In a matter of six years, we can completely reform our Family Courts, and thus restore our nation’s soul. Judges are re-elected every six years, and judicial elections are held every 2 years. See for instance Miami-Dade county list of judges. It takes only three cycles of two years to possibly have all judges appear on a ballot if someone challenges their position. Unfortunately, on the great majority of cases, incumbent Judges are rarely challenged, leading to the lack of judicial accountability so prevalent these days.
So here is our main problem: Lack of judicial accountability, and disregard of the rule of law in the Family Courts. Some judges 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.
1) Have merit retention votes for all public officials which will include circuit judges (Family, Dependency and Juvenile Court judges). In 1992, Florida through the League of Women Voters of Florida tried extending merit selection and retention to circuit and county judges as a legislative priority. The measure passed the Senate successfully but failure in the House killed the bill. To make it easier to pass, some legislators in Florida recommended to work towards merit retention votes for all officials, so it would not seem like anyone is targeting judges. Whether someone is running against them or not, Judges should appear for a 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 be legislation and funds available to make sure that every court room has live streaming video data that the public can readily access from the internet, and later readily retrieve 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,
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/complaint 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:
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) hotline 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 hotline and the use of root cause analyzes to identify sentinel events will help identify them.
“The greatest scourge an angry Heaven ever inflicted upon an ungrateful and a sinning people, was an ignorant, a corrupt, or a dependent Judiciary.” —Chief Justice John Marshall.
“La peor plaga que un cielo enojado jamás haya infligido a un pueblo ingrato y pecador ha sido un sistema Judicial ignorante, corrupto, o dependiente.” -Jefe de Justicia John Marshall.
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