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Girl, Interrupted 

Alanna Krause believes that much of her hellish childhood could have been avoided. Now she's suing her father, her therapist, and her lawyer in an effort to prove it. How did it come to this?

Wednesday, Dec 18 2002
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Krause has this to say about the Kramon report: "It was a cursory report, and Dr. Kramon said we were both fit to be parents."

The L.A. Department of Children's Services also submitted a report to Genser in January 1998, which stated, in part:

- "The department believes that the minor did suffer from physical abuse by her father on several occasions and this was substantiated from several sources."

- "The Marin County Child Protective Services was remiss in not responding to many of the referrals and simply dismissing them as "custody dispute' issues."

- "The department is disturbed that it discovered the father had made arrangements with the Island View Residential Treatment Center to have the minor Alanna admitted on the day of this hearing. Particularly as the minor does not exhibit any signs of psychotic behavior, is not presenting in a manner that is an [sic] danger to herself or others ...."

- "Although a lot of information has been submitted to the department with recommendations from the Marin County area, the department is inclined not to believe a great portion of that material. The department believes that the assertions of this [sic] Lana Clark, Ph.D., is biased information due to the seemingly intimate relationship which existed between Mr. Krause and Dr. Clark. In addition, Dr. Clark is the individual who provided Dr. Oklan with a majority of his information. ... [I]nformation fed to Dr. Oklan was therefore biased and likely not credible."

Krause says the latter report was biased, because the caseworker who prepared it "believed everything Alanna said" and failed to interview him. (The report shows that the social worker interviewed Krause twice by phone.) Edward Oklan says that his findings were "misconstrued" by L.A. County.

But the juvenile court case never got much further than a series of reports and court appearances. Genser says that after a few meetings, Krause simply gave up on the case, and in order to make Alanna a ward of the court, agreed to plead no contest to the use of "inappropriate discipline," among other things. Custody automatically went to Simone-Smith.

"The father just gave in, probably because he wanted to salvage his relationship with his daughter," Genser says.

Alanna was overjoyed with the results. After a few more months with the Geminders, she moved in with her mother and stepfather in Ojai in May 1998, at age 14, excited to establish a normal teenage life. In her mother's care, she finished high school as an honor student and was accepted to Northwestern University, where she decided to double major in Asian studies and art. Her contact with her father faded. "They were years I felt safe and not ripped up by the roots," Alanna says.

Looking back, Alanna says that while she sees the Marin family courts as her undoing, she sees the L.A. Juvenile Courts as her savior.

"In the L.A. Juvenile Courts, that's where I got some faith in the system restored," Alanna adds. "Juvenile court is about kids, it's not family court. The [juvenile court] judge would say, "OK, parents, I don't know what you guys are doing, but what's in the best interest of the kid?'"


Alanna emerges from her dorm room bundled up in a colorful patchwork jacket and a thick wool scarf. In her gloved hands, she carries a recent fashion acquisition from the local drugstore -- electric-blue earmuffs, which she dons with considerable pride. She steps out into the brisk evening to make the 10-minute walk to the student center.

If there are demons lurking from her childhood, Alanna is good at hiding them. She presents herself as well-balanced, smart, and even cheery. She chatters happily about her role in the dorm and her love of dancing. Once inside the center, she greets several students with a wave.

Despite all this forward momentum, Alanna can't forget her experience with the family courts. There's still audible anger and frustration in her voice when she talks about the custody battle. She remains so indignant that last month she filed the $135 million lawsuit against her father, attorney Sandra Acevedo, and therapist Lana Clark because she believes it will bring her closure and offer her a sense of justice.

"I want to right a bunch of wrongs," she says.

In the suit, she accuses all three defendants of "intentional infliction of emotional distress," "conspiracy to deprive plaintiff of access to the courts," and "tortious interference with mother-child relationship." In addition, she accuses her father of assault and battery, and claims that both Lana Clark and Sandra Acevedo committed malpractice.

Krause says that he is "saddened" by the lawsuit. "I would like Alanna to get on with her life and not get bogged down with this," he says. "There's no point in all of this except to injure me. And they [Alanna and Simone-Smith] have. They've injured me."

Alanna's case is unique for many reasons. "Clients have sued lawyers and therapists before, children have sued parents before," says Alan Scheflin, a tort law professor at Santa Clara University. "What makes this case significant is that, putting aside the nature of the theories in the complaint, this is really a way of saying that the family court system is screwed up. And just because [one person] does something wrong doesn't mean the whole system is screwed up, but this case signals the idea that we need to look more closely at how [minor's counsels] function, and whose interest they are serving."

The case is certainly not a sure win. It will be especially difficult, some legal experts say, to make the case against Alanna's attorney, since a minor's counsel often acts with great discretion. "To have so many professionals go the wrong way here is unusual in the sense that we usually have checks and balances," adds Vivian Holley, a San Francisco family law attorney. "You can't always believe everything a child says."

About The Author

Bernice Yeung

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