Susan Carrington’s Catch 22


Susan Carrington
Susan Carrington

Susan Carrington, a litigant whose case received international attention following an expose in the Rockland County Times, has been made to feel like a character in a Kafka novel whilst navigating the Rockland Family Court system, she claims.

Take court demands she enter drug rehabilitation. In 2011, the Rockland County Family Court required that Carrington go through drug rehabilitation treatment for a purported painkiller addiction as a condition for visitation of her two daughters. Each time she attempted to enter a treatment center in Rockland she was denied, however, because the centers found no drugs in her system, records prove. Still, the court rejected her denial of entry as a valid reason for not undergoing treatment and withheld visitation.

An evaluation conducted by Dr. NG Berrill on June 16, 2010, accused Carrington of being a drug addict and largely on the strength of this evaluation Rockland County Family Court had demanded that Carrington complete the program. But there are several issues with this evaluation. For one, the evaluation was not court ordered but rather her ex-husband, John McNelis, proactively sought out Dr. Berril. Furthermore, Dr. Berrill’s evaluation was based on McNelis’ accusations and Carrington claims he did

not even conduct an interview with her. Here’s part of an affidavit filed by Carrington: “Berrill formed his own opinions and made findings regarding my mental health recommending that I should have supervised visitation. Berrill never met me nor did Berrill ever make any effort to meet with me, by either making an appointment with me or attempted to call me.”

Letter from Lexington Recovery stating Carrington did not need rehabilitation
Letter from Lexington Recovery stating Carrington did not need rehabilitation

Records show that the Lexington Center denied Carrington entry because her drug test was clean and the center determined she had no drug problem. “As a result of your chemical dependency evaluation on 12/4/11 at our Airmont, NY clinic of Lexington Center for Recovery, Inc., the treatment team has recommended that you are not in need of treatment.”

Carrington had, in fact, completed a program prior with White Flint Recovery Center in Rockville, Maryland on her own in September 2011. Despite all that and further negative drug tests, the court continued to insist that Carrington complete another drug rehabilitation program before seeing her children.

“The Judge is aware of the (negative) hair follicle test. However, he does not feel the test result alone is sufficient justification for filing of a new petition [for visitation],” stated the court attorney for Judge William Warren, the judge in Carrington’s case, way back on February 17, 2012.

At that point Carrington hadn’t seen her daugthers in close to a year. Now in the Fall of 2015, Carrington hasn’t seen either of her two daughters for more than four years, despite a court order from Maryland giving her and her ex-husband joint custody and Carrington physical custody. McNelis has used a series of protective orders that have made allegations dismissed earlier by the Maryland court, to keep Carrington away from her two daughters. The Maryland court has refused to step in thus far.

A phone call to Dr. Berrill’s office and an email to McNelis’ long-time attorney, Scott Ugell, were left unreturned. Judge Rolf Thorsen, Warren’s then-court attorney, said he’s not permitted to comment on this matter.

Michael Volpe is a freelance journalist from Chicago, Illinois