An Anonymous Defender of the Family Court Status Quo in Connecticut

March 20, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Meanwhile, an anonymous writer published an op-ed in the same Connecticut Law Tribune, just one week later. Here it is (Connecticut Law Tribune, 3/13/14). It’s an interesting piece of legerdemain, avoiding uncomfortable facts. Worse, it’s an unabashed vote for a status quo that routinely removes children from parents’ lives and all too often bankrupts family court litigants. Given that, it’s hard not to conclude that the writer thinks both are just fine, thank you.

Many residents of the state disagree.

The writer is aghast that citizens and taxpayers of the state would actually try to influence state legislators in their decision to reappoint Judge Leslie Olear to the bench or not. That’s right; doing what everyone in the country is entitled to do, and once was encouraged as an act of civic responsibility, is converted by this anonymous writer into an outrageous slander against their betters.

I don’t know if the writer is a lawyer or not, but whatever the case, he/she could have taken 15 seconds out of their busy day to read the First Amendment to the Constitution, you know, the one that says we have the right to petition for redress of grievances and the right of free speech. And those rights are particularly applicable to our elected representatives, of which the legislators in Hartford are some and Leslie Olear is another.

After all, what would the writer have the aggrieved parents do? When Olear came up for reappointment, what should they have done to express their very real opposition to her as a sitting judge? The writer doesn’t say. I suspect that’s because in fact, the hundreds of parents who made their thoughts on Olear known were doing the only thing allowed by the system to attempt to get her off the bench. Short of, perhaps, impeachment, lobbying the Legislature is their only legal recourse.

So it’s telling that that modest, legal and entirely proper approach to the problem of a hated judge is considered, in some way, too much. What can we conclude but that, to the writer, the only manner of expressing their opposition to Olear’s reappointment would have been no opposition at all? The entire piece has but a single message: “Be quiet and stay out of our business.” I’m sure King George III felt the same way at times.

The writer uses the term “judicial independence,” but it’s painfully clear that what he/she means is independence from the will of the people. Someone should inform the writer that that’s not independence, it’s tyranny. If they could see this op-ed, our Founding Fathers would be shaking their heads sadly at how little has changed in over two centuries. Those who rule still resent the people for trying to insert themselves into the affairs of governance. From time immemorial, those in power have sought to insulate themselves from anyone who would question their actions. It is the whole point of democracy that it’s the people who run things. But our wise writer didn’t get the message.

And it’s astonishing how the writer seems to define “judicial independence.” He/she is clearly unaware that, in a great many states, judges are elected. That means they face the will of the electorate every few years, but no one claims they lack “independence.” It’s just that everyone in those states understands that the “independence” of any officeholder must be tempered by the knowledge that if the voters don’t approve of his/her actions, they can always choose someone else.

Another thing the writer didn’t get is, if possible, even more obvious. Every eight years, judges come before the legislature for reconfirmation. Now, why would they do that? The law requires that because it doesn’t want judges to get too comfortable in their positions of great power. So periodically, the law gives the people the opportunity to have their representatives remove judges from the bench if they’re deemed to be unequal to the job, corrupt, or what have you. In other words, the people who opposed Olear were taking the opportunity to do the thing the law allows them to do at the appointed time for doing it. Again, such a modest exercise in popular democracy proved highly offensive to the person who couldn’t be bothered to even sign his/her name to the op-ed.

And it’s not as if this was a frenzied mob lashing out at whoever happened to be a family court judge up for reconfirmation at the particular time. The writer seems to want us to think that, but it’s far from the truth. Otherwise, how does the writer explain the fact that at least eight other judges were scheduled for reappointment at the time Olear was, but none drew substantial opposition and all sailed through the process with ease. No, Olear found herself alone as the object of the effort to get her off the bench. That strongly suggests that she’s a particularly offensive jurist, yet another fact the writer considered it prudent to overlook.

Now, about that legerdemain.

The point of this editorial is not to address whatever shortcomings there may be in the operation of the family courts and how they can be solved.

Well, that was easy. Trying to get Olear off the bench wasn’t to permit an equally bad judge to make equally bad rulings. The larger effort was to try to bring attention to the horror show that so many see the family court system to be. And that’s not something the writer can deal with. So he/she simply waves away the central problem the people were trying to solve. A few passes with the magic baton, an incantatory phrase or two and – Poof! – problem solved. Like magic, the entire issue the people wanted addressed is rendered a nullity.

It’s not a particularly clever ruse on the writer’s part; my guess is that everyone who read the piece noticed it. But it says a lot about the substance, or lack thereof, of the op-ed.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the commenters to the op-ed are plainly more knowledgeable about a range of issues than the writer. Here’s part of one I like, but there are many.

There was a time in this country when “a small group of embittered” citizens felt slaves should be free, that women should have the right to vote, that schools should be integrated… need I go on? A failed system doesn‘t change overnight. It takes a lot of snow flakes to create an avalanche. It is not "judicial independence" that is under attack here. It is a failed system. The vote tallies on the Olear reappointment is one more flake adding to the mountain of snow necessary to eventually crush a system that is in desperate need of being scrapped and replaced. The cowardly nameless author of this editorial ignores the fact that the true cornerstone of a free society is that its citizens can, through democratic process, effect change.

One thing that tyrannies never do is pay attention before it’s too late to save themselves. Attitudes like those of the writer recall exactly that. How many people calling family courts a “failed system” will it take before those the system has protected for far too long sit up and take notice? The writer missed the message entirely. I wonder what Judge Olear’s reaction will be.

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#Connecticut, #JudgeLeslieOlear, #Constitution, #FirstAmendment, #WethePeople

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