Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Research shows father benefit

Janice Shaw Crouse writes:
This should be the final word –– 24 scholarly studies covering 22,300 separate sets of data published in the 20 years between 1987 and 2007 report essentially the same finding: active fathers are absolutely essential in preventing behavioral problems with boys and psychological problems in girls. ...

n fact, the authors of the review of all that research said as much. According to, the lead researcher, Dr. Anna Sardaki of Uppsala University’s Department of Women’s and Children’s Health in Sweden, said, “We hope that this review will add to the body of evidence that shows that enlightened father-friendly policies can make a major contribution to society in the long run by producing well-adjusted children and reducing major problems like crime and antisocial behavior.” ...

Perhaps the most significant of the findings for women is that by the time they turned 33 years of age, those girls who had a good relationship with their father when they were 16 years of age had a “greater sense of mental and physical well-being” and “better relationships with a partner” when they became adults.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

NY mom gets custody and then murders kids

A couple of readers have sent me this story:
"Whenever I tried to get my daughter, Family Court wouldn't let me," said Jewell's father, Ricky Ward. "The courts wouldn't hear me out. I blame this on Leatrice Brewer and Family Court."

"She wanted to kill them. I let the court know that. But they took only one side...I loved them. I've been fighting for them." -- Innocent Demesyeux, father of Michael, 5, and Innocent Jr., 18 months

Both fathers warned the family court that their children's mother was violent and dangerous. Both tried to get custody. Both tried to save their kids. The courts, apparently blinded by the family law system's pervasive pro-mother bias, did nothing. According to the Fox News article Police Cite Possible Drowning, Poisoning in Deaths of 3 New York Children (2/25/08):

Brewer [the mother], who had six arrests — two felonies and four misdemeanors — on her record dating to 2000, was described by some as troubled, including two men who identified themselves as the children's fathers and said they had fought in vain to have the children removed from Brewer's custody.

'Whenever I tried to get my daughter, Family Court wouldn't let me,' said Jewell's father, Ricky Ward. 'The courts wouldn't hear me out. I blame this on Leatrice Brewer and Family Court.'
There is more here and here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Waiting for the sealed transcript

I haven't received the sealed transcript of CPS social worker Sally Mitchell's court testimony yet. Here is a brief summary of what I want to use on my appeal.

When asked what was the worst thing I had done, she told a wacky story about how I ran over a neighborhood dog with my car. The dog owner testified later, and refuted the story.

When asked for another example that she regards as particularly outside the norms of good parenting, she told how I would set the kids' alarm clock for 7:00 am on school morning. She admitted that she lied in her report when she said that the alarm made the kids late for school. Nevertheless, she argued that the alarm clock was bad because the kids might have felt rushed in the morning.

She said that there was no physical or sexual child abuse, and no child neglect. She said that there was no single act of any kind of abuse that she could identify.

She accused me of emotional abuse, but admitted that nothing met the statutory definition of emotional abuse.

She admitted that her opinion was purely subjective, and she knew of no way to determine whether her conclusions were correct or not. She said that her supervisor just approves and signs whatever reports she writes, regardless of its validity.

She admitted that she failed to get confirmation for any of the allegations against me. Later, she claimed that she did verify with the kids' school that the school did not permit me in the classrooms, but the school issued a letter saying that I was allowed in the classrooms just the same as any other parent.

In the end, Comm. Irwin Joseph admitted that Sally Mitchell had serious credibility problems, but he ruled against me anyway.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Silly arguments against shared parenting

A Boston Globe newspaper attacks a presumption of shared parenting in divorce cases:
It could distract judges from focusing on the best interests of individual children and prompt drawn-out fights about how exactly to define shared physical custody. Would summers and major holidays with Dad count, for example?

Charles Kindregan, a law professor at Suffolk University, soundly argues that a presumption of joint legal and physical custody could handcuff judges who should be free to consider the best interests of children on a case-by-case basis. "You don't need a presumption when you have facts," Kindregan says. ...

"We trust the discretion of judges," says Fern Frolin, a lawyer and the chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association's family law section, who says there is already an appropriate shift toward more shared parenting.
The divorce lawyers want judges to have more discretion because it gives more issues to litigate and makes more money for lawyers.

The same arguments could be used to tell courts to disregard contracts. Why handcuff a judge to respect a contract when he could be free to just do what's best, on a case-by-case basis?

I think that is obviously ridiculous, but I'll try to answer it anyway. Businesses and individuals need contracts to give predictability to their transactions, and control over their lives. If any deal could be broken by some judge who thinks that you don't need a presumption when you have facts, then our society would revert to something resembling a medieval monarchy.

The family courts do not even have the facts. The judge will listen to a few snippets of bogus hearsay about the kids, and act like he knows better than the parents. In four years of being in family court, I have never seen a family court judge bother to learn the first thing about the kids in a case before him. People like Comm. Irwin H. Joseph just are not concerned with the facts.

The argument that equally shared custody is somehow harder to define than other arrangements is just absurd. I can tell you from personal experience that unequal arrangements and visitation schedules cause far more fights in court. And while I have seen dozens of cases fighting about visitation schedules, I have never seen a case fighting about shared custody in court. The reason is simple. The visitation disputes almost always result from one parent trying to bully the other parent. When the responsibilities are equalized, it is a whole lot harder to do that.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

San Jose court looks for more lawyers

The San Jose paper continues to expose problems with juvenile dependency court:
The court search for a new provider began after the Mercury News asked detailed questions about the representation provided by the private firm, Santa Clara Juvenile Defenders. On Feb. 11, the newspaper published an extensive article detailing how parents who faced losing their children following allegations of child abuse or neglect were represented by attorneys with inadequate access to investigators, experts and other resources.
No, it wasn't that the attorneys had inadequate access. It was that they refused to contest false charges or appeal bad decisions.
Decisions made in Santa Clara County Juvenile Dependency Court - which now serves 2,500 children - determine whether children separated from their parents due to safety concerns will be raised in foster care or returned home to their families.
Serves children? That is a bit like saying San Quentin State Prison serves 5000 inmates. The children are prisoners in the system.
The newspaper series reported that former employees, appellate lawyers and clients described Juvenile Defenders as unwilling or unable to provide aggressive advocacy for parents fighting abuse allegations. The firm also suffers from high turnover and an ongoing reluctance to challenge trial court rulings in the higher courts.
Yes, that is what the paper showed.
John Nieman, a supervising attorney with Santa Clara Juvenile Defenders, did not return repeated messages, but he has told other attorneys he would head up a bid for services using the same attorneys now employed by Proctor.
So maybe the county will pretend to be doing something by awarding a new contract, but in reality it will be the same lawyers doing the same work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When a psych eval is justified

A reader sends this news story to argue that it is sometimes appropriate to order a psychiatric evaluation:
NEW YORK - The man accused of hacking a therapist to death and wounding her colleague was ordered by a judge to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Jobless David Tarloff, 39, is accused of repeatedly slashing therapist Kathryn Faughey to death and wounding her colleague in her office Tuesday evening.

He was arrested at his Queens apartment Saturday morning and later charged with second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.

During his arraignment yesterday, Tarloff fidgeted and was incoherent as he claimed his Legal Aid lawyer, Reginald Sharpe, was “not an attorney.”

“I’ve seen his driver’s license,” he said. “I don’t know him.”
More famously, Britney Spears has been forced into a psych eval.

In my case, it is completely bogus. Comm. Joseph ordered a psychological evaluation but also said that it did not have to be done by a licensed psychologist. He seems to have forgotten that psychological evaluations have been done three times already, and reported to the court. I doubt that he even knows what a psychological evaluation is. He did not appear to have even read the last one he ordered.

I think that these family court judges should have to undergo a psychological evaluation themselves, so they would at least know what they are.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

San Jose DA responds

I mentioned below that the San Jose paper attacked the local prosecutors for pretending to represent kids when they really just advocate against parents.

Now the paper has published a reply from the chief County District Attorney Dolores Carr. She writes:
Start with the reality that all of the children represented by attorneys from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office have been the victims of serious abuse or neglect.
She then goes into a tirade about how all the parents are guilty.

She just proved the newspaper's point. She and her $180k-a-year attorneys start with the premise that the parents are at fault, and that the kids should be removed from the parents. They will not make any effort to determine whether the kids have really been abused or neglected.

She continues:
A few judges were quoted saying that in an ideal world prosecutors would not represent dependent children. But the series offers the most eloquent rebuttal of that view by demonstrating what happens when counties hire private attorneys who have an incentive to spend as little money as possible on representing their clients. ... The district attorney's office has provided these children with the best representation that public money can buy.
It appears that both the public and private lawyers are selling out their clients. They are more loyal to the agency that pays they inflated salaries than to the kids, and they do not zealously argue for their clients, as they are ethically required to do.

Letter to San Jose paper

I submitted this letter to the editor:
Your series on the juvenile dependency courts has exposed many problems, but putting more money in the system could make things worse.

You told the sad story of Marquita Jackson, but it was only from KGO-TV news on Feb. 8 that I learned that the parents lost their son after a three-year battle primarily because the father would never admit wrongdoing. It appears to me that the do-gooder judges, district attorneys, and social workers have too much time on their hands already, and that they need to be told to drop cases where no wrongdoing can be proved.
It has not been published.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

McGreevey's nasty divorce

The AP reports:
Divorce has been exceptionally bitter for former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey and his wife, Dina Matos McGreevey. Unless they can resolve the custody and money issues that have arisen since their acrimonious parting, the state's estranged former first couple is heading for a May trial.

The pair split three months after he came out on live television, saying he had a gay affair with an ex-staffer and that he would resign. On Friday, they were in court for the umpteenth round in their drawn-out divorce proceeding, this time to fight about McGreevey's desire to hire outside experts to perform evaluations that could bolster his demand for shared custody.

Celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, whose list of clients includes exes of Mike Tyson and Liz Taylor, doubts that the former governor and his wife will follow the script of the 95 percent of divorcing spouses who settle their cases before trial. ...

The McGreeveys were married in October 2000 and split in November 2004, when they left the governor's mansion in Princeton and began living apart. As of February, they've been separated with the intention of divorcing for three years and three months -- nearly as long as the marriage. ...

Like other divorces, it's also been expensive: McGreevey said his legal expenses have topped $400,000 so far and that they easily could double before the divorce is final.
Wow, $800k in legal fees! In the end, some idiot judge is going to rule according to his personal prejudices, and it is hard to see how all that lawyering is making much difference.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Court-appointed lawyer has to resign

The San Jose paper just announced:
The owner of the for-profit firm representing low-income clients in Santa Clara County's dependency court announced his resignation to his staff this week, two days after a Mercury News investigation revealed his firm's timid advocacy for parents facing the loss of their children.

In an emotional meeting Wednesday, Gary Proctor told employees in his San Jose office that he would not bid for future contracts with the Superior Court, according to four participants in the meeting. Through his firm, Santa Clara Juvenile Defenders, Proctor has held the contract in the county for a decade. ...

Critics of Juvenile Defenders, including attorneys who have worked for the firm, say the lawyers have been discouraged from defending parents aggressively when that advocacy costs money, such as using experts or investigators. Pay for attorneys is low and turnover in the office is high. And appellate lawyers throughout the state say the Santa Clara County parent lawyers do not fight to protect their client's rights to appeal unfavorable trial court rulings.

What's more, the Mercury News has learned, some services promised in Proctor's contracts with the local Superior Court appear not to have been provided.
In case you think that lawyers had an attack of conscience, the greedy vultures are preparing to just demand more money!
Other supervisors in the firm told the staff that they intend to submit their own bid for the next contract and will request more money from the court for experts, investigators and attorney salaries.
This is amazing, and it is a good start, but the court problems run much deeper than Proctor. The court-appointed lawyer in our case, James M. Ritchey, had many of the same problems as Gary Proctor. I don't see any sign that Jim Ritchey will be forced to clean up his act.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Paying for the appellate record

I just talked to the local appellate clerk. She sent me a scary notice that my appeal may be in default because my $975 check for transcripts is insufficient. But her notice did not tell me how much I am supposed to pay!

Usually when I get a bill, the bill says how much I am supposed to pay. (Although I did just get a bill from IRS, and it didn't say how much I have to pay.)

The appellate clerk patiently explained the matter to me. She seemed to even remember me from my previous appeal a couple of years ago. I guess they don't get a lot of appeals from non-lawyers.

Here's the story. The Superior Court employs a clerk to prepare the record for appeal. That clerk prepares a Clerk's Transcript and a Reporter's Transcript. The Clerk's Transcript is just a bound copy of papers in the court file, such as orders and briefs. I paid $100 for the xeroxing; I might have to pay more if there are a lot of pages. The clerk numbers all the pages so that the appellate briefs can conveniently refer to the record.

The Reporter's Transcript is more complicated. The transcripts are done by court reporters, and they charge their own fees to produce those documents. Even if the clerk had all the transcripts on file, she cannot just xerox and bind them. The court reporters have to do it. Since there are several of them, they have to somehow get coordinated to produce a book where all the pages are numbered sequentially.

For a couple of the transcripts I needed, the court file already had copies. It seems odd that I have to go contract with the court report to produce another copy. But the clerk said that she cannot xerox a transcript. She admitted that she could send her only copy to the appellate court, but she could not mark appropriate page numbers on it. The result of that would be that the Reporter's Transcript would not have sequential page numbers, and it would be confusing.

So I wrote her a fat check which should cover producing a Reporter's Transcript with the nice page numbers. It will also cover making a copy for me.

I don't think that the money covers a copy of Reporter's Transcript for my ex-wife. I got the impression that she is supposed to contract and pay for her copy on her own. I am not sure what she did last time. (Julie, if you are reading this, you are welcome to use my copy if you wish.)

The clerk also asked about a written Findings and Order After Hearing (FOAH) for the order under appeal. She said that she could not find it. I said that as best as I could determine, there is a gray area in the law about whether I should wait for that, and I decided not to wait. She said that yes, it was a gray area in the law, but the appellate court really likes to have that FOAH, and they will complain if the FOAH is not on the record. I told her that my ex-wife had drafted a FOAH and submitted it to me for my approval. I didn't approve it, but my expectation is that she will submit it to Comm. Joseph soon, and we will have a signed FOAH long before the transcripts are completed. The clerk seemed happy with that, and said that everything was in order for the preparation of the appellate record. Completing the record could take a month or two, depending on how fast the court reporters are.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why San Jose couple lost their baby boy

The SJMN articles tell the story of Marquita Jackson, but they strangely omit the story told last Friday on ABC-KGO-TV news:
The two went to individual counseling, couples counseling, a year-long parenting without violence class, everything their social worker required. But in the end they lost their son, primarily because he would never admit to hurting him.
The boy is now healthy, and no one ever determined whether the father was at fault for baby's injury. But the vindictive and malicious judges cannot tolerate a father who maintains his innocence.

Considering that no one can determine whether the father did anything wrong, and even if he did, the problem is extremely unlikely to happen again, this couple should get their son back. The newspaper does not go nearly far enough in assigning blame to the judicial system. The judges, commissioners, referees, lawyers, and social workers must all be cruel and sadistic people.

More from Mercury News

The San Jose Mercury News exposes the local practice of county DA prosecuting parents in one court, and then claiming to represent the kids in juvenile court!
The district attorney's office offers significant resources, including databases, investigators and office social workers. Santa Clara County prosecutors are California's highest-paid children's lawyers, at more than $180,000 a year each. ...

Top Santa Clara County prosecutors insist there is no conflict in the office's dual roles.

''There isn't a fundamental conflict, otherwise we wouldn't be in those cases," said District Attorney Dolores Carr. Lawyers in the office are able to "put on a different hat" in dependency court, ...

"They beat up on parents," said longtime Juvenile Court presiding Judge Leonard Edwards, who retired in 2006. Prosecutors "think that kids will do better in out-of-home care. They should be out of the dependency process completely."

Judge Patrick Tondreau praised the district attorneys for their passion and dedication, but said they "resist return of any children and tend to advocate against parents."
Wow. I had no idea these jokers were getting paid $180K a year to take kids away.

One thing that these articles expose is that no one in the system advances the interests of the kids.

The article discusses how kids are usually not allowed in court.
Traditionally, having children attend hearings was considered inappropriate; the system was presumed able to find the best outcomes without subjecting them to the possibility of additional trauma in the courtroom. But that view has come under increasing skepticism, as research suggests children's presence leads to improvements in their lives.

"If we deny youth that opportunity to participate, we really have set up a court system that perpetuates injustice," said lawyer Jennifer Rodriguez, a former foster youth. "Their lives are decided by strangers, in mere minutes." ...

Nevertheless, there is a widespread attitude that the system functions fine without children.

A 2006 survey of 1,800 judges, attorneys and social workers surveyed in 40 states revealed that just 8 percent believe kids should always be present at their hearings. Only 28 percent said children should be present most of the time, reports the non-profit agency Home at Last.

"The attitude of the judges and minors' counsel in Northern California is that these children are so fragile and shouldn't be exposed to this," said Carole Greeley, a longtime dependency appeals attorney. "They're actively discouraging it."

Santa Clara County children in foster care accompany their lawyers to court so infrequently, the local practice is to replace them with a Polaroid photograph. ...
Many children say they have little or no contact with their attorneys outside court as well.
I think that the judges and lawyers just don't want kids telling them how wrong they are. If my kids had been allowed in court, I think that they would be shocked at what was being said by people who were supposedly speaking for them. A lot of court time was wasted on matters that the kids could have easily clarified. No judge wants to give a speech on what the child wants, and then have the ten-year-old stand up and say that the judge got everything wrong.

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Here is some science news:
ScienceDaily (Jan. 23, 2008) — One out of four children involved in a divorce and custody litigation undergoes the so-called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), consisting of the manipulation of children by the custodial parent, who incessantly tries to turn them against the other parent by arousing in them feelings of hatred and contempt for the target parent, as explained in the book Marital Conflicts, Divorce, and Children’s Development by professors José Cantón Duarte, Mª Rosario Cortés Arboleda, and Mª Dolores Justicia Díaz, from the Department of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology of the University of Granada.

In the 1980’s, PAS was defined by scientist Richard Gardner of Columbia University. Men are usually the target parent, since in most cases the mother has custody of the child.

According to Mª Rosario Cortés, “the so-called alienating parent is the one who has custody and uses it to brainwash the child, turning him or her against the alienated parent”. In most cases, the process is very subtle the custodial parent stating such things as “if I just told you some more things about your father/mother…”, or by making the child feel sorry for “abandoning” every time he or she visits the alienated parent.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lawyers against being adversarial

The San Jose Mercury News exposes the leading juvenile dependency court lawyer:
Proctor, 63, defends his approach and warned a reporter in one interview not to "overestimate the importance of due process" ... As a result, Proctor said, the most effective thing lawyers can do for parents is to persuade them to admit to the problems and work on solving them. "You could litigate every piece of the (social worker's) report, but what is that going to accomplish?" Proctor asked. "My feeling is you've got a better chance getting them out of denial."
So some out-of-control social worker takes away your kids for no good reason, you get a lawyer, you tell him that you are innocent, and all he does is accuse you of being in denial!

Apparently, the lawyer was eventually too embarrassed to keep defending his practices:
Gary Proctor, the owner of Santa Clara Juvenile Defenders, said the newspaper's reporting "raised my consciousness on the fact that we have perhaps become too collaborative," choosing too often to accept, rather than challenge, the findings of social workers that children are in dangerous situations. ...

The acknowledgment came during Proctor's third lengthy session with the Mercury News in the past year, and it represented a significant change from earlier interviews, in which Proctor had defended the firm's practices and questioned the value of being adversarial.
There is something seriously wrong with the system when a newspaper reporter has to explain to a prominent lawyer that lawyer are supposed to be adversial. Lawyers are supposed to be vigorous advocates for their clients.

As the article explains, these lawyers rarely contest anything that the social workers say, and almost never try for an appeal or a writ to a higher court. These lawyers are worse than worthless because they sell out their clients.

The article tells the story of Marquita Jackson who permanently lost her parental rights to her kid after a three-year legal battle. It was never proved that she did anything wrong. The accusation was that she was somehow responsible for letting her boyfriend shake the baby excessively, but there is considerable scientific doubt about whether there is any such thing as Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). The boyfriend (and baby's father) was never convicted of anything.

The article blames the unjust outcome on inadequate lawyering, but I think that the problem runs much deeper than that. From the story, it appears that the social workers and judges were shown the relevant facts and laws, but acted maliciously against the woman anyway. The newspaper investigation gives the impression that the juvenile dependency courts are truly evil.

Finding a custody evaluator

We only have three custody evaluators in this county who do the deluxe $7,000 jobs that Comm. Joseph apparently wants. Lee and Katz say that they cannot do it. That leaves Jay Muccilli. I had forgotten that I had mentioned him, but I see now that his name has come up on this blog before in Jan. 2005, Jan. 2006 and Oct. 2006. I did not expect to be ever seeing him when I wrote that stuff. I guess that we'll have to get someone in the next county.

Meanwhile, my ex-wife refuses to let me see our kids.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More from San Jose paper

The San Jose Mercury News reports:
For many dependency court judges, the work is viewed as exile that lasts only until another assignment arrives. Sixty percent of 2,200 dependency judges surveyed nationwide in 2004 perceived that their legal community held them in moderate to low esteem.

Judges give many reasons. The caseloads are overwhelming, the decisions often too gut-wrenching and hasty. The proceedings are closed, offering the judges little professional visibility. And in some counties like Santa Clara, dependency matters are heard in makeshift courtrooms like trailers or abandoned banks.

Many get out as soon as they can. ...

Presiding judges in many California counties routinely place dependency court at the bottom of the hierarchy, leaving the crushing caseloads to referees and commissioners ...

"The message you're sending out," said Diane Nunn, director of California's Center for Families, Children and the Courts, "is that these cases aren't worthy of real judges."
My guess is that the real judges would rather be putting away real criminals, or deciding real financial disputes, and not be torturing little kids by removing them from their families based on flimsy hearsay. A judge would really have to be a sadistic creep if he liked juvenile dependency court. I suspect that is why they can't get real judges to do the job.

A companion article today says:
The dependency process begins when a social worker determines a child's safety is at risk.

The social worker can remove a child from home, but within two business days must file a report and appear in court to defend the action.

The role of the court is to serve as a check on this intervention: Are the allegations true? Should the child remain out of the home? Are the parents being offered help for their problems - addiction, homelessness or domestic violence - so the child can be returned home? If so, when does their progress justify the child's return? ...

State Supreme Court rulings have set low standards for evidence in dependency courts. Social workers' reports that prompt dependency cases are considered "inherently reliable," and they have value as evidence far beyond what police reports would be given in criminal court.

Attorney Kevin Thurber, who represents parents and children in San Mateo County and conducts statewide lawyer trainings, said "rumors and innuendo" often appear in social work reports, but little can be done about it. "Most people would be shocked that rules we take as staples of our judicial system - that you can't be harmed by hearsay - are routine in dependency court."
Appear in court in two business days? My kids were removed from my home on Nov. 16, 2007. I could not get the CPS social worker into court until Jan. 4, 2008. That is 49 days, not 2 days. Her report turned out to be filled with vicious lies. I don't think that there was one significant allegation in it that was actually truthful. Nobody should ever regard anything Sally Mitchell says as reliable. The case against me was entirely false hearsay that would never be allowed in a real court before a real judge.

Investigation of juvenile depedency courts

A reader sent this Mercury news story today about the California juvenile dependency courts. It is part of a special investigation, with more stories to come.

The juvenile dependency court is where govt social workers take kids away from their parents. The article describes how poor families are busted up with a minimum of due process and legal representation. Usually it is a poor drug-addicted parent being charged with child neglect.

Much of this is hidden from the public, I am glad to see the newspaper expose it.
Most dependency cases do not involve physical or sexual abuse. Eighty percent of cases seek to protect the children from neglect, according to state child welfare data. Parents leave children home alone, or with inappropriate caregivers. Bingeing on drugs or just plain impoverished, they fail to stock the refrigerator. Others lose their kids when police are called to break up violent domestic disputes.
The article concludes that the main problem is that judges and lawyers are overworked. I think that the problems are a lot deeper. In my case, we had a formal hearing in court, but then the CPS social worker and the judge ignored the facts and the law and they acted on their personal prejudices.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ex-wife designates record

I just got a copy of this:
A. It is requested that the following documents in the superior court file be included in the clerk's transcript:

1. Notice of appeal
2. Notice designating record on appeal (this document)
3. Judgment or order appealed from
4. Notice of entry of judgment (if any)
5. Notice of intention to move for new trial or motion to vacate the judgment, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or for reconsideration of an appealed order (if any)
6. Ruling on item 5
7. Register of actions (if any)
8. Dr. Bret Johnson's (Evaluation) Status Report, signed by Dr. Johnson on November 3, 2004
9. Findings and Order After Hearing for the March 25, 2005 hearing
10. Minutes for the March 25, 2005 hearing
11. Petitioner's Status Report for Review Hearing re Safety Issues and Parenting Plan, filed June 27, 2005
12. Petitioner's Status Report for Review Hearing re Psychological Evaluation and Parenting Plan for the October 11, 2005 hearing, 8:30 a.m., in Dept: 4
13. Amended Petitioner's Status Report for Financial Issues (Child and Spousal Support) filed December 8, 2005
14. Human Resource Agency's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Response To Subpoena Duces Tecum and Subpoena (Testimony) for the January 4. 2008 hearing at 1:30 p.m., Dept. 4
15. Peitioner's Status Memo, filed January 2, 2008

B. It is requested that the following EXHIBITS admitted into evidence or marked
for identification be copied into clerk's transcript on appeal All Exhibits

Julie Travers, February 8, 2008
This is all routine except for item (14). Apparently CPS had a lawyer write some sort of memo to the court in connection with Sally Mitchell's testimony against me on Jan. 4. I never saw it or knew that it existed. I don't even know what it is about, as it was not mentioned in court.

If CPS lawyers had argued for some sort of confidentiality, then that memo would be the place to do it, I guess. If I had been served a copy, as they are supposed to do, then I could have addressed in court whatever issues were raised. I guess that I will find out when I get the appellate record.

It was not until Jan. 25 that Comm. Irwin H. Joseph ordered that Ms. Mitchell's transcript be kept confidential, and backdated his order to Jan. 11. Those from the public who were present on Jan. 4 in court had no notice that anything was confidential. I do not think that the lawyer memo would be confidential.

At this point, I just hope the appeals court gets all the facts, and nothing is covered up.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Another shrink backs out

I got a message 9 days ago from my ex-wife saying that she contacted Gregory Katz and that he might be willing to do the evaluation.

I just got a call back from him. He asked me some questions about the case, but I would only tell him what the judge actually ordered. I certainly didn't want to start arguing my case on an initial phone call. He said that he would have to get some clarification from the court.

After talking to me for about 10 minutes, he said that he is all booked up for about 3 months and could not do the evaluation anytime soon anyway. I don't know why he didn't just say that in the first place.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Trying to find an evaluator

I just talked to another custody evaluator in the next county. He said that he charges $180 per hour, and the typical evaluation is 40 hours work. More if there is domestic violence, restraining orders, or other complications.

He asked whether I wanted a psychological evaluation or a custody evaluation, and said that they were completely different. He is an LMPT, not a psychologist, and only does custody evaluations. I quoted for him the judge's order, and he replied, "It sounds like you don't know what you want." I explained that it wasn't what I wanted. I was just trying to comply with the judge.

He also complained about the lack of lawyers. He likes to start an evaluation with a conference call with the lawyers. I asked him why he needed lawyers. I said that we could just bring him the court order and he could do it, since lawyers are not supposed to be involved.

He said that he is not a lawyer, and it is useful for him to have legal representation, especially in a complex case. For example, he said that he might make a recommendation that one parent is happy with, and the other parent is not. Technically, under the law, the unhappy parent has a right to object, and that parent often does object if not represented by a lawyer. When there are lawyers present, the lawyer explains the situation.

Since I was asking these questions, he said that he did not want the case unless we got lawyers.

I got the impression that he likes parents represented by lawyers because they are less likely to contest what he does. That seems backwards to me. The parents hire lawyers to protect their interests, not to be bullied by some bogus evaluator. Many of the lawyers are scared of the evaluators, and unwilling to challenge what they say. What good is a lawyer, if he is afraid to raise an objection?

At any rate, it is becoming clear that it is impossible for us to get an evaluation on our own. If Comm. Joseph wants one, then he is going to have to issue a specific order.

Confidentiality order after hearing

My ex-wife finally wrote up the findings and orders from the Jan. 11 hearing, as directed by Comm. Joseph. The way the Rule 3.1312 procedure works, she is supposed to submit it to me for my approval as to form and content, and then submit it to the judge to sign it.

I refused to sign it. The main reason was that she included Comm. Joseph's "off the record" confidentiality order that was apparently issued on Jan. 25 and backdated to Jan. 11.

I really don't think that Comm. Joseph can hold a public hearing in open court on Jan. 4, and then suddenly decide on Jan. 25 that the transcript is confidential. I also don't think that he is supposed to be issuing orders on Jan. 25 and backdating them to Jan. 11. That is what he did.

But whether Comm. Joseph can do that or not, I certainly don't think that either my ex-wife or I should facillitate Comm. Joseph manipulating the record in this way. We were not present for his confidentiality order, and we should not sign a proposed order that includes the confidentiality order as part of the Jan. 11 orders when we know that it did not happen that way.

I think that if Comm. Joseph decides on Jan. 25 to issue an "off the record" confidentiality order, then he should just issue the order on his own and date it Jan. 25. The order should show that my ex-wife and I were not present, and we had no opportunity to object or to present arguments as to why the order is legally incorrect or unwarranted. He shouldn't backdate it to Jan. 11, and my ex-wife shouldn't backdate it either.

Of course I don't think that the confidentiality order is justified. The was nothing confidential about the testimony at all. I have already written about the gist of it on this blog. It was just some idiotic accusations about dogs, clocks, homework, and dishes. Comm. Joseph appears to be just trying to protect Sally Mitchell, the CPS social worker, from embarrassment.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Calling child custody evaluators

I called several child custody evaluators from the list I got. Most of them don't even do the work anymore, or have moved away.

I just talked to one who has a very distinguished reputation. He was mentioned by a couple of the others I called. His first question was who my lawyer was. When I told him I didn't have one, he said that he does not do cases anymore where one or both parties is "pro per" (meaning unrepresented). He offered to explain why, and told me that the lawyers help manage the evaluation.

I told him that I found that surprising, because in my experience, the lawyers are not supposed to have anything to do with the evaluation. They are not even allowed to talk to the evaluator. He said that was true, but he had a couple of recent cases in which the lawyer dropped out, and it created extra trouble for him somehow. He didn't explain how, but said that lawyers allow him to focus on the evaluation, especially in difficult cases.

Now I am wondering just what the lawyers do to make the evaluator's life easier, when the lawyers are not supposed to be even involved. Do the lawyers make sure that the bills are paid? Do the lawyers somehow browbeat the clients into cooperating with whatever the evaluator wants to do? Do the lawyers secretly give some info to the evaluators?

At any rate, the claim that lawyers are not involved seems to be false. The lawyers are doing something. Exactly what, I don't know, but they are doing something outside of what the rules allow.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Congressional resolution for shared parenting

This resolution was introduced in the US Senate:
Expressing the sense of the Congress that joint custody laws for fit parents should be passed by each State, so that more children are raised with the benefits of having a father and a mother in their lives.

Low opinion of judges

I thought that I had a low opinion of judges, but I am finding that everyone I meet has a lower opinion.

When I explain some legal argument that I intend to use in court, I usually get a dumbfounded look and questions like, "Do you think that the judge is going to follow the law?", or "Do you think that the judge is receptive to reason and logic?". Then he'll suggest that I get a better haircut or hire a lawyer who plays golf with the judge. I don't think that I have even met anyone yet who actually says that family court judges rule legitimately based on the facts and law before them. Invariably they attribute the judges' rulings to motives that are much worse than anything that I have said on this blog.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Impeaching judges

Here is a Missouri story about a judge who is threatened with impeachment for botching up a family court case.
"A very capable, loving mother of six children had her three younger children ripped from her side and has not seen her children because of this decision for six months," he said. "This family has been decimated because of this decision."
That mother is a lawyer herself with a history of false accusations, so I am not sure who is more at fault. I do think that judges should be more accountable for what they do.