Sacramento News & Review RE: Systemic ethics problems in California’s courts

Joseph Sweeney is a diligent court reformer who is seeking appointment to the California Commission on Judicial Performance. (Joe for CJP)  CJP is the state agency which is to oversee ethics in the California courts.  For good cause, they are currently being audited by the state auditor.

With regard to the article “California’s family court system places kids back in the hands of alleged abusers Profiteering judges, lax oversight and sexism have set up a cottage industry that works against poor parents” by Alastair Bland, Mr. Sweeney writes, 

“Tremendous cover article by Alastair Bland in Sacramento News & Review. Quoted are a defecting former San Diego County family judge, very prominent attorneys, Berkeley and Cal State professors, and leaders of activist organizations, including myself. Stories of mothers and a father trying to get their kids back. Study showed that in 98% of the cases in which children were taken from the mother, the father had an attorney and the mother did not. If a study were done of the reverse situation, I have little doubt the result would have been reversed, too. This is not a men v. women issue, it’s a justice issue. Great work to all my colleagues in the article.”

Mr. Sweeney is right. This is the most well written and comprehensive article that I have seen to date regarding the cesspool of cronyism, bias and conflicts of interest that the California judicial branch has become from lack of effective oversight.  To quote some highlights from Mr. Bland’s article:

“But Judge Peter McBrien—still with the court today—was convinced the boy had been coached by his mother to concoct the allegations and handed him over to his father for primary custody. The reports of abuse continued. In July 1995, the child called the police himself, asking for protection from his dad.

According to a report by the responding police officer, obtained by SN&R, the boy graphically described being sodomized. The 5-year-old told the same story to a CPS social worker and even drew an image of his father raping him before a camera on a tripod. In the crude drawing, the dad’s face is smiling while the child cries.

The boy spent some time in foster care but was eventually court-ordered back to his dad. His mother died of cancer in 1998, and his story was orphaned to obscurity.

Connie Valentine founded the California Protective Parents Association in Sacramento in 1999 in direct response to the case. Almost 20 years later, she’s still trying to reform what she says is a corrupt branch of the court system that destroys lives…”

 

“An East Bay group called Court Reform LLC is lobbying for several procedural changes that could benefit family court litigants unable to afford attorneys. And the Socioeconomic Justice Institute, a newly founded organization based in the Silicon Valley, is preparing to launch a class-action lawsuit against California court administrators and several judges, including Mize and McBrien.

‘An entire branch of government is operating in the dark, like the Catholic Church,’ said Kathleen Russell, executive director of the Center for Judicial Excellence, a Marin County organization that aims to protect litigants’ basic courtroom rights. ‘This has become an unregulated cottage industry that is completely unaccountable to anyone.”

“The court system is systematically trafficking children who are abused by a parent away from their safe parent who is trying to protect them and into contact with the parent they say is harming them,’ Russell said. ‘It happens almost every time like clockwork. If you raise an allegation of abuse, the system starts turning against you, even if you have legitimate medical evidence that the kid has been raped or beaten, or there is testimony from the emergency room doctors saying they see evidence of abuse.’

Linda Barnard, a licensed marriage therapist in Sacramento who regularly testifies in court as a domestic violence expert witness, describes the same recurring outcomes in cases where a woman reports abuse.

‘The more frantic the mother becomes, the more they think she’s crazy, and pretty soon the abusive parent ends up with the kid,” she said. “Many times people are actually afraid now to disclose abuse because they’re afraid they’ll lose their kids.”

 

“In theory, judges would stamp out systemic corruption that turned family court squabbles into money-making schemes—but they don’t, at least not always, according to DeAnn Salcido, a former family court judge in San Diego County.

In fact, Salcido says judges may actually cash in on the system by becoming private custody mediators after they retire, a service for which they can pocket $500 an hour. Since lawyers are the ones who recommend these mediators, it behooves a judge to curry favor with established family law attorneys during their time on the bench, Salcido explains.

On the other hand, ‘judges who piss attorneys off won’t be recommended,’ explained Salcido, now a family law attorney herself. This system, she says, fosters cronyism between judges and attorneys and leads to biased rulings in the family courts.

Moreover, Salcido says, the mediation service itself is a scam. She says mediators often fail to fact-check what one parent tells them, leading to badly flawed custody recommendations—which, she notes, judges follow most of the time. ‘They’re basically delegating their decision-making to the mediator’, she said

‘It’s dumbfounding,’ Salcido said. ‘Only in family court can a child who has claimed to be abused by a person be then forced to be in that person’s company.”

 

“Judges don’t follow the laws, but then the CJP doesn’t do anything about it,’ said Stephen James, the co-director of the Socioeconomic Justice Institute and an investigative reporter with years of experience studying California’s family courts.

Sweeney, at Court Reform LLC, was keen on learning more about the complaints—who filed them and why. He submitted a public records request with the commission last February to access this information, and the agency promptly refused to hand it over.

Shortly thereafter, the state auditor, answering to public outcry, similarly demanded access to the CJP’s records. In its 56-year history, the commission has never been audited—and the secretive 11-member unit, which filed a lawsuit on October 20, 2015, to block the audit, is trying to keep it that way.

The CJP’s director did not return multiple calls from SN&R seeking comment….”

 

“The tide may be turning slowly in favor of families, parents and children. The state auditor has the Commission on Judicial Performance in the hot seat. Court Reform LLC’s Sweeney is even applying to serve as one of the CJP’s six public members.

James, at the Socioeconomic Justice Institute, is working closely with Carlsson and Susan Ferris—who went four years without seeing her daughter due to a series of Sacramento court actions that James insists were illegal—on the class action lawsuit against the state, which he expects to have filed within six months.

On January 3, the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that CPS [Child Protective Services] workers who place a child in an abusive home can be held accountable, whereas previously they have been protected by immunity.

James, a former SN&R contributor, says the decision, made in Pasadena, sets a groundbreaking precedent that could start the unraveling of immunity protections for employees of the family courts, where judges and attorneys, without transcripts to track their behavior, rarely face legal consequences for their actions.”

‘The pressure is going to start coming from the top down to the county level,” James said. ‘The family courts are going to start getting the message that they need to follow the law, stop with the cronyism and giving favorable rulings to their favorite attorneys, and stop the bias against the people who can’t afford attorneys.”

The author of this blog, Sharon Noonan Kramer, has been working to get the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) to prosecute for case-fixing Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in the San Diego Superior Court and Appellate Court. The case-fixing, including concealment of falsified court documents, has been occurring for now twelve years. The relentless and unpunished judicial and attorney misconduct has been on behalf of the SLAPP plaintiffs who are toxic tort expert defense witnesses, Veritox, Inc.

Veritox, Inc. is frequently hired by attorneys of the USDOJ, municipalities in California and in other states to serve as toxicologist expert defense witnesses in mold litigations. The purpose of their hirings and the purpose of the unpunished SLAPP fixing are to stave off government liability for disabilities caused by poorly maintained government buildings.  As of December 2016, the USDOJ is still refusing to prosecute the “California Judiciary”.

One can see the still unvacated, falsified court documents from the California fixed-SLAPP and Veritox’s latest USDOJ contract for expert witnessing services (July 2016) at this link: DOJ, Unveil California Justices’ Obstructing the Vacating of Deadly, Backdated SLAPP Documents – Veritox means Truth-Poison

 

If you would like to voice your support to Governor Jerry Brown and California legislators to appoint Mr. Sweeney as a citizen member of the state’s judicial oversight committee, please see the contact information to do so, at this link: JOE for CJP.

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10 Responses to Sacramento News & Review RE: Systemic ethics problems in California’s courts

  1. With all due respect again, you have no idea what “experience” I have in the courts. I will lay what I know up against what you know any day of the week. You write, “It’s about corruption and the power to corrupt enlisting bias of any kind, and especially and disproportionately against women.” No. It isn’t. You are just looking at the elephant from the perspective of a woman scorned. Ask black men in prison, or those who lost their homes to derivative trading if they think it’s a woman’s issue. It’s not. It’s an issue of judiciary deciding the fates of people’s lives not based on rule of law — with little to no oversight. If you want to only scream “women harmed” go ahead. But you are cutting off your nose to spite your face b/c there are men and women who would like to work together to stop the problems in the courts.

  2. anon. says:

    You make a point that none wants to address… bias against women in our world, more sexist than racist even. Everyone’s problem. Perhaps you need more experience in the courts to understand how it works across the board. Joe’s issue is D I V O R C E/custody. Yes indeed, courts milk when there’s money. BUT there is a bigger problem. It isn’t always money involved, and yes a man can be screwed in court to be sure. I’m talking statistics that would need to be addressed by someone in a position of power such as he is seeking at the CJP. It’s not just about divorce/he said/she said. No way. It’s about corruption and the power to corrupt enlisting bias of any kind, and especially and disproportionately against women. I’m not offended btw,

  3. Hey, truly sorry if I offended you. It’s just that I take issue with you making this a male/female issue, when that is not what the heart of problem is really about. It’s about the courts profiting from contentious divorces. It’s about he/she who can best lawyer-up, wins. (Granted, that is usually males) With all due respect you can stand on your “women get screwed” position — which aids a divide and conquer for the money grubbing courts. I personally do not think that’s wise if one is trying solve the problem of bias and misconduct in the courts. There are wronged fathers who are hurting just as much as wronged mothers. Don’t let yourself get pitted against your allies who are trying to thwart misconduct in the courts.

  4. anon. says:

    That kind of offhanded response proves my point. As for your own probable gender bias, not mine, to the opposite obviously as I’m a Women’s Rights scholar, sexist women are some of the worst offenders. How you came up w/this response is beyond me and knee jerk. Let him defend himself. I hope he gets it. You obviously don’t.

  5. With all due respect, I think you may be speaking out your ass. You need to read what Joe Sweeney has gone above and beyond to do to try to thwart misconduct in the family courts. With all due respect, I think you may have a gender bias toward women — which is understandable because it’s true that it happens. But please don’t let gender bias cloud the facts to cause you to shoot yourself in the foot by casting doubt on one of your best advocates, Joe Sweeney.

  6. anon. says:

    My point of concern is that “gender bias” in the court system, as in society in general worldwide, overshadows the very real bias against pro pers/pro ses, male and female. If Joe wants to represent the people to champion the need to eliminate explicit, complicit and illicit bias in our courts, he is going to have to understand this. If he does and will be an advocate for women who are more often victims than men, statistically speaking in this respect, he has my support otherwise not. I think it is telling that a male was put on the cover. He never had custody of his child to begin with. In my opinion it mars (and actually exposes the bias I speak of) this excellent expose. As someone who has self-represented 36 yrs against entitled, white, male priveledged ‘controllers’ in Family and Probate(both sides of the same coin) Ca. and beyond, I’ve learned a thing or two. Power corrupts.

  7. I could see how that could be true, although I have no statistics to back it up. That’s one of the things I like best about Joe Sweeney. He’s never tried to make this a father’s rights or mother’s rights issue — or even just a family court issue. He has focused in on what the problem is (bias in the courts thriving b/c of lack of oversight) and is working to help establish safeguards against it.

  8. anon. says:

    Statistics will point out that in contested custody battles the mother/woman is more likely to lose when abuse is at issue. My own lawyer tried to sell me out for his covert, so-called “men’s rights” beliefs. Joe’s case is unique due to money on wife’s side, seldom the case. That said, our Probate and Family Courts are brazenly running a S C A M, state-sanctioned and litigantgant/taxpayer funded. And, retaliation is standard.

  9. Teresa McCormick says:

    California courts have shown a sustained bias against the environmentally
    Injured. The ounce of prevention not made by public institutions is
    Costing us more than just the pound of cure for these injured parties.
    Our health care systems are overburdened and our country has lost many
    Beautiful productive minds we have paid dearly to create.

  10. 123123123k says:

    It’s the year of ethic reform!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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