Los Angeles, CA–The story in my recent blog post Outrageous Injustice: Man Jailed 4 Times over Failing to Support Someone Else’s Kid—where a man was “thrown in jail four times, lost his job, become estranged from his four children and spent more than $12,000 to support the child of another man” because the child support system wrongly targeted and entrapped him—reminds me of what former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti did.
In 1998 Garcetti declared a ‘get tough’ campaign against so-called ‘deadbeat dads,’ sending out thousands of summonses for paternity cases. The men were given only 30 days to respond.
Many of the summonses targeted the wrong men, and many never reached the intended parties. Eighty percent of Garcetti’s paternity judgments were made by default, locking the men into 18 years of child support. Many took DNA tests proving that they were not the fathers of the children they now had to take second jobs to support. Others were assigned huge support arrearages by mistake. Many became unable to support their own children. Some of their marriages broke up, and some of the men landed in jail.
Garcetti created so much chaos and heartache that even diehard feminist attorney Gloria Allred protested. Allred, who has perhaps done more than anybody to promote the phrase and concept of ‘deadbeat dads,’ called Garcetti’s office ‘an organization without a heart, without any compassion, and without a sense of priorities…[it’s] a system run amok’…
Jackie Myers, a former Deputy District Attorney under Garcetti, said that she quit her job because ‘we were being told to do unethical, very unethical things.’
Garcetti later acknowledged that many of the men had been mistakenly targeted but refused to relent, instead blaming the men for not responding within 30 days. ‘The law is the law,’ he told CBS’s Bernard Goldberg.
Incredibly, in 2002 Garcetti was appointed to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.