Judge “G” Strikes Again

Father sees injustice in commissioner’s handling of custody case.

Judge "G" Strikes Again

You awake to the sound of someone pounding on your door and yelling out “police.” As you head toward the front door in your t-shirt and shorts you note the time is 11:30 pm and your mother and sister, who share the house with you and your five children, have awakened and are both in the living room looking at you with fear in their eyes. The children, who slept in a rear bedroom, have not awakened. As you hurry toward the door you think this must be a mistake because there is no reason for the police to come to your home.

You open the door and see two officers and a woman standing outside. The woman announces that she is from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and that they received a call that you have been abusing your oldest son, 12 years old, and have recently punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground and then kicking him. You tell her that you know the call came from your ex-wife and that it is not true. You are engaged in a custody dispute regarding the children, and this is another effort by her to avoid the family courts, where she has never been successful before.

The DCFS worker tells you that regardless of what you say they have come to take the children away from you. You tell her that you have never hit any of your children.  The DCFS worker tells you that the caller told her that your punches caused your son to bleed from his mouth. Again you deny any abuse of your son and tell her that the incident she is referring to took place three days before, and that you had restrained your son from opening the front gate by grabbing and holding him, but no punches were thrown.

Indeed, you tell her that the police were called to your home that day by your ex-wife, and they investigated and found no sign of any abuse to any of the children. In fact, they left without making a report. You also tell her that the morning after the incident you had gone to your son’s school and spoken with his counselor; hoping to enlist her help in coping with the youngster. You’ve always been a strict father and wanted your children to get good grades and stay out of the gangs, which are well entrenched in your community.

Your ex-wife, on the other hand, allowed the children to do whatever they wanted without any supervision. The DCFS worker tells you that they are taking the children, and that a hearing on the allegations against you will be held in a few days at the juvenile courthouse.

The three youngest children, all girls ages, three through seven, are now clinging to your mother and sister. They are crying, but the social worker and the police scoop them and take them away. Your oldest son, who gave you the most trouble, has a little smile on his face. It occurrs to you that he knew this was coming because his mother must have phoned him to tell him of her call to the DCFS. Eventually the children are taken away, but neither you, your mother, or your sister get any sleep for the rest of the night.

In the morning you search through your old papers and finally find the card for the lawyer who had represented you in obtaining a restraining order against your ex-wife when she had pulled a knife on you during an argument over money. That was nine years ago. The arguments never ceased, and eventually you got a divorce three years ago. You both represented yourselves at the divorce proceedings. Your ex-wife told the judge that she wanted custody of the three girls and you could have custody of the two boys. She said that if she was granted custody you would never be allowed any visits with the girls. The judge decided that was in the best interest of the children for you to have primary physical custody, with your wife allowed reasonable visitations.

The last two girls, who were twins, were only five months old when you were awarded custody. For almost three years after the divorce your ex-wife did not once visit the kids. However, about three months ago she started calling and showing up — and that is when the troubles started with your rebellious 12-year-old son. The incident that resulted in the children being taken away started when she suddenly showed up unannounced at your gate and you refused to let her take the children out. Your oldest son became belligerent, and you had to grab him to restrain him from jumping the fence.

That was the full extent of the physical altercation, but your ex-wife still called the police. They came, saw no evidence of any abuse, and left. Before leaving, the officer in charge told your son to behave himself or else he might end up being the one locked up.

The next morning, a Monday, you went to your son’s school and spoke to the counselor. Now, three days later, your children are taken away because of a call to DCFS alleging that you abuses your son.

You call the lawyer and make an appointment. You arrive at his office for your appointment, and he remembers you from the earlier matter, nine years ago. You explain what happened, and he tells you that the real problem is that the law in the Los Angeles Juvenile Court depends on which judge gets your case. In your case he tells you that the name of the assigned judge will not be known until you arrive at the courthouse and check with the receptionist.

In the meantime, there’s much you can do because you won’t get the DCFS worker’s report until you got to the courthouse for the hearing. The children are in a foster home and will remain there until the hearing. The lawyers you that at the first hearing he wants to propose alternative accommodations for the children. He asks you for a list of family or friends with whom the children are comfortable, and who could accommodate them until this matter is resolved. He also asks if you would be willing to move out of your home if the judge was willing to return the children to your home in care of your mother and sister. You say that you would move out in a second if that was possible.

The lawyer tells you that he will suggest that at the hearing, but he also want the list of other family members willing to take the children into their homes.

You arrive at the courthouse with your mother and sister, and the receptionist tells you the number of the courtroom where your case will be heard. You take the elevator, and when you arrive at the door your attorney is already there. He tells you that, unfortunately, you have drawn Judge “G.” He says that the “G” did not stand for “good.” Judge “G,” he tells you, means Judge “God.” He has no interest in the law, and believes in his instincts. Although he is a court commissioner and not a real judge, you cannot simply refuse to accept him by not signing an agreement to allow him to hear your case, something you could do in any Family Law courtroom.

Finally, the bailiff opens the courtroom and your lawyer tells you that this commissioner — Judge G — actually calls role, just like you are back in school. Everyone files into the courtroom, and soon it is standing room only. Judge G calls the names of the various cases. Everyone associated with the case acknowledges their presence, and then has to leave the courtroom. Your lawyer explains that, because all juvenile matters are confidential, only the persons associated with a particular case are allowed into the courtroom when that matter is called.

Your case is called, and your lawyer responds. Before leaving the courtroom he collects the DCFS report. Outside the courtroom he explains that the allegations in the report is that you have beaten both boys with your fist on a number of occasions, and therefore all the children are at substantial risk of harm if they remain with you. The report also states that the DCFS worker who came to your home had carefully examined your son’s mouth and found no sign of any cuts or bruises to his lips or gums. She also reported that she examined the bodies of all the children and found no bruises on any of their bodies. The report goes on to state that the DFCS worker had visited your ex-wife’s apartment and, although she claimed to live alone, there was a man in the only bedroom. Your ex-wife claimed that she didn’t know the man’s name.

Your lawyer tells you that the fact that the report raises issues regarding your ex-wife’s credibility is good, but adds that he cannot guarantee anything in juvenile court. He leaves you looking at the report and tells you that he wants to go and talk with the attorney appointed to represent the children about accommodations for them.

After a while he returns and tells you that his offer to provide accommodations for the children through friends, or have them return to you home, have been rejected by the attorney for the children. The children’s attorney, who is assigned to that courtroom, and the attorney appointed for your ex-wife, who is also assigned to that courtroom, have gotten together and decided to propose releasing the children to your ex-wife that afternoon. Your attorney tells you that he will object to this arrangement and request an investigation before the children are released.

Eventually your case is called, and everyone files back into the courtroom, now empty of all spectators. The children’s attorney tells the court that he is proposing that the children be released to your ex-wife that afternoon. Your ex-wife’s attorney joins in that proposal, and the DFCS lawyer does not object. Your lawyer objects and argues that the DFCS worker’s own report casts doubt on the allegations against you and raises questions about your ex-wife’s credibility. He proposes releasing the children to your mother and sister or, at a minimum, conduct an investigation before releasing the children to anyone.

Judge G indicates that he is leaning toward the proposal of the children’s attorney, but he will order an investigation and continue the hearing for four days. As you leave the courtroom your lawyer tells you to expect a call from a DCFS investigator. He says to give him the names and phone numbers of the police officers who came to your home, as well as the school counselor to whom you spoke about your son.

The following day you get a call from a man who identifies himself as the investigator from the court. You tell him the history of your relationship with your ex-wife, and give him the names and phone numbers of the officers and the counselor. You offer to show him the papers from your previous custody battles with your ex-wife. You emphasize that three judges in the Family Law Courts have refused to grant custody to her.

The investigator tells you that he will include all you have told him in his report to the court, and wishes you luck.

You and your attorney return to court. Your attorney picks up a copy of the investigator’s report. He reads it and tells you that the investigator has stated in his report that he is against the release of the children to the mother at this time, and therefore recommends that alternative accommodations be found for the children. He tells you that this is helpful, but ultimately the decision lies with Judge G.

Your case is called, and both the children’s attorney and your ex-wife’s attorney urge Judge G to ignore the conclusion of the investigator and release the children to their mother. Your attorney objects and points out the DCFS worker originally involved in this case examined your son’s mouth and all the children’s bodies and found no bruises anywhere on them or any other signs of abuse — despite the fact that your ex-wife had told her that you had kicked your son at least 10 times while he was on the ground. He reminds the court that the DCFS worker also pointed out that there was a credibility issue regarding your wife’s insistence that she did not know the name of the man who was in her bedroom. Your attorney closes by reminding Judge G that three previous judges in Family Law Court, applying the California Standard of “what is in the best interest of the children,” had all awarded custody to you after hearing testimony from both you and your ex-wife.

Judge G interrupts your lawyer at this point to remind him that once this matter is in Juvenile Court, the Family Law judges no longer have any jurisdiction. Your attorney acknowledges that this is true, but tells the judge that it is relevant because, after hearing from both parties, the Family Law judges had uniformly concluded that giving custody to your ex-wife was not in the best interest of the minor children.

Judge G asks your lawyer if he is finished with his argument, and your lawyer answers, “yes” and sits down. The Commissioner then announces that, despite what the investigator stated in his report and your lawyer argued, he is going to release the children to your ex-wife that afternoon. You can have visitations, but they must be monitored.

Your lawyer stands up to argue again, but Judge G immediately cuts him off, saying “Good day folks.” He then tells the bailiff to bring in the parties on the next case.

As you leave the courtroom with your lawyer, you ask him how this Judge G could so easily ignore the decisions of the previous judges who had actually interviewed both of you and sent you both to the Family Court conciliator before denying your ex-wife’s custody requests.

Your lawyer looks at you and shakes his head.

“Judge G strikes again,” he answers.

Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe, Esq. is a contributer to Carib Press

Email: richard.lowe@caribpress.com

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