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SOURCE: original article here.
On October 26, 2015, Roisin Cassidy, a protective mother residing in San Mateo, CA received very bad news. Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter, the custody evaluator in her case, had written a 45 page custody evaluation recommending that the court shift primary custody of her two boys to her ex husband, Stephen Tyrrell, who lives outside of California in Washington State, even though she had been the primary caretaker of the children for 15 years. The result would be a situation where Roisin lost all legal custody of her children to the father. Further, Roisin Cassidy would have to get permission from her ex-husband in order to travel outside of the country, whether she had her children with her or not.
Roisin Cassidy is a fighter, particularly when it comes to her children, so instead of giving up in the face of Dr. Perlmutter’s assault on her parenthood, Ms. Cassidy decided to hire an attorney and fight the Perlmutter report. To do so, Ms. Cassidy hired Attorney Jennifer Ani based out of San Rafael, California. At the time that she was hired, by all accounts, Attorney Ani, even though she would later deny it, was completely on board with disputing Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter’s custody evaluation and fighting to assist Roisin Cassidy in holding onto custody of her two boys.
In fact, in a letter to the opposing attorney, Christiana Samuels dated December 6, 2015, Attorney Ani affirmed Ms. Cassidy’s right to fight for custody stating, “My client has a right to contest the recommendations, she has a right to a trial and a due process right to have that trial take an appropriate length of time.” Within weeks of trial Attorney Ani was affirming her client Raisin Cassidy’s right to fight for custody, stating in an email to Roisin dated January 23, 2016, “But this [i.e. going to trial] is worth it. If I can do this [get the expert witness testimony and reports], I do think that we have a good chance to defeat the move-away.”
Even as close as ten days before trial, Attorney Ani was claiming that she intended to fight for Roisin Cassidy to maintain custody of her children. Further, at that time, Ms. Cassidy paid Attorney Ani $20,000 in attorney’s fees for her services based upon her assertion that she was fighting for custody.
Further, in the months leading up to trial, based upon Attorney Ani’s claim that she would strenuously oppose Dr. Perlmutter’s recommendation of a change in custody, Roisin Cassidy went to see three experts that Attorney Ani recommended. Also, based upon Attorney Ani’s assertions, Ms. Cassidy anticipated that these experts would provide expert reports and testimony to dispute Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter’s evaluation. These experts were as follows: Dr. Thomas A. Gonda, M.D., Dr. Robert Kaufman, Ph.D., and Beth Miller, M.A.. In preparation, during the months of November 2015 and December 2015, Roisin Cassidy met with these mental health professionals and paid them for the evaluations with the understanding that they were eventually going to be testifying in court regarding their work with her.
As the day of trial approached, however, Roisin Cassidy began to notice warnings signs. For instance, Ms. Cassidy and Attorney Jennifer Ani were supposed to meet on the weekend of January 30-31 to discuss preparations for trial which was scheduled for February 10, 2016, but Attorney Ani cancelled those arrangements and told her she had to fly to another state for an important criminal trial. Whenever Roisin Cassidy asked Attorney Ani to review some of her questions for trial or share the contents of expert witnesses’ reports, the attorney was unwilling to do so. In essence, right from the start, Attorney Ani evaded and avoided any meetings with Roisin Cassidy necessary to prepare for trial, and didn’t bother to do any preparation on her own.
Still, nothing prepared Roisin Cassidy for the shock and surprise she experienced, when, within days of the trial, Attorney Ani submitted to the court a motion to withdraw from the case, essentially abandoning her client.
So how did this outrageous situation unfold?
The trial in this matter, as I have stated, was set for February 10, 2016. Essentially, what happened is that on or around February 3-5, 2016, Attorney Jennifer Ani dropped all pretense of attempting to fight for custody and pretty much told Roisin to agree to put her oldest son on a plane to Washington state where her ex husband, Steve Tyrell, lived by the end of the week, and also agree to do the same with her youngest son once school was over. If Roisin Cassidy did not agree to this immediately, Attorney Ani stated she would no longer represent Ms. Cassidy. What made this plan particularly egregious was the fact that both of the children have medical issues, so any change in their living situation required proper advanced preparations. This was an issue that clearly the father and the attorneys involved couldn’t care less about.
Of course, Roisin Cassidy did not want to agree to this; she had just spent the last three months preparing for and paying for a defense of her role as residential parent to her children. It was a bit sudden for her to be doing an about face.
Once Attorney Jennifer Ani realized that Roisin was not going to cooperate in wrecking her own case, Attorney Ani then violated her professional ethics as an attorney by misrepresenting the facts of the case.
Thus, in emails to Roisin Cassidy and in documents submitted to the Court, Attorney Ani lied directly, and blamed her decision to withdraw on Ms. Cassidy, falsely stating that Roisin did not intend to pay the fees required for expert witnesses to appear in court and provide their testimony.
Along this line, on February 6, 2016, Attorney Jennifer Ani wrote a letter to Ms. Roisin Cassidy stating, “You are aware that each expert requires to be paid in advance of trial. You are also aware that fees remain outstanding.” Further, in an email dated February 8, 2016, Attorney Ani stated, “This email confirms that you have not paid Dr. Kaufman’s bill, Beth Miller’s bill, and Dr. Gonda’s bill .”
In fact, Roisin Cassidy had already paid Attorney Ani $3,400 for Dr. Kaufman’s appearance in court. She had also paid Attorney Jennifer Ani $5,000 to assure Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter’s appearance in court.
However, before paying any further fees and throwing good money after bad, in an email to Attorney Ani on February 6, 2016, Roisin stated that she was only willing to pay the remaining expert witness fees if Attorney Ani agreed to advocate diligently on her behalf using those witnesses. Would Attorney Ani agree to do so, she asked. Otherwise, what would be the point? Attorney Ani did not respond to that question.
In her motion to withdraw dated February 10, 2016, Attorney Ani stated in her declaration, under Item #3, pretty much that Roisin Cassidy is responsible for paying all expert witness fees, and essentially implied to the Court that Ms. Cassidy had not done so. Indeed, Roisin Cassidy had paid for the majority of the expert witness fees and was prepared to pay them in full, if Attorney Ani would agree to use those witnesses to full advantage. What Attorney Ani had done was make it clear she had no intention of doing so.
All of this is damning in terms of Attorney Jennifer Ani’s behavior. Not only did she abandon her client just before trial, Attorney Ani then sought to place the blame for her actions on her client in an attempt to destroy Ms. Cassidy’s reputation and undercut her custody case. Such actions are a complete violation of Attorney Jennifer Ani’s attorney ethics.
The actual responsibility for the collapse of Roisin Cassidy’s case lay directly on Attorney Jennifer Ani’s shoulders and had nothing to do with Roisin. This following explains why.
According to San Mateo, CA local rules for a long cause trial (which is what had been scheduled), if you intend to have expert witnesses appear in court, and if those witnesses intend to provide reports to be submitted to court as evidence, your attorney must submit a brief including the names of the witnesses and their reports must be provided to the opposing attorney five days before the trial date in order that the opposing side can exercise its due process right to prepare a response. The same goes for any exhibits that your side is intending to present to the Court. All these need to be provided in advance in that brief.
Since Attorney Ani failed to provide the required advanced notice in regard to her expert witnesses, their reports, and any exhibits she intended to submit to the Court in advance, the judge excluded all of them from trial. This was fatal to the case well before anyone stepped foot in the courtroom. Attorney Ani is the trained legal professional; she is the one who has been educated in court rules, not Roisin, and so to blame her client for her own failures makes no sense.
Still, Attorney Jennifer Ani did have Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter available for trial since the other side had called him in as a witness as well.
In fact, she had stated very specifically that her primary strategy was to demonstrate that Dr. Perlmutter’s report was inaccurate. If Attorney Ani had conducted a skilled cross examination exposing the factual errors and exploring the numerous contradictions of Perlmutter’s report, she could have succeeded easily. So how could she possibly claim that not having additional expert witnesses would render it impossible for her to proceed with the case?
All Attorney Ani really had to do was present to the court all the exhibits Roisin Cassidy had provided to her indicating that Dr. Perlmutter’s report was riddled with mistakes. Attorney Ani herself was the one who chose not to do so. She was the one who simply ignored the San Mateo local rule requiring her to alert the opposing side of these exhibits so Roisin was unable to use them.
What is even more disgraceful in Attorney Jennifer Ani’s behavior in this case is not only did she lie about Roisin Cassidy’s willingness to pay for her witnesses, she also attempted to slander Ms. Cassidy’s reputation further by stating in her motion to withdraw that Ms. Cassidy was pursuing her case “without probable cause and for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring [a] person.”
This is absolutely and categorically untrue, and all the emails and correspondence conducted in this case back that assertion. Raisin Cassidy pursued her case specifically because Attorney Jennifer Ani told her it was winnable and for no other reason.
Attorney ethics require that when an attorney withdraws from a case he or she does so in a manner that causes the least possible damage to her client. Attorney Ani, in slandering her client twice, specifically violated that directive.
As it turned out, when Attorney Ani’s motion to withdraw came before the court, these falsehoods were so transparent that Judge Franchi, who heard the motion, refused to grant it. Still, even though Attorney Ani wasn’t allowed to leave, Roisin Cassidy herself asked that Attorney Ani be removed from the case after watching the attorney make a complete mess of her defense at trial. That’s how badly Attorney Ani bungled the case while in court.
The question I was left with in the end was, did the Roisin Cassidy case represent a setup in which Attorney Jennifer Ani was complicit. I believe this is possible.
First of all, how else can you understand a major custody trial which was scheduled to last only three hours. When Roisin attempted to have this time frame expanded, her request was repeatedly denied. How is it possible to believe that any court would schedule a custody trial for three hours, knowing it has a lengthy history and required a 45 page custody report? Further, in a motion presented to the court on December 10, 2015, Attorney Ani had made it clear that she required at least 2 1/2 days to present her case.
Further, how else can you understand a situation where you have a major custody trial and the attorney for the defendant has simply failed to exchange lists of exhibits or the names of expert witnesses in advance which is required according to court rules.
Finally, how else are you going to understand a situation where the attorney representing the mother in the case suddenly, practically the day before trial, files a motion to withdraw based upon purely fabricated reasons, and then engages in a hateful rant against her former client as a means to break her spirit!
In the end, Roisin Cassidy paid at least $50,000 in legal fees to defend her right to parent, all of which led to nothing. Why? Because Attorney Jennifer Ani simply abandoned her client, lied about her client, and then attempted to withdraw from the case while inflicting the maximum damage possible, all in violation of her professional ethics. As Roisin said to me, “How could this happen?” We’d also like to know the answer to that question as well.
TO SUPPORT ROISIN CASSIDY IN HER BATTLE ON BEHALF OF HER CHILDREN, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AT THE LINK BELOW:
Catharine Sloper at 12:24 AM