DECEMBER 2000 PRINT EDITION



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Social Workers Discredit Court's
Report; Give Startling Admissions

By Ed Oliver
December 2000

Two mental health professionals have made startling admissions to Massachusetts News that discredit a court-ordered report which quoted them as sources. The father says the report "has poisoned my case from beginning to end."

The admissions are important because Attorney Lisa Steckler was appointed to represent the interests of the boy and to file a report with the court. Such a person is called a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). Atty. Steckler filed her report in 1994 saying that the mental health professionals that she contacted at the request of the mother recommended that the father be compelled to seek counseling for abusive and violent behavior. She said they also recommended that a restraining order be continued against him.

But these professionals tell MassNews they never met nor interviewed the father, Zed McLarnon. They also have admitted to MassNews that they are friends and associates of the mother and her husband, David Douglas.

The report from Atty. Steckler was supposed to be impounded and never seen by outsiders. But it was not impounded nor was it ever docketed (i.e., entered into the official court records).

As a consequence, it was available in the public files and has mysteriously shown up in many other places, such as in the boy's medical, school, DSS and probation files, thereby damaging the father's credibility and "poisoning the well" on resolving his case.

All of the reports that are favorable to the father from doctors and therapists are missing from various files, but the Steckler report is a constant.

Docketed Only Recently
The report has been docketed only recently (along with other items that had also never been docketed) since Atty. Greg Hession petitioned the Supreme Court for intervention. Certified copies of the docket show the Steckler Report had not yet been docketed on October 14, 1999. Yet, a later certified copy of the docket from November 8, 2000 shows the report entered into the margins and backdated to 1994.

As the father puts it, the docket was illegally used to taint him and only now is it docketed, impounded and backdated like nothing had happened.

According to the father, the Steckler Report was "struck" by a judge back in 1994 for the very reasons MassNews has confirmed were problems with it. However, the "striking" of the report by the judge was edited out of the hearing tape, says the father. When the report of GAL Steckler was struck, a new GAL was appointed, Massachusetts General Hospital.

(Incidentally, records show MGH has failed to produce a court ordered evaluation although the father paid them $3000. The father is currently suing MGH for breach of contract. His attorney says the lack of an evaluation has prevented the father from having an evidentiary hearing that he should have had six years ago. As a result, the father and his son have been deprived of a relationship all those years.)

One of the professionals contacted by GAL Steckler was David Adams Ph.D., a licensed certified psychologist who was Program Director of the batterers' program "EMERGE."

Steckler wrote in her report, "Mr. Adams told me that he met with Virginia Jokisch [the mother] who related incidents of abuse by the father. She seems credible to him. As a result of their meeting, Mr. Adams is concerned with the effects of the father's anger and history of abuse on the son, the son. He recommends treatment for the father which addresses abusive and violent behavior."

Never Talked with Father
Dr. Adams admitted to MassNews that he never met nor interviewed the father. Although he has distanced himself from what Steckler wrote, he did not seem upset by it. He told MassNews that Steckler "mischaracterized" what he said when she made it seem that his recommendation was directed specifically at the father. He says he told Steckler, "assuming these things are true," and spoke only in the general sense of what he would do in such circumstances. However, such generalities and assumptions are not expressed in her report, which seems very specific. Her comments are still seen by judges to this day.

Steckler wrote that Dr. Adams "confirmed the following in a letter he wrote on behalf of the mother, Virginia Jokisch." She then reproduced three paragraphs from an Adams letter where he spoke in the general sense about abusive men, although Steckler characterized the letter as though it were written specifically about the father. The complete letter is not included in her report. Adams wrote in his letter about "violent," "abusive" and "manipulative" men. He said that courts "should not hesitate to refer abusive men [to batterers' programs] simply because they minimize their abuse or express reluctance to attend such programs." The psychologist now says the letter was not written specifically about the father.

In a hearing a month after the Steckler report was filed, the attorney for Douglas and his wife requested in a motion that the father be treated at EMERGE, where Douglas had worked for four years until 1990 and where the psychologist, Adams, was Program Director.

The second professional that Steckler contacted for her report was Lisa Tieszen Gary, a licensed independent clinical social worker. She is the Director of "Safe Transitions: Domestic Violence Program" at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston. Her name is now Lisa Tieszen.

Tieszen told MassNews that both Douglas and his wife referred her to GAL Steckler even though Steckler mentioned only the mother in her report. In her first conversation with MassNews, Tieszen said she only knew of Douglas through professional contacts. In the second interview she admitted knowing Douglas personally since the late eighties. She said she did not ever speak to the father.

MassNews asked Lisa Tieszen if she makes it a practice to reach a clinical conclusion about somebody without interviewing him. She gave a startling answer.

"It is not my practice to interview those who are the alleged perpetrators of domestic violence. Those recommendations were based on what would be protective for those who are being victimized and to hold the father, in this case, accountable for his behavior."

Tieszen said she spoke to the son and the mother. It was based on these anecdotal stories that she recommended in her report to continue the current restraining order, mandate batterer's treatment for the father and discontinue his visits with the son.

The father's therapist, Bruce Jason, was given short shrift in the Steckler Report. He later said he was mischaracterized and misquoted. A statement by him in the last sentence of the Steckler Report contains the only positive statement about the father to be found. "The father has a well structured relationship with his son."

MassNews reached Lisa Steckler and managed to ask if she still writes GAL reports before she hung up the phone.

An attorney for the father, William August, wrote in a May, 1995 letter to Probate Court, "I am of the opinion that the Guardian Ad Litem's report did not address several affidavits and letters showing Mr.McLarnons's fitness for custody or visitation and apparently did not give due weight to Mr. McLarnon's evidence, actual experience with his child or reasonable rights to at least have some visitation."

One such evaluation was by Doctor Norman Zinberg of Harvard Medical School. According to the father's therapist, Bruce Jason, this evaluation showed, "Mr. McLarnon and the son had a basically well functioning relationship with adequate structure and affection. He found no evidence of abuse, past or present. Nor did he find any problems resulting from physical mishandling. He had a minor concern regarding impulse control resulting in raised voices, which is common in today's parenting relationships. He did not think this serious."