From the Author, This may not come as much of a surprise, but going to court can make you sick. The disorder that I witnessed in my private practice for 15 years caused me to research and to coin the term legal abuse syndrome. It can strike crime victims, witnesses, litigants, attorneys-anyone who has dealt with the American system of laws and courts. Legal abuse syndrome is a variant of posttraumatic stress disorder, a psychologically damaging condition that can afflict people who suffer a horrific experience. A legal battle can drag on for years seriously affecting the health and coping ability of the individual while court personnel are unaware and seem often unconcerned. I developed an answer and a solution for litigants, families, attorneys and helpers.
You’re familiar with the look of abject frustration, which often paints the faces of litigants. You’re also familiar with the clenched teeth, the nervous ramblings, and the occasional blasts of profanity. Thanks to Ms. Huffer, we now have a clinical name for these behaviors. They’re symptoms of a larger psychological disorder she has named Legal Abuse Syndrome. If Huffer’s research is accurate, citizens who have prolonged and unsuccessful experiences with the courts run the risk of developing a post traumatic stress disorder similar to combat fatigue. To put it bluntly, having to do “battle” with a system whose basic operating procedures are cloaked in arcane language and guarded by the specter of the Unauthorized Practice of Law can be damaging to your psyche! Her book, ‘Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome’ is a detailed examination of this syndrome and its impact on citizen litigants. It should be in the hands of every therapist, social worker, attorney, judge, and politician in the nation. It mostly belongs in the hands of those who are hurting as a result of a judicial system that does not serve the taxpayer.
People find that they have a legal system that corporate lawyers play well, but doesn’t allow people to obtain justice.
Karin makes a very strong case for civil litigants to feel more empowered.
Karin Huffer’s book on Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome, published by Fulkort Press, has an ominous subtitle: Warning: Protracted Litigation can be hazardous to your health. This insightful book offers numerous case studies on the invisible cumulative stressors complicating recovery from dealing with the justice system. It can be used as a self-help manual or a textbook for legal and health professionals. The methods outlined for dealing with losses and grief during litigation are sound and meet the standards of managed care. The victimization felt in the court system is well documented and validating to those who have experienced similar devastation of their belief systems. The burdensome duration, economic oppression, misinformation, character assassination and betrayal felt during and after legal proceedings are discussed. As therapists, we try to establish a climate that enables clients to feel empowered by their interactions. The legal system doesn’t off the same climate. Karin Huffer is a Las Vegas therapist, specializing in empowering the citizen litigant and assisting her clients in correcting the stress and pain she has identified as Legal Abuse Syndrome.
Huffer has raised a significant issue for strategies for justice system reform.
Bankruptcy attorneys can end up with compassion fatigue from watching what their clients are going through.
All courthouse personnel and public interest lawyers who wish to see citizen litigants given the proper opportunities for their day in court will find some background material and answers to help in solving this growing problem through the device of Karin Huffer’s treatise, Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome.
Huffer describes how many victims of white-collar crime; court abuse and bureaucratic bungling have come to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of having brushed up against various phases of our legal system.
“This is a historical public health, family court, & social crisis needing raised awareness & advocacy. Your hand is firmly on the pulse and I wish we could clone you in every state.”
“I just finished Karin’s book. It was great. I found that it described many of my experiences, and I found it very helpful. Of course, someone who does not have a legal background does not know, or quite understand, exactly what is going on, and I think that her book is absolutely essential reading for those victims of the system. Thank you and Karin for giving me a copy, and of course, thank you Karin for taking the time and effort to write this important book.”
“As a survivor of domestic violence and abuse for over 20 years, I would like to take a moment and commend you on the work you’re doing. I am finally glad that that type of abuse finally has a name and is being recognized. I have included actual documents in my book from the family court and from Fort Bragg to prove how legal abuse happens. When I decided to publish my book, I felt strong enough emotionally to go to the NYC Family court and get a complete copy of my family court file – almost 20 years later. I was shocked to find documents in my file that I never knew about, especially a “stay out of jail free” card from Fort Bragg for my abuser. That letter is included in the book.
Also documented in the book is the forensic evaluator’s report diagnosing me as “Borderline Personality Disorder” and “embittered and enraged” although I told her about the abuse. Needless to say, I want to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart.”
This letter is written in gratitude and support for the cutting-edge social analysis, social education, published work (“Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome”) and efforts on behalf of litigants (both disabled and able-bodied) identified by Ms. Karin D. Huffer, M.S., M.F.T.
Ms. Huffer first identified a societal disease, a prior unknown form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which she labeled Legal Abuse Syndrome. In this way, she brought to light for the edification of all, an insidious and highly toxic form of abuse of authority which is, unfortunately, prevalent in our society today. She then went forward to establish protocols for the treatment of this condition and even more – she created the means for the advocacy of these now-disabled individuals in a way that society must take corrective action based on its own established law (the Americans with Disabilities Act).
In short, Ms. Huffer has assisted society, not just in the United States but everywhere in the world where municipalities exist, to expand in consciousness and to benefit the most vulnerable of society’s members – the disabled – in such a way as to restore to them health, vitality and dignity. This can result in greater personal happiness, health and justice for individuals to include those members of government who take to heart the nature of her work so as to avoid becoming infected with this societal disease themselves.
As the former Executive Director of a 501c3 Nonprofit formed to assist victims of legal abuse (now medically retired), I was able to use Ms. Huffer’s excellent and trailblazing work to benefit others and to form a support group to further assist. While I am no longer able to perform this work, the legacy of my own work, which could have only existed due to Ms. Huffer’s work, continues to live on through the internet.
“I earned PTSD from Vietnam which was then compounded by the judicial system in which I practiced some family law, generally for abused mates. I recognized the value of Karen Huffer’s examination of legal abuse syndrome when I first heard of it and read it in 2000, for by that time I had a litigation PTSD overlay on my Vietnam version, from my more or less private war against judicial corruption, much of which was experienced in domestic relations and child custody against CPS cases.”
“I am ordinarily the most verbose person on the planet. But I”m so choked up over reading your testimonials that I can barely breathe. I’m thinking to myself “Is there actually real help?”
My name is (REDACTED) and I live in New York now. In my situation, my parents, sibling, ex-husband – have created a really horrible set of circumstances. There was a situation with my father when I was 14 that I sought to prevent from ever happening around my daughter. My parents felt I betrayed THEM by talking about what happened. After all, there was no intent to harm me – so there couldn’t have been any actual harm. My protestations that they had caused harm were capitalized upon my ex-husband and my trauma over this fight, the injustice of it, the outrageousness of the court – resulted in my children being raised by the very people I sought to protect them from. I have about driven myself crazy trying to wrap my brain how this could ever happen… but I get the feeling you understand that.
I am the ‘black sheep” of the family – I do not miss them. But I miss my children terribly. I hate what my children are learning about life and about Justice. I hate the way this has made me sort of odd to “normal” people. It makes me feel like there is something really wrong with me – or that I just don’t have the proper perspective because in a just world – they would be accountable and I would be safe with my children.
I’ve been trying to accept the circumstance, forgive them for their lack of humanity and move on. I am torn about what to do about my children. I am hurting about this and feel completely disenfranchised… but have fought hard to start over.
It’s so painful to have hope. Does that makes sense?
Anyway, I am betting you know some of the other women that I am familiar with in this fight. When I’m feeling a little less rocked maybe we can talk?”
“Ms. Huffer has done a brilliant job discussing the effects of, and steps to recovery from Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS) which is defined as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from abusive and protracted litigation.”
“Thanks, Karin. You are doing marvelous work.”
“I have read this, here, now for the third time; having read it three times in Melbourne. It is the best piece of material, which I have yearned for since you embarked on the sequel. It is unfair that I have to wait longer to read the rest. It is the video slow motion reinaction of my life and those of co-patriots.
Every mental health practitioner must read this book. The HR Departments at law firms and corporate America should place it front and center in their library. The law schools need to mandate reading.
Karin, you are pure genius – you took the worst times of your life, and mixed it with your education, compassion, and objectivity to validate the sanity of those you have come to know, all too well.
You helped to save my life, and you keep on giving.
God bless you, forever”
A few months after the conclusion of an abusive, long lasting, high asset divorce, with hundreds of pleadings filed, I was being sued by the firm that represented me. They put all the weight of their power and influence to make me crumble, emotionally and financially. I was being dragged to the courts, verbally abused, and my word was worth one half of theirs for the judiciary.
It is a blessing that I found Karin Huffer and LVAALLC to enforce my fair access to justice. After several judges were recused, it was a game changer and a precedent setting action in the Southeast. She is a role model and a fair public server.
In the process of seeking justice for the disabled and implementing fair access to the court system; right when you wonder where your civil rights have been hidden, under all the bureaucracy and games of power, there you find Karin Huffer and her team at LVAALLC to shed light and clarity on the judiciary and the victims of litigation, enforcing the very soul of our Constitution.
Being the pioneer in her studies on LAS, Karin Huffer deserves the highest recognition for her tireless effort to help both the efficiency on the delivery of justice and pain relief of the litigants.
“I entered the court system as a result of going up against a large, state-backed corporate entity,and eventually the state itself. The court process only served to continue the injustice I was experiencing. I was denied my constitutional rights, including the right to a jury trial and due process of the law. I could never have known the effect on the mind, body, soul, and spirit or the journey I would take. Let me just say that the truth does set you free, and that there are attorneys, judges, and litigants out there who know and see the truth and do not participate in the injustice.
Dr. Karin Huffer is among those who represent the truth tirelessly when injustice raises its ugly head and threatens the core of our being. She picked up all the scattered pieces from the legal and personal trauma I endured and put them back together. Though worn and battered, I am now able to move forward and start anew, productive and ever more able to embrace the importance and value of truth and justice.
Dr. Karin Huffer stands for the truth and lives by the truth. She courageously advocates for those who are injured and denied justice. I learned from her that, no matter how daunting it seems, it is crucial to seek redress for wrongs suffered, to lay blame where it belongs, and to set the record straight.”
After 10 years of legal abuse by my ex husband and his attorneys in custody litigation, I retained Karin Huffer as an advocate. Because of tactics used by my abuser (my ex husband was severely physically and emotionally abusive to both our son and me during and after our marriage), I was reduced to tears in the courtroom.
The judge’s acceptance of hear-say and misinformation from my ex husband was so unbelievable to me that I could not function. Fifteen minutes into a court proceeding, I could not speak due to crying and emotional distress. Opposing counsel used this to accuse me of being unfit and crazy. I was even ordered to pay my ex husband’s attorney fees one time to punish me for crying in court. My serious concerns for my son were called “hysteria-driven and reckless” by the Judge. My attorneys were threatened by my ex husband to the point of quitting. Opposing counsel even made the statement, “If she were my ex-wife I’d have killed her by now.” I could not understand how any of this could be happening.
Karin Huffer’s testimony about PTSD being an injury from abuse and only situational related finally changed everything. Because of Karin’s ADA advocacy, my experts and I were able to testify without my losing control. Opposing counsel still tried bullying and accusing, but I was finally able to speak loud and clear, confident that she was there to ensure that I was being heard and treated fairly. She also assisted my attorneys by teaching them and helping prepare for court. My son is in a life or death situation, and for the first time in 10 years a judge finally listened and treated my concerns as valid and serious.
Words cannot do justice to the difference having Karin Huffer as an advocate made for me and my case. The stress of 18 months of prolonged litigation might have impaired me permanently had it not been for her support through every adversity.”
“I have had the privilege of attending workshops by Karin Huffer and was very impressed to learn of how she is using the ADA as a tool to help protect battered mothers involved in custody disputes. I believe these practices can give protective mothers additional leverage with the courts that they need and will make it easier for them to survive the court process. I have also worked with Karin on some cases and she has always been professional and helpful. I enjoy working with her.”
“I was acquainted with Karin Huffer from her various writings on the aforementioned subject matter. In January 2007, I attended the Annual Battered Women’s Conference and had the opportunity to experience Karin Huffer’s professional perspectives and insights. She has identified significant damages that include but are not limited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and other debilitating conditions caused by legal assaults on litigants who, ironically, sought protection from the legal system.
Ms. Huffer continues to courageously delve into the phenomenon of legal abuse that is pervasive in court systems nationwide. She continues to demonstrate her professionalism and is recognized as an expert in this field. Moreover, she is an acclaimed authority on the topic of Legal Abuse, and has been responsible for raising awareness of this debilitating condition which greatly impacts public policy.”
“I want to thank you for your earlier advice. It has helped my fight to be a father again.”
“ANYONE can become and ADA Advocate! I found the training to be life changing and “how I practice law” changing! Again, if you’d like to have a glimpse of Dr. Huffer’s presentation, please rent the MDP Annual CLE DVD! However, our DVD is no substitute for Dr. Huffer’s wonderful online and interactive instruction during the weeks and times listed below! Don Alan Mo Frederick, Attorney at Law Colorado I have read your book and enjoyed it completely.”
“Courtroom-caused traumatic stress is now validated as a clinical definition, it might be a good time for Psychology students and others to investigate the traumatic stress suffered by someone accused of a crime he did not commit, and the pain experienced by his dependents. There must be better ways to deal with the problems so many of us are facing in the legal system.”
“Thus Karen’s LAS/PTSD theory is on point, contact with courts is toxic.Scott Huminski Thank you so much for your support. Of the many valuable things you do for me, one of the most helpful is that you constantly “predict” what “they” will do next–you have been 100% on the money–it makes me feel like I am not crazy.”
Read “Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome” so as to learn some self-help strategies to protect yourself in court from the abuses there and to protect your health under stress in general.
I sent off a complaint about the judge to the Judicial Committee in Boston overnight yesterday. I feel good about it, very stressed about (I broke a tooth from bearing down) I linger in my mind what else I could have said…I WISH I would have put my ex drags out the court cases so he can show less income on a recent pay stub. But I pray they see that.
I also included your Judicial System Inaccessibility for Those with Psychiatric Injury Legal Abuse Syndrome as a Psychiatric Injury and Diagnosable Subcategory of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
I hope you do not mind…my trauma doctor suggested it; (she was trained by Van der Kolk) and she loves what you are doing.
“This case is changing direction because of you. Thank you so much. A person goes thru so many phases in a court case but when you find Judges are not protecting your rights you say “Dear God” then you go Dear Google and Karin Huffer pops up.”
“I just wanted to say thank you…you have been one of the guiding forces in my making it through the domestic violence and now the political terrorism…I look forward to reading this book and learning more so that I can share and help others too…YOU ROCK!”
“After declaring my ADA rights, I received a letter from our landlord today retracting our eviction! He wrote, “This is a new area of understanding for me and my staff.” Thank God for the ADA! And thank you both for spreading the knowledge.”
“Huffer describes how many victims of white-collar crime, court abuse and bureaucratic bungling have come to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of having brushed up against various phases of our legal system.”
“Thank you for reminding us that PTSD is NOT a mental illness.”
“It is extremely hard to find the words to convey the wrong that is done to a person that would lead them to spend the time, money and resources to even go to court. I know I had to be profoundly affected and therefore deeply motivated as a result to request justice for the wrong that had been done as a result of bullying in the workplace, discrimination and the hostility that had been taken out on me. Once I entered the court system as a result of going up against a large corporate entity that the State and community relies upon for a majority of income as well as eventually the State itself and the court processes having played apart in continuing the wrong and denying my constitutional rights including the right to a jury trial and due process of the law. I could never have known the affect to the mind, body, soul and spirit or the journey I would take. Let me just say that the truth does set you free, that there are people out there who know and care about me, you and us. People on all levels of victims, survivors, advocates, witnesses, doctors, and yes good Councel and Justices who know and see the truth and do not participate in the injustice, there are those who represent the truth tirelessly when injustice raises it’s ugly head and threatens the core of our being. No matter how daunting it seems it is always necessary to redress and right the the wrong, the record, historically and in the future we depend on truth, it is a necessary food to our existence when threatened. Dr. Karin Huffer picked up all the scattered pieces from the trauma I endured. She put them back together, though worn and battered I am able to move forward and start a new chapter, less eluded than before am I, but productive and ever more able to embrace the importance and value of truth and justice and those who live it, stand by it and like Dr. Karin Huffer who so courageously represent the injured who were denied of it.”
I finally get it. I have had two low pain days in a row (the first time that has happened since the car accident) and can think clearly.
I realized that by embracing the reality of PTSD resulting from legal abuse, we become very threatening.
I was so ashamed of being unable to perform at a high professional level in debilitating pain or when using the powerful medication for debilitating pain that I was unaware of the PTSD which was gradually overwhelming me.
Once I became free from the energy drain of a person who I believed to be a friend who was a professional colleague condemning me for my disability, I could see legal abuse clearly. I now commit some of my free time to work with you in advocating for PTSD victims’ accommodations with courts and other lawyers.
This is a horrendous issue. It must be stopped. I will not tolerate judges participating or creating legal abuse syndrome. I am too old and too established to fear consequences of going after judges who deny accommodations to the disabled. You are a genius, my dear. Your body of work dovetails perfectly with the amendment to the ADA which recognizes intermittent conditions such a epilepsy, PTSD and fibromyalgia. When the judges or lawyers themselves are creating the abuse from which the litigant suffers, they must be stopped. The same is true of the legal abuse inflicted on homeowners in the current mortgage foreclosure crisis by entities attempting to take their homes. The system must appoint guardians ad litem for PTSD victims who cannot hire compassionate counsel and those guardians ad litem must be educated as to how to get PTSD victims their rights.
This is a truly stunning and timely development in the law of the United States and must be the key to leveling the playing field when soul-less corporations, organizations and legal representatives of the power structure try to take people’s property by intimidation, confusion and by creating shame in the minds of those afflicted. Judges in noncompliance with the ADAAA are indeed, as you say so well, asking people to leave their wheelchairs at the door.”
“Your Book and your support has been incredibly important to holding on to my sanity. Hopefully I can hold onto my house until the Disability Benefits comes through. Russ
Keep writing for all of us out here!”
Dr. Karin Huffer is the leading national advocate for the implementation of the ADA\ADAAA in court proceedings. SCR Chapter 12 is in complete noncompliance with the ADA\ADAAA. I have spoken to
Dr. Huffer and she is willing to assist the State Bar of Wisconsin in assuring that SCR Rule 12 is revised in accordance with the ADA\ADAAA and the ABA protocols.
I’m over here yelling,”Karin for President! Karin for President!” I’m telling you missy, you are really burning up the pages!!! Wonderful, my Karin–you are building…building something really big.
“When you taught me the first legal abuse I suffered was by my father, it made a damn lot of sense, and based on how we recreate in adulthood what we suffered in childhood but this time in the hope that we can prevail it explains to me the core of LAS. I am so glad you are in my life!!!”
Dear Amazing Team: Attached is the MOTION and GRANTED HEARING(!!!!) by the new JUDGE. BREAK-THROUGH because IT IS EX PARTE. Please realize that WITHOUT all of you, I would be out of energy in this fight for JUSTICE. Kathy
Karin, your book has been my bible, you have been my lifeline.
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