The Doctor's Trials

Meet Hollywood's Donald Tobkin: caring M.D., feared lawyer, accused felon

When asked whether he punched his wife in the groin area, Donald addresses the alleged violence indirectly: "All I can tell you is, I don't have a mark on me. I don't have a smudge. Not a smudge. I'm fully licensed. Never had any discipline whatsoever. No legal malpractice cases. Everything was government or my adversaries."

On April 14, Marilyn filed for a restraining order, which she received, and within days, for divorce, again. The case made headlines in the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald when Donald claimed that Broward Chief Judge Dale Ross was interfering with the suit because the judge had a decade earlier pressured Marilyn to have sex with him while she was an unpaid clerk in Ross' office.

Marilyn had repeated the allegation in an e-mail to her husband's attorney, Karen Amlong, a friend of the family. But Marilyn's attempt to keep the allegation private backfired when Donald submitted the e-mail to the court. "It was a desperate attempt, on my part, not thinking, to try to get someone to persuade Donald not to disclose something that would be damaging," she says. "All I could say is, the stress changes your way of thinking."

He's smart. He's engaging. And say this for Donald Tobkin: He embraces his anger.
Colby Katz
He's smart. He's engaging. And say this for Donald Tobkin: He embraces his anger.

That divorce filing, like the previous one, Marilyn eventually withdrew -- voluntarily, the court files say; under duress, she says now. Judge Lawrence Korda thought as much at the time and refused to recognize her request unless Donald finally underwent counseling. The judge wrote in a scathing July 2000 order that Donald "has a history in this and prior cases... of avoiding the Court's orders, either by legal machinations or semantical misapplications of obvious intent to avoid such orders."

The state later dropped criminal charges against Donald when Marilyn didn't cooperate with prosecutors.

"I was afraid Judge Korda would believe him and give the kids to him," she explains now.

Says Korda, still a sitting family court judge: "It was pretty gross to me. As a result, I ordered that he complete a battery course, anger management, and parent training. What happened was, whatever class he did go to, he sort of tried to take it over. 'Hey, I'm a doctor. I'm a lawyer. You can't tell me how to be counseled.'

"He needed anger-management classes and anti-spouse-battering classes," the judge continues, "like a man in the Sahara needs a glass of water."

Soon, the Tobkins split for good.

On August 18, 2001, Donald walked into a low-hanging tree branch in their yard, hurting his eye. According to a police report, he yelled to Marilyn that he was going to chop down every tree below eye level. When she grabbed his arm and told him to calm down, she explains, he kicked her in the right side of her abdomen, hard enough to drop her to the floor of the garage, in front of their kids.

"The five-year-old girl stated, 'My daddy kicked my mommy,'" the police report reads. "The eight-year-old boy stated, 'Really hard,' immediately following his sister's statement."

Marilyn petitioned for another restraining order, and soon after, for the third time, for divorce. Hollywood police later took a statement from the son. The boy began telling the officer about an incident in which he and his little sister were racing around the house, crashed together in an open doorway, and their father began "like slamming us with the door saying 'get these two defective things out of here' and my mom was trying to drag us out."

The officer clarified that she was asking about a different incident, one that involved Marilyn. "My dad lifted his leg up and kicked my mom," the boy said.

Donald today says he never kicked his wife. He says the kids were coerced by police to misrepresent the incident. "It was POW stuff taken by the Hollywood cops."

Donald moved out. Then, Marilyn says, she found that the family's bank accounts were drained and the bills unpaid. The Greenbaums, who had long tried to stay clear of the Tobkins' domestic spats, loaned her grocery money.

On November 1, 2001, the IRS filed a federal tax lien against the Tobkins, who had submitted their returns jointly, for $77,462 in unpaid taxes from 1994, 1997, and 1998. Marilyn later petitioned, successfully, to clear her liability in the liens. Donald blames the tax snafus on the fact that because of the restraining orders, he was often barred from going to his house and therefore didn't receive his mail.

Donald, it seems, didn't find peace after the divorce. In March 2002, he burst into an oncology clinic to meet opposing counsel Catherine Paris on a medical malpractice case. According to a later bar complaint, Donald started an argument regarding records custody. The receptionist called security. Donald snatched x-rays away from Paris. According to a memo by Florida Bar attorney Eric Turner: "Paris said she was sufficiently frightened by Tobkin's actions to file a motion for a restraining order but did not pursue the motion. She did not file a bar complaint because of the possibility Tobkin would sue her for libel or slander." Donald denies that he snatched x-rays from anyone.

Four months after the scene at the clinic, Donald sued Marilyn, the Greenbaums -- and, oh, what the heck -- Marilyn's mother and teenaged daughter, Sydney, claiming a litany of grievances, most generally that they had interfered with his relationship with his children (he uses the word brainwashing) and damaged his reputation, affecting his living. The complaint was sprinkled with handwritten insertions and asides; in accusing Sydney of battering Donald, the stepfather misspelled his stepdaughter's name. He also accuses the Hollywood Police Department of false arrest; the case is still open.

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