A memoir of struggle, endurance and growth. Coming soon !
This third memoir of the Pentalogy called Samsaara chronicles my experiences of navigating the marital dissolution proceedings in Santa Clara County, and Fresno County, California. The memoir traces the actions of over fifteen (15) corrupt and/or ignorant Judges, and over thirty (30) dishonest attorneys in San Francisco, Santa Clara & Fresno County over a period of twenty years. Upon scrathing the surface, each one of these was found to be engaged in casefixing, racketeering and profiteering from the rackets in the family court system, protected under the umbrella of the Judicial System.
Navigating a system corrupt with bribery, forgery, money laundering, nepotism, relationships and a casefixing racket that endeavours to exploit and rob women and children of color and the expat women and children who have had the misfortune of being caught in the web of corruption. The goal of the racket is to rob these women and children of their property, their support, and other entitlements by depriving them of civil rights under the American constitution.
The End of New Beginnings
“When you think that you lost everything you find out’ you can always lose a little more.” -Bob Dylan
Mandatory Settlement Conference: Day 1 (May 16, 2007)
I reached the Santa Clara Family Courthouse about twenty minutes after eight. Ergo about twenty minutes late. But since it was a Settlement Conference, I wasn’t worried much. I knew they would wait. I walked up the stairs, to the Courthouse, apprehensive, but elated. I was going to be free. Finally free. Freedown from Sameer. Freedom from bondage. Freedom from Abuse. I could be happy. I deserved to be happy. He had moved on, found Snehal Devani, got married, and I had found Francis Da Costa. My relationship with Francis had been very romantic, very heady while it lasted, but it was full of roller coasters. It hadn’t worked out for me, maybe I hadn’t been ready. When Sameer found out that we had broken up, he had celebrated.
“No one wants you!” his email had said. Cruelty was him, but I wasn’t in any hurry. The children filled my life with so many little joys. I had brought them into the world. They deserved to have a healthy childhood. A slight smile spread on my face as I thought about freedom from oppression. freedom from exploitation. And yet, freedom from abuse. Freedom was close, I could almost taste it as I walked into the Courthouse. “I just have to get thru today,” I told myself.
Almost immediately I saw William Pardue, my attorney. He was bent over some documents in a cubical of the lobby at the entrance. They had recently converted the open space into small cubicles where attorneys could sit and confer with their clients. Impeccably dressed in a grey suit, a light blue shirt, and shiny dress shoes, he was seated in one of those cubicles. he looked like a handsome hero of a B grade movie, he was aware of his looks and often tried to use his looks to his advantage with litigants. He had tried to flirt with me a few times, but I was Indian, and was conditioned – by birth, and by culture – to ignore male advances. Meaningless flirtations repulsed me because they reminded me of Sameer. And of Francis.
“All men are essentially pigs,” I reminded myself.
Pardue waived at me, and gestured me to sit in the black plastic chair next to him. I am claustrophobic, the cubicle cramped me but I sat down anyway. After the usual pleasantries, he wrote the figure $120,000 on a sheet of paper and pushed it towards me. I leaned forward to take the sheet from him, and looked at him, puzzled.
“This is the figure they offered,” he said.
“What? That is insane,” I said, laughing and shaking my head in disbelief, “You told me that I should be looking at $2,000,000 in cash settlement,” I said, leaning back with confidence. “They’ll go up,” I said to Pardue.
“Not going to happen,” Pardue said.
I did not understand. Pardue had himself repeatedly told me that I should expect $2m. He had said that they did not have a leg to stand on. He had made that comment after $40,000 in legal costs had been paid to him for depositions, and subpoenas. After he had seen the income documents, assets, after he had deposed their CPA, Sally White, and punched holes in her financial reports, after he had computed support arrears, and after he had run the numbers many times over. And my rough estimate also showed that Sameer owed me between $1.5m – $2m in cash settlement, apart from the property division, spousal support etc. All of the jewellery in the safe deposit box, worth over $200,000, had already been awarded to me by Judge Cox. It was over $800,000 now, as the cost of gold had quadrupled. I reminded Pardue of all this that we had previously agreed on.
“I think $120,000 is a good offer, and you should accept it,” he said,slowly “ there will be no property division, spousal support, or jewellery. Judge Cox’s order will not be enforced” he added.
I didn’t understand why he was saying this. We had hired a private Judge who had spent over six months reaching a partial settlement with Judge Cox in 2005. I had spent over $16,000 on attorney and Judge’s fee. The additional order was signed by all, and dated, and filed with the Court. Why was he saying that I should settle for $120,000 when he knew Sameer owed me $2m in a cash settlement. He had to be kidding.
I waited for him to say “I was just joking, just wanted to rile you up,” but he never said that. He simply kept staring at me, as if trying to get some thoughts conveyed thru his stare, as if willing me to accept the offer. I had told him about my past, about how most of what we owned was actually mine, but I was willing to share 50% with Sameer. But I would not accept anything less. He continued to persuade me to accept their offer.
“I want to go to trial,” I said, stubbornly “I will not accept this.”
He paused for a while, as if carefully choosing his words. I waited, still confused. Then, he slowly and deliberately said “you may be entitled to $2m, property, child and spousal support, jewellery. But you most certainly won’t get $2m, property, support and jewellery.”
“Why ?” I said, “I will make sure I get $2m, property, and support,” I said,” I will not settle for less,” I said,” lets just not bother with the settlement conference, just get a trial date,” I said.
“I don’t think you understand,” he said, slowly, trying to convey his unsaid and my unthought.
“What don’t I understand?” I said.
“You don’t understand that there wont be any trial,” he said, carefully avoiding my gaze.
“Why?” I felt myself get angry. I had waited for 5 years, all my efforts were to take the matter to trial, because I knew Sameer’s passive aggressive nature would preclude a proper settlement. After all, he had attempted to sabotage all previous settlement efforts. There was a partial settlement on record, and that needed to be enforced, and a few other matters needed to be tried. Why was Pardue trying to avoid a trial? I had already paid him a hefty advance for a three day trial. The settlement conference was expected to last an hour or so. It didn’t make sense.
Pardue looked at me with exasperation. As if I should have understood his reasons. Well, I wasn’t telepathic, and told him so. He needed to tell me why there would be no trial.
“Well, the Judge doesn’t want a trial,” he said.
I thought he was too lazy for a trial, and was using the Judge as an excuse.
“Why would the Judge not want me to have a trial?” I asked, “they make an offer, I don’t accept, there is no settlement, and then we go to trial. Its that simple,” I said. It was a simple matter, it really was. Or should have been. But I had much to learn about Judge Davila, and the learning would continue for over 20 years.
“Take my advice. Settle for $120,000. You will not get anywhere. In fact you may be sanctioned for $187,000 in attorney costs payable to Sameer,” Pardue said. It didn’t make any sense. It seemed so ridiculous that I began to believe that Pardue was trying to cheat me of my chance to take the matter to trial. Could he have been bribed by Sameer ? I tried not to think along those lines. There was no need to tell him my story all over again, but I did. I thought it would lead to compassion. I told him everything. My inheritance, marital rapes, other women, financial, physical, sexual exploitation, physical abuse, domestic violence, and more. I broke down crying, something I rarely did, and had to bend over to conceal my face on the desk. I enclosed my face by my arms and continued talking about my past. I could see he was moved. There was no a human being who would not be moved at what I had been forced to endure by Sameer. After I had finished talking, I simply lay there, with my head bent over on the desk, hidden by my arms. I was embarrassed at the outpouring and did not wish to face him so soon. $120,000 did not even cover the child support arrears that Sameer owed me. It was less than the attorney fee that I had been promised. Pardue had told me that Sameer owed me over $400,000 in support arrears and interests alone. I had been driven from home. Everything I had earned has been stolen from me by Sameer and his parents. Everything I had inherited had been stolen from me. Everything I had saved had been stolen. Everything I had been gifted by my family, had been stolen. All my retirement funds, 401K, pension funds had been zeroised. I wasn’t eligible for any kind of pension, superannuation, or social security. I did not have a job. I had two children to support. I could not go back to India. And now, right under the nose of the Judges, Sameer was stealing all my properties, all my money, all my support, right before everyone’s eyes, and no one was able to help me? How was I expected to take care of myself and the children. I felt him lean forward towards my unmoving head on the desk, concealed by my arms.
“I’ll try to do everything I can,” I heard him say,” but you must believe me that the Judge will not allow the matter to go to trial. There will be a temporary judge who will come to talk with you in a little while. You can tell him that you don’t want to settle, that you want to go to trial. I doubt if that will help. But that’s a start,” he said, and with that, he left the cubicle.
After he had left, I got up and went to the washroom, to wash my tear streaked face. I didn’t want the Temporary Judge to find me a mess. The washroom was filled with women, and I had to wait for a while for my turn with the toilet. I saw her there, standing in a corner, next to one of the many washbasins. Her head was bent down. With a studied and deliberate casualness, she would periodically turn her head towards the wall, away from other women in the room, as if to hide her face. Her hand would dart to her eyes and then, a moment later, she would resume her posture. To anyone who had time to observe her, and no one else seemed to have time except me, it was clear that she was crying, albeit attempting to hide the tears, and was repeatedly turning her face to the wall to wipe her tears with her fingers, as unobtrusively as possible. She was a Russian, or Ukaranian, or somewhere from that region. I had seen her in Judge Davila’s Courtroom many times, waiting for her turn. She was light skinned, with hints of dimples on her cheeks, and remarkably beautiful. That is why I remembered her, because she was beautiful. But her face was always sad. I guess every woman in the Courthouse looked sad. It was not, after all, a happy place. After I had been to the toilet, I intentionally headed towards her, to wash my hands in the basin next to where she was standing.
“Are you all right,” I asked her.
“Yes, yes, thank you very much for asking” she said quickly, politely with embarrassment, but her eyes were filled up with tears.
“Can I help?” I asked, “I have seen you in Judge Davila’s courtroom. My case is also heard in the same Court,” I told her.
“Ok,” she said. And then there was a silence between us. The room was filled with women, and noise, but I could only see and hear her tears. My heart filled with a pain, that I possibly was projecting on her.
“Why are you crying?” I asked. “Did something happen in the Courtroom?” I asked. Judge Davila was a woman hater and his attitude in the Courtroom showed that. Hyena, that’s what he was called by the women. I agreed with the name. At a time when most women were already emotionally wrecked due to the failure of their marriage, his behaviour in the Courtroom felt like salt on the wounds. His name perfectly suited him. Davila, for the Devil. Just like Cruella Deville. “They should force the Judges to attend behavior classes” I told her, “he can be nasty,” I said, “I’m sorry”.
She did not answer my question with words but with a look that made me feel the depth of her anguish. Tears freely poured out her eyes and she made no attempt to hide them.
“Tell me what he said,” I said gently, “I may not be able to help you, but it is nice to get it off your chest,” I said. She turned towards the door and walked out gesturing me to follow. Outside, she turned towards me. Her eyes continued to be filled with tears, although they had stopped flowing.
“My attorney say if I can have pay $100,000, I get children custody,” she said, in her highly accented, broken english. A bomb exploded in my brain, but she continued talking in her soft, sad voice. “Judge Davila asked for a bribe to give you custody of children.” I asked.
“I don’t know who to be paid,” she said,” yes, lawyer says money to pay someone,” she said, visibly agitated. She continued talking excitedly, in hushed, sad tones, of heavily accented English, narrating her experience. She was from a rich family, I heard, married to a rich man, I heard, but she was alone with no money in US. Yada yada yada, she went on. But although I could see her lips move, I could not hear the words coming out of her mouth. Pardue. I had to find Pardue. I must find Pardue. What was that about $120,000? That I must accept the offer, that the Judge had told him that there would be no trial.
She was still talking, telling me things that I should have listened to. I should have asked for her name. Her address. The details of her attorney. But my mind was fucked. I could not bear to stand there a moment longer. I had to get away from her. I had to find Pardue.
With great effort, I spoke to her. I think I expressed my sympathies. I remember giving her by business card. I told her to call me if she needed to talk to someone, or needed to discuss something. I told her I had to get back, that my attorney was waiting for me. And I tore myself from her and headed back to the cubicle where Pardue had left me.
 The two accidents of 2003, and 2007 are already covered in other parts of the memoir.
Mandatory Settlement Conference: Day 2 (May 17, 2007)
I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of my private Walden by the ocean. Dreaming had turned into an escape during stressful times – the mind soothes by compensating.. At 3 am, I finally forced myself to wake up. There was a lot of school assignments to complete before I could leave for San Jose. I checked my emails, and saw Professor Petrovich’s slides for classes that I had missed. I spent an hour going thru the lecture slides, and completing the assignments. At 4AM, I forced myself to get out of the bed to get ready. I went downstairs and made tea for myself and forced myself to eat chocolate chip cookies that I had bought for Utsav. I did not feel hunger, for I had lost the sense of food in the last few months. Most times I would skip breakfast, lunch, dinner when I travelled to and fro from Fresno to San Jose, a rountrip of seven hours, plus time in the Court. I travelled at least once a week, sometimes upto four times every week. There was rarely time to eat. Now my body did not show signs of hunger. I ate when I could, only because I reminded myself to eat. I was sure my system was getting messed up, but there was little else I could do.
The house was quiet, the sun was beginning its daily journey across the horizon. I slid the door open and stepped out onto the verandah. The warm morning breeze wafted in bringing dust in its wake. I shivered slightly, and sneezed. The breeze was warmer than the air conditioned temperatures inside. The large backyard looked threadbare, and ugly. The children had been excited with the house with “upstairs/downstairs”. It was too big for us, but I had honored their decision. I had liked the house only because of the land. It was spread over more then 13000 sq ft, a rarily in Fresno where houses were usuall 6000sqft or less. I dreamt of creating a tropical paradise complete with waterfalls. Electricity bills take precedence. I sadly smiled at the poverty that had been artificially imposed on me. I had heard Kabir tell Utsav Utsav, We aren’t poor. Our poverty is only a temporary situation. I hoped that the temporary situation would come to an end today. I hoped we would settle today, or at least schedule the matter for a trial. There was nothing special in the backyard worth lingering, so I slid the door closed and returned.
I took out some vegetables from the refrigerator, and prepped them for dinner, hoping to be back before nightfall. At around 6 AM, I packed children’s stuff in a bag, woke them and helped them get ready to leave. We had breakfast – scrambled eggs and frankfurters with toasted bread for Utsav. Kabir was allergic to eggs, so I made him a crepe from rice flour. My grandmother used to make these for me, and the children loved them, and called them White Roti. We rarely had breakfast together on weekdays, as they went to school early, and I had to leave too, and they spent or were supposed to spend, two weekends every month away from me. So today was special. I had time. My attorney William Pardue had told me that I was not required to be there before 10AM. I planned to reach at 10:30AM.
By the time the children and I left home in Fresno it was 6:45 AM. We reached Merced at around 7:45 and I left them with Carlos and drove the usual tiring route to San Jose, stopping to get gas and Starbucks on the way. I drove slowly, leisurely, for a change, sans the stress of being late to Court. It was a new feeling. “I will be free of him today,” I said to myself, “no more travels to San Jose.”
Pardue was waiting for me in the lobby, not in a cubicle, but on a bench along the wall. He waived at me to attract my attention and I went and sat near him. After the pleasantries, he told me that he had had a talk with them, and after yesterday, they had come up on their offer some. They now wanted to give me $278,000 plus some share inthe properties, and spousal support of $1,500 per month. I wasn’t interested unless they agreed to $2m in cash, and spousal support of $8000 per month and half the properties. This is what Pardue and I had computed after thorough calculations. We went back and forth on this one, over and over again. I could see Pardue was desperate to make me accept the offer. But there was no way I was going to accept such a lopsided offer.
After failing to convince me for over an hour, we all went to the Courtroom and informed Judge Davila that there was no agreement. Davila insisted that we return and continue negotiation.
We had been negotiating for two days, but there had been absolutely no progress. And I did not understand why Davila continued to insist. We all returned to the lobby, and went into our respective cubicles. Pardue went to see Benett & Becker for further negotiations. I looked for the Russian woman who had told me about the bribes that had been demanded of her, but I could not find her. It was unlikely, because she must have had her hearing yesterday, and there was almost no chance of seeing her today.
Pardue returned after a while, and informed me that they did not wish to budge. I was unconcerned and told him to schedule a trial. He looked at me in exasperation and again said there would be no trial, and if there was a trial, I would be sanctioned $189,000. I again told him that in that case, Sameer needed to up his offer to $2m, and $8000 in spousal support. I could see that he was getting agitated. He told me that maybe he should resign, and I should represent myself. I told him that the trial date was too close for me to find another attorney. He had to take me to trial, like we had always planned. Pardue again told me that if we went to trial, I would be greatly injured, and then I would hold him responsible for that injury. I told him that I would not blame him.
“Just take me to trial,” I said.
Pardue whipped out a pen and began scribbling something on a sheet of paper. After he had scribbled, he shoved the sheet at me and told me to sign it. He had written:
I, William Pardue, have advised my client, that the present offer from the opposing party, totalling $278,000 is more than reasonable, and represents more than half of the community assets, under dispute. Despite this, and with the addition admonition that my client is very likely to get significantly less than the present offer and may have to pay Petitioner some form of penalty. Despite this, Ms Sameer insists on going to trial, despite my advice to settle.
Pardue dated the note 5/17/07, and signed it. I laughed, and said, “that’s fair enough. I will sign it. Just take me to trial.” And I signed on the sheet of paper. He hadn’t expected it, and was quite surprised,
“I want to go to trial,” I told him, again, “I’m not going to accept this junk offer,” I said, “so lets just cut this façade of negotiations and tell Davila that we don’t have an agreement.” He again told me that Davila would never allow a trial. I did not believe him. I had a firm belief in the justice system and was determined to go to trial.
Pardue spent the rest of the afternoon going back and forth between Sameer and his gang, and me. We were at a stalemate. I continued to tell him that we needed to go to trial. He left me during lunchtime, to run some errands, and I ate at the same restaurant where we had eaten the previous afternoon. After I returned, we were asked to see Davila once again, and we informed him that there was no agreement. The court reporters furiously transcribed the discussions. Davila sent us back, insisting that we reach an agreement but nothing really worked out, as Benett & Becker remained firm on their offer, and I on mine, with Pardue running back and forth seeking a not-happening agreement. Later afternoon we again went to the Courtroom and told Davila that we had no agreement. He continued to insist that we reach an agreement. At the end of the day, the attorneys also went to see him in his chambers and were given an extension to continue the settlement conference for the next day.
I again returned to I-152, without a resolution, and picked up the children from Merced on the way back, thanking Carlos and his older son, and paying another $100 for babysitting. It wasn’t as late today, so in Fresno, I took Herndon, instead of Road 31, to pick up something to eat on the way home. The kids had already eaten, but we drove thru McDonald’s for an ice crème cone for all of us, reaching home at around 9:30pm. They had to go back to Carlos the next day, but they didn’t mind. Carlos and Cruz had 4 children, and the children were happy to have so many playmates who treated them like VIPs.
Settlement Conference: Day 3 (May 18, 2007)
Next morning, I repeated the drill, leaving home in Fresno with the children at around 5:30 AM. Pardue had told me to arrive early, as Davila wanted to talk to us as early as possible. After dropping them off, I drove as fast as I could, fearing Davila’s wrath. Ironically, everytime I left Fresno early, I hit the peak traffic on I-880 between 7:30AM – 8:00 AM. It seemed to take forever, and my stress levels were sky high. Finally, I did manage to reach at 8:45 am and found Pardue waiting. He told me that Davila had called the attorneys to his chambers at 9:30 am and I could not go with him.
“But you already were with him last evening,” I said. Pardue again attempted to coerce me into accepting the offer, and again, I refused. “Get a trial date from Davila,” I said.
We all went to the basement together, but Sameer and I waited outside the Courtroom while the three attorneys went inside the Judge’s Chambers. I again looked for the Russian woman, but she was nowhere to be seen. Not wanting to see Sameer’s face, I went into the washroom to freshen myself. When I returned, the attorneys were still missing, so I sat down on the bench along the wall, outside the Courtroom. The place was jam packed. People were bumping into one another, and there was a din of voices as usual. I waited, and waited and waited.
After what seemed like eons, the three attorneys returned. Susan Benett & Lewis Becker had a broad smile on their faces. Pardue beamed at me. I walked up to meet him, and took him aside. “Did you get a date?” I asked. He simply smiled at me, and said, “Lets talk upstairs, I have a solution.” We walked up the narrow stairs, avoiding people rushing downstairs. I was dying of curiosity, but Pardue refused to share anything. At the cubicle, he asked me to sit down, and said he would return in a few minutes. I assumed he had to go to the washroom, but he took his briefcase with him. He returned, and put the briefcase on the desk. He opened the briefcase and drew out a sheet and handed it to me. I was looking at the Substitution of Attorney Form being handed to me. These are used when attorneys enter the case, or when they exist the case, informing the Court that the attorney named on the form is either going to represent you, or is going to stop representing you. They have to be counter signed by the client, who accepts the attorney, or agrees to let the attorney go. Pardue had filled the form to exit the case. He wanted my signatures on it.
My heart felt almost stopped beating in terror. The trial was scheduled in a few days and today, Pardue was exiting my case. I felt resentment rising up my body. This was so unfair. So below the belt. I was terrified but tried not to show the fear.
“Davila doesn’t want a trial,” Pardue said to me as he sat down on the spare chair in the cubicle, “he has threatened that he would sanction you with $187,000, as I had told you he would. And he has threatened to sanction me also,” Pardue said. “I cannot take that risk,” he continued, “because if he gets angry at me, he will take it out on my other clients, and I cannot allow that,” Pardue said.
“But this is unfair,” I said loudly, anger rising from my belley up, “he cant just force me to accept such a lowball offer,” I shouted.
“Don’t yell,” Pardue said, “you don’t have a choice. Either you accept their offer, or you sign this document and represent yourself,” he said, holding out a ballpoint towards me.
This wasn’t happening to me. This couldn’t be happening to me. I was terrified. But I was not going to be bullied into accepting $120,000 or $278,000 in settlement when he owed me over $2m. Eight properties. We owned eight properties across the world. Of these four were my personal properties. Two of them had been from my dead father, who had paid for them thru his blood money. How could this happen to me. In a moment of absolute rage, I took the ballpoint, and signed on the Substitution of Attorney Form.
“You can leave,” I said, “but I wont accept this,” I said stiffly. My eyes stung, and I knew I would start crying any moment. I did not wish to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry again, so I raised myself up, and told him I was going to the washroom, and left him sitting there. I felt devastated. Crushed. I was without an attorney, and Davila was going to tear me apart. I knew nothing about trials. I had never even attended one. And there was no time to learn. I had to find a new attorney. I didn’t know how I could find anyone who would represent me in a trial within the next week or so.
In 2007, I was innocent. And naïve. And gullible. I was an easy target for scamsters, and shysters like Davila and Pardue. I did not know that Judges cannot force a settlement or that attorneys cannot abandon their clients on the eve of a trial. I did not know that trials could be continued. I knew nothing. And much later, I realised that Pardue, along with Davila, Benett & Becker, knew that I knew nothing. They knew that I was vulnerable, ignorant, and therefore a helpless sitting duck. And they had planned to fix the case in Sameer’s favor. They had planned this scene between themselves, to coerce me into accepting a settlement that I would not otherwise accept. This was the reason why Davila scheduled a meeting in his chambers this morning even though he had already had one the night before. This morning’s meeting with the attorneys had been to find a way of coercing me. To scheme against me. To help Sameer rob me. A voice in my head told me I was being unreasonable, that Judges are not corrupt. They cannot be. The events unfolding over the next 15 years would affirm my instincts.
I suddenly felt cold, terribly cold. And I began to shiver uncontrollably. It was 18th May, 2007, the peak of summer, but I shivered as if I was in the middle of a snowstorm. I did not know what was happening to me. Many years later, I would learn that this was the body’s reaction to sudden shock and trauma.
Pardue was standing outside the ladies washroom, waiting for me. I ignored him and walked past him. I had signed the Substitution of Attorney form, and there was nothing else to discuss.
“I will get thru this,” I told myself, “I always do.” Like Scarlett O Hara, I was indestructible. Pardue fell in step with me. I asked him what he wanted. “I already signed the form,” I said, “you’re free to go.”
“Madhu, I care for you,” he said, “I tried to walk away after you signed the form, but I cannot leave you alone, because I care for you” he said in a sickly sweet voice that should have sounded the alarm bells, but I believed him at the time. I fucking believed him. I believed that he had stayed because he cared, and had returned to protect me. I would have believed anything to reduce my desperation. When we reached the cubicle, I was till shivering uncontrollably. My teeth were chattering, and I was about to break down into tears again. He asked me if I was ok. “Yes, I just feel cold, terribly cold.” I said.
“Let me help you,” he said, “please let me help you. I cant see you being harmed,” he said.
I began crying. Not softly at all. I went into convulsions, bawling loudly. People turned around to look at me. Benett & Becker also came to our cubicle, with Sameer, and all of them stood around me, watching me shake uncontrollably, crying, shivering, teeth chattering. Pardue said all the right words. Others watched stone faced. After about 10 minutes of crying, my sobs receded, and I wiped my tears, but continued shivering and could not talk due to the chattering teeth.
I don’t remember much of what happened after that. Everything was a daze. I felt frazzled. Pardue went back and forth, noting an agreement on paper. I could not respond, my voice was broken, no sound came out of my mouth, I continued to shiver involuntarily, visibly shaking. I hug myself tight, to prevent the shaking as much as I could. I clenched my jaws, to prevent the chatter. Everytime he asked me something, I simply nodded my head, without understanding a word he was saying. There was no point in refusing anything. Davila would not allow a trial. And Sameer and his gang were refusing to increase their offer. Pardue was threatening to resign. I lost time.
After what seemed like ages, I dimly recall being told we had to go to the Courtroom again, to record the settlement. My brain tried to rise to the occasion, to help me. Still shaking uncontrollably, I feebly blurted out thru the clenched teeth “I want a trial, I don’t like this agreement.” Pardue had been standing in the cubicle, in the process of leaving for the basement. He turned around, and sat in the chair again. Slowly, he raised his briefcase to the deck, opened it, and took out the Substitution of attorney form that I had previously signed.
“If you protest in the Courtroom,” he said, “I will present this to the Judge, and will walk out of the Courtroom. You can then represent yourself in the trial next week,” he snarled, menacingly. “Now get up, and move, Davila is waiting,” he said.
I felt broken. Completely shattered. Everything inside, including my will, felt shattered. With great effort, I willed the bodyparts to inch downstairs to the basement again. My shivers increased, and I hugged myself harder, looking for warmth, clenching my teeth to prevent the chattering. Everyone stared at me. The basement was hot, but I was frozen on the North Pole. As we neared the Courtroom a shroud of abject helplessness infested my entire body. I wished I could just die then and there.
Our names were read out, and we took our seats in the Courtroom. The attorneys sat in the middle, and I sat to the left of Pardue. The attorney read from the sheaths of papers. My brain attempted to jolt me into consciousness. “Speak,” it commanded. I couldn’t. I had not really understood what Pardue had drummed up with the Opposing Counsels. As the terms and conditions being read dimly filtered in, tears welled up in my eyes, and I began sobbing openly Davila looked at me, but did not allow the attorneys to stop. They continued to read, while my teeth chattered, my body shook in uncontrollable shivers, and as I wept.
“. . .the net proceeds of these Ms Sameer, that is net of the stock price and any taxes that are withheld by Cisco, you understand that they are going to try to work it out so it is eventually taxed at wife’s rate,” Benett said. “Speak,” my brain commanded again. And I spoke. Objecting. Pardue’s body seemed to stiffen but I continued.
“That was not agreed,” I said, tears streaming down my cheeks. Davila looked at me sternly.
“Maam, let her finish,” he said.
If it was not acceptable to me, there was no need for her to finish and the monologue should have ended there, but I had been a novice who believed in justice, and it would take me the next 10 years to understand the real reason behind Davila’s refusal to hear me out.
“However, to the extent that taxes are automatically taken out or withheld, you know, we want to have an understanding that we are going to do the very best to make sure that they are taxed at wife’s tax rate,” Benett continued, unperturbed by my objection. He would never allow me to claim the tax refund. For the last four years he had been doing the same and pocketing the refund that he was required to pay to me.
“Your honor for the last four years….,” I said, trying to explain, but Davila was determined to not let me object.
“Maa’m, let these lawyers just talk about this issue for just a moment please…,” he snapped at me.
“Can I say one sentence, please, Your Honor?” I begged. If only he would hear me out. But he wasn’t going to be swayed by logic, or honest disclosures.
“Ma’am, let me finish. Let me go first. I want to thank you and Mr Sameer for your efforts here. I know that it is late in the day. Its 4:30PM. We have been working all week on this and I know people are tired. You put a lot of effort in this. I know the emotional and physical strain as I understand it. This case is very close to settlement. . . . .I invite you to talk to your lawyer, Mr Pardue. . .,” he said.
Pardue turned to look at me and leaned forwards towards me.
“Madhu, I told you, he is not going to let you negotiate. This agreement has been approved by him. He’s not going to let you change it. Stop trying. You can see its no use.” he whispered. I decided to try anyway.
“Your Honor, the amount is….,”I began to say, but Davila interrupted impatiently, and snarled at Pardue “Do you want a moment with her?” before Pardue could say anything, I continued with my statement.
“The amount is important to me, I don’t care if he sells his stocks, or his house. It is the amount which I wanted, and I don’t want to have to share the tax liability because I have been saddled with his tax liability for 4 years,” I said, as quickly as I could, knowing Davila would try his best to stop me.
“Mr Pardue, do you want to talk to your client,” Davila said to Pardue, sparks emanating from his eyes. It would take me another 10 years to understand how important transcripts were, and that Davila was trying his best to shut me up so he could claim that this was an agreement, and that I had not been coerced into a settlement. And it was this piece of the transcript that got him into trouble after 15 years.
Pardue leaned over to me and said, “Im telling you, he’s not going to listen, but if you want me to argue with him, I’m going to do it one last time. The more you protest, the more you will land yourself in trouble. No more protesting after this – are we clear?” he said. I looked at Davila.
“Are we clear? Answer me!” he said.
“Yes,” I whispered to him under my breath.
“Your Honor,” Pardue began. “This amount is something that we have already agreed upon,” he said. “Correct,” I said, emphatically. Surely if we already had an agreement on 278,000, Davila could not force me to accept less than $278,000.
“I think what we tried to do coming into this what we wrote out. We spent five pages writing it out. We went through every single thing. The problem is now, we’re adding some new language that may be acceptable in the final draft but we’re going to be here until midnight if we continue to add additional language to what we have already agreed to…” he said.
“We have agreed that the parties are going to co-operate to have the options that Ms Sameer receives both her half…” Becker intervened. I knew that was a way of silencing me. I knew they would never address the matter. Tax refunds at my rate were huge. They would never agree.
“I don’t want the options,” I said as loudly as I could, as vehemently as I could.
“Let him finish Maam,” Davila said, gesturing with his hand, almost ordering Becker to continue, “Mr Becker, go on ……”
I don’t’ want options… I don’t want it at my rate….,” I said again, as loudly, and as vehemently I could but Davila ignored me as one would ignore an irritating fly that one has just swatted off.
“Mr Pardue, do you want to continue reading us the stipulation,” he said.
“Please, please, please say something. Please don’t let him order the stock options,” I said to Pardue. I had begun sobbing again, my tears were falling freely, my voice was choking, and my nose was blocked. Pardue’s left hand softly reached out to cover mine on the table. I felt even more overwhelmed at the small gesture of kindness and covered my face with my left hand.
“I need to state it for the record that it was the net amount after taxes that got us to the number that we have negotiated here, which is 278,000. The actual number, the gross number was 298,000. . .…so those taxes that my client is concerned about now, I think she sees more of that money being dwindled away, but it was the net amount that we were using. . .it was the money in the account. . . for which the taxes have already been accounted for,” he said.
“I just want the money. 278,000. . . .he doesn’t have to sell his stock, I just want the money,” I said. My face was still behind my hands, and I was still sobbing uncontrollably.
“We’re trying to accomplish that and I think we’re very close. . .Mr Pardue, do you want to continue reading the agreement?” Davila said. Hyena of Santa Clara County, that’s what the women litigants called Davila. The corrupt Judge who preyed on women and children of Santa Clara County. How could he do this to me? Many years later I felt strange that I had asked this question of myself over and over again. Davila was not the only corrupt Judge in the history of United States. The litigation over the next 15 years would amply reveal that there were more corrupt Judges in the systemthan there were honest and ethical Judges. I would confront at least 15 more of the kind – prostitutes who had falsely sworn to remain loyal to the constitution of California and United States.
“There,” Pardue said to me, his hand darting forward on the desk. He shuffled the papers before him, and took out the Substitution of Attorney form from the pile. He moved it towards me, right under the scrutinizing eyes of Davila. He cupped his mouth with his right hand, and leaned towards me, “I’ve done all I could,” he said, “ and now if you create any trouble,” he whispered thru the cupped hands, “I will be out of here in a minute. Then you are on your own at the trial that you want.”
It felt surreal. I was not in my body or in my mind. Sounds came out of my mouth, sounds that continued to object throughout the recitation of the agreement, but it is as if my ears could not hear what I was saying. Neither did anyone else’s ears. It was as if I did not exist in the room. As if this wasn’t my settlement agreement. I did not understand what was going on. Everything sounded unfair, ominous. “Has he been bribed, like that other woman said?” I asked Pardue.
“What do you think?” he said in a hushed voice. I was confused. If a Judge was accepting bribes, how do we complain? Who can I complain to? Something that was not right. Davila kept speaking over both of us, Pardue kept leaning over and muttering to me under his breath, “I told you he’s not going to listen to anything you or I say.”
“ESPP stock that was sold prior to today. The sale proceeds are to be retained by SAMEER. This release of all claims relates to claims regarding or in connection with stock options, household furniture and furnishings, COBRA and medical expenses, insured and uninsured claims regarding education expenses…,” Becker continued reading. What ESPP Stock? When had he sold it? He had told Cox that he hadn’t sold anything without my permission, and that’s what he had said outside the Courtroom. This is the first time I had heard that SAMEER had sold stocks, ESPP (21,p.355) etc without my permission.
I had been made to understand that this was as per Davila’s demand, and there was nothing I, or Pardue could do about it. I whispered to Pardue, asking him if he knew anything about the sale of the ESPP stock. “Shhhhhh,” he said, “It doesn’t matter. Davila says all stock was his personal property because he, not you, earned it from Cisco Systems,” he said.
“Who does Davila report to ?” I asked.
“You don’t report a Judge,” he said, “unless you want to end up in jail, or worse, dead.”
I am being raped. Gang Rape. Gang Rape. People taking turns. One by one. Gang Rape. I could barely hear anything else over the voice in my head. Just like Sameer had raped me all these 20 years. Night after night. The image of me lying in the hospital after surgery, with tubes and IV attached in 1985, flashed before my eyes. He had raped me then, when I was at my most vulnerable. He had raped me in 1997, to intentionally make me pregnant so I would return to the marriage and to him in Australia. The image of myself in the Children’s valley Hospital in 2003, wounded after the accident, immobilized by my injuries flashed before my eyes. He had slapped me then, when I was wounded and at my most vulnerable. He had thrown me to his family, who had gang raped me for 18 years. And now, he had thrown me to the hired help that he had bribed to gang-rape me.
My spousal support was set at $2,600, $2,100, and $1,600 in a step down arrangement, and then terminated after 3 years despite the fact that we had been married for 18 years, we had earned over $49,000 per month in the preceding 15 years, and I had no income in 2007. I had no idea how Spousal Support was computed and whether this agreement had been as per the law. It just didn’t seem right. An unknown amount of guideline child support was also agreed upon. I had no idea what guideline support meant. And I certainly did not know that this amount had been concocted to appease me, and that they had conspired to further reduce this amount thru procedural manipulations after the agreement was recited in the court.
“It is the parties intent to settle all of their respective rights & obligations that have arisen from their marriage & from this settlement,” I dimly heard Susan Benett reciting in a far, far away land. I was aware that approximately $200,000 of my mother’s and my grandmother’s jewelry had been already been awarded to me by Judge Cox. Now Cox’s orders were overturned and now Sameer would never allow me to access to the locker. All my mother’s memories, her belongings, so respectfully preserved for 25 years, had been lost. I had been incapable of taking care of them. I had no control over my body. My body shook, in convulsions. And despite all my efforts to hold on a bit longer, I felt enormous pressure, suddenly in my lower abdomen, and I felt a sudden wetness down there, which spread despite all my efforts. It wet my panties, and escaped onto the upholstered chair. I moved my legs back and forth, leaning side by side, forward and backward, to try and stop the flow, to no avail. It was late evening. There would probably be no one else after us. And by tomorrow, the chair would be dry perhaps. Or at least, no one will be able to connect the wetness to me, thank god. It suddenly occurred to me that starting today, I had no medical insurance. I could not afford one. Sameer had refused to hire a babysitter while I had my surgery. And after I separated, he had discontinued my insurance every time I had tried to get treatment for the past 5 years. Now, I could never get treatment for conditions that had arisen after my three pregnancies. More wetness escaped as tears began flowing down my cheeks. I began crying uncontrollably. Loudly. With my head bent down. Davila looked on. Susan looked on. Becker looked on. Pardue looked on. Sameer looked on. No one cared. The Court reporter did not stop either. The voices faded away in the distance. I escaped to an unknown, isolated world where I was alone, as if marooned on an island, with Pardue tugging my sleeve. “What?” I asked, jolted back into reality.
“Do you agree to be bound by terms and conditions of this agreement?” I heard a voice far away say. A voice that I had come to know very well. The voice of the devil himself. I froze.
“Do you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement?” What was I supposed to say? I Do? Pardue was looking at me with a smile. I do? Ridiculous.
“Say I do, “ Pardue whispered to me.
“I do,” I said weary, exhausted, unwilling.
After I had been destroyed, we left the Courtroom. I was shaking even more. And my teeth were chattering more loudly. I could not stop either.
“Are you ok?” Pardue asked when we were outside.
“When you’ve lost everything, you find out that you can always lose a little more,” I said, thru tears and clenched teeth.
“Ah, a Bob Dylan fan,” he beamed at me, completely ignoring my state, and what had just happened to me. We went back upstairs. By now I was hugging myself so hard, that unbeknown to me, the neckline of my dress had plunged low. Susan and Lewis Becker stared at my boobs. Tears sprung in my eyes. I am a very conservative person, and have never had anyone stare at my boobs. I wanted to sink into the ground, but at that moment, I was so cold that I wasn’t able to let go of my arms to pull up my dress. Rape. Gang rape, my brain screamed in anguish.
Susan Benett grabbed Pardue’s elbow, entwined hers in his and waltzed away as if in the ballroom. Secrets talks had not ceased yet. Talks about who was to be paid how much, perhaps. The memory of that look, that walk, that demeanor continues to haunt me till this day. My disembodied self lay between her teeth, and her mouth had been dripping blood. Pardue was collecting the droplets as a piece of his financial success. I looked at Sameer from far. His was alien to me. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that I had married this man because I had felt sorry for him. I had sacrificed my life to remove the deficiencies in his life. I had sacrificed my career to support his. I had sacrificed my life to make his life better. And this heartless thug – all he had done in those twenty five years was to rape me, repeatedly, physically, sexually, psychologically, financially, in every way, within our marriage, and outside of it. My heart filled with revulsion. The twenty five years of togetherness faded from my memory. Shivering uncontrollably, I turned away to avoid looking at him. I felt nauseated in his presence and the feeling has continued since.
Pardue returned and stood in front of me. His eyes were on my cleavage. I knew I should let my hands go, that I should pull my shirt up, but I felt terrible cold. My arms and hands kept me warm. I tolerated his sleazy, dirty gaze, and broke into sobs again. I have been raped. I have been raped. I have been raped. The words kept ringing in my ears.
“I’ll drop you to your car,” Pardue said.
“I………I….wont be able to drive,” I said. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. The children were with Carlos. But I could not dream of driving in this state. I was shivering and shaking. Lewis Becker came to say goodbye to Pardue, with Sameer in tow. I turned away to avoid them. I knew he was enjoying rubbing salt on my wounds. Pardue told him the problem with driving back to Fresno.
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” he said, as Sameer and he walked away.
I was forced to call Ashish, my cousin. I don’t share a very happy relationship with Ashish, and he was the last person I wanted to call. Last time I had called him for help after the accident, it had ended in disaster, and had cost me over $70,000. But I didn’t know what else to do. Pardue told him that I had fallen sick, and needed to spend the night at his place. Pardue parked my car outside somewhere, and then waited with me until Ashish came to pick me up.
At his place, I locked myself up in a room. I could not bear to talk to anyone, especially since all of them were Sameer’s allies, not sympathetic to my cause. The shivering continued till the morning. I could barely sleep the night. Early morning, I sent a note to my psychologist.
“I have never been gang raped but I can experience what it must feel like…and then being told I *must* accept it, I *have to* accept it, coz its not about justice and fairness. It is about getting me out of the way.”
Since I continued to shiver through most of the next day, Ashish drove me to pick up the children from Merced and bring them to San Jose. I returned to Fresno two days later, defeated and dejected, wishing I was dead. That night, I dreamt of the Russian woman. She was in the washroom, crying. And suddenly, I saw her change into me, and I was there, instead of her, crying in the washroom at Santa Clara Family Court in downtown San Jose.
Many years later, a close relative would disclose that Ashish and his parents had brokered a deal with Sameer in the period between 2003 – 2007, and the agreement had been drafted in conjunction with them. Out of envy and jealousies arising from childhood inequalities between us, Ashish Bambroo, his parents – my uncle Dr S N Bambroo, and my aunt Dr Neena Bambroo, had helped Sameer rob me of $2m and had conspired to leave us destitute. As i write this, the amount has now grown to $10m and the litigation continues. My family first outrightly denied their role, and continued to help him inflict additional injuries on me, and later, when it became impossible to deny, they presented various reasons for their actions. None of these reasons was sound and acceptable.
Next day, I was told that Davila had ordered a trial for transportation charges. on may 23, 2007. I wondered that if a trial was going to take place, why was I coerced into an agreement prior to the trial? And if he had coerced me to waive over $2m, why could’nt he have coerce Sameer to pay for teh transportation charges? I did not know then that Davila and his gang of attorneys had not just cheated me out of $2m, they had further conspired between themselves to steal the $278,000 that had been awarded to me, plus my half of the property, and to deprive me of child and spousal support altogether. We had been left absolutely homeless, penniless, helpless. A trial for transportation charges was necessary to hammer the final nail the coffin of my affordability. It was necessary to reduce the support that had already been finalized in Davila’s chambers even though I had been deluded into believing that I would be entitled to guideline support from Department of Child Support Services.