The Honorable S. Lark Ingram
“The Sword of Damocles”
Judge Number 4
Background of Judge Ingram’s entry into this series of legal actions:
Even before the ink was dry on the divorce action, M. Portman retained the services of attorney Lawrence B. Custer to correct the error of custody which had been determined in the divorce.
Then, between March 1996 and January 1998, M. Portman’s legal action for modification of custody languished in the Cobb County Superior Court, assigned to Judge Robert (Bob) E. Flournoy, Jr. (see Lesson 20 and 22)
However, upon the surprise withdrawal of Attorney Lawrence B. Custer (Lesson 20) and the overt prejudicial response from Judge Bob Flournoy, M. Portman timely filed a proper Motion for the Disqualification of Judge Bob Flournoy, along with a proper and timely filed Extraordinary Motion for New Trial in the divorce action.
Judge S. Lark Ingram’s jurisdiction?
When the Honorable Dorothy Robinson granted the disqualification motion, she assigned the Modification of Custody to the Honorable S. Lark Ingram. (We shall set aside, for now, the argument that Judge Dorothy Robinson’s Order of Disqualification was actually ILLEGAL. See Lesson 15)
Judge Dorothy Robinson’s Order declared Judge Bob Flournoy to be disqualified from the custody action, but made no mention of disqualification from the divorce action. Since there were motions pending in both cases, this was a major question that needed to be answered. Because the standard answer from all court personnel is, “We can’t give legal advice,” M. Portman filed a Motion for Declaratory Judgment to learn which Court had control of the divorce action and it’s Extraordinary Motion for New Trial. Surely, if Judge Bob Flournoy was disqualified from one action, he was also disqualified from the other action.
Upon M. Portman’s filing of a Rule Nisi, Judge S. Lark Ingram necessarily heard oral argument on the Motion for Declaratory Judgment. Attorney Larry Yarbrough represented the absent G. Portman, and M. Portman acted pro se.
Judge S. Lark Ingram made a very surprising ruling in that hearing. Throughout the hearing, she yielded to the advice of attorney Larry Yarbrough, and in the end she simply said that she would accept not only the custody case, but also the divorce case. Could she do this?
Judge S. Lark Ingram made the determination that she would ASSUME jurisdiction of the divorce action and all pending motions. But this would have been ILLEGAL!
So, Judge S. Lark Ingram attempted to accomplish both requirements. She excused herself during the June 24, 1998 hearing for approximately 10 minutes, leaving Mr. Yarbrough and M. Portman in the courtroom waiting for her return. No explanation was given for her leave, although it was apparently to obtain Judge Flournoy’s agreement to “stand silent” on the issue.
At the end of the hearing on June 24, 1998, Judge Ingram told both Larry Yarbrough and M. Portman that one of them would need to prepare and sign the Order, have the other sign it, and then present it to her for signature and filing. M. Portman had learned NOT to trust Larry Yarbrough to accurately prepare an order. (See Lesson 18) Yet, she felt incapable of sufficiently preparing the Order without a transcript. Consequently, she responded to Judge Ingram that she could prepare the Order only AFTER receipt of the court reporter’s transcript.
However, after receiving the official transcript and after studying the Law, M. Portman realized that if she even prepared the Order without signing it, it could be mis-construed that the content reflected her own wishes and desires. It was not M. Portman ‘s desire to have Judge Lark Ingram ILLEGALLY gain LEGAL jurisdiction of the divorce action. See Appendix A, Section 5, Consent Order vs. Bench Order
Although Judge Ingram had attempted to make her bench order appear to be a consent order, M. Portman informed Judge Ingram by letter that she (Ingram) would necessarily need to write and file the Order. M. Portman requested expediency because it was her intention to immediately appeal the Order.
Judge Ingram twice refused to file the necessary written Order! And, NO order can be appealed until it is first written and filed with the Clerk.
Could Judge Ingram obstruct justice and NEVER file the order? Certainly! AFTER a period of 90 days waiting for the Order, M. Portman would necessarily have to submit yet another Rule Nisi and appear before yet another hearing with Judge Ingram, and go through the entire procedure yet again. M. Portman talked with Judge Ingram’s law clerk and determined that Judge Ingram intended to simply let the Order go unfiled. This would cover up the judge’s ILLEGAL ruling AND the fact that she had attempted to manipulate M. Portman into signing a consent order. It is Judge S. Lark Ingram’s INTENT that rose to the level of judicial misconduct.
What COULD M. Portman do to encourage or require that Judge Ingram file her Order? There is only one remedy………a Writ of Mandamus.
Although Judge Ingram completed the discretionary part of her Order by her oral Opinion from the Bench, the ministerial portion to write and file the Order remained undone. After Judge Ingram twice refused to file the Order according to O.C.G.A. Section 15-6-21 and Section 15-2-8, M. Portman filed a Petition for Mandamus, Civil Action No. 98-1-6130-33, naming the Honorable S. Lark Ingram as Defendant.
Shock registered high when Judge Ingram was assigned jurisdiction of the case! Even a third grader knows that our justice system is not designed for a person to act as judge of a case in which he/she is one of the parties. But, rather than immediately recusing herself as the trier (judge), she delayed her recusal, ignoring Plaintiff’s two letters requesting her recusal. Instead, she engaged Ms. Kathryn Allen, Senior Deputy Attorney General, as her counsel, and submitted an Answer. Her Answer contained “genuine issue of material fact,” which by Law should have guaranteed M. Portman her properly and timely filed Demand for Jury Trial. Apparently, Judge Ingram was attempting to “run the clock” in the Modification case, for the minor child of the parties was soon to reach the age of majority.
Upon Judge Ingram’s belated recusal from the mandamus case, it was assigned to the Honorable James G. Bodiford, (Lesson 10) who then placed it on his NON-jury trial calendar, after yet another delay. It should be noted that although the Judicial Qualifications Commission issued Opinion 220 in 1997, the office of the Attorney General (Lesson 13) participated in a hearing which was directly opposed to that Opinion.
So, why was Judge Bodiford the trier of the Petition for Mandamus wherein Judge Ingram was the Defendant? Not only are they in the same circuit, they are both Superior Court judges. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for a Judge!
It was apparent at the September 16, 1998 hearing that it was the intent of Judge Bodiford to manage the case by intimidating M. Portman. (See Lesson 10) Judge Bodiford flatly denied M. Portman’s Demand for Jury Trial Appendix B.98.08.31a and attempted to bully M. Portman into an agreement of conditions that would legally allow him to deny the mandamus. The audio tape of the September 16 hearing is convincing evidence that Judge Bodiford lost his cool when he could not intimidate M. Portman. Judge Bodiford’s obvious frustration ended in a blatant denial of BOTH the jury trial and the mandamus, his Order being filed with the clerk September 18, 1998. (See Lesson 10)
Ironically, Judge Ingram did, through her attorney and during the hearing of the mandamus before Judge Bodiford, agree to file the sought Order in proper time. However, she then REFUSED again by failing to meet the deadline. The deadline for the Order to be valid was September 22, 1998, but she failed to file the Order until September 25, 1998. And, after filing what she knew to be a VOID Order on September 25, she followed it with a voluntary and unsolicited recusal Order on October 6!
Portman v. Ingram, Judge
The Honorable James G. Bodiford and attorney Kathryn Allen suggested and encouraged that M. Portman appeal the ruling, and assured her that appeal was her right. Ms. Allen’s own encouragement was that appeal was the “proper” method to be used in our court system. Ironically, when M. Portman did appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia, M. Portman was then subjected to Ms. Allen’s filing of a Motion for Frivolous Appeal Penalty, requesting that the Supreme Court levy the maximum sanction of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($1,000.00) against Appellant (M. Portman)!
March 8, 1999 – M. Portman presented her oral argument to the Supreme Court of Georgia, with attorney Kathryn Allen presenting argument on behalf of Judge S. Lark Ingram. Very interesting transcript! Read it for factual errors, Ms. Allen’s speech is loaded! And, very interesting that the high court was so anxious to convince M. Portman that she “had an order.” Talk about playing dumb! Each of the Justices, particularly Justice Fletcher, KNEW the order was not LEGAL or binding, yet they tried to convince M. Portman that it was “an order.”
Ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court:
April 12, 1999, the Supreme Court issued a statement, “affirming the ruling of the lower court.” No opinion was provided. Said ruling had the APPEARANCE of “agreement” with the lower court. It is the APPEARANCE which is deceiving. Consequently, M. Portman filed a Motion for Reconsideration.
In answer to the Motion for Reconsideration, filed April 22, 1999, the Supreme Court again refused to consider the merits of the case, by claiming Georgia Supreme Court Rule 59. But it’s important to recognize the following: The Supreme Court writes it’s own rules, and they wrote Rule 59 for just this kind of unwanted conflict. The high court’s own Rule 59 is a back door escape, allowing the high court to avoid any case they prefer to ignore, even direct appeals. The Supreme Court HAD to ignore this case, because to rule on the merits would require them to acknowledge both the original and the subsequent judicial misconduct by several judicial officers.
By their silence of opinion, and by their acquiescence to the “ruling of the lower court,” the Georgia Supreme Court chose to turn a blind eye to the illegal proceedings of the lower court. This is the epitome of injustice by our Judicial System, what many call the “Good ‘Ole Boy” System. M. Portman found it interesting that by hiding behind Rule 59, the high court also had to ignore Kathryn Allen’s Motion for Frivolous Appeal Penalty, a motion with the sole purpose to intimidate and frighten M. Portman into withdrawing her appeal.
Dichotomy of Jurisdiction
The Superior Court of Cobb County is, even in 2002, claiming that Judge Robert (Bob) E. Flournoy, Jr. has jurisdiction of the divorce case, including the Extraordinary Motion for New Trial. Yet, the Georgia Supreme Court clearly implied that Judge S. Lark Ingram’s Order was valid, giving her jurisdiction!
Was Justice Fletcher really affirming Judge Ingram‘s Order, or was he attempting to mislead M. Portman into believing that the Order was valid, when in fact he knew it to be VOID?
If Judge Ingram was rightly vested with jurisdiction of the divorce case, how was jurisdiction affected by her surprise recusal from the Custody action, filed AFTER her September 25, 1998 Order? Even after her recusal, the case would NOT have been returned to Judge Flournoy, but would necessarily have been moved to the next judge “in the barrel.” (euphemism provided by Judge Bodiford) Even though the Supreme Court affirmed Judge Ingram’s September 25 Order, why did the Cobb Superior Court act in violation of that Order?
On the other hand, if Judge Bob Flournoy is rightly vested with jurisdiction, how is his jurisdiction affected by his disqualification from the Custody action (even though the disqualification was in violation of Georgia statutory Law)?
ANOTHER Judge Ingram?
On June 10, 1999, M. Portman received an Order from yet another Superior Court Judge, the Honorable George Kreeger (Lesson 7). Said Order identified former Justice G. Conley Ingram (Lesson 8) as the assigned “Assisting Judge,” and set a hearing date for June 15, “TO HEAR ALL OUTSTANDING MOTIONS.” This was obviously an attempt to railroad M. Portman, and a clear predisposed act of prejudice and bias. Justice G. Conley Ingram returned to the Cobb Superior Court as a Senior Judge, after serving as a Justice on the Georgia Supreme Court. He is the FATHER of Judge S. Lark Ingram and the FORMER LAW PARTNER of Judge Bob Flournoy!
Declaration of Jurisdiction
After yet another assignment of the case, Order signed by Judge George Kreeger, this time to the Honorable Jere F. White, (Lesson 11) Senior Judge from Bartow County, it became evident that many judicial officers were participating in collusion and conspiracy to deprive M. Portman of her due process rights.
M. Portman named the following as defendants: the Honorable George H. Kreeger, the Honorable Robert E. Flournoy, Jr., the Honorable Dorothy Robinson, the Honorable Michael Stoddard, the Honorable S. Lark Ingram, the Honorable James G. Bodiford, Jay Stephenson, Clerk of Cobb County Superior Court, Larry W. Yarborough, Attorney at Law, Daryl Kidd, Attorney at Law, Gregory R. Portman, and R. Wynette Kennedy Portman. M. Portman also served the Attorney General of the State of Georgia and requested a response as to whether the Attorney General elected to participate as a party.
This chapter (lesson) is presently undergoing final additions and revisions. Stay tuned to learn the whole story.