Friday, November 28, 2008

Writing an amicus letter to the court

A little-known policy of the California Supreme Court is that it will accept ordinary letters from anyone in support of pending petitions and writs. You don't have to be a lawyer or to follow obscure rules. According to Rule 8.500(g):
(g) Amicus curiae letters

(1)Any person or entity wanting to support or oppose a petition for review or for an original writ must serve on all parties and send to the Supreme Court an amicus curiae letter rather than a brief.
Rule 8.520(f) similarly allows such letters after the court has decided to grant review of a case. For example, the court has taken a bunch of letters on Prop. 8, the recent same-sex marriage initiative. As you can see, these can read like formal legal briefs, or informal arguments in letter form.

As the rule says, the letter should be served on all parties. That means that you mail a copy to the California Supreme Court, the Sixth District, the Santa Cruz Superior Court, my ex-wife, and myself. You should also add a signed statement at the end of your letter listing these parties and addresses, certifying that you have mailed a copy to each. You don't have to use a professional process server or get it notarized or anything like that.

If you are interested in writing a letter to the court, send me an email, and I will send a link to my petition. It has the necessary addresses.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Study shows benefits to paternal involvement

Another research study has shown that kids are more intelligent and reach higher education levels if they spend more time with their dads.

The data came from a huge cohort of 17k British kids who have been tracked since 1958. The study controlled for socioeconomic status (SES) and found that high-SES dads make more of a positive difference to their kids than low-SES dads. It says:
Paternal involvement does not just have a temporary effect in early life. Instead, cohort members who had received high paternal involvement were more upwardly mobile than those receiving low involvement, and the difference was still detectable at age 42.
The research article is in the latest issue of an academic journal. Nettle, D. (2008). Why do some dads get more involved than others? Evidence from a large British cohort. Evolution and Human Behavior, 29, 416-423. Available from the author's web page.

There are many studies like this. Those who prevent fathers from seeing their kids are doing measurable harm to those kids.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Confidential complaint

I just got an envelope marked "confidential" from the California
Commission on Judicial Performance. It said:
This letter is to acknowledge receipt of your recent complaint against a court commissioner. We are presently reviewing this information and you will be advised in writing, at a later date, of the Commission's action in this matter.

Very truly yours,
Amy Ladine

Confidential under California Constitution,
Article VI, Section 18, and Commission Rule 102

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Supreme court issues

Here are the issues I presented to the California Supreme Court:
May a Superior (Family) Court apply juvenile court procedures to restrict access to evidence, when there is no showing of any necessity for confidentiality? May the Court then jail someone for violating those procedures?

After evidence has been presented in open court with members of the public present, may a Superior (Family) Court seal that evidence and order that it cannot be shown to my lawyer, used by my rebuttal witness, quoted on my blog, or posted on a web site supporting my appeal? Can I be found in contempt of court for publicly rebutting the evidence that was presented publicly against me?

May a Superior (Family) Court delegate child visitation and supervision decision-making to a psychologist after a custody trial? May the Court then deny visitation to a parent when no psychologist is willing to take such a role?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Where are my free speech rights?

I am wondering whether I am the only one to be convicted of disclosing the evidence presented against me in open court.

CPS agent Sally Mitchell testified in my divorce case. The court was open to the public, and no one said anything about it being confidential. A court-approved summary of her testimony is here. No one said that there was any harm in releasing the testimony, and there was no motion to seal the testimony.

Nevertheless, I was convicted for quoting the testimony. Cmr. Irwin Joseph recited a crazy theory that the CPS testimony had to be secret because CPS agents sometimes testify in juvenile court and juvenile court records are usually kept secret.

I petitioned the appellate court for review under the only procedure available, and my petition was denied. Apparently the appellate court thinks that it is okay that I spend five days in jail for quoting the public testimony of a govt agent in open court.

Do we have free speech rights in this country, or not? If I don't have free speech rights to quote govt testimony against me, what free speech rights do I have? And yet the appellate court has approved of me being punished for quoting testimony against me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hanging judge on the appellate court

A lawyer tells me that I had bad luck in drawing appellate judges. There are seven judges on the court, and each case gets three at random. I got Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, Nathan D. Mihara, and Richard J. McAdams. Bamattre-Manoukian almost never grants any relief to anyone, unless the petition is actually endorsed by the prosecutor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Petition to Calif supreme court

I filed a petition with the California Supreme Court today.

I discovered that if I wanted to ask the California Supreme Court to review the lower appellate court's denial of my writ petition, then I only have ten days. The deadline was today, so I drove up to the Supreme Court in San Francisco to file my petition.

The court employs clerks to look for silly reasons to reject a document for some formality. This clerk got out a little pad of paper to list all the deficiencies. For each item, I had to convince her that my petition was acceptable. Sometimes she had to go discuss the matter with her supervisor.

One of her objections was that I was supposed to prove that my filing was within the time limit. Eventually she admitted that she could just check it on the web site herself. So she printed a page, and attached it to my filing.

Then she said that my original was okay, but she needed 13 additional copies. So I pumped a few more quarters in the parking meter, found a copy shop a few blocks away, and made the necessary copies.

I thought that I was all done, and went back to my car to prepare to mail some documents. Then the clerk tracked me down, and was in a panic about another problem! I don't know how she found me. There was some sort of confusion about whether my case was civil or criminal. Her supervisor eventually brought me a black pen and some white-out and insisted that I made some minor changes to my cover page, and to all 13 copies.

I don't know why I couldn't just email my petition to the court. The whole procedure seemed ridiculous.

I am sure that the California Supreme Court rejects the vast majority of these petitions. Currently it is preoccupied with same-sex marriage. It just got reversed by the voters, and it is not used to that. I may not hear anything for months.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Man pays for county's mistake

A Pennsylvania newspaper reports:
When Walter Andre Sharpe Jr. signed for a certified letter from Dauphin County Domestic Relations in 2001, he didn't know he was signing on for a seven-year nightmare. Since then, the Philadelphia man has been thrown in jail four times, lost his job, become estranged from his four children and spent more than $12,000 to support the child of another man.

It finally stopped in May 2007 when a judge reversed a finding that he was the father. But the same judge has since ruled that Sharpe is not entitled to any compensation, not even the money he was forced to pay to support the child.

Sharpe's attorney, Tabetha Tanner, said the county Domestic Relations office "stole" Sharpe's identity by exchanging his date of birth, address and Social Security number for that of the father.

The agency fought Sharpe's attempts to have DNA testing and said it determined he was the father "after reasonable investigation."

Yet it took The Patriot-News less than an hour to track down the real father, Andre Sharpe, who said the girl that Walter Sharpe has been paying support for has been living with him for the last four years.
Men are guilty until proven innocent. Someone should have been jailed for fraud.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The whole basis of family law would be undermined

The 2002 movie Evelyn was just on TV. When the Irish angry dad talks about suing to get his kids back from an orphanage, he hears this line:
You'll lose, because if you were to win this case, the whole basis of family law would be undermined. And believe me, gentlemen, that will not be allowed to happen.
A couple of months ago, a court psychologist said something similar about my appeal, with less hyperbole:
[George's appeal brief] reiterates the major points of this extended case and questions the legality of some common procedures in child custody litigation.
Yes, I am questioning the legality of some common procedures. I guess I hope that the appellate court thinks that I am undermining the whole basis of family law, or else they may not want to allow that to happen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Writ denied

The court of appeals just denied my petition for a writ. I had asked for an emergency intervention in my case. No explanation was given.

I still have a regular appeal pending, the appellate court will have to explain itself when it rules on that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Court punishes dad when mom is the abuser

Here is one of those rare appeals from the California juvenile dependency court.
LA v DE ruled:
In October 2007, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 petition on behalf of then six-year-old A.E. and three-year-old H.E. The father, D.E., and the mother, who is not a party to this appeal, were in the process of divorcing after an eight-year marriage. The parents shared legal custody of the children; mother had primary physical custody and father had visitation rights. DCFS’s petition was sparked by A.E.’s complaint to father that mother struck H.E. with a spatula hard enough to leave a black bruise, a matter that mother admitted. Father, in turn, reported this to the police in a 911 call.

So DCFS (aka CPS) took the kids away based on these concerns:
First, mother on several occasions struck both children with hard objects, violently enough to leave black and blue bruises. This was so even though mother had participated in counseling and anger management classes. ... Fourth, while at the inception of the proceedings in the fall of 2007 father had voiced understandable concerns about mother’s boyfriend who had a prior conviction for having sex with a minor and who also spoke disparagingly about father to the children, ...

The fifth incident is perhaps the one to cause the most concern. At the close of the hearing on February 20, 2008, father volunteered the observation that there really was “no abuse of the children” and that “[i]t’s a nonissue.”
So the dad ultimately regretted getting CPS involved, and for that, he had to be punished. The dad was ordered to attend anger management classes!

The appellate court jusitified punishing the dad because:
We disagree with father’s claim that there is no evidence that supports the counseling order because “[father] was non-offending; the issues in the case involved the mother’s inappropriate physical discipline of the girls.” The point is that D.E., as the father, is responsible for the children’s safety and well-being and must therefore unequivocally oppose harsh and unsuitable corporal punishment. But, rather than stating unequivocally that he was opposed to beating the children with hard objects, on February 20, 2008, father denied that there had been any abuse and stated that he would never again report such beatings to the authorities.
This is crazy. It was the mom who was convicted of physical abuse. The mom has custody of the kids, and the dad just has visitation rights. And yet somehow the dad "is responsible for the children’s safety".

To CPS, there is just one thing that is worse than a child-abusing parent, and that is a parent who is not sufficiently subservient to the CPS authorities. The mom beat a 3-year-old black and blue with a spatula. And yet the dad is worse in their eyes just because he expressed regret about calling 911.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I offered full disclosure

The biggest issue at my hearing yesterday was whether I had made adequate financial disclosure several years ago. The opposing lawyer, Jennifer Gray, acknowledged getting this email from me in Nov. 2004:
I just received your letter about your document request. I offered you the documents on the date and time you requested, and you refused.

As an alternative, I am offering them again at my house this Friday, from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm, for inspection and copying.

As another alternative, I can arrange for Julie to inspect all my documents at her convenience, and for her to take to you what she really needs.
Ms. Gray refused my offer, and later used it as evidence to the court about how unreasonable I was! Now I am being accused of concealing financial info.

In fact I have repeatedly offered all of my financial documents to my ex-wife and her attorney. I supplied tax returns, bank statements, and everything else requested. I was deposed, and cross-examined in court. And I did this in 2004-2005.

I really do not see how my ex-wife can claim that I withheld anything. She had access to all the same documents that I had.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Boring money trial today

I just got out of another day in court before Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph. At least I am not in jail.

We were scheduled for a 1:30 trial on money issues, but first we had to sit thru another case with a custody dispute. The mom was there with lawyer, Madeleine Boriss, and the dad's lawyer Traci Pickering was there. They appeared to be recently separated, and fighting over a couple of kids aged 10 and 11 or so.

The mom's lawyer's biggest issue was whether the mom should have to use force to put the kids in the car. She wanted Cmr. Joseph to issue some sort of order allowing the mom to cancel the dad's visitation if she has to use force to put the kids in the car. I would have told her that if she cannot cope with putting the kids in the car, then maybe she should not have custody.

Cmr. Joseph shipped them off to a psychologist for $7,000 to $10,000 child custody evaluation. They had to choose between the three local shrinks. They agreed on Greg Katz. The second choice was Elizabeth Lee, because everyone agreed that Jay Muccilli had a bad reputation for getting evaluations finished in a timely way. I hate to think what those bozos are going to say about how a parent should put a 10-year-old kid into a car.

Then our case was called. It lasted all afternoon. You would think that Cmr. Joseph would be sick of us by now. This was a trial over some money issues. There were no lawyers (other than my ex-wife) and no witnesses.

First, Cmr. Joseph postponed sentencing me. I don't think that he has the nerve to send me to jail. He may never sentence me. I think that he just wants me to know that he has the power to jail me at any time I come to court.

After a couple of hours of boring financial arguments, Cmr. Joseph scheduled a continuation to another trial in a couple of months. There never seems to be any end to any of these issues in family court.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Court lawyer has his own problems

I happened to look up James M. Ritchey, the court-appointed lawyer for my kids, in the court computer. It turns out that he is a party to about 20 other lawsuits! Weird.

I don't just mean cases where he is a lawyer representing a party. I mean he himself appears to be suing or being sued by all sorts of people, including his relatives.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Junk Justice Joseph may retire

I just heard a rumor that Cmr. Joseph is being forced into retirement, effective next July, and he will be moving to Florida. I had assumed that he was still angling for a real judgeship. I guess that he has given up on that.

It will be a happy day in Santa Cruz when Cmr. Joseph is no longer actively trying to ruin peoples' lives in the Santa Cruz family court. The sooner he moves to Florida, the better.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Slandering the accredited professionals

A reader complains about me:
he's deliberately slandering his ex-wife and accredited professionals such as Commissioner Joseph, Bret Johnson and Sally Mitchell. He needs to be in jail as do all men who ...
I am not slandering anyone. I just describe what they say and do in open court. Bret Johnson and Sally Mitchell were served with subpoenas, and asked for their credentials in court. Mr. Johnson's only credential was a self-help book that he wrote on getting gay men out of the closet. He drew on his personal experiences. Ms. Mitchell did not present any credentials. Cmr. Joseph is not even a real judge.

Cmr. Joseph, Mr. Johnson, and Ms. Mitchell have never had any training in child custody recommendation or decisions as far as I know. None of them has ever claimed to have any special expertise, or cited any expert knowledge in the area. Not one of them has quoted any professional literature, or shown any knowledge of any such literature. Not in my case or in any other case that I have witnessed.

Yes, I think that they are all charlatans. Not only are they grossly unfit for the their jobs, they act in ways that I regard as unethical.

But you can make up your own mind. I post what they say and do, and you can decide for yourself. I am temporarily blocked from quoting Ms. Mitchell, because of jail threats from Julie Travers and Cmr. Joseph, but I will put the quotes back up as soon as I can do so legally. They are trying to block the quotes out of their personal vindictiveness, and to cover up their own bad behavior.

SCORE meeting on Saturday

There is a small group called SCORE that is trying to reform the Santa Cruz family court. It meets this Saturday at 10:00. There is more info at the site.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Elkins meeting to improve the family courts

The Elkins Family Law Task Force was created by the California courts in order to hold meetings to recommend improvements to the family courts. Strangely, it does not even have the schedule of future meeting on its web site. I asked about the next meeting, and I just got this reply:
The next Elkins Family Law Task Force meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at the Administrative Office of the Courts, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, Third Floor, San Francisco, California. The public comment portion of the meeting will be from 4:45 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

You may find additional information on how to contact or address the Elkins Family Law Task Force at:

The Elkins Family Law Task Force welcomes your comments by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. Your correspondence will be made available to the task force at subsequent meetings, which are open to the public; therefore, your correspondence to the task force will not be considered confidential in nature. The task force will give the same consideration to all correspondence. Please be advised that the task force will not respond directly to correspondence from the general public.

If you are interested in providing public comment, please consider the following methods:

1) e-mail or send your written suggestion or comments at any time to or the address below; OR

2) e-mail or send your written comments on recommendations posted under Invitation to Comment related to the Elkins Family Law Task Force at: that will be circulated for public comment in the latter part of 2009, OR

3) comment in person at public hearings to be scheduled in the latter part of 2009 to provide feedback on proposed recommendations, OR

4) comment in person at task force meetings as time permits, where members of the public may present their suggestions to the Task Force. The time for your testimony will be 3 minutes or less, depending on the number of individuals appearing. Please feel free to e-mail, send, or fax your written statement in advance. You may not discuss or request comment on specific cases or any individual.

The next Elkins Family Law Task Force meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at the Administrative Office of the Courts, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, Third Floor, San Francisco, California. The public comment portion of the meeting will be from 4:45 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

If you would like to address the task force during this time, please submit your request to or the address or fax below at least 4 business days before the meeting. Please include the following information in your request:

Presenter's name (Your name)
Title/position (i.e., Party, Attorney, Mediator, etc.)
Contact information (i.e., address, telephone number, e-mail, etc.),
County of residence;
Organization or affiliation, if any (i.e., Are speaking for yourself and/or an organization?)
Brief description of presentation (i.e., What are you suggesting?)
If you have a pending family law case in any California court, please specify which court(s).
The Task Force cannot hear comments on specific cases so please do not include your court case number, court department, names of any parties, attorneys, court staff, judicial officers, mediators, or any individual names or references to the specifics in your case.

You may address the task force for up to 3 minutes, as time permits. Please feel free to e-mail, send, or fax your proposed comments and suggestions in advance to:

Elkins Family Law Task Force
Administrative Office of the Courts 455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102
Fax: 415-865-7217

Staff for the Center for Families, Children & the Courts
Judicial Council of California - Administrative Office of the Courts

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Family court judge is fired

New York state just removed family court judge David F. Jung, in this decision:
Petitioner, a Judge of the Family Court, Fulton County, commenced this
proceeding to review a determination of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that sustained five charges of misconduct against him and imposed the sanction of removal from judicial office. Upon our plenary review of the record, we accept the determined sanction. ...

Plainly, even the Appellate Division precedents failed to impress the importance of these due process rights upon petitioner in any meaningful way. ...

It is apparent from the record as a whole that petitioner continues to believe that his actions were a permissible exercise of the "wide discretion" given Family Court judges "for dealing with the complexities of family life" (Family Court Act § 141). He fails to grasp that with such discretion comes grave responsibilities to the litigants before him as well as to their children. While we recognize that petitioner has well served youth in his court and through his extensive involvement in community service, part and parcel of effecting the "best interests" of a child is affording that child's parent the rights inherent in the parental bond. We acknowledge that removal from office is an "extreme sanction" that is imposed only "in the event of truly egregious circumstances" (Matter of Cunningham v Comm. on Judicial Conduct, 57 NY2d 270, 275 [1982]). We conclude that petitioner's steadfast adherence to longstanding policies that have seriously compromised the due process rights of litigants justifies removal.
It appears that this judge would throw a parent he didn't like in jail, and then try him or her in absentia. The judge claimed that when someone sits in jail, he automatically waives his right to appear in court.

These cases got the appellate court's attention when the jailed parents had to file for writs of habeas corpus to get out of jail. Maybe Cmr. Joseph will have a similar fate if the appellate court has to issue a writ of habeas corpus to get me out of jail.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Explaining child support

A reader questioned whether I am paying child support for my kids' schooling. The question shows a misunderstand of how child support works.

Most people think that child support involves paying a couple of hundred bucks a months in order to cover basic necessities for the kid. That is not how it works anymore.

In the 1990s, the child support system became more of a taxation and welfare system. If the mom has custody of the kid, and she goes on welfare, then the welfare agency seeks reimbursement from the dad. If she is not on welfare, then she can get paid directly from the dad, based on his income and unrelated to any needs of the kid. To the dad, it is just another income tax. To the mom, it is just like welfare money that she can spend however she wishes. It does not have to be spent on the kid.

In California, if they have two kids, the dad has to pay the mom 40% of his after-tax income. That is called "guideline child support". It is not alimony; if there is alimony then that is in addition. The money is tax-free for the mom.

The family courts are not supposed to even look at costs like housing, clothing, food, schooling, etc. The govt authorities decided that would complicate the welfare system too much. The guidelines are based on a belief that the mom herself should have a standard of living similar to the dad. If the mom wants to just put the money in the bank, that is her privilege.

So I pay 40% of my after-tax income to my ex-wife, tax-free. She has remarried, so she also gets 50% of her husband's pre-tax income. That is California law. All other states also have official child support formulas, but the exact percentages vary from state to state.

So yes, I am paying for schooling and everything else. My ex-wife has the discretion in how to spend it. I also pay property taxes that fund the public schools.

The family court judge is obligated to follow the child support guideline in nearly all cases, under federal law. The federal welfare system requires it. The judge can only deviate from the guideline if the facts prove that there are extraordinary circumstances that would make the guideline unjust.

Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph has deviated from guideline in three ways, based on what he claims are extraordinary circumstances. First, he claims that I could have invested my savings differently, and earned more income. So I have to pay 40% of that income that I am not really making. Second, I have one daughter who takes a lot of dance classes, and he ordered me to pay an extra $250 per month to pay for dance classes. Third, he claims that my house is bigger than it needs to be since the kids moved out, and I have equity in the house, so he ordered me to pay an extra $1062 per month to compensate my ex-wife. I have never figured out the logic to that one. I already got the appeals court to reverse him on this point, but he keeps making me pay it anyway.

So I am actually paying much more than 40% of my after-tax income to my ex-wife. It must be nice for her to have two men who are each paying half their income to her. She is also a lawyer, and can earn a good salary herself. I really do not believe that she is being financially mistreated.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Response from presiding judge

I just got this letter from the presiding judge:
I am in receipt of your letter dated September 3, 2008. 1 have made an investigation of your complaint regarding Commissioner Joseph and determined that there is no basis for further inquiry. All judicial officers of the Superior Court have equal authority under the law and no supervising judge may alter or modify the rulings or decisions of another judicial officer or assign another bench officer to hear a case pending before a court officer unless an appropriate motion is filed and granted.

If you are dissatisfied with the Court's action on your complaint, you have the right to request the Commission on Judicial Performance to review this matter under its discretionary jurisdiction to oversee the discipline of subordinate judicial officers. No further action will be taken on your complaint unless the Commission receives your written request within 30 days after the date this notice was mailed. The commission's address is:

Commission on Judicial Performance
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400
San Francisco, California 94102 3660

Very truly yours

Presiding Judge of the Superior Court


Cc: Alex Calvo
Commissioner Irwin Joseph
He was responding to this letter. Cmr. Joseph had written a letter to my ex-wife in which he offered her a deal to find me in contempt of court.