Ennis: PACSES #630002007
The Ennis case reports a Distribution of Injustice by organized judicial abuse of discretion, deprivation of rights and State-Sanctioned Stealing by the Lehigh County family court. It would be naïve to believe that the practice of State-Sanctioned Stealing is limited to Lehigh County. If you have been subjected to similar treatment in your county, please contact us to have your case published on this site.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania receives a federal Financial Incentive payment of 10% for every dollar collected under 45 CFR § 304.12 and § 302.55, Child Support Enforcement. The State receives additional financial incentives for court costs, including counsel fees for a Title IV-D attorney and a “bonus” for each non-custodial parent incarcerated for CONTEMPT for non-payment of child support. Federal financial incentives are so large [obscene] as to create a CONFLICT OF INTEREST for Pennsylvania courts.
Federal incentive dollars are distributed to State political subdivisions; i.e., COUNTIES >> the Court. As a recipient of federal financial incentives, the court must, as a matter of law and the commerce clause, protect the constitutional rights of litigants. Depriving litigants of their rights places the court “at war” with the Constitution.
|Sentences for “civil contempt” for non-payment must be CURATIVE and not PUNITIVE. Lehigh County imposes PUNITIVE charges for the COSTS of incarceration: Room & Board, etc. For the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to collect monies “under color of law” from persons incarcerated for “civil contempt” is ILLEGAL, REPREHENSIBLE and DESPICABLE.||“It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error.” American Communications Ass’n v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382; 70 S.Ct. 674 (1950)|
What distinguishes this practice from “debtor’s prison”?
Elisha Ennis is a non-custodial parent with a child in a second household, creating a multiple family support case. He suffered a back injury that temporarily prevented him from working. He did not qualify for unemployment benefits, reducing his income to $0.00 (zero) for a short period. When well enough, Ennis returned to work part-time suffering a reduced income. A wage attachment for child support remained effective.
In the meantime, Domestic Relations (DRS) aggressively pursued a charge of contempt against Ennis for “willful non-compliance” of a court order.
Ennis has demonstrated excellent parental skills and has a history of compliance with support orders for more than 5 years. He even continued support payments for a period when he took temporary custody of one of his daughters. The custodial parent did not reimburse Ennis for the excessive payments, and he did not ask for any reimbursement. Ennis is a good father.
The Child Support issues will not be discussed with this case. Instead, we will discuss the judicial conduct and administration.
Rule of Law:
Pa.R.C.P. 1910.25-1(b) describes conditions under which non-payment of child support may result in a finding of “civil contempt”. A court is required to determine that “non-payment is willful” and that the contemnor has a present ability to pay. While recovering from the back injury, it is irrefutable that Ennis lacked the present ability to meet his child support payment obligation for several weeks.
Sentences for civil contempt must be CURATIVE and not PUNITIVE. The court is required to impose “purge” conditions which, if met, constitutes satisfaction of the overdue amount and/or acquittal of the contempt charge.
DRS and the court are exceedingly aggressive in pursuing Contempt matters. The State permits the computerized collection system to issue a citation for contempt, i.e., there need not be an aggrieved party. The State assumes the role of injured party without a showing of harm to the child(ren).
DRS cited Ennis for Contempt of Court for “willful” non-payment of child support for the period when he was injured and unable to work or unable to put in a 40 hour work-week. Mr. Ennis was not represented by counsel.
Generally, a recommendation by a DRS Child Support Enforcement (CSE) officer suffices for the court to find a contemnor guilty without consideration of exculpatory evidence. It is reasonable to conclude that the judicial power of the court is unlawfully delegated to the Child Support Enforcement Officer.
It is extremely rare for DRS to recommend dismissing a contempt charge for “temporary” inability to pay, or that the non-payment was “not willful”. The standard CSE officer recommendation cites “willful” non-compliance, usually an arbitrary/prejudicial finding with no admission of mitigating factors or exculpatory evidence. If a non-custodial parent attempts to speak, his testimony is almost always subordinate to the report of the CSE officer.
The court recognizes the DUTY of a non-custodial parent to support the child, but disregards the court’s DUTY to support and defend the constitutional rights of the non-custodial parent.
Is this hypocrisy?
Is DRS prosecutorial zeal related to a federal monetary incentive for the incarceration of “deadbeat dads”?
Does a financial incentive create a Conflict of Interest for a court (and by extension, DRS)?
On December 2, 2004, the Lehigh County court (Wallitsch, J.) entered an Order finding Ennis in civil Contempt for non-payment of child support.
Ennis appeared without the assistance of counsel. The judge set an outrageous and egregious “purge condition” of $3,000.00 which is more than seven (7) times greater than any previous Purge Amount set for this defendant. Elisha Ennis was unable to satisfy the purge condition and was committed to prison.
Ennis was incarcerated without the assistance of counsel on the recommendation of DRS. He was granted immediate work release, returning nightly to prison to sleep. Lehigh County Dept. of Corrections assumed the duty of collecting his pay and withholding child support.
Click to view a copy of defendant’s pay stub. [I]
In addition to withholding Child Support (approx. $115.00 per week) under the support order, Lehigh County withheld an additional assessment of $145.00 for “room & board” plus extras for Ennis’s incarceration. This court-imposed financial assessment is applied without supporting Law. It constitutes a PUNITIVE award and creates a “debtor’s prison” in Lehigh County
Assessing PUNITIVE costs against “civil” contemnors is STATE-SANCTIONED STEALING. The court does not and can not cite any statute that permits punitive costs against contemnors in “civil” proceedings for non-payment of support. Absent such “statute”, the court abuses its discretion and violates the due process rights of litigants. See Amendment XIV of the Constitution et al.
(Other cases will evidence other forms of State-Sanctioned Stealing.)
Defendant retained “counsel” to Petition the court for his immediate release citing PA case law that prohibits incarceration under Pa.R.C.P. 1910.25 without the assistance of counsel.
In the meantime, Judge Wallitsch took a sabbatical leave from the bench. He “retired” from the bench without returning. Counsel brought forward a petition for Ennis’ release before Sr. Judge John P. Lavelle in ‘Motions Court’ (LCCCP). Lavelle refused to decide the matter and continued the case on the basis that DRS must be permitted to respond through counsel. Judge Lavelle failed to cite supporting law for his ruling.
Lehigh County continued to collect “rent” for each day it keeps Ennis incarcerated. Counsel for DRS was not identified.
Counsel contacted DRS to obtain the name of its counsel. DRS identified Susan G. Maurer, Esq., the Title IV-D attorney, as solicitor. Petitioner served DRS (Maurer) with notice to respond. Title IV-D attorneys are “paid” by the federal government. Solicitors are “paid” by the state / county government. There appears to be a “conflict of interest” in the case of Attorney Maurer, who serves under two government contracts.
Counsel for DRS has yet to respond and she later failed to appear in court.
By Order dated Feb. 11, 2005, President Judge William H. Platt interceded to reassign the case from Sr. Judge Lavelle to Judge Lawrence J. Brenner. Judge Platt by-passed** the Administrative Judge for family court (Alan M. Black) when making this assignment. Judge Platt explained that Judge Black had recused himself from all cases where defendant’s counsel [this Administrator] was listed as ‘counsel of record’.
See * below for the reason to by-pass Black.
4 days later, Judge Brenner entered an Order to DISMISS contemnor’s Petition for Relief [filed Jan. 18, 2005] without a hearing and without permitting defendant access to the court. Judge Brenner neglected to include in his recitation of Facts that Judge LaVelle heard and continued the “Motion” and that Brenner’s Order denied access to the court to a pro se contemnor who was incarcerated contrary to settled law.
After receiving the Order to Dismiss, counsel filed a Correspondence with the court on March 15, 2005, addressed to President Judge Wm. H. Platt. On that date, counsel hand delivered (served) copies to Judges Platt and Brenner.
On March 16, 2005, Judge Brenner’s office contacted counsel directing him to appear in court on March 17. 2005. Defendant Ennis was brought to court where he and counsel met for the first time. Plaintiff and Janet Jarvis, Supv. – CSE of DRS also attended the hearing. The DRS solicitor (Maurer) did not appear after her FAILURE TO RESPOND to counsel’s Notice as directed by Judge Lavelle.
At the commencement of the hearing, counsel greeted* Judge Brenner, after which the judge took control of the proceeding. Counsel uttered not one other word.
Within 20 minutes, Brenner entered an Order to release Ennis from prison which occurred before Noon on St. Patrick’s Day of 2005.
* “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, judge” was the extent of counsel’s oral argument before judge Brenner.
The appended Document List shows all documents available for review.
** Judge Alan M. Black filed a formal complaint for disciplinary action to disbar Attorney Wrona (counsel) for allegedly making false statements about a judge. Wrona accuses the court, including Black, of criminal alteration of audio records of court hearings. During the period in question, counsel for Petitioner was engaged as Respondent to the “False and Malicious” Disciplinary Board (“DBSC”) complaint fabricated by the DBSC and Alan M. Black. DBSC FAILED to produce evidence of ONE FALSE STATEMENT about Alan M. Black by Mr. Wrona.
CONCLUSIONS and QUESTIONS
Ennis was unlawfully incarcerated, contrary to Pa.R.C.P. 1910.25 and settled law for civil contempt.
His release on St. Patrick’s Day does not excuse the court for its prior actions that deprived defendant of his rights, his liberty for more than 90 days and loss of property. The machinations of the court to Dismiss the Petition and the tortured explanation illustrates how a court covers its wrongdoing. The court is or should be aware of the Hyle case that prohibits incarceration of a pro se (unrepresented) contemnor in support matters. See Platt Corres, supra.
DRS (Child Support Enforcement) must be held accountable to recognize and to cite “temporary” inability to pay as a basis for exculpatory evidence or mitigating circumstances that defeats a Contempt Citation against a non-custodial parent (ncp) . This “Neglect of Duty” establishes a “conflict of interest” Crime. See 5 CFR 2635.101.
DRS and the courts act in collusion to incarcerate non-custodial fathers, and to deprive them their rights. e.g., Hamoui, supra. This law is administered prejudicially, incarcerating fathers and not mothers.
Are the outcomes of “contempt” hearings pre-determined? Many, if not most of these cases of judicial abuse are perpetrated against an ncp lacking the means to defend himself.
This strategy becomes more recognized following the “Kids For Cash” scandal in Luzerne County, Pa, where two “judges” pleaded guilty to numerous offenses and were sentenced to lengthy “federal” prison terms.
Despite settled law and the Constitution, ncp defendants without counsel continue to be incarcerated.The court must be compelled to explain HOW, in the name of anything honest, can charging ‘rent’ to an incarcerated ncp serve “the best interests of the child”?
These courts must be compelled to show cause why this practice is not unlawful State-Sanctioned Stealing. The State Attorney General and the Governor must, under their oaths of office, conduct an inquiry into this unlawful practice that violates the Constitution of this Nation and this Commonwealth.
The court must also be compelled to DEFINE “the best interests of the child”.*
Has Lehigh County discontinued its practice of State-Sanctioned Stealing?
Should Lehigh County [and other counties] be compelled to pay reparation (a redress of grievances) to all prisoners from whom “Room and Board” was unlawfully deducted from their “work release” wages?
The court is (or should be) aware of Law that prohibits a punitive penalty against a contemnor for civil contempt, and must be compelled to cite a STATUTE that permits the unlawful taking of property. Absent such Law, the court acts outside the Law, abusing its power and violating the Constitutional rights of defendants. See U.S. Constitution; Bill of Rights, Amendment XIV et al.
The public must be made aware of the financial incentives available to the States via 45 CFR Chapter III — Child Support Enforcement Program, and the obscene amount of monies distributed to State “political subdivisions”.
Is Lehigh County perpetrating a financial Fraud on the taxpayers and the federal Government via 45 CFR?
Is the federal government aware of financial fraud by a State?
Does the federal government care?
Should a defendant in “civil contempt” for non-payment of a child support obligation be afforded a jury trial?
Would anyone be surprised to find a “court appointed attorney” appearing at future CSE contempt hearings [on behalf of defendants] in order that the court may proceed with pre-determined incarcerations?
Will these attorneys be “shills” for the court?
Should judges who violate their Oath of Office and the Code of Judicial Conduct be disciplined?
Should these judges be removed from office?
Are Pennsylvania’s child support guidelines “fair on their face” but administered “with a heavy hand and an evil eye”? See Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 US 356 (1886).
* The Administrator maintains that “the best interests of the child” is a nebulous term intentionally left undefined in order that “family court” judges may exercise unlimited / unfettered discretion. Strict proof to the contrary is demanded.