Judge Holds Mother in Contempt; Refuses to Hold Scheduled Custody Hearing
Daytona Beach – A mother who has been separated from her children for
more than three years was denied a hearing today to reunite with them and
instead was held in contempt by a Volusia County judge.
Linda Marie Sacks, an Ormond Beach mother, arrived this morning at the
City Island Courthouse in Daytona Beach for a scheduled hearing (Case
2004-30312 FMCI) asking for unsupervised visitations and total contact
with her daughters, ages 13 and 15. But Volusia County Family Court
Judge Shawn L. Briese declined to hold the hearing, which had been on
the trial court schedule for six months, and demanded instead that
Sacks submit to a deposition by the opposing counsel during the
scheduled hearing time.
Sacks filed for divorce in 2004 after her daughters began acting out
sexually. The eldest daughter, at age 8, drew a picture of the father
as an erect penis during a therapy session and made an outcry during
Sunday School that she had performed a sex act on her father. Sacks
has spent six years in the family court trying unsuccessfully to
protect her daughters.
Justice for Children, a Houston-based national child advocacy
organization, has written a letter to Volusia County law enforcement
authorities, including Department of Children and Family Administrator
Reggie Williams, expressing concern that the allegations of sexual and
physical abuse of Sacks’ daughters was never properly investigated.
In April 2007 Judge Briese (Case 2004-30312-FMCI) ruled that the child
lied, gave the father sole physical custody of the daughters and
placed the mother on supervised visitation. In the last three years,
Sacks has had only 63 hours with her daughters at the The Family Tree
House Visitation Center in Daytona Beach.
In 2008 the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals in Daytona Beach
reversed that decision,(Case 5D07-1682) and ruled that Judge Briese
had abused his trial court discretion, violated the mother’s due
process rights and ordered the custody case be retried in the lower
court. Despite the appeals court ruling and numerous motions to have
him removed from the case, Judge Briese has continued to deny Sacks
full-contact with her children.
Instead, just a few months after the Fifth District Court of Appeals
ruling, Judge Briese quickly set another custody hearing, denied to
admit any of the mother’s evidence or witnesses and again ruled that
Sacks be allowed only supervised visits with her daughters.
Sacks, this time as a pro se litigant, has again filed an appeal with
the Fifth District Court (Case 5D09-3752). Recently, the appeals
court denied the father’s attorney’s motion to strike the mother’s
appeal brief. Within days the father’s attorneys, James L. Rose and
Leonard R. Ross of Daytona Beach, filed a subpoena in the lower court
demanding Sacks appear for a lengthy deposition and filed a motion to
end the mother’s two-hour a month supervised visit with her children.
Florida Rules of Civil Procedures Rule 1.310 (d) dictates that a deposition
being used to harass a party can be terminated. Rule 1.290 (2) also states that
a party cannot be forced into a deposition 20 days before a hearing.
Sacks was found to be in contempt of court after she refused to take
part in the deposition and only asked that she be able to have her hearing time.
During the hearing today, Judge Briese at first agreed with the
mother’s filed objection to the deposition saying the Ross has had
years to take the deposition. But when the Ross complained that the
mother is speaking to national organizations about the case, Judge
Briese changed his mind and demanded Sacks submit to the deposition.
Judge Briese said today that the mother will not be heard about being
reunited with her children until she does submit. The hearing to see
her children was scheduled for three days.
The mother will be back at the courthouse at 1:00 P.M. in hopes that hearing will be allowed to begin, but has already been told by the trial court judge, if you don’t allow the deposition, you will not get your scheduled hearing time.
Today Sacks filed an emergency motion to request a hearing before the
Seventh Judicial Circuit Chief Judge J. David Walsh to ask that Judge
Briese be disqualified from the case but was denied by Judge Briese.
Read more about Sacks’ battle to protect her children in the January