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.
On Wed, 5 Oct 2005 18:14:02 -0400
Thanks for your message. I enjoyed
the opportunity to meet with the group
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
From: PAUL M. CLEMENTS [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 04, 2005 4:45
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
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.
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
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.