Cameras Needed in Courtrooms

Do Cameras in Courtrooms Make a Difference?

There is no question that our citizens are safer when there is transparency in legal matters, but some judges are going out of their way, even issuing gag orders to media in addition to parties and sealing records in select cases, to prevent a review of what goes wrong in child custody matters when laws, facts and evidence are ignored or concealed from the court.

For several years I’ve been observing, analyzing and reporting on issues in family conflict matters that are causing avoidable stress and loss to children and to loving, safe and available parents. At the center of all of my research and reporting is the needs of children, which too often are forgotten or just set aside. The reports are not what matters, but the possibility of improving outcomes for children; the correct term for this form of journalism is Solutions-Based Journalism.

This form of news media and investigative reporting may not be popular in some circles as it challenges the dangerous status quo, but if it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t be talking about Rule 22 laws and cameras in courtrooms in this state. This is a critical topic the public needs to know is being debated and decided, so I’ll share more of my work and that of other journalists to support understanding and participation in this debate. In the meantime, please ask video journalist Nydia Tisdale about her experience filming public events and proceedings, and ask how you can support her efforts to inform citizens and increase transparency. Her unique work has been featured by news media not only in Georgia but by the Associated Press for her bold moves to support open government and greater public participation.

The more you know, the greater likelihood you’ll contact your legislators and your local news media because we do need cameras in courtrooms and we do need ongoing reporting about how family conflict and legal matters are managed.

A major issue for all, including for ethical, talented legal and healthcare professionals, is that foul play by certain other professionals is rampant and worsening with each year. In part this is due to a vulnerable and unsuspecting public but is also due to a cloudy courtroom landscape where it is easy to disguise bad faith and unethical tactics used to increase billable hours.

Another factor in the worsening of predatory & harmful case management is that certain judges are willing to play along, such as in this highly unusual Augusta situation which was investigated and reported on by local news media.

In the case featured in the news report below, the judge gave custody of the mother’s daughter to her ex-boyfriend when he gave custody of her two sons to this man, their father. However, the man has no biological or legal relationship to the girl, meaning this child and her mother were tormented and torn apart unnecessarily. Note: I have no connection to these parties, no bias or preference other than for facts and laws to count for the children involved. After studying dozens of cases closely in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, collaborating with local news media & seeing news stories through to completion, I know these courtrooms and local practices well and stand by my work and these news reports. Also worth noting, this is not water under the bridge for these children and their families; the damages are ongoing, and more families are being harmed in similar ways as you read this.

The Featured Report:

If the facts and evidence of this case justified an award of custody to the father of the boys, that would be reasonable, but the court also ignored the physical, visible evidence of family violence.

In a separate conversation we’ll feature more of the instruction for judges pursuant to the Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book, which should be required reading for court officers and court staff such as clerks, social workers and others working with judges on these cases. This Bench Book is available online and published as a 10th edition, with participation from dozens of professionals from around the state of Georgia, so it’s not a secret to our courts that family violence, including in making determinations of custody and visitation, is a matter to be taken seriously.

Please review this news report and ask yourself how this could happen, why a judge would do this, and if the judge is making this kind of ruling, what else is going wrong in his courtroom.

Another key question is whether or not this court and this family could have benefitted from the application of instructions found in the Judicial Guide to Child Custody.

Solutions to Consider:

First, learn about your local courts before you enter into a legal action. Learn about practices of professionals before you sign agreements and pay retainers. Understand why so many families are losing their homes, health and jobs during or following litigation and especially why so many children are kept in or moved to unsafe environments.

Next, learn about accountability systems that exist to provide oversight of professional conduct, including judges and other court officers and experts who help determine outcomes. Do you see any consequences being given to professionals in your area or are you familiar with any investigations into questionable conduct of those managing these types of cases?

Also, learn from the testimony of lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, grandparents and others who are brave enough and articulate enough to state clearly what they experience or witness, and who are willing to call it what it is – especially if something improper has transpired, as in this Augusta news report.

Remember that all of these court professionals, including judges and child custody experts, are human, meaning they make mistakes, become fatigued and even worn out by the extreme emotions displayed in these cases; none of them, and none of us, are perfect. But the reality is that they have sworn to uphold our laws and they have a duty to do what is right by the children caught in litigation and who are often torn apart in the process.

Where you have the opportunity to encourage the use of cameras in courtrooms, with proper approval of Rule 22 Requests to Record, Videotape and/or Audiotape, to Televise or otherwise make publicly available these proceedings, please do so as it is highly likely you will help save lives.

Please contact My Advocate Center and let me know if you have questions or would like to contribute toward making these solutions available.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham, Founder

Our Wish is for Children to Be Cared for by Safe, Loving Parents

These simple wishes this holiday season remain our top priority:

family, charity, healthcare, health. christmas, x-mas and happy

Return children who have been removed from parents they love and need. Prevent children from being sent out of state and isolated for the purpose of silencing them.

Restore relationships between children and parents when they are separated for all the wrong reasons, and even cut off from all communication.

Protect children who are being abused, including emotionally abused when safe, loving parents are threatened with the loss of their children.

Protect the rights of parents asking court professionals to ensure they stay in the lives of their children. When the opportunity presents, help them recover from trauma and loss associated with these avoidable problems.

Show some courage and help grant them their wishes!

 

The Rights of Children

Should children have rights when parents and other family members fight?

Needs of Children_Freedom to Know Their Parents and Be Protected

Excerpt of material borrowed from Jennifer Baker PhD’s article on this case of child abuse and deprivation:

“Barbara Bennett Woodhouse  is the L. Q. C. Lamar Chair in Law at Emory and serves as faculty advisor for the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic.

She is one of our most eminent scholars on the topic of children’s rights. She has developed an account of five basic human rights that represent what other experts agree is crucial to the well-being of children. (Please read her excellent book on children’s rights, here(link is external).)

These are: privacy rights. While we are familiar with how these work in regard to adult lives, for children, “the basic unit of privacy is not the individual but the relationship between the child and the caregiver. “ Children, in other words, need us to respect their relationships and their capacities to form relationships.

Agency rights. Children develop voices and they have agency. They need to have a voice in matters that affect them, even if “they are not ready to take responsibility for the ultimate choice.” Children are both citizens-in-training and valuable in their own right, as they are.

Equality. Children, dependent on communities as they are, deserve access to the necessities of life that other children in the community are given.

Dignity. Children are their own persons, and “laws that penalized innocent children for the sins of their parents,” as existed in the Victorian era, have come to look “inhumane.”

And finally, protection rights. Civilization depends on the weak being protected from the strong. Situations where children are put in danger of harm violate these children’s rights.

Woodhouse explains that children’s rights flow “from the same set of basic values” that give adults rights. We cannot, in other words, pretend adult rights are on some firmer basis than those of children.”

Do you agree?

Let us know: MyAdvocateCenter.com

Use your voice,

Deb Beacham

 

Protected: Baldwin Blunders Should Lead to an Open Investigation

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The Mystery Around False Allegations & Alienation

The subjects of False Allegations and Alienation of parents and children come up often, and are also often intertwined. In a large number of the cases we see, the parent who is committed to hurting the other parent – using the children – engages in tactics to either cut off the other parent from the children and / or works to discourage the children from loving and trusting the other parent.  This hurts the children in harsh and lasting ways, so this is why you see groups around the country focusing on stopping this form of abuse called alienation.

Making false claims against the other parent is just one way that the aggressor parent and his or her lawyer can manipulate the court into disrupting the relationship between the other parent and their children.  The aggressor parent can be motivated to punish the other parent, looking to use the children to control the outcome of the case, and using this form of foul play to reduce the financial settlement and child support to the other parent.

This is what we have observed in the Newnan story reported on by news media, as it was being driven by false claims perpetuated and leveraged in court by certain experts and attorneys. This case is not the only one where a mother is being falsely accused and prevented from seeing her children. Another Fulton County case reported on by news media shared the same use of foul play – creating a situation that could be falsely claimed as being the mother’s fault – to support a motion to make her pay…in every way possible. In both of these cases the local law enforcement and courts are being manipulated, undermined in their duties and leveraged to increase damages financially and legally to the targeted parent.

Most of these targeted mothers and fathers do not have much of a voice, and often have been drained of resources so they are unable to recover and manage through the necessary litigation to get their children back.

What is interesting is that at least one attorney calling himself a “Father’s Rights” attorney is doing to good mothers what men claim is being done to them — setting them up to fail and preventing them from having a relationship with their children. Based on what we’ve seen this attorney do in court, this is not just a big problem for fathers. Do your due diligence before you hire, and think twice before you wrongfully have another parent prosecuted.

More recently we are seeing good parents (mothers, fathers, grandparents) and professionals come together to support each other and to see what can be done about this.  Is it possible to intervene and turn these cases around, and to help victims recover?

It is terrible for these children to lose healthy, loving parents, and some of these children are being abused by the parent that the court awarded custody to, while ignoring and suppressing evidence of abuse. This is the situation in some of our Cobb, Fulton, Forsyth, Newnan Augusta stories.

If the mother is using false allegations, she may be looking to increase the amount of child support or the financial settlement by using fear and duress around the children and the father’s career and reputation. She may just want the father out of her way so she can move where she wants to freely, or may need him to appear guilty when she is the one who is addicted or violent. This is the situation in several of the Atlanta and Augusta cases we are analyzing and reporting on. Neither the aggressor parent nor their attorneys – or the custody experts involved – are thinking twice about the damages to the children, let alone the fact that they are destroying an innocent party.

False Allegations_Unreasonable Child Support Either way, this is wrong and should not be enabled by court professionals. We are looking to the court professionals to allow more transparency and to stop encouraging and enabling these harmful practices. False Allegations and alienation tactics are coming up a lot on cases because they cause the cases to be prolonged and lead to larger billings for certain family law and child custody professionals. Where we can see the active participation of certain professionals in using these tactics, whether it is causing them or enabling them – dishonestly and unethically – we refer to this practice as “Putting Profit Over Protection.”

One of the worst cases, and one with the highest dollar amounts going to dishonest professionals is a Fulton case you have seen aired on CBS Atlanta news reports. The GAL Jim Holmes has billed and been awarded approximately $166,000 in fees, and while helping to ensure that evidence of child abuse and child pornography are not allowed on the record. This GAL and others use psychologists such as Dr. Howard Drutman and Dr. Betty King to instead point the blame at the other parent, so as to justify the court’s ruling to punish or restrict that targeted parent.

This happens to both mothers and fathers, as personality disorders, abusive conduct, fear and hate are not gender-specific problems. The abusive parent can easily use the court system to control, punish and undermine the other parent.  The myths you may hear about is that more women alienate fathers, or you may hear that more men are abusive and able to get away with foul play because they are men and control the money. It is not that simple, so we use case studies to educate both men and women, and ask them to look at ways to intervene and support each other – meaning good parents and good professionals have to work together to address what is really driving and enabling the foul play.

The truth is that foul play comes in many forms, but the abusive parent is the one most likely to aggressively seek out ways to harm the other parent, and certain family court professionals are inclined to reward that behavior as it pays them well, regardless of which party has access to the funds from which they’ll be compensated. The truth is that certain professionals do not care which parent – mother or father – is willing to be abusive.

It doesn’t matter either whether their client or the other party has some form of misconduct they are motivated to hide or to continue doing (like child abuse, violence, substance abuse or financial fraud).  It is not the concern of certain professionals, according to what our case studies show, if this misconduct continues even if it is hurting children and the parents these children need caring for them and protecting them. When we use the term foul play, we do not just mean what one parent is doing to another, but what those professionals are enabling and ignoring. In this context, when we say foul play we mean where certain attorneys and select custody experts are used to help either suppress evidence – evidence that should be used on the record to protect children or the targeted parent – or where they are used to launch and validate False Allegations against an innocent parent.

By keeping evidence off the record, filtered out and hidden from the custody reports and “psych evaluations,” and by causing False Allegations against the innocent / targeted parent to appear valid, they can manipulate what the Court hears and rules on, and they can alter and manipulate the outcomes of court cases. For many of these professionals, this is just standard operating procedure, but the problem is that we have an unsuspecting public who does not realize that it is not safe for them.

If you are innocent and simply believing the court professionals will use the evidence and funds to protect you, your children, your rights and your property and life savings, you will face a rude awakening, but probably not until it’s too late. Because of this situation, we see many good parents losing their children, their homes, their careers and health, and filing bankruptcy. Some parents try to stand up for themselves and appeal rulings to correct a situation where they and their children have been set up to fail, and they wind up in jail because the judge and opposing counsel do not want to allow the case to be exposed or corrected. Fortunately this practice is not being used by all attorneys or condoned by all judges. All child custody “experts” and mediators are not involved or complicit.

In our reports you will learn about ethical, talented attorneys and child custody professionals and therapists speaking up and taking a stand to interrupt these practices and to help parents and children recover. To help you learn more from experts across the country, we shared this video from 2007 which includes a police officer who speaks to the use of False Allegations in the context of custody cases.  Her background leads her to speak more to men as the victim of this form of foul play, but our data is showing that women are just as likely to be falsely accused, to lose their rights to care for and protect their children, and to be destroyed financially and even jailed. Currently we have several parents who are in jail where their cases have been brought to our attention, and from all we’ve seen there is no valid reason for them to be in jail, and the fault lies with the professionals who acted as described above. In other cases, the abusive parent is going after the targeted or innocent parent, and lying to law enforcement and the courts to have the other parent cut off from their children and even jailed.

From what we are learning, law enforcement would prefer not to be lied to and used this way. It is a waste of our tax dollars and manpower, and it is leading to our communities being LESS SAFE and less economically sound or prosperous.

Law enforcement officers are seeing the damages to the children around the use of these foul play tactics.

We are asking the community to get more informed, to learn about these cases, and to ask legislators, news media, law enforcement and our leadership to get involved. This is destroying good families, destabilizing children and causing them to fail in school and to develop addiction problems, worsening their health and setting them up to repeat these cycles. Is that what we want?  Should we allow certain court professionals to keep building the mystery around the use of false allegations and alienation? Or is now the time for us to look at these issues and bad practices, and intervene? This is a Mystery that we can now take head on and clear up.  

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

Question Number One: What is a GAL?

Now that we see how prevalent the misconduct is and how extreme and lasting the damages are, we are developing the dialogue about what to do next.

You have to understand what a Guardian is and what they are supposed to be doing before you can properly review and judge their work, so let’s start here.

The news station reporting on the GAL misconduct and the bad case outcomes in Augusta, Georgia, asked us to explain more about the GAL program in Georgia.

They asked us, “What is a guardian ad litem, and is what we are seeing in Augusta the norm?”

We are opening the discussion for professionals and parents to work together to help improve this situation. The Augusta Chronicle ran a great summary of the GAL program, so please read that and let’s revisit how to improve this system so that we can avoid more of the same, and improve outcomes for children and families.

Please also connect with us via LinkedIn, and professionals may join the Counsel for Change group to contribute privately as we work on answering and correcting what is is wrong.  

Help Break the Silence about GAL misconduct that has been leading to harm to children and good parents.

Help Break the Silence about GAL misconduct that has been leading to harm to children and good parents.

Rome, Georgia and the Indictment of a Judge

Obviously we need more support for the Judicial Qualifications Commission to review cases and allegations of misconduct.

One story from Rome, Georgia reveals that law enforcement and the JQC are committed:

“ROME, Ga. (AP) — A grand jury in northwest Georgia has indicted a former judge on criminal charges including witness tampering and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

The seven-page indictment accusing former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran of the crimes was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in north Georgia.

A grand jury handed down the indictment, charging Cochran with a total of six counts. Along with the witness tampering and drug distribution allegations, the other counts accuse him of depriving someone’s rights or conspiracy against rights.

Cochran’s attorney did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday.

The indictment states that Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission began investigating allegations of judicial misconduct involving Cochran around July 19, 2012. He resigned as Murray County’s chief magistrate on Aug. 15, 2012, which resolved the commission’s investigation.”

If you have reason to believe that your case involves similar issues of judicial misconduct, please contact the Judicial Qualifications Commission and follow the process completely to submit a complaint and the relevant exhibits to support your allegations.  From Augusta to Atlanta, and now in Rome, we can see that more oversight is needed.

Civil Rights DO Matter. Judicial Misconduct CAN be addressed, but you need to submit complaint forms and evidence to the JQC. The legal community is starting to focus on ways to restore the public trust that is being worn away by questionable practices that deny rights & destroy lives.

Civil Rights DO Matter.
Judicial Misconduct CAN be addressed, but you need to submit complaint forms and evidence to the JQC.
The legal community is starting to focus on ways to restore the public trust that is being worn away by questionable practices that deny rights & destroy lives.

 

Understanding GAL Misconduct via The Augusta Chronicle

Augusta news media have picked up what we think of as the HeartBeat of its citizens.

This is the burning desire of parents and grandparents to be able to nurture and provide for their children. And to keep them safe.

Housing and employment are critical as well, but in at least one case in every county we see these being taken wrongfully from good parents. The Roberson case in Augusta, as reported in by WFXG and The Augusta Chronicle, is a perfect example. Another case in Hall County is a stunning example of the court allowing fraud to occur for the sake of stealing property and work tools, while putting a child and father wrongfully out on the street. In Cobb County a mother is having to give up her profitable franchise business all because a guardian is dragging out a case to earn more fees, by saying a father indicted on child porn charges should have unsupervised access to children. Different cases, but the same pattern of fraud used to steal and destroy.

This burning desire to change this situation – for the sake of children – is not unique to Augusta, and as pointed out the damages caused by certain custody experts and other court professionals can be seen all around Atlanta. All it took was the will, the financial resources, the emotional tolerance and the time to start analyzing these cases, and to continue the work throughout Georgia. The damages here mirror what families around the country are experiencing.

It really boils down to corruption, which we often refer to as bad practices, because most people cannot picture what corruption looks like – how it plays out – at least not in family court.

As the Augusta Chronicle says so clearly, “It’s very, very wrong” and “stunning” in terms of the lack of accountability. In our analysis of over 100 cases in Georgia we’ve seen not one incident of professionals reporting on others they know to be clearly violating ethics rules and/or laws. This includes laws put in place to protect children from abuse, or to protect victims of violence or sexual assault.

What is glaring beyond belief in Augusta is that Superior Court judges knew that the guardian ad litem being appointed to child custody cases was preying on vulnerable women, trying to coerce them – and even a witness on a case – into having sex with him. Those who did not comply lost their children. Most still do not have their children with them, are devastated financially and emotionally, and Doug Nelson now has a new job. Would you be surprised to know that his new job is allegedly back in the court system?

Somehow our court system, or certain professionals controlling family court matters, decided it is okay to put profits over the needs of children, to just ignore laws and every rule governing professional conduct or judicial conduct.

Advocating_truth_MAC 2014

So as the number of families negatively impacted has grown, so has the beat gotten louder as more hearts have been broken.  Time for open discussion and greater public awareness.  Time to do something about these pounding hearts aching to have children returned and protected by loving parents.

We are not hesitant to ask for certain custody cases in certain jurisdictions to be reviewed and examined closely. The heated public discussion about what the reality is for parents being held hostage in these child custody fights demands that we follow through on this.

We hope more families will have a chance to recover now that public support is triggered and focused on the cause of their losses. So now we need to take a closer look.

The Augusta Chronicle in this opinion piece takes some of the guesswork out of the question being raised about why so many parents and children are being harmed in this process. What we are hoping parents will get for right now is that following advice blindly when facing a legal conflict in the family court system may not be the best approach.

Learn the process, talk to people who have been through it, and do due diligence on professionals before you hire or agree to subject yourself to someone else’s judgment or oversight.  All guardian ad litem and custody “expert” professionals are not created equal, that one thing is for sure. As treacherous as it appears to be in Augusta, Atlanta and in other areas in Georgia and the US, there are a good number of ethical and talented professionals, so if you have a good experience we encourage those names to be shared as well.

This is an excerpt that stands out and we expect much more animated debate around this topic in the coming months as more parents come forward after realizing that it was not just their imagination that something wasn’t “normal” or right on their case.

“Even though guardian ad litem reports are only recommendations that judges can accept or reject, both the woman in the Chronicle story and the divorced parent we talked to said their attorneys advised them not to report Nelson’s behavior, for fear of what he could do to them in his report.

We find that unconscionable, but also horribly bad legal advice – to sweep inappropriate behavior under the rug.

It shocks the senses to think of a court-appointed official preying on women who are in some of the most vulnerable states in their lives, while going through divorce with children.

The lack of accountability and responsibility in the system is stunning.”

Augusta has named Doug Nelson as one of the main custody experts who has harmed good parents and their children, but he doesn’t work alone in all cases. The next step is to determine which professionals teamed up with him to ignore evidence and guide cases to the wrong outcomes.

In some Atlanta cases we could see where Dr. Howard Drutman has worked with GAL Jim Holmes to suppress evidence of child abuse, and the same pattern has occurred with Dr. Drutman and other GALs in the Atlanta area, including attorney Larry Yarbrough who openly said he was working to protect the alleged molester in Cobb County (which the record reflects he has done).  This is just how they operate, when it is profitable and possible for this to happen. The rules, laws and needs of children just do not factor in with certain professionals, as the investigation into GAL Doug Nelson as proven for everyone. When parents attempt to stand up for themselves and fight to PROTECT their children, they are intimidated and retaliated against.

This is why we are adamant that this innocent father in Augusta be exonerated in his “criminal” trial in Columbia County. He didn’t do anything wrong…but he did work hard to fight for his rights to care for and protect his daughter. He was not allowed to have motions heard, has been jailed for many weeks now and key witnesses have been blocked from testifying. Can you guess who was involved in making this situation happen? Yes, a “doctor” acting as a custody expert. Check out the facts of this case and stay tuned to the news reports coming out.

Now that we know there is a problem, and we can see one source of the problem, let’s regroup on why it is so easy for this exploitation of parents and children to continue.  Join in as we work on #TurningTheTables on bad practices in Family Court.
By contrast, this mother’s case was damaged, with her children moved out of state without her knowledge, by the judge and the father’s attorney and not by the Guardians ad Litem who both recommended the children stay with their mother: