Misery Mongers Inc.

Letters published May 10, 2006

The courts are full of fellow travelers: As the former director of Fathers & Mothers for Equal Rights, I can attest to the fact that your story on the Stafford brothers ["Monsters of Misery Court," April 26] was just the tip of the iceberg.

The family-court system is a legal brothel in Cuyahoga County, and the Stafford brothers are merely cashing in on the system's refusal to correct itself. The reason is simple -- billable hours.

Think about all the people you mentioned in the opening paragraphs of your stories. With so many lawyers, magistrates, and judges who have witnessed their behavior, don't you think that one person would have hardcore evidence that would leave the Staffords pushing fries instead of filings? The system doesn't want to stop them, because it would have to take down many others in the network who condone their behavior.

Be honest -- this goes much deeper than you are reporting. How corrupt is the system?

Reading this story nauseates me and brings back sad memories of how good people were ruined for life.

Dave Grier

Gotta get the right one for the job: "Monsters of Misery Court" by Joe Tone is yet another example of good journalism by Scene. More than anything, this piece illustrates how pathetic divorce courts can be in keeping order.

A quote in the article reminded me of a situation I saw a number of years ago, albeit in a different state. Lawyer Mike O'Shea said of divorce attorney Joe Stafford, "He's too much of a wimp to stick his head in a criminal courtroom and get his ass kicked three ways to Wednesday. Cross-examining housewives is the easiest thing in the world. How hard is it to make a housewife cry?"

Here's the gist of my story: A husband ran out on his wife and kids. After a very contentious divorce, things were settled, with her getting custody and child support. But the mother didn't receive her monthly checks, and her ex also ran off with their youngest kid to the other end of the state. The woman went to the county sheriff and showed him the settlement agreement. He shrugged it off as a civil matter. She went to the courts for enforcement and got nothing but more seemingly unenforceable court papers. She changed divorce lawyers several times, but nothing changed except her legal bill, which grew ever larger as time went on.

Finally, when she was at wit's end, someone told her she had the wrong kind of lawyer. She didn't need a divorce specialist -- her situation called for a criminal lawyer. So she got one. The next thing you know, the kid was returned home, the past-due child support was coughed up, and the monthly check flowed regularly thereafter.

In this case, it was probably the husband who was the monster of the divorce court and not his attorney. But either way, the lesson is clear. There are always ways to tame the monsters in the system. Lawyer Mike O'Shea understands this. And so does Scene, which trod where many lawyers seemingly fear to go. Good job.

Peter Skurkiss

Reality Check
Pension expert supports union claims:
Norman Edwards' claim [Letters, April 26] that the Bricklayers' federal-court judgment was settled is inaccurate. The Bricklayers' pension-fund lawsuit was paid in part through Eslich Construction Company. I believe it was approximately $5,000. It was far short of what was owed by N.K. Edwards Construction Company.

The assertion that I do not understand that a judgment against a company cannot be satisfied from the assets of a shareholder is false. I did not believe then, nor do I believe now, that there is any distinction between Mr. Edwards and his corporation. Mr. Edwards was ordered by the U.S. District Court to appear with his records for a debtor's exam. He told me that all his books and records were taken by a landlord. The landlord gave me an affidavit, telling me that he did not take any books or records. He told me that Mr. Edwards and his company left that location in disarray.

I have a continuing interest in seeing that N.K. Edwards Construction Company and, as appropriate, Mr. Edwards pay the Bricklayers the pension funds that should have been paid on behalf of his union employees in the first place.

As an aside, I am not a union lawyer. I represented the pension funds. I have typically represented companies on labor and employment cases for over 19 years.

Michael P. Harvey
Rocky River

Take a Flyer, Maybe
Film kinda rates the benefit of the doubt:
I think that Melissa Levine's opinion of Lonesome Jim ["Misery Train," April 19] may be a good one. If this movie is anything like "Mystery Train," with its bleak encounters of characters and morbid humor, then maybe this film will be worth watching. Besides, Steve Buscemi is a very talented person, and I really don't think that he would put out much that's bad.

Everett Cook

Sorting Out the I-X
There were lots of piles on the floor:
I commend you on "The Sweetest Deal" [April 5]. I don't know how you were able to cope with all the B.S. that went on and keep it in sequence!

Does the corruption ever end? I don't think so. Being elected to public office is like being given permission to fish in the taxpayers' cookie jar and cross palms with trade-offs.

Sofie Horvath

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.
Scroll to read more Letters articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.