Friday, May 8, 2015

The Trauma of Mother's Day

I don't think one has to be a mother to write, read or understand the concepts behind this article about Mother's Day and the special trauma it brings for many people, for many reasons. In fact, you don't even need to be female. I'm not . . . and yet my recent conversations with two different moms triggered the thoughts that will follow.

In the United States, the Mother's Day Holiday dates back to 1908 and officially 1914. As one of the more notable Hallmark holidays, the messaging starts months in advance — cards on shelves nearly everywhere you look (even gas stations), special merchandising emphasis from virtually every product category, and in more recent years even includes a steady bombardment of reminder e-mail messages . . . counting down the days and reminding us to shop now or the world as we know it will likely come to an unceremonious end.

Well, for some, all this hype represents a special type of trauma . . . merely triggering a momentary melt-down. Or two. Or ten . . . each day, until the day passes. Then back to the 'normal melt-down' cycle. I've read some interesting posts online about the trauma associated with Mother's Day, but none seemed to address that which I've learned about by speaking with some mom's who have been surprisingly and unbelievably victimized by the Connecticut Judicial Branch.

Trauma of Mother's Day and Abusive Court Orders
Now, it certainly should be stated that no two situations are alike and that there are multiple views to any one story, but in learning about one court case recently, I can't help but wonder what the hell is going on behind closed doors at the Connecticut Superior Court at Waterbury, where Judge Maureen Murphy has been warming the family bench for a while.

Sadly, it seems that court and baseball have some strange things in common. In baseball parlance, when you are 'warming the bench,' it means you're not doing a good enough job to be sent out onto the field of play. Either you've been pulled out of a game, or were not showing enough promise in recent practice to be sent out in the first place. In the world of Connecticut jurisprudence, when you're a judge doing a poor job, you get to keep warming the bench. Rather than being pulled off and sent out to play somewhere. Go figure.

Anyway, I was in The Brass City on other business recently and after coming out of the beautifully restored Waterbury City Hall, saw a small crowd gathered in front of the nearby courthouse at 300 Grand Street. With 45 minutes left on the meter, I decided to walk across the street to see what had so captivated this somewhat diverse crowd of 20-or-so people. Turns out they had just come from the courtroom of Judge Maureen Murphy, awaiting decision in a disturbing case for which I've now had the chance to read a few years worth of court documents. Not that I don't like listening and talking with people, mind you, but I find quite often that facts of a case are somewhat distorted — even if unintentionally — by well-intended family and friends. So, I read the case detail and relevant documents for myself to adopt my own informed opinion.

Now, if you knew the details of my own case, you'd be surprised to read my support of a mom being accused of parental alienation, trying to diminish or abolish the role of dad in the eyes of two young children. BUT, peel just one thin layer off the onion in this case and one learns that this mom is challenged, holding it together after being a legitimate victim of domestic violence . . . and, ultimately, being strong enough to break away, rather than suffer in shame and silence which is what most abusers count on.

Out of respect for the privacy of this family who has already suffered enough, I will step away from the specifics of their case, but will address an important underlying fact. The Connecticut courts appear to have little-to-no regard for litigants with hidden disabilities. There are many FAQs and other things posted on the Judicial Branch web site about the Americans with Disabilities Act, but talking-the-talk certainly does not equate to walking-the-walk. There are now a string of disturbing cases where litigants with disabilities (or who are perceived or regarded as having disabilities) are being discriminated against. As if the discrimination isn't bad enough, the more troubling part is the interference, retaliation and coercion that are taking place in direct violation of federal ADA law.

This case, Gizzi v. Gizzi, will likely rise to be a landmark Connecticut case for disability rights and victims rights, but that is little-to-no consolation to a mother, a victim, who has been re-victimized not by a 'system' (which sounds so anonymous), but by a judge who clearly does not understand the first thing about disability rights, victims rights, and protections in federal law which take precedence over local rules of practice. Having authored a detailed decision on January 6, 2015 that removed two children from this mothers care, giving 'temporary' sole legal and physical custody to the convicted-abuser father . . . well, I guess that says a lot right there, but we will all have to watch closely as this plays out. Has many of the same fingerprints on the court files as the case of Tittle vs. Tittle, another very disturbing case.

In the mean time, recognize that some mothers will be punished this Mother's Day, as will the children who will be prevented from showering their mom with affection, handing them the card lovingly crafted as a surprise in-class project, or even just snuggling in bed for an extra hour . . . these are things that an appellate court can not give back to any mother or child . . . and so best we get it right first time around and not punish a victim who has decided to advocate for her rights and those of her children.


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