News & Politics

Family Court Corruption Scandal Explodes in Hollywood

(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Editor’s note: Read more about the family court corruption scandal here.

The issue of family court corruption is finally getting the attention it deserves thanks to some high-profile celebrities who have been speaking out about the outrageous violations of civil rights and due process that happened to them in family courts. The most recent is Southern Charm’s Kathryn Dennis who says her parental rights have been stripped in favor of a known abuser, ex-boyfriend Thomas Ravenel. Dennis posted on Instagram a familiar sentiment among parents destroyed by family courts.

It can be exhausting to live two lives: one for your children and for the world (everything is fine) and the other, where you are beaten down by the family court system.⁣ We see you and we stand with you. You are not alone.⁣

Ravenel is a known convicted criminal, according to Post and Currier.

Ravenel served as state treasurer in 2007 but resigned when he was indicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to 10 months behind bars in that case.

He also was arrested and pled guilty to assaulting his nanny.

Thomas Ravenel, the former state treasurer and “Southern Charm” reality TV star, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge in connection with an attack on his former nanny, and will donate thousands to support other victims.

While Dennis has had her own problems with substance abuse, she sought treatment and has not been arrested or convicted of any violent crimes, unlike Ravenel. Yet the court recently stripped Dennis of her parental rights and she is only allowed to see her children on supervised visitation. Ravenel has been given full custody of the couple’s children and permission to move them over 100 miles away from their mother.

The case is under seal and Ravenel’s lawyer says the details of why the judge did this are a secret. The secrecy of family courts is one of the major stumbling blocks to cleaning up corruption. If the press cannot access the cases, court insiders and corrupt judges can do whatever they want. And a regular family without access to Hollywood money cannot file appeals because they are cost-prohibitive.

Due to the sensitive nature of the issues involved, all documents in this case have been sealed, meaning the public cannot access them, and neither Mr. Ravenel, Ms. Dennis, nor their respective attorneys are permitted to release them to third parties.

Angelina Jolie also went public recently, accusing the family court in her case of being in cahoots with Brad Pitt’s attorneys and refusing to hear her evidence during her divorce case. An appeals court agreed with her. The Guardian reported:

California appeals court has disqualified a private judge being used by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in their divorce case, handing Jolie a major victory.

On Friday, the second district court of appeal agreed with Jolie that Judge John W Ouderkirk did not sufficiently disclose business relationships with Pitt’s attorneys.

“Judge Ouderkirk’s ethical breach, considered together with the information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationships with Pitt’s counsel, might cause an objective person, aware of all the facts, reasonably to entertain a doubt as to the judge’s ability to be impartial. Disqualification is required,” the court ruled.

Pirates of the Caribbean actor Greg Ellis wrote a book about corruption in the family courts called The Respondent: Exposing the Cartel of Family Law, detailing not only his experience but the experiences of people all over the country who say they’ve been railroaded by a money-making criminal organization dressed up as justice. Ellis sat down with me on “The Fringe” to discuss his harrowing experience. (Sign up for VIP today with the promo code CORRUPTION to access that interview.)

Ellis told PJ Media:

It’s a complex web of intrigue, the family courts… It’s the Wild West of family law. It’s a $60 billion-a-year annual American divorce machine and industry that is racking up billable hours and sacrificing children and parents, and really just looking at estates of families and seeing how much money they can make.

This system is well-known by everyone who has been ground through it, but when will the legislatures, which have the power to check judges and clean up this mess, do their jobs? Instead of taking responsibility for the family courts, the state legislatures have abandoned their power to “oversight boards” that are tasked with hearing complaints from litigants. These boards rarely discipline anyone. Reuters just did an incredible investigation into judicial corruption and found that thousands of judges accused of misconduct remain on the bench.

Judges have made racist statements, lied to state officials and forced defendants to languish in jail without a lawyer – and then returned to the bench, sometimes with little more than a rebuke from the state agencies overseeing their conduct.

Recent media reports have documented failures in judicial oversight in South CarolinaLouisiana and Illinois. Reuters went further.

In the first comprehensive accounting of judicial misconduct nationally, Reuters identified and reviewed 1,509 cases from the last dozen years – 2008 through 2019 – in which judges resigned, retired or were publicly disciplined following accusations of misconduct. In addition, reporters identified another 3,613 cases from 2008 through 2018 in which states disciplined wayward judges but kept hidden from the public key details of their offenses – including the identities of the judges themselves.

All told, 9 of every 10 judges were allowed to return to the bench after they were sanctioned for misconduct, Reuters determined. They included a California judge who had sex in his courthouse chambers, once with his former law intern and separately with an attorney; a New York judge who berated domestic violence victims; and a Maryland judge who, after his arrest for driving drunk, was allowed to return to the bench provided he took a Breathalyzer test before each appearance.

The news agency’s findings reveal an “excessively” forgiving judicial disciplinary system, said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who writes about judicial ethics. Although punishment short of removal from the bench is appropriate for most misconduct cases, Gillers said, the public “would be appalled at some of the lenient treatment judges get” for substantial transgressions.

How long can this injustice continue to be completely ignored by the elected bodies whose job it is to check the overreaching power of the judiciary? Instead of a system of checks and balances, the legislatures have abdicated their checking power to panels of other judges and lawyers, who are all members of the same club of bar associations, and tasked them with the vital job of balancing our government. It’s the definition of the fox guarding the henhouse. PJ Media’s reporting on the corruption in the Missouri family courts is being ignored by the Missouri legislature. PJ Media was present in the office of a Missouri representative who said off the record, “We can impeach a judge, but we’ve never done it.”

The lack of will to combat obvious corruption in this court system is atrocious and will be one more spark to stoke the fires of unrest and incivility in this country if it is not remedied.