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Series of Letter and Contact To Highlight Judicial Abuse in Family Courts
 

Folks,
Last evening, I attended, as a member, the listening session for the Citizen's Commission on NH State Courts.  Seven of the eight people testifying before the commission complained about the family courts.  The eighth was concerned with small claims court.  The number of commissioners in attendance was greater than the speakers from the general public.  After the session ended, I had an opportunity to speak to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Broderick. I asked if he had noted that all but one of the complaints he heard concerned the family courts he so proudly bragged about.  He grudgingly admitted that he had noticed that fact, but attributed it to the fact that divorce and other family issues were, by nature, more intense and emotional.  He apparently failed to note that all of the complaints involved mistreatment of male litigants.  (I plan to correct that oversight in an email to him tonight.)

By far, the most moving testimony came from Maurice Chaput, who talked about being hounded for child support and jailed at a time when he was incapacitated by cancer.  The session was attended by Mark Hayward, a reporter for the Union Leader, who noted Chaput's emotional testimony in his article this morning.  The session was filmed for Manchester's Community TV channel, 22. 

In a conversation with Co-chair of the Commission, Will Abbott, I was assured that the report on fathering in NH, done by UNH, was received, and would be placed on the commission's web site.  (Stevan, you scored with that one!)  That makes three reports friendly to fatherhood concerns that have been placed on the web site. The first was the report of the Commission to Study Child Support and Custody Issues, the second was the report on shared custody by the National Probate Judges' College, and the UNH study makes #3.  Anyone have any other reports they'd like to see on this web site?

The next session will be held in Nashua, at the City Hall Auditorium. This is scheduled for this coming Thursday, with one session from 3-5 pm, and the second session from 6 - 8 PM.   Those of you who live and work in the Nashua area are encouraged to attend and speak.  Let's see if we can outnumber the commission members at this one.

Paul

On Wed, 5 Oct 2005 18:14:02 -0400 "Will Abbott"
<wabbott@mountwashington.orgwrites:
Paul

Thanks for your message. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the group Sunday.

I took away from Sunday's meeting that accountability of the judicial process and the judiciary are important, that equity in the treatment of two parents in a divorce is important and that preserving family assets to benefit the family --- even a separated family --- is important. I agree in principle with each of these points. I think all parents entering divorce proceedings should expect and receive equity in treatment and I think all judges and masters serving in a divorce proceeding should deliver on that expectation in their actions and demeanor.

My guess is that most judges and marital masters would prefer a process whereby divorcing couples with children settle joint custody agreements and financial division of property amicably so that they don't have to force such actions with court orders. It is probably na´ve to think that this is possible in some cases, but I think if the court system has any bias at all it should favor a process that first encourages divorcing parents to work things out before entering an adversarial court process. Divorcing parents need to at least agree that their kids deserve dialog among the parents, no matter how painful it might be. If it is true, as was suggested Sunday by several, that the only time both parties have an opportunity to address the court together between a filing for divorce and a preliminary order by a judge or marital master is for a 15 minute session I think something is fundamentally wrong with the system.

I am not prepared to conclude that the family court system is corrupt. But I do think that the courts should respect the fact that both parents are by definition important to the upbringing of children of divorce --- absent any obvious circumstances to the contrary. Further, I think the courts should constantly try to do better to encourage dialogue among divorcing parents, to discourage abuse of the adversarial process for financial advantage of one party over the
other and to reduce the diversion of family resources outside the family.

To effect constructive change in any governmental system takes much more than questioning motives of those presently in the system. It means changing the culture within the system. In my view, if you make the motives of judges the primary issue --- rather than constructive criticism of a system that discourages joint parenting of children of divorce --- you create added barriers to the kind of cultural change you are seeking.

The challenge --- as I tried to present it Sunday --- is for our commission to identify positive recommendations which can make progressive change to the state court system. I am not fully prepared to say today what if any changes I think ought to be made to the family court system. I will, however, commit to reviewing all the input we receive, to better understand how the system works (or doesn't) today, and to recommend creative remedies that make this system work better in the future.

Thank you, again, for organizing this meeting.

Will Abbott



-----Original Message-----
From: PAUL M. CLEMENTS [mailto:pclem@juno.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2005 4:45 AM
To: wabbott@mountwashington.org; keneguess@nhctc.edu
Subject: Meeting Oct.2

Dear Will and Kathy,
I'd like to thank you once again for taking that meeting with us on Sunday. It was, as I said, the first time in my twenty years of activism that anyone even remotely connected to the courts had taken the time to listen to us. I know all the people there appreciated the opportunity to address their issues. You deserve a lot of praise for your patience, listening to all the rambling discourse. I think most of us came away with a feeling of hope for meaningful change.

I trust you came away with a clearer picture of just how corrupt the family court system really is. The profit motive, of course, is largely to blame, but still doesn't account for the extremely punitive actions on the part of many judges and marital masters. You have to understand, as I was told by the Senate President several years ago, that people with an agenda seek those positions which allow them to promote those agendas. Many judges and marital masters are confirmed feminists, with a vendetta against all fathers. They use their positions to punish us. Then, too, some judges are just plain lazy, and/or incompetent, and take the quickest, easiest way out, knowing they are protected by a system biased against fathers.

Perhaps some of the written commentary you were given will point that out. Hopefully, some of the suggestions will be found to have merit. Once again, let me thank you on behalf of all who attended, and all who could not. We're very grateful for your interest and concern.

Paul

Will,
Please accept my gratitude, on behalf of all attendees, for taking that meeting with us on Sunday.  Your response indicates that the meeting was a success.
You are absolutely correct in affirming the importance of judicial accountability.  As it now stands, the judiciary, particularly in the family courts, is operating as a rogue agency, freely and knowingly violating the state and federal constitutions as well as state statutes. They are protected from complaints and prosecution by a committee on judicial conduct, a sub-set of the courts,  that routinely denies the validity of all complaints.  They are further protected by county attorneys and the Attorney General, who refuse to seriously consider criminal infractions.

Equity in all proceedings for BOTH parents is another necessity.  The most important change would be to mandate that the family courts recognize the long held, and frequently substantiated CONSTITUTIONAL right of parents to nurture and raise their own children.  (See "PARENTAL RIGHTS" by Stephen Krason)  Shared Physical Custody should be the decision of first choice, and the incentives for discriminatory awards be removed.  That discrimination against fathers exists in the family courts is a matter for the Committee on Judicial Conduct, but (as above) they fail miserably in living up to their mandate.  That committee should be taken out of the courts' purview, and turned over to an independent authority.  Perhaps a "Citizens' Review Board", independant of ANY authority, elected by the people.

We all agree that pre-trial diversion should precede all divorces. However, the courts currently pay lip service to that need by touting mediation.  That doesn't work, because the mothers can opt out of the process.  They know that the default option is to go through a court process which ROUTINELY gives them custody, child support, tax and financial benefits, and posession of the marital home.  There is, therefore, no incentive to mediate in good faith.  Mediation should be mandatory, with strong consideration of attempts to short-circuit the process, or reluctance to mediate in good faith.  If the STANDARD custody decision were SHARED PHYSICAL CUSTODY, there would be less incentive to opt out of the mediation process.

You are correct in sensing that a fifteen minute court session is inadequate for the rendering of a fair judicial decision.  It is, indeed, a fundmental flaw in the system. The problem is, the first contact a divorcing woman has (they file in 88% of all cases) is with a lawyer.  The lawyer makes his/her money from conflict.  Therefore, there is a tendency to foment that conflict. Excessive demands are made, and must be countered.  The lawyers for both sides demand that all negotiations be made by them. The "winner/loser" mentality prevails.  The mediation process must begin the moment a divorce is filed, and the lawyers must be excluded.  Only the mediator and the parents must be involved, in order to reduce the fomenting of conflict.  Lawyers fear this process, because of the potential loss of income.  If mediation can produce an aggreement acceptable to both parties, there is no need for lawyers. 

As for corruption in the courts, it would seem that the payments from the child support agency are proof enough of that.  It is patently illegal and unconstitutional for the courts to take money from a party to the action before the courts.  Furthermore, it violates the code of judicial ethics, another fact overlooked by the Committee on Judicial Conduct. How could any logical, reasonable person avoid the impression that the courts are biased in favor of the agency?  That mere impression is a violation of the code of ethics.  Those payments must be stopped!

Thank you again for suggesting this meeting.  We are all hopeful that good things will come of it.  Perhaps a presentation before the full membership of the Citizen's Commission.

Paul