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Home | Blogs | JoeU's blog

Testimony in Opposition to Nomination of Ralph Gants as new Chief Justice of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Our testimony in opposition to the nomination of Ralph Gants to be the new Chief Justice of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court follows.

We touched on four issues;

His view of a so-called 'living Constitution'
Justina's Pellitier's captivity
Permanent restraining orders
Right to bear arms

The public hearing on his nomination will continue next Wed., 10AM, May 28 at the State House Gardener Auditorium.

Joe Ureneck
The Fatherhood Coalition
2 Marlowe St.
Boston, MA 02124

Massachusetts Governor’s Council
Massachusetts State House
Boston, MA May 24, 2014

Testimony of Joe Ureneck, Chair, The Fatherhood Coalition to reject the nomination Ralph Gants, Hon., as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Dear Councilors,

Following my oral testimony on Wed, May 21, 2014, I was asked by Councilor Albano to submit a written presentation. I did not speak from a prepared text but the following accurately represents The Fatherhood Coalition’s position regarding Justice Gants nomination.

At his 2009 hearing Justice Gants claimed that ‘as a trial judge we help parties resolve their issues’.

This is absolutely incorrect so far as the Probate and Family Courts is concerned. The courts in fact are very destructive to families – causing unnecessary financial hardship, separation of children from parents (mainly fathers) and even unjust incarceration of, again, mainly fathers through use of MGL 209A Abuse Prevention orders.

In 2009 Justice Gants also talked about his judicial ideology. Although he stated that “the Constitution must be seen in its historical context’ he then went on to say that ‘it is a living document and must adapt”.

We disagree with his underlying premise that a Justice has the right and permission to adapt the Constitution to the times as he or she sees fit without the permission of the people of the Commonwealth .

The case of Justina Pellitier has received wide public notice for several months. Justina was 14 years old at the time Boston Children’s Hospital called upon the Department of Children an Families to remove her from the custody of her parents. She was then kept for all intents and purposes a prisoner in locked psychiatric ward of Boston Children’s Hospital.

The stated reason for her captivity was BCH differing with Tufts Hospital over what her medical treatment should be. There was never any accusations against the parents of neglect or abuse that called for removal from their custody.

Judge Joseph Johnson of Juvenile Court allowed (and still allows) this situation to continue.

With a wide swath of the public concerned and outraged at Justina’s punishment it is inexcusable that the SJC, and Justice Gants as a member, has taken no action to review and correct the case as decided by Juvenile Court Judge Johnston. At the least, it shows a disinclination to correct a manifest injustice, one symptomatic of our courts. At the worst, it is an unwillingness to confront court malfeasance.

In March of this year, Justice Gants authored an opinion regarding permanent restraining orders, MacDonald v. Caruso, in which he upheld a lower court order denying a motion to vacate a permanent restraining order first issued in June 1999.

The defendant argued that there was a substantial change in his circumstance – having remarried some ten years before and residing 2100 miles distant from the plaintiff.

It is important to remember that the MGL 209A restraining order law allows an order to be issued when, among other reasons not relevant to this case, a person feels they are in imminent fear of serious physical harm.

A reasonable person would conclude that an individual re-married for ten years and living 2100 miles away had neither reason nor capacity to cause ‘imminent’ harm and that there had been substantial changes in circumstances in his life. A reasonable review by Justice Gants would also have concluded that the judge had abused her discretion in reaching a contrary conclusion. And yet that is what Justice Gants did not do in his decision.

Justice Gants also went on to declare what the defendant should have done to prove his case, grafting his own requirements onto the law where before there were none:

“He (the defendant) did not submit an affidavit from the chief of police of the keeper of the records in Utah attesting that the police had no record of any allegations of domestic abuse, or submit the New York and Utah equivalents of the Massachusetts criminal offender record information (CORI) and Statewide registry of civil restraining orders to show the absence of arrests of convictions or other restraining orders”

Because of the cost it is very rare for individuals to appeal restraining orders, especially to the SJC. It is very unlikely that the appellant in this case will do so again. Justice Gants’ decision thus did not further the interest of doing justice.

Justice Gants ignored the incongruity of his decision and his added requirements for more evidence when compared with those of MGL 209A law where the only evidence required for issuance is a personal affidavit stating one is in fear of imminent harm. In contrast to his requirements, no substantiating records are required to issue the restraining order.

It is clear from his decision that Justice Gants sees no flaws in the law, one which he not only feels compelled to uphold as a Justice but to also promote by making the process for its termination more onerous if not impossible.

Justice Gants was unwilling to accept what common sense would tell us is a ‘substantial change in circumstances’ and by not doing so denied justice not only to one individual of the Macdonald v. Caruso but to all those who should be able to vacate their restraining orders based on such changes in their life.

An earlier witness testified that Justice Gants is a ‘real believer in Constitutional rights’ but in the MacDonald v. Caruso case he declined to take into consideration the loss of Mr. Caruso’s right to bear arms, calling it a ‘collateral’ issue.

One must ask how a basic constitutional right can ever become a ‘collateral’ matter.

Like the previous gentleman’s testimony that Justice Gants propensity for grafting new meaning onto the ‘Wage Earners’ law had caused the loss of millions of dollars to wage earning employees he has done the same with the MGL 209A and effectively placed new hurdles to obtain justice.

Respectfully submitted,

Joe Ureneck
Chair, The Fatherhood Coalition
857 350-0575