Sacramento Family Court Chiefs Julie Setzer and Colleen McDonagh Responsible for Serial Court Rule Violations, Whistleblower ChargesColor of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals
A Sacramento Family Court News Exclusive Investigative Report. Part 1.
|Julie Setzer, Director of Operations, and Colleen McDonagh, Family Court Manager, have directed court employees to ignore state law, charges a family court whistleblower.|
A Sacramento County Family Court whistleblower has leaked to Sacramento Family Court News court records indicating that countless family court cases are missing critical paperwork required by state law. After any family court hearing which results in a judgment regarding child custody or visitation, spousal support, or any other judgment subject to immediate appeal, California Rules of Court rule 5.134 requires court clerks to enter, file and serve a Notice of Entry of Judgment. State court rule 8.104(e) defines "judgment" as any appealable order. State court rules have the effect of law, such a Penal or Civil Code section. By law, the court clerk must use Judicial Council Form FL-190 to provide the notice of entry to all parties. The notice provides an important notification regarding the right to appeal, and the destruction of exhibits on file with the court. In addition, the filing date of the FL-190 triggers the time frame for an appeal.
For appealable judgments in law and motion proceedings, Sacramento Family Court Director of Operations Julie Setzer, Manager Colleen McDonagh and Supervising Courtroom Clerk Denise Richards have directed court employees to simply ignore the law, according to the source, who provided the information on the condition of anonymity because they could be subject to retaliation for the disclosure.
To continue reading this article, which is Part 1 of our series Color of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals, Click Here
Omission of FL-190 Reduces Appeals by Family Court Parties Without Lawyers
"This has been going on for years and judges, attorneys, the family law facilitator, the court of appeal, everyone is in on this. One objective is to reduce or eliminate appeals by the indigent and self-represented," the source explained. "The FL-190 is the first notification they get that they even have appeal rights. Without the notice, most pro per parties are completely unaware that they can appeal child custody, visitation, support and many other rulings from OSC and motion hearings."
The mandatory Judicial Council form contains a notification about the right to appeal a court order, and a warning that exhibits may be destroyed or disposed of after 60 days from the expiration of the appeal time.
|Indigent and self-represented Sacramento Family Court parties do not receive this notice about their right to appeal child custody/visitation, support and other orders.|
Using the family law legal references used by judges and attorneys, Sacramento Family Court News confirmed that the FL-190 must be served and filed by a court clerk for all appealable orders. In addition to the gold standard family law references, California Practice Guide: Family Law and Civil Appeals and Writs, the same procedure also is specified in Witkin California Procedure. Click here to view the Witkin instructions.
3rd District Court of Appeal Verifies Appealable Orders Same as JudgmentsUPDATE: The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento publishes a Self-Help Manual [pdf] for self-represented litigants which confirms that, by law, appealable orders are the same as judgments, and therefore require service of the FL-190 form. 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.The whistleblower pointed out that superior court and Court of Appeal judges, the family law facilitator and court employees are all paid by taxpayers to know and comply with the law. "There are thousands of court files without FL-190's. You cannot, with a straight face, tell me that they all have never noticed that the files do not contain this mandatory Judicial Council form where required after law and motion hearings." According to public records, Julie Setzer is paid $4,460 every two weeks, Colleen McDonagh earns $3,460 every two weeks, and Denise Richards earns $36 per hour. Family court judges are paid $169,000 per year.
Filing 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.
In Part 2 of our report Color of Law: The Conspiracy to End Pro Per Appeals, Lollie Roberts and the Office of the Family Law Facilitator cover for court administrators by providing false information to unrepresented and financially disadvantaged litigants. Click here to read Part 2. In Part 4, family court clerks let judge pro tem attorneys file fabricated Notice of Entry paperwork in place of the state mandated FL-190 form. Click here to read Part 4.