I am posting this article to give hope for the Readers, and concerned Parents who have left comments on PAK, complaining about corrupt and unprofessional behavior from a judge, guardian ad litem (GAL) or unjust family court system. When the family court system fails, there seems to be no justice…but sometimes the corruption is exposed with such a blinding light that the need for reform cannot be denied.

April 16, 2014: Danielle Ross was sentenced to 12 months in prison and must pay restitution of $63,000. Ross was greeted at the Federal Court by angry Protestors; who bravely came forward to show they will not be intimidated by the corrupt family court. Ross has only been charged with attempted tax evasion, and has not been charged with any misconduct related to family court. Ross says she is sorry but at the same time laments that her doctorate studies will be put on hold while she is in jail, and is hopeful she will practice law again one day.
“Family Court Lawyer Sentenced to Prison” by Lara Greenberg, WNEP.com, 4/16/14: http://wnep.com/2014/04/16/family-court-lawyer-sentenced-to-prison/

Former Lackawanna County Attorney and Family Court Guardian ad Litem (GAL), Danielle M. Ross (Pietralczyk), of Jermyn Pennsylvania has been under investigation due to numerous complaints about the GAL program and her conduct as a guardian. In Feb 2014, Ross pled guilty to charges of tax evasion, her husband is also to be sentenced soon.

Danielle M. Ross (WNEP News)

As Ross’ charges become public, concerned parents are stepping forward with complaints about how their cases have been handled in Lackawanna County. Several parents complained that Ross presented biased recommendations to the court and double billed for her services. Another complaint is that reports and investigations are being conducted by insiders—not an independent, outside agency. The 2012 Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem Program Review determined that the judges were not biased towards Ms. Ross, but the secrecy, lack of oversight and court’s pattern of intimidating witnesses who complain suggests otherwise.

The attorney for Ross defends his client, stating she is a victim of an over burdened family court system, bursting at the seams with cases that has caused Ross to become “over worked” and “stretched in all directions” (2012 Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem Program Review).

Danielle M. Ross (The Times Tribune)

The Wilkes/Barre Scranton Independent Gazette has been investigating the story now called Custody4Cash and has been interviewing victims. The Independent Gazette uncovered the Lackawanna family court system overrun with greed, lack of accountability and secrecy, “Theirs is a legal system run afoul, where justice is often based not on facts, but on “who you know,” and delivered only to a select few, it would seem.”
Read More from the Independent Gazette: http://wilkesbarrescrantonig.com/2014/03/01/testimonials-flood-in-on-custody4cash-scandal/

For more details on corruption in Lackawanna family courts, watch this controversial video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jlDyN0i7IQ


March 2012: A federal lawsuit is filed against Lackawanna guardian ad litem, Danielle M. Ross for misconduct and abusing her position for personal gain. alleging that Ross acted “… with the knowledge, consent, assistance and/or ratification of the [Court] set out to create…a system in which the [family court] would use a guardian ad litem in all or in virtually all custody proceedings and she would be the only guardian ad litem…”

July 2012: The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts issued a 113-page report on the Lackawanna guardian ad litem program; findings show failures in the lack of oversight and financial accountability in the GAL program. The report offered 51 suggestions for improvement, and further stated that it is not wise to appoint the majority of cases to just one guardian ad litem.

Lackawanna County President Judge Thomas J. Munley commissioned the report due to a number of complaints filed against Danielle M. Ross, the GAL assigned to a majority of cases since 2008. Following the findings of the report. Judge Munley appointed Judge Trish Corbett to oversee the family court program, and implement all the recommendations in the report.

Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem Program Review:

Dec 2013: Former Lackawanna County Attorney and Family Court Guardian ad Litem (GAL), Danielle M. Ross (Pietralczyk), of Jermyn, plead guilty to Attempted Tax Evasion. For 10 months, Ross insisted she was innocent then pled guilty in a plea deal. Also pleading guilty to tax fraud midemeanor is Walter Pietralczyk Jr., her husband.

As a GAL, Ross was paid by Lackawanna County to represent “the best interests of the child” in custody cases and make recommendations to family court. Ross received a base salary of $38,000 (working as an independent contractor) plus an additional $50 per hour to be paid by the parents, or to be paid by the County if the parents could not afford the services these are private pay services). What typically happens if a parent cannot afford to pay the GAL, a judge will order a reduced rate or eliminate the fees altogether, in which the County picks up the tab.

Federal prosecutors say that Ross did not report her hourly earnings for her private pay clients on her 2009 and 2010 tax returns—totalling more than $200,000. For the last two years, a federal grand jury has been investigating the Lackawanna Family Court; so far Ross has been the only one charged.

Ross is being charged only for tax evasion, however, several parents who had Ross on their case as a GAL are coming forward with complaints that Ross is biased, corrupt and failed in her duties as GAL; as of yet Ross has not been charged with anything related to her duties as a GAL.

Feb 2013: After federal investigators indicted Ross for tax fraud, she is suspended without pay from the GAL program. A statement was issued from the Lackawanna County Court that, “Her contract to provide and all services has been suspended and she is to refrain from any further contact with existing or new gal (Guardian ad Litem) clients.”

Feb. 2014: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court temporarily suspends the law license of Danielle Ross as part of a plea deal where Ross plead guilty to one count of attempted income tax evasion for her 2009 return, and a second charge for 2010 is dropped. Her husband will also be sentenced soon.

The investigation into corruption and abuses of power in the Lackawanna family court continues.. please feel free to post your comments and any updates below.

Read More:

“Former Family Court Attorney Pleads Guilty” by Dave Bohman, 12/16/2013. WNEP News: http://wnep.com/2013/12/16/former-family-court-attorney-pleads-guilty/

“Guardian Suspended without Pay” by Dave Bohman, 02/13/2013. WNEP News: http://wnep.com/2013/02/13/guardian-suspended-without-pay/

“Report on Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem System Released” by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, 07/12/2012: http://pmconline.org/node/652

“Spouse of Former Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem Pleads Guilty to Federal Income Tax Fraud Misdemeanor” by The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, 12/04/2013. FBI: http://www.fbi.gov/philadelphia/press-releases/2013/spouse-of-former-lackawanna-county-guardian-ad-litem-pleads-guilty-to-federal-income-tax-fraud-misdemeanor

“Supreme Court temporarily suspends Ross’ law license” by Peter Cameron, 02/06/2014. the times tribune: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/supreme-court-temporarily-suspends-ross-law-license-1.1629831

“Testimonials Flood in on Custody4Cash scandal” by Louis R Jasikoff and Staff, 03/01/2014. Wilkes-Barre Scranton Independent Review: http://wilkesbarrescrantonig.com/2014/03/01/testimonials-flood-in-on-custody4cash-scandal/