My Complaints Against Nova Scotia Legal Aid Lawyer “Susan”

My Complaints Against Nova Scotia Legal Aid Lawyer “Susan”

The following are my complaints against Nova Scotia Legal Aid, former Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer “Susan”, and the Nova Scotia Family Court. This outlines my seven-year (and still on-going) attempt to help my daughter through the NS Family Court with the emotional neglect (and parental alienation against me) she had been and continues to go through.

Note: Names have been changed.

  • I could not defend myself against Erin Johnson’s accusations in her 2012 affidavit when our daughter was eight years old because I was involuntarily stuck at Abbie J. Lane Hospital at the time of the June 11, 2012 hearing. This resulted in the 2012 Variation Order which gave the mother sole custody and suspended all my access to our child until further order from the court. This Variation Order was issued despite the fact that I could not present my case, thereby defending myself. How is that justice, and how does that thoroughly ensure we are doing what is best for the child? Does a court just tend to assume an accuser is purely innocent without due process? Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer Susan never discussed any of this with me as something we could potentially present to the NS Family Court.
  • The mother defamed me in her 2012 and 2013 affidavits by painting me as an abusive father she couldn’t trust and deliberately heading in the wrong direction with drugs. This was not true. She did this because she did not want to lose in court against me. I tried explaining that to Susan. I further explained that Erin is very deceptive, but apparently, I had no effective argument in that regard.
  • It took at least three months for Nova Scotia Legal Aid to open my file after I applied. My file with Nova Scotia Legal Aid was opened on November 14, 2012. I was completely unaware that I only had 30 days to challenge this 2012 Variation Order, which was issued on June 11, 2012. In fact, I didn’t find out until 2019 from the Nova Scotia Legal Information Society. No one from Nova Scotia Legal Aid explained that to me. I was also stuck in Abbie J. Lane Hospital for more than another month after the 2012 Variation Order was issued, but I had passes for a few hours at a time. No one at the hospital explained this to me. Susan never discussed any of this with me either. Erin would not let me see my daughter or talk to her on the phone for a total of eight months (from May 4, 2012 until Dec. 25, 2012). I don’t have the date for when I applied to Nova Scotia Legal Aid in 2012, but I would not have taken seven months to apply for Nova Scotia Legal Aid given that I was unable to see my daughter. So, how was I supposed to challenge the 2012 Variation Order within 30 days when it takes Nova Scotia Legal Aid over a month to open your file?
  • I told Susan that I prefer to communicate by email. Due to my mental health issues, namely social anxiety, I find it very hard sometimes to digest what people say to me in person or on the phone. I also cannot communicate what I want to say very well. I often say things that don’t accurately reflect what I want or mean to say. I’m overly passive and compliant and don’t speak up when needed. For all these reasons, I prefer to communicate by email. But Susan would not communicate with me by email after I requested this because it was inconvenient for her. Had she explained things to me by email, I would have had a much better understanding about what was going on. She further used legal jargon I could not understand or interpret due to my aforementioned social anxiety — jargon I could have looked up had it been in an email and not spoken to me.
  • Susan believed Erin’s story over mine, acting as if she was on Erin’s side. I did up a rudimentary affidavit trying to present a more accurate picture of the truth, which included defending myself, but she ignored it. As I said above, I had no effective argument according to her. She also seemed to have discriminatory beliefs about me.
  • I repeatedly told Susan that I had been wrongly diagnosed. Not only was that simply to no avail to her — because, according to her, psychiatry is a reliable or accurate science — she put a stipulation in the 2013 Court Order saying “Dr. Bourque, Jacob Miller’s [name later changed to Arjuna] psychiatrist, shall provide a report on Jacob’s mental health in advance of the next Court appearance.” How was I going to get a decent letter from a psychiatrist when I was being wrong diagnosed? They simply dismissed me as having no insight, making me appear even more mentally ill. I believe this was an ill-advised decision on the part of Susan to put this stipulation in the 2013 Court Order.
  • Susan signed the 2013 Consent Order on my behalf without my knowledge or consent. I did not even realize a new Court Order was being created. As I mentioned above, I had a hard time understanding what was going on. It took me years to realize that there was even a new Court Order and that Erin was awarded sole custody. Initially, after realizing that there was a new Court Order, I did not understand that I gave consent to Erin having sole custody and for me to be supervised while around my daughter even though it is called a Consent Order. Why would I do that when I went to Susan to fight for custody?
    • The 2013 Consent Order stipulated that I have supervised access and that Erin have sole custody. That is not what I wanted. At the very least, I wanted unsupervised access. I also went from having unsupervised access about 24% of the time according to the original 2005 Court Order and mine and the mother’s frequent agreements to (supervised) access about 4% of the time.
  • Since 2013, I have been trying to challenge the outcome of the 2013 Consent Order. If I truly gave consent to this, why would I immediately want to correct it and continually pursue this correction for seven years? As I said, the reason why I went to Susan was to fight for custody given what Erin did to our daughter’s mental health and my relationship with her.
  • I have not been able to make any progress with establishing a new Court Order entirely because of Susan’s stipulation in the 2013 Consent Order regarding a psychiatrist’s report on my mental health.
  • I told Susan that I wanted to fight for custody. She told me that had to be done in a step-by-step process. It would not make any sense for me to give consent to the mother to have sole custody as part of a step-by-step process, particularly since the reason for establishing the 2012 Variation Order was entirely specious.
  • It was as if Susan provided a cookie-cutter solution rather than really listening to me, believing me, and learning the intricacies of my matter and customizing her argument.
  • I met with psychiatrists, beginning with Dr. Bourque in Dartmouth in Dec. 2012, for the sole purpose of getting a letter for Susan.
    • The first letter took about eight months of meeting with different psychiatrists following Dr. Bourque. This letter was completed about a month after June 10, 2013, the date of the 2013 Consent Order. Among other things, it stated, “Jacob does not believe he has an illness and is very reluctant to take his medication as prescribed by his psychiatrist. He has negative symptoms, avolition and a flat affect which makes it very difficult to engage Jacob.” (My so-called negative symptoms were actually my social anxiety and unwillingness to meet with these people, who would not listen to me.) I presented this letter to Susan but, unfortunately, according to her, this letter would be of no use because it was not making me look well. Well, I had already explained to her that I was being wrongly diagnosed, so what did she expect? That was the first I learned that the letter needed to help me look well. She told me I needed to take my medication every day and get a new letter. Therefore, about one month after the 2013 Consent Order was created, Susan’s now implied advice was for me to pretend that I have schizophrenia.
    • It took me another ten months with the intention of getting a second letter of uncomfortably dealing with occupational therapist Myth Nimson (the author of the first, second, and third letters) and Nova Scotia Health Authority psychiatrist Dr. Nelson who had discriminatory beliefs about me and were making a mountain out of a molehill regarding my mental health, making it impossible to get a good letter from them. Yet, according to my family doctor, I had no one else to go to. The second letter from Myth Nimson appeared to be no good because I was being misunderstood and wrongly diagnosed. This apparently was part of the step-by-step process that Susan was talking about.
    • By this time, Susan said she was going to close my file at NS Legal Aid because Erin’s family didn’t want to pay for her lawyer anymore. I was very confused and did not understand that at all. So, now I had two letters, which took a total of eighteen months to get, and no Legal Aid lawyer.
    • I really tried to improve myself and do better. I pushed myself to work harder and took my medication every day. Finally, after two years and ten months of dealing with psychiatrists for the sole purpose of getting a letter and two years and three months after the 2013 Consent Order was issued, I got my third letter. This time it was slightly improved. At this time, I had NS Legal Aid lawyer Greg Hanson after reapplying to NS Legal Aid.
    • According to Greg Hanson, there was nothing I could do (other than send a letter to the mother to which she did not respond) because I did not have enough evidence pertaining to a material change of circumstances. As an example, I needed to show a real change or improvement in my mental health, which basically meant that for as long as I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or as long as I was continuing to deal with Dr. Nelson and Myth Nimson as my mental health team, there was nothing I could do to help my daughter through the Family Court. This meant that I would likely have to cough up several thousand dollars to meet with a different private practice psychiatrist so that I could get a better assessment. So, despite the fact that I had a recent letter from my mental health team (the third letter), Greg eventually closed my file at NS Legal Aid.
    • The date of the third letter was September 3, 2015. I stopped meeting with Dr. Nelson and Myth Nimson because, as mentioned above, they were of no help to me. I reapplied to NS Legal Aid in 2017 thinking that the third letter should be sufficient enough to at least get unsupervised access to my daughter. I met with NS Legal Aid lawyer Sally Jenson in July of 2017, four years and seven months after first attempting to get a letter for Susan. She told me that she cannot apply to the Family Court on my behalf because the letter I had was too old. Apparently, it needs to be no more than three months old. Susan never told me this. Sally told me to reapply to NS Legal Aid after I get a more recent letter, and she closed my file.
    • In September 2017, my family doctor reconnected me with Dr. Nelson and Myth Nimson because, according to her, there was no other psychiatrist I could go to.
    • Around this time, I began gathering all the evidence I had into an affidavit.
    • This time I told my mental health team to rush creating their fourth and final letter from them. About five months after beginning to meet with them again — for the sole purpose of getting a letter for the Family Court — I had the fourth letter. I felt I could achieve something through the Family Court despite the letter not appearing to be very helpful because I had so much evidence against Erin regarding emotional neglect and parental alienation.
    • In early 2018, I began speaking with private lawyer Jaden McJaden concerning my affidavit. At this time, I also applied again to NS Legal Aid. I paid his firm $800 for Jaden McJaden to look over my affidavit. He did and made several comments, such as I had evidence of parental alienation against me and that I likely wouldn’t be able to go from supervised access to sole custody. But it would have cost me another $1,200 to get a finished product affidavit. I did not have that money.
    • So, the fourth letter is starting to become older than three months, and it has been about five years of my trying to challenge what Susan agreed to on my behalf without my knowledge or consent.
    • Finally, my file was opened again at NS Legal Aid, and I received a certificate from them on Aug. 21, 2018, indicating they would pay for a private lawyer on my behalf because they were too swamped with other cases for one of their lawyers to help me. This was about eight months after the date of my latest letter. How was I supposed to apply to the Family Court with a recent letter when it takes NS Legal Aid eight months to open my file?
    • I contacted Jaden McJaden again the day I received the certificate. It took him nearly a month to confirm with his managing lawyer that he was not able to accept my certificate because his firm was trying to focus on criminal matters.
    • I then contacted Melissa Stevenson at Boudrot Rodgers on Sept. 20, 2018 and met with her for the first time on Sept. 24. She told me she was able to accept my certificate. We discussed options by email over the next few months about what we could do to move forward until, on Dec. 10, 2018, she informed me that her firm was closing and that she will no longer be able to represent me. This was close to a year after my latest letter and six years of trying to help my daughter through the Family Court with the help of a letter.
    • On Jan. 28, 2019, Sassy McSassy at NS Legal Aid informed me that they will provide me with another lawyer for my certificate, and I spoke to Billy Sindy at Cragg Law a couple days later. He eventually accepted my certificate.
    • It is now November 1, 2019, nine months after I began speaking with Billy and six years and four months of trying to correct what Susan signed off on my behalf without my knowledge or consent. With no suitable letter to apply to the Family Court simply because I don’t have one that is recent (no more than three months old), I have still not been able to move forward with Billy representing me. I have a pending court (NCR) trial in which I will try to remove the schizophrenia label. That could take another year. I have also been speaking to my family doctor since July 2019 with the hope she can connect me to a psychiatrist other than Dr. Nelson. Unfortunately, that is still in limbo. My daughter is now 15 years old. The parental alienation continues.

Arjuna D. Ghose lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (most of the time). When he's not working on writing for this blog or his multi-volume memoir, The Struggle Within, he's usually working on web development and internet marketing projects or trying to help his daughter to ensure she grows up believing in herself, with happiness, and making good choices. He became a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in 1994 and continues to follow the teachings of Sri Chinmoy with the intention of making continuous progress toward the goal of fully actualizing and manifesting his spiritual nature.

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