A well known Sacramento Family Court litigant and court reform advocate has a starring role in the new documentary film, Divorce Corp. The local poster child of family court problems, Ulf Carlsson, is a major presence in the expose on the corrupt and collusive industry of family law in the United States, the big screen debut of first-time director Joseph Sorge. Carlsson's still ongoing divorce case began in 2004, and has since become emblematic of the alleged corruption plaguing the Sacramento Family Court system. In 2008, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento reviewed the then-final outcome of the case and the conduct of Judge Peter McBrien during trial court proceedings. Among other grounds, the appeal asserted that Carlsson was denied due process when McBrien walked out of the courtroom and ended the trial before Carlsson had finished presenting his case. In a caustic, published opinion, 3rd District Justices M. Kathleen Butz, Cole Blease and Rick Sims reversed in full the orders issued by McBrien and ordered that the case be retried.
"Although we have found no case like this one, in which the trial judge literally walked out of the courtroom in midtrial, our courts have consistently applied the rule of automatic reversal where a party is prevented from having his or her full day in court...By arbitrarily cutting off the presentation of evidence, Judge McBrien rendered the trial fundamentally unfair and violated Ulf's right to due process," Butz concluded in the published opinion.
As a result of his conduct in the Carlsson case, McBrien subsequently was disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Performance, the state agency responsible for oversight of California judges. In Divorce Corp, for the first time and in his own words, Carlsson publicly recounts his unsettling family court experience.