Guardian Ad Litem Reform

Citizens working to protect children and stop the destruction of the family by Family Court injustice.

What Would You Do If The Government Took Your Child? …

Posted by CultureVigilante on March 12, 2012

… And there were no allegations of  abuse, educational or physical neglect. Stories like this one fly under the radar of main stream America, but in reality are more common that you think.

Here is another story of a family who is suffering at the dismantling of their family at the hands of government.

As the year during which Chloe was forced into the state DCFS system wore on, she was placed in mental health wards –where state money naturally followed her internment — even though there was never any determination that she had mental problems, she was given birth control pills by planned parenthood against her religious parent’s desires, she was sexually exploited by the 20-year-old male friend of a “foster parent” — and was raped three times by this man who lived in the same apartment complex as the foster family — and finally, after getting out of the system, left state custody pregnant.

In this case, as in so many others, the government stepped in and made decisions about a family, their parenting, and a child’s (teenager’s) well-being and unilaterally removed the child from her home. After a couple of years in state care she is raped and pregnant. Tell me again why this is allowed to happen and heads are not rolling? What would you do, if this were your child?

Posted in Family Court Abuse, Judicial Reform | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Are Family Courts Fabricating Evidence To Take Your Children Away?

Posted by CultureVigilante on January 18, 2012

An appeals court in California thinks so. A landmark case for parental rights was decided in favor of the the mother in this case, which is almost unheard of. In fact, most Americans don’t really understand what goes on in family courts. Many, who have been entangled in there, across the country, have experienced intrusive and abusive treatment by family court government agencies. Many parents have their children taken away and many have experienced situations where the government agencies have fabricated evidence in order to do so. This case is typical of what many experience in America today. I hope to be able to bring you more good news, like this, in the future, and educate you on what the “system” has worked so hard to conceal.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeal voiced its concerns over what happened to Ms. Fogarty-Hardwick: “Stated plainly, the outcome of this case cannot be dismissed as merely the unfortunate product of a runaway jury. The evidence adduced at trial obviously caused both the jury and the judge to conclude not only that something seriously wrong was done to Fogarty-Hardwick in this case, but also that the wrongful conduct was not an isolated incident. That conclusion is something the County should be taking very seriously.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Sunlight May Not Be Enough To Disinfect A Corrupt Missouri Judiciary

Posted by CultureVigilante on December 20, 2011

Better Courts for Missouri released a statement, today, outlining a judge’s dereliction of duty as reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch. In the Post’s investigation, they found that Judge, Barbara T. Peebles took a two-week vacation to China, without reassigning her docket, and left her clerks in charge to make judicial decisions. Apparently, this was not the first time something like this has happened in Judge Peebles’ court, and the St. Louis Public Defender was quoted as saying that it was common knowledge the Peebles’ clerks acted on her behalf in the past. At least 350 cases were handled by court clerks in her most recent two-week absence.

What is even more disturbing is that no one, lawyers, clerks, officers of the court system felt the need to report this behavior to the proper authorities of the Missouri Bar Association. It is obvious there is a brotherhood among the judicial network that covers for its own.

Supreme Court rules state: A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.

It looks as if the passing of the buck now begins in the St. Louis Circuit Courts. While its presiding judge blamed Peebles and her lack of management over her own court, what of his own decision to sweep any disciplinary action, in this case, under the rug? While cases such as this should be reported to the Commission of Retirement, Removal and Discipline for investigation, it appears that Ohmer will just reassigned Peebles to another court. Apparently because discipline of this type, not having been administered to another judge in over 30 years, was deemed as too harsh a punishment to do so in this case.

St. Louis Circuit Court Presiding Judge Steven Ohmer called the conduct of both Peebles and her clerks “wrong.” He blamed an “overall lack of management and supervision.” …

… Ohmer said he considered — but decided against — removing Peebles from that division after the full scale of the problem was revealed. It would be the kind of action he said has not happened in 30 years. Next month, she will move to a civil trial division as planned.

Better Courts for Missouri, “a coalition of Missourians from all walks of life, dedicated to fixing the method by which Missouri judges are selected.” as described on their web page, was formed to bring “Openness, Accountability, Independence and Excellence in our Judiciary,” and has worked to inform citizens of the dishonor and corruption in the Missouri Plan, which is the method now used in Missouri to select judges.

At the end of BCfM’s Get Involved page, they state:

The judiciary is too important to leave in the control of unaccountable special interests who stand to gain from picking judges in secret. Please join us as we fight to protect the rule of law.

The work of BCfM has been to promote openness and accountability in the selection process, which is absent from the current plan. However, there seems to be no mention, on their website, of the provision in the Missouri Constitution, that provides the power and authority of the State Legislature to impeach judges who are derelict in their responsibilities. While sunlight would certainly provide the public with ability to identify the corruption that has been allowed to mutate in the judiciary over the decades, there still seems to be no catalyst to provide discipline to those who have abused their power and authority.

Article 7: Section 1. All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.

Article 7: Section 2. The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried before the supreme court, except that the governor or a member of the supreme court shall be tried by a special commission of seven eminent jurists to be elected by the senate. The supreme court or special commission shall take an oath to try impartially the person impeached, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of five-sevenths of the court or special commission.

It would appear that the brotherhood among the judicial network has extended to the legislature since there has been no judge impeached, in Missouri, since the civil war according to the Missouri Court’s website:

Before the commission was created in 1972, an impeachment trial was the only means by which a judge could be removed from office. Since the Civil War era, however, the House has impeached only two Missouri judges – both St. Louis County circuit judges and both in the 1960s. In both cases, the judges resigned from office before the Supreme Court held their trials. While the impeachment mechanism is still available, the commission serves as a more efficient method of ensuring judges adhere to the code of conduct and remain subject to disciplinary review even for ethical lapses that may not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

Would this be the same commission that is charged with oversight of the St. Louis Circuit Courts? It would also appear that the commission, and any other form of authority, from the circuit court to the legislature, has worked very hard to cover for their own since we all know there is much corruption in the judicial branch of government, and there has been very little, if nothing at all, done to stop its escalation of corruption.

Posted in Judicial Reform | 2 Comments »

Oppressive Reporting Legislation S1877 Stalled

Posted by CultureVigilante on December 14, 2011

Homeschool Legal Defense issued a statement, late today, in which they reported that S1877 was stalled during the hearing process. In the alert sent on Monday, the HSLDA described the consequences of such a bill as promoting a police state which could potentially create situations making it more difficult to address the needs and identify true abuse.

A link is provided here for you to watch the hearings and see for yourself the arguments made for and against the legislation.

This information was cross posted on HomeschoolingUnited.wordpress.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Senate Hearing To Mandate Oppressive Reporting Laws For Child Neglect/Abuse

Posted by CultureVigilante on December 12, 2011

We have outlined, here, some of the abuses of courts and government departments that oversee families and domestic issues. Tomorrow, there is a bill that goes on the floor for debate that would require mandatory reporting by all adults of child abuse and neglect. While, of course, anyone should do so who is truly a witness to such bad acts, but a law requiring/mandating such action would absolutely lead to privacy violations within families as well as false allegations of abuse and neglect which would in turn clutter up the system, making it even more difficult to identify those truly at risk. And do we really want to increase the federal government’s roll in social services investigations.

S. 1877  is due for a Senate hearing tomorrow and you are urged to contact your representatives now to discourage this harmful and oppressive legislation.

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

Homeschool Legal Defense (HSLA) offers some background on the issue:

Background:
S. 1877 will amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to require—for the first time ever—every single state that receives federal funding under CAPTA to force every single adult to be a mandatory reporter of child abuse or neglect. Currently, most states only require certain people (e.g., doctors and teachers) to be mandatory reporters. HSLDA opposes this for the following reasons:

  • The federal government should not force the states to make every single adult a mandatory reporter of child abuse and neglect as a condition for receiving certain federal money. This is a violation of the principle of federalism. The federal government has no constitutional authority to force the states to make every adult a mandatory reporter.
  • Forcing the states to make every single adult a mandatory reporter with no exceptions will lead to a police-state environment, where every adult is forced to act as an informer against friends, family, and neighbors, or face possible charges. There are grave threats to liberty and personal privacy that could result from this.
  • Forcing every adult to be a mandatory reporter will likely lead to a massive increase in child abuse and neglect accusations and subsequent investigations. Individuals will likely report suspected child abuse and neglect out of an abundance of caution so they do not face possible charges. Instead of protecting children, this will (1) harm innocent families as they face baseless investigations, and (2) waste the time of social workers on baseless investigations, instead of protecting children who are actually being abused or neglected.

S. 1877 also creates a massive federally funded educational campaign and training program to inform citizens about the new mandatory reporting of child abuse laws in the states. HSLDA opposes this for the following reasons:

  • In a time of federal budget deficits, the federal government should not be spending $5 million to $10 million per year on a program that should be left to the states.
  • Although the program is established in S. 1877 as a federal grant program to the states, the secretary of Health and Human Services is given the authority to “develop and disseminate guidance and information on best practices for” the entire educational campaign and training program. This could easily lead to the federal government mandating to the states the entire reporting campaign.

In conclusion, S. 1877 will lead to a massive increase in child abuse and neglect investigations upon families. The stated purpose of S. 1877’s mandatory reporting expansion, along with the education campaign and training program is to “improve reporting” of child abuse and neglect. The bill will give states new federal grants to set up“experimental, model, and demonstration programs for testing innovative approaches and techniques that may improve reporting of and response to suspected and known incidents of child abuse or neglect by adults to the State child protective service agencies or to law enforcement agencies.”

Not only will S. 1877 require every single adult to be a mandatory reporter, S. 1877 will incentivize states to create untested, “experimental” programs that will increase the number of child abuse and neglect reports to CPS agencies.

HSLDA has seen firsthand how malicious or ignorant child abuse and neglect allegations have destroyed innocent families. A family has few protections against the power of CPS agencies. And even if a CPS investigation is closed as unfounded, the trauma to a young child, to an innocent family as a stranger (albeit maybe a well-intentioned stranger) enters the home and threatens to remove the children, is lasting and profound.

S. 1877 is unnecessary. The states—using federal money under the existing CAPTA statute—are fully capable of protecting children from legitimate abuse and neglect. S. 1877 will create a massive police state of reporting and will lead to unnecessary abuse and neglect investigations.

Posted in Family Court Abuse | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Foster Children Are A Casualty In A Lucrative Government Bureaucracy

Posted by CultureVigilante on December 4, 2011

Watch this ABC video of how foster children are thrown under the bus, in the name of expediency, while they are shuffled through a bureaucratic government system that is supposed to be responsible for their best interests.

Posted in Family Court Abuse | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bill Randles: Candidate For Governor With A Judicial Reform Platform

Posted by CultureVigilante on November 15, 2011

Could it be true? Is there a politician, a lawyer no less, who would actually advocate for judicial reform as part of his campaign platform? Well, it is possible, in Missouri’s 2012 gubernatorial GOP primary race. Bill Randles is traveling the state, trying to gain name recognition, and gather grass roots support his bid for the governor’s office.

What a great way to get the attention of the average voter who has been unlucky enough to be assaulted and abused by the court system! Campaign on Judicial Reform. Randles has a plan to reign in the abuse of authority and corruption that many know is commonplace in the judicial branch of government. Actual deadlines and measures of accountability for judges? Yep. That’s what he is proposing. Can you imagine how black robes across the state are squirming at the thought of actually being required to do their jobs under scrutiny?

Bill Randles is a Harvard Law School graduate who has had successful law practices in St. Louis and Kansas City. He and his wife, Bev, made the decision to leave private practice and run for state wide office sometime in 2008 after his Harvard classmate, Barack Obama, was elected to office. This is his first attempt to run for political office. In the current political climate, some feel not having a political past is a plus. But, a lack of political experience does not mean there isn’t a clear understanding of the process and a vision for the future. Watch the video and see for yourself, how he plans to bring the judicial branch of government back to a reasonable and citizen friendly steward, to serve rather than violate the people.

You probably haven’t heard much about Randles or his campaign up to this point as it seems the media is trying to keep his name off the radar. The St. Louis Post Dispatch has intentionally kept his name out of news reports even though he is the only officially declared candidate for the GOP nomination to date. Keep your eyes on this guy and an ear to the ground. Randles has several concrete stances on many controversial issues, and unlike most campaigning politicians, he isn’t afraid to put himself and his opinions and ideas out there.

Posted in Elections, Judicial Reform | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Really Motivates Lawyers In Missouri’s GAL System? Money!

Posted by CultureVigilante on October 5, 2011

Shortly after I posted my commentary on the newly revised Missouri guardian ad litem standards, I was contacted by Missouri Lawyer’s Media/Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly for comment. Ms. Allison Retka was kind enough to forward the complete article for your reading pleasure since the site is a member’s only publication and closed to the public.

Under new policy, Guardians ad litem must also be attorneys; GAL training hours reduced

by Allison Retka

Published: September 27th, 2011

A revamped set of standards for guardians ad litem took effect on Sept. 1 throughout Missouri.

Under the new standards, guardians ad litem must possess a law license. The standards also cut the initial training requirement for GALs from 12 to eight hours, and reduced their continuing legal education requirements from six hours to three.

“There was a lot of people who didn’t want the mandatory training because it was difficult for some people, in particular those in rural areas, to get the training,” said Martina Peterson, a family court commissioner in the Jackson County Circuit Court who co-chaired the committee that changed the standards.

“Financially and time-wise, it was difficult for them to be able to do a significant amount of training,” she said.

Guardians ad litem represent the interests of children in various types of court cases, from divorces, adoptions and juvenile criminal proceedings to child abuse and neglect cases.

The separate state statutes governing those areas of law require GALs to file motions, subpoena witnesses and appeal rulings, Peterson said. The law requires them, in effect, to practice law, she said, so GAL standards needed to reflect that.

Peterson said the committee considering the standards received little feedback from family court litigants. But one parent took to the Web earlier this month to protest elements of the new GAL standards.

Lisa Payne-Naeger, a mother in Lake Saint Louis, blogged about the new standards on her site, Guardian Ad Litem Reform. Payne-Naeger endured a contentious divorce and custody dispute in 2008 in St. Charles County Circuit Court. She said she worried that the attorney requirement will carry along with it the hefty attorney’s fees that parents must pay to the GAL assigned to their cases.

“It’s a money-grab thing,” Payne-Naeger said. “I do not believe the GAL is there to represent the children. Most of the time the GAL advocates for one or the other parent.”  She said in her divorce case, she and her ex-husband paid their guardian ad litem, Benicia Livorsi, $80,000 in GAL fees. Livorsi didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Peterson’s said Payne-Naeger’s costly GAL experience is an extraordinary case.

“You can’t let extraordinary cases or situations guide what happens across the state,” Peterson said. “Most guardians ad litem make very little money at all doing this type of work.”

Belinda S. Elliston, another committee member and guardian ad litem in Jasper County, said the attorney requirement may affect some circuits that relied heavily on Missouri’s network of court-appointed special advocates (CASA) for GAL work. But CASA organizations maintain staff attorneys to represent the interest of children. Beth Dessem, the executive director of Missouri’s CASA Association, wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Elliston, a Lamar attorney who also works as legal counsel for the Jasper County Juvenile Office, said she appreciated the reduction in training hours. Attorneys can now avoid two days of initial training hours, which require an overnight stay and two days away from their law offices.

“When I’m out of my office, I’m not making money,” Elliston said. “And I can’t pay my bills if I’m not earning my income and having billable hours.”

The new regulations are “more reflective of what would be a practical expectation of folks serving as guardians ad litem,” Elliston said. “It provides a better service for the children in these cases, which is the ultimate goal.”

Read more bout the new standards. (PDF)

 After reading the article, it was, again abundantly clear to me, the legal system is full of people who don’t give a flying fig about the people/children they represent, it’s all about the money, and they don’t really care about how they present themselves. Perhaps the reason why they behave this way is because the judicial branch of the government is so used to operating without oversight and consequence for bad actions, they can react with flip remarks without repercussion. And they know it.
The new standards state: Guardian ad litem practice is unique and complex and, as such, requires specialized education, training, and experience.Really? Are they kidding? It must be so unique and complex that it should not require attorneys to be so burdened with time consuming efforts to educate themselves as to those uniquenesses and complexities. Right?
Why are attorneys complaining about generating income when almost all of the people they are supposed to be acting on behalf of are having their life savings drained to have their families and interests represented in courts? You continually hear, especially in cases of divorce, that no one wins, except the attorneys. When most people enter into court actions, they almost always leave with a lot less money, often times their life savings are drained, in attempts to fight for the rights of their children and families. Are we really to believe the words of Martina Peterson when she describes that it was too “hard” to get the training and too burdensome, when the actions of GALs change lives, forever? I think they should be a little more sensitive to the people they are supposed to serve before they duck their training responsibilities.
To add emphasis to the fact that the judiciary had little concern for their obligations relating to guardian ad litem service, one only needs to read the legislation passed (SB237) in 2011 to mandate updating the standards. In fact, there was no direction in SB237 to implement improving the representation of children and families.
… standards for representation by guardians ad litem shall be updated and adopted statewide and each circuit shall devise a plan for implementation which takes into account the individual needs of their circuit as well as the negative impact that excessive caseload have upon effectiveness of counsel.
If you read my previous post, you would know that the biggest change to the standards requires all GALs to be licensed attorneys even though it is not required in the statutes. Convenient, again, especially in family courts where GALs stand to make more money on these cases. And is the judiciary setting the stage to eliminate the rights of citizens to represent themselves in court? Will we see statutes change in the future to line up with the standards? The last time I checked, citizens were allowed to represent themselves in courts, if they wanted to do so. Is it really a good idea for the courts to mandate away the rights of lay people act on their own behalf in court? Is this the first step to get us there?
Just a note to the lawyers: It’s not all about you! CASA volunteers have had access to attorneys, to fill in the gaps in their cases, should the need arise to file motions, etc. I would venture to say that there is a bit more to GAL work than filing legal briefs and cross examination. And perhaps, since the day has long past for laypeople to feel comfortable, and/or welcome, to represent themselves in court, if filing motions and asking questions in cross examination is so complex, its long past time for an overhaul of the legal system. Many, many people who have been dragged through the court system will tell you they most likely didn’t get anything close to the representation they paid an overpriced attorney for.
And finally, my GAL experience was not extraordinary. There are stories, across the nation, where people have been taken to the cleaners and misrepresented by GALs and family court representatives. I continually speak to and work with people, from across the country, who have been devastated by the corrupt family court system.
10/11/11 After Missouri Lawyers Weekly made contact with the GAL in question in their article, they printed the following correction:

Correction

A Sept. 27 article about recent changes to statewide guardian ad litem standards included a quote from Lisa Payne-Naeger that said St. Charles attorney Benicia Baker-Livorsi received $80,000 in GAL fees in a case. Livorsi received less than $10,000 in fees in a contentious two-year divorce case between Payne-Naeger and Jeffrey Naeger. We regret the error.

I will follow up on this issue and keep you posted.

Posted in Family Court Abuse, GAL Standards | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Is Missouri’s Guardian Ad Litem System Another Vehicle Of Overreach Into The Lives Of Private Citizens?

Posted by CultureVigilante on September 15, 2011

Late on Monday, August 29, 2011, the Supreme Court of Missouri finally released its updated standards for guardians ad litem. In 1996, the court was mandated by the legislature to revise and update Guardian Ad Litem standards and have an implementation plan in place by July of 2011. In 2009, the court issued a press release seeking comments and recommendations, from the public, regarding revisions the standards, and in the 2010/2011 legislative session a bill was introduced in the senate, SB237, which finalized the process. Members of the revision committee included judges, attorneys and CASA volunteer administrators. While many attempts were made by citizens to contribute to the revision process, no members of the public were allowed to participate. Why?

Perhaps a judicial/legal system, that polices itself, didn’t want interference from outside the brotherhood. The first and most glaring revision to the new standards is stated in the first paragraph.

… the court shall only appoint a lawyer licensed by the Supreme Court who has completed the training required by these standards.

The court may designate a court appointed special advocate volunteer to assist in the performance of the guardian ad litem duties for the court as provided by law.

No where in Missouri Statutes 452.423 or 210.160 does it state that only a licensed attorney may represent a child in a proceeding as a guardian ad litem. It does allow for the guardian to be the legal representative, but never requires the representative to be licensed by the courts. Statute 210.830 allows for a child to be represented by a next friend and Statutes 453.025 and 211.462 allow for a legal advocate. Again, nothing about licensing by the courts being a requirement. The previous standards allowed for court appointed special advocates to also act as guardians ad litem when appointed by a judge. The new standards do not appear to reflect the statute guidelines. Laypeople who are navigating the court system, in Missouri, will rightfully be misinformed by this discrepancy if they do not get factual information from their attorneys or do their own research beyond reading the new standards.

How does this affect the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program? In reading through the statutes, there appears to be no differentiation between situations in which an attorney or a CASA volunteer may be appointed as a guardian ad litem. However, in a conversation with Missouri’s CASA Executive Director, Beth Dessem, she states CASA volunteers, in Missouri, only perform guardian ad litem duties in cases of neglect or abuse and not in family courts, unless abuse or neglect is present in those cases. It begs the question, how can a CASA volunteer perform as a GAL, in cases of divorce or abuse and neglect, if they are not licensed attorneys as stated in the new standard? Again, in the new standards document, the term “lawyer” is used throughout. It would appear that the court/legal system has developed its own criteria, outside the statutes, for assigning guardian ad litem duties. The CASA program is largely funded, in one form or another, by tax-payer dollars, either by state or local municipality funding. In family court cases, however, where guardians ad litem are assigned to various divorce proceedings, attorneys are awarded these cases and are paid by the litigants. It is not uncommon, as cases are often escalated and drawn out for long periods of time, for attorneys acting as GALs to make six figures from a single case. Could the legal network be stacking the deck, in favor of attorneys, to reap the most financial gain from the system?

Standard 5.0 outlines access between the GAL and the child. Throughout, the standard guidelines are given which summarize various opportunities for the GAL and child to communicate and see each other. However, comments for this section clearly suggest that the GAL should promote and maintain a “relationship” with the child. Is it appropriate for government entities to enter the family sphere to create relationships with clients? While it is reasonable to expect that GALs need to have access to clients and information regarding their client’s care and lifestyle, in order to provide the court with recommendations as to their best interests in neglect and abuse cases, is it reasonable to promote “relationships” with children, who may form emotional bonds, with someone who works for the court system? Are family courts overstepping their reach, into the family, by inferring more authority and closer “relationships” with clients, especially since not all cases in which GALs are assigned, involve neglect or abuse?

Has the Family Court turned into BIG BROTHER? Standard 7.0 addresses confidentiality and privilege. It outlines that information received during a case falls under the rules for professional conduct according to the Missouri Courts. The comment for this section, however, have lengthy explanations for various aspects, of which parents should be aware. It allows for GALs to receive information for every aspect of the child and family dynamic; schooling, psychological, medical, substance abuse, etc. Not necessarily unreasonable information to have when investigating neglect or abuse, but in cases of divorce, where GALs can be assigned for custody battles, they are also entitled to this information, even when abuse is not found or alleged. Problems, here, may arise with transparency. The comments state:

Only the court has the authority to rule on any request concerning the handling or disposition of the file and order its release or early destruction to rule on any request concerning the handling or disposition of the file. The guardian should not provide the file to anyone, including the child, without the consent of the court.

Does this also mean parents may not have access to the file without court approval? Will obtaining the file require costly attorney fees to draw up written requests to the court? Would parents have the ability to challenge any information entered into the file they feel is fallacious? Remember, not all cases in which GALs are assigned encompass neglect and abuse. One might even question: Are GALs being over used by the courts? Should parents have access to files generated by the court system? What recourse, to dispute false allegations, do citizens have?

Comments for standard 14.0 state that GAL practice is unique, complex and requires special education, training and experience. Perhaps that is why the Supreme Court decreased the required initial training from 12 hours to 8 hours, and subsequent continuing education from 6 hours to 3 hours annually. Beth Dessem, Missouri’s CASA Director states that CASA volunteers receive 30 hours of training to act as guardians ad litem.

The process of revising the GAL standards has been one of secrecy. After the Supreme Court issued a press release for public input, they shut the process down, from any inclusion of public opinion or oversight. Requests to get copies of rough drafts or attend meetings were denied or met with stonewalling. As the legislature took up the issue of approving the standards in the 2010/2011 legislative session they did so also without input or knowledge of their contents. They heard citizen testimony, in committee, about the abuses of the system and the courts refusal to release the content of standards revisions. Each member of the Missouri House and Senate also received model legislation from the citizenry in which they were asked to consider for inclusion into the new standards. The model legislation included, among other things:

Providing a vehicle to remove GALs who were abusing the system or not acting within guidelines

Create outside supervisory panels/boards to oversee guardian discipline issues

Provide limits for scope of investigations, to items listed on petitions that compel assigning them to the case

Impose time limits on investigations to prevent escalation of cases and prevent children from long term exposure to traumatic processes.

Require qualified expertise and additional training above the 12 hour mandate

Require GALs to pass background checks

Create avenues for families/children to communicate with the judge when GALs are overstepping guidelines or abusing their authority

Require the judges to set expenditure limits on GAL fees, and any other costs incurred in investigations

Remove immunity for GALs

Allow for punitive damages against GALs who wrongly accuse parties of abuse

All of these requests fell on deaf ears. SB237 was approved almost unanimously by the Missouri House and Senate. One lone senator, James Lembke, of District 1 cast a no vote.

Posted in GAL Standards | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Should Judges Be Monitored By Juries?

Posted by CultureVigilante on August 11, 2011

There are increasingly more stories circulating about corrupt judges. We all know the judicial system, in the United States, is severely broken. It is, sadly, the one branch of government, on a national and local level, that goes relatively unchecked. They police their own, and unfortunately they make all the rules within their sphere of influence, so not much policing gets done. One good example of this is the loose definition by which Best Interest Of The Child Standards are applied. There seems to be no tangible outline of what that is in most states, and therefore, left up to interpretation of judges. Since legislatures and disciplinary committees are hesitant to oversee the behavior of this branch, it leaves a lot of room for shenanigans. Children and families are suffering because of the lack of oversight. Cases like the Ciavarella case are examples of why judges should not be left unsupervised. Perhaps the answer is requiring juries to supervise all family court cases. It certainly would be eye opening to the general populace, who manages to avoid this unfortunate and corrupt branch of government, for them to see the abuse that takes place there.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

 
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