Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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.

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