May 19, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The past three posts have been dedicated to reviewing the first documents on the education of Nebraska’s family court judges regarding parenting time, custody orders and children’s welfare. They were produced by Nebraska’s Court Administrator after a two-year fight to keep them shielded from public view. The Nebraska Supreme Court made short work of the Administrators claims to secrecy, so now we know what information judges have been getting in the years 2012 and 2014.
As I said previously, Dr. Lisa Blankenau’s presentation in 2012 was replete with misstatements about the science on shared parenting, overnights for very young children and the role of conflict in deciding custody and parenting time. Weirdly, she also made several statements to the effect that children need meaningful relationships with their fathers. A fair summary of her presentation would be that, at every turn, her advice could be read as marginalizing fathers in their children’s lives and at the same time arguing for kids having full, meaningful relationships with them. How she proposed to accomplish both, I have no idea and she didn’t let on.
But the antipathy of Nebraska’s court administration for fathers having those full, meaningful relationships with their children goes well beyond the simple hiring of a presenter whose thoughts on the subject seem to run counter to existing science.
Among the documents released by the Court Administrator were a number of emails between the Director of Judicial Branch Education and Attorney Services Division, Carole McMahon-Boies and Dr. Linda Nielsen and others. Readers may recall the name Carole McMahon-Boies from previous posts. She’s the person whom Court Administrator Corey Steel named as agreeing with him that the documents sought pursuant to the state’s Open Records Act weren’t public records that required production. Amazingly enough, Steel actually claimed that an unwritten and hitherto unheard of agreement between him and McMahon-Boies trumped the public’s statutory right to know what judges are being taught.
That argument of course was denied by both the trial court and the Supreme Court. Still, the fact that McMahon-Boies was one of the people resisting public disclosure suggests a certain level of antipathy for children having real relationships with their fathers. After all, the information that’s been disclosed reveals that antipathy on the part of presenters who were invited to present by McMahon-Boies who then was apparently concerned about how that antipathy might be viewed by the public. So she attempted to keep it quiet by, among other things, providing Steel’s legal team with an affidavit opposing disclosure.
Now we know a lot more about why she opposed making the documents public.
On March 7, 2014, McMahon-Boies began an email correspondence with Dr. Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University. Her purpose was to invite Nielsen, who’s done yeoman work in the field of keeping social science – and social scientists – clear on the subject of custody and children’s well-being. On its face, that would seem to contradict the otherwise-apparent anti-father bias in judicial education.
There followed a typically cordial and businesslike flow of messages between the two. McMahon-Boies invited Nielsen to speak, Nielsen accepted and details about time, location, subjects to be discussed and expenses and honoraria followed. By the end of the day, the deal was done with just a few loose ends to tie up.
One month later, on April 8, McMahon-Boies sent another email saying “Dear Linda: We have had some limitations on spending and I am afraid I have to cancel the presentation we were discussing.” She apologized, said she’d like Nielsen to present in the future and offered to pay any expenses the academic had already incurred.
Nielsen responded, “No problem, Carole. I’m always available if the funds become available.”
The next day Nielsen emailed again saying, “Carole, I explored some possibilities at the university for honorarium funds for educational events such as this. And they are willing to provide me with an honorarium for the seminar for the judges. So just confirm this and we’ll proceed as planned.”
So, Wake Forest University would pay Nielsen her honorarium leaving Nebraska to only pay her travel and lodging expenses. Problem solved, right? Wrong. McMahon-Boies’s next email came shortly.
“Wow, that is really nice, but unfortunately we are no longer in a position to put on this presentation in the fall.”
Note the mysterious and vague wording. The JBE is “no longer in a position” to have Nielsen give her presentation. No reason was given other than the previous claim of budgetary restrictions. But that was simply untrue.
McMahon-Boies sent that last email to Nielsen at 3:15 PM on April 9. Five hours previously, she’d already invited Dr. Robert Emery, veteran anti-shared parenting advocate, to speak in her place. In her emails to Emery, there’s not a word about any budgetary issues. There’s no “we’re on a tight budget, but if you could come here to speak in the fall, we’d love to have you.” No, with Wake Forest footing the bill for Nielsen’s honorarium, her presentation would have cost a fraction of what Emery’s did, but Nielsen was disinvited and Emery invited.
In short, McMahon-Boies appears to have simply lied to Nielsen to get her off the list of speakers for the fall conference. It can have escaped no one’s attention that Nielsen supports shared parenting in most circumstances and Emery has long opposed it.
What happened between March 7 and April 8? We don’t know. My guess is that McMahon-Boies doesn’t have the last word on who speaks at these seminars and who doesn’t, so I suspect someone else deep-sixed Nielsen’s presentation in favor of a less dad-friendly speaker. Who that was, I have no idea, but the gist of the matter is clear. The Nebraska judiciary was to get an anti-shared parenting message and if it meant lying to a respected scientist, then so be it.
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