Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lost again in family court

I just had another disaster in family court. The previous judge was gone and retired, and the new family court judge is Irwin H. "Junk Justice" Joseph. (I found some web sites that call him that; I don't know why.)

First we had to sign a release allowing him to preside over the case. That was weird. There isn't any other family court judge as far as I know. He just makes everyone sign the release. I don't know why he needs my permission to be a judge. Technically, his title seems to be "commissioner" rather than "judge", but he is certainly acting as judge in family court.

I had managed to get an excellent report from a court-appointed expert, so I was expecting to get some favorable consideration in the custody dispute. It did no good. Instead, he just ordered another psychological evaluation! That will be another 3 months, many hours of interviews and tests, and costing maybe $10,000.

We've had 4 different experts so far, and all have said that 50-50 custody is okay, directly or indirectly. The last one was really pretty good, and recommended an immediate change to 50-50 custody, so I thought that he would at least acknowledge that I was deserving of a better custody deal.

Hon. Joseph did single me out for one special criticism. He said that I need to show proper courtesy and respect in court, and that I should use titles when referring to the opposing lawyer in my papers. For example, I referred to Jennifer J. Gray when I said, "Gray has done $40,000 of legal work on this case." He said that I should have said "Ms. Gray"!

In the papers, I refer to my wife by just her first name. I refer to friendly witnesses by just their last names. I commonly write that way, and didn't see anything wrong with it. I referred to Judge Kelly as "Judge Kelly", as the title seems necessary there. I happen to have a doctoral degree myself, but no one has called me Dr. George yet.

So I promised to call her "Ms. Gray" in future court papers. Anything to make the judge happy. And I guess I'll try to remember to use some sort of title here whenever I refer to him, just in case he stumbles across this blog. I'm just not sure what title he prefers. Commissioner Joseph would be correct, because he is a commissioner, but he might think that is insulting because it suggests that he is something less than a real judge. Calling him Acting Judge Joseph has similar problems. Calling him Judge Joseph is not quite right, and neither is Mr. Joseph. So I think I'll just call him Hon. Joseph. That seems to be the safest. I'll try to refrain from calling him Junk Justice Joseph.

By now you probably think that I have completely lost perspective. I've lost my kids, accumulated many 1000s of dollars in litigation expenses, and been subjected to the mercy of some psycho quack, and now I am worrying about a trivial matter of etiquette? I am just trying to work with the system. That's all.

Hon. Joseph gave no clue as to why he ordered the psych eval. Maybe he thinks that I have a psychological disorder. Maybe he thinks that my wife does. Maybe he thinks that everybody should get a psych eval if he can afford one. Maybe he is just a rookie judge who cannot decide what to do. Maybe he is just stalling in the hopes that we will settle. Maybe he doesn't like my attitude. Maybe he is actually responding to something that he read in the court papers. I cannot tell.

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