Supreme Court Brief filed Supporting Hobby Lobby and Conestoga and Religious Liberty

Claiming “an unprecedented attack on religious liberty,” the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) yesterday filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in two separate cases, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. In both cases, the plaintiffs are devout Christians who built their businesses from the ground up.  They object on religious grounds to providing certain contraceptives which are mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services headed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Both cases are scheduled for oral arguments on March 25, 2014 and the Court’s decision is expected sometime before the end of June.

TMLC’s brief focuses on religious liberty, “This case is not about competing rights; there is only one right at issue here − the right to religious freedom.”  The brief goes on to explain that there is no constitutional right to “free” contraception or abortion.  Moreover, that “The employers are not objecting to their employees’ private decision to use these drugs, they are objecting to being forced by the government to pay for insurance plans that facilitate or contribute to these decisions. The employers object to being used to further a government objective that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

TMLC’s brief appealed to the foundations upon which our country was built:

“The United States was founded upon a set of noble and workable principles that formed the basis for the Bill of Rights. Paramount was the recognition that for a citizenry to be truly free, they must be allowed to think, to speak, and to worship God without government interference or unjustified restriction.”

The brief referred to our Founding Fathers:

“They risked their fortunes and their lives to create a country where people could be free to live and to worship consistent with their own conscience, and to provide for their families without unnecessary and crippling burdens created by an all-powerful government. The citizens currently before the Court challenging the Mandate can appreciate the struggles those early patriots faced. They too cannot allow injustice to prosper and are risking their fortunes and their livelihoods to defend the constitutional freedoms that define this country.”

Click here to read the TMLC’s entire 16-page brief

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) is a national public interest law firm located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It has filed 11 federal cases involving 33 different plaintiffs challenging the HHS Mandate.  One of those cases, Eden Foods v. Sebelius et al, is currently in the U.S. Supreme Court, but not scheduled for argument.  The Government has suggested to the Court that the Eden Foods case be held in abeyance pending the decision in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases.

Richard Thompson, the President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, commented, “The religious liberty of every American is at stake.  If we lose these cases, the guarantee of religious liberty under our constitution and laws becomes a farce.”

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby represented by the Becket Fund in June 2013, arguing that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to corporate entities, thereby shielding Hobby Lobby founder David Green from providing insurance plans that abide by the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate.

However, in August 2013, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the same arguments, forcing the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, to offer health insurance to their employees in a grave violation of their religious beliefs.

Manatee County, FL Commissioners served with Writ of Mandamus

On January 29, 2014 the Common Law Grand Jury in Manatee County served the Manatee County Commissioners with a Writ of Mandamus. A Writ of Mandamus is defined as:

A writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal, corporationMunicipal Corporationor individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.

The Manatee County Board of Commission Consent Agenda Item #6 lists the presentation of a Writ of Mandamus. Below is the full text of a speech given by Rodger Dowdell, Administrator for the Common Law Grand Jury, to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners. The Writ of Mandamus, which may be read by clicking here. To learn more about the history of Common Law Grand Juries click here.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today, Jan 28, 2014

My name is Rodger Dowdell , I have lived in Manatee County for over 12 years. I come in front of you today as an Administrator for the Manatee County Common Law Grand Jury, which was reestablished by We the People on Nov 26, 2013.

The first handout you have received is simply a copy of the Manatee County Common Law Grand Jury paperwork filed with the Clerk of the Court. It is important that you all understand that our country was founded with a Common Law system of Justice, not a civil law system. Additionally, our State was also founded with a Common Law system of Justice.

The first Common Law Grand Jury in history sprung to life after the Magna Carta was signed in 1215AD. It is an investigatory body that has 3 main purposes:

Protect the common people from unjust charges from those in power

To collect its own evidence and take evidence from the people to make sure the right people

stand trial for criminal behavior

To reach into both elected and unelected government to root out corruption

When our country was founded, every county had its own Common Law Grand Jury. In fact, before the bullets started flying in our Revolutionary War, our best Patriots were arrested for harassing the British troops and merchants. Simply put, our best Patriots would have been rotting in jail if it had not been our Common Law Grand Juries refusing to indict them.

So why, might you ask, are We the People, the highest ranking sovereign in our system of government, now investing the time and effort to reestablish our Manatee County Common Law Grand Jury ? Our Common Law Grand Jury is the primary tool our Founders gave us to keep our Governments centered on our Constitution.Not even the US Supreme Court can review decisions made by our Common Law Grand Jury ! That’s right, let me say that profundity once again…NOT EVEN THE US SUPREME COURT CAN REVIEW A DECISION MADE BY OUR MANATEE COUNTY COMMON LAW GRAND JURY ! I know it sounds unbelievable, but it is true !

So what are the problems your constituents face that can be solved by the Manatee County Common Law Grand Jury ?

Well, simply stated, there are a lot of unconstitutional injustices being done by our justice system here in Manatee County every day. In fact, you will probably be surprised at how many of YOUR constituents have been injured unconstitutionally by our Manatee County justice system.

Some of the worst injustices today are happening in our Family Court system. These injustices are documented for all to see in the newly released movie, Divorce Corp. I urge you all to see this impactful film for yourselves.

Furthermore, We the People are daily being injured by the Unconstitutional initiatives coming from our Federal and State governments including Obamacare, Common Core, NDAA, NSA spying, abuse of power by the IRS, and Federal gun laws.

With Obamacare, we are witnessing very sick people losing their doctors and their medical insurance, and then finding that they cannot afford the new insurance costs offered through the exchanges. As Commissioners, you probably thought you can not help your constituents with this matter . This is NOT TRUE ! You have the power to enable our Manatee County Common Law Grand Jury to restore these people straightaway.

What about the thousands of parents here in Manatee County that are furious that they are being forced to pay more and more money into our public education system while getting worse and worse results, and while at the same time our Federal Government is unconstitutionally forcing Socialism into our young kids heads while teaching them what a rotten place our country is ? A solution is now in your hands, our Manatee County Common Law Grand Jury, which can nullify unconstitutional Federal and State laws, rules, regulations, and Executive Orders at our county’s borders.

We the People in Manatee County can no longer accept and will no longer tolerate the destruction of our Constitution and the trampling of the rights of the People that is being allowed by our runaway justice system.

We come humbly forward as stewards of our great Constitution. With Justice, Honor, and Mercy, we intend on restoring the rights of the injured straightaway.

As Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in a 1992 decision in the US v Williams case,
” …the Grand Jury is an institution separate from the courts, over whose functioning the courts do not preside.” Additionally, he referred to is as a Constitutional fixture on its own, like a fourth branch of our government. It is owned by We the People for the benefit of We the People.
After speaking, I will deliver to you the Common Law Grand Jury Writ of Mandamus. This Writ is your moral duty to your Constituents. Also,

It is your duty according to our US Constitution
It is your duty according to our Supreme Court decisions It is your duty according to our Florida Constitution
It is your duty according to Florida Statutes

It is your duty according to your oath of office !

And, let me remind you in closing, you have the duty to bring our Common Law Grand Jury into our courthouse so we can do our job. In this stressful hour, while our President is threatening Unconstitutional unilateral actions, help us end this tyranny NOW by giving our Manatee Common Law Grand Jury access to our courthouse.

Please don’t let this great experiment called “American Exceptionalism” die on your watch.

Thank you !!

This video explains how to form Common Law Juries and Grand Juries:


RELATED DOCUMENT: Common Law Grand Jury: You are KING ! The government is your servant

Exposed: Florida’s Judicial Star Chamber

I have written about ordinary citizens who have had their liberty and property taken from them. One of the common threads is the inextricable link between the judiciary and lawyers, who in case after case, appear to represent not their client but rather “the system.” Their mission is to protect and defend “the System” rather than the liberty and property of the people.

In some startling cases I have found that judges and lawyers are in effect ignoring the Florida and US Constitutions to do inextricable harm to the people. Two cases which highlight this “Star Chamber” like system in Florida are that of Holocaust Survivor Marie Winkleman and Florida small businessman Don Baldauf.

The historical abuses of the Star Chamber are considered a primary motivating force behind the protections against compelled self-incrimination embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The following is yet another “Star Chamber” like case involving Nancy Grant from the small town of Arcadia, FL. Because of her personal experiences Nancy became the Chairperson for Florida Jail4judges  in 2003 when the Sherree Lowe, the then Chairperson moved to Oregon. According to Grant, “It is because of my being involved in J4J’s, I think they took my license. I was doing a lot of traveling collecting signatures on our petitions so they had to stop that.” The following is Nancy’s story:

In 2006 I discovered that our local courthouse and county jail were working simultaneously keeping people incarcerated for up to three years without hearings. These people were held incognito forced to take plea deals behind closed doors by audio visual from the judge’s chambers. Family members and friends were not allowed to attend hearings.

I reported this to the local clerk, and to the administrator of our district. Nothing was done to correct the matter. I reported the activities to the Judicial Qualifications, who sent a representative to meet with me but afterwards nothing was done.

It was then that I decided to have a certified paralegal prepare a document titled, (EMD) “Emergency Motion to Dismiss” which contained state and federal law pertaining to speedy trial rights. Basically, the document showed that if a person isn’t taken to trial within a 90 day time for misdemeanors and 180 days for felonies then the person according to law must be released, providing the proper paperwork was filed.

I mailed this document to 55 inmates who had been in the jail over 180 days up to three years. This mailing went into the DeSoto County jail, certified mail/return receipt. These documents were read, signed and filed by the inmates. They began demanding their speedy trial rights and it created a disruption in the illegal commerce of the court.


Judge James S. Parker, 12th Circuit Court of Florida.

Soon after this I was arrested and charged with UPL, Unlicensed Practice of Law. My bond was set at $50,000 and the condition of my bond as instructed by Judge James S. Parker: I was not allowed to communicate directly or indirectly to any inmates or any inmate’s family members about anything going on at the jail or court house.

After 16 months I had a mock trial, prosecution side only, with a special set of jury instructions created just for my case. All 19 witnesses for the state stated I never held myself out to be an attorney or charged. Recently one of the jury members came to where I was living. She said the jury was instructed that they could not leave the room unless they had a guilty verdict. The jury previously had been removed from the courthouse and placed in a special room at the county commissioners building. This lady was the only jury member that held out until she was threatened with harm if she didn’t agree with the guilty verdict.

One month after my trial I was sentenced. I was placed on 15 yrs. probation. Other special probation orders are:

• I am not allowed to file, Pro se on any case.
• I am not allowed to communicate with any inmate in the state of Florida directly or indirectly.
• I am not allowed to drive, the court suspended my license.
• I was fined $22,600. My victim impact score is “0”.

I have no criminal background prior to this event and my driving record is clean. I haven’t driven a vehicle on state highways since July of 2008. I was told by a reliable source that because of my case changes at the courthouse have occurred. Inmates do not stay in jail over a year.

Letters are sent to me from inmates from other states who are being held in county jails for indefinite period of times and forced to take plea deals under threats but I do not respond to them.

lawyer donald h hartery

Donald H. Hartery, Jr.

EDITORS NOTE: You may view Nancy Grant’s case docket at It is docket number 2006 CF 335. There were nineteen people who didn’t testify against Grant brought to her trial by the State Attorney. The prosecuting state attorney was Donald H. Hartery, Jr. from Sarasota, FL. The nineteen witnesses were not interviewed before the trial. When they were put on the stand but they did not say one unkind word against Grant. According to Grant, “Hartery got so angry. He was actually screaming at witnesses during my trial. It was kind of comical because he is a heavy man with a round face and it would get so red when he was shouting. Hartery was no longer a state attorney after my trial.” Hartery is no longer a state attorney and has a private law firm in Sarasota, FL.

The Secret meeting that changed Holocaust Survivor’s Life – Hopefully not Forever!

Cloaked in secrecy, a mediation meeting in a lawyer’s office was held on November 25, 2013, under order of the Sarasota County Probate Court, to determine whether or not 89-year-old Holocaust Survivor Marie Winkelman was or was not capacitated and if or if not she needed to be put into Florida’s vast guardianship system, which controls the lives of scores of thousands of elders. This is the third part of an investigative series on Marie’s guardianship case. Please go here to read Part I and Part II.

Although Marie escaped death in the Warsaw Ghetto, where everyone in her large family (except one baby) was murdered, she has thus far not been able to be freed from a guardianship where most believe she never belonged.

What could possibly go wrong with court-ordered mediation?

The litany of answers to this question is nearly endless, beginning with something akin to “blackmail,” as one of the participants in Marie’s mediation described the circumstances under which the fateful Mediated Settlement Agreement was signed after hours of lawyer talk. Unlike litigation in an open courtroom, with a precise record made of the day’s actions and discussions, under oath or not, mediation is the antithesis of due process. There is no record even allowed of the mediation proceedings. A confidentiality statement must be signed by every participant. No judge is present, and the public is excluded. No witnesses testify. No evidence is presented. No appeal is possible once an agreement has been signed by all of the participants.

So how can you mediate someone’s incapacity, which, of necessity, requires due process protections?

Although this question was posed to a former Chief Judge in Sarasota, no legal citation was provided by him. After five attorneys and three of Marie’s distant family members met for a day, at Marie’s expense, just before Thanksgiving, their Thanksgiving gift to Marie was that they had decided amongst themselves that Marie was incapacitated and that she should not be allowed to remain living independently without two guardians being appointed to make her health decisions and a trust company chosen to control Marie’s fortune of millions.

The legal document produced by the signatories completely excluded Marie, a vibrant and brilliant accomplished woman (acclaimed artist and author), from the entire process. Indeed, Marie was not present at the mediation determining her life’s circumstances. Her then-attorney, Barry Spivey, did not even provide her with a copy of the Agreement either before or after it was signed. Likewise, Marie was never given copies of the releases signed as part of the Agreement. In other words, the secret meeting is still a secret from Marie herself.

Simply put, the product of the secret meeting was a done bad deal for Marie, whose multi-million-dollar trust was wrongfully included as part of her guardianship proceeding and was mysteriously converted from “revocable” (able to be revoked by Marie) to “irrevocable,” thereby forever sealing the future fortunes of the named beneficiaries.

Who are the beneficiaries of the trust made irrevocable in mediation?

The primary beneficiaries of Marie’s multi-million-dollar trust are Robert Szychowski’s wife and sister-in-law, who are the stepdaughters of Marie Winkelman. Robert Szychowski, a fiscal administrator at Rutgers University, initiated the guardianship proceedings against Marie and is a signatory to the Agreement. To accomplish his ends, Szychowski used at least three different attorneys at Marie’s expense, presumably costing Marie hundreds of thousands of dollars to have her stepson-in-law fight her.

Another signatory to the Agreement and major beneficiary of Marie’s now-irrevocable trust is Marie’s cousin and sole blood relative, Alina Koren, who hired two attorneys in order to become Marie’s Guardian of the Person. Per the Agreement, all of Szychowski’s legal and travel expenses plus all of Koren’s legal and travel expenses (and a host of other fees charged by service providers) will be submitted to the Sabal Trust Company to pay out of Marie’s trust without any oversight or input by either Marie or the Probate Court.

How can a trust company agree to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Ward’s trust for purported guardianship bills without court oversight?

In sum, the sums of the secret mediation about Marie continue to toll to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, despite the glaring absence of any of the court oversight mandated by the State of Florida to protect its Wards’ assets. Why did Sabal Trust, the company chosen by Szychowski and located in his attorney’s same building, accept such payment provisions of the Agreement, devoid of court input?

Once more, Marie’s Constitutional right to due process is evaporating with the prospect of her second court-ordered mediation behind sealed doors scheduled by Judge Deno Economou for February 28, 2014, as requested by Marie’s new attorney, Audrey Bear, for what purpose?

Gun Control for Dummies – It’s Common Sense

This video gives a further explanation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution in the context of why the Bill of Rights was included along with the establishment of the Federal Government. Please share this with your friends so that they can help educate America.

The Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


Ratified in 1791, the Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets forth two basic requirements. During times of peace, the military may not house its troops in private residences without the consent of the owners. During times of war, the military may not house its troops in private residences except in accordance with established legal procedure. By placing these limitations on the private quartering of combatants, the Third Amendment subordinates military authority to civilian control and safeguards against abuses that can be perpetrated by standing armies and professional soldiers.

The Third Amendment traces its roots to English Law. In 1689, the English Bill of Rights prohibited the maintenance of a standing army in time of peace without the consent of Parliament. Less than a century later Parliament passed the Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774, which authorized British troops to take shelter in colonial homes by military fiat (order). During the American Revolution, British Red Coats frequently relied on this authorization, making themselves unwelcome guests at private residences throughout the colonies. By 1776 the Declaration of Independence was assailing the king of England for quartering “large bodies of troops among us” and keeping “standing armies without the consent of our legislature.”

Against this backdrop, a number of colonies enacted laws prohibiting the nonconsensual quartering of soldiers. The Delaware Declaration of Rights of 1776, for example, provided that “no soldier ought to be quartered in any house in time of peace without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such a manner only as the legislature shall direct.” Similar expressions also appeared in the Maryland Declaration of Rights of 1776, the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights of 1780, and the New Hampshire Bill of Rights of 1784. Originally drafted by James Madison in 1789, the Third Amendment embodies the spirit and intent of its colonial antecedents.

Primarily because the United States has not been regularly confronted by standing armies during its history, the Third Amendment has produced little litigation. The Supreme Court has never had occasion to decide a case based solely on the Third Amendment, though the Court has cited its protections against the quartering of soldiers as a basis for the constitutional right to privacy (griswold v. connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 [1965]). In lower federal courts, Third Amendment claims typically have been rejected without much discussion.

However, in 1982, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued the seminal interpretation of the Third Amendment in Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 (1982). Engblom raised the issue of whether the state of New York had violated the Third Amendment by housing members of the National Guard at the residences of two correctional officers who were living in a dormitory on the grounds of a state penitentiary. The governor had activated the guard to quell disorder at the penitentiary during a protracted labor strike.

Although the Second Circuit Court did not decide whether the Third Amendment had been violated, it made three other important rulings. First, the court ruled that under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Third Amendment applies to action taken by the state governments no less than it applies to actions by the federal government. Second, the court ruled that the two correctional officers were “owners” of their residences for the purposes of the Third Amendment, even though they were renting their dormitory room from the state of New York. Any person who lawfully possesses or controls a particular dwelling, the court said, enjoys a reasonable expectation of privacy in that dwelling that precludes the nonconsensual quartering of soldiers. Third, the court ruled that members of the National Guard are “soldiers” governed by the strictures of the Third Amendment.

No federal court has had the opportunity to reexamine these Third Amendment issues since Engblom.

Further readings

Fields, William S. 1989. “The Third Amendment: Constitutional Protection from the Involuntary Quartering of Soldiers.” Military Law Review 124.

Levy, Leonard Williams. 1999. Origins of the Bill of Rights. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press.

Florida AG Pam Bondi Says “No” To Marijuana Measure

Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, continues to say no to pot, as she continues to press the left-leaning Florida Supreme court to scrap the legalization of medical marijuana measure that will be on the November ballot.

The initiative would allow marijuana to be used in several specified conditions. But it also includes a part that says it could be used for “any other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

Bondi, a Republican elected in 2010, said that language is too broad and will allow greater use of marijuana than the public has been told by supporters. She cited a scenario of a 15-year-old boy being able to get a marijuana prescription for a minor pain through a chiropractor as a possibility. She said voters are not getting a clear explanation of what they are being asked to approve.

“They need to know what they are voting for,” Bondi said during a joint meeting with the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Sarasota.

The Republican-led Florida legislature is open to the idea of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, and are trying to find a balance with the controversial issue.

Word to the legalizing marijuana lobby, quit smoking your own issue, and work with the legislature to find a solution that will benefit everyone.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Shark Tank.

Alaska primed to become third state to legalize retail marijuana

Study: Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana Have Tripled – Now 1-in-9

FL Judge: Small Businessman denied right to represent himself while Nidal Hasan the Fort Hood shooter can?

This is Part III of a series of investigative reports we are publishing on the Florida Department of Revenue (FLDOR), the mandated unemployment business tax and a lawsuit by Florida small businessman Don Baldauf. We will examine the potential impact of this lawsuit on taxation and regulation in the sunshine state. Read Part I and Part II. To read the full text of the Baldauf lawsuit go here.

Don Baldauf a Florida small business owner was denied the right to represent himself, yet convicted terrorist Major Nidal Hasan represented himself? How can this be?

Don Baldauf  filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and twenty-three others for $18 million. Baldauf stated, “I am suing because I have been deprived of my US Constitution Seventh Amendment rights as a Florida small businessman. Each and every one named as defendants is accused of taking part in preventing me from settling this taxation controversy with the State of Florida by invoking my right to a jury trial. What reason was I given for not being able to exercise my right to a trial by jury? Because King George III says I do not have that right. Yep, according to some of the plaintiffs 1776 never happened!” Baldauf started a website titled where interested individuals may view the lawsuit and related documents.

Roberts_CBaldauf had his first hearing on January 17, 2014. Baldauf decided to represent himself at the hearing. Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Roberts (pictured) presided at the hearing. A motion to deny Baldauf’s right to represent himself was filed on behalf of Governor Scott, et al. At the hearing  representing the defendants was Albert J. Bowden, Senior Assistant Attorney General for State Programs Litigation.

Baldauf represented his company Epitome Systems, Inc., of which he is the sole employee, founder, CEO and the injured party. Bowden argued that Epitome must be represented by counsel according to legal precedent. The property owned by Epitome, the money seized by the State of Florida to pay the unemployment business tax, was the companies, not Baldauf’s . It is the corporation, not Baldauf, that must be represented by a licensed Florida attorney. Bowden argued that the complaint was inappropriately filed and he asked Judge Roberts to strike the complaint.

Baldauf argued that a jury should decide if he, as the only employee of his sole proprietorship company, is the injured party. Can the state force Don and Epitome to participate in the unemployment business tax program that he, Baldauf, cannot benefit from? Baldauf stated, “A jury should decide not a pre-trial hearing. I have represented my company in other cases with docket numbers. Taxes were leveled against the corporation, which is me.”

Judge Roberts ruled that Baldauf does not have standing. Baldauf’s corporation cannot be represented by Baldauf. Judge Roberts then granted Bowden and defendants motion to strike the claim. The hearing was not recorded, something that Baldauf takes exception to.

After the hearing Baldauf stated, “Judge Roberts ruled against me stating he ‘was bound by the law to do so’ even though he and Assistant AG Bowden admitted there was no law passed by the state legislature saying that I could not represent the company. The ‘law’ the judge referred to were case opinions Assistant AG Bowden presented as ‘the law’ even though the Constitution of the State of Florida, Article III, Section 6 is very clear that every ‘law’ must be passed by the legislature. This was even after I made my subtle warning that following the case opinion could make Judge Roberts another defendant in the case.”

“The judge also made the ruling after I offered to drop Epitome as a plaintiff and leave me as the plaintiff but Judge Roberts denied that stating that ‘I was not injured at all,'” noted Baldauf.

The bottom line: Florida small business owners, e.g. a sole proprietors, cannot represent themselves. They must hire a Florida licensed attorney to represent them at their own expense. They are subject to taxation without representation.

Baldauf stated he will appeal the ruling and be represented by a Florida licensed attorney.

US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: Bloggers are journalists!

As a citizen journalist and the publisher of this online e-Magazine, I was most interested in the recent decision by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to provide the same First Amendment rights given to me and my contributors. Bloggers are no different than journalists!

I started my life as a blogger in 2002 with a free Google blog account. I have, as have the contributors to my e-Mag, matured over the years. Each has learned how to do cutting edge research, tell the truth and cover stories the mainstream media will not cover. This ruling provides each of us, and the new media or Fifth Estate, protections under the US Constitution by validating what we do is for the public good.

Fox News reports, “A federal appeals court ruled Friday that bloggers and the public have the same First Amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation: If the issue is of public concern, plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a defamation lawsuit brought by an Oregon bankruptcy trustee against a Montana blogger who wrote online that the court-appointed trustee criminally mishandled a bankruptcy case.”

Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press said the ruling affirms what many have long argued: Standards set by a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., apply to everyone, not just journalists.

“It’s not a special right to the news media,” he said. “So it’s a good thing for bloggers and citizen journalists and others.”

Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., now living in Port Townshend, Wash., was sued for defamation by Bend attorney Kevin Padrick and his company, Obsidian Finance Group LLC, after she made posts on several websites she created accusing them of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and other illegal activities. The appeals court noted Padrick and Obsidian were hired by Summit Accommodators to advise them before filing for bankruptcy, and that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court later appointed Padrick trustee in the Chapter 11 case. The court added that Summit had defrauded investors in its real estate operations through a Ponzi scheme.

A jury in 2011 had awarded Padrick and Obsidian $2.5 million.

Troubling Jurisprudence in Miami-Dade: The Tale of Two Teachers

The actions by the Miami-Dade School District in the aftermath of Adobegate have been troubling to say the least and poses interesting questions in terms of justice and fairness for the parties involved.

How is it that the black, Christian, union member bears the brunt and gets the worst of Adobegate and the white, Jewish, non-union member gets a slap on the wrist?

How is it that I, a Catholic union steward, is removed from the school, following an unsuccessful transfer a month earlier, when I did nothing wrong?

The Miami-Dade OIG Final Report concluded that, “Miami Norland has benefited in the form of attaining a higher school grade and may have received financial compensation or other benefit resulting from its high pass rate on the industry certification exams” (page 13).

With the assistance of cheating, undertaken by Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, Miami Norland’s school grade went from a “C” for the 2010-11 school year to an “A” for the 2011-12 school year.

As a result, total federal funds (SIG, RTTT) given out due to a grade influenced by cheating was $100,560; the total state funds per FSRP was between $130,000- $140,000; the total overall combined federal and state incentive funds were $230,560- $240,560.

Each teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School received $1730.41 from all three payouts.

On October 16, 2013, the Miami-Dade School Board voted to terminate Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin for his role in Adobegate, and rightfully so.

On November 19, 2013, the Miami-Dade School Board voted to suspend Mrs. Brenda Muchnick for 30 working days without pay for her role in Adobegate, which boggles the mind.

When Mr. Fleurantin appeared alone on the D55 item of the School Board Agenda on October 16, 2013, something seemed amiss and it was common sense that something was in the works given the disparity in actions taken against them.

Most crimes, such as theft and homicide, have varying degrees; test cheating does not and state law is straightforward and clear.  In any given instance of test cheating, a role is a role; there is no distinguishing a major role from a minor role. Either one was involved or they were not.

Both Mr. Fleurantin and Mrs. Muchnick, according to the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report, allegedly “knowingly and willfully” violated test security rules irrespective of quantity of students in their respective roles.

When one reads that document and the Department of Administrative Hearings brief, issued by the School Board Attorney on January 8, 2014, justifying Mr. Fleurantin’s termination, one can reasonably conclude that Mrs. Muchnick is equally culpable and a reasonable person would think her employment was up for termination as well.

Excerpts concerning the actions of Ms. Muchnick from Mr. Harvey’s brief follow:

18. ‘O.D.’, a minor student, revealed to the OIG Investigator that during the 2011-2012 school year Respondent along with another teacher, Ms. Brenda Muchnick, allowed him to use a study guide during his certification exam.

22. During the 2011-2012 school year ‘C.N.,’ ‘A.O.,’ ‘L.T.,’ and ‘R.P’, minor students, were enrolled in Ms. Muchnick’s Dreamweaver class. During the course of the year, Ms. Muchnick took the entire class to take the certification exam. According to both students, Ms. Muchnick, along with an unknown black male teacher, allowed the entire class to use a study guide and a questionnaire with highlighted answers during the certification exam. ‘C.N.’, ‘L.T.’ and ‘A.O.’ stated that the questionnaire was similar to the document discovered by Mr. Gant in the computer lab.

However, this is not the case, and Mrs. Muchnick went back to work at Norland SHS two weeks ago while I am still displaced from there, and the library media program has been shuttered in violation of state law, since October 24, 2013, given my role as the whistleblower in this affair.

The optics of this does not look good and one wonders about the outcomes being anti-labor and questions of race and religion:

How is it that the union member, Mr. Fleurantin, who is black (Haitian) and Christian, is up for termination and his union steward (me), white and Catholic, has been removed from the school three months ago, but Mrs. Muchnick, a non-union member who is white and Jewish, the same religious persuasion as the Chief Human Capital Officer (Enid Weisman) over the process and two influential School Board members (Vice-Chair Dr. Larry Feldman and Dr. Martin Karp), received an inconsequential 30 day suspension without pay (possibly will be made up with supplements to her and/or her husband) and goes back to work at Norland?

One does wonder, especially given that my meritorious Civil Rights Compliance complaint was dismissed and a bogus CRC complaint devoid of merit was processed against me but later dropped last October.

A fair-minded person may conclude that Mr. Fleurantin lacked background, connections, and money, thereby being unable to evade justice like Mrs. Muchnick, and received what was right and just; and I, though contrary to federal and state law, was wrongly moved from Norland not only because I upset the School District, but because I was a white steward who exposed a massive fraud in terms of cheating in conjunction with over $230,000 of awarded federal and state incentive funds to teachers in a predominately African-American school.

Marie Winkelman’s Case demands Litigation, not Mediation, to protect her Life, Liberty and Property?

This is the second column I have written about Marie Winkelman. Read the first column by clicking here. Marie is the author of a book about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor in Poland titled “Keeping A Promise: To Tell My Story of Survival in Warsaw During WW II.”

Marie is another victim of financial guardianship abuse.  The first I wrote about was Al Katz, the father of Beverly Newman, another Holocaust Survivor.

What is at stake here? A woman’s life, liberty and her property valued in excess of $3 million… in this case, a Holocaust Survivor who in childhood was robbed of her property and stability and now is re-living the traumas of betrayal and asset seizure.  Who benefits from Marie’s guardianship? Robert and Corinne Szychowski and the State of Florida’s guardianship system.

What is happening? The systematic financial abuse of an elder.

Audrey Bear PA

Audrey Bear, PA.

Audrey Bear, Marie’s lawyer, at a court hearing before Sarasota County Probate Court Judge Deno Economou on January 8, 2014 agreed to “mediate her clients capacity” with lawyers representing Robert Szychowski. This is not what Marie wants according to Beverly Newman, Director of the Al Katz Center.

Emails were sent to Chief Judge Lee E. Haworth, 12th Circuit Court and to Elida Mujic, Client Relations Coordinator, FL Department of Children and Family Services requesting any legal authority for mediation in matters of capacity but no legal authorities were given.

Chief Judge Haworth replied, “Any action or issue in a case can be ordered to mediation. But it is not like arbitration where the arbitrator’s decision is binding on the parties. A mediated agreement cannot be forced upon the participants. They must consent to any resolution. It is designed to avoid protracted and painful litigation and can often serve as a way for parties to find remedies beyond those the court can fashion.  Since the discussions are confidential, not to be disclosed upon penalty of contempt, it allows for a free exchange of ideas and concerns with the consideration of evidence that may be inadmissible at a trial.  The mediator is a neutral party whose role is to explore all reasonable grounds for settlement.  A surprising number of intractable appearing cases have been settled at mediation, but only when parties agree. It only takes one to veto. If the mediation is at impasse, it proceeds to trial, the judge none the wiser about what was discussed in the mediation conference. In regard to mediating capacity, since capacity is a fluid, evolving condition, it might be daunting to construct a mediated agreement of long lasting duration, or one acceptable to all sides.  But I see no legal impediment to the parties being required to make an effort to do so.”

Ms. Mujic stated, “I would encourage you to contact 12th Circuit Court office or an attorney concerning any legal assistance with Ms. Winkleman’s situation. I am not able to provide you with any legal advice. If you are willing to provide me with additional information concerning Ms. Winkleman, I will do my best to assist you.”

In an email Beverly Newman questioned using mediation to deal with Marie’s case. Newman points out the following:

1. Mediation is a completely closed legal proceeding, with no recordings or records allowed and confidentiality forms that must be signed prior to the mediation.

2. In Marie’s mediation of November 25, 2013, one of the signatories to the mediated settlement agreement described it as “blackmail.”

3. There is no due process in mediation, as there is no sworn testimony of witnesses, no judge present, no public record, no evidence put on the record, and no cross-examination of witnesses.

4. Marie’s attorney (Audrey Bear) was hired to litigate the Court’s incapacity and guardianship order dated December 3, 2013, but she has refused to set for hearing her own motion to vacate said order and chose mediation instead.

5. Fl. Stat. 744.331 states:

(a) Upon appointment of the examining committee, the court shall set the date upon which the petition will be heard. The date for the adjudicatory hearing must be set no more than 14 days after the filing of the reports of the examining committee members, unless good cause is shown. The adjudicatory hearing must be conducted at the time and place specified in the notice of hearing and in a manner consistent with due process.
(b) The alleged incapacitated person must be present at the adjudicatory hearing, unless waived by the alleged incapacitated person or the person’s attorney or unless good cause can be shown for her or his absence. Determination of good cause rests in the sound discretion of the court.
(c) In the adjudicatory hearing on a petition alleging incapacity, the partial or total incapacity of the person must be established by clear and convincing evidence.

6. Marie Winkelman never had an adjudicatory hearing in which any evidence was presented on her behalf.

7. The settlement agreement that the court adopted in its order was not seen by Marie until after it was signed and was never explained to her by her former attorney, Barry Spivey. The court held an incapacity and guardianship hearing on said mediated agreement on December 2, 2013, at which Marie was not present since her attorney (Spivey) did not inform her of said hearing.

The question: Is mediation the proper way for Marie to protect her life, liberty and property or is litigation a better pathway?

Federal Judge Grants Injunctive Relief from HHS Mandate for Five Non-Profits

On Monday, January 13, 2014, Federal District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III, granted injunctive relief to five additional non-profit organizations in the Thomas More Law Center’s newest challenge to the HHS Mandate filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

This newest challenge on behalf of the five non-profit entities was brought by Erin Mersino, trial counsel with the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The non-profit Plaintiffs include the Ave Maria Foundation, Ave Maria Communications (aka “Ave Maria Radio”), Domino’s Farms Petting Farm, Rhodora J. Donahue Academy Inc., and the Thomas More Law Center, all founded by Catholic philanthropist Tom Monaghan.

Murphy with CaptionIn granting the injunction, Judge Murphy noted that the Plaintiffs showed “a strong likelihood of succeeding on the merits” of their case.  The Court rejected the government’s argument that the accommodation to the Mandate, which required the Plaintiffs to either pay for contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs directly or sign a “self-certification” which would act as a permission slip to their insurance company to pay for contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs, was sufficient to alleviate the Plaintiffs’ constitutional objections.  The government belittled the Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs by nakedly claiming that the Mandate did not violate them—despite the Plaintiffs’ sworn statements to the contrary and the government’s own position that never challenged the sincerity of the Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.

The Court, in rejecting the government’s position, proclaimed that “It is not the government’s business to decide what behavior has religious significance.”

The Court also made note of the “sheer number of exemptions” which allows other companies to avoid compliance with the Mandate, while the Plaintiffs did not qualify for an exemption and without judicial intervention would be forced to comply.  The Court recognized that since so many are exempted by the government from complying with the Mandate, there is no necessity for the Plaintiffs to comply at the expense of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The injunction protects the five entities from any compliance with the HHS Mandate. The government’s Mandate would have required the Plaintiffs to facilitate access to contraceptive and abortion-causing drugs and devices, as well as sterilization procedures, through their health insurance plan.

The Plaintiffs originally filed their federal lawsuit on December 20, 2013, and on December 23, 2013, they filed an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order.  On December 31, 2014, hours before the Mandate would have been implemented against the Plaintiffs, the Court issued the Temporary Restraining Order blocking the enforcement of the Mandate and protecting the Plaintiffs for a limited fourteen day period while the Court considered the Plaintiffs’ request for relief.  This Monday, January 13, 2014, Judge Murphy gave his prior order more permanence by granting the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction which will protect the Plaintiffs through the pendency of the case.

Click here to read the Court’s Opinion

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented on Judge Murphy’s ruling:

“Christians in America are under increasing attack by the Federal Government.  And it’s important we realize that we must look to the Federal Courts to protect our religious freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution.   In this particular case, we are grateful for Judge Murphy’s decision and the expeditious manner in which he rendered it.”

The ultimate purpose of the lawsuit is to permanently block the implementation of the HHS Mandate which requires employers to obtain insurance coverage for abortions and contraception on the grounds that it imposes clear violations of conscience on Americans who morally object to abortion and contraception.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HHS Mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First Amendment, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Named as Defendants in the lawsuit are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; Thomas Perez, Secretary of the Department of Labor; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury; and their respective departments.

A Message to White America: More Racial Protectionism from Eric Holder and Arne Duncan

When the concept of doing a website was presented to me, initially I scoffed thinking there wouldn’t be enough critical material daily to comment on — boy was I wrong. Every day I am amazed at the insanity I witness in our America and here is another example.

According to a report in The Hill, Attorney General Eric Holder is at it again with his racial preference policies,

Attorney General Eric Holder called upon the nation’s school districts Wednesday to rethink “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies that he said disproportionately punish minorities and push too many students into the justice system. Alarming numbers of young people are suspended, expelled or even arrested for relatively minor transgressions like school uniform violations, schoolyard fights or showing ‘disrespect’ by laughing in class,” Holder said during a speech in Baltimore.

What did his remarks really mean? They accompanied the release of new federal guidance from the departments of Justice and Education encouraging (i.e. threatening) schools to adopt disciplinary policies that are “fair, nondiscriminatory, and effective.” The guidance offers parameters for punishment as governed by federal civil rights protections, alternatives to exclusionary discipline and a comprehensive list of regulations on the books in every state.

So now the US Department of Justice under Eric Holder will use its power to enforce “civil rights protections” in school disciplinary actions. In fact, the DoJ and DoEd are putting schools on notice that they are prepared to use their authority to investigate the claims of racial disparity in the punishment of students.

And of course the American Civil Liberties union (ACLU) is thrilled with this policy. The ACLU offered research showing that black students make up 36 percent of those expelled, though they represent only 15 percent of students.”

Not to be outdone by Holder in the “stuck on stupid” category, Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, “Positive discipline policies” can actually foster safer school environments, without a heavy reliance on suspensions and expulsions. Schools also must understand their civil rights obligations and avoid unfair disciplinary practices.

I taught high school for one year in Deerfield Beach, Fla and in the end, it was such an enjoyable experience breaking up fights daily, that I decided to return to the combat zone of Afghanistan.

Teachers are already disrespected and attacked, not feared. There were students at Deerfield Beach who steered clear of the lunchroom for fear of being picked on or engaged in a fight. A kid was stabbed while I was on the faculty there.

Yes, this violence on campus was perpetrated 8 out of 10 times by black students, male and female, but it had nothing to do with racial disparity. It had everything to do with a lack of discipline and control.

When a young man took a swing at me while I broke up a beat down that he and three others were giving a young man already on the ground, it had nothing to do with civil rights. It had everything to do with a criminal behavior which does not belong in a learning environment – and he was expelled. Now imagine under these new guidelines and rules, DoJ and DoEd would initiate an investigation.

Liberal progressives don’t want to tackle the problem they created, the decimation of the black family. Fifty years ago only six percent of births in America were out of wedlock Today the number is 72 percent in the black community. There was a time when “acting out” at school resulted in having to stay after school and worse, a call home to mom and dad — talk about a beat down.

Common core — now this — the progressive socialist dream of state-run education is coming to fruition. But what is even more heinous is the message being sent that race is an excuse for bad behavior in our kids, an acceptable excuse at that. It means the death spiral for education in the black community will increase as we overlook or reward the most abhorrent conduct.

Perhaps this is why Holder and Obama want Debo Adegbile as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division considering his defense of Black Panther and cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, when he was leader of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. There is no doubt that someone skilled enough to defend Abu-Jamal would be perfect to institute this policy of racial protectionism of juvenile criminal behavior.

This is my clear and succinct message to white Americans. How long will it be before “you people” realize you have elevated someone to the office of president who abjectly despises you — not to mention his henchman Holder. Combined they are the most vile and disgusting racists — not you.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on

Government Retaliates Against Navy Chaplain who Sued over Shutdown of Catholic Mass

Father Ray Leonard, the Catholic Navy Chaplain who sued the Department of Defense and the Navy after he was barred from celebrating Mass at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia during the recent the Government shutdown, is now the target of Government retaliation even though the Department of Justice indicated the day after the lawsuit was filed that he could resume his duties as a Navy Chaplain.

The retaliation involves repeated Government assertions that the employment contract under which Father Leonard was working is no longer “valid”, demands that he must sign a new contract containing several pages of onerous new terms if he wants to be paid and refusals to pay for services he had already performed.

As a result, the Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, on January 6, 2014 filed an amended complaint in their original federal lawsuit to prevent further retaliation against Father Leonard for exercising his constitutional rights. The amended complaint added a claim against the government for its retaliation toward Father Leonard which occurred after the filing of the initial complaint.

Father Leonard just returned to America after spending ten years ministering to impoverished Tibetans in China. Consequently, withholding Father Leonard’s earnings for approximately two months left Father Leonard himself in an impoverished condition. Yet, he continued to minister to his congregation by scraping up enough money for food and rent payments for housing near the Naval Base which he serves.
Father Leonard has stated in an affidavit;

“In China, I was disallowed from performing public religious services due to the lack of religious freedom in China. I never imagined that when I returned home to the United States, that I would be forbidden from practicing my religious beliefs as I am called to do, and would be forbidden from helping and serving my faith community.”

The amended complaint discusses how on October 21, 2013, a mere week after blowing the whistle on the government’s unconstitutional actions, the government told Father Leonard that his contract would no longer be considered “valid.” The government presented Father Leonard with a new employment contract containing five additional pages of far more onerous terms than his original contract.

Prior to the original lawsuit, which TMLC filed on October 14, 2013, Father Leonard had been operating under his original contract without complaint. The original contract was even recognized and affirmed by the Navy and the Department of Justice in subsequent documentation on October 16, 2013.

From October 1, 2013 through the present, Father Leonard has continued to perform his duties as a military chaplain under the original contract. The Navy paid him for his work during the month of October. However in November, the government inexplicably refused to pay Father Leonard. The government’s withholding of income lasted from the beginning of November through the end of December. After repeatedly denying Father Leonard’s payment, the Navy finally approved an invoice for payment at the end of December.

TMLC attorney Erin Mersino, counsel for Father Leonard, explained:

“The Petition Clause of the First Amendment protects individuals who challenge the unconstitutional actions of the government from retaliation. The Archdiocese for the Military Services confirmed that no other military chaplain contracts were under review or subjected to the same scrutiny as Father Leonard’s. Thus, due to the timing of the Navy’s actions and the information gleaned from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, all signs point to Father Leonard being singled out and subjected to unlawful retaliation for bringing the government’s practices to light.”

On October 4, 2013, during the Government shutdown, Father Leonard was ordered to stop performing all of his duties as the Base’s Catholic Chaplain, even on a voluntary basis. He was also told that he could be arrested if he violated that order.

Additionally, Father Leonard was locked out of his on-base office and the chapel. Father Leonard was denied access to the Holy Eucharist and other articles of his Catholic faith. The order caused the cancellation of daily and weekend mass, confession, marriage preparation classes and baptisms as well as prevented Father Leonard from providing the spiritual guidance he was called by his faith to provide.

The services of other Christian denominations at Kings Bay were allowed to continue throughout the shutdown. Only Catholics were left without services.
A day after the original federal lawsuit was filed, three attorneys from the Justice Department contacted Erin Mersino by phone and indicated that Father Leonard could resume all his religious duties and that the Chapel would be re-opened for all Catholic activities. Those representations of the Justice Department attorneys were confirmed by orders to Father Leonard through the Navy chain of command. However a week later, the retaliation against Father Leonard began.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, affirmed:

“Although Father Leonard is for the moment being paid, based on the government’s pattern of inconsistent conduct, there is no guarantee that the Government will not again claim the contract is invalid and refuse payment. Our Amended Complaint is necessary to seek the Court’s protection from further government retaliation.”

The Department of Justice has requested an additional sixty (60) days to respond to the amended complaint, and the Court ordered their response by March 3, 2014.


Renowned as a national nonprofit public interest law firm, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Thomas More Law Center’s mission is to restore and defend America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, and to preserve a strong national defense, and a free and sovereign United States of America.  In courtrooms throughout our Nation, Law Center lawyers fight for the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, the sanctity of human life, and a strong national defense. The Law Center does not charge for its legal services, and relies on tax-deductible donations from concerned patriotic Americans and charitable foundations.

FL Legislature: Adultery, Cohabitation & Marijuana are fine but Texting while Driving is a Crime?

“Did this really happen? House committee moves to decriminalize adultery, co-habitation and a strain of marijuana,” reads the headline on the Miami Herald Blog.

The Miami Herald Blog reports. “Word is today that people are still wondering if they existed briefly in an alternate reality Thursday as they watched the conservative House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice embrace a proposed committee bill that would decriminalize adultery, co-habitation and a strain of non-euphoric marijuana as part of a sweeping rewrite of the state’s sentencing laws.” Read more here.

Tad Mackie, an Executive Committee member of the Republican Party of Sarasota, in an email states, “I didn’t ask but I’m OK with it. Adultery is morally wrong … But criminal? Cohabitation is morally wrong … But criminal? Pot should be legal. (like it was before 1934).”

But what are the social costs for legalizing adultery, cohabitation and pot?

Florida has a growing drug abuse problem, especially among our youth, according to Attorney General Pam Bondi. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement looked at drugs in deceased persons and reported, “The Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics estimates that about 85,810 deaths occurred in Florida during January through June 2012. Of these, the medical examiners reported on 4,126 drug-related deaths (whether the cause of death or merely present) through toxicology reports submitted to the Medical Examiners Commission. In order for a death to be considered ‘drug-related,’ there must be at least one drug identified in the decedent; this is recorded as a drug occurrence. The vast majority of these 4,126 cases involved more than one drug listed in the report.” reports:

Florida has the 11th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 16.4 per 100,000 people suffering drug overdose fatalities, according to a new report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic.

The number of drug overdose deaths – a majority of which are from prescription drugs – in Florida doubled since 1999 when the rate was 6.4 per 100,000. Nationally, rates have doubled in 29 states since 1999, quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more.

The report also finds that Florida received seven out of 10 possible indicators of promising strategies to help curb prescription drug abuse.

Florida also has a growing number of single parent families, which strain the state’s social services programs including Medicaid.

According to Florida has 37% of children living in a single parent household. Individual counties range from 20% in Lafayette County to 59% in Gadsden County, FL. An interactive map of children living in single parent households may be view here. Numerous studies have found a correlation between single parent households and poverty.

Decriminalizing adultery harms divorcees, most of whom are women. So decriminalizing adultery harms women and their children. Great idea.

According to Divorce.Net:

Florida is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that either party may seek a divorce without proving any reason for it other than the spouses don’t want to be married anymore. The spouse seeking a divorce simply needs to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” This rule relieves the court of the complicated duty of deciding who is at fault, and the parties to the marriage are spared having to talk about painful personal issues in court.

Effect of Adultery on Child Custody

However, if one spouse committed adultery, it might affect other elements of the divorce. For example, “moral fitness” is one of the factors the court considers in making custody decisions, so if one parent can prove that the other parent’s adultery had or is reasonably likely to have an adverse impact on the child, the judge might limit that parent’s custody or visitation.

Effect of Adultery on Property Division

Adultery may also affect the division of marital property and debts. Florida is an equitable distribution state, so there is a presumption that the marital assets and liabilities should be evenly divided. This presumption may, however, be overcome by proof that one spouse has intentionally dissipated or wasted marital assets. Gifts, trips, apartment rent, car payments, and dinners for a non-marital partner are all considered a waste of marital assets. The court may reduce the adulterer’s share of martial assets to compensate the other spouse for this waste.

Effect of Adultery on Spousal Support (Alimony)

Florida laws specifically list adultery as a factor to be considered in determining the amount of alimony awarded, but courts have struggled to reconcile the consideration of adultery with the “no fault” concept. The bottom line is that judges will only increase a wronged spouse’s alimony if the adulterous conduct somehow increases that spouse’s monetary needs.

Finally, legalizing marijuana seems to be the new rave or wave by state legislators. Why? Because then they can tax it and spend the money taking care of the growing numbers of drug addicts, poor children from single parent homes and growing number of Floridians on Medicaid.

The Florida legislature is violating nature and nature’s laws. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: FL Rep. Ray Pilon wrote on his Facebook page,  “FYI it was only a workshop and no vote was taken.” Rep. Pilon sits on the Criminal Justice sub-Committee.

RELATED COLUMN: Study: Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana Have Tripled – Now 1-in-9

The taking of Marie Winkelman 1-2-3

keeping a promise book cover by marie winkelmanWho is Marie Winkelman? Marie is the author of a book about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor in Poland titled “Keeping A Promise: To Tell My Story of Survival in Warsaw During WW II.”

“On December 4th, 2013, a beautiful and brilliant 88-year-old Holocaust Survivor named Marie Winkelman was put into guardianship in the Sarasota, Florida Probate Court – without a hearing – based upon a mediation agreement,” states Beverly Newman, President of the Al Katz Center.

Marie is the second victim of elder abuse in Sarasota County, Florida. The first was Al Katz, the father of Beverly Newman, another Holocaust Survivor.

The similarity of the two cases is striking and presents a pattern of what some believe constitutes “judicial cronyism.” It is a system that takes the liberty and property of its victims – usually the elderly.


Federal Mediator Gary H. Larsen.

“Marie is a recent resident of Bird Key who still lives independently and keeps her home in immaculate condition. The mediation agreement was prepared by Federal Mediator Gary H. Larsen, which Marie did not see until after the mediation. Her fortune of many millions, which she earned through decades of hard work and prudent investments, is now in the hands of a company named Sabal Trust Company with which she has never had any contact. Through the mediated agreement, she is given a monthly allowance of her own money, despite the fact she has always spent her money judiciously,” notes Newman.

What makes Marie’s case different is the possible collusion to have Marie found incompetent not by strangers but by Robert Szychowski who is married to Marie’s step-daughter Corinne. This is the highest form of betrayal by the one person Marie trusted the most. She trusted Szychowski so much she signed a Durable Power of Attorney (POA) giving Szychowski control over every aspect of her life and wellbeing.  Marie made Szychowski her “attorney-in-fact” (my Agent) granting him “The power to exercise or perform any act, power, duty, right or obligation whatsoever…”

There was one proviso in her Durable POA. Paragraph 43 of the POA states:

It is my intent that My Agent [Szychowski] and attorney-in-fact have the broadest powers possible to act for me while I have the legal capacity to act and also while I am legally incapacitated to act, so as to avoid the necessity of a guardianship in case of my incapacity. [Emphasis added]

It was Szychowski who facilitated the process that violated Marie’s trust and express wishes to “avoid guardianship.” It was Szychowski who used Marie’s own money to pay those who are complicit in her placement into guardianship.

How could this betrayal happen?


Christopher Alan Likens, P.A.

In July 2013, New Jersey resident and Rutgers University Acting Manager, Cost Studies, Szychowski, retained a lawyer, Christopher Alan Likens, using Marie’s money, to take her to court and force her into guardianship relative to her pharmaceutical routine. Even though Szychowski as the Durable POA could have hired a caregiver himself to monitor Marie’s medications, he hired a stranger to file a court action, without prior notice or giving Marie an opportunity to hire an attorney to represent her.


Lori Gaetano, care manager with Care InSight.

Szychowski then, using Marie’s money, paid at least $2,373 to Lori Gaetano, RN, a care manager from Care InSight, who testified in court that Marie was “incapacitated” with respect to financial matters because Gaetano had seen Marie’s checkbook lying on her table, where Gaetano projected that someone could take it from Marie’s private residence.

Dr. Miguel Rivera, MD, came into the picture, referred by Gaetano to Szychowski, hired by him, and paid at least $908 from Marie’s account.   To do a psychiatric evaluation of Marie, Dr. Rivera showed up with Gaetano at Marie’s home unannounced and without identifying himself as a psychiatrist, asked Marie a series of questions, and then left. Only later did Marie learn he was there evaluating her competence. It was Dr. Rivera’s negative evaluation report that began the process of the taking of Marie Winkelman 1-2-3.

In an article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune published in 2011, Rivera noted, “They [the elderly patients] don’t know I’m a doctor,” he said, indicating his casual, golf-style shirt. “They just think I’m this friendly guy who comes around a lot.”

Although Sarasota County caps the fees to be paid to incapacity Examining Committee members at $200, Szychowski paid social worker, Linda Erickson, 11 times more, using Marie’s money without any court oversight.  Also, Szychowski paid Anne L. Olshansky, MSW, at least $500. Olshansky is a counselor and was another member of the panel that found Marie incompetent. Finally, although Florida guardians must file their fee statements with the court for court approval, Szychowski used Marie’s account to pay guardian Dawn Van Beck $1,294.63, on November 6, 2013, without any court oversight.

What is at stake here? A woman’s liberty and her property valued in excess of $3 million… in this case, a Holocaust Survivor who in childhood was robbed of her property and stability and now is re-living the traumas of betrayal and asset seizure.  Who benefits from Marie’s guardianship? Robert and Corinne Szychowski and the State of Florida’s guardianship system.

What is happening? The systematic financial abuse of an elder.

Stay tuned as Marie has a court hearing on February 28, 2014. This story must and will be told, to protect the innocent like Marie.

UPDATE: At the hearing held on January 9, 2014, in the Sarasota County Probate Court, Judge Deno Economou once again ordered Marie’s determination of incapacity and placement into guardianship to be mediated by a group of six attorneys (Gary Larsen, Christopher Likens, Kim Bald, Rebecca Proctor, Audrey Bear, and Tom Shults) being paid thousands of dollars per hour out of Marie’s assets, without any record being made and without the presentation of any evidence to the Judge.