Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Every Now And Then, Some Legislators -- Like Gonzalez & Vargas -- Step Up For Justice

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family court troubles
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'The system is broken … the system is letting these people down … they are losing their houses, they are losing their money ... '

-- State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez

'The fact is, family court is run like North Korea. In North Korea they can deprive you of your freedom and your wealth without due process. In family court they can deprive you of your freedom and your wealth without due process. They don’t kill you, like in North Korea, but for some parents not being able to see your child is like being killed.

`It sure ain’t America.'

-- State Rep. Edwin Vargas

Cool Justice column:
Is Family Court A Racket: Or What?

Pay no attention to the men and women behind the curtain.

All is well in Connecticut’s family courts.

It’s so swell in family court, the administration of justice is probably even better than that of this state’s outstanding purveyor of kleptocracy, the probate court.

Just kidding.

This ground is incredibly fertile for responsible legislators and reporters to uncover which court shafts citizens worse – probate or family. Both courts share the shield of doing much of their business out of public view.

Aggrieved parents who have not been able to see their children for years put so much heat on the legislature and the judicial branch that even Chief Justice Chase Rogers has acknowledged some sort of reform is needed. Rogers characterized the system as not “totally broken.” Many of these parents trapped in the system have shelled out huge sums – tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars – not only to regular lawyers, but also to court-ordered and unsupervised guardians.

For example, a Torrington parent testified on Jan. 9 before a legislative task force that he has spent more than five years and $50,000 unsuccessfully trying to enforce visitation with his child. That’s small change compared with many of the horror stories told during a 15-hour hearing that day.

The task force also heard testimony regarding an entity called the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) which allegedly functions like a vendor and has had questionable practices, ties and relationships with judges, guardians and other court officials. Questions about AFCC have been raised in news reports by The Washington Times, which posted a 2013 opinion by the Connecticut Commission on Judicial Ethics stating: “An appearance of impropriety would arise if a Judicial Official serving on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization or member of the Judicial Office’s staff were to refer clients to the nonprofit organization.” At its worst, the AFCC operations have been likened to that of a racketeering enterprise. This could be fodder for the U.S. Justice Department, which disclosed to parents in January that it is conducting a review of the training that Connecticut judges and support staff receive regarding family court cases relative to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As expected, lawyers, judges and guardians have circled the wagons to protect their turf. Lackeys in the Legislature can always be counted on to help. This is particularly true in the Judiciary Committee ...

  • Complete column at Register Citizen

  • Also at:

  • New Haven Register

  • Middletown Press

  • Related stories via CT Law Tribune:

  • Feds Look Into Judicial Branch ADA Compliance

  • Legislative Committee Considers Regulation Of Guardians Ad Litem

  • More from CTNewsJunkie & Hartford Courant:

  • Emotions Run High At Hearing on Guardians Ad Litem

  • Judiciary Committee Discusses Guardian Ad Litem Bill

  • CT-N Video of March 31 Judiciary Committee hearing

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  • More Cool Justice: Lawyerly admission on goof in baseless threat v. blogger
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