No justice for the doctor? Dr. Mahadeo outside the courthouse. Photo: Black Star News
Dr. Robby Mahadeo claims a biased judge has wrongfully stripped him of parental rights and turned his divorce case, now entering its fifth year, into a cash cow for some lawyers.
All told, Dr. Mahadeo has been billed a total of $403,000 in attorneys’ fees. He’s already paid off about $200,000 he says. Some attorneys have been capitalizing and taking gross advantage of the situation which he wants reviewed.
Dr. Mahadeo filed a detailed 14-page complaint against Judge Margaret Parisi McGowan, who is handling the case in State Supreme Court in Queens, with a voluminous attachment of exhibits, to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, on September 24, 2019. In a letter dated November 7, 2019, he was informed that his complaint will be presented for review to the Commission.
In his complaint letter against the judge, Dr. Mahadeo also accused her of conducting most of her proceedings in her chambers so that no details appear on the records. “She has abused her power and caused great emotional harm to my family,” he wrote, in part, in his letter to the Judicial Commission.
Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the New York unified courts system, which includes State Supreme Court in Queens County, in an e-mail message said: “We do not comment on judicial decisions. The respondent has various avenues of recourse should he have issue with any rulings.”
Judge McGowan removed Dr. Mahadeo’s parental rights based on an allegation by his wife and a court-appointed lawyer for his children that he fed peanuts to his youngest child, then three years old, knowing she was allergic to them. The allegation was later shown to be false when Dr. Mahadeo’s attorney presented records from the hospitals where the child was treated.
Still, Judge McGowan refused to reverse her order removing his parental rights. As a result, Dr. Mahadeo hasn’t seen his now two teenage children-a daughter aged 16 and a son aged 14-in two years. He’s only allowed a supervised one-hour weekend visit with the youngest, now five years old. If the therapist who supervises him isn’t available, he’s unable to see the child.
Dr. Mahadeo says his “nightmare” began only after Judge McGowan started presiding over the case. His wife, Rachael, filed for divorce, after 12 years of marriage, on January 30, 2015. The case was presided over by Judge Pamela Jackson Brown, between January 2015 to March 2017; and then by Judge Ernest Hart from May to October 2017. During that two-year period Dr. Mahadeo was able to see all his children anywhere from three to five times each week, he says. “Judge Brown said parental lost time with children is never recoverable,’’ Dr. Mahadeo recalls, “and Judge Hart had recommended almost equal parental time.”
Then on December 15, 2017 shortly after Justice McGowan started hearing the case, she made the first of what Dr. Mahadeo says were several “egregious rulings.” On that court date, his wife Rachael, and Rayaaz N. Khan, the lawyer for the children, made the false peanuts allegations against Dr. Mahadeo, who is a pediatrician. “My children mean everything to me,” he says.
His wife had taken the child to PM Pediatrics for treatment on November 28, 2017. Records show that she was diagnosed with strep pharyngitis and given antibiotics. After he noticed rashes on the child, Dr. Mahadeo himself took her to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center on December 8, 2017. She was diagnosed with scarlet fever, a complication from the strep infection. Then on December 10, 2017, his wife Rachael took the child to Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Records show she was diagnosed with a viral rash.
Yet on the December 15 court date, both Rachael and Khan claimed that Long Island Jewish (LIJ) had determined that the child had an allergic reaction to peanuts. Dr. Mahadeo denied feeding the child peanuts. “…LIJ said it was an allergic reaction to nuts,” Judge McGowan said, on the record, the court transcripts show. The judges’ statement was not based on any evidence but his wife’s and Khan’s words, Dr. Mahadeo told the Judicial Commission in his complaint.
Judge McGowan summarily suspended Dr. Mahadeo’s parental rights. She also agreed with Khan’s request and issued an order barring him from feeding any of his children. What’s more, the judge said she could order an ACS investigation and report Dr. Mahadeo to the Medical Board.
Even after Dr. Mahadeo’s attorney presented a letter from Dr. Lorry Rubin, the Director of the Infectious Disease Department at LIJ stating that the child hadn’t suffered an allergic reaction, Judge McGowan wouldn’t reverse herself. In the letter dated March 26, 2018, Dr. Rubin, in part wrote: “There was no evidence of an allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis or an urticarial rash that could be indicative of a reaction to peanuts or other foods to which she is reportedly allergic.”
Judge McGowan rejected a letter Dr. Mahadeo presented from Dr. Ajey Jain, the Chairman of the Pediatrics Department at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center where he’d previously worked, also stating that there wasn’t an allergic reaction. “The judge stated that all the doctors at Jamaica Hospital are corrupt and would lie for me,” Dr. Mahadeo says.
Judge McGowan then ordered a forensic report and appointed an evaluator, Dr. Peter Favaro, a psychologist. In June 2018, Favaro recommended therapeutic sessions with the teenage children, and two supervised visits and then unrestricted ones with the child. The judge ignored Dr. Favaro’s recommendations, Dr. Mahadeo says. Dr. Mahadeo only has once-a-week supervised visits with the five year old, with another psychologist Dr. Ellen Weld. She had been recommending extended and unsupervised visitation with the child since September 2018. The judge dismissed all four of her reports, despite about forty visitation sessions, Dr. Mahadeo says.
“I’ve refuted all the false allegations, I love my children, I pay monthly child support, yet the judge wouldn’t restore my parental rights,” Dr. Mahadeo says.
Both Dr. Favaro and Dr. Weld declined to comment for this article.
“Sorry not permitted,” Dr. Favaro said, in an e-mail message.
“As a Court-appointed neutral conducting confidential assessments, it is not appropriate for me to comment,” Dr. Weld said, in an e-mail message.
Additionally, in an e-mail message to his teenage son, Khan, the lawyer, told him that he didn’t have to comply with the judge. “This attorney is prolonging the case to make money and poisoning my relations with the children,” Dr. Mahadeo says. “He also made an inappropriate remark to me, he said my wife is sexy.”
Dr. Mahadeo says his son was scheduled for major disfiguring orthopedic surgery in August 2019, at LIJ, and his involvement was restricted by the judge. A motion forcing a second opinion by Dr. Pablo Castaneda, Chief of Pediatrics Orthopedics at NYU revealed the scheduled osteotomy and bilateral femoral growth plate modulation was not necessary. Dr. Mahadeo says both Khan and McGowan remain silent on this issue as well as his vindication on the ACS charges.
Dr. Mahadeo says the case, which enters its fifth year in January, has bled him financially. Of the total $403,000 in attorneys’ fees, some comprise billings from four lawyers who’ve represented Dr. Mahadeo since 2015, and $38,000 in billings from Khan, and $100,000 from Alyssa Eisner, an attorney for his wife, Rachael, even though a prenuptial agreement had precluded him paying her legal fees in a divorce proceeding. Eisner had asked for $250,000. Dr. Mahadeo says Judge McGowan also hasn’t asked his wife to produce her financial records. He says she’d been a Bloomberg Trading Systems Sales Representative and had made six figures.
Mrs. Mahadeo did not respond to an e-mail message from Black Star News seeking comment; Khan, the lawyer, also did not respond; and, Eisner, who had represented Mrs. Mahadeo, did not respond to a request for comment.
Dr. Mahadeo complained to Judge McGowan that Khan hadn’t presented detailed invoices which he’d had a chance to review, but she ignored him, he says. He also asked that the money be placed in escrow until the invoices were reviewed, which she also denied.
During the same court date on December 15, 2017, at 5PM Judge McGowan gave Dr. Mahadeo 30 minutes to go to a Chase Bank two blocks away and return with $20,000 toward payment for Khan. Otherwise, she’d hold an immediate contempt hearing and issue an arrest warrant for Dr. Mahadeo, the judge said. When he said he didn’t have cash readily available Judge McGowan told him to dip into his retirement. “I cried for mercy and for more time,” Dr. Mahadeo says. He was given six days. When he came back with $20,000 at the next hearing the judge had three court officers stand behind him, he says. “She was treating me like a common hardened criminal, not a doctor who simply wants to see his children,” he says. “When Judge Hart was presiding over the case, he’d stipulated that Khan be paid $7,500, subject to a complete review of his bills.”
“As per his custom, he will produce an enormous bill to Judge McGowan who will command immediate payment or jail time,” Dr. Mahadeo says, adding that Khan also bills him for the e-mail messages to his children, including ones denigrating him.
Earlier, on December 21, 2017 Dr. Mahadeo had filed a motion to have Khan relieved as attorney for the children. It detailed Khan’s alleged gross bias and inappropriate emails correspondence, misleading the children. Also, Khan on the record ask the judge to put Dr. Mahadeo in jail, he says. The judge denied the motion to have Khan relieved and sanctioned Dr. Mahadeo $3,000.
Dr. Mahadeo says Judge McGowan has gone out of her way to help his wife undo their prenuptial agreement signed in 2003 when they married. After a two-day hearing in the end of July 2018, McGowan issued, on August 4, 2018, an order upholding the agreement’s validity. The judge determined that his wife failed to show that the agreement was “the product of duress, fraud, overreaching or unconscionable,” he says.
Yet, on September 25, 2018, Judge McGowan vacated her own order. The judge told Dr. Mahadeo’s attorney in chambers, that an informant-whom she didn’t name-had alerted the court that he had bribed a witness who testified in the hearing. The judge referred the matter to the Queens County District Attorney’s office for investigation.
It was only later, that Dr. Mahadeo discovered that the accusation had come from his then 13-year-old son. Khan, the lawyer, had accompanied the boy to the DA’s office and billed the doctor for the visit. The DA found that the child was not credible and didn’t even see any need to speak with Dr. Mahadeo, who was not contacted. “This was orchestrated by my wife and Khan,” Dr. Mahadeo says. “This is child abuse on the part of Khan and I am being forced to pay him for it,” he says. He notes that Judge McGowan again took no action regarding a false allegation against him. On January 28, 2019, Judge McGowan vacated her September 25, 2018 order and reaffirmed the prenuptial agreement’s validity.
Later, Judge McGowan said she wanted a trial on the allergic reaction allegations. She scheduled March 26, 2019 as the date. Dr. Jain, Dr. Rubin and Dr. Weld were ready to testify on his behalf, Dr. Mahadeo says. Then, three days before the trial date, on March 23, Khan requested, and the judge granted a telephone conference during which he asked that the trial be cancelled. Judge McGowan granted the request.
“The scheming and exploitation continued,” Dr. Mahadeo says. This time, Khan, in a motion asked Judge McGowan to vacate her order upholding the prenuptial agreement’s validity. What was the reason? Khan claimed that even though he’d attended the two-day hearing in July 2018, he’d been unaware that he could have participated in the proceedings and remained quiet. Khan had also billed Dr. Mahadeo over $3,000 for the two-day hearing.
Dr. Mahadeo says even though Khan had no standing since the prenuptial agreement did not involve the children, Judge McGowan granted his motion. On May 13, 2019, she again set aside her August 4, 2018 order validating the prenuptial agreement. Judge McGowan ruled that a new trial would be held within 10 days.
Dr. Mahadeo says his savings was depleted by this time and that he borrowed money to hire the noted attorney Raoul Felder to file an order to show cause. On June 4, 2019, Felder, filed a motion to reargue Khan’s claim that he hadn’t been aware that he could have participated in the 2018 hearing on the validity of the prenuptial agreement. Felder said for Khan to take that position it would mean he’d committed malpractice. “This action protected me from an immediate new trial that McGowan was forcing to conduct and rule against me,” Dr. Mahadeo says.
Felder did not return a request for comment sent by e-mail message.
Then, on August 19, 2019, Judge McGowan, issued an order for a new trial on the validity of the prenuptial agreement. She didn’t set a date. On September 4, 2019, Judge McGowan also ordered Dr. Mahadeo to pay Eisner, his wife’s lawyer $75,000 for her attorney fees. “Maybe that’s why she keeps setting aside her ruling that the prenuptial agreement is valid,” Dr. Mahadeo says.
Dr. Mahadeo lost his job at PM Pediatrics last month and believes it could be related to his divorce case. “This will be investigated fully,” he says.
Meanwhile, there’s been a dramatic development. Dr. Mahadeo’s case has been moved to King’s County (Brooklyn) State Supreme Court. Eisner, his wife’s lawyer, has withdrawn from representing her, he says. “I know Alyssa Eisner is concerned about a grievance against her. She misled the court and filed many false affidavits,” Dr. Mahadeo says. “I want a proper accounting for the $38,000 I paid Khan, and for the fee to be properly adjusted. At the very least, I’m hoping for an impartial trial of the facts in Brooklyn.”
Dr. Mahadeo’s eyes lit up during the interview for the first time as he describes a recent supervised visit with his five year old daughter. “Look, we made beads together, and she made this one for me,” he says, displaying a bracelet made of multi-colored tiny beads that he was wearing. “Her favorite quote is ‘one for me, one for my daddy.’ I just want to see all my children. Hopefully the new year will bring better luck.”
Readers if you’ve also been a victim of blatant injustice and have a well documented story reach me at [email protected] Follow the author @allimadi