"I read with interest, sadness, and disbelief the recent Op-Ed penned by our Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice, the Honorable Chase T. Rogers. While her article of March 7, 2014, opens by acknowledging the undeniable pain and difficulty of court cases involving divorce and child custody, it fails to address in any manner whatsoever the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ – the financial incentives at all levels which have undermined the system for decades, enriching many of those working within, at the direct expense of the very children the court claims they are so focused on protecting.
To be fair, the problem does not rest with all attorneys and all judges and all court-appointed professionals, but the body of evidence is overwhelming to support the assertion that it is certainly more than just a few rogue individuals. The fact that some family court problems are finally being addressed at all is NOT because the court decided to act on its own accord, but because individual parents, desperately seeking answers to their own problems, managed to assemble and protest – a process that is fundamental to the founding of our country.
While one of the most notable problems garnering media attention in the last year is that of the Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) and their questionable involvement in many family cases, this is not the only legitimate issue that has been raised. Far too many litigants have given public testimony citing a range of clear civil rights violations, questionable use of incarceration by family court judges, denied access to their children, blatant perjury and/or fraud ignored by the court, favoritism toward counsel vs. self-represented litigants, and a host of burdensome financial orders lacking factual or legal basis that have wrongfully stripped many litigants of retirement savings, children’s college funds, and homes – to say nothing of their dignity, credit ratings, and reputations within their respective professions and communities.
In this writer’s assessment, our Chief Justice would do well to remove her robe, as well as her legal hat for a moment, and objectively consider what has driven so many parents to speak out as they have. More importantly, she should consider the far greater numbers who are afraid to speak out because they have seen and heard of the retaliation that often follows. If she isn’t willing to acknowledge the facts, and isn’t willing to consider the messages raised by parents, then perhaps she’ll at least consider the points raised by those few members of the Connecticut Bar who have been brave enough to risk their own careers by speaking out against the dishonesty that they see occurring in court – actions that are required under the Attorney’s Oath.
Several months ago, I contacted the Judicial Branch seeking raw data to conduct a statistical analysis into cases that go to appeal or certification. The very capable individuals who handled my request could not have been more professional or courteous in their response, but to my surprise, the data I was requesting had never been requested before – by anyone – ever. Since I’m first at bat, it appears I’ll have the privilege of funding the project (nearly $900).
One would think the Judiciary Committee or our Chief Justice or Chief Court Administrator would want and need to know things like:
· What percentage of appeals stem from family matters?
· What is the average duration of an appeal?
· What trends do the data suggest over the last decade or two?
· Which family court judges have the most appeals filed?
· Which family court judges have the most reversals?
· Are there statistical patterns that might serve as early detection?
· What percent of appeals involve self-represented litigants?
· and so many other questions . . .
As the Judicial Branch presses the legislature to approve funding for yet more insiders to support their pilot program, I’d suggest the legislature respond by requiring the Branch to be more transparent and accountable for the results of the money already being spent.
The mission of the Connecticut Judicial Branch, as reported on its’ web site is, “to serve the interests of justice and the public by resolving matters brought before it in a fair, timely, efficient and open manner.” Further, “The judiciary is the cornerstone of our democracy and, if the public is confident that our judges, compensation commissioners, and family support magistrates have integrity, are impartial, are independent, and act with propriety, the public will support the judiciary as it functions within our legal system.” (Purpose of the Judicial Review Council, established 1976).
The significant increase in public testimony, appeals, and attorney and judicial grievances should serve as ample evidence that the public has lost confidence in the mission and performance of the judiciary. To regain that confidence, the public needs to see real evidence and action that the system is willing to police itself and make meaningful, swift changes that are truly in the best interests of our children."