Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Local juvenile court suicide

The San Jose paper reports:
Gary Proctor, the embattled head of the legal firm representing parents in Santa Clara County Juvenile Dependency Court, shot and killed himself in his San Jose home, officials said Monday. ...

His death stunned officials in the Santa Clara County court system, where Proctor's firm has represented parents and some children for more than a decade.

The incident occurred amid growing scrutiny of the publicly funded representation that Proctor's firm was providing to parents who faced losing their children after allegations of abuse or neglect. The Mercury News series "Broken Families, Broken Courts" reported that attorneys for Proctor's firm, Santa Clara Juvenile Defenders, often lacked such fundamental tools as experts and investigators, and regularly met the parents they represented on the day of their hearings.

Proctor, who created similar for-profit firms to represent parents in Orange and Santa Cruz counties, told his Santa Clara County staff he was resigning the week the series appeared in mid-February. ...

Proctor served as a consultant in Sacramento, San Diego and Honolulu and led court improvement sessions at national judges' conventions.
I don't want to speak badly of the recently-deceased, but this guy was just a symptom of the problems. This guy's law firms did most of the court-appointed legal work in my area for families who were being busted up by govt agencies. The judges and govt social service agencies were very happy with his work because he never contested the abuse and neglect charges.

This guy looked bad because he was not zealously advancing his clients' interests, as he is supposed to do. But he was appointed by govt agencies who did not want him to contest accusations. The judges, courts, and govt agencies are the real problem.

I had one of those court-appointed lawyers in my case. He is a Santa Cruz lawyer named James M. Ritchey. He explained to me that judges like Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph don't like it when anyone disputes accusations by CPS social workers. Once Comm. Joseph indicated how he was going to rule, Jim Ritchey would only take actions to support what Comm. Joseph was expected to do. Jim Ritchey was absolutely against any fact-finding in the case. Mr. Ritchey did not even show up for the trial.

I am sorry that Gary Proctor shot himself. He might have helped reform the system. The judges, social workers, and court-appointed lawyers and shrinks who still run the system are just as bad.

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