February 23rd, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A judge in Ohio has threatened a father in a custody case with jail for posting possibly unflattering remarks about his ex-wife to his Facebook page. Read about it here (Cincinnati Enquirer, 2/22/12).
Mark Byron and his ex-wife Elizabeth are embroiled in a bitter custody battle, that predictably she’s winning. She is doing so, also predictably, by leveling abuse charges at Mark. Predictable as well is the fact that none of what she claims consistutes violence.
She accused him of verbally abusing her, threatening her with his fist and threatening to “end” her life.
Assuming that everything she claims is true and accurate, that’s bad behavior on his part, but it’s the type of bad behavior that’s pretty routine in divorce and custody cases. Emotions run high and people say things they don’t mean. The question is, “are they the type of things that warrant taking a child from a parent?”
Ask that question to any divorce court judge and the answer will be an unhesitant “yes.” And that’s just what two judges did in Byron’s case. She made her allegations and one judge dutifully issued a no-contact order against Byron and the second judge approved it.
But there’s more here than the usual off-the-shelf restraining order against a fit father. In this case, he’s got to like it. That’s right, in Mark Byron’s case, it’s not enough for him to endure the rod, he must kiss it as well.
Because it is that that he failed to do. The judge issued his order and it made Byron mad, exactly as similar ones do so many fathers every day of every week of every year. So he went to his Facebook page to vent and tell his friends what he thought about a family court system that’s so rabidly anti-father.
In a Nov. 23, 2011, Facebook posting, he blasted the situation and the judicial system he believed wronged him.
“…if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husbands life and take your son’s father away from him completely – all you need to do is say that you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner…” he wrote on Facebook.
And that, as we know, is nothing but the truth. Mere allegations of abuse are routinely employed by mothers to gain an upper hand in custody cases, and they work. They work almost every time. Never mind that a criminal court exonerated Byron. Never mind that there’s not even an allegation of his physically harming anyone at any time. His ex said she was afraid and that’s all there was to it.
Moreover, Byron blocked his ex from viewing the page, but somehow she managed to anyway, I assume with the help of a friend. But according to her complaint to the judge, his posting caused her to be “embarrassed” and to feel “harassed.” How it’s possible for him to harrass her when he did everything in his power to prevent her from seeing the page is beyond me. The simple fact is that she was the one who took the initiative. Maybe she harassed herself.
Whatever the case, Magistrate Paul Meyers agreed that the Facebook posting violated the existing restraining order and threatened Byron with jail if he didn’t apologize to his ex, which Byron has done. Indeed, he hasn’t stopped doing so, and that too is per court order. The judge ordered him to apologize on Facebook every day for 30 days. Mere abasement is not enough it seems; his Honor requires that it be abject.
More and more, family courts operate entirely outside the law. Family court judges act like they’ve never heard of the Constitution or due process of law and this is a prime example. What Byron posted to Facebook is without question speech that’s protected by the First Amendment, but neither Meyers nor Judge John Sieve, who approved Meyers’ order, seems to know or care. In the process, their outrageous behavior violated Byron’s civil rights and humiliated him in the process.
Both judges should be disciplined by the Ohio body charged with overseeing judicial conduct.
Let’s be clear about one other thing; what the judges were so upset about was less Byron’s swipe at his ex than about his criticism of them. After all, a fair reading of what he wrote shows that, yes, he thinks she’s a vindictive and evil woman who wants to ruin his life and keep him from his son. But it also shows that the family law system is at fault for rewarding that type of behavior. His words “all you have to is say that you’re scared…” clearly mean that that’s all such a woman has to do to get kid-glove treatment from the likes of Meyers and Sieve.
He’s right, and they don’t like it. The honorable judges don’t like to be exposed for exactly what they are – the dupes of every tearful mother who comes before them.
The disgrace of anti-father bias continues to run amok in family courts.