Commissioner Alan Friedenthal’s Public Admonishment By California Commission on Judicial Performance
On April 3, 2012, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Alan Friendthal was publicly admonished by a 9 to 1 vote of the California Commission on Judicial Performance for abusive conduct in violation of judicial canons of the California Code of Judicial Ethics in five family law cases in June 2007 to January 2009. CJP found that he engaged in improper conduct including verbal abuse of litigants, engaging in ex-parte communications, conducting independent investigations which is clearly not part of his job duties, complaining to litigants about formal legal complaints they had filed against him, and demonstrating that he was personally embroiled in the cases before him.
Laura Lynn is a California mother who has been abused by the family courts of Los Angeles. Commissioner Alan Friendenthal presided over many hearings in her family law case and her case is one of those cited as evidence of Friedenthal’s misconduct in the form of creating apparent bias and clearly showing his personal embroilment in the case before him. In her case and others, Friedenthal improperly acted as an investigator, contacted third parties involved on his own behalf, and outside of hearings reviewed web postings written by litigants and then complained about those postings during hearings. CJP found that he was improperly conducted investigations and engaging in ex-parte communications.
In a stunning example of how the courts value money over children and the law, Friedenthal threatened to remove custody from a father who was to have the child with him because of alleged abuse by the child’s stepfather. When the father pointed out he could not afford to pay for a custody evaluation all at once and asked for a payment plan, Friedenthal threatened to place the child with other relatives:
At a hearing on July 3,2007, arrangements were made for the minor child to return by airplane to his father’s residence from his mother’s residence in another state pending a custody hearing set for August 3,2007. A supplementary custody evaluation had been ordered. Commissioner Friedenthal ordered the father to pay over $4,000 in fees for minor’s counsel and the supplemental custody evaluation. When the father raised his hand to address the issue of payment, Commissioner Friedenthal responded by threatening to place the child with grandparents, as follows:
[FATHER]: I’m not refusing to pay. I owe a lot of people money –
THE COURT: Okay. This needs to be grandparentplacement because he can’t afford to pay the rates for the child. f^J Where do the [grand]parents live?
[FATHER’S COUNSEL]: Mexico.
THE COURT: [Mother]?
[MOTHER]: My parents are in Mexico.
THE COURT: You have brothers?
[MOTHER]: I have a brother in Moorpark.
THE COURT: I want [minor’s counsel] to talk to the brother in Moorpark. [f] Will you provide that information?
[FATHER’S COUNSEL]: My client is simply saying he’d like to have a payment arrangement. On that basis, you are going to order –
THE COURT: Marsha Wiley is going to do this evaluation. If I have to stand on my head and walk on my hands all the way down McKay –
[FATHER]: I’m asking for three payments, sir.
[FATHER’S COUNSEL]: Rather than-
[MOTHER’S COUNSEL]: Miss Wiley does not accept that. Most evaluators request –
THE COURT: She wanted 2,500?
[MINOR’S COUNSEL]: No; 3,500 which is very modest.
THE COURT: Follow my order. That’s it. No more discussion. [Tf] What is your brother’s name in Moorpark?
[10 [Mother’s counsel] is to provide his name and number to [minor’s counsel] for appropriateness of some shared custody.
Commissioner Friedenthal’s threat to award custody of the child to other family members in response to the father’s statements that he was not refusing to pay fees but wanted a payment plan constituted a threatened abuse of authority and violated canons 1, 2A and 3B(4). At his appearance before the commission, the commissioner maintained that his statement concerning a grandparent placement was based on his concerns about the father’s parenting abilities. This assertion is refuted by the fact that the commissioner had already ordered a supplemental custody evaluation report and scheduled a custody hearing for the following month, as well as by the commissioner’s own words: “This needs to be a grandparent placement because he can’t afford to pay the rates for the child” (Italicsadded.)
Commissioner Friedenthal’s conduct in the matters described above was, at a minimum, improper action.
Other cases cited as evidence of misconduct by Friedenthal include those of Tonja Jarrett and Maria Chiarello.
Many other allegations of violations of judicial ethics codes and laws have been leveled against Friedenthal that appear to go beyond the scope of the CJP investigation. See a Topix discussion thread on Alan Friedenthal for more examples such as allegations he was practicing as an attorney while servicing as a court commissioner and alleged failure to file Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) as required for court judicial officers.
Laura Lynn contends that the misconduct of Friedenthal extends far beyond the contents of the CJP report:
Quoted from Who complained about Commissioner Alan Friedenthal?:
The story is much bigger than the simple little order written. It is my contention that Commissioner Friedenthal was a conspirator to commit fraud and aided and abetted convicted child abductor Crystel Lynn Strellioff to conceal the children she abducted. He and his wife Commissioner Steff Padilla also adopted two children whose mother’s parental rights were completely severed with no apparent reason. The biological mother has a tidy home, does not seem to be using illegal drugs and is a practicing Mormon, married to a substitute school teacher.
Friendenthal was removed from hearing family law cases, but is still a judicial officer in Los Angeles County. LA Times reports that he was reassigned to small claims, civil, and unlawful detainer cases in February 2009.
Friedenthal should be removed from the bench entirely. But as is typical of CJP’s usual glacial paced disciplinary actions that take years to result in a report, the “severe public admonishment” doesn’t go far enough to repair the damage Friedenthal has done to the public and his victims and to prevent his abuses of law from recurring.
CJP’s severe public admonishment means so little that he was elected to be secretary-treasurer of the executive board of the California Judges Association two months after his severe public admonishment. California judges want abusers and criminals among them and regard such people as important leaders of their corrupt racketeering influenced organization.
Judge Elizabeth Feffer reportedly replaced Friedenthal on a number of contentious family law cases. But there are many concerns being expressed about problems with Feffer’s judicial conduct and integrity, also. One anonymous litigant reports that Feffer cited as reason to change custody of children the fact that the litigant had filed complaints against Friedenthal:
Judge Feffer crossed the line – in her statment of decision to transfer custody to the abusive father, she cited, for 14 pages in her statement of decision, our “harassing complaints of the prior Commissioner”.
Too bad that her Statement of Decision, done in December, 2011, was just a few months ahead of the Public Admonishment of that poor Commissioner.
If that is true, then Feffer should be subjected to the even more severe punishment than Friedenthal has received for his comments about complaints against him. Punishing a litigant for filing a complaint against the court that when investigated turns out to be valid is a ridiculous abuse of justice.