First Amendment Rights Protected

Pro Advocate Radio is needed as a Voice for Families, Children and for Professionals Committed to Resolving Conflict in ways that Serve the Needs of Children.

For bloggers, citizen journalists advocacy groups, etc.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/01/20/defamation-bloggers-supreme-court/4658295/

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Friday that bloggers and the public have the same First Amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation: If the issue is of public concern, plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a defamation lawsuit brought by an Oregon bankruptcy trustee against a Montana blogger who wrote online that the court-appointed trustee criminally mishandled a bankruptcy case.

The appeals court ruled that the trustee was not a public figure, which could have invoked an even higher standard of showing the writer acted with malice, but the issue was of public concern, so the negligence standard applied.

Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press said the ruling affirms what many have long argued: Standards set by a 1974 U.S. Supreme Courtruling, Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., apply to everyone, not just journalists.

“It’s not a special right to the news media,” he said. “So it’s a good thing for bloggers and citizen journalists and others.”

Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., now living in Port Townshend, Wash., was sued for defamation by Bend attorney Kevin Padrick and his company, Obsidian Finance Group LLC, after she made posts on several websites she created accusing them of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and other illegal activities. The appeals court noted Padrick and Obsidian were hired by Summit Accommodators to advise them before filing for bankruptcy, and that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court later appointed Padrick trustee in the Chapter 11 case. The court added that Summit had defrauded investors in its real estate operations through a Ponzi scheme.

A jury in 2011 had awarded Padrick and Obsidian $2.5 million.

“Because Cox’s blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz is limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find Cox liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently,” judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote. “We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages.”

The appeals court upheld rulings by the District Court that other posts by Cox were constitutionally protected opinion.

Though Cox acted as her own attorney, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who had written an article on the issue, learned of her case and offered to represent her in an appeal. Volokh said such cases usually end up settled without trial, and it was rare for one to reach the federal appeals court level.

“It makes clear that bloggers have the same First Amendment rights as professional journalists,” he said. “There had been similar precedents before concerning advocacy groups, other writers and book authors. This follows a fairly well established chain of precedents. I believe it is the first federal appeals court level ruling that applies to bloggers.”

An attorney for Padrick said in an email that while they were disappointed in the ruling, they noted the court found “there was no dispute that the statements were false and defamatory.”

“Ms. Cox’s false and defamatory statements have caused substantial damage to our clients, and we are evaluating our options with respect to the court’s decision,” wrote Steven M. Wilker.

Walk the Line…Together

If a judge said to you, “You are walking the line” in speaking up to protect your child, would you back off of that line? Or would you gather an army around you to push THROUGH and over that line, if that’s what it takes to save your child?

Stop_Child_Abuse_Family_Court_Fulton_County

Please study “The Dome” case and decide if you believe it’s ok to tell a protective parent – mom or dad – that he or she should mind their manners and stay off the “line” of confronting abuse and foul play in court.

Forbes on Bankruptcy After Divorce

“Some people are pushed into bankruptcy by their former spouse. Let’s say they owned a house together but they either don’t want to sell it (because they want the children to keep living there) or they can’t sell it because it’s upside down. One of them agrees to pay the mortgage; it might be the spouse who lives there, or it might be the ex who is supporting him or her. But the mortgage doesn’t get paid. Maybe that spouse eventually files for bankruptcy, and the other one ends up having to file in order to keep the house and catch up on payments, or to discharge their responsibility for the remaining loan.”

What this Forbes article does not spell out is that professional misconduct plays a large role in ensuring that at least one of the parties doesn’t make it – meaning they are not able to maintain stability, to prosper, and to give the best they have to their children. Their best has been undermined and taken away. Many mothers and fathers are filing bankruptcy following divorce and child custody cases, but we believe much of this loss could be avoided.

Avoid BankruptcyWhen you review billing records and communications with child custody experts and between attorneys, you can see that, unfortunately, this is intentional in some cases. It is these cases we refer to when we ask authorities to review cases.

Forbes contributor Emma Johnson makes a sound argument here for paying attention to your credit score and working to protect yourself, but make sure you’re aware of the diligence needed in selecting professionals who will not aim for breaking the bank – your bank – in your family law or child custody case.

Financial matters are a key focus for our professionals belonging to our Resource Directory and for those featured on Pro Advocate Radio.

 

Check out ProAdvocateRadio.com to learn more from one of our financial advisors, Wendy Hayes. Wendy is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and is committed to helping families reset priorities so that their financial resources and time are preserved for themselves and for their children. Listen here to Wendy’s sound counsel.

Protected: Corruption Investigation in Dekalb County by Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde

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Rare Removal of a Judge on a Domestic Violence Case

This is good news for domestic violence advocates and victims. But you have to ask the question, “Why is this rare?”

Why is it so common to allow judges to ignore domestic violence and other forms of control and abuse?

Much more follow up is needed here. We also need further investigation into why innocent parents are set up to fail using false allegations of abuse. Either way, dishonesty and perjury cause the children to be failed and caused more stress.

Excerpt:

“The North Dakota Supreme Court in January took the rare step of removing a South Central District Court judge from a child custody case.

The justices, in their Jan. 22 opinion, ordered that Judge Cynthia Feland be removed from a custody and child support case in McLean County between Nicholas Law and Danielle Whittet.

“A change of judge is ordered upon remand because of Judge Feland’s inability or unwillingness to follow our mandate, and out of concern for the tumult from and cost of litigation,” the justices wrote in a unanimous opinion signed by Justice Daniel Crothers.

The Supreme Court in 2014 ordered Feland to grant primary custody to Law and limit custody for Whittet, after Whittet [father] had been convicted for disorderly conduct and preventing arrest.

“In determining a parenting time schedule for Whittet, the court must bear in mind the presumption that any domestic violence, even if not directed at the child, negatively affects the best interests of the child. Accordingly, the court should consider limited parenting time for Whittet,” the Supreme Court wrote at the time.

Instead, Feland awarded Law primary custody of the child but maintained that Whittet would have custody of the child every other week.

The Jan. 22 opinion held that Feland had not given Law primary custody in name only because the actual custody arrangement had not changed.

The justices ordered that the case be remanded for further proceedings under a different judge.”

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/n-d-supreme-court-removes-judge-from-custody-case/article_1e441522-d7d4-503c-a399-fa1adf646c54.html

In Georgia, we ask the Judicial Qualifications Commission to take a closer look at why so many judges are leaving exposed the victims of family violence and their children.

When Child Custody Becomes Deadly

“His children were his life,” Prather’s sister Jerdonna Sawyer told The Associated Press by phone. “He wasn’t crazy at all. He just chose a terrible way to deal with his pressure and his stress.”

We are all saddened by this tragedy in Georgia, in the town of Douglasville, in which a father just could not take it any longer. Family members are grieving, and we may never learn the whole story.

Loss and stress do terrible things to the minds of people who could otherwise manage fine, but the escalated conflict surrounding divorce and child custody is enough to put many over the edge.

This father is one of a large handful in Georgia to end his own life, and one of several around the country who have murdered family members during the taking of their own lives.

So we advocate for reducing conflict and ensuring protections, as much as can possibly happen. Based on our data the courts and certain court professionals are exacerbating conflict rather than helping parents receive proper counseling and guidance.

If you recall the murder of Donna Kristofak in Cobb County not too long ago, she also had a restraining order and the court knew she was in danger. She tried to protect herself. These cases are different but there is still much we can learn by studying what happened in both.

When one parent loses control and believes they can no longer function or have any quality of life, something can switch in their brain and cause the urge to do something extreme and rash like finding a gun or a knife to use. It is not the choice of the weapon that matters, but the opportunity and the circumstances that feed this rage and desperation.

We can and must do better.

Our research has identified cases that are ripe for more loss and tragedy, and much of it could have been lessened if not avoided.

Please join the conversation on Pro Advocate Radio and follow our posts on our blog and on other social media. Let us know what you can contribute – how you can help?

In the meantime, watch for parents who are struggling around the loss of their children, their jobs, homes and health. Look for ways to ease their stress and to intervene if the situation makes no sense.

Court House

Protected: Baldwin Blunders Should Lead to an Open Investigation

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Guardian Ad Litem System in Augusta Explains Damages Across Georgia

Cases and complaints have been pouring in for years from the Augusta judicial district after we first investigated and reported on cases where evidence was being suppressed and children harmed. Good parents and grandparents have been undermined and even blocked from seeing children, even when there was no justification for this.

Billing records were reviewed, showing discrepancies that explain why parents are failing financially as they can’t keep up with the financial burden, let alone understand what they are being charged for to see that things don’t add up. Screenshot 2014-12-02 10.09.57

 

This article by the Augusta Chronicle is based on very compelling research that enlightens citizens and leadership about how certain bad actors on this stage are able to control outcomes of cases while lining their pockets. One of the bad actors in the Guardian ad Litem program here is a business owner named Janet Weinberger. This news report by Fox 54 confirmed there are even more cases with complaints against Weinberger for billing issues along with allegations that key evidence was left out of reports leaving children and parents unprotected and destabilized. To see previous news reports related to this judicial district, click here.

My Advocate Center’s analysis, combined with investigative reporting and fed-up litigants exposing evidence of wrong-doing, is opening the door for larger investigations and for consideration of civil actions to help victims recover from damages caused in these cases. At the very least the data is building to a point that state leaders and advocates across the country will have a clear picture of the direction needing to be taken to improve public safety.

WFXG FOX54 Augusta – Your News One Hour Earlier To learn more about our case studies, to contribute to this effort to improve family stability and health, or to report case details or other billing records, please contact us here.