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Saturday, July 4, 2015


On November 3, 2014, "Jane Doe" filed a complaint against veteran custody evaluator Dr. Donald Hiebel accusing him of engaging in a sexual relationship with her when she came to him for counseling in regard to custody of her minor child.  This behavior apparently included his use of illicit drugs.  

Should Dr. Donald Hiebel's behavior in a previous case in 2009 in regard to Elizabeth A. Richter have raised sufficient alarms with the Department of Public Health to indicate that Dr. Hiebel was unraveling and in need of intervention?  

Had the Department of Public Health taken Elizabeth Richter's complaints of 2009 seriously and done something about them, is it possible that the "Doe" case might never have happened?  

This case regarding "Jane Doe" and the one in regard to Elizabeth A. Richter raises important concerns regarding whether the Department of Public Health is doing an adequate job of policing mental health professionals and protecting Connecticut citizens as it is mandated to do.  

So what happened in the Richter case?  According to Elizabeth Richter, her divorce was settled in April 2008 and granted her residential custody of the parties three children.  However, since conflict between Ms. Richter and her ex-husband continued on after the dissolution of the marriage, on January 5, 2009 the parties hired Dr. Donald Hiebel as a conflict manager.  According to their agreement, Dr. Hiebel was not supposed to conduct psychotherapy or couple's counseling, he was supposed to assist the parents in resolving conflicts related to the children in order to prevent them from ending up in court.  

Eight months later, on August 8, 2009, Elizabeth Richter filed a complaint regarding Dr. Hiebel's behavior.   

As it turned out, instead of acting as a conflict manager in accordance with the parties' January 5, 2009 Stipulation, Dr. Donald Hiebel tried to expand his role and change his professional involvement into long term psychotherapy and couple's counseling.  In doing this, Dr. Hiebel had no problem disregarding a Stipulation he had participated in creating and as well as violating many well established ethics of his profession.   

As Elizabeth Richter explained in her complaint, the January 5, 2009 Stipulation was established to strictly limit Dr. Hiebel's involvement.  

This was not done because Elizabeth and Alex didn't want help with their problems, but simply because Dr. Hiebel's fees are not covered by insurance since his services are considered to be forensic, and neither could afford extensive therapy fees.  

According to Provision No. 1 of the Stipulation, Elizabeth and her ex, Alexander, were to contact each other up to three times in an effort to resolve any disputed issues regarding the care, custody of, or access to the children.  

According to Provision No. 2 of the stipulation, if Alexander and Elizabeth were unable to resolve a conflict after three contacts, they were then to meet once with Dr. Donald Hiebel before going to Court.  

In order to introduce themselves to Dr. Hiebel, each of the parties under Provision No. 7 were supposed to meet with Dr. Hiebel one time only.  

On March 2, 2009, Elizabeth sent a letter to Dr. Donald Hiebel confirming the provisions of the Stipulation.  Elizabeth further stated, "As Family Conflict Advisor, you will not be providing therapy or meeting ongoing with Alex or Elizabeth."  

Dr. Donald Hiebel did not respond to this letter.  

Time went by, and then on April 16, 2009 Dr. Donald Hiebel sent an email to Elizabeth indicating that he would like to meet with Elizabeth and her ex.  However, as Elizabeth stated in a response email, her ex, Alexander Richter, had not contacted her at all regarding any conflicts that he had with her regarding parenting.  Unless there was a parenting conflict outstanding, there was no reason to meet.  

For several months afterwards, Dr. Hiebel continued to pressure Elizabeth to meet with him and her ex even though there was no basis for such a meeting.  

When Elizabeth requested an agenda for the subjects that would be discussed during the meeting. Dr. Donald Hiebel refused to provide one. Dr. Donald Hiebel's refusal to provide an agenda or obey the Stipulation he participated in crafting represented a direct violation of Elizabeth Richter's right to informed consent.   

In addition, during this time, Ms. Richter left several messages on Dr. Hiebel's answering machine and also emailed him several times, but he never responded.  

As Elizabeth Richter described it, "Dr. Hiebel routinely ignored my emails, my letters, and my voice mails.  At a certain point, he brought in Attorney Jeff Mickelson, the Guardian Ad litem, as a means to intimidate and fright me.  He showed a general indifference and disinterest in following the Stipulation we had created.  This made me feel ignored, disrespected, manipulated and abandoned."  

Not only that, Elizabeth Richter had every reason to believe that Dr. Hiebel's refusal to adhere to the parties'  Stipulation could lead her to lose custody of her children.  As she stated in her complaint, "I am constantly afraid that the situation with Dr. Hiebel will be used against me and that I may lose custody of my children as a result.  So I am living in constant fear because of Dr.  Donald Hiebel's actions."  

As it turned out, Elizabeth A. Richter's decision to file a complaint against Dr. Hiebel with the Department of Public Health was a good one for her because it led him to resign from their case.  

On the other hand, when it comes to protecting the safety and well being of other litigants, the results were not good.  Well over a year after she filed her complaint, Ms. Richter received a letter from the Department of Public Health dated December 30, 2010 stating "After a thorough investigation of the petition the Department has concluded that no violations of the statutes governing psychology practice have been identified.  Therefore, the case has been closed."  

It was only several years later in February 2015, through a Freedom of Information Request, that Elizabeth Richter was able to obtain internal documents from the Department of Public Health indicating that the Department had by no means exonerated Dr. Donald Hiebel.  On the contrary, investigators expressed serious concerns in 2009-2010 regarding Dr. Donald Hiebel's behavior in the Richter case. 

The fact that they were not acted upon raises serious issues about the Department's responsibility when a mental health professional's behavior becomes increasingly unethical to the point where it could affect all aspects of the care he provides.  In regard to Dr. Donald Hiebel, we are now aware that his early instability eventually led to allegations that he sexually exploited other patients in his case.  

Did Dr. Donald Hiebel come to believe that he was invulnerable to accountability when the Department of Public Health chose to ignore a well documented complaint that was lodged against him previously?

(To be continued in Part II)


Bharani Padmanabhan of The Valley Patriot reports as follows:
"Valley Patriot readers may be familiar with the 17 month long ordeal suffered by young Justina Pelletier at the hands of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the huge effort it took from 100,000 ordinary people from across this great land who came together to finally rescue her and return her to the loving arms of her parents and sisters. The VP was present when Justina finally returned home almost exactly one year ago on June 18th, 2014. 
Today Justina’s father Lou and elder sister Jennifer returned to Massachusetts to testify at a public hearing at the State House in support of House Bill 1469 – An Act called Justina’s Law – filed by Marc Lombardo, Representative (R) for Billerica and supported by James Lyons, Representative (R) for Andover.  Besides the members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, in attendance were also Senator Linda Dean Campbell (D) of Methuen and Keiko Orall, Representative (R) for Lakeville. 
Lou and Jennifer were accompanied by Attorney Philip Moran who ended up representing the family in court last year after Judge Joseph Johnston refused to allow the parents to be represented by the lawyer they chose – Dean Staver from Liberty Counsel..."

Read More:

Friday, July 3, 2015


Judge Alex Kozinski, one of America's most prominent jurists, has a new article out that attacks many assumptions about criminal justice in the US.
"Much of the so-called wisdom that has been handed down to us about the workings of the legal system, and the criminal process in particular, has been undermined by experience, legal scholarship and common sense," Kozinski writes in the Georgetown Law Journal
In his article, Kozinski calls much of the law "guesswork" and points out 12 widely held but largely false beliefs about criminal prosecution in America.

Read more:

Monday, June 29, 2015


 of The Huffington Post reports as follows: 
The crisis of child trafficking and exploitation in the U.S. is finally capturing our attention. But a critical part of the story has not been told. Most of the children who are being bought and sold for sex in our nation are foster care children. In the states that are tracking these children the following, devastating numbers reveal that:
• In 2013, 60 percent of the child sex trafficking victims recovered as part of a FBI nationwide raid from over 70 cities were children from foster care or group homes.
• In 2012, Connecticut reported 88 child victims of sex trafficking. Eighty-six were child welfare involved, and most reported abuse while in foster care or residential placement.
• In 2012, Los Angeles County, California reported that of the 72 commercially sexually exploited girls in their Succeed Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court Program, 56 were child-welfare involved.
• In 2007, New York City identified 2,250 child victims of trafficking. Seventy-five percent of those experienced some contact with the child welfare system, mostly in the context of abuse and neglect proceedings.
Read More:


Michelle Tuccitto Sullo of The CT Law Tribune reports as follows:

Months after the Newtown tragedy, State Police released a lot of information on their investigation into the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and gunman Adam Lanza, but they didn't release everything, and a court battle between authorities and the media over unreleased documents has ensued.

The Hartford Courant has requested documents which are referenced in the State Police report on the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings, but which haven't been made public. Lanza, 20, killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home, then fatally shot 20 children and six adults inside the school before committing suicide.

Read more:


Sunday, June 28, 2015


Supporters of the Prouty Garden: 

We are fortunate to have, at this late hour, the opportunity to work with a well-established, successful environmental law firm that is enthusiastic and hopeful about saving our beloved Garden.  We have to act fast, which is why we are asking for your urgent support NOW to make this happen.  

We are a concerned group of patients, families, staff, and community members, and are ever so grateful for the way that the community has come together in support of our common goal to Save the Prouty. If you are already aware of the Prouty's plight, please kindly donate whatever you can today to help us meet our goal.  If not, please read below and visit our website www.saveprouty.orgfor more information.  And spread the word! Thank you.

The link to the "Go Fund" Me site is below: