Bill Leisk Wins Appeal of Thirty-Day Sentence for Buying Ticket for 16-Year-Old Daughter's Summer School
Appeals Decision to SJC Because Court Did Not Write an Opinion

By John Flaherty
November 12, 2003

The Appeals Court has reversed a criminal contempt judgment against Bill Leisk, in an unpublished opinion, on the ground that Leisk had not effectively waived his right to an attorney and was not advised that an attorney was available. It remanded the case back to Family Court for a new trial.

Leisk is appealing the unpublished decision to the Supreme Judicial Court, agreeing with the reversal, but objecting to an essentially inadequate Appeals Court rationale for the reversal, saying that Leisk was capable of handling the case himself.

Leisk feels that the Appeals Court rational is effectively a cover-up of the gross trial court errors made by Judge David H. Kopelman of the Norfolk Probate and Family Court. Leisk seeks a published decision -as case law - that states the reversal is based on clear and gross errors of the trial court. Otherwise, he states, judges are not held accountable even through case law.

Convicted Three Years Ago

Approximately three years ago, Judge Kopelman found pro se Bill Leisk in criminal contempt for having bought a ticket for his 16-year-old daughter to attend a summer school drama course in Hawaii. The judge held that her attending would interfere with the mother's visitation time during the summer. The daughter had attended the school before when the family all lived in Hawaii and the father had promised previously to buy a ticket for her as a gift.

His former wife had approved of trip and arranged for the daughter to stay some time with her brother, who still lives in Hawaii. But the mother changed her mind and complained about the trip via a Civil Contempt Complaint. The first judge, Christina Harms, told the mother that Leisk could buy twelve tickets and that she should tell her daughter not to go; Judge Harms found Leisk not in Contempt.

When the daughter went on her own to Hawaii, staying with family friends there, the mother complained again but under a Criminal Contempt Complaint to Judge Kopelman. In this hearing, the judge asked all the questions. Nothing was asked from the opposing side, Kopelman ignored all testimony of Leisk, even testimony that was corroborated by the mother. The judge simply declared Leisk in criminal contempt, sending him immediately to jail for one month, which Leisk served.

Leisk, on his own, appealed his criminal contempt and presented an effective oral argument last March at the Appeals Court

The Trial Court's 'Errors'

The father told the Appeals Court that Judge Kopelman ignored all due process by:

1. Stating within the first couple of minutes of the hearing that this was a criminal contempt hearing where Leisk could be incarcerated (a hearing that took all of five or ten minutes), yet offered the defendant no counsel nor a waiver of counsel,
2. Refusing Leisk's request for a jury trial or any trial,
3. Refusing to swear anyone in,
4. Refusing to allow Leisk to cross-examine the witness, call witness (his daughter), but took unsworn testimony of former wife's lawyer,
5. Virtually prosecuting the case himself, asking all the questions and ignoring Leisk's objections to the hearsay evidence invoked by the trial judge's own questions,
6. Ignoring testimony of Leisk's former wife's suppressed statement that she initially agreed with the Hawaii trip,
7. Ignoring the previous no-contempt finding of Judge Harms on the same exact issue some three weeks previous,,
8. Ignoring the fact that Leisk took no further part in his daughter's trip beyond initially buying the tickets as a promised birthday gift, and finally,
9. Finding Leisk in contempt stating in his judgment, "Purchasing the aforesaid round-trip tickets to Hawaii for his daughter, the defendant intentionally and willfully violated a clear, unambiguous order of this Court and is therefore Guilty of contempt," in spite of the fact that the parent's written agreement states that its terms can be altered under mutual agreement - it was altered initially!!! The agreement says nothing about restricting buying or gifting of tickets, bicycles, cash, etc.

The Appeals Court Error

The inadequate rationale in the decision represents a clear coverup of the Family Court judge's outrageous behavior which permits these sorts of Kangaroo courts to proliferate throughout the family court system. The lead Appeals Court judge in this decision was Judge Fernende R. V. Duffly who was a Family Court judge before her appointment to the Appeals Court in 2000.

We know that the family courts are filled with judges who routinely deny the most fundamental rights of due process to fathers every day. Many fathers have been and are presently being unjustly incarcerated. We intend to expose it and we owe Bill Leisk our gratitude for helping to do so.

John Flaherty is with the Liberty Bell Union which teaches fathers how to represent themselves in court. Its website is

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