News & Politics

Entire Eastern District Court of Missouri Recused From Lawsuit Alleging Massive Family Court Corruption

Attorney Evita Tolu and husband in front of the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City with journalists Megan Fox and Michael Volpe (Image credit Megan Fox)

This report is part 23 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.

The Eastern District Court of Missouri has recused every one of its judges from a lawsuit alleging shocking corruption in the Missouri family court system.

Attorney Evita Tolu filed the lawsuit in the 21st Judicial Circuit Court of St. Louis against guardian ad litem (GAL) Elaine Pudlowski, psychologist Dr. James Reid, and therapist Jennifer Webbe VanLuven, alleging that the trio conspired to diagnose her with a fraudulent mental disorder and use her custody dispute as an opportunity to get rich while sentencing her children to life with their abuser.

Recusal of the Eastern District Circuit Court by PJ Media on Scribd

After Tolu filed the lawsuit, hundreds of Missouri citizens contacted PJ Media alleging similar stories involving many of the same players. At least three other lawsuits have been filed against Pudlowski and Reid, alleging nearly identical complaints of corruption.

The 21st Circuit Court, with thirty-one judges, recused itself from Tolu’s lawsuit after a leaked email from presiding Judge Michael Burton and a leaked Zoom call with almost forty guardians ad litem conspiring to help Pudlowski became public. Burton resigned in disgrace in August. Local media was largely silent on this giant scandal.

Tolu’s lawsuit then moved to the St. Louis City Court, where it was dismissed. The defendants were awarded judicial immunity, which protects the recipients even when they violate the law. This privilege is usually reserved for judges, but these court professionals were awarded the bulletproof protection by the court system they serve.

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

Tolu appealed the case to the Eastern District Court, arguing that the court-appointed actors involved do not qualify for judicial immunity because, according to the law, the allegations—such as violating court orders, HIPPA, and professional standards as well as overbilling—do not meet the standard.

The appeal argues, “Judicial immunity [for court professionals] exists not for the protection or benefit of a malicious [court professional] but for the benefit of the public, and it is not limitless.”

Tolu then filed a motion to disqualify the District Court due to concerns of partiality toward one of the defendants, who is married to a former appellate court judge. 

The judges of the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District should recuse themselves because of their close professional and possibly personal relationships with retired Judge Mooney, whose spouse is Defendant (Respondent) Reid in the above captioned appeal.

In order for justice to satisfy the appearance of impartiality there must not only be an absence of actual bias but an absence of possibility of unfairness.

The Eastern District issued an order granting Tolu’s motion to recuse the entire court on Wednesday.

While the court does not acknowledge an actual conflict of interest, the court grants the motion based on the appearance of conflict. This matter is referred to the Missouri Supreme Court for appointment of three judges from other districts of the Missouri Court of Appeals to sit as special judges on this appeal or other action the Missouri Supreme Court deems appropriate.

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 $30,000 to Reid, who admitted to altering evidence in violation of the law, according to the underlying lawsuit.

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. She and one of her two attorneys, Timothy Roldan, say the number of people Reid has diagnosed with the same disorders is statistically impossible. 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. Further, Reid also diagnosed Tolu with “unspecified personality disorder,” which does not exist.

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

RELATED: Shocking Lawsuit Alleges Mo. Family Court Judge Unlawfully Imprisoned, Terrorized ‘America’s Got Talent’ Stars

The lawsuit alleges a pattern with Pudlowski and Reid: Reid diagnoses the healthier parent with a rare personality disorder they don’t have, which keeps them fighting in court and shelling out tens of thousands of dollars while Pudlowski declares them unfit. Pudlowski then accuses the falsely diagnosed parent of “alienating” the children from the other parent and recommends that the parent who has been credibly accused of abuse be awarded custody, according to the suit. This pattern has been recounted to PJ Media by multiple victims, including one whose son was murdered by his abuser. 

The children involved in Missouri family court system and others like it all across the country have suffered as a result, including Mikaela Haynes, who committed suicide after being forced by her GAL, Jennifer Williams, to “reunify” with her pedophile father who was convicted of child sodomy. Other children who made it through the system have come forward to beg the legislature to do something about the judicial tyranny they say they’ve suffered under.

So far, legislators have taken meetings with victims but have offered no solutions. The judicial oversight board rejects all complaints, or complaints go unanswered. The bar association does the same. There is nowhere but the courts for the parents of Missouri to turn to in order to seek justice from the very system they say victimized them.

Tolu says she will take this case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States to get the voices of Missouri families heard if she does not get justice in the Supreme Court of Missouri.

“We as parents, humans, and citizens owe it to our children, who are the most vulnerable in this process, to protect them and guarantee their safety,” Tolu told PJM. “I am in this battle until the end. Professionals like Reid, Pudlowski, and Van Luven should be held accountable for traumatizing our children in the name of greed and in pursuit of profit.”