16 January 2013

Sacramento Superior Court Controversy: Family Law Facilitator Office Disseminates False Information to Indigent, Self-Represented Pro Pers Without Lawyers

United States District Court Eastern District of California – Sacramento Federal Court – United States Courts - Judge William Shubb - Judge Edmund Brennan - Judge Garland Burrell Jr - Judge Carolyn Delaney - Judge Morrison England Jr - Judge Gregory Hollows - Judge John Mendez - Judge Kendall Newman - Judge Troy Nunley - Judge Allison Claire - Judge Dale Drozd - Judge Lawrence Karlton - Judge Kimberly Mueller – Office of the United States Attorneys Benjamin B. Wagner Eastern District of California, Judge Robert Hight – Judge Bunmi Awoniyi – Judge Steven Gevercer – Judge Tami Bogert – Judge James Mize – Vance Raye - Victoria Henley CJP - Judge Thadd Blizzard -tani g. cantil-sakauye - Elaine M. Howle California State Auditor - Bureau of State Audits Elaine Howle - State Bar of California Board of Trustees – President Patrick M. Kelly – Vice President Luis J. Rodrigez – Treasurer Gretchen M. Nelson – State Bar of California Office of the Chief Trial Counsel - attorney Jayne Kim Chief Trial Counsel – attorney Joseph R. Carlucci Deputy Chief Trial Counsel – Patsy J. Cobb Deputy Chief Trial Counsel -Benjamin B. Wagner – Melinda Haag – Jayne Kim – Victoria B. Henley – Elaine M. Howle -  Judge Kevin R. Culhane – Hon. Kevin R Culhane – Judge Kevin Culhane -
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. 

Color of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals 
A Sacramento Family Court News Exclusive Investigative Report. Part 2
  • This story is part of an ongoing investigation and was updated in September, 2013.

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 family court litigants. 

Roberts' objective is to help conceal systemic violations of the Code of Civil Procedure and state court rules by family court employees, according to court records and other information leaked by a family court whistleblower to Sacramento Family Court News. Another objective of the alleged plan is to obstruct pro per appeals by concealing a critical, state law mandated appeal rights notification from unrepresented, indigent or financially disadvantaged family court litigants, 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 SFCN previously reported, court administrators have instructed court clerks not to issue the FL-190 paperwork for appealable orders issued at law and motion hearings. 

Roberts and her staff are conveying the same inaccurate information by instructing pro per parties that the FL-190 is only issued when a divorce is finalized, and that appealable law and motion orders are not judgments requiring issuance of the form. The falsity of the information has been verified by both the California Supreme Court and Third District Court of Appeal.      

To continue reading Part 2 of our series Color of Law, click Read more >> below.

The Plan to End Pro Per Appeals 

As our series of reports documents, the alleged plan 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 scheme 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. 

Co-conspirators in the plan allegedly include family court administrators, employees and clerks, judges, and judge pro tem members of the Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Section. Staff at the Third District Court of Appeal reportedly have tacitly condoned the plan by ignoring trial court irregularities and other evidence that reaches the reviewing court.

Judge Kevin R. Culhane – Hon. Kevin R Culhane – Judge Kevin Culhane -Hon. Robert C. Hight – Hon. Bunmi O. Awoniyi – Hon. Steven M. Gevercer – Hon. Tami R. Bogert – Hon. James M. Mize – Vance Raye - CJP Victoria B. Henley – Hon. Thadd A. Blizzard -tani g. cantil-sakauye - State Bar of California Office of the Chief Trial Counsel - attorney Jayne Kim Chief Trial Counsel – attorney Joseph R. Carlucci Deputy Chief Trial Counsel – Patsy J. Cobb Deputy Chief Trial Counsel - attorney Lollie Roberts, Sacramento County Superior Court Supervising Family Law Facilitator Lollie Roberts - family court Sacramento -Steven Jahr Administrative Director of the Courts – Judicial Council and Court Leadership Services Division Jody Patel Chief of Staff – Judicial and Court Operations Services Division Curtis L. Child Chief Operating Officer – Judicial and Court Administrative Services Division Curt Soderlund Chief Administrative Officer  Sacramento Federal Court Eastern District of California – United States Courts, US District Court Sacramento, Judge William B. Shubb, Judge Edmund F. Brennan, Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr, Judge Carolyn K. Delaney, Judge Morrison C. England Jr, Judge Gregory G. Hollows, Judge John A. Mendez, Judge Kendall J. Newman, Judge Troy L. Nunley, Judge Allison Claire, Judge Dale A. Drozd, Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner,
The Family Law Facilitator

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 the 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 Information

Court 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.
Judge Robert Hight – Judge Bunmi Awoniyi – Judge Steven Gevercer – Judge Tami Bogert – Judge James Mize – Vance Raye - Victoria Henley CJP - Judge Thadd Blizzard -3rd District Court of Appeal – Sacramento -Justice Vance W. Raye - Justice Cole Blease – Justice Ronald B. Robie – Justice William J. Murray Jr. – Justice George Nicolson – Justice M. Kathleen Butz – Justice Elena J. Duarte – Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. – Justice Louis Mauro – Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – Third District Court of Appeal California - Family Court Sacramento, Family Law, Child Custody and Visitation, Family Law Facilitator, Notice of Entry of Judgment -United States District Court Eastern District of California – Sacramento Federal Court – United States Courts - Judge William Shubb - Judge Edmund Brennan - Judge Garland Burrell Jr - Judge Carolyn Delaney - Judge Morrison England Jr - Judge Gregory Hollows - Judge John Mendez - Judge Kendall Newman - Judge Troy Nunley - Judge Allison Claire - Judge Dale Drozd - Judge Lawrence Karlton - Judge Kimberly Mueller – Office of the United States Attorneys Benjamin B. Wagner Eastern District of California,
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 GuideSacramento Family Court 
Judge Matthew J. Gary provides monthly "Bench Tips" to family law attorneys. 

Facilitator records provided to SFCN about the entry of judgment issue indicate 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.
Sacramento Federal Court Eastern District of California – United States Courts, US District Court Sacramento, Judge William B. Shubb, Judge Edmund F. Brennan, Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr, Judge Carolyn K. Delaney, Judge Morrison C. England Jr, Judge Gregory G. Hollows, Judge John A. Mendez, Judge Kendall J. Newman, Judge Troy L. Nunley, Judge Allison Claire, Judge Dale A. Drozd, Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner, Hon. Robert C. Hight – Hon. Bunmi O. Awoniyi – Hon. Steven M. Gevercer – Hon. Tami R. Bogert – Hon. James M. Mize – Vance Raye - CJP Victoria B. Henley – Hon. Thadd A. Blizzard -3rd District Court of Appeal – Sacramento -Justice Vance W. Raye - Justice Cole Blease – Justice Ronald B. Robie – Justice William J. Murray Jr. – Justice George Nicolson – Justice M. Kathleen Butz – Justice Elena J. Duarte – Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. – Justice Louis Mauro – Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – Third District Court of Appeal California
This notice of appeal specifically notified Sacramento Family Court appeals unit staff that a notice of entry of judgment was never filed in the case as required by law. The clerk unlawfully applied a 60-day appeal time frame and rejected the appeal as untimely. The notice was filed well within the correct 180-day time frame. For the full story, see Part 3 of our Color of Law series. Click here.

California Supreme Court Confirms Facilitator Error

In a 2007 decision, Alan v. American Honda Motor Co., the California Supreme Court emphasized the importance of the mandatory Judicial Council FL-190 form, and that the requirement is unique and specific to family law proceedings. According to the Supreme Court, one critical function of the form is to establish the time frame within which an appeal of law and motion orders can be filed. 
"The clerk is required to give notice only in designated family law matters (Code Civ. Proc., § 664.5, subd. (a); rule 5.134)...In those family law proceedings in which the clerk must always give notice, rule 5.134 requires the clerk to use a Judicial Council form (FL-190) specifically drafted to ensure compliance with rule 8.104(a)(1). Obviously, problems are more likely to occur when no approved form of notice is available...The Judicial Council form (FL-190) that clerks must use in family law proceedings...avoids ambiguity...by bearing the title, "Notice of Entry of Judgement," and by including at the bottom of its single page a form for the clerk's certificate of mailing." Click here to view Alan v. American Honda Motor Co. 
Sacramento Family Court clerks not only do not file and serve the FL-190 form as required by law, they permit Sacramento County Bar Association Family Law Section lawyers to file a counterfeit version of the form which omits both the appeal rights notification and the clerk's certificate of mailing.The fictitious form also is served by a private sector lawyer - not a neutral public court clerk as required by both the Code of Civil Procedure and the state court rules. 

Using in place of the state mandated form an unauthorized, self-serving form that omits appeal rights and other important notifications required by law also raises moral turpitude and other ethical implications against attorneys who engage in the deception. Click here for our complete report on the counterfeit form issue.
United States District Court Eastern District of California – Sacramento Federal Court – United States Courts - Judge William Shubb - Judge Edmund Brennan - Judge Garland Burrell Jr - Judge Carolyn Delaney - Judge Morrison England Jr - Judge Gregory Hollows - Judge John Mendez - Judge Kendall Newman - Judge Troy Nunley - Judge Allison Claire - Judge Dale Drozd - Judge Lawrence Karlton - Judge Kimberly Mueller – Office of the United States Attorneys Benjamin B. Wagner Eastern District of California, Judge Robert Hight – Judge Bunmi Awoniyi – Judge Steven Gevercer – Judge Tami Bogert – Judge James Mize – Vance Raye - Victoria Henley CJP - Judge Thadd Blizzard -State Bar of California Office of the Chief Trial Counsel - attorney Jayne Kim Chief Trial Counsel – attorney Joseph R. Carlucci Deputy Chief Trial Counsel – Patsy J. Cobb Deputy Chief Trial Counsel - State Bar of California Board of Trustees – President Patrick M. Kelly – Vice President Luis J. Rodrigez – Treasurer Gretchen M. Nelson
The "Clerk's Certificate of Mailing" at the bottom of the FL-190 form is a critical part of the form because it establishes the time frame during which an appeal can be filed, according to the California Supreme Court. 

Third District Court of Appeal Verifies Facilitator Dispensing False Information 

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.

Court Rule Violations Are By Law Government Misconduct

Filing and service of the Notice of Entry of Judgment is required by California Rules of Court rule 5.134As 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 EthicsAt 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 Laws

If, 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 Color of Law report, a Sacramento County Family 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 articles in the Color of Law series.
Sacramento Federal Court Eastern District of California – United States Courts, US District Court Sacramento, Judge William B. Shubb, Judge Edmund F. Brennan, Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr, Judge Carolyn K. Delaney, Judge Morrison C. England Jr, Judge Gregory G. Hollows, Judge John A. Mendez, Judge Kendall J. Newman, Judge Troy L. Nunley, Judge Allison Claire, Judge Dale A. Drozd, Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner, Hon. Robert C. Hight – Hon. Bunmi O. Awoniyi – Hon. Steven M. Gevercer – Hon. Tami R. Bogert – Hon. James M. Mize – Vance Raye - CJP Victoria B. Henley – Hon. Thadd A. Blizzard -Family Court Sacramento, Office of the Family Law Facilitator, Lollie Roberts, Sacramento Superior Court, Sacramento Family Court - 3rd District Court of Appeal – Sacramento -Justice Vance Raye - Justice Cole Blease – Justice Ronald B. Robie – Justice William J. Murray Jr. – Justice George Nicolson – Justice M. Kathleen Butz – Justice Elena J. Duarte – Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. – Justice Louis Mauro – Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch – Third District Court of Appeal California - Judge Kevin R. Culhane – Hon. Kevin R Culhane – Judge Kevin Culhane -
The staff of attorney Lollie Roberts, Sacramento County Superior Court Supervising 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.

Related articles and posts: 
  • A variety of illegal tactics used by court employees, judges, the Family Law Facilitator Office and judge pro tem attorneys to obstruct family court appeals by unrepresented, financially disadvantaged litigants.Click here.
  • Full-time family court judges failure to disclose judge pro tem conflicts of interest to opposing parties and attorneys. Click here.
  • Judge pro tem attorneys promoted a software program sold by the wife of a family court judge. Click here.  
  • Court administrators concealing from the public judge pro tem attorney misconduct, including sexual battery against clients. Click here 
  • Illegal use of California vexatious litigant law by family court judges. Click here
  • Waiver of judge pro tem qualification standards. Click here
  • Failure to adequately train family court judges. Click here
  • Allowing courtroom clerks to issue incomplete, useless fee waiver orders which prevent indigent and financially disadvantaged litigants from serving and filing documents. Click here
  • Preferential treatment provided to judge pro tem attorneys by family court judges, administrators, and employees. Click here.
  • Unfair competition and monopolistic practices by family court judges and attorneys who also hold theOffice of Temporary Judge which may violate state unfair competition laws. Click here
  • Judges cherry-picking state law and court rules to rewrite established law to reach a predetermined result to benefit judge pro tem attorneys. Click here. 
  • The waste of scarce court resources and taxpayer funds caused by unnecessary appeals and other court proceedings. Click here and here.  
  • Allowing judges with a documented history of misconduct and mistreatment of unrepresented litigants to remain in family court. Click here.
  • Concealing from the public but disclosing to the family law bar the demotion of problem judges. Click here 
  • Failing to enforce the Code of Judicial Ethics provisions applicable to temporary judges. Click here
  • Allowing court clerks to commit perjury without apparent consequences. Click here
For additional coverage of the people and issues in this post, click the corresponding labels below.