June 28, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
You have to love Michael Waxman. Last year, I nominated Waxman for Father’s Lawyer of the Year and I may re-nominate him this year. The guy’s a pit bulldog, as a lot of people in Maine have found out to their considerable distress.
The latest is that Waxman has sued the local District Attorney, Stephanie Anderson in federal court for her part in Igor Malenko’s custody battle against Lori Handrahan. For those readers who don’t know about that donnybrook, it’s one of the most remarkable in the annals of child custody law. One mental health professional in the case called Lori Handrahan the most extreme case of narcissism she’s ever encountered. I’d say that’s putting it mildly. For Lori Handrahan, the world revolves around Lori Handrahan.
To make matters worse, Handrahan is a highly intelligent and well-educated person, so she knows how to convince people to join whatever crusade she happens to be on at the time. But eventually, her extreme narcissism wears everyone out and convinces most folks that Handrahan’s not playing with a full deck. She’s been fired from two academic jobs and the emails discharging her make it plain that the universities were just fed up with her.
Handrahan and Igor Malenko were married and had a daughter, Mila. When Handrahan filed for divorce, she claimed Malenko had sexually abused the child. The next three years were spent in Handrahan’s accelerating efforts to find some evidence for her claims. She failed. But that didn’t prevent her from exposing the little girl to some 21 intrusive pelvic exams and, at one point, posting a photo of the child naked on her website. Good parenting there, Lori.
Of course, being the girl’s mother, she initially got primary custody, but that wasn’t enough for Handrahan. So she continually upped the ante on her abuse claims. From claims of improper touching by Malenko, Handrahan went to rape and then to serial rape. There was never a single bit of evidence that Malenko had done anything inappropriate with his daughter. When last we heard, Handrahan was claiming that Malenko was part of a state-wide pedophilia ring that included lawyers, judges and the police. Count on it, space aliens are next.
Eventually, even the judge got the message that Lori Handrahan is no fit mother and transferred custody to Malenko and his wife with whom she resides, healthy and happy, to this day. In addition, the judge denied even supervised visitation by Handrahan until she not only receives intensive psychotherapy for her personality disorders, but can prove to the court’s satisfaction that it’s been effective. Over the past two years or so, Handrahan has been permitted to talk on the telephone to Mila, but, in typical narcissistic fashion, has refused to do so. “If I can’t have her exclusively, I don’t want her at all,” seems to be Handrahan’s motto. It’s the attitude of a parent who sees a child strictly as an object, an extension of herself alone.
During some three years of custody litigation, Michael Waxman did most of his work for Malenko for free. The case was extremely fraught with emotion and conflict, as only litigation with a narcissist can be. Among other things, Handrahan went through at least nine lawyers as each in turn figured out what a loose cannon he/she had for a client. That meant hundreds of hours of Waxman’s time. Not only that, but Handrahan filed a complaint about Waxman with the state bar association that required him to defend himself before the Overseers of the State Bar. Every single one of Handrahan’s complaints about Waxman was dismissed as unfounded.
Was Waxman intimidated? Don’t believe it for a second. As I said, the man’s a bulldog and by then he had the case in his teeth. Handrahan and her enablers had picked a fight with the wrong guy.
Now he’s suing the Cumberland County DA. Why? At one point in the custody case, Malenko’s wife dropped then-five-year-old Mila off at her daycare. Driving erratically according to witnesses, Handrahan careened up to the school, grabbed a wailing Mila, slammed her up against her car in a sleet storm and announced to one and all that she was taking the girl with her.
The scene horrified the daycare center staff, several of whom filed affidavits with the family court describing Handrahan’s bizarre and abusive behavior. They called the police who convinced Handrahan to release the girl and let her go to school. Eventually, that school and one other would ban Mila from attending due to her mother’s extreme behavior.
But apparently, nothing Handrahan could do was too strange or abusive to keep DA Stephanie Anderson from inserting herself into what was always a civil custody case, i.e. one in which the DA’s office has no interest. Anderson contacted a local judge for an opinion on the family court’s custody and visitation order. She also seems to have lied to a police officer, telling him she’d talked to the police chief when she hadn’t.
The upshot was that the officer on the scene did the right thing; he turned the matter over to the Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS by that time knew all about Lori Handrahan and it too did the right thing by turning the terrified child over to her father.
In all that, Anderson clearly went where she had no business going. There’s no role for the District Attorney in a child custody matter, and her assertion of her authority in the case was excessive. So Waxman, on behalf of Malenko, has sued her for deprivation of Malenko’s federal civil rights. To win, Waxman has to show that Anderson acted “under color of law” and violated Malenko’s rights, in this case, his parental rights.
Good for him, I hope he wins. But, win, lose or draw, what Waxman’s done is place the DA’s behavior in support of a plainly abusive mother in the public spotlight, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Of course, when I say “public spotlight,” I necessarily refer to the local press, and if this article is any indication, that’s not necessarily good. The writer, Mario Moretto, has little or no idea about the case he’s writing about. For example, here’s his summary of the custody matter.
Malenko and Handrahan have been in a legal battle over their 5-year-old daughter for several years. At various turns, each has accused the other of physically and psychologically abusing the girl.
Well, that’s one way of putting it. But no one who knows much about the case would describe it that way. No one who’s familiar with Handrahan’s wild accusations, the way she’s described by social workers, school employees and ultimately, the judge in the case, would ever opt for such a vanilla summary. Yes, both Malenko and Handrahan accused each other of abusing Mila, but the inescapable conclusion from reading the evidence is that Malenko was right and Handrahan was wrong. Moretto’s “he said/she said” narrative is like saying “some scientists say the earth is spherical, while others say it’s flat.” Balance is fine, but not when it obscures reality.
Whatever happens, Michael Waxman is a lawyer to be reckoned with. He’s a stand-up guy. I only wish there were more of them.
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