold standard reference for
family law, California Practice Guide: Family Law.
The Practice Guide is used by family court judges
and family law attorneys. Using the Practice Guide,
Sacramento Family Court Judge Matthew J. Gary
provides monthly "Bench Tips" to family law attorneys.
Facilitator records provided to SFCN about the Notice of Entry of Judgment issue appear to clearly show unlawful conduct by the Family Law Facilitator's Office. Using the facilitator e-Correspondence System, in writing an indigent, unrepresented pro per family court party asked facilitator staff why they had not received a Judicial Council FL-190 Notice of Entry of Judgment form after court orders for child custody and support were issued in the case. To read the original written question submitted by the pro per to the Family Law Facilitator, click here.
In response, staff of the Facilitator's Office falsely claimed that the FL-190 "is only issued when a judgment of dissolution, legal separation, nullity (or some other judgment such as paternity) is entered on the record." The response also falsely asserted that a Notice of Entry of Judgment is not issued when "a formal Findings and Order After Hearing is entered." Click here to read the response. The answer is calculated to confuse an unrepresented and financially disadvantaged in pro per litigant who would have little or no knowledge of family law and procedure, according to the whistleblower. The FL-340 findings and order after hearing form is usually prepared by the opposing attorney and the form does not contain the FL-190 appeal rights notification, nor the critical clerk's certificate of mailing which establishes the lawful appeal time frame. Under state law, a neutral court clerk - not an opposing attorney - is responsible for filing and service of the FL-190. As explained by the source,
"The facilitator response says 'It appears that many times in your case Findings and Orders After Hearing were entered but since these were not judgments, no Notice of Entry of Judgment was issued.' That answer is untrue. Almost any court employee knows, or should know that the findings and order after hearing paperwork simply memorializes a court order. It is unrelated to a Notice of Entry of Judgment, which in cases with child custody, support and other appealable orders, is by law required to be filed after the findings and order after hearing paperwork is filed," the whistleblower said. "Just look at California Rules of Court rule 8.104(e), it defines 'judgment' as any appealable order."The leading family law legal reference book used by judges, attorneys, and appellate courts reviewing trial court mistakes is California Practice Guide: Family Law. The Practice Guide verifies that for purposes of appeal, the terms judgment and order are synonymous, and the book refers to the same court rule as the whistleblower, 8.104(e). "An appealable order is a judgment - the facilitator staff response is not accurate and could lead an unrepresented, financially disadvantaged party to believe they could not appeal an order that was, in fact, appealable," the source added. Other legal references parrot the Practice Guide. For example, Witkin California Procedure specifies that "Some determinations, although characterized as 'orders' are in effect final judgments..." and that "the chief test is appealability." Witkin also verifies that in family court cases, the term "judgment" includes any appealable order, and that the FL-190 must be served and filed on all parties by a court clerk. Click here to view the Witkin excerpt. The California Supreme Court and the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento provide similar information.
Third District Court of Appeal Verifies Facilitator Dispensing False InformationUPDATE: The 3rd District Court of Appeal publishes a Self-Help Manual [pdf] for self-represented litigants that confirms the same information regarding appealable orders. Page 10 of the Self-Help Manual reads:
"Note that the same rules about an appeal from a judgment apply to an appeal from an appealable order, as the rules of court dealing with appeals define 'judgment' as including an order that may be appealed. (CRC 8.10(4).)" Click here to view this excerpt from the Self-Help Manual.
California Supreme Court Confirms Facilitator ErrorIn a 2007 decision, the California Supreme Court emphasized that court clerks are required to use the FL-190 form in family law proceedings. The high court noted that the title of the mandatory form and the clerk's certificate of mailing at the bottom of the notice eliminate miscalculations and disputes related to appeal time frames. Click here and scroll down to the highlighted text to view the relevant sections of the 2007 Supreme Court case.
|The "Clerk's Certificate of Mailing" at the bottom of the FL-190 form is a critical component of the form because it establishes the time frame for an appeal, according to the California Supreme Court.|
Court Rule Violations Are By Law Government MisconductFiling and service of the Notice of Entry of Judgment is required by California Rules of Court rule 5.134. As of 2011, the failure by government employees to comply with any state court rule is a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, and constitutes government misconduct in the same category as corruption, malfeasance, bribery, theft of government property, fraud, coercion and similar types of misconduct. Court employees who violate court rules and other laws also violate Tenet Five of the California Court Employee Code of Ethics. At the local level, Sacramento County Superior Court policies and administrative procedures provide a discipline process for court employees who violate court rules, cause discredit to the court, or engage in discriminatory, dishonest, discourteous or unbecoming behavior. Click here to read the court's discipline policy.
"It is understood that the Court has a critical role to play in the County's justice system. It is vital that the public maintain its trust in the Court system. As a result, trial court employees will be held to a higher standard of conduct than employees of other organizations," reads the policy introduction.
Taxpayer Liability Exposure and Criminal LawsIf, as the whistleblower alleges, the non-compliance with rule 5.134 is part of a larger scheme or conspiracy that ultimately deprives unrepresented, financially disadvantaged litigants of civil or constitutional rights, court employees and taxpayers could be exposed to financial liability in a civil lawsuit. Federal criminal statutes may also apply. Federal criminal law prohibits conspiracy against civil rights and deprivation of rights under color of law. Sacramento Family Court receives federal funding, and court users have a federally protected right to honest services. Court employees, managers and administrators who fail to provide honest services may be subject to criminal prosecution under federal law.
In Part 3 of our report Color of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals, a Sacramento County Family Court court clerk unlawfully refuses to file an appeal for an unrepresented and financially disadvantaged litigant. Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read all published articles in the Color of Law series.
|Lollie Roberts Sacramento County Superior Court Family Law Facilitator provided incorrect legal information to this indigent, self-represented family court party. The opposing party is represented by a veteran family law attorney.|
Sacramento Family Court News acknowledges the confidential source who provided us with the tip that resulted in this article. We appreciate the tip. To send us your anonymous tip by email, use our Contact Page. All communications are protected by the reporter's privilege and the California Shield Law. For further details about our confidentiality policy, see our About Page and our Terms & Conditions Page.
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