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(See Spanish Version). My name is Mario Jiménez Jerez, a born-again Christian man, who for the Glory of God in Christ Jesus became a physician, an Electrical Engineer, an ex-Olympian, a man who volunteers his services for the protection of children, and families in well-known organizations and in various local churches, who has served as President and still serves as Vice-president of various Homeowner Associations and other organizations in Miami, and as many here may testify, is a loved and well-regarded physician in our community.
If I had not lived it in my own flesh, I probably would have never believed what I am seeing unfolding in our Family courts (Family, Dependency, and Juvenile division courts) today. In my dealing with three judges, Mindy Glazer, Pedro Echarte, and Scott Bernstein of the 11th circuit court, I came to personally experience the bitter taste of a dysfunctional Family court, when my children were removed on June 20th of 2012 from my shared equal custody solely based on the fact that I had prayed with them the Spiritual Armor of God found in Ephesians 6, which mentions the spiritual battle we are currently living in. As a matter of fact, because of the present corruption, I have not even seen my children since October 26th of 2013. This experience showed me that unfortunately some Family Judges routinely ignore the rule of law, the constitution, due process, and common sense, and selectively enforce the law for their own interest or that of their friends calling it “the best interest of the children.” All of this with an apparent complete immunity for them and others involved in the system.
I was also appalled to learn that the moment one walks into a Family court, one is immediately stripped away of his/her constitutional rights, such as the rights to freedom of religion, speech, self-incrimination, due process, jury trial, and equal protection, to name a few. It is a place where parents have fewer rights than known criminals in other courts, for if a criminal cannot afford an attorney, one is assigned to them; a place where the law provides more rights to protect one’s property or debts than to protect one’s children, our most valuable assets in this world. In all cases, parents are left at the whims of Judges who regularly have conflicts of interests, whose campaign funds or the certainty of not having someone run against them is owed to the same attorneys who come before them. Attorneys that as the Divorce Corp documentary showed, the moment a victim/client comes in, they immediately size him/her up to take at least 50% of their assets for their fees, and in many instances deliberately provoke and extend litigation to enrich themselves, leaving men and women, and entire families, in many cases, financially broke.
As taught by Dr. Lynn Carmichael, one of my heroes and founder of Family Medicine, from an integrative medicine perspective, I believe that the problems in our Family courts represent not only a judicial emergency, but a true health crisis of pandemic proportions. As my case exemplifies, the negative effects of our currently dysfunctional Family Courts routinely lead children and adults to suffer not only from serious mental issues such as major depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and many others, but in a large enough number of unfortunate cases, can also lead to suicides, homicides, and a number of other serious crimes, not to mention, the enormous economic cost that it brings to our societies from broken homes and lives. This problem is best expressed by one of the founders of our present judicial system, Chief Justice John Marshall, who said “the greatest scourge an angry Heaven ever inflicted upon an ungrateful and a sinning people, was an ignorant, a corrupt, or a dependent Judiciary.”
As my case also illustrates, there is a close connection between our dysfunctional Family courts, and the deaths of so many innocent children under the care of the Department of Children Families (DCF) and our courts (over 533 children in the last 6 years as per a Miami Herald report). In my case, the same psychologist who in my opinion was professionally liable for Nubia Barahona’s death, Mrs. Vanessa Archer, who after such terrible performance, without any logical explanation still continues to serve as an “expert” witness in our Family Courts, was the main person involved in the events that let to my children’s psychological, physical and academic demise. When I tried to report her to the health department, I found out that these psychologists are legally protected and that the only way the health department could investigate would be if the judge would get the psychologist out of the case, something that I tried, just to have her and judges retaliate against me.
Despite all the pain and suffering this dysfunctional Family court has inflicted upon my children and my family, I consider it a blessing because it has allowed me the opportunity to use my problem solving skills, education, experience and various talents for the service of the children and families who are victims of this scourge. So in my humble opinion, here are two of the main problems in family courts today: Lack of judicial accountability, and disregard of the rule of law. To solve these problems, I propose seven measures (see Six Year Plan):
1) Whether someone is running against them or not, circuit Judges should appear for a merit retention confidence vote when their time for re-election comes up. At this time, in many areas, close to 80% never even have to appear on the ballots because no other attorney challenges their position.
2) Family court room transparency and accessibility. Since Family courts are opened to the public, there should also be legislation and funds available to make sure that every court room has live streaming video that the public can readily access, and later readily retrieve from the internet as well.
3) Make sure all judges have competition for their positions by making it easier for younger attorneys to run, and actively find family-friendly attorneys to successfully run against anti-family incumbent judges. These young attorneys could receive extensive training in Family courts to ensure their proper performance in them.
4) Create judicial watchdog organizations to monitor and report judicial abuse. Information provided by these organizations will be instrumental in supporting family-friendly Judges.
5) Create national and state public official site/database to report/complain about judge’s performance, with ability to search by judges, attorneys, Guardians Ad Litems (GALs), “professionals”, and different issues. This will help us recognize trends and areas that need improvement.
6) Work to restore two constitutional protections stripped away by the Family courts:
a) If a judge decides to strip someone’s right to one’s children, require a speedy jury trial.
b) If a judge finds someone guilty of Domestic Abuse, require immediate transfer to Criminal Court with a speedy jury trial as well.
7) The use of root cause analysis to judicial errors, “A PROCESS FOR IDENTIFYING THE BASIC OR CAUSAL FACTORS THAT UNDERLIE VARIATION IN PERFORMANCE, INCLUDING THE OCCURRENCE OR POSSIBLE OCCURRENCE OF A SENTINEL EVENT.” Sentinel Events are judicial error(s) that lead to injury, an unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk thereof. Mine is a typical sentinel event that exemplifies many of the errors currently being committed by the Family courts, and that I believe this committee could benefit from by performing a root cause analysis thereof.
At the same time, we should also work to improve deficiencies and problems in DCF. For instance, I have identified four main areas that need our attention (see Six Year Plan):
1) DCF investigators are overwhelmed with the great number of false cases. Some unscrupulous people use DCF as a form of harassment tool. After 5 false DCF accusations, and losing an unborn children because of one of them, I know firsthand how easy it is for individuals to abuse the system and how these false accusations are costing Floridians millions of dollars of our tax money.
Solution: start cracking down on false DCF calls/accusations. These false accusations cause a huge burden on the system, and prevent DCF case workers from properly dedicating their time and efforts in true abuse cases.
2) DCF workers are pressured from every side to please a number of people who work with them (Family Court attorneys, judges, GALs, etc…). What DCF does or does not do creates business for these individuals, so in many case DCF workers have to please them in order to keep their jobs.
Solution: Create an independent commission of citizens to help overlook DCF’s work (no attorneys or any other “professionals” with possible conflicts of interest accepted). I am an American Board Certified Family Physician, active in my community, father of 4 minor children, Sunday school teacher who deals with children on a daily basis, and I would gladly volunteer to be part of this commission. I also know of many other law-abiding professionals who would love to serve as well.
3) I believe that most DCF investigators/workers are good hearted individuals who truly want to help the children, who do not want to see any more children die and who are frustrated with what is going; however, they do not have a way to voice their concerns without running the risk of being targeted and losing their jobs.
Solution: create an internal DCF whistle-blowing (improvement) hot line to allow DCF investigators/workers an anonymous way to point anomalies they may have encountered. These calls should be fully investigated and presented to the independent commission of citizens overlooking DCF’s work.
4) Some unscrupulous attorneys and “professional” are abusing the children’s suffering to enrich themselves. These individuals believe that it is not what you know or what the truth is, but who they know, and how they can twist the truth that determines the outcomes in Family Court cases. Their behavior reminds me of the cronyism and corruption experienced in many third world countries. They are making billions off of the suffering of children and their parents.
Solution: crack down on attorneys and “professionals” who may be abusing the Family court system. The DCF whistle-blowing hot line and the use of root cause analyses to identify sentinel events will help identify them.
After careful analysis of the “professionals” and attorneys involved, and the series of events that have transpired, I am strongly persuaded that we are possibly dealing with a very sophisticated form of organized crime. The definition of racketeering states that “the potential problem may be caused by the same party that offers to solve it, although that fact may be concealed, with the specific intent to engender continual patronage for this party.” I would like to believe that these actions have been perpetuated without the explicit knowledge of the Judges involved, but this would have to be determined by this committee, Florida’s Chief Justice, and possibly a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. In any case, I believe that the actions of these three Judges clearly amount to violations of public trust, neglect of duty, and ethics.
To finish, I would like to thank you for your positive response in protecting the citizens, the children and the families of this most beautiful state. I praise God for the blessing of suffering for His name, and for giving me the opportunity to be a light in the darkness of this world. May the Grace of God in Christ Jesus be always with you and your families, and with this most glorious nation, the U.S.A., one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.