By Susan Bassi and Fred Johnson
In a single gut-wrenching Facebook post, accompanied by compelling videos and court documents, Catherine Kassenoff, a mother of three and former federal attorney, unveiled shocking allegations of abuse that she and her children endured during her marriage to prominent New York attorney Allan Kassenoff, whose law firm has an office in Silicon Valley. Catherine’s post and accompanying videos were published on the day she died from medical suicide. Her post and related videos quickly went viral, garnering more than 30 million views across popular platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.
Repercussions of the viral videos were swift and far-reaching. Greenberg Traurig, the prominent big law firm where Allan Kassenoff works, wasted no time in announcing his suspension. Remarkably, within two weeks of Catherine’s post, all traces of Allan Kassenoff were expunged from the firm’s website, indicating a rapid response to the growing social media footprint and related public outcry.
The Vanguard previously reported on Silicon Valley nonprofit, WomenSV, an organization that purported to assist women alleging to be victims of domestic violence during their related divorces. However, instead of providing help, WomenSV operated an illegal divorce attorney referral service. Since initially reported by the Vanguard, women who sought help from WomenSV and its founder, Ruth Patrick Darlene, have come forward to describe family court experiences similar to what Catherine described in her infamous Memorial Day Facebook post.
Joe Simitian, a Santa Clara County Supervisor responsible for allocating $250,000 of taxpayer funds to WomenSV, claimed in an email to the Vanguard that his office forwarded allegations exposed by the Vanguard to Santa Clara County District Attorney, Jeff Rosen.
However, concerns over Rosen’s attendance at WomenSV network meetings and fundraisers combined with Darlene’s lobbying efforts for Rosen’s political campaigns, raises questions about a potential conflict of interest that could impede an impartial investigation.
Moreover, Rosen himself stands accused of illegally referring women alleging abuse and sexual violence to select private divorce attorneys, rather than to the local or state bar.
Rosen’s referrals include Nicole Ford, a member of the county’s Domestic Violence Council. Ford previously admitted via email to Vanguard, that she too had accepted referrals from WomenSV.
Divorce attorney Elise Mitchell, and numerous private attorneys connected to Silicon Valley’s BBMP, a secretive judge club, exposed by the Vanguard in the Tainted Trials, Tarnished Headlines, Stolen Justice series, were also found on DA Rosen’s secret referral list.
During Thursday’s Downtown Los Altos farmers market, Simitian confirmed his referral of WomenSV to the district attorney. However, Simitian continued to evade commenting on his approval of funding for WomenSV during a time when over 60 women have alleged the nonprofit’s influence on the flow of high asset divorce business to Silicon Valley attorneys.
Catherine Kassenoff’s social media post holds the potential to generate widespread awareness of the prevailing culture within the legal profession, particularly in family courts. Catherine’s death and related social media footprint is poised to ignite a movement reminiscent of the MeToo movement that swept the nation in 2017.
Kassenoff’s death sheds light on corruption in family courts, stretching from New York to Silicon Valley, drawing attention to the alleged inaction of elected public officials who seemingly disregarded complaints and social media outcry.
As the nation eagerly awaits further developments in the Kassenoff matter, it remains to be seen how Catherine Kassenoff’s story will impact the legal profession and the dire need for accountability and reform within the family court system.
This article is part of the Vanguard’s ongoing coverage of California’s family courts. If you have a story related to a California divorce attorney or family court, that you would like to have considered, please reach out to Susan Bassi or the Davis Vanguard.