News & Politics

Shocking Lawsuit Alleges Mo. Family Court Judge Unlawfully Imprisoned, Terrorized 'America's Got Talent' Stars

(Image credit: Kenneth Dolin Los Angeles, used with permission of Bart Rockett)

This report is part 20 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.

Kadan and Brooklyn Rockett were living an exciting and fun life before the family court got ahold of them and things took a dark turn. The Rockett children had a thriving career following in the footsteps of their father, Bart Rockett, a working magician and performer. They appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and were stepping into acting when the family court nightmare began.

When Judge Eric Eighmy in Taney County, Mo., got ahold of their custody case after the parents divorced, the children’s desire to work in Hollywood and continue their blossoming careers without the interference of the state or their mother fell on deaf ears. In fact, the judge was so opposed to the children working in the entertainment industry—and determined to give them to their mother in Utah—that he threw the children in jail—twice.

A lawsuit against Judge Eighmy filed on behalf of the children by their father describes the hell they went through in Missouri courts. From the complaint, which you can read below):

Judge Eighmy, acting in a police function without judicial process or immunity, personally jailed the children for approximately one hour…Judge Eighmy later issued pick up orders for the children, and they were jailed for two nights in Louisiana.

The first time the children were thrown in jail cells they weren’t even present in Judge Eighmy’s courtroom. They were sitting in the hall waiting for their parents to come out of court. It had been decided and agreed on that the children would live primarily with their mother in Utah and be with their father approximately half of the time—and during all of their auditions and work-related events. The teens were strongly opposed to this plan and made it clear to their mother in the hallway that they would not be going with her. This led to a string of events that boggles the senses.

The children then met with  [court-appointed therapist] Dr. Baker in a conference room adjacent to the courthouse lobby. The children told Dr. Baker that they did not want to live even part-time with their mother….Back in the courthouse a conversation ensued between the children, Dr. Baker and Judge Eighmy. Judge Eighmy was no longer in his judge’s robes…The children explained to Judge Eighmy why they did not want to go with their mother and why ‘”it was wrong.” …In Dr. Baker’s presence, Judge Eighmy then proceeded to lecture the children on the evils of Hollywood and the need to grow up “normal,” that is, without working as talent in the entertainment industry. Judge Eighmy also told the children they needed to listen and to live with their mother in Utah.

When the children began arguing the merits of their lifestyle and career choices, the judge allegedly lost his cool.

At this point, Judge Eighmy became visibly agitated, stated words to the effect of “I will show you what I can do; I can put you in jail,” and told the children to follow him…Judge Eighmy then, by himself and without Dr. Baker, took the children down some stairs…They went down various hallways to a different room where there were doors to jail cells. The jail cells appeared to be intended for use of adult detainees or convicts, not children who were neither charged with a crime, being held in comtempt, or found delinquent. Two uniformed officers were by the jail cells, one male and one female…Judge Eighmy’s face was red and he was breathing heavily. He angrily ordered the children to take off their shoes and socks, and their jackets.

The “honorable” judge even ordered one of the children to remove the religious bracelet that he had committed to wearing at all times.

Judge Eighmy and the uniformed officers then led the children to jail cells. Judge Eighmy ordered the uniformed officers to lock K.R. in one cell, and B.R. in another. The male officer locked the children in the cells. Each cell had a small window in the door, and the children could not see or hear each other. The cells were cold and smelly. The children’s bare feet were cold. B.R. stood on a raised bed mat because her feet were cold. While B.R. was standing on the raised bed mat, the male officer banged on the jail cell window and told her to get down….at least one of the two uniformed officers was thus watching the children by video camera…There were open toilets in each jail cell, but the children were afraid to use them because of the concern that they were being watched.

After about an hour the judge returned. The children say he continued to threaten them. “Will you go with your mother or do you want to go back in there?” he said, according to the lawsuit. The children continued to say they would not go to Utah—until the judge got creative with his threats.

Judge Eighmy then stated words to the effect of: “How would you like me to take you away from your parents and send you to live in the Missouri foster care system?” The children, fearing further jail time and/or foster care stated they would comply with Judge Eighmy’s directive to live with their mother in Utah.

The lawsuit alleges that at no time did Judge Eighmy notify the guardian ad litem for the children that he intended to jail and threaten them. Nor did “he provide any party or attorney involved an opportunity to be heard.” These actions violated the due process of the children, according to the lawsuit.

But this judge wasn’t done with these children yet. It became clear to their mother that living in Utah against their will was not going to work and both parents wanted to change the order. Judge Eighmy would not allow it. He signed the order for the children to live in Utah against all parties’ wishes.

In the spring of 2020, Bart Rockett took the children to live on his property in Louisiana during the lockdown. When it was time for their scheduled visit with their mother, the children refused to go. Courts generally acknowledge the difficulty parents have in forcing teenagers to go on visitation. The use of physical force to enforce compliance raises moral and legal questions about what constitutes abuse. In May, the mother filed in Judge Eighmy’s court again, claiming that the father was withholding custody of the children from her, though he claims he had tried many times to get the children to comply.

Judge Eighmy then ordered the family into his courtroom again. This time, the father sent his lawyer to enter a motion to disqualify the judge for bias and stayed home. The judge denied the motion to recuse himself from the case and instead issued a “pick-up order” for the children. TMZ has the video of Louisiana police arresting the children and putting them in handcuffs.

 

The children were once again thrown in jail on Judge Eighmy’s order.

The handcuffs caused physical injuries to the children’s wrists, particularly pain. The children received no medical treatment for those injuries…the children asserted to the deputies that the arrrest was improper and wrong, but the deputies proceeded to make the arrests.

The children were again denied their rights and due process.

After the arrest and the reading of the Miranda rights (including the right to counsel), B.R. asked for a lawyer. The deputies responded that she was a child and that her parents would have t hire a lawyer, and that the children had not been arrested and so had no right to an attorney.

Anyone watching the video, however, can plainly hear the officer read the children their rights and tell them they were being placed under arrest. The rest of the harrowing details of what the children went through are extensive: They were placed in separate vehicles, denied food, shuffled around at 4 a.m. to the juvenile detention center that was an hour away, and humiliated with an unnecessary strip search.

On arrival at Green Oaks each hild was strip searched and put in a cell. The children went to sleep, still without food, but after approximately an hour the children were reawakened and subjected to a mental evaluation. Each child was held in solitary confinement cell for two days, with no visitors allowed although Bart tried to visit. There were cockroaches in the children’s cells.

The happy ending here is that Bart filed an appeal with the Missouri Supreme court, which ruled in November that Eighmy didn’t have jurisdiction over the case, so his orders were void. The children were released to their father. They are safe and in his sole custody now. A Louisiana family court judge stripped the mother of her rights after looking at the facts of the case and examining her part in creating this situation for her own children.

The lawsuit is an interesting one to watch and will tell us if judicial immunity is inviolable in the state of Missouri. If anyone should lose judicial immunity (and many family court judges should) it’s Judge Eric Eighmy. His actions in this case cannot be covered up and should result in consequences.

PJ Media reached out to Judge Eighmy but a clerk named Lisa hung up on us. She said she would not give him our message. Further attempts were made to contact the judge but were unsuccessful. Judge Eighmy is currently hearing cases in secret juvenile courts. PJ Media requested access to watch Judge Eighmy on the bench and was denied on the basis of juvenile proceedings being “confidential.” Why does the state of Missouri allow a judge who has already been credibly accused of abusing children in his court to continue hearing cases that are hidden from all public scrutiny? The Supreme Court of Missouri already ruled that his actions in the Rockett case were void.

Bart Rockett submitted a complaint to Jim Smith at the judicial oversight disciplinary board and was told his only recourse was an appeal (which he had won). The disciplinary board is supposed to hear cases about judges who act outside their judicial authority and violate their code of conduct, which Eighmy appears to have done. Smith refused to hear the facts or call an investigation. PJ Media alerted this same board about Missouri judges kicking reporters and litigants out of open court hearings. Smith has not responded to our complaints or the complaints of other journalists and litigants. PJ Media reached out to Smith again to ask him why the disciplinary committee refused to hear the charges against Judge Eighmy. As of publishing, he has not responded. If he does, his comments will be added as an update.

Rockett.1.Complaint by PJ Media on Scribd