Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NY cases cannot be held in secret

The New York Times reports:
For years, straphangers who got caught for minor infractions — like drinking beer or sleeping on a subway car — have found themselves before the Transit Adjudication Bureau, a little-known judicial body that handles thousands of cases stemming from criminal acts on the city’s subways and buses.

Now the bureau is facing its own rap: violating the Constitution.

Since the 1980s, members of the public could be barred from attending bureau hearings at the request of the defendant, a policy intended to provide more privacy and to reduce absenteeism.

But that practice was ruled a violation of the First Amendment by Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in an opinion issued last week and announced on Monday. The New York Civil Liberties Union challenged the policy in a lawsuit filed after members of the organization were not allowed entry to several hearings. ...

The adjudication bureau handles about 20,000 cases a year for minor infractions like littering, smoking, gambling or riding between cars, all of which carry a maximum fine of $100. ...

But in his opinion, Judge Sullivan determined that concerns about personal privacy, or a potential chilling effect on respondents, did not meet the threshold to close the proceedings.
So why isn't family court testimony open to the public?

It is open in Alaska:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Sarah Palin's oldest daughter appears to have lost her bid to keep a bitter legal dispute with her 1-year-old son's father confidential.

An Alaska judge last week denied Bristol Palin's request to keep the legal proceedings of her custody dispute with Levi Johnston closed.

My ex-wife got my kids by making false accusations against me in a secret motion to Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph. Then she persuaded a witness to testify against me, and asked Cmr. Joseph to seal the testimony. He has ordered me not to post Sally Mitchell's false allegations.

Cmr. Joseph did authorize me to say that setting the alarm clock for 7:00 am on school mornings was typical of the charges against me. Now he has sent us out for another evaluation, and he has already ordered the report sealed.

I just don't understand why the public in New York has a constitutional right to know who has been littering in the subway, but the public in Santa Cruz has no right to know why the kids are being court-ordered to grow up without fathers.


Dan Brewington said...

The reason courts are open to the public is to protect the best interest of the public. How come it's in the best interest of children to close the courts? The ability to challenge the public record is one of the checks in the system. Almost anything that "needs" to be done in secrecy is, by default, suspicious in nature.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dan,

Thank you for joining in on the comments. Your bravery to speak out like George is greatly appreciated.

Your point is very well made.

Hope to hear more from you in the future.

Good luck in your own battle.

Anonymous said...

You are declaiming in ignorance. Family law proceedings ARE public, so are the files. However the public's right to know IS balanced against other rights.
The children in family proceedings have rights that they are ill equipped to defend. Chief among these in your case "George" are medical/mental facts, history, and diagnosis of your young children. That is why the court may seal certain evidentiary material. You evidently agree with the principle, "George", as I notice that you use a pseudonym for yourself, and the children, but name your wife and everyone else by their real names. A clear decision that you value your own privacy, that of the children, and of your family connections, but not that of your wife or of family law professionals. The court is making the same judgment call, only you don't agree with the courts reasoning, because it does not serve your needs. Newsflash, it isn't meant to. It is meant to protect your children, the most innocent parties in your whole litigation.
Making psychology of reports public record exposes the children to anwarranted damage, possibly far into the future. It may also serve to undermine the children's relationship to each other and to other family members.
You have a right to view almost all of the court file including any material produced as evidence. When material is sealed, it is only sealed from the public view. There are, of course exceptions to what you may view, such as the Judge's notes, or material that may endanger someone.
You appear not only to be ignorant of the full scope of constitutional law, but of the processes and procedures available to you in your own case.
The manifest unfairness of you not being able to see your children is in part fostered by your desire to see through the game and to be above the game. Another newsflash George, that is not the same as winning the game. From where I sit regaining your rights as a parent and having a relationship with your children is winning the game. You have reported in your blog virtually zero effort to win that game. Instead you merely chronicle your own obstreperous conduct and attempts to portray yourself as representative of the victimhood of all fathers in the family law system.
While many of the abuses and problems of the family court system that you bring up in your blog do exist, including a frequent destructive anti-father bias, that is not the defining feature of your case as you yourself portray it. Your own conduct assures that these problems and biases have free reign in your proceedings.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, wonder if this previous comment was from someone profiting by/working in the family law field. You obviously don't get it, do you? Sit in one of our county's family law courts, Dept A or Dept D, and you'll see due process and constitutional rights trammelled left right and center. And don't make the accusation I declaim in ingorance either, I've worked daily w/attornies in a number of different fields for 30 years and I've never seen anything quite so, well, for the lack of a better word, banana republic in upholding the law.

George said...

I will answer the above long comment tomorrow. Happy New Year's Day.

Unknown said...

I know mothers and fathers and their children who have been damaged by litigious Exes and the courts *total* failure to deal with perjury, fraud and other illegalities as well as showing arbitrary biases in decisions.

The abuses in Santa Cruz County are also in other courts. It's a wonder there is anyone who believes in the court system after experiencing it.

Anonymous said...

To the blogger that critisizes George for not recognizing the privacy/public issue as a possible, anavoidable priority over his own constitutional rights and the best interests of his children that may be availed to placing them first, here; I AGREE, that a difficult decsion is needed to be made, and George's rights, at some points, and to some degre(s), but not all, must be sacrficed, for the greater good or lesser evil.

But, sometimes too, George's constituional rights have been sacrificed, broadly and over liberally, when it was detrimental to his case, and THIS TOO, is an invasion of the rights of the father and children, who's rights, and the court's responsibility is to allow for equal, rights in determining custody-time share issues that are crucial to the children's best reasons.
Granted, you do make a well taken point. I hope you can see some validity in my points, too though.

Frankly, though, if respectfully, completely disagree with you r assertion that George has done virtually nothing to remedy the re-union of he and his kids.

How many court appearances ? motions ? He's on his NINTH evaluation, over FIVE YEARS !

All this was done to not win, anything, but have his kids recieive a father, his love, attention, etc.

This is what virtually all of his efforts have been inteneded to achieve.

Anonymous said...

yes, it seems endemic to this country, not just Santa Cruz County. And yes, the only ones who win in this are those working in and profiting by the family law system. Even vengeful ex's ultimately wind up losing because now a legal system has entered their life in an extremely intrusive and destructive way for many years of their lives. That this system could be bypassed altogether and the former spouses try to put aside all the fighting and bad feelings towards each other. Hard to do, I know in almost all the breakups I've seen, including mine. But unfortunately in this country we seem to have become far to dependent on the legal system to solve our problems, and not just in family law.