Divorcing spouses are dealing with COVID, court delays and pressure from divorce lawyers to use lawyers as private judges in divorce and custody cases. Private judge cases are supposed to be open proceedings but are regularly pitched to middle class and wealthy couples as being confidential
Lawyers pressuring their clients to go into private judging are now being exposed to malpractice claims by former clients. A recent court filing in a family law case in Santa Clara County , submitted by controversial divorce attorney David Patton, is one such case.
The malpractice / fraud case attached to Mr. Patton's family court pleadings show that Mark Erickson, David Patton and Michael Smith have been sued in a case where San Jose resident and divorcee Mary Lopez reportedly conspired to steal cash and gold coins with her first husband as they acted as trustees in a probate case together. The lawsuit appears to claim that Mary and her divorce lawyer, David Patton, conspired to use a divorce involving Mary's second husband to cover up her crimes.
The lesson the lawsuit appears to show is that NOBODY should ever agree to use a privately paid lawyer to do the job a judge elected to the superior court , and subject to recall and indictment, can do for free.
David Patton, and crooked divorce lawyers like him, are increasingly being sued for getting their clients into private judging cases where backroom deals are followed more than the rule of law.
Yanna Sukhodrev of Donelle Morgan's firm has been sued by a client whom Sukhodrev duped into using a private judge in a custody case where the private judge was given powers to determine what parents should be determining outside of the court.
Mark Erickson, a controversial lawyer, has been sued for malpractice and whispers circling around the courthouse indicate more are coming after Judge Towery, Judge Scott and Judge Hendrickson recently began issuing orders against Erickson in what many believe are retaliation for Erickson being responsible for exposing the private judge scam in a case that was once before Mary Greenwood before she became judge in the Sixth District Court of Appeal.
What is a Private Judge?
Private judges are commonly referred to in court as referees, Special Masters and temporary Judges, mediators and arbitrators. All terms designed to confuse as to what these people are and what they are allowed to do. A private judge is not an actual judge, or referees, but rather they are lawyers privately paid to do the job a judge elected, trained and subject to recall does for free.
Private judges, referees and Special Masters recently have been charging to to $450,000 in fees that are beyond the fees paid to the lawyers for the divorcing party. This money is often earned through confusing court orders that are actually just a scheme to covert home equity in places such as the Bay Area and Orange County.
Why Does My Lawyer Want me to Use a Private Judge?
Simple. Your lawyer wants to steal the equity in your home to earn more in attorneys fees. This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that lawyers from Hoover Krepleka , McManis Faulkner, and Donelle Morgan's firm typically run financials on clients before accepting a case, and then these lawyers incite conflict. rack up the fees and cliam they need James Cox, Michael Smith, Nat Hales or Irwin Joseph to clean things up.
Irwin Joseph, a former Commissioner in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, known to be abusive and estranged from his own adopted daughter, has been reportedly using COVID as an opportunity to drum up more private judge business that he operates rent free from the offices of Hoover Krepelka in San Jose and Rory Coeteze and Monterey.
Katherine Dorsett and Debra Crawford also appear to be using COVID to prey on active divorce cases to drum up private judging business by falsely convincing couples during Settlement Conferences that using lawyers paid as mediators or arbitrators is a good idea. Dorsett and Crawford are also using COVID to incite clients into filing false domestic violence and restraining order as such cases are ripe for private judging and for adding $50,000 more in fees to the standard Monterey County divorce.
Court files in 7 Bay Area counties show that private judging is moving more money from families to the hands of lawyers, judges and court appointed experts than any other practice in the court.
It is in private judge cases where one spouse can pay for justice and such that the family law case conceals criminal activity by waiting out the statute of limitations as alleged in the lawsuit against divorce lawyers Mark Erickson, David Patton and private judge Michael Smith.
If your attorney tries to convince you to use a private judge, before you agree, ask:
1. How much faster will a private judge be than public court and what evidence do you have to support that claim?
2. How much will it cost?
3. What happens if the private judge issues orders against my interest, can we appeal orders of a private judge?
4, How much does it cost to appeal an order in public court?
5. How much does it cost to appeal an order of a private judge and has that ever been done?
If a lawyer does not inform a client of the published decision in Hayward v. Superior Court , that lawyer may have committed malpractice and you should immediately consult with a malpractice lawyer, before the statue of limitations on a malpractice case expires.