Heterosexual Fathers Receive No Justice In Child Custody Cases
Special to the Telegram & Gazette
By Mark Charalambous, Telegram & Gazette, October 3, 2000
In the spirit of "I may not be able to define it, but I sure know it when I see it," I put aside my pursuit of the precise definition of "political correctness" to illustrate it with several potent examples.
Judge Maria Lopez is in hot water for failing to sentence an admitted child molester and attempted rapist to any jail time. As usual, the politicians are spinning this to suit their purposes. Governor Cellucci wants to remove judicial discretion and pass into law tougher "truth in sentencing laws."
But judges must have discretion to adapt the law to individual circumstance. In the absence of judicial discretion, the only check on blind application of flawed law is jury nullification -- which the last time I looked was not something in good standing in legal circles.
What's at fault here is something that is much deeper than the tension between judicial discretion and mandatory sentencing. The real issue is the social and cultural context in which judges selectively inflict sentences that are far too harsh in some cases and far too lenient in others. This context is shaped by the pervasiveness of political correctness, the real culprit in the Horton debacle.
Charles Horton was given excessively lenient treatment because he is a member of a victim class: a "transgendered person." Since he practices an alternative lifestyle, he deserves special treatment because in Judge Lopez's eyes he represents diversity. Social engineers like Lopez make their decisions based on their perception of the greater social good, and in year 2000 in Massachusetts, what's good for society is whatever tends toward liberating us from harmful straightjacketed gender roles.
This is also clearly evident in family law. Fathers are jailed for innocuous things like getting out of their cars when returning their children following visitation, buying plane tickets for their kids, or calling them on the wrong day of the week.
Yet three years ago Judge Beverly Boorstein gained the dubious distinction of being the first judge to successfully have a domestic abuse 209A defendant removed from the notorious Abuse Registry, where all such defendants are placed regardless of the final disposition of their cases. Note that 209As can be given on an emergency "ex parte" basis -- that is, without the knowledge or presence of the accused. Even if the protective order is dismissed 10 days later at the mandatory follow-up hearing, the defendant remains on the Registry. For life.
In her decision, Judge Boorstein reasoned that the presence of the defendant's name in the Registry might harm her efforts at future adoption. The antagonists in this case were lesbians.
The fact that fathers have been screaming bloody murder for years over how 209A is a tool that (unconstitutionally, they say) strips them of custody and access to their own biological children doesn't seem to bother judges in the slightest. It is only the potential harm to a lesbian's ability to adopt that moved this particular judge to action.
Why? Because by the twisted logic of political correctness, alternative family structures free us from the tyranny of the biological family unit. Lesbian households are deemed socially desirable and deserving of favorable judicial discretion.
Harry Stewart and Ken Newell, however, are heterosexual men, so their efforts to maintain relationships with their children are thwarted. The entire apparatus of publicly funded legal resources goes to bat for the female litigants in these cases, despite overwhelming evidence that the men are not only innocent good fathers, but that the mothers are flagrantly abusing the legal system and are themselves vindictive and abusive. The contortions and machinations of the Quincy District Court to wear down Newell are particularly striking.
Newell's ex-wife has filed 26 charges against him. At each of the scheduled trials, Newell has shown up with witnesses and the necessary proof to demonstrate his innocence. But each time the district attorney's office has found a reason for a delay. At the last hearing Newell appeared with famous attorney Chester E. Darling in tow. Also with him was the same police officer that has faithfully shown up for all of Newell's previous six non-trials. Upon spying Darling, Assistant District Attorney Roberta Kerty promptly got a backache and asked Judge Coven (the same judge who sent Harry Stewart to jail for getting out of his car) for yet another continuance. Motion granted.
With the unlimited funds of the state's poverty lawyers and the DA's office arrayed against him, it is only a matter of time before Newell will show up in court with no witnesses and without an attorney. The legal dictum "Justice delayed is justice denied" doesn't apply here. The goal is simply to deny justice outright, and to punish with jail another innocent father who has the audacity to stand up for his parental rights.
This is the kind of "justice" that fathers in custody and visitation battles have learned to expect in Massachusetts. The wheels of justice don't just grind slowly for fathers embroiled in custody battles -- they grind them up and spit them out, to the detriment of their children and very often at the public's expense.
Similarly, one cannot imagine any judge freeing a heterosexual man convicted of attempting to force a 12-year-old girl to orally copulate him.
The precise definition of political correctness will have to wait, but one component of it is emerging. In legal matters it appears that heterosexual men are being excessively prosecuted, but all others -- the socially desirable people -- are treated with compassion.
Mark Charalambous, of Leominster, is a co-founder and spokesman for CPF/The Fatherhood Coalition.
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