31 Missouri Judges Recuse Themselves from Lawsuit Alleging Family Court Guardians and Psychologists Orchestrated Money-Making Scheme

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This report is part 2 of an investigative series looking into reported corruption in the Missouri Judiciary and family courts. For the rest of the investigation visit the catalog here.



In St. Louis County, Mo., Evita Tolu has filed a lawsuit against family court guardian ad litem (GAL) Elaine Pudlowski, psychologist James Reid, and clinical social worker Jennifer Webbe VanLuven, alleging that the trio conspired to use her custody dispute as an opportunity to get rich while sentencing her children to life with an abuser. The lawsuit alleges a scheme perpetrated by a group of professionals to drain parents involved in custody battles. At the end of the court process, parents are broke and kids are traumatized while GALs, court-appointed psychologists, and therapists are enriched. Tolu says the scheme kept her in court for three years, drained her bank account, and alienated her children from her. The suit alleges that this pattern is a regular family court occurrence when Pudlowski is involved.

Plaintiff contacted parents from four cases which were pending at the same time as Plaintiff’s case in saint Louis County and Saint Louis City courts, where Pudlowski was a Court Appointed GAL. Plaintiff talked to [redacted] who filed a Motion to Disqualify, after Pudlowski recommended custody to father who was sexually abusing the child despite the DFS finding of abuse and pending criminal investigation. Pudlowski interfered with the DFS and criminal investigation. The court, however, did not disqualify Pudlowski in [redacted’s] case.

Another parent told Plaintiff that she filed a Motion to disqualitfy Pudlowski in her case after Pudlowski placed the child with the father who molested child and who had a well-documented history of substance and drug abuse. In that case, Pudlowski violated every single GAL Standard, but the mother’s motion to disqualify Pudlowski was still denied.

In the above case, Pudlowski’s bill came to a whopping $71,000, which had to be paid by the parents.


Another parent told Plaintiff that Pudlowski recommended the Court award custody to a father despite the father’s record of medical abuse and neglect of the children. Pudlowski also intrfered with the DFS investigation in that case and never reported to the Court the scientific evidence which proved children were poisoned. Pudlowski talked about this case with Plaintiff and told Plaintiff that Reid, Van Luven and WCPA diagnosed mother to be delusional. Pudlowski disclosed the mother’s protected private medical information to Plaintiff, who Plaintiff did not know at the time, in violation of the Court Orders in that case, mother’s HIPPa and WCPA’s Notice of Privacy Rights.

In that case, Pudlowski’s bill for services was $80,000. According to court dockets, Pudlowski had 86 hearings on 86 separate cases just in the month of December, and Pudlowski and Reid worked together on twelve of them. Pudlowski’s caseload is the highest in the county, if not the entire state.

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Tolu’s lawsuit alleges that the defendants “knew that the actual services they would render were harmful and injurious” and that they “billed and received payments from Plaintiff for the services they were ordered by the Court to provide,” which were not provided. The suit also alleges that the trio had “personal and business relationships with each other” and that they “fraudulently billed and overbilled Plaintiff for the injurious litigation support services they provided.” Tolu paid $18,000 to Pudlowski, $5000 to VanLuven, and more than $8000 to Reid, who admitted to altering evidence in violation of the law.


Reid falsified testing data in his report; altered evidence in violation of the Missouri law on evidence spoliation, omitted evidence from his report and crucial testing data, altered and did not preserve the testing and assessment data; misconstrued and misrepresented objective test data in his report, engaged in ex parte communications with Pudlowski…

“[Reid] diagnosed me as a sociopath and a narcissist with borderline personality disorder,” Tolu told PJ Media. Tolu and one of her two attorneys, Timothy Roldan, say the number of people Reid has diagnosed with the same disorders is statistically unlikely. Tolu says she’s talked with between thirteen and fifteen of Reid’s victims who have suffered the same pattern that they describe as a form of psychological abuse. “All of us have ‘borderline personality disorder (BPD),” according to Reid, Tolu said. According to national statistics, Cluster B Disorders in the DSM-IV are not that common and, in addition, many people under immense stress can be easily misdiagnosed with BPD. 

Roldan, who is also a licensed clinical social worker told PJ Media, “mental health professionals will attest that when we are under stress, we regress.”

Cluster B personality disorders include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder. These tend to be the least common disorders but are often the most challenging to treat.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only 1.4% of the population suffers from Cluster-B disorders. Could misogyny and greed be driving the diagnosis of “histrionic” women in Reid’s office instead of science?

Reid is married to former Saint Louis Eastern District Appellate Judge Larry Mooney, who is now working as a mediator at JAMS, a mediation company. The Saint Louis County courts often order parents to use Reid’s husband’s services at the very high cost of $1200 down and $400 an hour. Reid and Mooney live in a house valued at over $900,000.

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The suit also alleges that Pudlowski is very friendly with circuit court judges. “Four family court attorneys and numerous family court litigants told Plaintiff that Pudlowski has professional and personal relationships with all St. Louis Family Court judges, with whom Puldowski has ex parte communications on a regular basis.”

Bolstering Tulo’s claim, a listserve called [email protected] got caught disseminating an email from Saint Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Burton, the presiding judge over the entire 21st Judicial Circuit of St. Louis County Courts, that was highly prejudicial and violated the judges’ code of conduct. In the email Burton admitted to holding a meeting with the bar organizations about the lawsuit.

“Are you aware of the meeting that I am holding with leaders from the bar orgs re this?” wrote Burton. “They’re all on board. I don’t want to get into a meeting with Elaine or anyone else involved in any lawsuits. Feel free to share this with the GALs that have responded and all that you trust.”

Judge Burton went on to call the allegations in the lawsuit “horrible,” “scurrilous” and called custody cases “the most toxic cases.” He also disparaged parents fighting in court. “Many parents cannot accept that their behaviors could be the basis for their not getting the custody arrangements that they had desired,” he wrote. He went on to call those parents “unhinged.”

Then, unbelievably, Burton admitted he knew he wasn’t supposed to be discussing any cases before the court but decided to do it anyway and implicated another judge in violations of the judges’ code of conduct. “Further, we are not advised to comment to the public about the pending cases of other judges in our circuit. That being said, Judge Hemphill and I thought that we could reach out to some leaders of the bar to discuss this problem. We want to be proactive in some way.”


Burton then reached out to a clandestine group of GALs, known as “The Swamp” by litigants, to meet with him to scheme against Tolu in an email newsletter, “Daily Docket News” that had been reporting the events. “We would like to meet with you via Zoom/WebEx in the near future to brainstorm,” Burton wrote.

Shortly after that email and video of the secret meeting became public, every judge on the Saint Louis County Judicial Circuit recused themselves from hearing the lawsuit. The Missouri Supreme Court will now assign a judge to hear the Tolu case. Roldan told PJ Media that “It is unclear where the case might land at this point. It is rare to have every judge in a judicial circuit recuse themselves.”

The lawsuit alleges that Pudlowski and Reid have a pattern where Reid diagnosis the healthier parent with a rare personality disorder they don’t have, which keeps them fighting in court and allows Pudlowski to declare them unfit. The suit alleges that Pudlowski then accuses the falsely diagnosed parent of alienating the children from the other parent and recommends the child go to the parent the child has often accused of abuse.

Pudlowski involved Reid knowing in advance that Reid would produce a biased report (like Reid did in numerous other cases with Pudlowski) and that Plaintiff would challenge the Reid Report through arduous, painful and expensive litigation that would destroy Child A and Child T’s college savings but would enrich Reid, Pudlowski, Van Luven and WCPA’s pockets while injuring Plaintiff, her children and destroying Plaintiff’s relationship with her children.

As an officer of the Court, Pudlowski vexatiously delayed the trial in the Plaintiff’s case demanding more of Van Luven and WCPa’s “alienation services” which injured Plaintiff and her children and destroyed Plaintiff’s relationship with her children.


The problem of guardians and other court professionals enriching themselves at the expense of their clients is not new, nor is it rare. A new hit movie was released on Netflix about the outrageous abuses that guardians have engaged in called I Care A Lot, which fictionalizes the extreme terror that seniors have faced when in the clutches of such people. Ex-guardian April Parks is serving forty years in prison for her scheme to enrich herself with the savings and property of seniors she trafficked through the Las Vegas court system. She had many of her clients committed to mental institutions where they were drugged unnecessarily so they could not object to her raiding their life savings. She alienated them from their families and pillaged their estates. There was a documentary made about the families that sought justice for the crimes committed by Parks called The Guardians, directed by Billie Mintz, that should be required viewing for every American.

In the Saint Louis County Circuit Court at least one judge, Nicole Zellweger, has followed an alarming pattern of abuse and sent a fourteen-year-old girl to a hospital mental ward for refusing to go live with the father she says sexually molested her. It seems that Saint Louis County GALs, psychological experts, and courts are setting themselves up to star in one of Mintz’s next hit films.

PJ Media reached out to the defendants but did not receive any comment by the time of publishing.

If you or someone you know is a victim of Saint Louis County court guardians, judges, or psych services, please reach out to [email protected].

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