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The Foxes Are Guarding The Hen House
Family court reform will never happen in this state as long as you have a legislative branch of government controlled by lawyers. Every year, bills are sponsored that address the injustices in our family court system and every year these bills die in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The convenience of this committee is that lobbyists, hired to protect the financial interests of lawyers and other family law-related agencies, only have to pay off a small number of legislators to prevent court reform from happening .

Each bill has to make it out of its assigned committee before it can be brought before the full House and Senate for a vote. Last year, four bills that specifically addressed shared parenting were sponsored (Senate Bills 940 and 1075 and House Bills 2464 and 3191) and not one of them made it out of this "lawyer-dominated" committee.

What is most noteworthy about the current 17-member Judiciary Committee is that four of the six state senators and nine of the eleven state reps on this committee list their profession as attorney or have their degree in law.

If this is not a conflict of interest, then I do not know what is since these lawmakers have the power to affect their own business opportunities. How many lawyers do you really think are going to support legislation on shared parenting that would significantly reduce litigation?

With the power that the legislative branch has to legislate business for the legal system, it is of no surprise that lawyers are historically the top contributing industry to state party committees. According to 2002 statistics, lawyers were also the top contributors to judicial campaigns, giving 36% of the money. A distant second on the list was real estate at just 11%. This data would indicate that lawyer or not, every legislator is exposed to the temptations of selling their vote or position to the highest bidder.

Based on the information and implications that I have expressed so far, I need to make it clear that I do not believe that working as a lawyer identifies that legislator as corrupt. In fact, I would like to believe that there are honorable attorneys on the Judiciary Committee right now who are committed to doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, most legislators are oblivious to the shocking truth of what actually goes on in family court to realize that reform is a pressing issue. Consequently, a small group of legislators with a dogged determination to protect the family court system as it currently operates will likely continue to sabotage the efforts of those outside of the system who have a less vested interest in seeing family court reform happen.

Kevin Thompson
Methuen, MA