29 January 2011

Audit unveils court problems

Source:  http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_17221225

Marin Voice: Audit unveils court problems

By Kathleen Russell
Guest op-ed column

Posted: 01/28/2011 01:59:00 AM PST

THE California Bureau of State Audits last week released its 109-page report, detailing the results of its 17-month audit of the Marin and Sacramento Family Courts.

Across the board and on nearly every measured aspect, the Sacramento and Marin family courts failed to meet the minimum standards required by law.

So you may wonder what the latest audit of the Marin family court means, and how the same report described by state Sen. Mark Leno as "quite disturbing" could be hailed by local Marin court officials as "proving beyond any doubt" that "there's no problem."

Simple. The Marin Court has deliberately mischaracterized this audit as comprehensive and boasted that "the report does not contain a single finding of "... judges and mediators putting children at risk."

Interestingly, the Center for Judicial Excellence and our allies drafted an earlier audit request focused on evaluating "increasing evidence that children in custody disputes are being removed from their primary, non-abusive caretakers and placed in the custody of parents who have been identified as the children's physical or sexual abusers."

The Administrative Office of the Courts — the lobbying arm of the California courts — labeled these "very serious allegations" and fought to narrow the scope of the audit, explaining in a May 19, 2009 letter, "these claims cannot be verified or refuted by the data collected

in the audit."

The Marin Court has apparently forgotten the California judiciary's stated position on the parameters of a viable audit.

The audit provides a valuable explanation as to why things remain awry in the Marin family court.

Consider some of the findings: The Marin Office of Family Court Services could not demonstrate that five of the seven family court mediators met even the minimum qualifications and training necessary to perform mediations and make custody recommendations. The court does not document and track complaints and potential conflicts of interest and their dispositions.

The Marin mediators' current supervisor is not qualified to perform clinical supervision of family court mediators regarding its individual cases, as required by law.

For all eight sampled complaints filed against mediators, the manager did not document whether he consulted with the mediator during the complaint investigation. In a considerable number of instances, the audit reported "limitations in their ability to determine the number of complaints received," making their data unreliable.

We must wonder whether the mass document destruction by the court and others during an eight-month standoff with the state auditor contributed to the significant gaps in recordkeeping.

The Marin Court could not demonstrate that its private evaluators were qualified and met certain requirements. For three of the five sample cases that the auditor reviewed involving a private custody evaluator, domestic violence training certificates were not attached to completed evaluation reports, as required by California Rules of Court.

Quality control issues dominate the report.

Because of the national impact of our work to protect children in family court, the center was recognized in October by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at an intimate White House ceremony commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

We were also honored to coordinate and facilitate the first White House briefing on the national family court crisis last May.

While the Marin Court seems unable or unwilling to accept auditor criticism and instead is attacking the center, we remain steadfast in our nearly five-year commitment to try to work collaboratively with the Marin Court to improve its service to our community's children.

We invite the Marin Superior Court to enlist the Marin County Bar Association and other interested stakeholders in a community forum to discuss how we can collaborate to transform Marin's Family Court into a model of best practices that protects children and makes us all proud.

Kathleen Russell is executive director of the Marin Center for Judicial Excellence.

Trouble With Women Video

28 January 2011

Sexual assault victim awarded property after defendant tried to get rid of it

Original:  http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20110127/articles/110129693

Finally, a judge that got it right!  Hooray!

By Matt Tomsic

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.

The victim of a sexual assault was awarded property in Pender County after a judge found her attacker transferred property to his sister to avoid fallout from a lawsuit filed by the victim.

The Pender County civil lawsuit stemmed from a conviction of first-degree aggravated sexual assault in New Jersey, according to court records.

George S. Conklin, 52, sexually assaulted a minor in 2004 and 2005. A year after the assaults, the victim's family filed a civil lawsuit against Conklin to recover damages. In 2009, a New Jersey superior court ruled in favor for the victim, awarding her about $1.5 million for medical costs, punitive damages and compensatory damages. But the victim's family discovered Conklin gave property in Pender County to his sister, Connie Ruth Huffman, six weeks after the family filed the lawsuit in New Jersey.

Conklin deeded the property to Huffman to protect it from any judgment his victim might receive from a lawsuit, according to an affidavit filed during the case.

In 2009, the family filed another lawsuit in Pender County against Conklin and Huffman to recover the property so they could receive their award from the civil lawsuit.

On Jan. 18, a Pender County judge ordered the defendants to give the three lots to the victim's family. The judge also awarded the family a 1990 Oakwood mobile home owned by Huffman. The value of the property and mobile home is more than $74,000.

Matt Tomsic: 343-2070

On Twitter.com: @MattToms

27 January 2011

Australian Judge lowers DV victim’s compensation because she is used to violence

WTF?  What in the hell was this judge thinking...WOW!  Apparently he isn’t.  Oh, and notice that the husband only served 8 months of a 2 year sentence to begin with.  That sentence seems low to begin with, only 2 years, for a violent incident that turned into a hostage stand-off when police arrived.

Source:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1350962/Battered-wifes-compensation-cut-used-violence.html#ixzz1CFyPp1Pw

Battered wife's compensation cut because she is 'used to violence'

By Richard Shears
Last updated at 3:59 PM on 27th January 2011

A terrified wife who had to lower her children from a window when confronted by her abusive knife-wielding husband has had her compensation pay-out cut by a judge because she was 'conditioned' to domestic violence.

The Australian judge said the woman, who was 26 at the time, had been subjected to violence in the past and suggested that because she was used to the abuse he agreed her compensation should be cut.

The decision has outraged domestic violence experts who said the Brisbane court's decision would only 'diminish' the woman's traumatic experience.

It was in 2006 that the woman and her children were confronted by her 36-year-old husband, who was wielding a knife.

A hostage stand-off developed when police arrived but the woman was able to hand her children out of a window.               

The District Court in Brisbane was told that the husband then pushed his wife into a bedroom door, injuring her shoulder.               

He was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to deprivation of liberty and common assault and was jailed for two years, to be suspended after eight months.               

His wife, who has not been named, applied for criminal compensation and was awarded the equivalent of £13,000.

But lawyers for the Queensland government appealed and argued that the percentage of the maximum compensation for mental anguish should be reduced from 34 per cent to 20 per cent.               

Judge Jones said a 20 per cent reduction was justified, meaning that the woman will now receive £10,400.               

The judge said that unfortunately for the woman, the incident was one of a long history of domestic violence, resulting in her being conditioned to it by her husband.               

Because of her predisposition to post traumatic stress disorder, he agreed the 20 per cent reduction was justified.               

He noted, however, that the offences before him had pushed the woman over the edge.               

Domestic violence experts told Brisbane's Courier Mail that the cut-back was the latest case in which judges expressed concern that their hands were tied when awarding criminal compensation payments to people who had suffered domestic violence over a long period.               

Miss Diane Mangan, chief executive of the help-line DV Connect, said the decision to reduce the payout because of the woman's predisposition to mental stress from previous domestic violence served to diminish her traumatic experience.               

'It's almost like saying the years that you have suffered at the hands of your husband don't count,' she told the paper.

Australians have expressed outrage at the decision to cut the woman's compensation. 

'I just hope this judge never has a family member in a similar situation,' said one writer to a newspaper's online comment page.

'Where is the justice here?'               

One man said the Australian legal system is a colossal failure.

'When is this going to be fixed?' he asked. 'When are Australians going to get off their apathetic behinds and tell our local members, state and federal ministers that enough is enough.'

Va. Senator Proposes Castration for Sex Offenders

I’m not actually sure how I feel about the below proposal.  One the one hand I’m all for cut their dicks off!  Then they can’t stick ‘em where they are not welcomed.  However, will that really prevent them from committing sexually violent crimes?  No, it won’t... they just won’t be able to use their dicks to commit those crimes if they are cut off.  Will this actually protect people from these sexually violent perps.... probably not.  What do you think?

Source:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/01/26/va-senator-seeks-castrate-sex-offenders/#ixzz1C9qDQ8Ia  (All links within the article leading to Wikipedia were added by me.)

Published January 26, 2011

| Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Virginia legislator is proposing castrating sex offenders as an alternative to the increasing costs to detain and treat them after they've served their prison sentences.

Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger's bill would require the state to study the use of physical castration as an alternative to civil commitment for sexually violent predators. A similar proposal was vetoed four years ago.

The civil commitment program's budget grew from $2.7 million in 2004 to $24 million this year. Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed spending nearly $70 million over the next two years to meet the increasing demands.

Hanger's bill also would require study of the crimes that qualify for commitment, the process and housing options for those who leave the program.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/01/26/va-senator-seeks-castrate-sex-offenders/#ixzz1CC6gLAL2

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