My client's case was heard in multiple counties before I stepped into it in 2009.
The proceedings went, as far as I know, from Sullivan County to Delaware County to Pennsylvania and Albany County, back to New York and Albany County, back to Pennsylvania, then to North Carolina and New York/ Delaware County.
In December of 2013 I appeared in front of Judge Duggan of Albany County Family Court and specifically asked for an evidentiary hearing on behalf of my client. Judge Duggan adjourned the case to January of 2014 indicating that another judge will be presiding over the issue.
Judge Duggan also gave me leave to amend a petition that I filed with the court earlier, for frustration of visitation by my client's opponent. Judge Duggan at that point us that a new judge will be assigned to the case in January of 2014, without providing details as to why. Judge Duggan did not recuse from the case, simply adjourned it to January 2014.
We learnt the reason why the case was reassigned to another judge in January of 2014. Judge Duggan was not re-elected to a new 10-year term, a new judge, judge Sue Kushner, took his place, and Sue Kushner was assigned to the case in January of 2014.
The attorney for the child in the Albany County Family Court was and still is Lisa Heide Gordon, from 2010 to 2014.
Lisa Heide Gordon is listed on Judge Sue Kushner's personal Facebook page as a friend.
Here is the complete list of Judge Kushner's Facebook friends personally obtained by me from her Facebook page before she removed them - for any reason, such as reading this blog.
Maybe, the readers of this blog will find some other interesting coincidence between this friend list and their court cases in front of this judge.
I found among Judge Kushner's other friends listed on her Facebook page a couple of attorneys working for law firms which engaged in vigorous - sometimes bitter - and not winning - litigation against my clients, including litigation involving political issues and issues of corruption of public officials.
I wonder where Judge Kushner borrowed her ideas that my rights under Americans with Disabilities Act, or my client's rights to an effective representation by the counsel of her choice should not be respected.
Also, prominent in Judge Kushner's friend list are friends from all levels of Albany City, County and New York State Government. Additionally, while Judge Kushner decides cases as a single fact-finder, as to domestic violence (possibly, with parallel cases in criminal court), and in child abuse proceedings (where the Albany County District Attorney is a necessary party), I wonder if she discloses that her son Steven Allinger is employed by the Albany County District Attorney's office...
Such "inextricable intertwinement" with executive and legislative branches of the government, as well as friendship with attorneys who appear in front of the judge or who have litigation involving as opponents attorneys (like me) to whom Judge Kushner took a sudden dislike without seeing them, as she did in my case, suggests possibilities of ex parte communications and that some influential hands may put their weight on Judge Kushner's balance of justice.
My client Ms. K., also commenced, pro se, a habeas corpus proceeding in the Albany County Supreme Court sometime in the fall of 2013. I did not participate in that proceeding and did not consult my client about that proceeding. Ms. K. was allowed to proceed as a poor person and was assigned a counsel who withdrew, and then was assigned an attorney Nancy E. Stroud.
Nancy E. Stroud is also listed as a Facebook friend of Judge Kushner on Judge Kushner's Facebook page.
I gave both attorneys whose names possibly coincided with names of Judge Kushner's friends on Facebook, Lisa H. Gordon and Nancy E. Stroud, benefit of the doubt and verified their identities, through Ms. K's review of their pictures, their personal Facebook pages with their pictures and names, and through the public Attorney Directory available on the website of the New York State Court Administration.
My benefit of the doubt was wasted, as to both attorneys.
They are the ones, the friends of Judge Kushner, as the pictures that I made out of their Facebook pages, the NYS Attorney Directory and the above pictures from Judge Kushner's Facebook friend list illustrate.
As the snippets above demonstrate, there is only on attorney Lisa H. Gordon of Delmar in the State of New York - and that is Judge Kushner's friend.
There is also only one attorney Nancy E. Stroud in the State of New York, and that is Judge Kushner's other Facebook friend.
To me and to Ms. K., such "friendship" explains now a lot of mysterious circumstances and gross irregularities about how Judge Kushner handled Ms. K.'s case.
In January of 2014 I got seriously ill and was given a 2-month medical leave, from mid-January, to mid-March.
All courts adjourned proceedings because of my illness based on the medical leave document that I provided. A two-months adjournment of any court case, including a Family Court case, is not an unheard of occurrence. In fact, the same Albany County Family Court adjourned the same proceedings numerous times at the request of my client's opponent, sometimes for longer periods of time, and without any proof of illness.
Among the courts which handled proceedings where I had to appear when I got ill, Judge Kushner was the only judge who most aggressively sent me letters requiring my appearances and whose clerk kept calling my office and leaving message on my answering machine requiring me to either appear myself or to "find cover".
I explained to Judge Kushner numerous times in correspondence that it was impossible for me to find a replacement counsel to appear instead of me in Albany, New York because
(1) I represented my client since 2009 and my knowledge cannot be easily transferred to another counsel, thus, my client will be prejudiced if I am abruptly taken off the case, and all I am asking for is a mere adjournment;
(2) because the case was a pro bono case for me, and has been since 2010, and it was impossible for me to find, especially on a short notice, a counsel to appear in a complex and acrimonious Family Court case pro bono,
(3) that I was given a medical leave for a reason and it is impossible for me to engage in searches for new counsel, so an adjournment was more in order.
Recently, in a civil case, a trial judge, Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dowd adjourned a jury trial twice, over my most vigorous objection, because of illness of a trial counsel (each time, within less than a month before the set trial date).
In November, 2013 Judge Dowd adjourned a jury trial for about six months.
In June of 2014, Judge Dowd adjourned the jury trial in the same case without a date.
Every time it was done over my most vigorous objections.
In Ms. K.'s case in the Albany County Family Court I received no objections from the attorney for the child Lisa H. Gordon or from the pro se father against my request for adjournment of proceedings.
There was no claim or appearance of prejudice by the opponent in the proceeding from any adjournments.
Because Judge Kushner made me face a "choice" - either to come out of my medical leave, which I could not do physically, or find another pro bono attorney for such a complex case, which I could not do either, or be sanctioned for non-appearance, my client graciously released me from the case on consent.
In other words, for Judge Kushner somehow, the protection of Americans with Disabilities Act requiring to provide me a reasonable accommodation and requiring to provide my client the right of her choice of counsel (myself) did not have any meaning.
To release me from having to make the untenable choice that Judge Kushner made me face, Ms. K. released me from her case in front of Judge Kushner on consent in February of 2014. I was wondering what made Judge Kushner to so aggressively push to take me off Ms. K's case in the first place...
As I learnt later, and as documentary evidence may lead a reasonable reader to believe, Judge Kushner could have been "instructed" to do so by her Facebook friends, but back to the story.
Ms. K's mother retained another attorney when I withdrew, because they could not find any other attorney to take the case, like I did, pro bono. Ms. K had no money, and having to retain a counsel hurt her mother who is disabled and is far from rich.
Ms. K. asked me to talk to her newly retained attorney and give him the benefit of my knowledge since the record of the case was so large and it was not easy to get prepared for a hearing without knowing the details of the case, which I handled for 5 years.
Ms. K's new attorney called me and I gave him as much time as he was asking for.
Ms. K's new attorney told me that by the time of our conversation he already read the record of the case and does not need debriefing, just my "feeling" about the case.
Then, according to Ms. K, her newly retained counsel appeared in front of Judge Kushner, failed to ask for an evidentiary hearing which was required under the circumstances, and failed to insist for an evidentiary hearing, which resulted in an adverse ruling against Ms. K.
Nevertheless, Ms. K. related to me that in the conference room before going into the courtroom, she was present at the exchange between her newly retained counsel and the attorney for the child Lisa H. Gordon who stated interesting things:
(1) that she did not read the 65-page decision of a Pennsylvania court because she allegedly "did not have time for that"; yet, the 65-page decision indicated that during the time when Lisa H. Gordon failed to talk to the child she was representing or make sure about the child's welfare, the child was grossly emotionally abused by the father and stepmother;
(2) that Ms. K's Amended Petition that was filed by me at the beginning of January 2014 following permission of Judge Duggan in December 2013 (which decision Lisa H. Gordon never opposed in court and never appealed) should have been tossed out - and the petition was about frustration of visitation by the father in the same manner as the finding of frustration of visitation by the father and stepmother by the Pennsylvania court, in a decision that Ms. Gordon had no time to read, even though it was part of the Petition alleging actions of the father contrary to the best interests of Ms. Gordon's minor client;
(3) that Ms. K's mother, my client and I "sue everybody", and went to elaborate and discuss my family member who is good as opposed to me and my husband who are, according to Ms. Gordon, bad people.
The interesting point is that Ms. Gordon talked to me once on the phone, once at a pre-appearance conference, and no acrimonious words were ever exchanged between us. So, it is beyond me as to what is the basis of Ms. Gordon's attitude against me, going to the point of attacking my family members in discussions of court proceedings where I long withdrew from the case and did nothing bad to her or her client.
My husband never appeared for Ms. K. in the Albany County Family Court and never represented her there.
Somehow, in Lisa H. Gordon's mind, the factors she listed during the conference outweighed her obligation to pursue the best interests of the child and allowed Lisa H. Gordon to not even look at the contents of Ms. K's petition claiming the same kind of frustration of visitation by the father that Lisa H. Gordon refused to see in 2010-2011 and that a Pennsylvania court found in 2012.
At the same time, Lisa H. Gordon was paid for her "services" by the Albany County taxpayers, including me and my husband whom she allowed herself to badmouth, and she was paid specifically for representing the best interests of the child and not to use the court proceedings to spread rumors against her competitors against attorneys who sue judges while her friend Sue Kushner is a judge.
Ms. Gordon did not care that I represented Ms. K. for 4 years pro bono and that I was squeezed out of the case by her friend the judge who used my temporary illness to deprive Ms. K. of effective legal representation. She badmouthed me anyway, in front of my client, and in front of my client's new attorney, on subjects that had nothing to do with my client's family court litigation, because if my federal lawsuits against judges did have a bearing on my client's case, all adverse findings against my client must be instantly vacated.
Child custody issues may not be decided based on political affiliation of a party, and especially based on civil rights litigation of the party's attorney.
The habeas proceedings where Ms. K. was represented by her assigned counsel, Judge Kushner's other Facebook friend, Nancy E. Stroud, were also mentioned in the Family Court, and Lisa Gordon blamed it on me for not reporting to the court that such proceedings exist.
Of course, how could Lisa Gordon, friend of Judge Kushner, blame it on Nancy Stroud, another friend of judge Kushner who actually represented Ms. K. in these proceedings.
Nancy E. Stroud, in her turn, acted in the Supreme Court habeas proceedings against the best interests of Ms. K., openly violating the rule that an attorney may not give legal consultations to the opponents and teach the opponents how to restrict the rights of her own clients.
That's what Nancy E. Stroud did when, in an e-mail that I have on file, she taught Ms. K's opponent how to file and serve a Notice of Entry of a court order adverse to Ms. K., thus cutting her own client's time to appeal that adverse order.
Nancy E. Stroud knew it was a disciplinary violation, but did it all the same. After all, who would dare to touch a judge's friend with attorney discipline?
According to Ms. K., neither Nancy E. Stroud, nor Lisa Gordon, nor Judge Kushner have ever disclosed their Facebook friendship in court proceedings.
And my legal opinion is that such a non-disclosure, coupled with actions of the judge and these two attorneys against my former client is a complete shame that should result in most severe discipline against the judge and the attorneys.
Even though - in accordance with unspoken New York "law of connections" - everybody knows that such discipline would never be imposed.
Due to actions of Judge Kushner and her Facebook friends attorneys Lisa H. Gordon and Nancy E. Stroud, Ms. K. lost the last remnants of her trust in the integrity of judicial proceedings which hands out custody of children to the children's confirmed abusers, refuses to review any proof of such abuse and punishes whistleblowers of such abuse, likely in reliance on recommendations of the judge's Facebook friends which have nothing to do with the law or facts of the case.
Who can blame her?