Callie Thornton
Friday, November 20, 2009 
EVER WONDER WHO TRAINS FAMILY COURT JUDGES?
An Action Item.  Your Responses to Judge Gormley's Suspension


For those of you who have been through the family courts and wondered what just happened this email contains several resources judges use to determine whether or how much time you will have with your children. There are many good judges across the nation working to keep children and parents fully engaged with each other. On the other hand statistics continue to indicate Fathers are the parent overwhelmingly relegated to visitor, non-custodial or non-primary residential status even when that Father has joint legal and/or physical custody of the children and has been a 'hands on' fully engaged parent.

Our movement needs to be aware of an influential organization located in Reno, Nevada called the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). For the better part of the past 60 years NCJFCJ has provided training and programming material for family court judges. Their influence in family law and the courts is significant. For those whose cases involve allegations of Domestic Violence or restraining orders you'll want to be aware of these two publications of NCJFCJ which address these issues and how the organization counsels judges to view your case when you come to court. Take a look at NCJFCJ's Burgundy Book and their latest Judges Bench Guide for safety involving child custody cases. There are a number of serious concerns within these documents, for example judges are instructed to ignore claims and evidence of parental alienation and strike them from the record.

Why This Matters For All of Us


The domestic violence movement wants child custody cases examined through the abuse lens. False allegations of abuse to gain advantage in divorce are recognized throughout the profession's literature. Attorneys writing in law journals complain about the practice of some colleagues who routinely file for a restraining order several weeks before filing divorce papers. Many of us recognize what's become known as the 'Silver Bullet Technique' or 'The Nuclear Option.'

On Tuesday, legislators in Suffolk county NY passed a law stating the county would now be required to establish a public domestic violence offender registry operating similarly to the sex offender registries. In passing this law the county legislators are claiming a 'first' in the nation and hope their example is replicated around the country. Thanks to Greg Fisher for passing on the vote results.


Earlier this year a legislator from Indiana sent ACFC this DV bill requesting comments. The bill passed. Financial sweeteners for the judiciary and law enforcement were included thereby assuring bill support from those communities. The result is Indiana has started establishing databases to track restraining orders on an inter and intra state basis. How long will it be before these databases become the portal for Indiana's public domestic violence registries as well? Not very. As an aside this law requires an officer to accept 'victims' statement that a restraining order exists even when proof of its existence is unavailable. What this means is immediate arrest without proof of violation.

Next year the violence against women act (VAWA) comes up for reauthorization in Congress. VAWA money funds Suffolk county and Indiana type activity around the nation. It has become very evident DV advocates intend to create databases around the nation then federalize those databases into a seamless national network, not dissimilar to the existing systems in place for child support collection.


While to some this data warehousing may sound like a good idea to protect victims of domestic violence it should raise significant red flags for citizens concerned about their ability to receive justice in our courts. There do not appear to be safeguards in place to protect innocents. Considering a judge recently ruled several West Virginia domestic violence program rules unconstitutional, an outcome similar to one last year in the California Woods v. Shrewy case and the case of Crespo v. Crespo heading to the NJ Supreme Court ever encroaching government into the private sphere of family life is a legitimate issue.

Are these victim safety or revenue generation programs? A review of Pennsylvania data reveals almost 50% (about 30,000 per year) of all restraining orders are withdrawn, dismissed or not extended on hearing. The cost to taxpayers for these orders is approximately $60,000,000 per year. Dr. Ben Foster authored this report several years ago on the cost of dismissed or false restraining orders in West Virginia. The Suffolk county DV registry program allows for going back five years from enactment to build the database and will charge 'offenders' a $25 per year fee to keep their information current
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