Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book on abuse witch-hunts

A reader asks about Dorothy Rabinowitz's 2004 book, No Crueler Tyrannies : Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times. From the reviews:
Wall Street Journal editorialist Rabinowitz has collected her stories on false accusations of sex crimes into one harrowing account of failed justice. ...
But she presents her cases expertly -- so well that her stories helped reverse the convictions of five people, which in turn helped her win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. ... The book is full of stories like this about ludicrous allegations that were taken seriously by people who should have known better. The last two decades were the heyday of the sexual-abuse witch-hunts, and this book provides a valuable record of that dark, bizarre time. ... Pseudo educated psychologists were able to present junk science theories to juries that should have never been allowed into the courtroom. Heck, in most cases, the initial suspicions concerning the suspects should have been dismissed by the police after no more than a few hours investigative work.
The witch hunts are not over. Someone will write a book about how Santa Cruz and other counties are taking away kids from good parents based on unfounded allegations of emotional abuse. It will eventually be recognized that we still live in a dark bizarre time where pseudo educated psychologists were able to present junk science theories.

Just as in Rabinowitz's book, the evidence is on the public record and the truth is plain to see for anyone with a modicum of common sense. Those who stood up for truth and justice will be recognized as heroes, and others will be disgraced.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mom, after 13 beers, can't recover custody of kids

A reader sends this story as advice about what not to do before a child custody evaluation:
FORT SMITH, Ark. - A mother who drank 13 beers before a psychological evaluation failed to recover custody of her three young children despite claiming she wasn't drunk because she "can drink like a fish." The woman wanted to get the children back from her husband's stepmother.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals rejected her Wednesday, citing addictions, frequent absences and criminal activity to support her habits. It said the woman made no meaningful efforts to restructure her life.
The article gives no explanation for the husband not having the kids.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finding an evaluator

I am still looking for a psychologist to do a court-ordered evaluation. My ex-wife and I talked to one this morning. She suggested that he look at this blog.

On this blog, I express my personal views and opinions on the family court system, as explained here. Sometimes I comment on cases in the news around the world, and sometimes I comment on my own case.

This case is very personal to me, of course, but I try not to post private info. If my ex-wife and I have some private dispute, I don't say anything about it unless she decides to make it public by making a public complaint to the family court. Once she publicly badmouths me in open court, I feel that it is appropriate to defend myself publicly. I do not launch counterattacks on her, but I do criticize the court for pandering to her petty gripes.

So I am not going to report on our telephone conversation, except as it pertains to our public court case. My ex-wife did drop one legal bombshell in the conversation. She said that she was refusing to proceed with our court-ordered evaluation until after our July 30 court hearing, because she expects to get an order at that time restricting what documents the evaluator can review. A couple of the documents are extremely prejudicial, she said.

The trouble with this is that she does not have any such motion for July 30. This evaluation was ordered a year and a half ago, and she has had plenty of time to make a motion to restrict the scope of the evaluation, if that is what she wanted. Perhaps she suddenly decided that the papers make her look bad somehow, but why would she think that the Commissioner would somehow rescue her on July 30?

The order pretty plainly says that the "evaluator shall have access to any and all reports". I think that it is pretty unlikely that the Commissioner would reverse himself on this point, unless my ex-wife somehow knows something that I don't know. But regardless, it appears that she will not do the court-ordered evaluation until at least August.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day

This cartoon is in the newspaper today.

Update: The cartoonist apologized for running this on Fathers Day. He says it was an accident.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

TV mom spanks kid

There are rumors again that Jon and Kate Gosselin are getting a divorce. This is right after Kate got caught spanking one of their 8 kids. The anti-spanking zealots are outraged. Supposedly they will be sent to a psychologist for a child custody evaluation, and he will scrutinize the spanking pictures. Kate issued this statement:
Whether the paparazzi are there or not, I am a mother first. I love my children and when they misbehave, I discipline them as I deem appropriate for the situation.
If none of this makes any sense to you, it is some sort of TV reality show on the TLC channel. I've never seen it, but if they are going to show some silly psychologist trying to figure out what to do with those 8 kids, I might have to watch.

Friday, June 19, 2009

President Obama Promotes Fatherhood, Responsibility

Pres. Barack Obama is publishing this father's day message:
In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.

That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.
ABC News adds this comment:
In a provocative speech last year in Chicago, Obama delivered some tough love to the African-American community on how absent fathers have contributed to the breakdown of the black family.

"Too many fathers are MIA," he said. "Too many fathers are AWOL. Missing from too many lives and too many homes. They've abandoned their responsibilities. They're acting like boys instead of men. You and I know this is true everywhere, but nowhere is it more true than in the African-American community."
It is nice to hear the President speak up for fathers, but there is a long list of govt policies and incentives that prevent fathers from stepping up. I am a father, and my ex-wife is being paid $3000 per month to not let me see my kids. Now that Obama is the President, he is in a position to do something about fatherlessness in the USA.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Just got last year's transcript

I just got a court transcript that I ordered last year! It was so long ago that I had forgotten about it. I had paid hundreds of dollars for it in advance -- last year.

The system is ridiculous. The courts depend on everyone having timely and accurate access to court transcripts. Everyone needs to know exactly what was argued and decided. There is no excuse for a system that is so slow and expensive.

I don't know whether transcripts are this slow for everyone, or just me. It is hard to believe that everyone is waiting eight months for a transcript. It is also hard to believe that the judge or some other court official specifically impeded me getting transcripts. Either way, it is an outrage.

The problem has such an easy solution. The court already makes audio recordings of court proceedings. There are services that will transcribe recordings. The ones in India are dirt cheap, and give results overnight. The court could have a text transcript on its web site the next day, and it would be cheaper and easier for everyone. Except the court reporter, who might be out of a job.

Any court reporter who takes eight months to produce a transcript ought to be fired anyway. And that is not even the slowest I've encountered. I tried to get a transcript for a 2004 hearing, and I was never able to get it. The court reporter took my money and did about 10% of it, and never did the rest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hearing postponed again

I just got a notice that my hearing before Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph has been postponed to July 30.

At issue are some financial claims that my ex-wife started making about a year ago. Cmr. Joseph finally issued a decision on Feb. 17. I quickly filed a motion for reconsideration, because he made a number of factual errors in the decision.

He is also going to hear my motion to see my kids, and my ex-wife's motion to seal the reports that she put on the public record.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shrinks like lawyers

I am hunting for a child custody evaluator again, and I found one about 50 miles away who was interested and available. The first thing she asked was for the names of the lawyers in the case. When I told her that my ex-wife and I are not represented by lawyers, I got this response:
Unfortunately, I do not do custody evaluations on clients that are not represented. I can give you some referrals of other evaluators if you would like.

Best of luck to you both.
The odd thing about this is that the lawyers are not permitted to have any contact with the evaluators. The evaluators are supposed to be basing their opinions on psychological evaluations of the parents and kids, and not on legalistic arguments from lawyers.

She is not the only one who likes lawyers. There are other forensic child custody evaluators who also insist on the parents using lawyers. As I understand it, these folks are always worried about being sued, or about getting their professional licenses challenged. They operate on the boundaries of what is legal and ethical. When lawyers are handling the paperwork for an evaluation, the evaluator feels that she is more sheltered from liability problems. That is my understanding, anyway.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dear Abby misses the point

Glenn Sacks complains about a Dear Abby column:
Dear Abby: My sister has five children, all younger than 18. She has full custody and receives child support every month from her ex-husband. The problem is, she has been spending that money on her boyfriends instead of her children. ...

Dear Alarmed Auntie: Your sister's behavior is not only irresponsible, ...
So we have an identifiable father (who also pays child support every month), yet while Abby does recommend "contacting" him "if possible," she seems to hold out foster care placement as an apparently better (or equally viable) option.
Sacks suggests sending a complaint to Dear Abby (daughter of the original Dear Abby).

A little-known fact is that there is nothing illegal about the mom spending all the child support money on her boyfriends. There is nothing the dad, the court, or CPS can do about that. It is a flaw in the child support law.

CPS can do something about child neglect. It would be better to address the underlying problem, which is usually the fact that the dad has been cut out of the picture. If they shared joint custody, then the mom would be a whole lot less likely to get away with being so irresponsible.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why judges like lawyers

Judges seem happier when the parties have lawyers. This seems odd, at first, because it appears that the lawyers make extra work for the judges. In court on Monday, the lawyers wasted a lot of time making silly arguments. The judge even ridiculed the wasteful legal bills that they were causing. It appeared that the cases would get resolved more easily without the lawyers

But at one point a lawyer was convenient to the judge. The wife's lawyer was demanding a chunk of the husband's $691k loan. Judge Salazar implied that he had enough testimony to make a decision, but he scheduled a trial in September.

The problem was that the judge thought that the wife should be protected against the possibility that the husband might acquire a gambling habit and waste all the money before the trial. That is where the lawyer was useful to the judge. The husband's lawyer agreed to put 40% of the money in a trust fund until the trial. That is a very easy thing for the lawyer to do.

I don't know what the judge would have done if there were no lawyers on the case. Without lawyers, it would not be so easy to order the money put in a trust account, because the court would not want to be bothered to check whether or not the money was really put there, and whether the account access was set up properly. As it was, the judge could act as if he was being very fair and just, and he doesn't have to actually decide or do anything.

Of course the trust fund was not really necessary, so maybe this is not such a good example. But it does illustrate how a judge can be happier when lawyers are involved.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dad gets 2 years in debtors prison

June 9, 2009 (CHICAGO) -- An Arizona man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for failing to pay more than $65,000 in child support.

Maurice Bell of Avondale, Ariz., was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly.

Bell used to live in Chicago. He was convicted by a jury in January following a three-day trial at which prosecutors said there was no evidence he had ever made a child-support payment.

Prosecutors say they believe it's the first time a criminal child support case had gone to trial in Chicago's federal court. But they say a number of defendants charged with failing to pay had pleaded guilty to the charge.
If he had failed to pay his income taxes, IRS would not put him in jail. IRS would just look to see if he has any money anywhere, and take it. I wonder whether the jury understood that.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Before the new judge

I appeared before the new local family court judge, Judge John S. Salazar.

About 50 minutes was wasted on a case about a stockbroker's signing bonus. He switched from Morgan Stanley to UBS, and somehow got a $691k loan from UBS. The loan is scheduled to be gradually forgiven over a period of nine years, and thus each year's forgiveness would be taxed like a bonus to his income.

Both the stockbroker and his wife were represented by lawyers. The wife's lawyer wanted an immediate piece of the $691k. The husband was willing to pay alimony and child support on it, but only as it becomes income.

The wife's lawyer has already run up $141k in bills pursuing this $691k. She did depositions of him and his employer to get the particulars on it. The judge ended up ordering the husband to put 40% of it in escrow, pending a trial in Sept.

The next case was another couple where both parents had lawyers. The lawyers launched into a bunch of rambling about various child handoff procedures. One issue seemed to involve who was going to open the car door to let the kid out. I didn't get it. I was unable to see that there was any actual dispute that the judge could do anything about. The judge could not find any dispute either. Eventually he dismissed them and asked them not to come back.

I really don't understand how someone can hire a lawyer to make a court motion, and then not to be able to articulate what the court is being asked to do. I could not even figure out which parent brought the motion.

The next case was a couple that had been divorced for five years or so, but apparently had some disputes that got them to a local shrink named Muccilli. The mom had primary custody, and Muccilli wrote some recommendations that formalized some custody arrangements that had previously been done informally. Both the mom and dad had lawyers.

The main dispute that brought them to court was that the dad takes the 12-year-old daughter on weekend ski trips a couple of times a year. The mom wanted the judge to modify Muccilli's recommendations to put a couple of conditions on the ski trips. She did not object to the ski trips, but babbled about the driving and the sleeping arrangements. She said that he likes to get an early start so that they can ski all day Saturday and Sunday. The judge tried to get the dad to acknowledge her concerns, but he didn't get it. He did say that he complied with the mom's wishes on the last ski trip, and they won't being going skiing until next winter. He wanted some joint coparent counseling, but the mom refused. Eventually the judge put something into Muccilli's recommendations. My impression was that if the dad had just acknowledged the mom's concerns, the judge would not have bothered. As for the driving, the judge asked who was doing the driving for the kid exchanges, and it turned out that the dad was doing all the driving. Since the mom was complaining about the driving, the judge told her to do half the driving. She would have been better off not complaining about the driving.

After 1.5 hours, the judge called our case. He was not interested in what either of us had to say. He said that he was overwhelmed by the fact that our court file comprises six volumes, and he doesn't understand why we file court papers instead of cooperating in child rearing. He said that he could not do anything about what has already been decided, and that he doesn't know if that was done reasonably or not.

I explained that I was not asking him to change anything that had been decided. The previous order was just temporary, and I was never supposed to lose visitation. I was just asking for the visitation that had been ordered.

He said that he cannot order the psychologist to do an evaluation if she did not want to. Since he did not know what to do, he was referring us back to Commissioner Joseph to deal with it.

I didn't say this, but as a practical matter he can force the psychologist to do the evaluation. Elizabeth Lee charges $7,000 in advance to do an evaluation, and she says that it takes her 40 hours of work. That is good money for a Santa Cruz psychologist. She told the court that she was "unable" to do our evaluation, but that is obviously false since she has done other evaluations since then. Judge Salazar could just tell her that she is not getting any more court referrals until she finishes the evaluation that was already ordered in our case. That would solve the problem. I am really surprised that these spineless judges put up with such lame excuses from these flaky psychologists.

Nobody said anything about sealing the reports. I assume that the judge was refusing the grant the motion, but maybe he just ignored those papers. I don't know.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Attempt to seal a legal brief

Tomorrow we appear in court before the new judge. The big issue is custody and visitation of our two kids, but my ex-wife is also strangely trying to get an order to seal three reports that have been on the public record. One is a 2004 report from a gay shrink who said that I was unorthodox, one was a 2005 report from a psychologist I call Dr. Inkblot, and the third is a Jan. 2007 legal brief from a local lawyer named Jim Ritchey.

The Ritchey brief was not sworn or under oath. It was just a legal argument from some bozo who really did not even know very much about the case. I show the pertinent parts below, altho I may have to remove it if it is sealed tomorrow. I just changed the names and omitted some detail about the visitation. (He spelled our last name three different ways in the original.)
1. On November 21, 2007, this court appointed JAMES M. RITCHEY counsel for the minor children, ... This statement is submitted to the court with copies via email ... The hearing set for January 4, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. is regarding custody and visitation. I will not be available for court on January 4, 2008, because my wife and I are returning our two grandchildren to their parents at Lake Tahoe on January 3, 2008.

2. I have met with both parents and the minor children. In addition, I have had numerous telephone calls and email ... George AngryDad also has a website at angrydadblogspot.com on which he makes regular comments.

3. My recommendation is that the current order for supervised visitation continue until Mary and Jennie and their parents have participated in some form of reunification counseling. ...

5. In my meetings with the children, they are extremely apprehensive of any visitation with their father that is not supervised. While they want to have regular and on-going contact with their father, they are fearful of his obsessive-compulsive demeanor, pressure, and his unpredictability.

7. AngryMom is extremely concerned about parameters for visitation and insistent upon formal, supervised visitation until there has been some type of counseling for George AngryDad and the children, so that her and the children's concerns have been addressed.
The Jan. 2008 trial lasted three days. Mr. Ritchey skipped the first day in order to vacation in Tahoe, as he explains above. He showed up for the start of the second day, but Cmr. Irwin H. Joseph dismissed him after about ten minutes. Mr. Ritchey did not appear to know what was going on, and was not prepared to participate in the trial. He also failed to show up for the third day, or for any subsequent hearing.

My kids were 10 and 8 years old at the time. They obviously did not really say that they were fearful of my obsessive-compulsive demeanor. No 10-year-old girl talks that way, unless she has been coached to say that.

Note that his only recommendation is for current court orders to continue. Since this report, the San Jose Mercury News published a series of articles on court-appointed lawyers for children, and found that they take the side of CPS in every single case. In no case did such a lawyer actually investigate the facts and stick up for the kid.

I really don't see the argument for any of this being sealed. Mr. Ritchey was just parroting what he had been told and collecting some easy money. There is nothing secret here. The trial was held in open court, and there is much more info on the public record.

Mr. Ritchey is a lawyer himself, of course, and he could have requested that his report be kept confidential. He never did. He obviously knew about this blog, because he mentioned it above. He had to assume that I would comment on this blog about his report. If he had a problem with that, he should have said something. He did not.

The report is mainly embarrassing to Mr. Ritchey himself. He appears to be just corruptly going along with Cmr. Joseph's orders without investigating the interests of his clients. And it appears that Cmr. Joseph dismissed him for incompetence. Maybe my ex-wife has made some sort of deal with him in order to help him protect his reputation.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Ex-wife still trying to seal reports

My ex-wife just filed this, for the hearing on Monday:
Reply Brief to Cross Motion for an Order of Confidentiality

George states that he has a free speech right to defend himself. However, I submit
that George's free speech right stops short of harming his children. George continues to publish information about Mary and Jennie, such as the child custody evaluation and their attorney's communications with the Court (report), information that by its very nature is private and invasive. Additionally, he encourages and leads public discussions about the content of these documents.

I respectfully submit that it is within the Court's authority to order the sealing of these particular documents as being in the best interest of the children. These documents are normally considered confidential and placed in the non public section of the family law file. I believe that these documents are supposed to have been confidential and sealed by the Court. I am now requesting that a specific order be made as to their confidentiality so that George may have notice to cease his publication of these documents.

George states that an overriding interest has not been stated in support of sealing the subject documents. The overriding interest is to protect the children from harm and invasion of their privacy. This overriding interest supports sealing the child custody evaluation, the attorney's report, and the psychological evaluation, especially in light of George's continued publication of these documents. Inherent in the publication of these documents is the harm created by an invasion into Mary and Jennie's privacy. Without an order to seal these documents, George will continue to publish them. Thus, no less restrictive means exist to achieve the children's privacy.

The children did not ask for this court experience and they are not the cause of
this experience. George's insistence upon publishing private information about the Mary and Jennie is itself abusive conduct.
The documents were not sealed by the court. She would have had to bring a motion to seal them. These are reports that my ex-wife requested, and she put them on the public record, not me.

I have had eight evaluations done on me, and reported to the court. None of them expressed any objection to 50-50 joint custody of our two kids. A CPS report said that I never did any abusive act towards the kids.

My ex-wife wants to be able to tell everyone in town that I am a child abuser. That way she can justify keeps the kids full-time and preventing them from seeing me. The only harm in releasing these reports is that it harms her ability to lie about the court case.

A fair and honest judge is not afraid of letting the public learn about his decisions. The new family court judge is a regular judge who must be reelected every four years or so, and not just a commissioner. We will soon see if he seals evidence in order to avoid embarrassment to the court.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Article about Santa Cruz CPS

A reader sent me this 2006 article about how Santa Cruz has a higher incidence of child abuse, according to CPS reports, than the rest of California:
"When we get a report, it's a 'report of suspected abuse or neglect'; we [have to] decide if it needs to be investigated, and that decision is made using some standardized tools, by trained social workers," says the Santa Cruz County Human Resources Agency's Judy Yokel, noting that some reports go no further than the initial phone call.

"If we decide to investigate it, then there's a comprehensive investigation conducted by trained social workers in our emergency response unit, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to investigate child-abuse reports. And one of the primary goals of that investigation is to determine whether in fact abuse or neglect did occur, and we use the definitions of abuse and neglect that are in the penal code," explains Yokel, who is assistant division director of the HRA's Family and Children's Services division. "The investigation can sometimes take up to 30 days, sometimes much shorter, and if we determine according to those penal code definitions, that the incident meets the definition of child abuse or neglect, then the report is considered substantiated."
Judy Yokel is lying when she says that Santa Cruz CPS uses standardized tools, and when she says that the agency makes its determinations according to the penal code definitions.

I complained to Ms. Yokel myself about this. Her employee, social worker Sally Mitchell, testified under oath in court that she did not follow those penal code definitions. Ms. Mitchell declared that she "substantiated" that my kids were abused, even tho the statutory definition was not met.

When I confronted Ms. Yokel with this, she denied that any standards apply, and said that Ms. Mitchell could use whatever subjective judgment she pleases.

I would quote Ms. Mitchell's testimony verbatim, but when I previously did that, Cmr. Irwin H. Joseph wrote an out-of-court letter to my ex-wife inviting her to make a motion to find me in contempt of court. And my ex-wife completed her part of her bargain, of course.

So I will have to paraphrase the CPS testimony. The Penal Code defines what CPS
calls emotional abuse in section 11166.05:
Any mandated reporter who has knowledge of or who reasonably suspects that a child is suffering serious emotional damage or is at a substantial risk of suffering serious emotional damage, evidenced by states of being or behavior, including, but not limited to, severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or untoward aggressive behavior toward self or others, may make a report to an agency specified in Section 11165.9.
Ms. Mitchell testified that there was no emotional damage, and there was no behavioral evidence of damage or risk of damage. She testified that I never committed any acts of abuse. She denied following any standards, and testified that she made no finding that the statutory definition of abuse was satisfied.

Nevertheless she declared that my ex-wife's accusation of emotional abuse had been "substantiated", and I was put on the California child abuser register.

No wonder the county has higher rates of "substantiated" abuse. It has a CPS agency that lies about following standards, and reports abuse based on their own subjective whims.