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Archive for the ‘Miscarriage of Justice’ Category

Veronica and Father Dustin Brown

Veronica and Father Dusten Brown

I am currently trying to make sense of the recent developments in the Baby Veronica’s case. Since I blogged about Veronica’s case a while ago, the US Supreme court ruled in favor of the Capobiancos, the couple that adopted Veronica and took care of her until 2011, when she was returned to Dusten Brown, her biological father;  then the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered that Veronica’s adoption should be finalized by family court.

Two things: first,  I have no empathy for the Capobiancos and their reckless claim of their parental rights on Veronica. They had Veronica’s custody for 27 months, all right. Why does this let them feel entitled to deny Brown- Veronica’s biological father- the right to raise his child? That they can do it better?

Second thing: there is a real need in this country to protect children and their biological parents – undocumented immigrants, and minorities- from predatory adoptions and the adoption business. I have been blogging about instances of children of undocumented immigrants given for adoption by the family court system, because their parents had been put in jail. Native American at least have the Children and Welfare Act of 1978 the goals of which is to protect their communities from would-be parents, who feel their desire justified by the social origins of the child they put a claim on. Unfortunately, that’s a view that was shared by only four Justices, led by Sonia Sotomayor. 

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It took me a week to swallow Ethan Bronner’s piece in the New York Times, “Right to Lawyer Can Be Empty

Russel Davis (Raymond McCrea Jones for the New York Times)

Russel Davis (Raymond McCrea Jones for the New York Times)

Promise for Poor,” on March 16. The punchline: everybody has a constitutional right to a lawyer in the US since 1963 (bless the sixties) in criminal courts, but Gideon v. Wainwright does not guarantee this right in civil matters. Hence, there are a bunch of folks in Georgia (the State that Bronner gathers his evidence from) who end up in jail for cases as varied as foreclosure, job loss, spousal abuse and custody, for lack of proper representation; like Bill Jerome Presley, no criminal record, who spent 17 months in jail for failing to pay… $2,700 in child support.  Mr Presley lost his job in the recession, could not pay child support, was sent to jail and brought back to court shackled to be sent back to jail again, cause, I guess, the judge could not understand why Presley had not saved enough in jail to come up with the child support money; or Russel Davis, Navy veteran with post traumatic stress disorder, also jailed for failing to pay child support.

Like the other guy, I can’t but lament the dire political times we are in, when debt is made a national priority by the republican aisle in Congress. Were this not the case, perhaps more public money would flow into family justice – among others- and lawyers would be provided to poor folks who cannot afford their services. But it’s only part of the problem. Poor folks – mostly poor non- custodial fathers – would not be facing jail in the first place if not for those imbecile family laws – obviously  in Georgia, but in New York State too, as readers of this blog know- that bloomed in the wake of the dismantlement of “the welfare system as we knew it.” The free-market feminist underpinnings of these laws was that idleness is an incentive to more idleness. Stop subsidizing idleness and everybody will lift oneself up out of poverty. And if that does not happen, at least  family courts will make sure the bastards pay child support. As for the right to see their kids, they have the market.

Poverty breeds crime, as the proverb says. Nowadays, it sure breeds jail time irrespective of crime. That’s the upshot of these brillant legislative changes.

The funny thing, at least for New Yorkers, is that city’s ads against teen pregnancy are covering these days the subway trains and bus stops. This campaign has been highly criticized, and rightfully so. The gist of it: poor, black, latina, female teen, don’t get pregnant. The campaign did not forget any cliché: on one of these ads, one can read “chances are he won’t stay with you.”  You know, men. Irresponsible deadbeats.

Every time I am in the train and I see the whipping children of Bloomberg’s ads, I have popping up in my mind a poster with a man, race indifferent, casually dressed, and the slogan: “Dude, if you cannot foresee 21 years of uninterrupted employment, beat it. Don’t have kids. You may end up in jail if you don’t pay child support.”

And below the picture of this fellow: “And if you are not happy with it, take it to Congress, or wherever you have to, to the street or on cranes.”

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Since Friday February 15, Serge Charnay, has been on top of an abandoned crane, in  a Nantes (France) old shipyard. Charnay spread a banner with these words: “Benoit, two years without his dad.”  Benoit is Charnay’s son. He has not seen his father for two years. Serge lost his visitation rights when he sequestered his son for ten days in 2010 and two months in 2011.

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry AFP)

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry, AFP)

Also Charnay wrote on top of the crane: “Let’s save our children from the justice system.”

What is it with some fathers and cranes ? Five years ago, in September 2008, Paul Fisher (Ohio) and Donald Tenn (California, President of Fathers for Justice USA) climbed on a crane near Ohio State University. They were requesting a non-partisan investigation into the family court system by the governors of their respective states – then Ted Strickland in Ohio, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.

I love it. Men perched on a phallic piece of machinery screaming their lungs and their powerlessness at the unfairness of the justice system and claiming their rights to see their kids, like their exes do.

In any case, Serge Charnay may have made significant breakthroughs for the fathers rights movement in France, perhaps because awareness on the topic has previously been raised by Moreno’s protests against the family justice system (Moreno went to Nantes to support Charnay). On Friday night, Serge Charnay was told – by  the Prefet (a high government official) that he could benefit from a request before family court to review his case. As Charnay refused to get off his crane, Jean Marc Ayrault – Mayor of Nantes and Prime Minister, mind you- asked the Minister of Justice (the French Attorney General) and the Minister of the Families to meet next week with father rights organizations.

When has any high- ranked government official ever met with fathers rights organizations in the US? Did governors Strickland and Schwarzenegger ever ask their Attorney Generals to investigate the family court systems in their respective state? I guess not. And  I think it may have to do with the fact that father rights movement are no lobbyists with big pockets.

Serge Charnay, you are most welcome to talk about your experience on this blog when you will get off your crane.

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Encarnación Bail Romero

Presumably most of the readers of this blog have had a taste of family court justice ‘s solidarity towards their own, and they know it is rarely about justice.  Say, you file a downward petition of child support which is denied; then you appeal and your appeal is also denied, because the appellate judge won’t overturn a decision of a fellow colleague. You may not be able to pay your rent but you are an unknown entity for these folks, while they cross pass every day and want to be able to take the elevator together if they have to without being uncomfortable.

Sometimes that’s sadly all there is to it in a ruling, or perhaps I am just rambling trying to find out a rationale to the termination of Encarnación Bail Romero’s parental rights. Bail Romero, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, lost custody of her son Carlos after the INS raided the poultry plant where she was working.  While she was incarcerated, Bail Romero thought her son Carlos was taken care off by family members, who in fact had their hands full with their own children and asked for the help of the Moser family. The Mosers came to like the kid and file for adoption, knowing Bail Romero’s predicament.

Don’t bother asking why in Missouri one can adopt a child whose parents 1/are known and in jail 2/ have not stated their willingness to give up her children for adoption. Judge Dally – Jasper county, Missouri circuit court- doesn’t mind and delivers the kid to the Mosers. Encarnacíon Bail Romero then regained her parental rights once in Missouri Supreme Court and lost them again, along with Carlos, a week ago. Green county Judge David Jones ruled that Bail Romero abandoned Carlos while in jail, clearing the way for the Mosers to file for Carlos’ adoption a second time. Evidently, judges in Missouri have a peculiar conception of parental rights, and one wonders how the Mosers can even think of adopting a child that they have to tear off from his mother. That’s the sad outcome of à la Dally and Jones justice: illegal immigrants’ children are up for grab in Missouri.

A justice system that allows Encarnación Bail Romero to be deprived of her parental rights does not need rogue judges like Dally and Jones in business. All that is needed is for the INS, after a raid into a plant operating with undocumented immigrants, to inform prospective candidates for adoption about the list of available children.

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Montes Famliy (LA Times)

Mexico has a kidnapping problem. I am not talking about the “internal” Mexican kidnapping problem, which the Calderón administration has failed to keep at bay on all account. Making a scapegoat of Florence Cassez has just been a way to hide its failure from the Mexican public.  I am talking here of Mexico’s “external” kidnapping problem, the kidnapping of Mexican children by the US family court system: children whose parents are undocumented workers sent back to their country, and are given for adoption to US families on the grounds it is in their best interest.

First Alfonso Mejia and Margarita Almaraz, Encarnacíon Bail Romero and  Cirila Balthazar Cruz. Enters Felipe Montes.  Felipe Montes comes to the US illegally in 2003, starts working in North Carolina and gets married to Marie with whom he has three children. Unfortunately he gets deported and his wife is declared unfit to raise the children. They are placed with foster parents, who wish to adopt the children.  From that point on, Felipe Montes has to play Sparta family court (Allegheny County, North Carolina)’s lose-lose game, that is demonstrating he is worth the children. Although he has no criminal record and has taken care of the children, social workers did wonder if sending the children to Mexico was in their best interest. Felipe is living in a rural area around Tamaulipas in a house with no running water. These brillant social engineers are asking themselves if poverty should prevent parenting.

Sparta family court is supposed to render a sentence tomorrow.  Too late to suggest to social workers there how they would feel if, after venturing in a foreign country, marrying somebody there, being kicked out of there without their children, they would be denied parenting on the ground that, let say, children are better off  there because, you know, the North Carolina hamburger-based diet is not the healthiest for children, and children are better off be shielded from North Carolina gun violence.

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Thémis

One of the many problems of the American justice system is that it is unnecessarily clamorous. Take perp walks for instance. DSK had his. Perp walks are there for the media to share in with the crowd the shame of those who are indicted, like in the Middle Ages the populace could scream at and insult those who were sentence to death on their way to the scaffold. These practices add absolutely nothing to justice.  The American justice system is unnecessarily clamorous because, among others, some law-enforcement officers and magistrates are elected. This creates a serious conflict of interests between the superior interests of justice and theirs. These elected officials have an incentive to call in the clamor of the regular folks on easy victims to justify their job and advance their careers.

I just found out about one of these new knights of law-enforcement: Sheriff Dart in Cook County, Illinois. Dart is posting pictures of deadbeat dads on his website and encourage all noble delators to rat on the monsters. One can bet that Dart’s P.R. operation at the expense of deadbeat dads rests on an efficient cooperation with the family court of Cook County;  After all, that’s only in family courts that turnips bleed. Let us suggest one bolder move to Dart for his anti-fathers law-enforcement practices: Have family court provide him with the list of unemployed divorced fathers and arrest them preventively. These folks are about to default on their child support payments anyway!

The question that I cannot help but ask myself: were fathers, divorced and not, gone fishing when Dart was elected in Cook County?

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Troy Davis was executed today in Georgia at 11:08 pm. It is time for politicians to realize that this country has an even bigger problem than unemployment; a massive failure of the justice system.

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Maltraitance infantile

There is currently a most welcome legislative push for shared parenting in the U.S. Yet, the way these reforms are presented by some media is disconcerting: two camps entrenched in apparently irreconcilable positions.  That’s not helping clarify the issue, nor very conducive to pulling gutless politicians to take a stand.

Pick Jacobs’ article in DesMoines Register for instance, about shared parenting bill in Iowa. Her point: the proposed bill is too controversial for the Senate to vote for it.  Women Rights groups opposed shared parenting, because if the bill is enacted,  it will be more difficult for abused women to get sole custody.  In Iowa as in New York State I believe, women so far just need to throw an accusation of child abuse and the rights of the father to see his children are fried. A child abuse accusation is proof free and if  unproven, unpunished. And once an alienating mother has gotten all that she wanted, which family court judge will restore the rights of the non- custodial father? It actually would be a good thing if the bill were to entail that accusations of child abuse be substantiated.

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It must have to do with my sour commerce with the New York State family court system, I have gotten an epidermic sensitivity for lives broken by justice.  Also I sense in Florence Cassez’ sixty-year jail sentence in Mexico the heavy hand of motives that have nothing to do with justice.

Is she guilty? That’s really not clear. As the girlfriend of  the Mexican group’s leader of kidnappers los Zodiacos, she might have known about some of what was going on.  Yet there has been so many irregularities in her trial – starting with a staged second arrest aimed at showing that the Mexican government was tough on crime- that in many countries, a case like Cassez’s would end up with a mistrial. Mexicans themselves don’t seem to have much faith in the way the Mexican justice system dealt with the Cassez’s case. Check out 2009 Aristegui’s interview on CNN in Spanish:

Let us assume now that you are the French government and want to help Florence Cassez do her time in France -  as international conventions might allow her- where she would be able to see her family more easily than in Mexico. If you are the French president, you keep a low profile.  After all, France has also a colonial past with Mexico, that’s even what Cinco de Mayo is about.  You let not-that-visible emissaries conduct the negotiations with the Mexican government. You don’t trumpet your claim to see a compatriot doing time in France in front of the whole Mexican Senate – after an appeal in the Mexican Supreme Court and months of international media attention focusing on the pitfalls of the Mexican justice system. Because if you do so, you are vulnerable to the accusation of arrogance and you have no fallback position, beside canceling the year of Mexico in France (which was supposed to take place in 2011) which has nothing to do with the Cassez’s case, and  against Florence Cassez’s very view.

It will certainly take another new French government to repair the damage of this Mexican -French saga and improve Florence Cassez’s lot.

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