Friday, March 07, 2008

Kids to be allowed in court

The San Jose paper reports:
An influential California lawmaker has introduced legislation to bring more children into the court hearings that decide their fates after allegations of abuse and neglect - a bill proposed in response to systemic failures revealed by the Mercury News last month.

"This bill sends a strong message that kids need to be a more integral part of the system," said Dave Jones, a Sacramento Democrat who chairs the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Jones said the bill is designed to address one of the key findings of the series "Broken Families, Broken Courts" - that throughout California, hearings in the courts that oversee the foster care system are often held without the child present.

The bill is the latest development following publication of the series, which showed that California dependency courts are so congested that clients' legal rights are in continual jeopardy. In recent weeks, the owner of the firm that long has represented indigent parents in Santa Clara County abruptly resigned and Superior Court officials have made significant improvements to the handling of all new dependency court cases.

Jones' bill, AB 3051, would require all California judicial officers to postpone hearings if children 10 and older have not been properly notified and offered the chance to attend.

Current law gives children the legal right to attend but does not require officials to make a strong effort to get the children there. Outside of Los Angeles County, children are not routinely present at their hearings. ...

Leslie Heimov, executive director of the non-profit Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, said setting the minimum age at 10 could prohibit even younger children from participating in court. In Los Angeles, where 96 full-time attorneys represent 26,000 children, local rules encourage all those age 4 and older to attend hearings. Heimov said if it weren't for diaper issues, babies and toddlers also would be present.

"For older kids, there's a benefit to the child, but for younger kids there's a benefit to the court," Heimov said. "They bring the case alive. They're ruling on a person, not a piece of paper."
My 10 and 8 year old kids were not allowed in court. Comm. Irwin Joseph said that he does not believe in it. He didn't say why. My guess is that he does not have to guts to look at them as he is ruling against them.

If the kids had been there, it would have definitely changed the tone of the hearing. There were a lot of really foolish things that were said by Comm. Joseph, by CPS social worker Sally Mitchell, and by court-appointed lawyer Jim Ritchey that even a 10-year-old child would see to be false and idiotic.

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