A Primer: All About Waste and the Wizard of Oz

by Julia Fletcher

Did you read what that quote says? Who would include such a vulgar quote as the introduction to a “custody primer”? 

In a mandatory video for Guardian ad Litem and Attorney for Minor Child training and certification in Connecticut, the woman playing the Guardian ignores the mother’s concerns about “child porn” on the father’s computer. The Guardian  expresses concern for a thirteen-year-old girl’s “sexting”, but doesn’t do anything to help protect any of the children who are involved. 

Other required materials for the training and certification include the document below. The state of Connecticut’s Office of Child Protection that handles the training and certification doesn’t offer any explanation of what the document is. No reason is offered for its inclusion in the required materials. 

It’s an essay called, What Matters in Custody? A Primer. Here’s an excerpt:

So, if one were to watch the required video and read that bit of required reading, upon receiving one’s certification as a Guardian ad Litem in Connecticut, one should NOT contact the FBI as soon as possible to report crimes against children such as “sexting” and/or “child porn” on a computer. Interesting. 

Apparently, someone in Connecticut’s Office of Child Protection decided that parents, under the threat of “sanctions”, will wait to report child endangerment and abuse to the authorities. At what point was that decided in Connecticut and who decided it? Who decided to make the training video noted above, instructing Connecticut’s Guardians ad Litem to totally ignore disclosures of crimes against children?  

Clearly, Connecticut legislators must not be aware of these new rules. Perhaps no one has had the time or the courage to tell the legislators about the criminal quackery that has infiltrated Connecticut’s family courts. 

Maybe it would help if someone would write a post called “Whistle Blower Week”. It could include information about people like Retired Judge DeAnn SalcidoEmily Gallup and John Peragine.   Maybe then a few good people in Connecticut will step forward and say something. When a few courageous people speak up, many more usually follow.

I’m still looking forward to the results of the FBI investigation there. Maybe the FBI needs the information found in this post. I should probably tag it with words that will grab their attention: “bombs”,  “terrorists”, “Martha Stewart” (As referenced on page 9) 

There. That should do it.

  

Is Family Court Broken?

 

Is Family Court Broken?

April 7, 2011

By Liz Kellar

Family court might very well be the most emotional, bitter court in any given county.

When marriages become broken — and especially when children are involved — the anger that simmers throughout the proceedings often leaves everyone involved feeling battered and bruised.

And those feelings of betrayal often spill over to the officials involved in adjudicating the proceedings.

But in Nevada County, the family law court system is under attack not only by disgruntled parents — as evidenced by a lawsuit filed by attorney Stanley Berman — but also by a former mediator who is suing for wrongful termination and who recently won a grievance that ordered an independent audit of the court’s family law mediation programs and processes.

The arbitrator’s award in favor of former mediator Emily Gallup has been contested by Nevada County Superior Court, and a hearing has been set on that matter on April 29.

“We want people to know what really has been going on here without undermining our legal position and without appearing to be defensive or vindictive,” said Court Executive Officer Sean Metroka.

“We are trying to keep this aboveboard, and as a result we’re not talking about many of the details … It will all come to light in due course and I’m looking forward to the day.”

But Gallup is not waiting for the cases to wend their way through the system. She has started up a nonprofit group, Family Court Reformers of Nevada County.

“We believe that family law cases have been shuffled through court and mediation too quickly,” the group’s website reads. “We believe that life-altering decisions have been made in the absence of critical information, such as criminal background reports and input from collateral sources. We believe that domestic violence cases have been mishandled.”

Alleged issues in court include coercion, bias

Simply put, family court handles cases where parties seek court intervention to solve their family issues.

Judges hear and decide cases involving divorce (marriage dissolution), paternity, domestic violence/abuse, child custody, support and visitation. The court also provides mediation services to help parents resolve child support, child custody and visitation problems.

In Nevada County Superior Court, Department 3 is the courtroom and the presiding judge is Judge Julie McManus. The family court services department is the division that provides family law mediation services and is run by Director Paul Jaffe.

In Department 3, McManus hears cases having to do with dissolution of marriage, child custody and visitation, guardianships, juvenile dependency, and juvenile delinquency.

McManus also covers juvenile drug court and dependency drug court, but those assignments change periodically, Metroka said.

McManus is on medical leave and was unavailable for comment; see related story.

From Gallup’s perspective, the problems in family court stem from not following the law.

“The lack of information-gathering is the major problem, but also the use of coercive tactics,” she alleged.

The failure to follow domestic violence protocols is another issue, although Gallup said that has improved. She also cited ex parte communications, when the judge and the mediator discuss cases without the parents being present.

Coercion and bias are some of the allegations being leveled in the federal lawsuit filed in Sacramento by Berman.

Berman is suing McManus as having acted as an individual and outside the scope of her legal authority in his child custody case.

In the suit, which was filed on March 8, Berman alleges improper threats by McManus to take his children away without due process.

McManus also took an improperly biased stand on claims of parental alienation, and failed to read proposed orders submitted for her signature, he alleges.

Berman also alleges the counsel for the children over-billed him and made false representations to the court.

“The main thing I want is to get (McManus) off my case,” Berman said. “In family court, you have a judge with an enormous amount of power — and when it starts going bad, it becomes a problem.”

A way to constructively channel anger

Emily Gallup, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 “Even assuming the audit is ordered, we’re probably looking at about at least a year for any results, much less implementation of any changes,” she said. “My goal is to put pressure on the court to fix things now.”

Gallup claimed the division’s decision to bring former director Serge Aronow and former interim director Carmella Smith back as contract employees signals a reluctance to change the “dysfunctional culture.”

According to Gallup, Smith and McManus “handpicked Paul Jaffe to take over the department, as the most likely person to maintain the status quo. … It’s hard to believe anything will change when they have the same old team.”

Many parents have contacted her in the wake of the publicity surrounding her arbitration award, Gallup said.

“There are a lot of parents in the community who feel hopeless and damaged by the courts,” she said. “I want them to have something constructive to do with their frustration. We haven’t met yet, but I envision it partially as a support group.”

The group will have its inaugural get-together from 1-3 p.m. Sunday at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City. Kathleen Russell, director of the Marin-based Center for Judicial Excellence, will be at the meeting.

“When you’re chronically angry, it’s toxic,” Gallup said. “It’s more constructive to get people together and ask them, what do you want to do with that (anger) … I’ve been thinking a lot about the most immediate way to pressure the court.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.

Is Emily the Only One?

 

by Julia Fletcher

 

Is Emily Gallup the only one?  Is Emily really the only one working in that family court system who knows “… mediators were given insufficient time for mediation appointments and were allowed inadequate review of records and gathering of facts.” ?

Is Emily the only one who knows “…mediators failed to consider criminal history” ?

Is she the only one who knows mediators were “not allowed to consider such backgrounds while making recommendations in custody cases.”?

Or is Emily the only one who has the courage to speak up?

We’ve all been there. School. Work. You have to go along with whatever everyone else is doing. Whatever it is can’t be so bad if everyone else is doing it. It can’t be so bad if it’s been happening for so long. You don’t want to make waves and you want to fit in. You want to keep your job. You notice a few things that don’t seem quite right. So what do you do?

If you’re Emily Gallup, you do the right thing. In a nation of family courts with almost no oversight and no accountability, we could use a few thousand more people like Emily Gallup.   

 

This is from The Union.com :

Two weeks after an arbitrator ordered an audit of the Nevada County Department of Family Court Services, court officials continue to review the ruling and prepare a response to it.

As part of his Feb. 6 ruling in a grievance filed by Emily Gallup, a former family court mediator who alleged the court had violated state statutes and its own rules governing the mediation process, arbitrator Christopher Burdick ordered a review of the court’s family law mediation programs and processes by an independent entity.

Gallup, who said she was terminated by the court during the ongoing arbitration case, was also awarded back pay and attorney fees by Burdick.

“Our attorneys are reviewing the award to determine how best to respond to it,” Superior Court CEO Sean Metroka said Friday morning.

“There are several elements in the award that have to be sorted out,” Metroka continued. “Among those, of course, are who to engage to perform the audit that the arbitrator ordered. Also, there’s negotiations ongoing about the attorney fees. So, we’re working through those things and I expect we’ll know more next week.”

Metroka also noted he could not speak to specific allegations of the case as “it’s a pending legal matter.”

Both sides must agree on an entity to perform the audit “(such as the Administrative Office of the Courts, the California State Auditor, or other professionals) to be retained by the court, solely at the court’s expense,” Burdick wrote in the award section of the arbitration ruling.

In her grievance, Gallup claimed mediators were given insufficient time for mediation appointments and were allowed inadequate review of records and gathering of facts. She also claimed mediators failed to consider criminal history, alleging they were not allowed to consider such backgrounds while making recommendations in custody cases.

Gallup claimed the Family Court Services also failed to offer separate mediation to domestic violence victims and placed undue influence to pressure parents into mediated agreements, according to court documents.

Once Gallup raised these concerns to her supervisors, she said, she received reprisals and retaliations from the court and its officials.

The court argued all it did was “counsel her in good faith not for her complaint but for her actions (e.g. taking too long on her cases; violating directives and inconveniencing others by allowing mediation sessions to run past business hours; by not achieving as many agreements as her coworkers; failing to observe mediator restrictions on ex parte communication; and being insubordinate to her supervisor, as well as Family Law Judge (Julie) McManus).”

The court also contended that “Gallup’s refusal to follow the (court’s model for mediation) as a bad faith reaction to her disappointment at not being selected as director (upon her supervisor’s retirement), manifested in the immediate decline of her performance and acting disrespectfully to Interim Director (Carmella) Smith, challenging her authority and complaining about the (model).”

Most of Burdick’s ruling, however, went in favor of Gallup’s contentions.

“Emily Gallup had reasonable cause to believe that (the) court’s Family Court Services department had violated or not complied with state statutes and rules of court in regards to mediations required by the Family Law Code and the California Rules of Court,” Burdick wrote. “That the court took reprisal actions against Gallup for repeatedly raising and discussing these issues, but (Gallup) failed to prove, in the technical and legal sense, that she had ‘blown the whistle’ to a law enforcement agency or other outside party with enforcement powers.”

Burdick also ruled Gallup had failed to prove the court violated its “Policy Against Harassment,” as she had claimed, but did have reasonable cause to believe information disclosed a violation of state or federal statute or a violation or noncompliance with state or federal rule or regulation.

In Gallup’s favor, Burdick found the court had violated its own “open door policy” of the personnel manual, “by taking reprisal actions against (Gallup) when she complained to the Court’s Facilitator and (to) the Administrative Office of the Courts that the Superior Court had violated or not complied with state statutes and rules of court in regards to mediations.”

Burdick also ruled Gallup “at all times acted within the ‘Code of Ethics for Court Employees of California’” and “at all times acted within the parameters of the duties and responsibilities set forth in the Court’s Job Description for ‘Family Court Mediator.’”

Contact City Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at bhamilton@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4249.