Gag orders: Further evidence of an out-of-control judiciary?

A stream of testimonials continues to flow into the Independent Gazette from all over Pennsylvania and beyond regarding the abuse of judicial power rampant in family courts. In addition to verbal threats and intimidation, multiple sources claim the courts are issuing gag orders to guarantee silence in custody cases involving the physical and sexual abuse of children. Judges are forbidding both litigants and non-litigants alike from speaking not only to media, but even to their own family members.

Law.com defines a gag order as

A judge’s order prohibiting the attorneys and the parties to a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking to the media or the public about the case. The supposed intent is to prevent prejudice due to pretrial publicity which would influence potential jurors. A gag order has the secondary purpose of preventing the lawyers from trying the case in the press and on television, and thus creating a public mood (which could get ugly) in favor of one party or the other.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the intent of the gag order has been grossly misinterpreted by family courts. Additionally, judges are issuing such silence-mandating orders against both litigants and non-litigants. Judges like Allegheny County Family Court judge Kathleen Mulligan hide behind the premise that the order is necessary to protect minors. Judges are able to prevent vital information from being presented or heard in the courtroom by using children as metaphorical human shields, thereby protecting their own misdeeds and the wrongdoings of physical and sexual abusers.

A 10-year-old gag order?
American_judge_maverick2003_flickrThe First Amendment violations imposed by issuing a gag order seem to far outweigh the justification that the action is taken in the best interest of the child, especially in cases typified by that of the Clark family of Allegheny County. A gag was issued to a litigant by the aforementioned Judge Kathleen Mulligan in this case in October 2004 that has yet to be vacated (i.e., removed) by her some ten years later, in spite of motions to do so made by the Clark children’s attorney, Elliot Schuchardt.

Now adults, the Clark siblings embroiled in this case hired Schuchardt to file a civil suit against their father, Kevin Clark, for the years of torture and abuse the children claim he inflicted. Medical reports substantiate the allegations that all four of the Clark children were horrifically abused, each suffering long term damage as a result. Kevin Clark did plead guilty to child endangerment, even though he was initially facing ten separate felony child abuse charges. While the custody case is obviously a moot issue, as the children are now grown, they would like to speak out regarding the abuse which prompted their civil action. It should be noted that this action is being brought solely by the Clark children; their mother is not a litigant in this case in any capacity.

Michael Clark, the oldest of the Clark children, now 27, recalls the years of abuse he and his siblings suffered at the hands of their father. “We told so many people so many times about the same abuse and it seemed like nothing was being done,” he said in a recent telephone interview. Clark stated that he first disclosed the abuse while a child to Dr. Mark R. King. He recalls sitting in King’s office, the large windows around him and the interview itself. He says he told Dr. King everything he could think of about the abuse. King then notified his mother of the disclosure, but he did not report it to authorities. When Michael Clark’s mother filed a complaint against Dr. King, a state investigation was incapacitated when King asserted that he, too was bound by the Mulligan gag order. The case records were then sealed by the court. A state investigator and member of law enforcement claimed he was unable to obtain the necessary court records to proceed with the investigation due to a Gag and Seal Order issued against the Clark children’s mother.

Instead of removing the children from a dangerous and harmful situation, Judge Mulligan ordered the children’s mother silenced from speaking about the actions of her husband, thereby disabling her ability to effectively protect her children. Michael stated that even now, nearly ten years later, his mother is still under Judge Mulligan’s order to refrain from even speaking with her children about the outright torture they suffered. Kevin Clark, however, was never ordered to remain silent.

For the children?
In response to the claim that this order was imposed to protect the minor children, Michael Clark said, “Clearly it didn’t. It never helped us. It’s been nothing but a hassle for us.” He went on to explain that Mulligan had amended the directive to prevent the Clark siblings even as adults from discussing any information gleaned from their mother concerning the abuse. He believes that this continued restriction implies their mother implanted false memories of abuse. “It is impossible for me to have secondhand knowledge [of the abuse],” he said. “Because I was the source [of the abuse reports].” He continued to state that although discussing his childhood experiences with his mother would be difficult, he and his siblings should be allowed that option. “The judge does not have a right to tell me how to get better, and if my mother could help, then Judge Mulligan is preventing me from getting better,” he said.

In February 2013, nine years after the initial order, Schuchardt filed a motion to vacate the gag order against the Clark siblings’ mother. Schuchardt asked the court, “If the children are all legal adults at this point, who is this order protecting?” According, once again, to son Michael Clark, “The judge stuttered, ‘An order is an order.’ ” This was the only answer the Clark family received regarding Mulligan’s refusal to lift her original order. As far as the Clark children’s civil lawsuit against their father is concerned, it is unclear how or why their mother, a non-litigant in this case, should still be bound by a ten-year-old gag issued originally in family court.

Standing orders to subpoena phone records
Another victim of seemingly senseless gag orders recently shared her story with the Gazette. Under the protection of anonymity she told a twisted story of childhood sexual abuse buried, swept under the rug, and blatantly ignored. She says her attorney actually warned her per the judge’s suggestion, “If you ever speak about these things they will make it so you never see your child again.”

This woman, who has been involved in a case for about 14 years, currently is the object of a standing order to subpoena her phone records, to monitor her internet usage, and even to restrict where she seeks mental health treatment for her child. No longer a resident of Pennsylvania, she said, “I have to drive eight hours to get care,” because the order states she can only seek care in Berks County, Pennsylvania. She continued to explain that these orders were issued gradually over the course of about two years, extending in scope to even include her current husband, a non-litigant in the custody case. The couple may not speak to the children about any of the abuse they suffered previously. They may not contact any police or Child Protective Service individual for assistance. Our informant further explained that these directives from on high drastically limit her ability to make medical decisions for her child in her own state. “All of their orders are at their discretion,” she said. “[The courts] change them so sometimes things apply and sometimes they don’t. Nobody explains what applies and what doesn’t, so I could be violating orders I didn’t even know about.” The judge never authored these orders either. Rather, the opposing litigant’s attorney wrote and prepared the orders to be rubber-stamped by the judge. “It’s a control and manipulation tactic,” she said. “And all I did was try to get help for my children.”

Speaking out despite the legal risks
Maralee Mclean, author of the 2013 book Prosecuted but Not Silenced, relays a similar story. Mclean, like many others, had reached the point of no return. She explained, “I had all the evidence,” referring to the abuse Mclean’s husband inflicted upon their daughter. “But the more I fought to help her, the more time she got with her dad.” She felt she had nothing left to lose by violating the gag order issued against her. “I did everything right,” Mclean said during a telephone interview. “There was no point in doing right anymore.” Mclean spoke out on the television program CNN Presents concerning the abuse her daughter suffered, as well as the pain she herself experienced at the hands of the courts. Although she was facing five contempt citations for her television outreach, Mclean believes the sentence was reduced as a result of the media involvement. “I believe they would have put me away for as long as they could have,” she continued. “Moms that don’t have that kind of media coverage would be jailed.” Mclean has been actively fighting for reform since her own battle began. She testified before Congress this past March, stating, “Here we are, 25 years later, and nothing has changed.”

The Gazette has spoken with current congressional candidate and former constitutional rights attorney Andy Ostrowski regarding the potential First Amendment violations ensuing from these types of gag orders. “It’s bizarre and repugnant,” he said, and added that the Clark situation in which Dr. King believed he was prohibited by the gag order “shows the real harm that can be done to children and families as a result of these abusive orders.” Ostrowski stated, “Integrity of family is a core concept of constitutional rights, and the court invading this goes against everything that our country stands for.” Calling these gag orders an “abuse of discretion” on the part of the judges, Ostrowski continued, “These are extensive, far-reaching abuses of litigants’ civil rights, unless there is some compelling justification made during a due process hearing. These blanket orders are violations of civil rights.”

  • Tara Koval
  • Tara Koval has been an investigative journalist since 1999. She is also an outspoken advocate for judicial reform, especially within the Family Court system.


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19 comments
Sierra111
Sierra111

The children should sue in Federal Court for their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.  Years ago, most officials involved in Family Court believed that abuse allegations at the time of divorce were not true and were used as an avenue to hurt the other parent.  I hope some day we have judges on the bench who will see through this terrible assumption.

lorraine N
lorraine N

I got an 18+ gagging order for trying to speak out and tell the truth ! family courts nothing but corrupt !

JoAnnKennedy
JoAnnKennedy

Not only does the County Court cover up the abuse in family court, it's also in civil court with the foreclosure issue  (rocket dockets,  robo signing,  MiA  mortgage notes, MERS) the Criminal courts where records go missing and there is something called secret files and secret cases,  and how about how they treat our seniors  too  how many attorneys  under the watchful eyes of the DA  who didn't know it was happening in the jurisdiction find out that the attorneys have been stealing money from seniors estates and accounts --  THE PA Court system is broken  it has stopped working for the people

NEED to START Voting the long term judges out and off the bench 


TeranceHealy
TeranceHealy

Once there is an injustice in the court, the litigant has lost their constitutional rights.  
The problem is that Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct made it illegal to prosecute a judge.  
Rule 1.6 made it illegal for any prosecutor of lawyer to report the judicial misconduct and injustice of a judge.
Rule 1.6 made it illegal for a lawyer or a judge to reveal the unconstitutionality of the law.
 
PA knows judges get away with things, but even after Cash for Kids, no one asked WHY?  Rule 1.6 mandates it be kept quiet.  The PA Supreme Court was not authorized to enact the rule as it would deny rights protected by the Us Constitution.  Once enacted they could not repeal it, as it would show their misdeed.  The Attorneys General could do nothing.  District Attorneys could do nothing.

Rule 1.6 is what has caused the constitutional crisis in the US.  Same Law.  Same Name.  Same Number.  Every state.

The Constitutional Challenge of Rule 1.6 is in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and likely heading to the Supreme Court.  And no one has heard of it.

JUSTICE IS COMING.  EVERY PERSON MATTERS.
www.work2bdone.com/live 

BillieSueAtkinson
BillieSueAtkinson

Getting media coverage is so important to ensure a parent or person attempting to protect another is not jailed and framed on charges. Our system is refusing to offer any avenue of Judaical Fair courts or access to any lawyers who are working in our best interest. I am a victim of police brutality and the local system is framing me on charges while protecting public defenders who have broke the law in framing me. To even find out in a simple phone call that our District Attorney cut some form of deal with their local hospital lab director to have lab techs only draw BAC Blood and then hand directly to the arresting officers to what they wish with it, prior to sending to their very owned PSP forensic lab in Wyoming for testing. Yet even with our Governor's new laws... only a member of the healing Arts are responsible for the ethical standards and policies to match to the responsibility to get blood to the testing facility without contamination.  Yet, how is this done if they allow arresting officers full access even prior to tamper proof seals? I have for 20 years helped other people do legal turn ins on local authorities and to now have my FBI Clearance come back with their other illegal jailing of me in 1994... bring them to personally attacking me after getting one of our judges to sign a letter stating there is no local records in my county or his office to that charge back then and no way to get it off my record because FBI require me to find someone who put it there and no one has ever admitted it ever happened, yet it is when they held court while holding me in jail to do so...without any protection, yet gave me back one of my children, while framing my whole custody case against giving me back the other. If our DA is who we go to when we are a victim of a crime, yet also who the police go to..how is this system capable to protect the victims if they are protecting the police who tasered me without breaking any law and have now arrested me and jailed me and refused me medical treatment of a head injury and open wound, that the jail also refused me treatment for. No accountability, it has allowed a conduct of behavior and pattern of practice causing abuse to whoever they wish to abuse. It is allowing illegal crimes to be done to innocent citizen and children. Gag orders...even if done behind closed doors allows for no oaths to be honored and therefore illuminates any fair court or process! Hidden Mason Oaths that protect some and condemn others! This is not Justice!

Michael Clark
Michael Clark

I would like everyone to know that the reason Judge Mulligan is keeping us from speaking and the reason she is keeping out evidence from that Family Division case in the trial is because she didn't report the abuse herself back in the day. She didn't report it, the attorneys didn't report it, and the psychologists didn't report it, and they could all have consequences for this if it gets out. It's clear that they didn't report the abuse. As for why, I can't say for certain, but I believe that it's related to money.

Kimberly Myers
Kimberly Myers

Protective parents are threatened into silence by gag-orders to protect those who make the unconstitutional rulings and corrupt orders.  Parents who do everything to protect their children are threatened and retaliated against, including orders to refrain from reporting child sexual abuse.  The family court system follows fabricated reports by CYS and the money trail goes on to provide a hefty paycheck for judges, lawyers, GAL's, and custody evaluators.  When the victimized children become adults and seek civil remedies, they are revictimized by the same court players.

CharlesBombico
CharlesBombico

This also explains the increased spending by Lackawanna County Court on duct tape

CharlesBombico
CharlesBombico

Excellent article. More people need to come forward.

JimSinger
JimSinger

Are the authorities protecting the abuser and mandated reporters, who did not report the abuse instead of  protecting the children?


The reporter noted in this current article Judges are able to prevent vital information from being presented or heard in the courtroom by using children as metaphorical human shields, thereby protecting their own misdeeds and the wrongdoings of physical and sexual abusers.

The Child Protective Services Law is clear

Chapter 63. Child Protective Services

6302. Findings and purpose of chapter

-It is the purpose . . . . encourage more complete  reporting of suspected child abuse; . . . . to

involve law enforcement agencies in responding to child abuse; . . . . investigating the reports swiftly and competently, providing protection for children from further abuse and providing rehabilitative services for children and parents involved so as to ensure the child's well-being . . . .

§ 6311. Persons required to report suspected child abuse

the privileged communication between any professional person required to report and the patient or client of that person shall not apply to situations involving child abuse and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter.


http://www.pa-fsa.org/CPSL_5_09.pdf

JimSinger
JimSinger

PA does not want to admit that the child abuse is still being covered up. Child abuse that Jim Singer  reported is still being covered up by the same government, who is prosecuting those involved in the Penn State child abuse  case in spite of recent scandals!

Staff from a Legislative Committee indicated they are utterly convinced,  Jim Singer was specifically maliciously targeted, as a result of my mandated report of suspected child abuse and government is about to put more people in that position (to be targeted, as a result of the Penn State scandal) (Congress HR 5884 and S.1877).[I] [ii]

1) After J Singer reported the child abuse, the child victim threatened suicide, because she was not being protected by Child Services.  Judge's Order confirmed my report of suspectedabuse. Judge ordered the child to be protected for 24 days. Police noted the Judge extended protection for the child another 30 days, due to concerns about abuse. In spite of  Judge’s Order to protect the victim, CYS  still did not open a case, to protect  the child or investigate abuser! 

2) CYS deliberately released confidential identity of the abused child and mandated reporter and solicited false complaints, to help the abuser, instead of protecting the child. 

3) State Police summary confirmed ". . . . Violations (by government officials) of the Crimes code. . exist.” 

4) Letters from Office of Attorney General & State Police contrary to state's own legal record.

5) 4-6-93 Dauphin County DA/prosecutor  requested a criminal investigation by the Attorney General  OAG (similar to the Penn State scandal),because it clearly involves allegations that persons were attempting to influence state officials . . . or benefit from such influence . . . (71 PS §732=205 (1) Commonwealth Attorneys Act." But, instead of investigating, PA OAG (2-9-93) and other law enforcement wrote letters contrary to the State’s own evidence,[i] to commit fraudulent concealment of crimes.

6) Statute of limitations is open due to fraudulent concealment of crimes and also new continuing violations by government

Crimes by government include both state and federal violations.

Legislators sent letters to AG Kane in Feb and March 2013, “. . . . to have the Pennsylvania General Assembly create a bipartisan coalition to investigate child abuse reporting in Pennsylvania . . . . past and present child abuse reporting procedures . . . . that Dr. Singer’s specific case is reviewed . . . ,” Attorney General Kane did not respond according to legislative staff, in spite of her claim that “[p]rotecting Pennsylvania’s children is one of [her] top priorities and campaign promise. . . . “

1http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/01/attorney_general_kathleen_kane_1.html

Scrutiny of AG re: corruption sting[i] [ii] [iii]

Congressional hearings were previously authorized on child abuse. Hearings were scheduled for April 27, 1994, but hearings were postponed for a national day of mourning, and were never rescheduled.  Since that time, child abuse has become a national scandal. 

Was it corruption, incompetence, or both that ruined this man’s life?Same agencies involved in Sandusky abuse cases stripped doctor of license for reporting abusePA psychologist says he reported child molestation, lost license.26-year-old case still awaits answers as Penn State scandal rocks state article by Mike Volpe 7-30-13

http://dailycaller.com/2012/ 07/30/former-pennsylvania- psychologist-says-he-reported- child-molestation-lost- license/

2-Nothing has been done to stop the cover up of child abuse in the Clark case


http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=02bff54d68eb9a92993d9d6e9&id=5c8e9b0a0a&e=

[i]

[ii] http://articles.philly.com/2014-03-27/news/48599611_1_rendell-attorney-general-kathleen-kane-fraud-case http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140403_Reacting_to_aborted_sting__house_leaders_unite_to_ban_cash_gifts.html

[iii] Pa. House leaders offer resources to conduct internal probe into corruption allegations against lawmakers http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/03/house_leaders_offer_resources.html 

JimSinger
JimSinger

@TeranceHealy  Please quote the law you refer to including: Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct

Sierra111
Sierra111

@Michael Clark  Unfortunately, many judges and attorneys don't believe the abuse happens when it comes in the context of a divorce.  I saw this many times over the years that I worked in a court system other than Lackawanna County, and I feel for you and everyone else who has been in your situation.  I spent a whole month going home and crying about one child abuse case that got nowhere during a divorce.  Find an attorney who will file a FEDERAL LAWSUIT to get the order removed since I believe by now you, your siblings, and your mother certainly should have your First Amendment right to freedom of speech.  God bless you all!

DianeWilson1
DianeWilson1

@Michael Clark Michael, first I want to say that I am so sorry for what you and your siblings and your Mom suffered at the hands of that horrible man and the judge. As for the reason, it is always about money. Our judicial system is beyond broken which I discovered after my own mother was kidnapped and locked up in a nursing home. They wanted her small estate. The judge needs to be removed from the bench and hopefully the judicial commission will do that soon.        

JimSinger
JimSinger

@CharlesBombico  When people come forward to protect the abused child as you suggest, the child was not protected. After J Singer reported the child abuse, the child victim threatened suicide, because she was not being protected by Children & Youth Services. Further, CYS deliberately violated the confidential identity of the abused child and mandated reporter, to  solicit  false complaints, to help the abuser, instead of protecting the child. 

JimSinger
JimSinger

@DianeWilson1 @Michael Clark  Diane, It is much worse than you realize. I am also sorry for all the suffering. I tried to protect an abused child and report the abuse as I previously commented in this article.       


Was it corruption, incompetence, or both that ruined this man’s life?Same agencies involved in Sandusky abuse cases stripped doctor of license for reporting abusePA psychologist says he reported child molestation, lost license.26-year-old case still awaits answers as Penn State scandal rocks state article by Mike Volpe 7-30-13

http://dailycaller.com/2012/ 07/30/former-pennsylvania- psychologist-says-he-reported- child-molestation-lost- license/

CharlesBombico
CharlesBombico

@JimSinger @CharlesBombico JIm, I am talking about protecting the children. The problem is many of these gag orders protect the abuser, which by the way in many cases get custody of the child.


Lackawanna county Court is a perfect example, many of their decisions were based on information provided by D. Ross who had zero qualifications regarding abused children.

JimSinger
JimSinger

@CharlesBombico @JimSinger  I am also talking about protecting the children. In spite of my efforts to protect the child and an Order by the Judge, the police summary indicated that the CYS did not even assign a case number, to protect the child.