Nickola Cunha is a divorce lawyer. Allegedly, she made antisemitic claims about Judge Gerard I. Adelman. This led to her disbarment. She said Judge Adelman favors Jewish lawyers and Jewish therapists. He is Jewish.
This series will examine Cunha’s alleged anti-Semitic statements. We will also examine whether Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher overlooked another important issue: Whether Judge Adelman is fit to be a judge.
Cunha was seeking disqualification of Judge Adelman in a divorce and custody case. The case is Christopher Ambrose v. Karen Riordan.
Cunha appeared on December 1, 2021 before Judge Moukawsher to argue the matter.
One month after she appeared, Judge Moukawsher disbarred Cunha for five years. Cunha is appealing the disbarment.
Judge Moukawsher said his main reason for disbarment was that Cunha made “antisemitic declarations.”
Before disbarring her, Moukawsher called Cunha back to Court. She chose not to back down. She called Moukawsher’s conclusions of anti-Semitism “clearly erroneous.”
She said, “I find these proceedings to be intentionally harassing and intimidating. And an attempt… to shut me down for the corruption I have raised before his Court… I will not be intimidated…. You have engaged in material misrepresentation. You have lied to the public.”
In his written decision to disbar her, Moukawsher said, “Ms. Cunha’s lies about a Jewish conspiracy are particularly reprehensible…. Her actions have been grave. They have been intentional. Her motives have been corrupt. They have been to cloud the truth.”
The Ambrose divorce case involved a couple with three children. The husband, Chris Ambrose, admitted he took the marital assets and stole his wife’s inheritance. However, Judge Adelman ruled he got custody of the children and could keep all the money.
He also ruled that enormous fees for lawyers must be paid by the husband – using his wife’s money.
Now, let us look at the hearing:
When: December 1.
Where: The Superior Court of Connecticut in the Judicial District of Middlesex. Judge Moukawsher presiding.
Attorney Nickola Cunha tried to show Judge Moukwasher why Judge Adelman is biased.
Here is some of the transcript, edited for clarity.
Cunha: I bring the Court’s attention to our first day of trial … March 31, 2021…. an order was issued by Judge Adelman based on Attorney [Nancy] Aldrich’s motion… seeking to have the defendant deposed. [Aldrich] represented to the Court that the [defendant] failed to comply with Attorney Aldrich’s subpoena… We start our trial with an argument before Judge Adelman…. That first day… sets the stage for the significant bias that Judge Adelman holds against women, against individuals with disability… Judge Adelman also has a bias against anyone not of the Jewish faith.
THE COURT: You’re saying it’s women, the disabled, and then you added anyone who is not Jewish.
ATTY. CUNHA: I start with March 31.… We arrived in Court… I filed a motion for sanctions and to have Attorney Aldrich disqualified… based on the material misrepresentations that [she] made to… Judge Adelman, in her request for relief…
THE COURT: Was that argued… on March 31?
ATTY. CUNHA: To date, Judge Adelman has not acted on it.
THE COURT: Your arguments about disqualifying Attorney Aldrich; is that the point?
ATTY. CUNHA: what’s important… is the trial starts off with a complete attack of my client, with the notion that my client had failed to comply with discovery. But… my client is the only one in this case who requested standard discovery and filed a motion regarding the same… which I could not get the Court to act on.
THE COURT: Did [Judge Adelman] say something that you want me to make a note of, or is it just that he didn’t give you the relief you wanted, even though you feel he should have?…
ATTY. CUNHA: If I was disappointed with the relief, I would deal with the Appellate Court… Judge Adelman… failed to allow my client any due process and violated her right to access the court….
THE COURT: And what did he specifically do?…
ATTY. CUNHA: I filed that motion to seek clarification… and to alert the judge that we have this application for a restraining order… which is….[a] statutory priority…
Judge Adelman refused to hear… it and did not allow me to proceed with the underlying claims… in the application for a restraining order…. That is a blatant violation of my client’s due process rights [and] our domestic violence laws. Judge Adelman took the law into his own hands. And refused my client the… protections under our statutes granted upon domestic violence victims. And he has a clear pattern of doing this.
THE COURT: And Judge Adelman ruled against you about that. Now, you could say it deprived you of constitutional rights. You could say it was legally incorrect… But tell me… beyond simply a disagreement with his ruling… something that shows bias… against women, the disabled, and people who aren’t Jews?
ATTY. CUNHA: He has a clear pattern of conduct that consistently establishes that Judge Adelman ignores claims of domestic violence. He is aggressively abusive in his demeanor and application or failure to –
THE COURT: So, one of the things you’re saying is… he had a pattern of ruling in ways that you considered unjustified as matters of law.
ATTY. CUNHA: Yes.
THE COURT: let’s get to that second part… which is that you claim… bias and prejudice… from… the way he behaved…
ATTY. CUNHA: This is not about me being disappointed or unhappy with a judge’s rulings… The problem is… we have a judge that blatantly ignores the laws of our state.
He blatantly ignores the Practice Book. He…routinely favors Attorney Aldrich in her matters and sides –
THE COURT: Are you saying… that you’re really unhappy with his legal rulings?
ATTY. CUNHA: We have the basic right to come before any judge in this state and expect that a judge will adhere to the rules of practice, the ethics of Canon, to the statutory criteria set forth.
Now, I understand some statutes allow for some disagreement and discretion. But then there are clear-cut statutes.
Judge Adelman has sat on the family bench for many years and practiced family law…
When I cite a statute to Judge Adelman, he tells me… he is familiar with the statute… which is specifically our guardian ad litem statute 46b-54,.
I [said] to the judge at the beginning of the trial, I object to the guardian ad litem sitting through the entire trial because of the enormous amount of money… expended.
[GAL Jocelyn Hurwitz billed at $400 per hour.]
And our legislature… amended our statute to allow a guardian to either sit at the beginning or any time during the course of the trial to avoid the enormous expenses charged upon litigants.
Judge Adelman ignored that, and his basis was “well, a guardian might hear evidence during the course of a trial that would change her mind.”
THE COURT…. I agree that the legislature acted because they were concerned about the GAL issue. But then, the question becomes: Is this a disagreement with his ruling that the GAL would be able to sit through the trial, or are you saying there’s something worse about it? And, if so, what is the worst thing?
ATTY. CUNHA: I think it was an intentional waste of money, and he has a history of doing that. And I believe it’s a RICO…
THE COURT: A RICO?
ATTY. CUNHA: Yes.
THE COURT: As in a racketeering issue?
ATTY. CUNHA: Yes.
THE COURT: so, you’re claiming there’s some sort of conspiracy or something here?
ATTY. CUNHA: Oh. Absolutely. There’s a business going on. And what happens is that Judge Adelman notoriously and consistently allows Attorney Hurwitz… and other guardians ad litem to remain on a case throughout the trials over objection… So, they end up raking in an enormous amount of fees…. Attorney Hurwitz has been paid over $100,000, and her bill is close to $200,000. And she has met the children in this case maybe four times since 2019.
She has not spoken to me about anything with respect to their wellbeing. She has not updated my client. She’s blatantly refused to.
All these issues have been brought before the Court. She has denied my client access to records, to the medical records
THE COURT: You just said you’re claiming here, as an officer of the Court, that Judge Adelman is engaged in racketeering?
ATTY. CUNHA: Yes. I believe that wholeheartedly.
THE COURT: What evidence do you have? Because… it’s one thing to say, ‘alright, Judge Adelman shouldn’t let GALs sit through trials, because it costs money unnecessarily. And Judge Adelman says… the GAL may change their views during the trial. So, there could be simply a disagreement with Judge Adelman’s philosophy about letting the GAL do it.
But you’re saying… Judge Adelman is in some form of illegal conspiracy… That he’s in touch with these people and arranges privately for them to make money in a corrupt scheme?…
It’s a very serious thing to say… Other than he does this all the time, what evidence is there that this is part of a conspiracy?
ATTY. CUNHA: When Judge Adelman was up for reappointment, these issues were the exact issues raised… Senator [Winfield] objected to Judge Adelman’s reappointment because Judge Adelman had notably blatantly lied… under oath to the review committee seeking whether to reappoint him.
THE COURT: You mean the Judiciary Committee?
ATTY. CUNHA: Yes. And it is the record – the transcript is alarming in terms of the number of litigants who spent their life savings to pay guardian ad litems. All mothers who lost custody of their children. All mothers who had… some type of disability…
THE COURT: Let’s focus on one question at a time… You [said] Judge Adelman lied to the Judiciary Committee. And, again, this is a serious thing to say. What is the actual evidence? You’re a lawyer. You know I need evidence. You can’t just assert things. You have to have the evidence. So, if you’re going to claim that one reason I should recuse him is that he lied, then what’s the support for it? You can’t just say people say he lied.
ATTY. CUNHA: Yes.
THE COURT: Let me back up for a moment about GALs. Maybe I agree that a lot of money is spent on GALs that is not necessary. Maybe that’s a differing judicial philosophy.
What you’re saying is it’s a matter of corruption. And, if you’re going to say that to me, as an officer of the Court, I’d like to know what your support is for… corruption, as opposed to simply a judgment you disagree with. Maybe even sometimes I disagree with.
So, it’s a serious thing to say as an officer of the Court. We’ve got to talk about what it is that supports that. So, you’ve told me that people came to the Judiciary Committee and had things to say and were disappointed. But where is the conspiracy?
ATTY. CUNHA: Senator [Winfield] specifically pointed out when he objected to [Judge Adelman’s] reappointment that… Judge Adelman was not honest in his questions when responding to Senator [Winfield]
THE COURT: Do you have a copy of the transcript?
ATTY. CUNHA: I have a copy of the vote when the nomination was coming up…
THE COURT: Let’s assume, because maybe it won’t be disputed, that Senator Winfield voted no. That might show something, but –
ATTY. CUNHA: Well, it wasn’t just that he voted no. He publicly put on the record the reason –
THE COURT: Well, that’s what I’m saying. Do you have the transcript?…
ATTY. CUNHA: I do have it.
End of Transcript
Here is an excellent place to pause.
Let’s see what CT State Senator Gary Winfield and others said at Judge Adelman’s reappointment hearing in January 2017…
Senator Winfield said: There were some concerns with… Judge Adelman… I had the opportunity to speak with Judge Adelman and… go through the testimony… and the transcripts…
When the people who’ve come before us to testify against… judges, what they’re looking for is justice in the Court. And what they often find is procedure in the Court. And the two don’t always line up.
So, in the conversation… with Judge Adelman… it was really about procedure and how that procedure sometimes… precludes being as aware as we should be that people aren’t experiencing justice.
So I think what happens is it appears at times to people that we’re more concerned with making sure that the machine continues to operate as it has been operating. Some of these people have come, in a way, to throw their body against the machine. And what happens is they get chewed up.
I think some of these people have come to say that something is not right…
With Judge Adelman, there was a conversation about why these people come in front of us to tell us what they’ve told us. And Judge Adelman suggested… that some of these people who [spoke against him] have never been in his Court [and why they] come before us for some reason he doesn’t know…
I went back and looked at the testimony…
Judge Adelman named off a couple of people in response… and one of those people [he said] didn’t appear in his Court. But there was an ex-parte order that Judge Adelman signed. [The reason they did not appear in his Court is that he decided their fate without giving them a chance to appear in his Court].
And so, there is an exchange between Judge Adelman and this person [through the ex parte order].
If you’re on the Judiciary Committee and hearing [Judge Adelman say the person never appeared in his Court], what you hear is, ‘there’s no reason why this person might have an issue with me.’
Now that might not be a lie and untruth, but [what Adelman said] it also isn’t the truth. And it was interesting to me that a judge who… told me… that one of the things that told him whether or not people were going to be able to follow the orders of the Court was the way they operated in the Court. He was concerned with how people operate.
A judge [Adelman] who’s concerned with the way people operate operates in a way that he raised his hand [before the judiciary committee convened for his reappointment.] He took an oath, and then he wasn’t transparent. That should be problematic to all of the members of this body…. I cannot say… that I feel as though Judge Adelman belongs back on that bench… So, I rise in opposition to Judge Adelman today.
Another person who spoke about Judge Adelman during his reappointment hearings was Representative Edwin Vargas.
Representative Vargas said: I’m going to be opposing the reappointment of Judge Adelman. We have been around this many times with Family Court. I’ve been watching this for a long time. And I’ve expressed my feelings about this whole GAL system, the guardian ad litem system… How a person loses their home. I fail to see how the best interest of the child is protected by forcing someone to sell their home. Judge Adelman has become the poster boy of the worst of the worst… If we at least don’t reject Judge Adelman, if, at least, we don’t stand up to one judge in this chamber, I think we’re sending the wrong message that this whole reappointment process is just a rubber stamp.
Yet another among the throng who spoke about how Judge Adelman destroyed family’s lives, was Representative Minnie Gonzalez.
Representative Gonzalez said:
Hundreds of people… described this judge as having a bad, bad temper…. When a judge on the bench is dealing with parents… a judge who has been threatening parents to take their kids away and put them in jail if they don’t pay guardians ad litem thousands and thousands of dollars. He orders psych evaluation with the doctor he decides he wants. So, these parents go to Court. They’re not allowed to choose a doctor…. They have to go with whatever [Judge Adelman] decides. He abuses his power and enjoys abuse and control…
This past Friday, at the beginning of Judge Adelman’s interview [before the judiciary committee], he was very calm. He painted himself as one of the best judges. Oh my god, what a different behavior in Court compared to his behavior in this public hearing….
Judge Adelman [in the hearing was asked] if the people that were complaining about him, were in front of him? The answer from Mr. Adelman was many grievances were filed by people from whom the gentleman [Adelman] had no involvement in the case.
And that’s what Judge Adelman says. “No, there are a lot of people who file a grievance against me, but most of those people have never been in front of me.” That was the answer from Judge Adelman to the… committee.
Well, he mentioned a couple of names. He mentioned Mike Nowacki. He mentioned Susan Skipp. [Judge Adelman said] those people had never been in front of him. [He said] Those people, they’re just looking on the website and they are complaining about me.”
Well, guess what? He lied… because this is a court order that Judge Adelman signed against Susan Skipp, one of the people that he said that never [was in his Court]. His court order. He ordered the mother to bring the kid to the father no later than 1:45 today. Failure to do so will result in all parental access by the defendant mother to be terminated. So yes, she was in front of him… He lied to all of you and all of us.
But what is… funny is that the mother received a court order at 12:45, and he wants her to deliver the child by 1:45 knowing that this mother was working as a teacher. And she has to go. She was working in Hamden. She had to go to Fairfield then to Redding in less than an hour. So this was very clear order to Susan’s case. He really said that she never was in front of him. So he’s lying under oath.
I never checked [another case brought up at the hearing], but only God knows what happened in that case. The way that he treats… women. When [the chairman of the committee] said they were complaining a lot about you; that your bias [against women– Adelman’s] answer was, “my wife is a woman and I have a daughter.”
That was the response, but we were not dealing with his wife or his daughter. He also stated that when parents go to court, if they get emotional, that he will stop. And they would give tissues to those parents who are crying. Tissues, you imagine, that was what he said. They will provide tissues to those parents that are crying.
I was there [in Adelman’s Court to observe]. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the court. The first time he noticed I was there, and the look he gave me was horrible. But I continued going back, because there were so many complaints against this judge.
I continued to go back. So, when he said they provide tissues. I’m gonna tell you why he provided them. I was there when a mother, a very, very well educated, professional. She started crying… He called the marshal, and… the marshal stood behind her and moved the shackles so she was gonna be distracted. And she was gonna be scared. And that’s what he does with these mothers. He treats them with no respect…
The other thing that he said [to the committee]… when a parent gets emotional and they start crying, he knows that the parent is not gonna obey the court order. That’s crazy to say. That I can go to court and maybe because I’m nervous, or maybe because I’m fighting for my son, I get emotional. And I can start crying. That doesn’t mean I’m not gonna obey a court order. But that’s what he said.
Lawyers Trump Children in Family Court: Guardians Lead the Way.
I think it fair to say that the guardian ad litem in the Ambrose case, Jocelyn Hurwitz, made an extra $100,000 because Judge Adelman decided she could attend the whole trial.