Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mom must pay for state taking her kid

This weird story is from Canada:
The Oregon government is suing a Calgary mother for the cost of keeping her son in foster care for two years while she fought for his return to Canada.

The boy, now 12, was visiting his stepfather in Oregon in 2008 when police there picked him up for not wearing his bike helmet.

U.S. officials didn't recognize the boy's stepfather as a legal guardian, so he was sent to a foster home, setting off a long legal battle. A U.S. judge finally allowed him to return to live with his mother and younger sister in Calgary last month.

This week, the mother — who cannot be identified along with her son — received a notice from the provincial court of Alberta that Oregon wants to be reimbursed for child support and medical costs incurred while the boy was under the state's care.
Maybe the boy should have been wearing a helmet. Maybe he should have carried better documentation. But two years in foster care as a penalty? And trying to make the mom pay for the foster care?

This is another of those crazy stories that sounds like parody. I would not believe it, except that it comes from a reputable source, and I have seen some of these evil things for myself.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Juvenile judge is guilty

A Penn. paper reports:
Former Luzerne County President Judge Michael T. Conahan moved one step closer to a federal prison cell this morning with his guilty plea to a racketeering conspiracy charge in U.S. District Court in Scranton.

Conahan withdrew a previous guilty plea last summer after U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik judge rejected the 87-month jail term spelled out in his plea agreement. That agreement allowed him to back out if he was dissatisfied with his sentence.

His new agreement with prosecutors, signed in April, has no escape clause and Conahan will face up to 20 years when he is sentenced by Kosik, who accepted his guilty plea today. ...

Conahan, 58, and Ciavarella, 60, were charged in January 2009 with accepting $2.8 million from the builder and owner of a for-profit detention center that housed county juveniles.

Prosecutors say Conahan, as president judge, closed a county-owned center and signed a secret agreement to utilize the for-profit center while Ciavarella, as juvenile court judge, ensured a steady flow of detainees.
I wrote about this case before in Nov. 2009 and Feb. 2009. It was delayed by the soft plea deal, as well as the US Supreme Court rejecting the vagueness of a law against "honest services fraud".

These two judges were doing something alarmingly crooked. They were jailing juveniles in order to get money kickbacks from the manager of the private prison. It is distressing that prosecutors have had such a difficult time finding some law to accuse these judges of violating. There ought to be laws directly against judicial corruption, without having to rely on vague laws against racketeering and honest services fraud.

These judges need to be more accountable for what they do. Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph did worse things than these Penn. judges, and yet he was allowed to retire and open up a consulting business.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chinese black jails

NPR radio reported on China this morning:
But there are many instances in which the laws on the books don't have much effect, and society runs according to a completely different set of unwritten rules. Some Chinese call these "hidden rules." ...

There sits a small hotel run by the government of South China's Guangxi province. Provincial officials occasionally use the hotel to secretly detain people who come to the capital to complain about local government abuses. They are kept under a sort of house arrest until they can be shipped home.

China has denied the existence of "black jails" to the United Nations' human rights commission, but almost anyone petitioning the government can show you one. ...

Many local governments also maintain informal detention centers. Petitioner Jin Hanyan, from central Hubei province, says she accused her county's Communist Party secretary of corruption. For this, she says, she was sent to a "study class" in an abandoned factory. Of course, she says, no studying actually went on in there. ...

Wu says this is the hidden rule that makes all the others stick: Officials have the power to punish citizens more or less at will, either for challenging their authority, or just to extort money out of them.
I live in the USA, not China. Our rules are written down. Officials do punish citizens for just challenging their authority. We don't get sent to a "study class" for stating an opinion. Or so I thought.

My kids have been taken away from me. No one can explain it in terms of any written rules. The last court-appointed evaluator, Ken Perlmutter, admitted that I had not violated any written rules or established standards of care for my kids. He admitted that I could not be ordered to stop complaining about the family court on my blog. But he said that I could be punished for it anyway.

We have a whole industry of bogus parenting classes, supervisors, therapists, and evaluators. They are as bogus as the Chinese study classes that have no actually studying. Nobody actually learns anything from this industry, and no kids ever benefit from the court using these processes. I am waiting for NPR to do a story on American human rights and the family court.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Before the new judge

I finally appeared yesterday before the new family court judge in town, Judge Heather Morse.

The first case was a financial dispute. Both sides had lawyers. The issues go back to 2004, and one lawyer requested a 6-day trial. They got a 3-day trial in December. Both lawyers seemed incompetent, as no one was sure what issues were at stake, or what discovery needed to be completed, or even who had paid whom how much money. Eg, the wife's lawyer wanted the husband's tax return for this year to see how much alimony she had been paid. The judge listened to all this discussion, but got nowhere and just made a minor discovery ruling.

The next case was a mom who had lost custody of a 5-year-old because of an addiction to painkillers. Judge Morse kept her on supervised visits, but implied that she would get something better after doing drug rehab and developing a record of clean drug tests.

For our case, Judge Morse groaned that the case was now on the seventh volume (file folder). She scheduled a trial, and said that the earliest available dates are in November. I had to beg for permission for my witnesses to see the court reports.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dead dog after split

This Wash. Post story sounds ridiculous. The dog Delta was sleeping with the husband, but the 67-year-old wife took it to Virginia:
But in the bitterness of separation after 38 years of marriage, Charles said, she insisted on bringing Delta with her as she moved out east. “My family said, 'just let it go' when she said she wanted the dog.” So, he did.

Eleven days later Delta was dead.
Her legal troubles began when she told Costco why she was returning the dog food!
After Cathryn returned to the vehicle, investigators say she went back inside the Costco and returned the dog food, bedding and treats she had purchased. At that point, she told Costco employees the dog was dead, authorities said.

A worker followed Cathryn out to her car and saw what appeared to be a dead dog. The store notified Frederick Animal Control, ...
Wow, I thought that Costco employees never cared why anyone was returning anything. But I guess that the employee thought that it was suspicious that woman would buy dog food and then immediately return it because the dog was dead.
A woman has been charged with animal cruelty after her yellow Labrador retriever died in an overheated car while she shopped at a Costco in Frederick, authorities said.
The way our society is headed, we will soon have people saying that this could have all been prevented by having the family court appoint a dog psychologist to do an evaluation of the best interest of the dog.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Mel Gibson tapes

TMZ reports:
Sources connected with the case say Robyn Gibson's declaration was "powerful evidence" in yesterday's hearing. TMZ broke the story ... Robyn swore under oath Mel never physically abused her or their kids in the 28 years she was married to him ... and we're told it had an impact on Judge Scott Gordon.

Before becoming a judge, Gordon was a prosecutor in the L.A. County D.A.'s Office, specializing in domestic violence. The D.V. Unit has a mantra ... a man who commits domestic violence against one woman does it to everyone he's involved with. We're told Robyn's declaration resonated in the courtroom.

Sources say in the end, Judge Gordon felt Mel posed no danger to his daughter and allowed the status quo to stand. So Gibson continues to have visitation rights with baby Lucia as well as one overnight a week.
That mantra is the whole reason that domestic violence is such a big deal in family court. The judge is allowed to assume that one incident of domestic violence means that the man will necessarily abuse everyone he knows.

Even if the tapes prove that Gibson is a jerk, he is still entitled to a fair trial. The tapes do not prove that he is a bad father.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

36 states now protect military parents

I mentioned in 2005 a story about a Michigan dad who lost custody of his son while serving as a soldier in Iraq. The soldier himself, Joseph W. McNeilly, commented on this blog along with anonymous friend of his ex-wife who
had some petty complaints about him.

Glenn Sacks reports that he and some fathers rights groups have made excellent progress:
There are now 36 states which have passed military parent child custody legislation, including Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, and numerous others. Four other states have legislation pending, including Massachusetts and California.
The problem with issues like this is that most people will argue that there must be exceptions when the child custody is not in the Best Interest Of The Child (BIOTCh). So they will favor a law that says that soldiers can retain custody unless some judge decides that it is not in the BIOTCh. But of course the law already says that the judge can decide custody as he pleases, as long as he declares that it is in the BIOTCh. So laws with a BIOTCh exception may not do any good.

I say that soldiers should never lose custody on account of their military service. Forget whatever silly opinion some stupid judge has about the BIOTCh. He should only lose custody if he is determined to be unfit after a fair trial. The anonymous petty gripes from McNeilly's ex-wife should be irrelevant to his custodial rights.

Congratulations to Glenn Sacks and his friends and allies for getting these laws passed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lost kids found on Facebook

It used to be that a parent could just run off with the kids to Mexico:
In an interview, Sagala recounted how Utrera took the children and fled to Mexico in 1995, when her son and daughter were just toddlers. ... It's unclear now why the case wasn't pursued by prosecutors in 1995, but Deputy District Attorney Kurt Rowley said it's unlikely Mexico would have extradited Utrera at the time.
Now, it is a different story for three reasons. (1) Countries are much more likely to extradite the kidnapper and the kids. (2) Kids can sometimes be found on the internet, even in a country like Mexico. (3) The case may be muddied by some ancient and unverified abuse allegation.
The Indonesian-born nursing assistant was rewarded for her faith earlier this year, when she stumbled on her daughter's Facebook page in a story that made national headlines.

But in the four months since that discovery, Sagala's unbridled joy has slowly turned to anguish. The case has led to the public airing of years-old domestic allegations against Sagala - information that will likely be used in court - and her now-teenaged children want nothing to do with her.
As always, the case can still be sabotaged by some over-opinionated govt social worker.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to deal with an ex-spouse who is anti-Free Range

A reader of the Free Range Kids blog writes:
Unlike a two-parent household, where neither would seriously consider involving the courts, my ex-spouse thinks nothing of getting a judge to decree that an act of Free-Range parenting puts our children in imminent danger. My ex-wife believes an impersonal judicial system knows how to parent our children better than we do! She actually argued in court that we shouldn’t let our 13-year-old daughter walk to junior high school because it was “too dangerous.” The walk is less than one mile and the only busy road has a traffic light with crosswalk and crossing guard. How is that dangerous for a teenager?!?
I have no good answer for the guy. In my experience, letting an irrational paranoid mom into family court is a bad combination. You cannot expect common sense from the judges.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cops chase dad with his own kids

The local newspaper has this front page story:
WATSONVILLE -- Five years have passed since siblings Carlos Pacheco and Hazel Bracamontes were abducted from their foster parents' Watsonville home on a Sunday morning.

The boy was a year old. His sister was 3.

Police believe their father, Adrian Pacheco, now 32, drove his children to Mexico, though a recent report indicated they might be back in the United States. ...

"The problem is the children got taken from the parents for a reason," Watsonville Sgt. Saul Gonzalez said. "That reason, I don't know, but they were placed in the foster system." ...

"He just took advantage of it and left before the courts and Child Protective Services deemed it was OK for him to do that," Gonzalez said. ...

Pacheco is wanted for two counts of parental abduction, which is a felony.
The cops have spent 5 years searching for this guy. And yet, for all anyone knows, the man is a good father, the kids are safe, and no one is complaining.

Just the cops who say that CPS had not deemed that it was OK. But the cops don't even know why CPS intervened in the first place. They just assume that CPS had some good reason. Maybe it did not.

My guess is that CPS had no good grounds for acting in the first place, or they would have told the cops. Now they just want to catch and teach him a lesson.

I don't want to justify parental abduction, but surely the local cops have better things to do than to chase this guy to Mexico when his only offense is that he moved without the blessing of CPS. We have had a big upsurge in gang violence. The cops should do something about that.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sheriff must take a free speech class

My ex-wife has a pending motion where she complains again that I use the internet to declare my innocence of her ridiculous accusations, and to criticize court actions.

A Iowa federal court judge ruled Dorr v. Weber Wednesday, and said:
The First Amendment of our Constitution reflects a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open . ...” New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964) (citations omitted). Sheriff Weber’s dramatic and stunning failure to appreciate, and to protect and defend, Paul’s basic First Amendment rights, compels remedial relief. The court provides Sheriff Weber with the following guidelines concerning the class that he must complete. First, the class must provide college level instruction on the United States Constitution, including—at least in part—a discussion of the First Amendment. The class may be taken online. Second, Sheriff Weber must obtain approval from the court before participating in the class. Approval must be obtained by filing, with the Clerk of Court, a motion for approval of the proposed class, which must contain a description of the class and contact information for the court to further inquire, if necessary, into the substance of the class. Third, upon completion of the class, Sheriff Weber must file an affidavit with the Clerk of Court stating that he has successfully completed the class. Sheriff Weber shall attach his transcript or other proof of completion to the affidavit—Sheriff Weber must obtain a passing grade or obtain an otherwise satisfactory assessment of his participation in the class.
Wow. I hope I live to see the day when some family court judge or commissioner has to do something similar. I had Cmr. Joseph tell me I cannot quote the testimony given against me in open court. It will be interesting to see what the new family court judge does with the current motion against me.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Family court support groups

A local Santa Cruz SCORE family court self-help group is meeting on Saturday at 3pm on July 10. A related group will meet in Los Gatos at 7pm July 28.

I wish that I could say that these meetings reveal secrets about how to win your case in family court. Unfortunately, you may just learn that the situation is worse than you thought.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kids need sleep

I once had CPS complain that I was setting my kids' alarm clock for 7:00 am to get ready for school at 8:30 am. The agent said that was not enough time, and the kids felt rushed in the morning.

Scientific American reports on a new study showing that kids do better in school if they get enough sleep:
The researchers evaluated 201 Rhode Island high school students whose school pushed back its start time from 8 to 8:30. The kids completed a sleep habits survey before and after the time change.

After the delayed start, the percentage of students who said they got at least eight hours of sleep a night jumped from about 16 to 55 percent. Class attendance improved, and there were fewer visits to the health center for fatigue-related complaints. Plus, the number of students who said they felt unhappy, depressed, annoyed or irritated dropped significantly.
Cmr. Irwin Joseph actually said that the alarm clock was "representative" of the accusations against me.

Update: This study got some publicity as showing that it is better for schools to start later in the day. But that does no good if the kids goto bed later. The study only shows that kids do worse with a sleep deficiency.

I could never get an explanation of just what was wrong with setting the alarm clock for 7:00.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Child rides bike to school

A UK paper reports:
A couple who let their two young children cycle to school have been warned they could be reported to social services unless they supervise the journey.

Oliver and Gillian Schonrock let their son and daughter, five and eight respectively, make the one-mile trip from their home on their own.

They say it helps to teach the youngsters independence, self-confidence and responsibility.

But other parents and teachers at £12,000-a-year Alleyn's Junior School in Dulwich, south east London, are said to think the practice is irresponsible and dangerous.

Headteacher Mark O'Donnell has met with Mr and Mrs Schonrock and told them the school is under an obligation to consider the children's safety and has a legal responsibility to notify the council if they fear it is being put at risk.

Mr Schonrock, 40, the managing director of an e-commerce company who walked alone to school as a boy, said: 'We wanted to recreate the simple freedom of our children.

'Like everybody else our age we spent a lot more time with our friends playing in the streets or parks without parental supervision and without our parents becoming unduly worried.

'These days children live such regimented lives. They can do nothing unless it's planned. We are trying to let them enjoy their lives and teach them a little bit about the risks of life.' ...

Mayor Boris Johnson today said the Schonrocks should be applauded, not hounded, for showing faith in their children.

He said he 'passionately supported' their decision to allow their children to ride to and from school.

'They have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety,' he said in a column in the Telegraph.

'And for this effrontery they are, of course, being persecuted by the authorities.'
Good for the mayor. CPS should stick to cases where there is some demonstrable harm. Biking to school has obvious benefits.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fired commissioner puts up his shingle

The former local family court commissioner has set up shop as a mediator:
This website was created to provide information about my commitment to settling disputes without trial through modern, innovative dispute resolution techniques. After almost ten years on the bench as a Superior Court Commissioner, it became increasingly clear that Consensual Dispute Resolution is not only the newest method of dispute resolution--it’s the best.

I’m pleased to be able to offer my services as a skilled mediator to those interested in cooperative and collaborative resolution of disputes in all areas of the law. ...

My private judging, mediation and arbitration practice began with my retirement from the bench in July, 2010.
His fee is $350 per hour. An anonymous comment on this blog reported a rumor that he was going to become a mediator.

While he was a commissioner, he always claimed that he did not read this blog because he was prohibited. Instead, one of his employees monitored the blog. One time he wrote my ex-wife a letter inviting her to bring a motion against me because of what his employee reported finding on the blog.

I am going to give him some free marketing advice, just in case he is free to read the blog himself now. Learn to use CAPS LOCK. When you press the caps lock key, a little light comes on. It is usually on the upper right part of the keyboard. Then the lower case keys become upper case. Unless you press the shift key. It works a little different from a typewriter, but you can get used to it.

You always used upper case for your court minute orders, but you had a captive audience then. People don't like reading upper case. There is a reason that books are not written in upper case. About half of your web site is in upper case. It makes it sound like you are some jerk commissioner judge wannabe trying to give orders. I know that you do not want to give that impression.

I see that you require your clients to pay all the fees in advance. Once you get their money, you can use upper case all you want. But until then, you might attract more clients with judicious use of that caps locks key.

You're welcome. No charge for this advice.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dad order to counseling for sexist attitudes

Law prof Volokh writes:
To Get Children Back, Father Must Get Counseling to “Address His Use of Sexist and Racist Language”

So holds In re G.G. (Cal. Ct. App. June 29, 2010), by a 2–1 vote. (The court order said that “Father to be in individual counseling to address issues with a male therapist regarding father‘s racist and sexist views,”
From the published appeals court opinion:
For example, as noted, during the interview with a social worker, Ms. Mostowfi, the father while speaking loudly and belligerently, stated: ‘“[Y]ou have an attitude. You have an accent. You don’t understand English. You Iranian, you want me to kiss your ass, go back home.”” According to a supplemental report prepared by Ms. Rytterager, during the conversation with Ms. Mostowfi, the father made “numerous” racial slurs. Also, the father called Ms. Mostowfi a “bitch woman.” Further, he said Ms. Mostowfi could not “speak” English. When asked whether the twins had any food allergies, the father said to Ms. Mostowfi, ‘“Yeah, they’re allergic to Iranian food and Iranian incense.”

The father expressed disdain about taking the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory-2 asking, "What kind of bull**** is this?" However, the test results indicated the father was concerned about how others viewed him. When the interview concluded, Dr. Kaser-Boyd described what happened, "[The father] said goodbye and his parting comment was that my hairdresser should use fewer highlights and do more to fluff my bangs." Dr. Kaser-Boyd was unable to provide any definitive information given the father's interaction with her.
The father has worked as a plumber and a hairdresser.

The dissent points out that there is no evidence that the dad actually did anything harmful to his kids. The case seems to be one where petty govt bureaucrats have acted vindictively against a father that they don't like, and they are abusing their power to try to force him to change his opinions. And the appeals court approves.

This father was investigated 18 times over 5 years, and the worst finding is that he was rude to those who were trying to take his kids away. This order is not directed at any benefit to his kids; it only an attempt to force the father to change his attitude so that the govt social workers and others would not be offended. I suspect that a large percentage of the population of parents would be similarly indignant if they also underwent 5 years of harassment from govt agents. Do you want to take all those kids away? Send all those parents to re-education camps?

His kids were not taken away for him being abusive. The reasons given were (1) inappropriate discipline, (2) failure to obtain a recommended psychiatric intervention, and (3) providing a chaotic home environment. That's all. None of the other accusations were substantiated.

Parental alienation a sad reality here

The local newspaper published this letter:
Parental alienation a sad reality here

Santa Cruz, on the whole, approves of and even cultivates parental alienation Offra Gerstein, "Coping with being alienated from your child," Sentinel, June 27 as a legitimate weapon of war in family court. It's routinely recommended by many local attorneys, therapists, domestic violence counselors and others, as a likely-to-be successful strategy for disenfranchising the other parent, for the parent standing to be awarded sole custody if the court quashes the possibility of joint custody on grounds that there's significant conflict between the parents. Court-appointed reunification therapists do little good when the court concurrently does nothing to curb the alienating behavior of the parent causing it. They may even deepen the bind for the child. And the target parent will not receive even moral support from most practitioners and institutions involved with children in, and members of, at least this community. Parental alienation is not fundamentally an inevitable fact of life for anyone. It's a social dysfunction which society should cope with by reforming family law and working toward transforming community attitudes toward parenting.

William Spence, Santa Cruz