[This case study will extend through several posts. My comments appear in italicized brackets.]
In the early 1990s, I watched Chief Judge Jeremiah make a strong effort to respond to some domestic violence cases, especially when people contacted him directly about the dangers they faced. He sometimes took over judging those cases himself.
Sometimes he favored abusers, like the police officer who held custody of his daughter for a dozen years while he kept getting his ex-wife arrested on false charges.
Often Chief Jeremiah brought in his close circle of lawyers and staff to work on cases. [I thought some of them abused their power, as in the Case Study, at 3, below.]
People who received the Chief’s personal help were grateful, while the Family Court system as a whole continued putting vulnerable children at risk-- along with the parents trying to protect them, who were traumatized by the Court as much as by their abusers.
Pettinato’s “friendly parent” standard (see post 8, below) required judges to force children into damaging relationships with aggressively manipulative personalities—like one I will call “Vincent,” who drove judges crazy.
Vincent’s relatives said he had suffered extreme child abuse, but he would not talk about it. As an adult, he refused to take orders from anyone. He married three times and insisted on controlling his wives and children.
Vincent’s bullying behavior distressed professionals outside and within Family Court, including a series of judges. He tried to control his second family through the court for 14 years (1992-2006). He manipulated the court process at enormous cost to his children, to his former wife, and to taxpayers who funded those fourteen years in operating costs, overhead and salaries of judges, sheriffs, clerks, stenographers, DCYF staff, and many others on public payrolls.
Vincent drove a series of judges to distraction—especially Jeremiah, O’Brien, Lipsey, and Forte.
Lipsey finally figured out what was going on and even named it. But instead of making a finding, he did something extraordinary and recused himself. He explained that Rhode Island's Code of Judicial Conduct precluded him from ruling on the case because, after studying all the evidence, he had become biased against Vincent!
The case went next to Forte, its twelfth judge, who revealed intense bias against Vincent’s wife, but never showed any qualms of conscience about Canon 3E of the Judicial Code.
Most judges preferred to blame both sides without recognizing (as Lipsey did) that one side was very clearly at fault.
NEXT: 9.B. A chronology of Vincent’s case
Color of Law Custody Cases
Color of Law Custody Cases
Rhode Island and other states often violate civil rights in civil courts when officials threaten to separate children from protective parents who are their lifeline. These cases may include "color of law" abuses that push the boundaries of law. Judges who allow color of law abuse in their courtrooms are guilty of "color of office."
In Family Court, we give judges ultimate power over people’s lives while taking away their curiosity, concern, and even their ability to inquire about what is really happening in these cases. This transfers the power to guardians ad litem and lawyers. These officers of the court can convince a judge--through false allegations that are frequently off the record--to remove children, imprison innocent parents, then bankrupt them through years of frivolous motions, and forbid them to talk about it--all under color of law.
In domestic abuse custody cases, this enables the abusive parent to gain extraordinary power and control over the protective parent and the children.
Here is more information about color of law: