December 27, 2012 | Back to: Columns

Where did the reformers go?

As we come upon the second anniversary of the illegal termination of Emily Gallup, some are asking where did the reformers go?

The reformers have been a persistent presence on the Nevada County Courthouse steps over the last year and a half. The change was precipitated by Emily’s total victory at trial. It should be noted, as a court employee, she was not allowed punitive damages, or the award would have been millions.

The board of the reformers recognized that while we have many victories, such as the court abandoning the improper FC216 waivers, we cannot achieve any further change locally with the same cast of characters in charge here.

Our view is confirmed by court CEO Metoka’s statement to The Union: “There was no evidence presented to indicate that the court had at any time violated laws or rules of the court.”

The jury found otherwise. Just like the binding arbitration award.

While it is expected that the courthouse will continue to try and spin to its favor, the facts are now permanent public record and are not going away. Not in the binding arbitration decision or in the deposition and trial transcripts from the illegal termination trial. Gallup’s attempts to elevate the Family Court Services (FCS) into compliance with the law caused her to be subjected to retaliation that was pervasive and calculated, yet she persisted, blew the whistle and sacrificed her career in her drive for kids and family rights.

Fear of retaliation is why the reformers have so many quiet supporters who make sure we hear about any bad acts.

I was present in the courtroom for all the important testimony in the Gallup trial. I found it very interesting that the two non-defendant judges called by the court embraced Emily’s view.

Judge Dover said, “We cannot treat children like widgets. They are our most valuable commodity.”

When talking about Gallup’s concern that the court was rushing families through the system to make it look like something has been accomplished. When the fact is a bad mediated agreement forced on kids and victims only ends up wasting court resources because the families are doomed to come back over and over. A good agreement mediated in accordance with the law could resolve the situation once and for all.

Incredibly, while the trial was underway, we received complaints that a DV victim with a restraining order was denied separate mediation and was not allowed her support escort by FCS chief contrary to the law. The next week, the court put the current FCS boss on the stand to say essentially that we always have and continue to follow the laws and rules. Then on cross-examination, he was forced to acknowledge the incident where he violated the victim’s rights just days prior.

It was further recognized by our board that the fundamental problem is there is no statutory oversight authority of the superior courts anywhere in state government. So this is the task we have undertaken with our new non-partisan allies, such as the International Faith Based Coalition. They, like us, recognize the most vulnerable are victimized by these abuses, poor single moms and kids who have already suffered domestic violence usually involving substance abuse. In urban areas this impacts kids of color to a greater extent. With our partners we are going to get some form of oversight by way of the Legislature ­— either an Inspector General in the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Attorney General’s Office or at the county level. We do not care which version is adopted, but there must be oversight of rogue court employees unlike now.

The governor recently appointed a commission to review the whole Administrative Office of the Courts and answer the question: Did the AOC achieve the goals of the original legislation that created it? This is likely going to result in recommendations for changes.

That is why this is the perfect time to seek oversight of superior courts to protect kids’ and moms’ rights. The issue is drawing lots of attention across the state. A regional TV channel has been working for more than six weeks on an investigative report to be aired as soon as this week. For information and airing dates or to report rights violations, call us at (530) 559-0826 or email us at familycourtreform@hotmail.com.

Don Bessee is the chairman of Outreach and Education for the Court Reformers.

It was further recognized by our board that the fundamental problem is there is no statutory oversight authority of the superior courts anywhere in state government.

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Don Bessee


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The Union Updated Dec 27, 2012 08:16PM Published Dec 27, 2012 08:16PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.