Monday, June 26, 2006

Role of Attorney, GAL and Evaluator in First Mack Custody Case Must be Investigated

Many, many, many unanswered questions remain about this first custody case of Darren Mack; which in my opinion set the stage for him to act out in the second one. The biggest one beginning how did this guy manage to get custody the first time???? Who gave this guy an evaluation? Who was the childrens’ assigned GAL. Who was the childrens’ mother’s first attorney? Who was the Judge who ruled in the first custody case and what did he base his decision on?

In essence how did this dangerous freak of nature Darren Mack convince so many professionals that he should be the custodial parent of two innocent kids?

This attorney Dahlia Lithwick needs to have her role in this first case investigated as well. As we need to know what role did she play in selecting the GAL or the Evaluator?

Since the bottom line is that this man did not flip out overnight, he’s been sick for a long, long, long, long, long time. He killed one person (that we know of, let’s me clear about that). He tried to kill a Judge and now we hear there was material to make bombs found in his house????

In spite of the spin of this story, it was not the Judge or the system or biased against poor fathers that caused this man to flip out. He’s been ill for a long time and yet none of the professionals in his first custody case caught onto any of this?

It’s pretty odd actually.

We might need to check into other cases that this attorney and Evaluator worked on together and ensure that there aren’t other nuts out there with custody of kids.

Additionally in my opinion, the children are not safe with any member of Mack’s family as they clearly enabled this guy for many years in his delusions, still covering up for him even AFTER this happened and continuing to try to blame the Judge for this. The children should be immediately turned over to their mother or her side of the family. Contact should even be supervised with Mack’s family, as I wouldn’t put it pass one of them to pull some delusional final act of spite against these kids in an attempt to destroy Mack’s first wife and/or members of the family of Mack’s second wife.

Anything is possible.

This is taking on all the earmarks of the Jerica Rhodes case. Hopefully however we are going to have some more answers at the end of it, then we did at the end of that one. Where to this day we STILL do not know the how or the why of Christopher Rhodes getting custody of that poor kid to begin with…

So we’ll see where this one ends up.


The Fall of The Father Of the Year
By Dahlia Lithwick

Sunday, June 18, 2006; Page B02

This past Monday, a wealthy pawnshop owner in Reno, Nev., allegedly stabbed his estranged wife to death. He is also the prime suspect in the shooting that day of the family court judge overseeing their divorce. Judge Chuck Weller survived. The wife, Charla Mack, was found " lying face down in a large puddle of blood in the garage." The alleged killer is the target of a national manhunt. The couple's 7-year-old daughter is safe with family,as are the two children from the suspect's previous marriage. The alleged perpetrator was, it is believed, upset over an interim settlement in his divorce litigation.

This is the kind of story for which the CNN news crawl was invented. It's also the kind of story I'd normally cover as a legal journalist. It offers almost too many angles: the custody angle, the violence-against-judges angle; the salacious- swingers -lifestyle angle.

But the man the police are looking for is Darren Mack. And he is my former client.

I billed hundreds of hours on the Mack case many years ago, when I was clerking for a small family law firm in Reno and he was fighting his first wife for custody of their children. Darren and Charla logged countless hours with us at our conference table, drafting pleadings and preparing for depositions; after court hearings, we would unwind at some nice casino restaurant. Darren was somehow always at the other side of my desk, or on the other end of the phone line, urging me to think about why his kids needed him, and why he alone was their ally. The firm was not involved in this second divorce and custody fight.

You may think this random connection would give me some insight, some ability to say, "He seemed like the nicest guy," or "I suspected something like this would happen." But neither statement is true.

(Sure, but what about the court ordered Evaluation???? Shouldn’t that have given someone some insight into this nut) I mean what’s the good of them if any freak can pass with flying colors. Why not just let the Judge use a Ouija board instead??? It can just spell out the name of the parent who should be awarded custody. It’s cheaper too.) I wish I could say this gives me a new window into the perils of family court, or the special laws of physics that apply to a disintegrating family. But all I can say is that someone allegedly snapped, and I happen to have known him a little.

The instant media diagnosis is that the judge in this case had antagonized not only Darren Mack but loads of other parents and that he somehow had it coming to him.

(Of course she doesn’t believe this she claims, but then why the heck bring it up?) But the judge doesn't have to be an ogre to make someone suffer in family court. I don't know what drives a person to snap, but I do know this about family law: If you strongly self-identify as a parent, and Darren Mack did, then it can be uniquely brutalizing.

(On my heart breaks for this guy, he strongly self-identified as a parent that’s why he did this. Talk about making excuses for a murderer…)

Mack prided himself on being a great father, one of those guys who never missed a T-ball game. For a while in 1998, there was a billboard in Reno that announced: "The Mack Family Presents: Darren Mack. 1998 Father/Husband of the Year. A unanimous decision by his wife, Charla, and his three wonderful children." In hindsight that isn't just tragic. It's almost a warning.

I'm not attempting to justify Darren Mack.

(Like heck you’re not.)

I have no idea what he has done or why. Nor is this an effort to eulogize Charla. I can't quite believe she is dead.

But I suspect that men whose public lives are defined by fatherhood are going to be disappointed by the court system, though they don't always see it that way. They put themselves in the hands of the system to rescue this part of their identity.

(Of course, not a word about the two mothers those lives she helped Darren Mack destroy.)

Their marriage is over but they're still sure they can be Father of the Year.

(Right just what this country needs. More Fathers of the Year like this nut Darren Mack. This woman is unbelievable.)

In fact, they'll be better than that. They'll save the kids from the pain of the breakup with their love.

But the system is crafted to make you share that parenting trophy -- sometimes while still carrying the full financial load. And suddenly, without warning, you're Father of the Alternating Weekend.

The lawyers I worked for did everything in their power to help clients maintain perspective and foster sanity. But if you are the sort of person who desperately wants to use the courts to crush your opponent, you don't always hear that.
Divorce courts tend to leave that desire to crush unresolved. Family court judges have no interest in crushing anyone, so there are few epic victories in family court. The judges and the lawyers and the court-appointed special advocates and the forensic accountants and the therapists all work hard

(Sure they do…so how do you explain how this freak slipped through their professional cordon and managed to get custody of those kids in the first divorce?)to more or less split the baby.

And in the best cases, the parents are wildly frustrated but the kids are stable.

Maybe a system that looks adversarial isn't the best way to foster that compromise. Courts create the illusion that at the end of the day there will be a winner. Yet, in my limited experience, no one has ever "won" their divorce.

If I hadn't known Darren Mack, I'd be rounding toward a tidy conclusion about the increasing lethality of the attacks on the judiciary. But because I did know him, I am left with dozens of much harder questions: What did we miss, if indeed he did what he is suspected of doing? Were we such bad readers of human nature, or was he a perfectly normal client who just snapped? Is there some metric by which one can determine which of the thousands of people you think you know will snap?

Maybe someone like Darren Mack -- who spent much of the past decade in the family court system -- had no business being there. The more you want it and are willing to suffer for it, the greater the chance you'll be disappointed. Or maybe, and this is the worst possibility, while we thought we were helping our clients stabilize their fraught situations, we were somehow becoming their sherpas to madness.

(You mean maybe you are aiding and abetting these freaks??? Well let’s have a full investigation so we can find out how an Evaluator and a GAL BOTH missed what should have been obvious and helped give custody to a serious nut case).

Dahlia Lithwick covers legal affairs for Slate, the online magazine at


silverside said...

Our Fathers Rights thugs right here in New York State are getting into the waterfront enforcer act too. Namely that fun-lovin' daddy, Randy Dickinson, from Fathers and Families. Seems Mr. Dickinson has been sending emails about the Mack affair to various legislators with vague threats of violence. Sheldon Silver's staff actually contacted the cops. But they just wanna spend time with the kids, right? WRONG. See the Albany Times Union for more info (can't seem to paste here).

NYMOM said...

The whole damn bunch of these father rightsters are a pack of nuts. They helped make Mack possible and Christopher Rhodes and dozens of others just like them.

The sad part about the whole Mack situation is that freak passed an evaluation years earlier and managed to get custody of two other kids.


I mean what the heck do those evaluations measure if a nut like Mack can pass one????

Anonymous said...

To read this is daunting and although my case is not decided yet, I am dealing with a similar 'nut' from the same tree it seems like and I am made to be the crazy one because I am spitting nails trying to get someone to listen. The court systems fail miserably in the sense that they are stuck to the thought that 'a child needs a father and a mother'. There is tragedy in that statement beyond physical abuse because mental, emotional and verbal abuse is less obvious and the effects are far reaching and everlasting. We still have to fight the fight or else what kind of parent would we be? We need to make better choices from day 1, bottom line. We owe it to our children