Jack Cunningham, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, told Examiner.com
Sunday he believes the New Jersey court system used his combat-related PTSD to "play games" against
him in a legal battle that has gone on for years.
His problems started in 2000, when he went through a divorce, he said.
Panicked and concerned the courts would use his condition against him, he retained a law
firm to keep his divorce from going into default. At that time, he added, he had 21 days.
But, he added, the firm never did anything, even though he paid his retainer.
Cunningham also said the firm never returned his calls and letters. They did, however, charge him at a rate some
$25.00 per hour more than he had originally agreed to, according to documents he provided
His divorce ended up in default
for four months, requiring him to write a family court judge to get the issue resolved.
The judge, he said, eventually took his divorce out of default, no thanks to the legal firm that even charged him
for time he spent proofreading their work.
Eventually, he said, he wrote the office of attorney ethics who told him
to simply get another attorney. In the meantime, his original attorney was removed from
the case, replaced by a general practitioner who also happened to serve as vice chairman of the
District X Ethics Committee. This change, he added, was made without his knowledge.
The attorney, identified as Robert D. Correale, came to court unprepared
to argue his case, Cunningham said. As a result, the former Marine was forced to essentially
"I was a basket case
because of the PTSD," he said. "But I got it done."
Ultimately, the judge took his divorce out of default, but Cunningham's
problems were just beginning.
later, the firm sued him for more than $2,000, even though, he said, they really did not
get anything done. Fortunately, he kept all of the documents from the divorce, including
the contract and statements he received from the firm and filed suit against the firm.
The case was assigned to arbitration,
but nothing was resolved. It eventually went to court, where, he said, the lawyer representing the firm tried to get his
paperwork thrown out.
judge, he added, threw out the law firm's suit and told him the evidence he had justified
the damages he was seeking and also warranted a much larger lawsuit.
But a funny thing happened a month later
when Cunningham attempted to get a transcript of the hearing. While the transcript existed, the judge's
remarks were mysteriously missing. He had hoped to use the transcript in formal charges against the
firm, but the missing portion of the transcript effectively threw his case out the window.
He contacted a state Senator, but the judge said he had no idea how it
could have happened.
He also explained the
court wanted the charges brought before the ethics committee, but, he said, that would
have been a conflict of interest considering Correale's position on the committee.
After two months of wrangling, the court finally agreed there was a conflict of interest and moved the case to another ethics
now, he said, he was dealing directly with the state Supreme Court. Instead of making
progress, he said he felt as though the court was covering for the attorneys involved.
Nevertheless, he sent the information he had to the new committee, including information on the missing
of the firm he dealt with also had to issue certifications to the court explaining their
side of the story. But, he said, the certifications they presented were false, vague and
lied," he told Examiner.
responded, but said he felt as though he was back in Vietnam, facing the enemy alone.
The court cleared the firm of all charges, Cunningham said. But, he added,
the decision was based on false certifications and a missing transcript.
Throughout this ordeal, Cunningham reached
out to lawmakers and even the governor of New Jersey, who at the time, happened to be Jim
McGreevey. McGreevey, he added, had a file on him, and said he could call the head of the attorney ethics committee.
Unfortunately, they never responded to his calls and letters.
He said he also wrote former Gov. Richard
Codey and later, Jon Corzine. Neither responded to his calls for help.
All this has taken a toll on Cunningham, who said the VA wanted to admit
him three times for stress. He refused, saying he didn't trust the court system.
He still seeks justice, even though he says he no longer has the strength for another court battle. He also
told Examiner that another attorney said he could take the issue to court. The law firm,
however, is no longer in business. At one time, he said, he even approached the FBI, but
the federal agency accused him of creating his own evidence.
"It's such a frustrating thing," he said. But Cunningham
is determined to get justice. At times, he said, he felt like giving up, but kept fighting, believing that surrender was
not an option. At other times, he said, he felt as though he was back in Vietnam, fighting
the enemy all by himself.
to see some people go to jail," he said. "I want to bring justice."
But this time, he may have some help.
On Tuesday, he said he received a call from the office of Rep.Scott Garrett, R-N.J. According to
Cunningham, Garrett is interested in learning more about discrimination against veterans. He has also reached
out to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Neither Issa nor
Christie, however, have responded.