Father in adoption case plans to defy court order
Brad Ballard, the Nevada City man who in January lost a protracted adoption battle over a now 1-year-old boy, plans to defy a judge’s order to pay thousands of dollars in medical costs for the child’s evaluation.
Ballard, who was ordered to return baby Nathaniel to the boy’s biological father Jan. 17, said he’s prepared to face contempt charges and possibly go to jail for refusing to pay $2,275 in fees to the child’s biological father, Casey Johnson of Marysville, and to Nevada County for services rendered by psychotherapist Ron Meister.
The order to pay for the services was handed down by Nevada County Superior Court Judge Carl F. Bryan II, who filed the order with the court Feb. 27.
Meister was a doctor responsible for determining the process to best transfer the toddler from his prospective adoptive parents to Johnson. Meister was selected by the Ballards for the evaluation.
Johnson and Ballard were each asked to split the cost, according to terms of their agreement, Bryan wrote in his order.
In his order, Bryan wrote that “the child’s father has been forced, through no fault of his own, to expend substantial sums to retain and defend his parental rights. He has been forced to defend himself from numerous obstacles and significant hurdles in an expensive, protracted and time-consuming effort to protect what was his.”
In a memo faxed to The Union and the families involved, Bryan declined to comment on his order.
In part, Bryan wrote, “it is not proper for me to further discuss (the) written order with the media.”
The order also requires Johnson to pay $500 of the $2,275 balance and for Brad and Jennifer Ballard to pay Johnson $700 by April 1. The Ballards are ordered to make payment arrangements for the rest of the balance to Nevada County by March 10.
Ballard said he believes Bryan is penalizing him in part because of a guest opinion column Ballard wrote in The Union criticizing the judge’s decision to return Nathaniel to his biological father.
“Paying this would mean I’m agreeing with his ruling,” Ballard said.
Ballard and his wife began adoption proceedings after the boy’s unwed biological mother, Martina Summers, gave birth to the child last February.
Johnson and his attorney maintain that the Ballards continually denied Johnson access to his biological son, which led to the court battle.
In his Feb. 19 column printed in The Union, Ballard criticized Johnson as an admitted drug user and ex-felon and stated that “when the birth father admitted, in court, to an everyday use of drugs and alcohol, Judge Bryan had the judicial responsibility to protect the welfare of our son by simply asking for a current drug test. Instead, Judge Bryan chose to do less instead of more and denied all of these safeguards.”
The column also addressed the failure of Nevada County’s district attorney, Michael Ferguson, in handling the case of Scott Krause, a longtime drug abuser who was arrested Jan. 6 after he allegedly crashed a stolen delivery truck into a UPS van driven by Drew Reynolds, who was killed instantly.
“I’m sure (Bryan) wasn’t happy with the fact that the column pointed out the things he could have done that would have protected Nathaniel,” said Ballard, who is appealing a December ruling made by then-Superior Court Judge M. Kathleen Butz that suspended adoption pro-ceedings and gave Johnson the right to prove his worthiness as a father.
Ballard’s challenge could be heard by the California Court of Appeals later this year.
He is pushing a proposed California law that would grant private adoptions the same protections as foster-care adoptions.
Johnson has already paid the $500 owed the court, said his attorney, John Edwards of Yuba City. In fact, he has paid exactly half of the $2,275, which entitles Johnson to money from the Ballards, Edwards said.
Ballard’s wife, Jennifer, cringed when reading the order, which refers to the child as “Eric.”
“(Judge Bryan) knew this was a sensitive issue for me,” she said, adding she’s not prepared for her husband to go to jail.
“I don’t want my husband to go to jail, but I think if Judge Bryan did put him in jail, there would be an outrage.”
Like her husband, Jennifer Ballard said she believes Bryan asked them to pay the bulk of the medical costs because the judge disliked media attention surrounding the case and is now punishing the couple.
“Maybe Judge Bryan enjoys playing God,” she said.
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