March 3, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Returning to Laurie Udesky’s bit of agitprop aimed at keeping fathers out of their children’s lives, a reader sent this along. It’s the 2007 opinion written by a Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas in the case of In the Interest of A.R., a Child. The case involved the divorce and child custody battle between the father, Jamie Rosenthal and the mother, Janay Rosenthal.
Readers who’ve read my pieces on Udesky won’t be surprised to learn that A.R. case involves parental alienation of the child by the mother, behavior that eventually resulted in her being held in contempt of court and losing custody of her daughter to Jamie. As parental alienation cases go, it’s nothing very unusual, but what the little girl went through was undeniably horrific.
On several occasions during father’s court-ordered visitation period, mother denied the father access to A.R..
So the judge held Janay in contempt of court.
The next day, mother made a videotape of the child in which she has the child describe inappropriate behavior allegedly engaged in by father.
On January 5, 2005, mother took the child to the Child Advocacy Center for professional investigation of the child’s statements concerning father’s inappropriate behavior. The child was interviewed and made no outcry…
During the time father had supervised possession, mother continued to make allegations of sexual abuse. The statements allegedly made by the child also changed. Initially, the alleged conduct involved what has been described as “fanny flashing.” As the case continued, mother claimed the child made other statements concerning sexually inappropriate behavior, including a statement about inappropriately touching the father. Despite the fact that father had not been alone with the child, mother took the child to three different physicians for a vaginal exam, alleging to each that father had abused the child. None of the physicians found any reason to believe sexual abuse had occurred.
In short, Janay engaged in behavior that violated the court’s orders, falsely accused Jamie of sexual abuse of the child, coached the child to accuse her father and ramped up the allegations when experts refused to believe her. This of course is classic parental alienation that Udesky calls a “dubious theory.” It’s also child abuse, particularly the part about the girl undergoing multiple vaginal examinations.
As such, the A.R. case represents yet another of the sort Udesky could have reported on to provide journalistic balance to her article, but didn’t.
But that’s not the reason for my posting a piece on the A.R. case. Recall that Udesky quoted as an expert in the issue of protective mothers losing custody an attorney named Richard Ducote. Here’s how Udesky described Ducote: he’s an attorney “who represents protective parents trying to regain custody of their children,” and “also worked as a special assistant district attorney statewide in Louisiana prosecuting termination of parental rights cases.”
That’s accurate enough, I assume. But the trial court in the A.R. case heard other information about Ducote that’s, shall we say, not as flattering as Udesky’s words.
Mother also retained Richard Ducote, a non- resident attorney affiliated with the group “Justice for Children.” Mother retained Ducote to consult with her on legal issues involving sexual abuse and family court procedures. Mother borrowed money from her parents to pay Ducote a $50,000 flat fee. Ducote initially informed the court that his associate would appear as co-counsel with mother’s second counsel of record. He then requested mother’s third counsel of record sponsor his admission pro hoc vice, but she declined. After mother’s fourth counsel appeared, he sponsored Ducote’s requested admission. At the hearing on the motion for Ducote’s admission pro hoc vice, the court heard testimony about the number of states that had refused to admit Ducote pro hoc vice, as well as the state and federal courts where his admission had been granted and subsequently withdrawn. There was also testimony about the number of times Ducote had been sanctioned in state and federal courts across the country, and his filing bankruptcy to avoid payment of sanctions. Ducote was questioned about his involvement in another case involving a mother’s allegations of abuse where the child was abducted by the mother. Ducote denied participating in the abduction. The trial court denied Ducote’s motion for admission.
It seems neither Janay’s third lawyer nor the trial judge wanted any part of Richard Ducote. Undeterred, Ducote pitched in anyway.
But father raised concerns about Ducote’s involvement and mother’s potential for flight in the interim. The amicus attorney shared these concerns, and informed the court that she had conducted research on Ducote and spoken to attorneys opposing him in cases across the United States. The attorney reported that Ducote has multiple web sites designed to attract women who believe they have been battered or their children sexually abused. In articles posted on these sites, he proclaims the courts don’t know what they are doing and are not protecting the children. He encourages his clients to disobey court orders and obstruct justice. The attorney further reported that Ducote had numerous sanctions and judgments against him for frivolous motions that had not been satisfied. The attorney also told the court that there were at least 3-4 cases in which Ducote is the attorney and the children had disappeared. The amicus attorney told the court she believed mother was a flight risk because she paid Ducote $50,000 instead of spending the money on something that might benefit the child.
Of course Ducote’s claim that “the courts don’t know what they are doing and are not protecting the children,” is precisely the thesis of Udesky’s article. And one of the cases in which the child of a client of Ducote’s “disappeared” was likely the DeWalt case that I reported on twice previously. None of that is to say that Ducote counselled those parents to abduct their children, but the entire tenor of his claims, as reported by the amicus attorney, make it doubtful that he discourages that behavior.
In September 2005, father filed an amended motion to suspend mother’s possession, to require bond, and for additional temporary orders. The motion expressed concern about whether mother had retained Ducote to assist in the abduction of the child. Significant documentation about Ducote and his judgments, sanctions, and disciplinary actions was attached to the motion. The attachments to the motion also included the affidavit of an investigator retained to investigate a kidnaping in one of the cases in which Ducote was involved. The investigator stated that anytime Ducote is involved in a case, the parent and child are considered a high risk for flight from the court, not just because of Ducote, but because of the groups with which Ducote is involved. The motion further asserted that when Ducote is involved in cases, there is a pattern of false allegations of child abuse, the filing of multiple unfounded pleadings, and suing the attorneys, investigators, therapists, evaluators and ad litems appointed by the courts.
Needless to say, some of those “groups with which Ducote is involved” are the very “protective mother” groups whose claims Udesky so unquestioningly channeled.
Ultimately, despite not being admitted to practice in the case pro hac vice, Ducote nevertheless attended hearings and the trial of the case and behaved so disruptively that the judge had him removed from the courtroom.
The point being that, in addition to the many other defects in her scurrilous article, Udesky either didn’t vet one of her primary experts or did vet him and ignored the many flaws in his background. She did all of that in order to promote a theory that actually is dubious at best – that family courts routinely ignore allegations of abuse levelled by mothers against fathers in order to grant custody to those dads. There’s essentially no evidence for the proposition, which is why, I assume, proponents of it stoop to such levels to peddle their nonsense.
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