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