Phantom Evaluations

Judicial Bias – How It Works and How to Defend Against it

By Zed McLarnon (19 years experience as a forensic consultant), March 2001

Many men in the father’s and family movement complain that they have been victimized by judges who demonstrate extreme bias against them in the courtroom regarding restraining orders or child custody. We hear stories of men whose lawyers present what they think is a winning case only to have the judge completely ignore the evidence in favor of the (usually) unsubstantiated accusations of the ex-wife, estranged wife or girlfriend regarding. Some men even complain to the Judicial Conduct Committee regarding extreme bias judges have used against them in the courtroom, only to have the JCC exonerate the judge. How can this be? How do they get away with it?

I have been involved in a six-year struggle to see my son. During that period, I have spent a great deal of time researching, and then discovering, the tactics judges (and their court personnel) use as a basis to discriminate against men.

Phantom clinical evaluations

The answer many times is "phantom" clinical evaluations! I call them "phantom" because the man doesn’t know they exist. Here’s how it works: A woman goes to Probate & Family Court to obtain a restraining order, or custody. A "victim’s advocate", usually a social worker, is appointed by the court. The woman may, also, see a social worker at DSS or privately. These social workers interview the woman and write her accusations down in a report. The social worker does not interview the man accused of abuse or neglect or whatever else the woman is basing her case upon. Since this report is generated by a social worker, it takes on the character of a "clinical" evaluation in the Court’s eyes.

Therefore, the man doesn’t know that there is a report, or evaluation, that is being seen by the judge. Unless this "phantom" evaluation is struck from the case file, the judge who sees it uses it as an excuse to ignore the evidence of the case in favor of granting the woman a restraining order or custody of the children. When challenged by the Judicial Conduct Committee, the judge pulls out the phantom "clinical evaluation" saying this guy is a very bad man and I had to protect the woman and children.

This "clinical" evaluation is sent to the Court and, since it is clinical in nature, is impounded in the Register’s Office. It does not appear in the case file. Even if a man goes to Court and reviews his case file he doesn’t find out that the "evaluation" is present and poisoning his case.

How to Fight It

Check your case docket, or have your attorney obtain a certified copy of the docket, to see if a "clinical" evaluation has been submitted to the Court. If there is an entry in the docket that an evaluation has been submitted, you, or your attorney, must obtain a copy from the Register’s Office. The Register’s Office is where all material that is "clinical" in nature is kept – not in your case file. Even if the docket does not have an entry of the existence of an evaluation or report, go to the Register’s Office and request all impounded material having to do with your case. The Register’s Office will resist by saying they can’t find the file, or a judge may be reviewing it, etc. Be persistent. It is imperative to obtain all impounded material from the Register’ Office regarding your case. Once you obtain it, or find out it exists, have your lawyer strike this report, or evaluation, from your file on the grounds that it is not "clinical" in nature since you weren’t interviewed or given an opportunity to offset the report’s accusations.

If your attorney does not inform you that a report might exist, or doesn’t check the docket or Register’s Office for you, your attorney may not be doing everything possible to help you win. Many times a man’s attorney will present all the information the man wants in Court. But, if your attorney does not check the docket, or request all impounded material from the Register’s Office, even the best of lawyer’s arguments are ignored by the judge in favor of the accusations in the phantom report. Attorneys know this and if you haven’t requested that your attorney specifically disclose the presence of this report and strike it from the record, then the attorney has done you an injustice. Of course, this leads to you retaining the attorney further to appeal the adjudication or for the next hearing.

Edited Court Hearing Tapes

In extreme cases, like mine, your hearing tapes may have been edited to remove the presentation of your evidence. These edits, along with the removal of your evidence from your case file, successfully vacuums your evidence from the record. If the appeals court or the Judicial Conduct Committee reviews your case, your evidence will not be found.

How To Fight it

Have a court reporter present for all your hearings. If you are indigent, request the Court pay for the reporter.

Make yourself familiar with:

  1. Your case file. Make sure your evidence remains intact. Make sure your file isn’t
  2. being "padded" with bogus evidence that condemns you.

  3. Your case docket. Make sure your hearings are all docketed. A common Court trick
  4. is to not docket your hearing until after the appeal period has lapsed. Then, they

    docket the hearing and backdate the entry so it seems you let the appeal period lapse.

  5. Your impounded files. These are located in the Register’s Office and are the number
  6. one mechanism for social workers to help your ex-wife poison your case with judges.

  7. Your hearing’s tapes. Obtain a copy and check for edits that remove material beneficial to your case.

The first five pages of the December issue of The Massachusetts News features coverage of the Middlesex Probate & Family Court and how they edited four of my hearings’ tapes, manipulated my case docket and hid "phantom" evaluations generated by associates of my ex-wife’s husband, David Douglas. Mr. Douglas is a well-connected social worker who founded Common Purpose and worked at Emerge.

I will be posting these articles on my website

If I can help with edited tapes or dockets, please contact me at 781.324.1989 Fax 781.397.8863 or at

Return to CPF home page