Sunday, September 20, 2020

Judge Uses Arbitrary and Capricious Rulings to Keep Suburban Chicago Mom Away from Son

(Haley Luttrell and her son)




A Kane County, Illinois mom has not seen her son in months and a series of bizarre and incomprehensible rulings by that county’s court seems to have created this nightmare.

Haley Luttrell currently lives in Kane County.

She has a nine-year-old son who she has not seen since before the pandemic.

Though there are no accusations of bad parenting, her predicament appears to be the result of a bizarre and inexplicable rulings by one judge, Judge Joseph Grady of the 16th Judicial District which is in Kane County, Illinois.

Case Outline

Haley’s custody case starts in August 2011; it spans two Illinois jurisdictions, and from August 2011 until June 2019, she had physical custody.

The case started in Dekalb County, in the 23rd Illinois Judicial District.

The custody moved relatively smoothly. The custody arrangement was governed by a Joint Parenting Agreement (JPA) which gave Haley physical custody and her ex standard non-custodial visitation time.

In December 2015, her ex filed for a change in venue because both had now moved to Kane County.

Initially, the case was in front of a notorious Kane County judge, Judge John Dalton.

Dalton is the central figure in Kara Witkowski’s case, where he ignored a mountain of evidence that Kara’s ex and other family members were dangerous. Judge Dalton gave Kara’s ex sole custody in the spring 2019, and even barred her entirely from seeing either of her children in the summer 2019.

Kara's son, James, 2, died on Halloween 2019; the full story is here.

Dalton was also on two other cases where he appeared to favor a man accused of sexual molestation; he was removed from the family bench in early 2020.

In this case, Dalton does not seem to have done much. He appears on the docket for about six months, but Haley said she does not remember any hearings in front of him, or any orders by Dalton of consequence.

(Kane County Courthouse)


He was replaced by Judge Joseph Grady and Grady remains the judge of record on the case.

In 2016, Haley got accepted into law school at the University of Arizona and received approval to move there for law school from the court.

In fact, Judge Grady approved the move.

The agreement required her to move back to Illinois after graduation, which she did in June 2019.

John Chapski took over as Haley’s exes’ lawyer on September 22, 2016, when he filed his first appearance, according to Haley’s timeline.

Her problems started in May 2019. Haley described what happened next in her timeline, “On May 6, 2019, while I’m in the middle of law school finals, John Chapski and Mr. X appear EX PARTE in front of Judge Grady in an unnoticed and/or improperly noticed hearing from parenting time.  John Chapski materially misrepresents to the court I would not agree to 2019 vacation dates even though Mr. X and I agreed, in writing in April 2019.  Judge Grady grants Mr. X’s order giving him the same exact vacation time as to the dates we agreed to in April.  It is upon information and belief John Chapski did this as part of a bigger strategy – paint me out as to be a liar to the court and breaching the Agreed Order even though I am 100% in compliance.”

This triggered a series of events leading to Judge Grady changing custody in June 2019, without a hearing.

Then, after being barred from her son for approximately two months, Haley said she sent her ex this email.

Upon the advice of counsel and after careful review of the June 11 Order and JPA- the June 11 order is temporary and simply states that for the time being [R] resides in Kane County with you. It does not alter or address visitation. Thus, the governing doc for parenting time remains the JPA.

Per the JPA your time with [R ]resumes Wednesday after school. [R] will remain with me tonight, I will be taking him to school and picking up [R] Monday and Tuesday from school. In addition, I will drop him off at school Wednesday morning. Your time resumes Wednesday after school. Please ensure you are there Wednesday for school pick up.

That email caused Chapski to file for a protective order, claiming it was harassment; that request was granted on October 2, 2020.

Judge Grady’s OFP barred Haley from her son for two years even though Judge Grady would later admit that he never made a finding of “serious endangerment”; serious endangerment is the standard to bar a parent from a child in Illinois, Haley told me.

Judge Grady would admit in a December 2019 hearing, that he never made such a finding. Partial transcript here.

Haley was allowed some time with her son after that, but she told me that since the pandemic she and her family have been given no time with her son.

Judge Grady was nearly removed from the case after he was moved from the family court bench on September 30, 2019, when he became a “floater” or “special assignment” judge; he was moved to the courthouse in Geneva, Illinois.

He was replaced by Associate Judge William Parkhurst. But on Judge Parkhurst’s first day on the case, he received a call from Judge Grady, telling Judge Parkhurst that Judge Grady effectively outranked him since Judge Parkhurst was only an associate judge, and Judge Grady had himself put back on this case.

Also involved in the case is another noteworthy judge, Judge Rene Cruz. Judge Cruz is the Presiding Judge of the Family Court Division for the 16th Illinois Judicial District.

He also replaced Judge Dalton on Kara Witkowski’s divorce after her son died.

Judge Cruz became involved when Haley filed to have Judge Grady removed for cause, as head of the family division Judge Cruz would hear the motion.

He obviously denied it, as Judge Grady still presides on the case.

Who is Judge Grady?

Judge Grady was first elected in 2002, according to the website Ballotpedia, and he was last retained on November 14, 2014; he will be on the ballot in November 2020.

He has been connected for a long time. In 1999, he ran unsuccessfully for Kane County State’s Attorney, in an election Mary Gorecki would win; she would serve until 2004.

Grady was described as a, “former Illinois State Police investigator and branch court prosecutor,” in a 1999 Chicago Tribune article describing the Kane County race. 

“Grady retired from the state police as a master sergeant in major criminal investigations in 1993 and began work at the Aurora branch court, where he handled traffic and misdemeanor cases, as well as bond call and warrants for felony cases. He went into private practice in 1997,” the article further stated.

While on the bench, he has received his share of criticism.

The first ward, run by veteran local reporter Jeff Ward, published an article in January 2020, about the judges in Kane County, which included this about Judge Grady.

I’m already looking into one of Judge Joe Grady’s more inexplicable custody decisions, and I understand the word he’d use to refer to the likes of me would be ‘buffoon.’ Fascinating! Judicial Center sources are an amazing thing and I cannot tell you how just much I appreciate each and every one of them.

“Judge Grady! Please spare yourself any further embarrassment and retire.”

He also receives primarily poor reviews on the judicial rating website, The Robing Room. He has twelve ratings, as of publication, with six attorney and six non-attorneys, and he has a three average from attorneys and a one average from non-attorneys, on a scale of one to ten.

“He made a bad judgement and looked me in the eye saying it was a bad judgement. He said it is not his first and will not be his last, then laughed it off. This is the same person deciding serious issues in divorce. He is pro-woman and your lawyer needs to be a regular in his court room, then he lets that lawyer do whatever he/she wants. He needs to get fired,” one reviewer submitted on September 14, 2020 stated.

Another, submitted , was even harsher, “I’ve been pro se for my custody case, after my ex has used the legal system to abuse me for 7 years. This judge, for the last two years, has refused to look at any evidence I have ever brought into court. He ignored evidence that my ex husband sexually assaulted our 4 year old and turned custody over to him. He has refused any and all petitions and motions that I have filed.

Judge Grady in this Case

In this case, as I already described, Judge Grady has muscled his way to stay on the case; he granted her ex an OFP because of an email; he has kept her away from her son for months.

He also switched custody with a one sentence order he then refused to clarify, and he may have engaged in ex-parte communication with Chapski.  

I spoke with both Haley and her mother Valerie Johnston about this incident.

The incident, Johnston told me, happened in the parking lot of the courthouse after a hearing. She was chatting at their car with her daughter.

“We were standing by her car, chatting, talking about everything that had happened and trying to comfort her some, and Mr. Chapski started walking out of the courthouse, and he saw us and spun around and went right back into the courthouse," Johnston said, "and you know, we just looked at him and thought ‘you know, what was that all about.’ And I said, ‘Oh maybe, this is his car,’ next to hers, you know- I didn’t- and we kind of joked a little bit about that.

“Well, lo and behold, here he comes out with Judge Grady, and they’re laughing and talking and standing there chatting now, we could not hear what they were saying.”

This incident occurred on September 30, 2019, according to Haley.

I reached out to Judge Grady and to Chapski’s law office but received not response.

On June 11, 2019, Judge Grady switched custody abruptly.

Here is part of an email Haley sent me on December 6, 2019 explaining further, “On June 11, 2019 while my son was on vacation parenting time with his father Judge Joseph Grady - without an evidentiary hearing - entered a ONE sentence, handwritten order whereby he removed my son from our home. He did so without evidence being presented, testimony given, cross examination, emergency being alleged, and/or abuse being alleged.   Since that date there have been a series of hearings whereby we have asked Judge Grady to clarify his ambiguous order, address parenting time and/or re-appoint our GAL or appoint a new GAL.  He has refused time and time again.”

“{Their Son} shall continue to live and reside with {Haley’s ex} at his Kane County residence,” Judge Grady’s order stated in that one sentence order.

Judge Grady has also allowed Haley’s exes attorney to bully Haley.

During a September 2019 hearing, when Haley’s attorney asked Judge Grady to clarify his June 11, 2019m order, here is what Haley said happened next.

We also ask Judge Grady to clarify that ambiguous June 11, 2019 order and when we ask John Chapski shouts don’t answer it’s a ‘trick’ and Judge Grady refuses to answer,” Haley said in a timeline she provided.  

Haley also described another incident in that timeline from 2016, “On December 21, 2016 in a full court room (not all related to my case), but when Judge Grady was in chambers on another matter John Chapski stood in front of the room and started publicly mocking me shouting out things like how’s she doing in law school since she’s soooo smart, sooo smart.  That was based on my small section law school professor writing a letter to the court verifying that I am in fact attending law school and classes and that John Chapski’s spurious allegation I was not was a farse.  Judge Grady was made aware John Chapski did that to me in open court and Judge Grady’s response to John Chapski was that he did not talk to me directly.  Not reprimanding him for mocking a party opponent in open court.”

Who is John Chapski?

John P. Chapski has been licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois since 1991, according to his biography on his firm’s website.

Chapski works at the firm with brother, Robert, which specializes in family law, and it is named after their father: called Robert A. Chapski Ltd founded in 1973.

Chapski comes from arguably the first legal family of Kane County, at least as it pertains to family law.

Their father Robert was previously a long-time powerful family law attorney.

One notable case was when Robert Chapski sued Copley Press in the 1980s.

The elder Chapski was involved in a case like Kara Witkowski’s, as an attorney.

That case involved two year old Kristie Hubbard who was killed on February 2, 1979, by her mom’s boyfriend, Norman Platter.

It was later determined that Hubbard suffered from “battered child syndrome” or sustained child abuse; the series of articles examined the court process and how Hubbard wound up in her mother’s custody.

The elder Chapski represented Kathleen in divorce and juvenile proceedings, according to court documents.

“Plaintiff alleged in his 11-count complaint that defendants wrongfully, maliciously, and with intent to defame and injure him in his reputation and profession published false and defamatory articles and editorials which implied that he was guilty of a violation of law and morals and was not a person of integrity,” according to an appeal.

A lawyer’s board investigation of Chapski found not enough evidence to act, and Chapski noted that his representation ended months before the killing.

Chapski lawsuit wound up clarifying the legal doctrine of “innocent construction”, his lawsuit earned a place in some legal journals.

While the trial court and appeal's courts ruled against Chapski, the Illinois Supreme Court remanded the case, leading to a clarification of "innocent construction."

"On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Writing for the court, Justice Underwood emphasized the non-uniform and often inequitable application of the innocent construction rule since the court's approval of the rule in John v. Tribune Co." A John Marshall Law Review article stated, "Prior to Chapski, there was confusion as to whether the innocent construction rule was to be applied to statements alleged to be actionable per quod. The confusion was such that one recent appellate court decision avoided the innocent construction rule and decided the case before it on alternative grounds."

Robert Chapski died in 1996.

The Chapski’s sister, Ann Chapski-Doyen, is a principle in the Doyen Law Group in Elgin, Illinois; the firm includes Ann Doyen’s husband, Michael, and several of their children.

The Doyen Law Firm, like the Chapski law firm, is a powerful family law firm in Elgin, Illinois, a suburb on the border of Kane and Cook Counties.

Please find Haley’s full narrative on Fighter Cries here.

Also, her timeline is below. 


Timeline Haley by mikekvolpe on Scribd

Please note that this the third of five articles in a special project. Please find article one here, and article two here. The link to the crowdfunding explaining the project is here

6 comments:

  1. I have a similarly horrific story in Kane county with Judge Cruz and Mike Chapski and would be willing to share my story, if interested. It’s ongoing and I lost custody of my children after 8 years of physical custody and am fighting now to get them back, but feel I don’t have a chance in this system.

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  2. According to the download you link to the lawyer won the lawsuit.

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  3. I've updated it. He did win in the Illinois Supreme Court.

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  4. I have had similar dealings with Chapski... it’s not fair to these children. Happy to share my story.

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