The media brouhaha over the holiday jailing of Marty Paris, father of seven, related to divorce debt owed to his own lawyer working alongside Paris’ ex-wife’s lover has drawn the jurisprudential critique of legal scholar Dr. Isaac Amon. Without naming the jailing Judge Abbey Fishman Romanek, Dr. Amon opined that “Justice must thus not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.” Dr. Amon is a former war crimes investigator at the Hague whose award-winning legal scholarship focuses on criminal due process.
The Paris case drew Amon’s interest as a result of a December 20th, 2023 filing that sought to end Paris’ weeks-long incarceration by demonstrating he could not pay the outstanding debts due to a recent bankruptcy proceeding. “Debtors’ prisons (incarcerating individuals for inability to pay a debt) were abolished by Congress in 1833.”
Other legal academics join Dr. Amon in their outrage at the practice the Cook County Domestic Relations Division treats as commonplace. Multiple legal academics including Professors Jayne Ressler of Brooklyn Law and Doug Rendleman of Washington and Lee Univ. School of Law, have noted that a single judge can incarcerate individuals without end and without the benefit of procedural protections even accused criminals have by right. In 1991, Rendleman wrote, echoed by Ressler a decade and a half later:
“Coercive confinement has an awesome potential for abuse. Power to imprison is concentrated in a single trial judge. The usual checks against abuse that precede criminal imprisonment, including a grand jury indictment, prosecutorial discretion, a jury trial for a sentence of greater than six months, the presumption of innocence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the opportunity for an executive pardon, are absent before coercive confinement begins.”
Paris appears subject to this sort of coercive confinement. According to the Cook County Record, Judge Romanek said he could only be freed if he paid, with no end date if he didn’t. Or couldn’t. She said “If he (Paris) can borrow $150,000, he can borrow $300,000.”
The CEO of Judiciocracy (AbusiveDiscretion’s Publisher), Edward “Coach” Weinhaus, Esq. witnessed the December 21st hearing. He likened Judge Romanek’s logic to the opening scene of a popular holiday (Thanksgiving) film where an attorney charges a man, Neal Page, trying to get home to his family for a just-hailed cab. “Anybody who’d pay $50 for a cab…would certainly pay $75” the holiday profiteer states.
Weinhaus commented: “The difference between Neal Page and Marty Paris is that Page just had to reach into his wallet for an extra $25. Mr. Paris has to reach into his ability to borrow six-figures while in the middle of a bankruptcy.” Although the “bad guy” in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is an attorney, Weinhaus referred readers to the taglines of AbusiveDiscretion and sister publication ALABnews which scroll along the top of their respective home pages. He refused further clarification. He noticeably avoided comment on attorneys in this case when they attacked the two publications’ coverage.
AbusiveDiscretion‘s news team reached out to Cook County Domestic Relations Division Acting Supervising Judge Regina A. Scannicchio to comment on her position on debtors’ prison in her division. Scannicchio received the request for comment but refused to answer on the record whether her division opposed debtors’ prisons.
Scannicchio supervises jailing Judge Romanek, but she is not alone in doing so. The Cook County Executive Committee, which presumably includes Scannicchio, recently put another judge from Scannicchio’s division, the Hon. Gregory Ahern, Jr., in “judge jail” for an errant political tweet. She and her committee had to put him back on the bench immediately pursuant to the Judicial Inquiry Board’s better judgment. “Judge jail” isn’t the same kind of jail where Mr. Paris the father of seven now resides; it means serving as a judge in municipal court rather than the divorce bench.
Romanek is also not alone in jailing the unlucky who come before her without the due process protections criminals receive. Scannicchio herself is no stranger to tossing litigants in front of her own bench into jail. In 2020, she sentenced an African American single mother of a fatherless 2-yr old to seven days behind bars. The mother had been accused by someone else in the courtroom of the egregious crime of taking a photograph. Scannicchio hadn’t witnessed it, nor any other officer of the court. She then offered none of Professor Rendleman’s procedural protections to the mother before snatching her phone, forcing her to unlock it, “trying” and sentencing her. (Scannicciho’s disregard for children and long-standing disdain for Judge Ahern were documented in a federal lawsuit, where the name “AbusiveDiscretion” was first adopted and which later led to the founding of this publication.)
Scannicchio, who apparently has never been a parent, was rewarded by the powers-that-be in Cook County with the Supervisory role. Scannicchio has been linked to convicted felon ex-Alderman Ed Burke, whose wife recently stepped down as Chief Justice of Illinois Supreme Court.
The legal scholars point to a larger concern than Weinhaus raised. Professor Ressler warned in 2006 that the toughening of bankruptcy requirements leave contemnors like Paris in an impossible situation. “With the new bankruptcy laws severely limiting the circumstances in which a debtor can declare bankruptcy and thereby receive protection from his creditors, an increasing number of debtors may be vulnerable to indefinite jail sentences.”
Mr. Paris faces a potential dismissal of his bankruptcy protection request later this morning due in part to the difficulty in completing cumbersome bankruptcy paperwork ,made more difficult by a jail cell. If that happens, as his ex-wife Mrs. Paris has asked, he could then be stuck in jail indefinitely with little prospect of liberty – unable to liquidate assets through the bankruptcy court to satisfy Judge Romanek’s orders, unable to work, and seeking loans while trying to meet strict bankruptcy filing requirements from a jail cell.
Chicago divorce attorney Brian Hurst, Paris’ former attorney asked for Mr. Paris to be jailed. Hurst does not have an appearance before the bankruptcy court.
Dr. Amon was careful not to discuss the Paris case specifically. He highlighted the risk the Cook County Domestic Relations Division under Scannnicchio and other erstwhile-debtors’ prison jurisdictions face: “Continued legitimacy of judicial decisions depends upon societal perception.”
Other publications have wrongfully lowered the scrutiny on the out-of-control courts. The Real Deal noted that Romanek had ordered Paris released. Yet, he sits in jail still.
Based on the past media furor for holding Mr. Paris in debtors’ prison for Christmas raises the specter of delegitimizing the Court.
Weinhaus again referenced Planes, Trains, and Automibiles, quipping: “Neal Page brought home the insufferable Del Griffith for Thanksgiving. I look forward to finding out whom Mr. Paris brings home from his open-ended sentence in the Cook County Department of Corrections.”
Dr. Amon is the newly-minted Managing Editor of TribunalForum, the newspaper of record for the War Crimes Tribunals related to the October 7th attacks in Israel. TribunalForum is owned and published by AbusiveDiscretion’s owner/publisher Judiciocracy LLC. Weinhaus, a practicing attorney in California, Missouri, and Illinois, says he has no pending cases before Romanek or Scannicchio.