Woman Stripped Searched in Public – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

Woman Stripped Searched in Public – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

By:  Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

This is a recent case of a woman who was stopped for a routine traffic violation in Texas and ended up being held down by deputies and stripped searched in a public parking lot over what amounted to the Officer’s suspicion that the woman had a personal /recreational amount of marijuana in her possession. Not one leaf, or even a partial leaf, or “shake” of marijuana was found, EVER.

Regardless, even if drugs were found, the question is WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? Apparently, we as a country have become so laxed in enforcing the Fourth Amendment that officers believe it appropriate to sexually assault people during a routine traffic stop because they “smell” marijuana. NEWS FLASH, smelling marijuana does not permit a body cavity search in a public parking lot under any circumstances. While cavity searches are routine after an arrest, and while properly conducted in a facility, they first require probable cause for an arrest. Holding someone down and forcing a cavity search on the pavement in a Texaco parking lot is NOT EVER appropriate, even with a warrant, which clearly was absent in this situation. Have we absolutely lost our minds? And yes, this apparently is going on around the country and making headlines in Atlanta, Georgia, Coral Springs, Florida, Chicago, Illinois, Oakland, California and a number of other states. We need to re balance the system by redrawing the lines of tolerance for violations of the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution which is supposed to protect our citizens from such illegal, and menacing searches and seizures. ~~~ {END SOAPBOX RANT} ~~~





Woman Stripped Searched in Public – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

Reposting CNN Report from Jethro Mullen.


Texas woman says sheriff’s deputies carried out cavity search in parking lot.  By Jethro Mullen, CNN
Updated 2:42 PM ET, Fri August 14, 2015
Deputies strip-search woman in a parking lot

Deputies strip-search woman in a parking lot 02:34
“It was embarrassing, degrading,” Charnesia Corley tells CNN
She says a deputy pulled her pants down and put her fingers inside her
The sheriff’s office says internal affairs is investigating the incident

(CNN)A woman says a sheriff’s deputy in Texas stripped her naked in a gas station parking lot and administered a cavity search of her genitals because of suspicions she was in possession of marijuana.

“It was embarrassing, degrading,” Charnesia Corley told CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday. “I felt low, I felt helpless.”

The incident happened during a traffic stop in June in Harris County. A male sheriff’s deputy pulled Corley over and then searched her car after saying he smelled marijuana in it, she said.

After finding nothing, she said, he called a female officer out to search Corley.

“They took me around to the side of my car, and she tells me, ‘Pull your pants down,'” Corley told CNN.

Corley, who was handcuffed, said she told the female deputy that she didn’t have any underwear on.

The female deputy replied that it didn’t matter, pulled Corley’s pants down and then told her to bend over, Corley told CNN.

“I bent over and she proceeded to stick her fingers in me, and I popped up immediately and I told her, ‘No! What are you doing? You can’t do that to me,’ she said.

‘”I felt like they raped me’
The deputy told her that she could do what she wanted because it was a narcotics search, according to Corley.

After Corley resisted, another female deputy was apparently called to complete the search.

“I felt like they raped me,” Corley told CNN.

Her attorney, Samuel Cammack III, said that what the deputies did in the middle of a parking lot was unconstitutional.

“It wasn’t a strip search, it was a manual cavity search,” he told CNN.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it was unable to comment on the matter “until the completion of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, and pending the status of civil litigation.”

“We anticipate that the office of Inspector General will share their findings with Sheriff Ron Hickman in accordance with state law and civil service procedures in the near future,” the statement said.

But Harris County Sheriff’s spokesperson Thomas Gilleland told CNN affiliate KTRK last week that the deputies did everything as they should.

Gilleland said one deputy wrote in the report that Corley said they could “strip search her if I needed to.”

Corley denied that she had given them her consent.

Corley believes it was discrimination
Cammack said the district attorney’s office has dropped charges against his client. According to KRTK, Corley had been charged with two misdemeanors: resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.

CNN wasn’t immediately able to reach the district attorney’s office for comment early Friday.

Corley, who is African-American, told CNN that she believed the deputies discriminated against her.

She said the male deputy was white, the first female deputy who arrived on the scene was African-American and the second was white.

Cammack said he wasn’t sure he’d go as far as to call what happened discriminatory.

“It’s more about police conduct, I think, than it is race,” he told CNN.

CNN’s Joe Sutton contributed to this report.






Modify Child Support in Georgia – Caryn Fennell

Reposted by:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney, Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Premiere Family and Criminal Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

Modify Child Support in Georgia – Caryn Fennell – Source: Modify Child Support in Georgia | DivorceNet.com

When you divorce in Georgia, the court determines whether either parent owes child support — and if so, how much. Once the court orders child support, that order can be changed only if one of the parents asks the court to modify the original order.

This article explains the rules for modification of child support in Georgia. For more information on Georgia family law, see our Georgia Divorce and Family Law page. For all of our articles on supporting children after divorce, see our Child Support area.

Will the court reduce my child support obligation if I lose my job?

If you lose your job, Georgia law gives you the right to immediately file a petition to modify your child support obligation. Although parents generally have to wait at least two years after filing for a previous modification of child support to file a new request, a parent who loses a job or suffers another hardship that results in a loss of at least 25% of that parent’s income may file for modification of child support right away, whether or not two years have passed.

The out-of-work parent gets another advantage, too: That parent’s child support obligation will stop accruing at the original rate once the request for modification is served on the other parent. The portion of the paying parent’s child support obligation attributable to the lost income will not accrue (meaning that debt will not continue to pile up) as soon as the other parent is served.

Will the court increase my ex’s child support obligation because he got a big raise?

It depends on the facts, including the size of the raise. Generally, in an action to modify child support, a parent must establish that there has been a substantial change in the income and financial status of either parent, or in the financial needs of the child, since the date of the original support order. If this threshold requirement is met, your ex’s obligation to pay child support will be reconsidered under the appropriate child support guidelines.

If my girlfriend and I get married, can my ex-wife seek an increase in child support based on my new wife’s income?

It depends on the situation. Generally, in an action to modify child support, a parent must establish that there has been a substantial change in income and financial status of either parent (or in the financial needs of the child), since the date of the original support order. If your ex-wife can prove that your remarriage resulted in a substantial improvement in your income and financial status, there is a possibility that your child support obligation could be increased. On the other hand, your remarriage may result in a downward change in your financial situation, if you have increased financial responsibility for your wife, her children, or other dependents. Therefore, the impact of your remarriage depends on the specific details of your case.

What factors does the court consider when determining whether to increase or decrease a parent’s child support obligation?

In an action to modify a child support order, either upward or downward, a parent must prove that there has been a substantial change in either parent’s income and financial status or in the child’s financial needs since the original child support order was entered. A parent must wait for two years after making a previous request to modify child support to ask for a subsequent modification, unless:

  • the request for modification is based on the parent’s involuntary loss of income
  • the noncustodial parent has failed to exercise court-ordered visitation, or
  • the noncustodial parent has exercised more visitation than the court ordered.

Once this threshold requirement is met, your obligation to pay child support is reconsidered under the child support guidelines, based on each parent’s income and time spent with the child.

Can I stop paying child support if the child comes to live with me?

Technically, until your child support obligation is legally terminated by court order, you are required to continue paying support to the other parent. However, in this situation, it’s quite likely that the court will terminate your child support obligation once you make the appropriate motion for a modification.

How often can I file to reduce or increase a child support obligation?

You can file any time after the original child support order is entered, as long as there has been a substantial change in the financial statute and income of either parent or in the financial needs of the child. Once you file a motion to modify child support, however, you cannot file for modification again until two years have passed, unless an exception applies.

If I file an action to decrease my child support obligation, can my ex-spouse be ordered to pay my attorney’s fees?

Generally, in an action for the modification of child support, the court may award attorney’s fees, costs and expenses of litigation to the parent who wins (called the “prevailing party”), regardless of who files the case, as the interests of justice require. Whether to award such fees is within the court’s discretion, unless a custodial parent files to increase child support based on the other parent’s failure to exercise visitation rights. If the custodial parent wins in this type of case, the statute says that the court “shall” award fees.

Do I have to file for modification if my ex and I have agreed that he will pay more child support?

Yes. Until the court modifies the original order on child support, your ex-spouse is not under any obligation to pay the increased amount. If he fails to pay the support he agreed to, you would have no remedy under the original order to enforce your right to payment.

If I file an action tomorrow to increase my ex-spouse’s child support obligation, will the increase be retroactive to the date I filed the case?

No. Any modification of child support, upward or downward, is effective as of the date of the order establishing the modification. The only exception is when a parent files to modify child support based on an involuntary job loss or other loss of income. In that case, the portion of child support attributable to the lost income will stop accruing as of the date the parent files to modify child support.

Can I reduce my child support payment when the oldest child graduates without filing a case?

No. Only a court can modify your child support obligation. While a Court would likely reduce your obligation when a child graduates, you must ask the Court to lower the obligation.


Family Law Help, Divorce Attorneys – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C. – Woodstock, Ga

Caryn S. Fennell

I have over twenty-three years of professional and executive management experience, including service in the United States

Source: Family Law Help, Divorce Attorneys – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C. – Woodstock, Ga


770 479 0248


BIOGRAPHY:  I have over twenty-three years of professional and executive management experience, including service in the United States Army. I also have and twenty-four years of educational credits toward my Associates Degree, Bachelor of Arts Degree, Master of Arts Degree, Industrial/Organizational Ph.D. Program and Juris Doctor Degree. I own and manage the law offices of Caryn S. Fennell, P.C. which I opened on November 9, 2010, the same day I swore into the Georgia Bar Association and the Georgia State Courts. I am currently licensed to practice in the Federal Courts, Georgia Appeals Court and State Courts.

Since opening my firm, I have closed over 850 family and criminal law cases across Georgia. I specialize in complex custody and criminal matters, and have a passion for father’s rights and parental alienation cases. My firm is most proud of our ability to draw up our vast professional experience to adeptly care for the unique needs of every client we serve. My firm has an excellent reputation for aggressive case investigation, persistent advocacy, and for implementing a very reasonable fee structure for clients. I review every case in detail to develop a customized legal strategy for each client. I am a client-centered lawyer focused on expeditious and cost effective case resolution.

I proudly serve the family and criminal law needs of clients in Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, Pickens and Paulding Counties and have grown my practice solely through the most honorable of compliments, which is the client referral.


Texas District Attorney Disbarred – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

Reposted by:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Family Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

NOTE:  Texas District Attorney Disbarred – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  None of the following represents the ideas or writings of Caryn S. Fennell, P.C..  Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  solely reposted those thoughts and ideas authored by Pamela Colloff, for CNN.

Ex-DA Who Sent Exoneree Anthony Graves to Death Row Is Disbarred
It’s been nine long years since the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Charles Sebesta, the Burleson County DA who prosecuted Anthony Graves for capital murder, had withheld favorable evidence and used false testimony to secure a conviction—a conviction that sent Graves to death row. Graves spent eighteen years in prison, most of it in solitary confinement.

Today, finally, a small measure of justice was served when the State Bar of Texas stripped Sebesta of his law license and formally disbarred him.

It was a stunning reversal of fortune for a man who was, for decades, the most powerful elected official in Burleson and Washington counties. Even after Graves walked free in 2010 and was formally exonerated in 2011, Sebesta continued to impugn his character—telling Texas newspapers as recently as last January that Graves was guilty of murder. Until the bar’s ruling, he did so with impunity.

Then, last summer—twenty years after Graves’ wrongful conviction—the bar’s chief disciplinary counsel determined that there was “just cause” to believe that the former prosecutor had engaged in misconduct. This finding followed a lengthy investigation, which the bar conducted after Graves brought a grievance against Sebesta last January. (Graves was only able to do so because lawmakers passed a bill which changed the existing statute of limitations, allowing exonereees to file such grievances with the bar up to four years after their release from prison.)

The legal proceeding that followed was conducted this May behind closed doors, as per Sebesta’s request. (Attorneys who are accused of misconduct may elect to have a district court proceeding, which is open to the public, or a private evidentiary panel hearing.) The trial spanned four days, and included testimony from Kelly Siegler, the special prosecutor who pronounced Graves an innocent man after re-investigating the case in 2010. Sebesta retained the formidable trial attorney Steve McConnico to defend him. But McConnico was up against the bar’s Laura Popps and Beth Stevens, who had prosecuted the professional misconduct matter of former Williamson County DA Ken Anderson, resulting in his disbarment and jail time in 2013 for his conduct in the Michael Morton case.

In a sweeping ruling released this morning, the bar found that Sebesta had violated no fewer than five tenets of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including:

  • 3.03(a)(l ): “A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal.”
  • 3.03(a)(5): “A lawyer shall not knowingly offer or use evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.”
  • 3.09(d): “A prosecutor in a criminal case shall make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense…”
  • 8.04(a)(l): “A lawyer shall not violate these rules, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another…”
  • 8.04(a)(3): “A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

When I reached Graves in Houston this morning, he expressed his gratitude to the bar for ensuring that Sebesta had finally faced consequences for his actions. “I never thought that a young, African-American man from the projects could file a grievance against a powerful, white DA in Texas and win,” he said.

But he cautioned that a victory in his case alone was not enough. “I think this is a great first step,” he said. “But a lot of people in Washington and Burleson counties were prosecuted and convicted by Charles Sebesta, and some of them are still behind bars. All of those cases need to be examined, too.”

Was disbarment a sufficient punishment for the man who had sent him to death row, I asked? “I think he should be brought before a court of law to answer to charges of attempted murder,” Graves said.

(Photo: Anthony Graves when he filed the grievance against Charles Sebesta in 2014. Credit: AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Marie D. De Jesus)

Source: Ex-DA Who Sent Exoneree Anthony Graves to Death Row Is Disbarred | Texas Monthly



anthony graves charles sebesta


Ex-DA Disbarred – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.



Mother ruins Child/Father Bond – Caryn S. Fennell

By Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Partner, Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

Premiere Family and Criminal Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

Mother ruins Child/Father Bond – Caryn S. Fennell

Link to news feed at end

Recently, I represented a father in a divorce who voluntarily left his wife and then spent nearly eleven excruciating months suffering the isolating consequences that resulted from her crucifying false allegations of child molestation and child abuse.  After threatening him with TPO’s if he left her, she waited until the day after he moved out to seek her first TPO alleging that the father threw a Lego Block at their son.  After that was dismissed, she took a second TPO five months later alleging that he molested their daughter.  She then went out of her way to tell her peers, supervisors, and neighbors where he now lives.  Among other things, she told them all that there was “physical evidence” of the molestation, even though the doctor testified there was none.   She used both TPO’s to alienate this father from the children and to punish him for leaving her. 

During the entire period he had less than 5% of the overall time with the children.  She controlled 95% of the time and 100% of the decisions related to the children, which suited her just fine.  He was reduced to paying her bills and extraordinary amounts of child support.  When he saw his children, especially after the second TPO, it was for two hours per week in a supervised visitation facility (SAAFT House) where he was monitored constantly.  She stripped him of precious moments with his three children, like his youngest child’s first birthday and holidays.  She insisted that he “needed to be put in prison” and that he needed to be “watched like a hawk” at all times.  She rejected 13 names of supervisors who were their marital friends so she could justify refusing him extra time during Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As discovered in witness depositions, she more than once went so far as to suggest to her co-workers and friends that she had people who could “take care of him,” if necessary. 

The bullying of the opposing side was relentless and pervasive.  The mother amped up her conduct and allegations every few months and her team hung on every word she spoke like gospel.  The only problem was that they likely did not intend to bump into me along the way.  My client hired me after the second TPO. I personally invested about 1,000 hours collecting evidence and testimony, developing a 20 page chart of inconsistent statements of the ex-wife, and digging up other evidence that showed the true depravity of the situation.   It showed that she went to great lengths to falsify evidence, and cause very deep harm to many people, not just my client.  Her co-workers and sheriff’s officers were dragged in to depositions and motions were made a public record, and the case became very litigious. 

The more we learned, the more they dug in and refused to look at the facts as if ignoring them would create an alternate truth.  Ironically and in a way that made me chuckle, the bullies started calling me a “bully” probably because it was all they could muster up as a defense.  In fact, at one point I confronted her lawyer with the results of the Sheriff’s Department internal affairs inquiry that showed that her client falsified testimony and evidence, but instead of looking at the results of the inquiry objectively, she said that the Sheriff’s “had an incentive to lie.”

At the end of the day, the evidence prevailed.  The TPO’s were dismissed with prejudice.  The Criminal charges were dismissed.  My client ended up with 50% custody and 50% of the decision making power.  Yet, we wait for the other shoe to drop and the next allegation to surface and remain vigilant in our preparation we ponder an issue that arose at mediation in this case.  In this case, by some miracle beyond my comprehension, the children in this case never displayed classic alienation symptoms.  After all of the horrible conduct of the mother, even the psychologist was shocked that at how well adjusted the children were.  By all measures, the children absolutely adore and love their father and are deeply bonded to him.  Not once did the bond waiver.  This is a testament to his parenting style, which ironically the mother relentlessly attacked as inadequate.  The bond was also widely recognized widely by many people responsible for observing his parenting skills during the eleven excruciating months.  The observers at the SAAFT House, said that in the history of the program that they never had a more attentive and wonderful father than my client. 

At the end of it all was the remaining question that both the mediator, who is fantastic, and the Guardian Ad Litem, who is also fantastic raised which is:  If after a mother acts in such a horrendous and despicable manner toward a father, can children be alienated from the father if in fact the children display zero symptoms of alienating?  They were of the mindset that if a child does not end up alienated, then alienation did not occur.  On the surface that theory seems highly logical and since I had no useful immediate response, I elected to say nothing.  I have struggled with this this issue since mediation.  It is like the question, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, then did it make any noise?” 

In my humble opinion, alienation has many components, including but not limited to the effects on the children.  Alienation is actually more about the alienating parent’s issues of low self-esteem, anxiety and a very high need for control, coupled with a deep desire to punish the other parent.  It is the alienating conduct that is or should be the biggest concern because those who alienate generally will stop at nothing until they achieve their goal.  Therefore, an unsuccessful result once or twice will not stop the conduct, but likely cause an escalation of the conduct.   

As in this case, that the mother did not successfully alienate the children does not mean alienation did not occur.  The most horrendous type of harm occurred in this case, which was the falsification of allegations that caused a social and professional death, yet because he has the children more than when she made the allegations, then it is not over.  So, as a lawyer,  I fully prepare my cases to defend against future allegations, and this case is no different. 

But, the question remains, if the children are not harmed by the alienating conduct, meaning they do not show outward symptoms then did alienation occur?

For more information about Parental alienation see the following website.


 Father with no rights: Mother stops him seeing daughter for 12 YEARS – despite 82 court orders demanding she back down | Mail Online.

SCOTUS Saves Obamacare – Caryn S. Fennell

Reposted by:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney, Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Premiere Family and Criminal Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

NOTE:  SCOTUS Saves Obamacare – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  None of the following represents the ideas or writings of Caryn S. Fennell, P.C..  Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  solely reposted those thoughts and ideas authored by Arianne de Vogue and Jeremy Diamond, for CNN on June 26, 2015.

Supreme Court saves Obamacare
By Ariane de Vogue and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

“Washington (CNN)Obamacare has survived — again.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court saved the controversial health care law that will define President Barack Obama’s administration for generations to come.

The ruling holds that the Affordable Care Act authorized federal tax credits for eligible Americans living not only in states with their own exchanges but also in the 34 states with federal marketplaces. It staved off a major political showdown and a mad scramble in states that would have needed to act to prevent millions from losing health care coverage.

“Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate, we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few but a right for all,” Obama said from the White House. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay”

In a moment of high drama, Chief Justice John Roberts sent a bolt of tension through the Court when he soberly announced that he would issue the majority opinion in the case. About two-thirds of the way through his reading, it became clear that he again would be responsible for rescuing Obamacare.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy — who is often the Court’s swing vote — and the four liberal justices. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

When he finished, Roberts announced that Scalia would read a dissent.

“Indeed,” the veteran justice replied, sparking laughter in the Court and offering a preview of the stinging repudiation of the majority opinion he was about to unfurl.

‘Interpretative jiggery-pokery’
Seated right next to the Chief Justice, Scalia proceeded to eviscerate his reasoning. He reeled off a string of unflattering descriptions about the ruling, calling it “wonderfully convenient,” complaining about “interpretative jiggery-pokery” and arguing it was not the Court’s job to make up for the sloppy drafting of the law by Congress.

Roberts heard the dissent throughout without giving a visible reaction until Scalia quipped that the law should be called SCOTUScare, causing the Chief Justice to chuckle and sending laughter through the public galleries.

Challengers to the law argued that the federal government should not be allowed to continue doling out subsidies to individuals living in states without their own health insurance exchanges and a ruling in their favor would have cut off subsidies to 6.4 million Americans, absent a congressional fix or state action.

The ruling is a huge victory for President Barack Obama, who nearly saw four words in the Affordable Care Act throw his signature achievement into chaos.

“By focusing on the text and structure of the statute, as opposed to the IRS’s interpretation of the statute, today’s decision means that the next President can’t just undo federal exchanges. Instead, it will take an Act of Congress—and a President willing to sign it—to thwart the heart of Obamacare,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN contributor and law professor at American University.

The income-based subsidies are crucial to the law’s success, helping to make health insurance more affordable and ultimately reducing the number of uninsured Americans, and shutting off the subsidy spigot to individuals in the 34 states that rely on exchanges run by the federal government would have upended the law.

Congress would have had to amend the Affordable Care Act to fix its language that subsidies would be available only to those who purchase insurance on exchanges “established by the state” — a politically treacherous and likely untenable action in a Republican Congress. Alternatively, governors in the 34 states without their own exchanges, most of them Republicans, would have had to establish their own exchanges — another tough ask.

Roberts, writing for the majority, said while the contentious phrase was ambiguous, its meaning in context of the law as a whole was clear.

“The context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase,” Roberts wrote.

The conservative Chief Justice was once again an unlikely hero in saving Obama’s signature legislative achievement. He took heat from conservatives in 2012 when he first saved the law from a major constitutional challenge in a decision that stunned pundits and politicos across the ideological spectrum.

“I disagree with the Court’s ruling and believe they have once again erred in trying to correct the mistakes made by President Obama and Congress in forcing Obamacare on the American people,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “I remain committed to repealing this bad law and replacing it with my consumer-centered plan that puts patients and families back in control of their health care decisions.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he was “disappointed” by the ruling.”

“But this decision is not the end of the fight against Obamacare,” he said. “As President of the United States, I would make fixing our broken health care system one of my top priorities.”

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to praise the decision.

“Yes!” she tweeted. “SCOTUS affirms what we know is true in our hearts & under the law: Health insurance should be affordable & available to all.”

Just 16 states and the District of Columbia have set up their own health insurance marketplaces, which left millions of residents in the 34 states that rely on exchanges run by the federal government vulnerable to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Challengers had argued that the words “established by the State” clearly barred the government from doling out subsidies in the 34 states without their own healthcare marketplaces.

They said that Congress limited the subsidies in order to encourage the states to set up their own exchanges and when that failed on a large scale, the IRS tried to “fix” the law.

“If the rule of law means anything, it is that text is not infinitely malleable, and that agencies must follow the law as written—not revise it to ‘better achieve’ what they assume to have been Congress’s purposes,” wrote Michael Carvin, an attorney for the challengers.

But it was Solicitor Generald Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. who won over the justices, arguing that Congress always intended the subsidies be available to everyone — regardless of the actions of their state leaders.

Verrilli warned in court briefs that if the challengers prevailed, the states with federally-run exchanges “would face the very death spirals the Act was structured to avoid and insurance coverage for millions of their residents would be extinguished.”

Lower courts had split on the issue. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia invalidated the IRS rule while the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Obama administration.
CNN’s Stephen Collinson contributed to this report”



Jury Awards Ex-Ethics Chief $700,000 – Caryn S. Fennell

By:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Premiere Family and Criminal Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

Jury Awards Ex-Ethics Chief $700,000 – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

DISCLAIMER:  The following excerpt was taken from:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was written by by Aaron Gould Sheinin   None of the following is the product of Caryn S. Fennell or thegeoorgialawreport.com and was only fed through this page to provide heightened exposure to the issues written by Mr. Sheinin.  

 Stacey Kalberman was unfairly forced from office as retribution for investigating Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign, a Fulton County jury ruled Friday.

The jury, after deliberating 2 1/2 hours ordered the state to pay the former ethics commission director $700,000.

Jurors began deliberations midday Friday.

Lawyers for Kalberman and for the commission spent much of the morning on closing statements, urging jurors to remember their key arguments and to discount the other side.

Kalberman sued her former employer, claiming she and her former top deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, were forced from their jobs. Jurors heard three days of testimony from current and former commissioners and employees, culminating Thursday night with several hours of testimony from Kalberman herself.

Kalberman’s attorneys worked all week to show that the commission’s decision in June 2011 to cut her salary by $35,000 and to eliminate Streicker’s job were a response to the pair’s desire to issue subpoenas for records in the investigation.

Attorneys for the commission, meanwhile, tried to establish that the agency’s budget was in crisis and that was what motivated the cuts.

Kalberman attorney Kim Worth told jurors that the commission’s defense in the case was full of inconsistencies and contradictions. Defense witnesses, Worth said, testified that they recruited Holly Laberge to replace Kalberman while Kalberman was still in her job and before they announced plans to cut her salary and eliminate Streicker’s job.

Worth said even former commission Chairman Patrick Millsaps, who engineered the plan to cut Kalberman’s salary, testified that the recruitment of Laberge by Deal’s office “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is pretext,” Worth said. “The very first witness. It doesn’t add up.”

Assistant Attorney General Bryan Webb, meanwhile, hammered at Kalberman in his closing statement. He said during the key May 3, 2011, meeting, before Kalberman and Streicker presented the commission draft subpoenas for records in the Deal investigation, Kalberman acknowledged the agency had major budget problems.

Then “she went into executive session and asked for a raise,” Webb said. “She had the gall to say the sky is falling, we’re going to run out of money and you know what? I want $5,000 more for myself.”

That was what led to the decision to reduce her salary, Webb said, not the Deal investigation.

“Kalberman took actions that made commissioners begin to question her abilities,” he said.

Worth acknowledged that the budget wasn’t perfect but said it was no surprise.

“Budgets are always a problem in state agencies,” Worth said. “They’re always an issue.”

In fact, Worth said, almost immediately after taking the job, Laberge hired a staff attorney and a receptionist. Laberge testified that when she took over she found no budget crisis.

“The reason they made the personnel decisions they did was because they wanted to take the attorneys out,” Worth said. “They wanted to remove the attorneys from the commission.”


Student’s lawsuit against parents for support

Author:  Caryn S. Fennell, Attorney at Law:  Caryn S. Fennell & Associates

It is unbelievable what our family law courts have become.  And, the lawyers that lend such incredibility to our practice with these suits are a large part of the problem.  This adult’s suit  against her parents should have been dismissed  as it sets bad precedent.  This permits children to be unruly at home, truant at school, run away from home and then return to the cash well for financial support because they have not graduated high school.  This is a classic issue of children wanting to live like adults but not wanting to act like adults.  Parents should be allowed to emancipate children who leave home without substantiated allegations of harm  and deprivation first.


Student’s lawsuit against parents for support loses first round in court

Judge has harsh words for suing teen

Judge has harsh words for suing teen 01:22

Story highlights

  • Rachel Canning, 18, is suing her parents for financial support, legal fees, tuition
  • She alleges she was verbally and physically abused by her parents and was forced to leave
  • Canning’s parents say Rachel left on her own and that she is always welcome to come back
  • A judge denies her initial requests for immediate financial assistance

A high school senior’s lawsuit against her mother and father for financial support and college tuition hit a hurdle Tuesday when a New Jersey judge denied the teenager’s request for immediate financial assistance from the parents.

Rachel Canning, 18, alleges in her lawsuit that her parents forced her out of their Lincoln Park, New Jersey home, and that she is unable to support herself financially. The lawsuit asks that her parents pay the remaining tuition for her last semester at her private high school, pay her current living and transportation expenses, commit to paying her college tuition and pay her legal fees for the suit she filed against her parents.

Her parents say she left home because she didn’t want to obey their rules.

Judge Peter Bogaard denied the request for high school tuition and current living expenses at a hearing Tuesday in New Jersey State Superior Court. Another hearing will be held in April on other issues in the suit, including whether Canning left home of her own accord, the judge said.

Teen suing parents for college tuition

Teen suing parents for college tuition 02:53

Canning, an honor student and cheerleader at Morris Catholic High School in Denville, says in court documents she had to leave her parents’ home because of emotional and psychological mistreatment, alleging, among other things, that her mother called her “fat” and “porky” and that her father threatened to beat her.

“I have been subjected to severe verbal and physical abuse by my mother and father,” Canning wrote in a court certification. “I am not willingly and voluntarily leaving a reasonable situation at home to make my own decisions. I had to leave to end the abuse.”

Canning left her parents’ home at the end of last October. After spending two nights at her boyfriend’s home, she moved into the home of her friend in a nearby town, where she has been staying ever since, according to court documents written by the parents’ attorney.

Fair or outrageous? New Jersey teen sues her parents to pay up for college

Canning seeks a court’s official declaration that she is unemancipated, meaning her parents would still be required to support her financially. She also is suing to reimburse her friend’s parents, John and Amy Inglesino, for legal fees that they have been paying since the lawsuit was initiated, according to the suit.

Canning’s parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, claim that allegations of abuse are completely unfounded.

“We were always her support team, cheering her on or defending her whenever she had a problem,” wrote Elizabeth Canning in a court certification. She claims that her daughter was never forced out of the family’s home, but rather “took it upon herself to run away so that she could live her life without any parental supervision and without any rules.”

Canning was suspended from school for truancy last October, according to court documents filed by her parents’ attorney, Laurie Rush-Masuret. Her parents told the teen that she could no longer see her boyfriend, who was also suspended from school. Car and phone privileges were also taken away. Once she learned of the punishment, Canning cut school again and then decided to run away, her father said in court documents.

Once she left home, her parents notified Morris Catholic High School that they would no longer pay for their daughter’s tuition, the documents state.

“They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me, and have redirected my college fund indicating their refusal to afford me an education,” Rachel Canning stated in court documents.

The situation around the teen and her family initiated an investigation by New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), which received allegations that Rachel was being abused. The teen wrote in court documents that her school contacted the state agency.

When DCPP staffers interviewed the teen, her parents, and her two younger sisters, they ultimately “determined that allegation of emotional abuse was unfounded,” a letter from DCPP states.

Sean Canning, a retired Lincoln Park police chief and current business administrator for the town of Mount Olive, told CNN affiliate WCBS that he and his wife are “distraught.”

“We’re being sued by our child. I’m dumbfounded. So is my wife. So are my other daughters,” he said. “Living in our house, there’s very few things. There’s minor chores, there’s curfews. When I say curfew, it’s usually after 11 o’clock at night.”

Sean Canning wrote in court documents that the Inglesinos, for taking in his daughter, had “enabled the situation to an absurd level. Under the guise of good intentions, they have arrogantly placed themselves in our stead and operated under the belief that their parenting style is superior to our own.”

CNN’s attempts to reach John or Amy Inglesino were unsuccessful.

Stephanie Frangos Hagan, a family law attorney and New Jersey State Bar Association family law officer, said to her knowledge, a case like this is unprecedented.

Though Canning is 18 years old, New Jersey law does not consider a person to be emancipated unless that person has left “the scope of his or her parents’ authority,” according to Hagan.

“A parent is not obligated to contribute to the support of an emancipated child,” said Hagan. “A child is emancipated when he or she is beyond the control of the parents. Is she truly beyond the scope of her parents’ authority, as a result of her own voluntary acts? That’s for the judge to decide.”

“The argument (she) is making is that she didn’t leave home voluntary. She’s saying ‘I was thrown out,'” Hagan said.

Neither Rachel Canning nor her parents testified at Tuesday’s hearing, but it saw a reunion between the daughter and her estranged parents, the first one in over four months. While Sean Canning was seen speaking to Rachel, Elizabeth was seen briefly weeping after being seated.

The parents’ attorney, Rush-Masuret, told CNN that Elizabeth Canning is too upset about the situation to even talk about it. She said the Cannings have told their daughter to come home, and she has refused.

“To be clear, my clients never abandoned nor abused their child and they have asked her to come home. They simply sought to exert their own parental judgment and reasonable household rules which she is not willing to accept,” Rush-Masuret said in court Tuesday.

Rachel Canning’s attorney, Tanya N. Helfand, said Sean and Elizabeth Canning are being “negligent and irresponsible.”

“Normal healthy parents want to help their children. They want their children to go to college. They want to help them with their difficulties,” Helfand said in court.

“You may not get along wonderfully every single day with your teenager. That doesn’t mean that you abandon them and you say, ‘Guess what, you’re on your own.'”

Judge Bogaard denied the request for the last semester of high school tuition because the school said she could continue anyway, since she is an honor student. And Rachel Canning wrote in her court certification that “The peer ministers at Morris Catholic have decided to raise funds to pay … tuition so I don’t have to leave early.”

As for why he denied the request for immediate financial assistance, the judge indicated he didn’t see an emergency situation, and would make further decisions at the next hearing.

The teen wrote in her court certification that she aspires to be a biomedical engineer. Her first choice for college is the University of Delaware, from which she has yet to hear back from regarding her admission decision. She said taking legal action was necessary to ensure that she is able to accomplish her future goals.

“I am a very good student. I have no drug problems. I am a good athlete. I work at a job outside of school,” she wrote. “My parents simply will not help me any longer…(They) should be required to provide for my support and education until I can stand on my own two feet. In order to do this, I had to take legal action.”

Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  – Custody and Father’s Rights Law

Caryn S. Fennell

A hard hitting family law attorney specializing in complex custody matters with a passion for father’s rights and parental alienation cases. My firm has an excellent reputation for aggressive case investigation, persistent advocacy, and for implementing a very reasonable fee structure for clients. See my profile on avvo.com at the following page for client reviews and comments:  http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/30189-ga-caryn-fennell-3343806/reviews.html

Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  – Custody & Father’s Rights


Premiere Custody and Family Law Attorney in North Metro Atlanta

My firm is most proud of our ability to draw up our vast professional experience to adeptly care for the unique needs of every client we serve. My firm has an excellent reputation for aggressive case investigation, persistent advocacy, and for implementing a very reasonable fee structure for clients. I review every case in detail to develop a customized legal strategy for each client. I am a client-centered lawyer focused on expeditious and cost effective case resolution. Since opening my firm, I have closed over 850 family and criminal law cases across Georgia. I specialize in complex custody and criminal matters, and have a passion for father’s rights and parental alienation cases. My firm is most proud of our ability to draw up our vast professional experience to adeptly care for the unique needs of every client we serve.

I proudly serve the family and criminal law needs of clients in Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, Pickens and Paulding Counties and have grown my practice solely through the most honorable of compliments, which is the client referral.

Custody Tactics Equals Racketeering – Caryn S. Fennell

By:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Premiere Family and Criminal Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

Custody Tactics Equals Racketeering – Caryn S. Fennell , P.C. – Custody is one of the most inflammatory subjects in any divorced parents life and if the parents do not have a good co-parenting relationship, then the custody, parenting, and decision making facets of  the divorced parents lives are bound to contaminate the courts and the well being of the children.  As a custody attorney, I face off against lawyers who frequently take on the personalities of their clients.  They accuse other lawyers of lying and then make up lies on the record that fly in the face of the very ethical rules which they complain.  These lawyers implement a win at all costs strategy, and when they lose, they take it personally and attack the next case with aggressive sensationalism which is an embarrassment to themselves and the industry.    While most lawyers’s poor choices falls short of those offenses outlined in the following article, they openly offend the notions of fair play and decency in litigation.  While we all are charged with zealously representing the best interests of our clients, we must encourage our clients to remain focused on the best interests of their children.   Attorneys need not even approach the line, let alone cross over into criminal or unethical conduct in the name of their client’s interests.  

Custody Tactics Equal Racketeering – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

DISCLAIMER:  The following excerpt was taken from:

http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202727739296/Suit-Claims-Custody-Battle-Tactics-Amount-to-Racketeering?slreturn=20150429203529 Suit Claims Custody Battle Tactics Amount to Racketeering | Daily Report and was written by R. Robin McDonald.  None of the following is the product of Caryn S. Fennell or thegeoorgialawreport.com and was only fed through this page to provide heightened exposure to the issues written by Ms. McDonald.  

“Suit Claims Custody Battle Tactics Amount to Racketeering

R. Robin McDonald, Daily Report

    | 0 CommentsTS

Millard Farmer
Millard Farmer

John Disney/Daily Report

Custody Tactics Equal Racketeering – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A lawsuit stemming from an ugly, protracted child custody battle claims that an Atlanta lawyer’s tactics have crossed the line into civil racketeering.

The suit alleges that lawyer Millard Farmer, his now-retired co-counsel in the custody case, and a child custody activist are associates in a racketeering conspiracy that engaged in extortion, the attempted bribery of a state court judge, the intimidation of witnesses and court personnel, theft, attempted kidnapping and wire fraud.

The suit contends that Farmer and his co-defendants have also engaged in “a terroristic abuse of the Georgia judicial system” to force plaintiff John Murphy and his current wife to relinquish custody of his two sons from a former marriage. Murphy is a former Columbus mortgage banker and financial adviser; his wife is Renee Haugerud, the founder and chief financial officer of a New York hedge fund.

The suit, filed on Murphy’s behalf by former federal prosecutor Buddy Parker of Maloy Jenkins Parker, describes Farmer’s litigation tactics with a term Farmer coined: “conflictineering.” Farmer has described the tactic in seminars as the creation or use of an event “to expose the hypocrisy or immorality of a person involved in a dispute and then restoring order in return for a fair disposition of the dispute.”

Farmer’s philosophy, based on his representation of death penalty defendants, assumes that obtaining fairness in a case with serious charges “is almost impossible” because relying “solely upon the fairness of the judge” invites “the full consequences of the political winds.”

In an interview with the Daily Report, Farmer countered, “You’ve got to engage in aggressive litigation.”

As a lawyer, he added, “You are required to present the claim as well as the law allows you to present it. You can call it aggressive. … You can call it conflictineering.” But, he added, “There’s not a crime in there.”

$50K Shortfall

The racketeering suit claims that Farmer’s attempts to extort money from John Murphy and his current wife reach back to 2010—four years after Murphy and his first wife, Michelle Murphy, were divorced and reached a joint custody agreement in which Michelle Murphy was granted primary physical custody of the couple’s two sons.

In 2010, represented by Farmer, Michelle Murphy sued her former divorce lawyer for malpractice and her ex-husband for what she claimed was a $50,000 shortfall in the distribution of assets stemming from the 2006 divorce. The racketeering suit alleges that when John Murphy offered to pay the entire disputed amount to resolve the case, Farmer refused and threatened to “continue to litigate for years” unless he, too, was treated “fairly.” The Murphys eventually paid $150,000 to resolve the issue.

The suit says John Murphy sought to modify the custody arrangement a year later, after learning that the boys were missing school, had access to firearms, alcohol and drugs, and may have been engaged in “inappropriate and premature sexual behavior.” The suit contends there also were “several issues related to Michelle Murphy’s mental condition.”

Michelle Murphy countersued, seeking more child support money and monetary damages, including punitive damages and legal fees. Last year, after Michelle Murphy refused to undergo a custody evaluation and then failed to appear in court, a Coweta County judge granted John Murphy temporary custody of his sons.

The racketeering suit claims that while advocating on behalf of Michelle Murphy, the conduct of Farmer, lawyer Larry King and Deb Beacham, the executive director of My Advocacy Center in Atlanta, crossed the line into organized criminal behavior. The alleged activities included “an illegal effort to extort payments, forced concessions and other unjust benefits in exchange for, in his [Farmer’s] own words, ‘restoring order’ to the individuals victimized by his illegal and unethically manufactured litigation chaos,”according to the suit.

The allegations in the complaint also include:

• Attempting to bribe Coweta Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin by suing his court reporter and then offering to dismiss the suit if he would recuse from the litigation—and make his recusal retroactive to predate his 2012 ruling giving custody of the two boys to their father. The suit claims that Farmer also contacted the court reporter’s lawyer and told him if she would persuade the judge to recuse retroactive to before his custody ruling, he would dismiss the suit. Farmer and his co-counsel filed 22 motions seeking Baldwin’s recusal—which Baldwin eventually granted—as well as that of the remainder of the Coweta County Superior bench and the judge appointed to replace Baldwin;

• Tampering with witnesses and court-appointed personnel by making inflammatory accusations intended to damage the professional reputations of two court-appointed guardians ad litem and three court-appointed psychologists, the judge, and Haugerud, John Murphy’s current wife, either with litigation, threats to sue, or complaints to their respective licensing or ethics boards;

• Enticing the two boys away from their father, in what the suit alleges was an attempted kidnapping, so that Beacham could meet with them secretly in the Virgin Islands and record an interview with them that the suit refers to as the “manufacture of false evidence” and that she subsequently posted on her advocacy center website;

• Enticing the elder son to run away from his father in an effort to secure concessions from John Murphy related to the custody of his sons;

• Attempting to extort Murphy and his wife with attempts to impair their credit and professional reputations through the dissemination of information accusing them of criminal offenses, and making false statements over interstate wires to the media in New York, Georgia and elsewhere.

‘Unwarranted concessions’

Murphy’s racketeering suit, filed May 22, claims that Farmer’s tactics are a perversion of the legal process and are intended to “extract unwarranted concessions” from his targets.

The complaint also identifies a number of alleged co-conspirators who are not named as defendants, including Michelle Murphy, her brother, two public relations specialists and the host of an Atlanta radio show. The suits claims the named co-conspirators aided or abetted the alleged crimes, in part by launching what the suit describes as a vituperative public relations campaign on social media, including a Twitter feed in the boys’ names, “Free Jack and Thomas.”

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages stemming from what it contends has been a vicious public relations campaign generated by the defendants that engaged in “the public dissemination of falsehoods” about Murphy and Haugerud.

Litigation surrounding the custody battle, which is still pending in Coweta County, has, according to the suit, damaged Murphy’s financial consulting business, adversely affected his relationships with clients, damaged his personal and professional reputation and strained his marriage.

The suit seeks to reimburse Murphy for funds he paid out that were intended for the “psychological well-being” of his two sons, now 14 and 16, and “protect them from further racketeering conduct.” It also seeks reimbursement for hundreds of thousands of dollars in what the suit alleges are “enormous” legal fees, fees to court professionals and others during the course of the custody battle. The case, filed in federal court in Newnan, has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten.

The suit also highlights recent decisions by the Georgia Court of Appeals in the underlying custody litigation. The court rebuked Farmer for “unsupported and irrelevant assertions” that were, according to the racketeering suit, “intended to demean a witness,” and what the appellate panel said was a “lack of professionalism” by Farmer and King that “does less than nothing to advance their cause.”

Parker, Murphy’s lawyer, emphasized that the racketeering suit “is not about custody.”

“There is a line,” he continued. “You can’t use the legal system as an extortionate shakedown method. Period. … When you look at this conduct in its totality, it is what we claim it to be. It is a pattern of racketeering activity utilizing a group of people to thwart the due process rights of my clients through the courts of Georgia. The primary motivation is not the best interests of the children. … It is for Farmer to get his hands on a lot of money from my clients.”

‘No Good Deed’

Farmer told the Daily Report that he never made payment of his legal fees a requirement for the resolution of the custody case, an allegation on which some of the racketeering suit’s extortion claims rest.

“If the truth be known, if they had wanted us to pay out of our pockets to get this resolved, we would have paid them,” Farmer said, for a resolution that would have allowed Michelle Murphy to retain custody of the boys and dismissed allegations the lawyer calls both untrue and “a sin” that his client may have improperly fondled one of her sons.

King, Farmer’s co-counsel in the Murphy custody case and co-defendant in the federal racketeering suit, said, “No good deed goes unpunished,” after learning of the litigation from the Daily Report.

King said his work for Michelle Murphy was “100 percent pro bono. … I thought I was doing a service to a needy woman who was being overrun by an ex-husband who married a multimillionaire,” he said. “The whole case against me is a lie.”

“All I’ve done is present the facts,” he continued. “It was my duty as an attorney to be an aggressive litigator. If you give your client any less than being an aggressive litigator, you’re violating the rules. … If you are a wimpy lawyer, you ought not to be litigating.”

The third defendant in Murphy’s racketeering suit is Beacham, who founded My Advocate Center in 2011 after she nearly lost custody of her own children in a divorce. Beacham called the racketeering suit “a classic bully abuser move” intended “to retaliate against people who are trying to protect children.”

The suit, she suggested, “is probably the best thing that could happen here as [John Murphy] and Haugerud have done everything—all that money can buy—to keep evidence and testimony off the record. They have had help from some of the most well-paid, dishonest family court actors in Georgia, all to wrongfully and dishonestly move two boys away from a loving parent, safe home, good school and friends. … This is just about greed, being above the law, having the ‘right connections’ and a desire to do harm and to get away with it.”

“So far,” she continued, “they have had all the right connections—and plenty of money —to avoid heeding laws, allowing due process or accountability. … So if being sued by bad actors like this is the cost of defending silenced children, then I expect this will be the first of many such false claims against me.”


Jail not a Mental Health Treatment – Caryn S. Fennell

By:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Premiere Criminal and Family Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta


Jail not a Mental Health Treatment – Caryn S. Fennell   DISCLAIMER:  The following excerpt was taken from:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-giliberti/its-outrageous-jails-and-prisons-are-no-place-to-treat-mental-illness_b_7334026.html  It’s Outrageous: Jails and Prisons Are No Place to Treat Mental Illness; Just Ask Paton Blough | Mary Giliberti and was written by Mary Giliberti.  None of the following is the product of Caryn S. Fennell or thegeorgialawreport.com and was only fed through this page to provide heightened exposure to the issues written by Ms. Giliberti.   Jail not a Mental Health Treatment – Caryn S. Fennell

“It’s Outrageous: Jails and Prisons Are No Place to Treat Mental Illness; Just Ask Paton Blough

Posted: Updated: 

Human Rights Watch has released a report, Callous and Cruel, on the “unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force” used in jails and prison to control inmates with mental illness. It’s an issue that NAMI has long been concerned with, except that it’s more than an issue or a concern.

It’s an outrage that should shock the conscience of America and we need your help to change it.

People unfortunately often end up in jail or prison when they don’t get effective treatment for mental illness. In another report this year, Incarceration’s Front Door, the Vera Institute of Justice found that more than two million people with mental illness are booked into county jails alone, but as many as 80 percent don’t get treatment after they arrive.

Imagine putting people in jail when they experience a heart attack. Imagine a family being told that a spouse, son or daughter has suddenly experienced a psychiatric crisis and as a result faces a prison term. One in five adults experiences a mental health condition at some point in life. No American family is immune from risk.

There is no one solution to the horrors presented in the Callous and Cruel report, but the prescription includes getting people living with mental illness the right help in their communities before the criminal justice system ever gets involved. It includes providing the right kind of treatment and supports in jails or prisons.

It includes discharge planning and community services after release so that a person doesn’t return.

Reform requires investment, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the economic absurdity of our present system. In Wayne County, Michigan, for example, it costs $31,000 annually to house a person living with mental illness in jail, while community mental health services would cost about $10,000.

One key reform we need is nationwide expansion of crisis intervention team (CIT) programs for law enforcement. CIT trains police officers to respond more safely and humanely to individuals experiencing mental health crises by using “verbal de-escalation” skills and taking them to where they can get medical care rather than to jail. This leads to better outcomes.

Better outcomes include recovery and wellness.. NAMI South Carolina leader Paton Blough’s story serves as inspiration. At the age of 26, he was jailed after onset of a manic episode. Over three years he was arrested six times and every time, he was convinced police intended to murder him. He received two felony convictions for actions while incarcerated — spitting on a guard and threatening a public official. Financially he was ruined. He lost his home in foreclosure, his marriage and contact with his children.

As part of recovery, Paton had to overcome the stigma he himself internalized. His actions weren’t a reflection of bad character, but instead medical illness. Today, he helps train police officers for CIT programs.

Paton’s most dramatic moment in recovery came when 30 police officers applauded him after his first presentation–including one who previously had arrested him.

Callous and Cruel recommends that jails and prisons adopt strategies that
suit the “unique needs and vulnerabilities of prisoners with mental disabilities.” These must include CIT for Corrections which some states already have adopted and a prohibition on the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with mental illness.

Criminal justice reform means saving the lives of people like Paton Blough. It means understanding that recovery involves treatment, hard work and courage and requires community support.

NAMI is currently working to pass legislation in Congress, S. 933 and H.R. 1854, the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act, to provide support for state and local law enforcement and correctional training, jail diversion and community reentry programs. We are also working with the National Association of Counties, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the American Psychiatric Foundation, police associations and many others to challenge state and county leaders to adopt reforms. The effort is called the Stepping Up Initiative. Sep by step, we can save both lives and money, but it is going to require everybody’s help, including yours. So sign up today.

In addition, help us pass S.933 and H.R.1854. Please take action today. Let’s work together to end the callousness and cruelty of the current system.”

Jail not a Mental Health Treatment – Caryn S. Fennell

Mental Illness, No Crime – Caryn S. Fennell

Mental Illness, No Crime – Caryn S. Fennell

By:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Family Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta

Mental Illness, No Crime – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C. As a family law and criminal law attorney, I unfortunately know first hand that our jails and prisons are over flowing with victims of profound, and possibly un-diagnosed, mental health disorders who are under served members of our society.  Many are often also invisible citizens who suffer from drug abuse, homelessness, joblessness and other extraordinary hardships.  While our courts focus heavily on creating Diversion or Conditional Discharge Programs for first offenders, or DUI and Drug Courts to address addition based offenses, very few Court systems across the country sponsor Mental Health Programs designed to remedy the secondary results of mental health disorders.  Mental health pervades our society causes secondary community harms, such as drug abuse and crime, which then fill our prisons and detention centers with criminal offenders.  I live and work in the seventh largest county in Georgia and we are significantly far behind comparably sized counties that have long standing Mental Health Courts that assist deserving criminal offenders.  Statistically speaking, Mental Health Courts have a greater impact recidivism rates than long or short term incarceration.  When coupled with Drug and DUI Courts, the results are even more profound.  Without a doubt, the counties facing these challenges head-on, see the greatest return on every investment dollar by way of savings in detention housing, court costs, indigent defense expenses, and restitution reimbursements to victims.  Mental Health is society’s invisible tormentor that must be met head on sooner rather than later.” Mental Illness, No Crime – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

DISCLAIMER:  The following excerpt was taken from: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/27/opinions/gingrich-jones-mental-health/index.html? fb_action_ids=437469623079802&fb_action_types=og.shares  Mental illness is no crime – CNN.comand was written by Newt Gingrich and Van Jones.  None of the following is the product of Caryn S. Fennell or thegeoorgialawreport.com and was only fed through this page to provide heightened exposure to the issues written by Newt Gingrich or Van Jones. Mental Illness, No Crime – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

“Mental illness is no crime

Mental Illness, No Crime – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.
  • Newt Gingrich, Van Jones: Mentally ill people disproportionately represented in prisons; crimes are often direct result of mental illness
  • They say we lock them up for nonviolent crimes instead of getting them treatment that could improve lives and safety

Newt Gingrich is former speaker of the House and was a candidate in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. CNN contributor Van Jones is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Barack Obama’s green jobs adviser in 2009. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN)Before Paton Blough got his bipolar disorder under control, it nearly cost him everything.

The Greenville, South Carolina, resident was arrested six times in three years, each for an episode related to his illness. Instead of receiving treatment, he was thrown in jail. In the rough prison environment and without proper treatment, he ended up with two felony convictions for crimes committed while incarcerated.

Newt Gingrich
Van Jones-Profile-Image

Blough managed to find a path to treatment. That makes him one of the lucky ones. Today, mentally ill Americans are disproportionately more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, suffer solitary confinement or rape in prison and commit another crime once released.

Quick: Name the largest provider of mental health care in America. If you guessed “our prisons and jails,” you would be right.

A 2006 U.S. Department of Justice study found that three out of four female inmates in state prisons, 64% of all people in jail, 56% of all state prison inmates and 45% of people in federal prison have symptoms or a history of mental disorder.

America’s approach when the mentally ill commit nonviolent crimes — locking them up without addressing the problem — is a solution straight out of the 1800s.

When governments closed state-run psychiatric facilities in the late 1970s, it didn’t replace them with community care, and by default, the mentally ill often ended up in jails. There are roughly as many people in Anchorage, Alaska, or Trenton, New Jersey, as there are inmates with severe mental illness in American prisons and jails, according to one 2012 estimate. The estimated number of inmates with mental illness outstrips the number of patients in state psychiatric hospitals by a factor of 10.

Mental illness and shootings

Mental illness and shootings 04:37

Today, in 44 states and the District of Columbia, the largest prison or jail holds more people with serious mental illness than the largest psychiatric hospital. With2 million people with mental illness booked into jails each year, it is not surprising that the biggest mental health providers in the country are LA County Jail, Rikers Island in New York and Cook County Jail in Chicago.

Our system is unfair to those struggling with mental illness.

Cycling them through the criminal justice system, we miss opportunities to link them to treatment that could lead to drastic improvements in their quality of life and our public safety. These people are sick, not bad, and they can be diverted to mental health programs that cost less and are more effective than jail time. People who’ve committed nonviolent crimes can often set themselves on a better path if they are provided with proper treatment.

Was mental illness his only crime?

Was mental illness his only crime?08:30

The current situation is also unfair to law enforcement officers and to the people running our prisons, who are now forced to act as doctors or face tense confrontations with the mentally ill while weighing the risk to public safety. In fact, at a time when police shootings are generating mass controversy, there is far too little discussion of the fact that when police use force, it often involves someone with a mental illness.

Finally, the current approach is unfair to taxpayers, because there are far more cost-effective ways for a decent society to provide care to the mentally ill. Just look at Ohio, where the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is projected to spend $49 million this year on medications and mental health care, on top of nearly $23,000 per inmate per year.

Paton Blough is proof that there is a better way. After eventually getting the treatment he needed, he is out of jail and now helps teach law enforcement officers effective ways to intervene with people with mental health needs.

His focus is just one of a surprising number of proven, effective solutions with broad support. Both advocates for the mentally ill and the law enforcement community have lined up in support of increased training for officers. The psychiatric community as well as those focused on reducing crime can all agree on expanding mental health courts, crisis intervention teams, and veterans’ courts.

A new initiative, “Stepping Up,” unites state and local governments and the American Psychiatric Foundation to promote research-based practices to tackle our overreliance on jail as mental health treatment, such as in-jail counseling programs that reduce the chances of repeat offenders.

State and local officials have shown us the way.

We’ve seen large communities such as Miami-Dade County, Florida, completely redesign their systems at every level, training police officers in crisis intervention, instituting careful assessments of new jail admissions and redirecting their mentally ill populations into treatment, effectively reducing the rates of re-arrest.

We’ve seen smaller rural counties faced with tight budgets collaborate with neighboring communities to pool their limited resources to pay for new programs and properly track progress to promote accountability.

Perhaps most surprisingly in these partisan times, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are standing shoulder-to-shoulder to support mental health reform. The bipartisan Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in the Senate, passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

The legislation includes simple measures that would fund alternatives to jail and prison admissions for those in need of treatment and expand training programs for law enforcement personnel on how to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The notion of bipartisan, comprehensive criminal justice reform is not just idle talk. It is happening.

Both sides see practical alternatives to incarceration that can reduce prison populations, improve public safety, save lives and save money. If Congress moves swiftly to pass the great ideas now percolating in the House and Senate, it will become a reality.

Take it from a conservative and a liberal: A good place to start is by addressing the needs of our mentally ill citizens in jails and prisons.”

Homeless Veterans Deserve American Dream – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

By:  Caryn S. Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Premiere Family and Criminal Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta


Homeless Veterans Deserve American Dream – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.  As a family law attorney I see more discord among American Families than anyone should have to witness.  Divorce, alimony, child support, custody, IRA’s, tea pots and coffee pots become the center of every controversy and before long, people who you never thought would engage in petulant arguments over things and money are suddenly deep in the throws of vicious fights over the most mundane of things all because sometimes being right is more important than doing the right thing.  For some, fighting over their share of the pie is about equality and being treated fairly as a stay at home spouse and to those people it is important that they have enough to restart their lives.  For others, it is about greed and punishing the other party for years of ill will and anger.  Sometimes I travel to the Fulton County courthouse to wage these wars on behalf of a deserving client who seeks equitable treatment from their soon to be ex, or their children’s parent from whom they seek custody.  I invariably I have to walk past rows of homeless people camped on the sidewalks completely disheveled and disconnected from society that passes them by each day.  I frequently wonder to myself where their parents are and who if anyone is looking for their lost brothers and sisters.  I wonder if anyone fought as hard for them as my client is about to fight for themselves or their children.  I wonder if they are veterans who have become a part of the lost world filled with thousands of others just like them and empty of even one government representative who cares.  Sometimes being a family law attorney brings home the truth that our society has lost its decency, particularly when it comes to the homeless, and even more so when they are our veterans.   Today, as a prior military member, I salute all veterans who served this country, and I support all organizations that seek to make a difference in the lives of those veterans who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless.  

The following excerpt was taken from:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/24/opinions/cole-homeless-veterans/index.html, Homeless veterans deserve a place in the American dream – CNN.com.  and was written by Maria Cuomo Cole.  None of the following is the product of Caryn S. Fennell or thegeoorgialawreport.com and was only fed through this page to provide heightened exposure to the issues written by Ms. Cole.  


Homeless Veterans Deserve a Place in the American Dream – cnn.com

“EDITORS NOTE:  Maria Cuomo Cole is chairman of HELP USA, a nonprofit organization providing housing and supportive services for the homeless, veterans, and victims of domestic violence. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)Karlene S. is a 35-year-old Army veteran who served as part of the post-9/11 war against terrorism. A single parent, she has three children, the youngest two diagnosed with ADHD and other ongoing special needs. She herself has health issues, including hypertension and depression. While she has tried to provide for her family by working at Target, she still cannot afford her rent.

Mr. Murray is a 50-year-old single veteran. He was in Beirut when the military barracks were bombed in 1983 and 241 military personnel lost their lives. When the bombing took place, he was on duty and was close to the barracks, but did not suffer physical injuries. Upon his discharge, he worked for many years in construction until the economic crash in 2008, when he lost his business and savings.

Maria Cuomo Cole

Deborah D. is a 47-year-old veteran who was a victim of sexual assault in the military. The single mother of two children, she strives to overcome the pain while making a respectable and successful life for herself and her family.

Karlene, Mr. Murray, and Deborah are among some50,000 veterans who are homeless, or 1.4 million who are considered at risk of homelessness on any given day, due to poverty, lack of support networks, and marginal living conditions in substandard housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

They, and all those who put on the uniforms of our nation’s armed services, sacrifice so much to defend the freedoms that we all enjoy and take for granted. Far too many, however, come home unable to defend themselves from the ravages of combat.

The U.S. Census Bureau counts 3.6 million veterans with a service-related disability. A significant percentage are victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. It is estimated that at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and 30% of Vietnam war veterans suffer from these issues.

These veterans also have alarmingly high rates of depression, unemployment, divorce, substance abuse and other problems, making them all the more vulnerable to homelessness. Female veterans, in particular, are confronted with additional problems, including family reunification issues.

Yet, there is a lack of tailored programs for the growing percentage of female homeless veterans. More than 280,000 women have served in active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas, which is more than seven times the number of women who served in the Gulf War and almost 26 times the number of women who served in Vietnam.

According to HUD, nearly 10% of homeless veterans are female, and that number is expected to rise as more women serve and then return home from their deployment. Many of these women are single parents of young children — the Department of Defense reported in 2010 that 30,000 females who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were single mothers — and the Department of Veterans Affairs found that about 20% of female Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are victims of military sexual assault.

Providing shelter to our female — and male — veterans is not enough; it is simply one step. The transition from soldier to civilian is often the most difficult part of a veteran’s life. Yet the hardships of going from combat to job application, mortgage payments and working a typical 9-to-5 job, far too often are after-thoughts on the post-military agenda. It is no wonder that long after their active tours, many veterans continue to fight to reclaim their health and well-being.

The Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) collaborated five years ago on a grand proposal to end homelessness among the military veteran population by 2015. Since that time, substantial funding has been allocated, and programs have been established in partnership with the VA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and non-government organizations across the country toward achieving this ambitious goal. Just last year, first lady Michelle Obama stepped up the charge even further by establishing the Mayor’s Challenge, galvanizing local and state officials, non-profits, foundations and other community partners in order to increase and maximize their capacity to combat the problem.

These efforts have had a profound impact: Veteran homelessness has decreased by 33% since 2010, according to HUD. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio reported recently that the city has already achieved reductions of 75% since 2012 and is on track to fully ending veteran homelessness by the end of the year. To do so, New York is set to receive another $4 million as part of a new federal allocation of $65 million in funding aimed specifically at rental assistance and associated clinical services for veterans at risk of becoming homeless.

While admirable, and certainly newsworthy, the primary objective cannot simply be about ensuring that “every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America,” as President Obama has stressed. The real issue is about providing a place in America for every veteran who has served her.

To help do so, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald announced earlier this year nearly $93 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grants to community-based organizations across the country. The SSVF program has been instrumental in ensuring that veterans in marginal housing conditions and those who have slipped through the safety net can be spared homelessness through innovative prevention programs.

HELP USA, the organization I am privileged to chair, has housing developments with essential SSVF-supported services for veterans in six cities, including specialized family therapeutic counseling targeted to female veterans addressing issues of family reunification they need so badly. Today, the organization is the single largest provider of homelessness services and rapid re-housing in New York City, and has achieved encouraging outcomes from prevention interventions including rental assistance, employment, and access to health care, child care and mental health services.

What we and others who have been committed to solving veterans’ homelessness have found is that an integrated and holistic model of housing, counseling, employment and family services helps create a sense of pride and dignity that can only come from independence and stability. This investment of financial and human resources has ensured that more than 80% of veterans and families in our program remain in stable housing for at least a year after they receive assistance.

On Memorial Day, we must make our own “investment.” We must start by remembering that homeless and at-risk veterans need more than just shelter. We must give them the tools to empower themselves and reclaim the self-worth and dignity which comes from occupying a place in the American dream. It is a dream they fought so hard to defend for the rest of us.

The FBI Strikes Again – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

By:  Caryn Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Family Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta.

The FBI Strikes Again – Caryn S. Fennell, P.C. When will they get it right?  The following story is reposted from The Washington Post from author Spencer S. Hsu on April 18, 2015.  Spencer S. Hsu is an investigative reporter, two-time Pulitzer finalist and national Emmy award nominee.  In my opinion, this story speaks for itself, and needs very little commentary from little ole’ me.   However, for effect, I will add that when I was in the 9th grade, my American Government teacher, Mr. Shaw, told the class that only three percent (3%) of the population in American prisons were comprised of the truly innocent.  Of course, this was before DNA, and all other forensic developments, yet I still found his statistic nearly impossible to believe.  I remember troubling over his commentary for years, because I lived in Florida and I simply could not embrace the idea that in a country not far removed from the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the seething vitriol emanating from the South, that only three percent of our American citizens were wrongly imprisoned.  It seemed a naïve proclamation from such an astute professor.  Within time, my suspicions proved true as technology exonerated thousands of innocents.  However, in a country where sometimes the need to win supersedes common sense and morality, we still find corruption running rampant in our justice system.   Do these people ever think to themselves, “how many others shall be harmed by the real perpetrator after I succeed in incarcerating the wrong person for a crime they did not commit?”  Twenty-six of twenty-eight analysts or ninety-five percent (95%) of these FBI agents not only got it wrong, but intentionally failed to get it right. 

FBI Building


”By Spencer S. Hsu April 18 

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers  (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.

The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.

In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, commended the FBI and department for the collaboration but said, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

“We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn’t stopped much sooner,” Neufeld said.

Norman L. Reimer, the NACDL’s executive director, said, “Hopefully, this project establishes a precedent so that in future situations it will not take years to remediate the injustice.”

While unnamed federal officials previously acknowledged widespreadproblems, the FBI until now has withheld comment because findings might not be representative.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former prosecutor, called on the FBI and Justice Department to notify defendants in all 2,500 targeted cases involving an FBI hair match about the problem even if their case has not been completed, and to redouble efforts in the three-year-old review to retrieve information on each case.

“These findings are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system, not only for potentially innocent defendants who have been wrongly imprisoned and even executed, but for prosecutors who have relied on fabricated and false evidence despite their intentions to faithfully enforce the law,” Blumenthal said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), urged the bureau to conduct “a root-cause analysis” to prevent future breakdowns.

“It is critical that the Bureau identify and address the systemic factors that allowed this far-reaching problem to occur and continue for more than a decade,” the lawmakers wrote FBI Director James B. Comey on March 27, as findings were being finalized.

The FBI is waiting to complete all reviews to assess causes but has acknowledged that hair examiners until 2012 lacked written standards defining scientifically appropriate and erroneous ways to explain results in court. The bureau expects this year to complete similar standards for testimony and lab reports for 19 forensic disciplines.

Federal authorities launched the investigation in 2012 after The Washington Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s, typically for murder, rape and other violent crimes nationwide.

The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of “matches” of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.

In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same. Since 2000, the lab has used visual hair comparison to rule out someone as a possible source of hair or in combination with more accurate DNA testing.

Warnings about the problem have been mounting. In 2002, the FBI reported that its own DNA testing found that examiners reported false hair matches more than 11 percent of the time. In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder.

University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett said the results reveal a “mass disaster” inside the criminal justice system, one that it has been unable to self-correct because courts rely on outdated precedents admitting scientifically invalid testimony at trial and, under the legal doctrine of finality, make it difficult for convicts to challenge old evidence.

“The tools don’t exist to handle systematic errors in our criminal justice system,” Garrett said. “The FBI deserves every recognition for doing something really remarkable here. The problem is there may be few judges, prosecutors or defense lawyers who are able or willing to do anything about it.”

Federal authorities are offering new DNA testing in cases with errors, if sought by a judge or prosecutor, and agreeing to drop procedural objections to appeals in federal cases.

However, biological evidence in the cases often is lost or unavailable. Among states, only California and Texas specifically allow appeals when experts recant or scientific advances undermine forensic evidence at trial.

Defense attorneys say scientifically invalid forensic testimony should be considered as violations of due process, as courts have held with false or misleading testimony.

The FBI searched more than 21,000 federal and state requests to its hair comparison unit from 1972 through 1999, identifying for review roughly 2,500 cases where examiners declared hair matches.

Reviews of 342 defendants’ convictions were completed as of early March, the NACDL and Innocence Project reported. In addition to the 268 trials in which FBI hair evidence was used against defendants, the review found cases in which defendants pleaded guilty, FBI examiners did not testify, did not assert a match or gave exculpatory testimony.

When such cases are included, by the FBI’s count examiners made statements exceeding the limits of science in about 90 percent of testimonies, including 34 death-penalty cases.

The findings likely scratch the surface. The FBI said as of mid-April that reviews of about 350 trial testimonies and 900 lab reports are nearly complete, with about 1,200 cases remaining.

The bureau said it is difficult to check cases before 1985, when files were computerized. It has been unable to review 700 cases because police or prosecutors did not respond to requests for information.

Also, the same FBI examiners whose work is under review taught 500 to 1,000 state and local crime lab analysts to testify in the same ways.

Texas, New York and North Carolina authorities are reviewing their hair examiner cases, with ad hoc efforts underway in about 15 other states.”



Caryn Fennell – The Parent / Child Relationship

Change the World by Changing how we Parent our Children:  Parenting first, friendship second…. 

By:  Caryn Fennell

Managing Attorney Caryn S. Fennell, P.C.

A Family Law Firm in North Metro Atlanta.

This is unconscionable, but it is also the unfortunate result of modern day parenting where mothers and fathers are more  concerned with being friends to their children, than with being a parent.   As a Family Law attorney, far too often I see the entitlement theory squarely at work among the youth of America.  As I recall, this started twenty years ago when it was no longer acceptable to challenge children with lessons of respecting authority, losing gracefully, sportsmanship, hard work, appreciation, true accountability and frequent use of the words “thank” and “you.”  Instead, we are now culturally infused with the outcome of friend to child relationship instead of the parent to children relationship.  The parent to child culture embraces the paradigm where discipline and accountability is taboo and spoliation is en vogue.   We have created entitled youth and common courtesy evaporating as the generations evolve.  This shift from parent to friend has given us neighborhoods full of youth who genuinely believe they are the center of the universe and expect or demand the fruits of the labor, without the labor.  This parent shift has eroded the faith of community leaders, employers, school administrators and others who interact with these generations of youth.  Something has to change, starting with the parent / child relationship.

I was raised with a healthy fear for disrespecting my elders, and a wealth of appreciation.  Thoughts of dishonoring my family never entered my mind.  Hard work was without question and my expectations  for promotions, raises and advancement at work was commensurate with my effort and performance.   This was because my moms and my dad were laser focused on being my parents first and friends second.   I subscribe to the “traditional” values of child rearing, with clearly defined parent / child roles and responsibilities.  This has nothing to do with religion, politics or endorsing a “stay at home” parent philosophy.  It has to do with what works.  What works is a parent acting like a parent and expecting children to engage with them as respectful, honest, courteous and hard working youth.  What works is my parent’s child rearing program where they consistently provided love, courtesy, structure, discipline, consistency, respect, and accountability.  While we were given nothing except the necessaries, we wanted for nothing, most importantly, our “parents.” We earned our rewards and privileges, which is the gargantuan difference between being raised in the 70’s and 80’s versus in the 90’s and 2000’s.   We need a global parenting 180, with a focus on instilling a healthy respect for honesty, hard work, love, grace, courtesy and accountability.

If we want to change the world, we needs to change the way we parent the world.


Mom loses 5 kids over sex party with daughter’s friends:

Reposted from USA Today, Michael Winter, USA TODAY6:28 p.m. EDT April 16, 2015

“A 35-year-old Georgia mother has lost custody of her five children after being arrested for allegedly hosting a party for her teenage daughter and partaking of booze, pot, sex, a hot tub and naked Twister.

Rachel Lehnardt was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the party at her home in Evans, an Augusta suburb. She was arrested Monday after her new Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor alerted the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday following a meeting with Lehnardt, according to the investigation report.

The sponsor said Lehnardt, who is divorcing her husband, an Iraq war veteran, told her she had lost custody of the children — ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 16 — at an emergency hearing April 6 after he learned about the recent party. The sheriff’s report did not indicate when it occurred.

The children were with their father one night when the 16-year-old daughter texted her mother to ask if she and some friends could come over “to party,” according to the sponsor’s account.

“Come on, let’s party,” Lehnardt replied.

The teens drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, Lehnardt said she joined them playing naked Twister, her sponsor told investigators. She then had sex in the bathroom with an 18-year-old boy, the report said.

The sponsor said Lenhardt later recounted waking up at 3:30 a.m. to discover her daughter’s 16-year-old boyfriend having sex with her.

He is not facing charges because “there is no evidence of rape” because Lehnardt “refuses to discuss the case,” Capt. Steve Morris told the New York Daily News.

Lehnardt, who works in an Augusta bridal shop, had been attending a sexual-addiction workshop at her local Mormon church, the sponsor added.

She was released after posting a $3,200 bond.”


Georgia mom of five Rachel Lehnardt was arrested after throwing a party for her teenage daughter at her house and allegedly having sex with an 18-year-old. Credit: Courtesy Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.




Undercover sting: FBI agents posed as Internet repair – CNN.com

Re posted by Caryn S. Fennell, P.C. from CNN.com


Undercover sting: FBI agents posed as Internet repair – CNN.com.

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer, all too often I see the protections of the Fourth Amendment go out the window in criminal investigations and prosecutions.  The Fourth Amendment is one of the cornerstones of our Constitution that should never be side stepped for any reason.  It protects every person on United States soil from illegal searches and seizures, such as those outlined in this article.  No matter how distasteful someone’s conduct, and no matter how unlawful or dangerous someone’s decisions, we are all supposed to be protected  from government actors who violate the Fourth Amendment to obtain an arrest.  While officers can lie to suspects to obtain information, they cannot gain access to someone’s home, including a temporary home in a hotel, by deceptive means and without a warrant, as doing so violates the protections of the Fourth Amendment.  These officers clearly had no grounds to properly obtain a warrant because they lacked the ability to state with specificity the nature of  the suspected acts and persons involved. so, instead of operating lawfully by refraining to access this hotel room until obtaining a valid warrant, the cheated and deceived their way inside so they could try to find evidence to support their hunch.  They were solely on a fishing expedition, which is unlawful.  

Most likely, the Supreme Court of the United States will weigh in on this case and I would be surprised if they find that the agent’s conduct was lawful.  Unfortunately, I could be wrong about how the Supreme Court will rule as the Fourth Amendment seems to carry less weight than at any time in our Country’s history.  Ironically, the Second Amendment receives more of a liberal interpretation than the Fourth Amendment, meaning we can own our weapons but cannot protect ourselves from unlawful conduct of our Law Enforcement Officers.   The more we side-step the Fourth Amendment, then the more cases like this will make it to the news.  Eventually, the pendulum must swing back to center and we, as citizens must insist that the protections of the Constitution must outweigh the law enforcement officer’s need for an arrest.  

Caryn S. Fennell 

Death row inmate freed after 9 years in Texas prison – CNN.com


Death row inmate freed after nine years in Texas prison

LINK:  Death row inmate freed after 9 years in Texas prison – CNN.com.

Credit to:

By Michael Martinez, CNN

updated 8:03 PM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
Reposted by Caryn S. Fennell, Attorney at LAW:  [Someday we will properly advocate and litigate all criminal cases for the right reasons, not for self-satisfaction or public accolades.  The more we draw attention to the injustices then the more likely attorneys and their investigative teams will discern between persecution and prosecution.]
Manuel Velez, who the ACLU says is

Manuel Velez, who the ACLU says is “far from the only innocent person to receive a death sentence”


Velez’s initial court-appointed attorneys failed to discover that evidence, and “after his conviction, Manuel received the death penalty, largely because a state prison expert presented false testimony to persuade the jury that Manuel would pose a danger to society if given life without parole instead,” the ACLU said.(CNN) — An intellectually disabled construction worker was freed Wednesday after nine years in a Texas prison, including four of them on death row, after his initial conviction for murdering a year-old infant was overturned.  Manuel Velez, whose IQ is 65 and who is functionally illiterate in his native Spanish as well as English, was convicted in Brownsville in 2008 for murdering the year-old son of his then-girlfriend. But the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Velez in his appeal, said Velez was 1,000 miles away working construction in Tennessee when the child was injured.


On Wednesday, an ACLU attorney described Velez, now 49, as an innocent man who was put on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. “Manuel never belonged in prison, let alone on death row waiting to be executed. He is indisputably innocent,” Brian Stull of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project said in a statement. “My joy for him and his family today is tinged with sadness for the years our criminal justice system stole from him, all because he was too poor to afford better counsel than the lawyer the state appointed to him. “We should be ashamed of the errors that put Manuel on the brink of execution. He is far from the only innocent person to receive a death sentence,” Stull said. Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz called Stull’s statement “factually inaccurate and full of half-truths.”


“Nowhere near the child”

Attorneys for the ACLU contended that prosecutor’s medical expert’s records showed “clear proof that the head injuries the baby sustained occurred when Velez was nowhere near the child,” the ACLU said. During the trial, Velez’s court-appointed lawyer also failed to “discover and present the testimony of the many witnesses who said the girlfriend threw, hit, and dropped the baby and abused her children, while Manuel was never physically rough and always peaceful,” the ACLU said.

Velez’s attorney also “bungled his challenge to the typewritten statement that police persuaded Velez to sign, which said he had mistreated the child,” the ACLU said. In fact, Velez was unable to read the statement, written in English, as he is functionally illiterate in both English and Spanish, the ACLU said. Also, Velez’ primary language is Spanish, and he is a seventh-grade dropout, the ACLU said.


Child’s mother pleaded guilty

The child’s mother, Acela Moreno, also was indicted for intentionally or knowingly causing the death of her son, Angel, by striking the boy’s head with a hand or unknown object or against a hard surface in October 2005, according to court papers provided by the ACLU. Moreno accepted “a plea bargain offer” and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury to her son, and she was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the court papers said.

In exchange for the reduced charge, Moreno agreed to testify against Velez, but stated that Velez didn’t strike her son on the day he was rushed to the hospital, where the child died two days later, the documents said.  A jury convicted Velez of capital murder and sentenced him to death. An appeals court reversed the death sentence but affirmed the conviction in 2012, the court papers said. Saenz, the district attorney, said the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected all but one of the Velez legal team’s claims of 45 points of errors in the conviction. That one point of error was the testimony by A.P. Merillat, a prosecution expert on the death penalty.


‘Ineffective’ defense attorneys

Merillat, a former police officer, was condemned by Texas’ highest criminal court in 2012 for giving false testimony, the New York Times reported.  “In October 2008…Mr. Merillat testified that after 10 years of serving life without parole for Capital Murder, an inmate could gain a less restrictive classification from the Texas Department of Justice Institutional Division,” Saenz said in a statement.


“In September 2005, Texas Department of Justice Institutional Division changed its regulations and no longer allowed for a less restrictive classification for inmates serving life without the possibility of parole in Capital Murder cases. Based on that testimony, and based on that alone, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the punishment of Manuel Velez,” Saenz said. In 2013, Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez granted Velez a new trial “on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel because of the actions and conduct by both Hector Villarreal and O. Rene Flores,” the court papers said.  Villarreal was deceased at the time of the ruling, and Flores wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday.


Prosecutor’s response

The ACLU continued to criticize prosecutors Wednesday, saying that “after Velez’s conviction was overturned, and in the face of overwhelming evidence of his innocence, the State refused to dismiss the murder charge against him unless he took a plea,” the ACLU said.

Velez pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of injury to a child “rather than face a new trial that could be plagued by the same injustices that sent him to death row,” the ACLU said.

But in his statement Wednesday, Saenz pointed out that “at no point did any court, trial or appellate, or any jury make any finding that Mr. Velez was actually innocent of murdering Angel Moreno.

“In fact, every time the issue was brought up, it was found to be without merit. It was and continues to be the position of the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office that Manuel Velez did contribute to the death of Angel Moreno, and he was and is being punished for that crime,” Saenz said.


Forsyth deputy shot, suspect dead, courthouse evacuated

Forsyth deputy shot, suspect dead, courthouse evacuated


Authored by:  Caryn S. Fennell, Attorney at Law

This is where I work.  It is where I go to stand up for those people who cannot stand up for themselves.  It is where we gather to unravel the legal woes that cause people hurt and sadness or that relieve their hurt and sadness.  It should be a place where we feel safe when making the types of arguments that require us as lawyers to reveal the depth of someone’s abuse, corruption, deception, manipulation, harm or other bad conduct.  It is where we negotiate, mediate, contemplate and mitigate on behalf of our clients and where we strive to encourage others to lay down their emotions and anger in order to find the middle ground.  This should be a safe place for all who enter, whether clients, members of law enforcement, Officers of the Court, Court Administrators, Clerks, Janitors, Judges, prosecutors, defenders,  tourists, bystanders, witnesses, and any other person who walks the halls.   Those who come here may not always agree with the outcomes, but our Judicial system is one of the greatest in the world and it should never be disgraced with such vile conduct as that displayed today in Forsyth County.  Thank you to the currently unnamed Deputy who was alert enough to hear the chaos and confront a man with enough bombs and ammunition to cause very serious consequential damage.  The next time I walk in those doors I will be sure thank every officer in that building for having the courage and willingness to act with pure selflessness, and always for the greater good of those who walk through those doors.  Today I appreciate every Law Enforcement Officer as they all have very difficult and often thankless jobs.  

Forsyth County Courthouse

For more information follow the one of these links:

AJC:  Forsyth deputy shot, suspect dead, courthouse evacuated | www.ajc.com.

CNN:  www.cnn.com/2014/06/06/justice/georgia-courthouse-shooting/index.html?hpt=hp_t1






Personal Cell Phone Not Private – Caryn S. Fennell

Personal Cell Phone Not Private – Caryn S. Fennell , P.C.

Author:  Caryn S. Fennell

Personal Cell Phone Not Private – Caryn S. Fennell , P.C. The United States Supreme Court heard arguments last month about whether law enforcement officers shall be permitted to search the contents of an arrestee’s cellphone incident to their arrest.  The questions before the Court shall set the boundaries of warrantless searches and test the true parameters of the United States Constitution, particularly the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees protection against illegal searches and seizures.  The issues of searching cell phone incident to arrest are have proponents and opponents on both sides of the political aisle.  SCOTUS’s decision will likely turn on whether a cell phone is similar to a wallet or purse, thus subject to a standard inventory search upon arrest, or if the cellphone is tantamount to a person’s home or personal computer, with heightened expectations of privacy for the extensive contents and information contained therein, thus first requiring a law enforcement officer to obtain a warrant before performing a search.  

United States v. Wurie, the police arrested the defendant after they saw him sell drugs. They searched his flip phone, finding a phone number identified as “home.” They used the number to find his residence, which they subsequently searched, finding drugs and a gun. In Riley v. California, the defendant was stopped for driving with expired tags. A search of the car turned up two guns, and the defendant was arrested. The police search his phone, finding photographs and call records that helped to link the defendant to a shooting. In both cases, the defendants argue that the cell phone searches violated the Fourth Amendment.

The Supreme Court has long held that law enforcement officers may search arrestees incident to their arrest without a warrant. This is permitted so that officers can prevent the destruction of evidence and uncover weapons, and the search authority extends to items within an arrestee’s immediate control.   See, e.g., Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969). The issue in the two cases before the court is whether cellular phones – and by extension, other portable electronic devices like tablets and laptops – may be searched pursuant to this rule, or whether they should be treated differently because they can contain mountains of personal information, far more than can be wedged into a wallet or a purse.

 The Court will likely render a decision before in August, 2014