On Thursday, September 23, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul obtained a mound of testimony from aggrieved parents regarding the abuse of forensic evaluation orders in the state’s domestic relations courts. It was the second of two public hearings conducted virtually on Webex, and it featured psychiatrists, therapists. lawyers, experts, parents and public officials. The testimony was widely divergent with some calling for abolishment of forensic evaluations altogether (a position joined by Leon Koziol) and others calling for overhauls.
One attorney-parent, a former U.S. Attorney, broke down emotionally for much of her testimony while outlining her ordeal as an alienated mother fighting a powerful system. Another, Francesca Amato-Banfield, jumped right into the fray from her vehicle phone condemning the hearing itself, its sponsors, “everyone,” even the speakers, before lamenting 15 years of accountability efforts that yielded no progress whatsoever. It was highly offensive but also very useful in reflecting the sheer anger and frustration of court victims.
Many speakers focused on their personal ordeals citing corrupt judges, narcissistic adversaries and evaluators masquerading as concerned experts. A number of presenters appeared in rough condition which is becoming increasingly common today (like they just got out of bed). It reflected a societal decline which accords little respect for other participants and oneself. After all, this is a formal proceeding financed with public money, and such sloppy appearances only draw adversely upon the quality of such testimony. For our part, formal attire and preparedness ruled the presentation, and Leon Koziol’s testimony is reproduced below,
Leon R. Koziol, Director
Parenting Rights Institute
1336 Graffenburg Road
New Hartford, New York 13413
Governor’s Blue-Ribbon Commission
on Forensic Custody Evaluations
Albany, New York 12224
Hearing Testimony on September 23, 2021
Good Morning Members of this Blue-Ribbon Panel.
Before I begin, I would like to preface my remarks by emphasizing my position here as a judicial whistleblower. This Commission is focused on accountability and that cannot occur without whistleblowers. In fact many of the presenters today could be considered whistleblowers in various contexts. I would also take issue with the speaker from Pennsylvania who raised some kind of complaint regarding fathers rights groups. This is not a fathers rights issue, a mothers rights issue or any other select group but a human rights issue, and we need to work together to solve these problems. Finally I would like to join those who have called for an abolishment of forensic evaluations.
My name is Leon Koziol, Director of the Parenting Rights Institute. I am also a civil rights advocate who practiced law in the courts of this state for more than 23 years. As a victimized father of two daughters now in college, I bring a comprehensive background to the work of your panel and the refreshing objectives of our new governor, Kathy Hochul.
There are countless parents, children and families victimized by forensic evaluations in our divorce and family courts. They are part of a lucrative process and silent epidemic that is causing needless murders, suicides, domestic violence, parental alienation, criminal activity, and an overall decline in the health and productivity of the people of this state.
At another time and place I might be citing cases such as Utica police investigator, Joe Longo, who committed a murder-suicide that left four children without parents, Thomas Ball who burned himself alive on the steps of a family court, or the mother who murdered her two-year old child, Gabriella Boyd, rather than submit to a custody change.
But I need not expound because I too am a victim. Set to testify here on September 9th, I was instead recuperating at a hospital from a heart condition caused by the stresses I endured as an attorney whistleblower. Fortunately it proved to be a minor condition fully corrected. The 40 trial jurists removed from my originally uncontested divorce included a pedophile, Bryan Hedges, and Gerald Popeo who was censured for racist remarks and physical threats from the bench. I also testified before the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.
Such whistleblowing elicited a systemic bias as I have never been found to be an unfit parent, no convictions or agency complaints, and all offense petitions of a child alienating adversary were thrown out. Yet none of that mattered as I was denied contact with my precious girls for seven years on such bizarre grounds as an “alcohol related gesture.”
Yes, you heard that correctly, a champagne toast at my niece’s wedding, and you will find it in a December 2, 2013 decision of Lewis County Family Judge Daniel King. That decision was halted on appeal, but reborn the next month with concocted forensic orders. This illustrates the extreme to which reform efforts are persecuted. I have asked the Justice Department to investigate the human rights violations here.
This whimsical manner in which forensic orders are issued, vacated and then re-issued infringes upon a fundamental right of parenting which the Supreme Court has declared to be the “oldest liberty interest protected by our Constitution.” Such violations are fueled by an adversarial framework that yields undue profits for service providers and federal revenues under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
In my litigation experience, parents have been subjected to evaluations strictly for tactical reasons. In the end, moms and dads rightfully stressed over the threat of losing their children in a custody battle or debtor imprisonment for child support, could be found defective on some 300 disorders approved by the psychiatric profession in its DSM-5 manual.
If the parent was a father, his condition might be nothing more than resistance to a justice system sworn to equality which still discriminates on account of gender. I have compared this to the anger issues of slaves. Reports are laced with human defects without tracing them to their structural cause, rapid fire torture which can incite a violent reaction.
High conflict divorce with its immense carnage was criticized in the 2006 Matrimonial Report to our state’s chief justice and in countless cases such as Webster v Ryan, where veteran family judge, Dennis Duggan, made a stand for overdue reform with the following edict:
At the outset, the Court notes that the terms ‘custody’ and ‘visitation’ have outlived their usefulness. Indeed their use tends to place any discussion and allocation of family rights into an oppositional framework. ‘Fighting for custody’ directs the process towards determining winners and losers. The children, always in the middle, usually turn out to be the losers…
This Court has abandoned the use of the word ‘visitation’ in its Orders, using the phrase ‘parenting time’ instead. If the word ‘custody’ did not so permeate our statutes and was not so ingrained into our psyches, that word would be the next to go… This misplaced focus draws parents into contention and conflict, drawing the worst from them at a time when their children need their parents’ best.
Abusive forensic orders can be mitigated by a shared parenting model for adjudications. But my reform efforts in that regard read like a John Grisham story. And as fate or timing would have it, that saga is now found in my newly published book, Whistleblower in Paris. A copy is being provided to this Commission because this forensic crisis is too extensive for purposes of this hearing. I am therefore joining others today seeking genuine accountability.
Leon Koziol, J.D.