Fatherhood Coalition

Protesters Rally for Dad on the Run

A Probate Court judge wants to see the father and the baby before she lets his lawyer argue for custody on his behalf

By Jeffery Klineman, Lawrence Eagle Tribune

Nov. 14, 2000

LAWRENCE- As a group of protesters rallied against what they claim are unfair child custody laws yesterday morning, the man whom they support, who is on the run with his infant daughter, failed to appear in court.

The coalition of different groups supporting fatherhood custody rights held up signs on the street corners outside Lawrence District Court. They accused Probate Court Judge Mary Manzi of having an agenda against fathers and ignoring evidence to support the agenda. They asked male passers by to rally to their side.

They were in support of Brian Meuse, who is fighting with his ex-girlfriend, Susan Pane, for the custody of his 15 month-old daughter

Mr. Meuse, who has been ordered to turn the baby over to ms. Pane, fled with the baby October 11, 10 days after he violated his custody arrangement. and flew her back from Florida to Haverhill. He has not been heard from since then, according to his lawyer Barbara C. Johnson.

Mr. Meuse is not a kidnapper to his supporters however. They say he is just another man who has been discriminated against by a system that automatically favors mothers in custody fights.

"This is typical of what happens," said Ray Saulnier, a board member of The Fatherhood Coalition, the group that organized the protest. "They give mothers the child all the time."

As the protest continued outside, Judge Manzi issued a warrant for Mr. Meuse's arrest yesterday after he failed to appear at a contempt hearing in Family and Probate Court.

"I'm not hearing the mom's case without the dad and the dad's case without the mom," Judge Manzi said. "But he needs to get in her to avoid arrest."

Mr. Meuse took the baby back from Florida with him after deciding that Ms. Pane had been neglecting her, according to his mother Jan M. Meuse. According to the Meuse family and their supporters, Ms. Pane is a drug addict whose problems have stunted the baby's development, leaving her unable to sit up, hold her bottle or crawl.

Ms. Pane cancelled several of the baby's appointments for developmental therapy because she was in a drug haze, the Meuse family claims.

Ms. Pane denies the allegations. She took the girl, then only 2 months old, to Florida with her in October of last year because Mr. Meuse was physically abusive to both of them, according to Ms. Pane's lawyer Rosalyn Stults.

The baby actually had a full schedule of therapy appointments, and is missing these appointments because she has been kidnapped by Mr. Meuse, Stults said.

"We don't know whether he's taken the child to therapy," she said. "But the longer he remains hidden, it can't be good for her. He said in filings he had earned only a few hundred dollars in the past six months. How are you living? How are you providing for the child?"

Ms. Johnson has also altered medical evidence to make it appear that Ms. Pane has a drug problem, Mrs. Stults said. The client and her attorney quickly left the courthouse; they claim they are in danger from Mr. Meuse and his supporters.

"My client is scared to death," Mrs. Stults said. "She has sought restraining orders....she has been petrified."

The case was continued until Mr. Meuse appears in court.

The baby has a court-appointed lawyer of her own., Michael F. Mimno was appointed to defend the baby's interests Oct 11. Yesterday, he said he wants more information about the baby, who he has not yet seen.

"There are some serious issues regarding the child's health," Mr Mimno said. "Mr Meuse should have the opportunity to litigate those issues, but if you want to have those heard, you have to play by the rules of the probate court. Mr. Meuse is failing to abide by those rules"


Brian Meuse's attorney Barbara Johnson responds in letter to the Eagle Tribune

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