14 January 2014

Judge Thadd Blizzard Controversy: Court Order Authorizes Criminal Child Abduction for Judge Pro Tem Attorney Richard Sokol - Whistleblower Leak

A whistleblower leaked court reporter transcript records Judge Thadd Blizzard approving a
criminal child abduction by a client of part-time judge divorce lawyer Richard Sokol.

Tuesday Document Dump

A whistleblower leaked court reporter transcript obtained by Sacramento Family Court News reveals that Judge Thadd Blizzard last November retroactively endorsed an unlawful out-of-state "move away" and child abduction at the request of local judge pro tem attorney Richard Sokol.  The transcript is embedded at the end of this article.

The unprecedented ruling went against San Francisco attorney Archibald Cunningham, who the transcript reflects was dumbfounded by the decision.

The bizarre chain-of-events began after Cunningham's disabled client, Robert Saunders, filed paperwork seeking child visitation under an existing temporary custody order. After the visitation paperwork was lodged, Sokol's client, April Berger, abruptly moved to Hawaii with the parents' twin daughters without the permission of the court.

To continue reading, and to view the complete court reporter transcript, click Read more >> below...

Sacramento court watchdogs allege that in approving a criminal
child abduction, Judge Thadd Blizzard is liable as an accessory
after the fact. 
Under state law, a parent may not take children and relocate out-of-state without court approval before the move, especially under a temporary custody order

A parent seeking to relocate must by law first seek court approval for the move, and "the noncustodial parent still has standing to oppose the relocation" in court, according to California Practice Guide: Family Law, the gold standard family law legal reference used by judges and attorneys.

Without prior court approval, an out-of-state move away is considered criminal child abduction if it maliciously "deprives a person of a right to visitation," according to Penal Code § 278.5(a). The criminal statute also specifies that the retroactive, after-the-fact order issued by Blizzard for Sokol "does not constitute a defense" to the crime.

Sacramento Family Court "Hometowning" History - Preferential Treatment of Local, Temporary Judge Divorce Attorneys 

Cunningham's reaction to the outcome was similar to that of Stephen R. Gianelli, another San Francisco attorney who previously was "hometowned" in Sacramento Family Court. Hometowning refers to local judges giving preferential treatment to select, local attorneys. Click here for Gianelli's account of his experience as an "outsider" attorney. 

Hometowning is considered unethical and is prohibited by the Code of Judicial Ethics, according to retired judge David Rothman, author of the California Judicial Conduct Handbook. Sacramento Family Court reform advocates have documented that judge pro tem attorneys often receive kickbacks in the form of rubber-stamped orders, and other forms of favorable treatment when representing clients in court in exchange for operating the court's settlement conference program. Click here for SFCN coverage of temporary judge controversies. 

The transcript, case records, and a second transcript from a related, previous hearing also indicate that Blizzard manipulated the proceedings through intentional misstatements and omissions of material fact in order to achieve the outcome demanded by Sokol, conduct prohibited by the Code of Judicial Ethics. Family court watchdogs assert that the collusion between full-time judges and judge pro tem attorneys deprives the public of the federally protected right to honest government services, a racketeering crime under 18 USC 1346

The Robert Saunders-April Berger case is one of four Sacramento County Family Court cases included in the documentary film Divorce Corp, now playing in major U.S cities. The movie "exposes the corrupt and collusive industry of family law in the United States," and portrays the Sacramento court system as the most corrupt in the country. For our continuing coverage of the film, click here.

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