Last night the Judicial Nominating Commission completed its work and selected a list of 5 candidates whom the Governor will interview in order to appoint one chief judge of Family Court, subject to Senate confirmation.
This gives the public two more opportunities for public input—to the Governor and then, after he appoints one candidate, to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Because of the cases I have followed, I had concerns about all the candidates. My comments made me uncomfortable. I get no joy out of embarrassing people or being overly critical.
We heard the usual tributes, including some that were very moving. I did not speak in support of one candidate, but for whichever candidates might be most likely to reform the system. At least two had submitted plans.
The public needs an opportunity to reflect on all their proposals. Together the candidates represent 90 years of experience on the bench, and they have significant insights.
I came home and went online to search for states that have performance reviews of judges:
I was surprised to find Rhode Island on that list, because a commission had been appointed in 1993 after scandal enveloped the Supreme Court. As far as I know, nothing came of their work; judicial review is not being practiced here.
At that time, the judge who is now Acting Chief Judge of Family Court opposed it, saying it would compromise judicial independence. But a good review process should help to ensure the independence of judges.
I think we need judicial review, especially in Family Court. Well-intentioned judges need reliable, anonymous feedback from lawyers and also from litigants.
Is there a candidate for chief judge who is able to imagine a pilot project to begin judicial review in Family Court? Could a similar method help litigants to evaluate lawyers anonymously?
I wonder if I got it wrong when I feared a “fix” was in for a judge who had been on the bench less than one year. My suspicion came from the last time a governor named a chief judge to Family Court and appointed his “best friend,” who had been a judge for barely a year. That person ran the court for 23 years.
Maybe I got it wrong.
Maybe the Commission had seen something they liked in that new judge, and it was not a political “fix” at all.
Last night, he appeared modest, without an entourage, no glad-handing, only his equally modest adult son to speak for him.
When he lost the vote, I thought, maybe there was no fix after all.
Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe he would have been a fine chief judge.
I woke up today wondering how it affects people who wear black robes and sit up high, fully expected to pass judgment on others.
How often do they wonder if they got it wrong?
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: