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:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

9.G. The Supreme Court weighs in, 1999

This case study begins at 9.A. below. (Click on August, then 9.A. in the Blog Archives at right.) My comments appear in italicized brackets.

August 1998 Based on Dr. Jenny’s revised report, DCYF overturned the indication against “Vincent,” and accused the mother of neglect. But they felt confident enough to let her continue caring for the children under supervision of the child protection agency in Illinois. The neglect charge offered her a legal means to get a public defender, Brian LeClair, in Rhode Island who could respond to Vincent’s frequent motions without requiring the mother to keep returning to Rhode Island.

November 1998 Once again, “Vincent” secured a letter from U.S. Sen. Jack Reed—this time to Chief Judge Jeremiah. Reed asserted that the mother had Muchausen’s--even though DCYF’s psychologist Dr. Ira Gross had rejected that diagnosis and said she was suffering from PTSD due to her “constant torment and abuse by her former husband” (Kathryn Hammann, Revised Summary of Facts, 8/24/98: 3.)

When Jeremiah received Senator Reed’s letter, he ordered yet another review of the case. Vincent again threatened to sue DCYF’s chief legal counsel Kevin Aucoin for failing to schedule an administrative hearing on his latest appeal.

September 1999 Vincent’s physician, Dr. Perry Mandanis, MD, reported to the court that his patient had been “thoroughly compliant with his treatment” and “that he was successful in coparenting with his first wife and raised their son without conflict”—an assertion that is contrary to the first wife’s 1991 motion for sole custody (Perry Mandanis, MD, Progress Notes, 9/9/99: 1).

[This is why reports by privately paid experts need to be evaluated by an independent multidisciplinary team, rather than taking the court’s time on potentially biased reports.]

September 1999 A Catholic Charities case worker reported that her visits to the family’s home in Illinois “go very well.” She wrote: "Both children are very well adjusted children. I have observed a very strong bond between them and [mother] on a number of occasions. . . . Academically,they are overachievers and genuinely good kids. (Catholic Charities Report, 9/19/99: 1-2). Both children said they felt “uncomfortable” talking to their father on the phone. The 10-year-old son said he was “scared that his father was taping the call, especially when he forced [son] to say he loved him. [Son] said he felt he would use that against his mother in court or something. He said that it wasn’t that he doesn’t love his father, because he does, but at that time he wasn’t feeling love for him and didn’t want to say it” (Catholic Charities Report, 9/19/99: 2-3).

The case worker found the Illinois home “safe, nurturing and appropriate” for the children, but also described a disastrous visit when the mother verbally attacked a therapist who allowed Vincent to have a four-hour unsupervised visit.

Master John O’Brien approved a motion from DCYF lawyer Martha Diamond to bring both children into foster care in Rhode Island. The mother resisted, saying she had no money for plane fare and not enough time to drive to Rhode Island for the next hearing.

October 1999 DCYF chief legal counsel Kevin Aucoin secured an order from Master O’Brien issuing an arrest warrant for the mother and fining her $100 a day until she returned the children to Rhode Island.

O’Brien signed a confusing warrant to arrest a “child,” but it gave the mother’s name with the father’s address--perhaps so Vincent could call officers if the mother brought the children there and have her taken to prison.

Knowing she would be arrested if she came to Rhode Island, the mother refused to bring the children. O'Brien issued an order for the children, ages 9 and 10, to be seized in Illinois for extradition to Rhode Island. The mother’s public defender, Brian LeClair, secured a stay from the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which found Master O’Brien’s order improper.

NEXT: 9.H. "Vincent" wins sole custody, 2000