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Doug Dante July 17, 2008 DougDante1@yahoo.com I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. The Macomb County Friend of the Court (16th Judicial Circuit) in Michigan is harming children and ignoring state and federal law by mixing mediation investigation, and referee duties, as well as by shifting judge's duties to a judicial service officer who conducts judicial duties off the record and may violate the Michigan Judicial Code of Conduct, and may have other problems which are common to many FOC offices.
“Informal Mediation” Violates Michigan Law and Hurts Kids
These policies of the Macomb County Friend of the Court are very similar to those of the Oakland County Friend of the Court as well as the Ingham County Friend of the Court, although these other FOC offices call the employees who conduct these duties “Family Counselors” or “Conciliators” respectively, whereas they are called “caseworkers” or “Judicial Service Officers” here. See also: Oakland County Friend of the Court Ignores the Law and Hurts Kids http://www.scribd.com/doc/362206/Oakland-County-Friend-of-the-Court-Ignores-the-Law-and-HurtsKids Ingham County Friend of the Court is Ignoring the Law and Hurting Kids http://www.scribd.com/doc/362198/Ingham-County-Friend-of-the-Court-Is-Ignoring-The-Law-andHurting-Kids The Macomb County Friend of the Court Handbook says on page 52: Mediation The Friend of the Court staff provides informal mediation services to resolve custody and parenting time disputes. Informal mediation is conducted by custody investigators, judicial service officers, and referees. If you seek formal mediation, you may contract to have a private mediator resolve your custody and parenting time disputes. http://www.macombcountymi.gov/CIRCUITCOURT/pdf/fochandbook.pdf The same caseworkers offering mediation usually make recommendations and other reports to the court. The Macomb County Friend of the Court is harming children by ignoring Michigan law by
mixing mediation investigation, and referee duties. Macomb County does not offer mediation, as they are required by law to provide. Instead they provide the illusion that they are offering mediation by creating the idea of “informal mediation services” not found in law, and pretending that such a creation of the court is equivalent to the mediation that they are required to provide. Sadly, to the detriment of children and their parents, it is not. Children are harmed in two ways. Firstly, caseworkers, who are not lawyers, make custody recommendations based on statements and evidence gathered without the conventional courtroom safeguards in violation of the Friend of the Court Act and other laws. Parents can make false allegations or offer false evidence without any consequences. Macomb County FOC should not make custody decisions based on which parent can lie the best. Secondly, the vast majority of parents are not given the opportunity for meaningful and confidential mediation, but rather are thrust into a combative atmosphere. The law requires the FOC to offer voluntary neutral and confidential mediators, because studies and common sense say that if the parents can make a rational agreement, it's probably the best option for them and their kids. Instead, caseworkers make snap judgments and stick kids into cookie cutter custody arrangements such as "liberal and reasonable parenting time", when that may or may not be what's best them or their parents. The position violates the following Michigan Court Rules and Michigan Law in the following ways: Firstly, I doubt that a direct hire for mediators is legal in Macomb County. The Friend of the Court Act 552.513 Domestic relations mediation, says in part: (1) The office shall provide, either directly or by contract, domestic relations mediation to assist the parties in settling voluntarily a dispute concerning child custody or parenting time that arises in a friend of the court case. Parties shall not be required to meet with a domestic relations mediator. The service may be provided directly by the office only if such a service is in place on July 1, 1983, if the service is not available from a private source, or if the court can demonstrate that providing the service within the friend of the court office is cost beneficial. Any expansion of existing services provided by the court on July 1, 1983 shall be provided by an individual meeting the domestic relations mediator minimum qualifications listed under subsection (4). http://www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-552-513 Counseling is obviously available from many private sources in Macomb County. I doubt that the court has a study on file showing that the service within the FOC office is beneficial, particularly one conducted by an independent party. By mixing the investigative and the mediation duties, the Macomb County FOC appears to force parties to meet with caseworkers who act as mediators, making mediation mandatory rather than voluntary, in apparent violation of the paragraph above. Paragraphs 2 and 3 make this more clear, by requiring strict confidentiality from mediators:
(2) If an agreement is reached by the parties through domestic relations mediation, a consent order incorporating the agreement shall be prepared by an employee of the office who is a member of the state bar of Michigan; under section 22, by a member of the state bar of Michigan; or by the attorney for 1 of the parties. The consent order shall be provided to, and shall be entered by, the court. (3) Except as provided in subsection (2), a communication between a domestic relations mediator and a party to a domestic relations mediation is confidential. The secrecy of the communication shall be preserved inviolate as a privileged communication. The communication shall not be admitted in evidence in any proceedings. The same protection shall be given to communications between the parties in the presence of the mediator. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-552-513 If no agreement is reached, then there is no consent order, and the caseworker, who is probably not a member of the state bar, can't work with the member of the state bar or either attorney to draw up the agreement. However, caseworkers (mediators) will instead often prepare written recommendations regarding custody, parenting time and related matters for review and determination by a Friend of the Court Referee and/or Judge. Mediators should never do that! It violates confidentiality. Even if they were to communicate with anyone, they should only communicate with a member of the state bar or an attorney - not the court directly! If a mediator is conducting an investigation and making recommendations that goes before a Referee or Judge, then there is no way that communications with mediator/caseworker can be reasonably considered "confidential". If the State of Michigan didn't make it clear enough that they didn't want mediators to be investigators or caseworkers too, they added MCL 552.515 Section 15, Performance by mediator of certain functions involving party prohibited: An employee of the office who performs domestic relations mediation in a friend of the court case involving a particular party shall not perform referee functions, investigation and recommendation functions, or enforcement functions as to any domestic relations matter involving that party. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-552-513 So a caseworker that provides mediation cannot also conduct investigations. But that's exactly what the the job is! In Macomb County, caseworkers act as mediators. These mediators are selected in violation of the Michigan Court Rules. MCR 3.216 "Domestic Relations Mediation". It says in part: Rule 3.216 Domestic Relations Mediation (A) Scope and Applicability of Rule, Definitions.
(1) All domestic relations cases, as defined in MCL 552.502(h), are subject to mediation under this rule, unless otherwise provided by statute or court rule. (2) Domestic relations mediation is a nonbinding process in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between parties to promote settlement. If the parties so request, and the mediator agrees to do so, the mediator may provide a written recommendation for settlement of any issues that remain unresolved at the conclusion of a mediation proceeding. This procedure, known as evaluative mediation, is governed by subrule (I). ... (B) Mediation Plan. Each trial court that submits domestic relations cases to mediation under this rule shall include in its alternative dispute resolution plan adopted under MCR 2.410(B) provisions governing selection of domestic relations mediators, and for providing parties with information about mediation in the family division as soon as reasonably practical. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules/documents/1Chapter3SpecialProceedingsandActio ns.pdf The rules about selection of domestic relations mediators help to ensure that as many mediators as possible are selected randomly so that the participants know that those mediators are neutral. Lets look at MCR 2.410, which says in part: Rule 2.410 Alternative Dispute Resolution (A) Scope and Applicability of Rule; Definitions. (1) All civil cases are subject to alternative dispute resolution processes unless otherwise provided by statute or court rule. (2) For the purposes of this rule, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) means any process designed to resolve a legal dispute in the place of court adjudication, and includes settlement conferences ordered under MCR 2.401; case evaluation under MCR 2.403; mediation under MCR 2.411; domestic relations mediation under MCR 3.216; and other procedures provided by local court rule or ordered on stipulation of the parties. (B) ADR Plan. (1) Each trial court that submits cases to ADR processes under this rule shall adopt an ADR plan by local administrative order. The plan must be in writing and available to the public in the ADR clerk's office. (2) At a minimum, the ADR plan must: (a) designate an ADR clerk, who may be the clerk of the court, the court administrator, the assignment clerk, or some other person; (b) if the court refers cases to mediation under MCR 2.411, specify how the list of persons available to serve as mediators will be maintained and the system by which mediators will be assigned from the list under MCR 2.411(B)(3); (c) include provisions for disseminating information about the operation of the court's ADR program to litigants and the public; and (d) specify how access to ADR processes will be provided for indigent persons. If a party qualifies for waiver of filing fees under MCR 2.002 or the court determines on other grounds that the party is unable to pay the full cost of an ADR provider's services,
and free or low-cost dispute resolution services are not available, the court shall not order that party to participate in an ADR process. (3) The plan may also provide for referral relationships with local dispute resolution centers, including those affiliated with the Community Dispute Resolution Program. (4) Courts in adjoining circuits or districts may jointly adopt and administer an ADR plan. Caseworkers are not selected randomly, and are assigned in teams for each case: “A child support judicial service officer, a parenting time judicial service officer and a medical support specialist are assigned to each case and have a direct telephone number. It is suggested that you note the names of your caseworkers and his/her telephones number to expedite your contact with the Friend of the Court Office. http://www.macombcountymi.gov/CIRCUITCOURT/pdf/fochandbook.pdf All of the rules regarding mediation are then ignored, and participants should be very wary of mediator bias, given that the rules to ensure that mediator bias does not exist are ignored and the court has a financial conflict of interest that may encourage it to seek mediators which maximize Title IV-D funding, by, for example, discouraging parents who would otherwise agree on joint physical custody from making that arrangement, or leaking information obtained in mediation in a recommendation to the court to force the parents not to jointly share physical custody, if they have a personal bias against joint physical custody. A Quick Summary of Title IV-D Funding and Incentives http://www.scribd.com/doc/630611/A-Quick-Summary-of-Title-IVD-Funding-and-Incentives What can a parent do? They can object to mediation under MCR 2.4.10 and request that the Chief Judge ensure that the ADR plan is both in place and properly followed: (E) Objections to ADR. Within 14 days after entry of an order referring a case to an ADR process, a party may move to set aside or modify the order. A timely motion must be decided before the case is submitted to the ADR process.( .... F) Supervision of ADR Plan. The chief judge shall exercise general supervision over the implementation of this rule and shall review the operation of the court's ADR plan at least annually to assure compliance with this rule. In the event of noncompliance, the court shall take such action as is needed. This action may include recruiting persons to serve as ADR providers or changing the court's ADR plan. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules/documents/1Chapter2CivilProcedure.pdf If someone has successfully done this at the Macomb County FOC, I am not aware of it. Another option is to offer up a mediator under MCR 2.4.11: (1) The parties may stipulate to the selection of a mediator. A mediator selected by agreement of the parties need not meet the qualifications set forth in subrule (F). The court must appoint a mediator stipulated to by the parties, provided the mediator is
willing to serve within a period that would not interfere with the court's scheduling of the case for trial. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules/documents/1Chapter2CivilProcedure.pdf In this case, I would offer a minister or other respected and neutral person to act as a mediator. I think that it's just straightforward to send a return receipt requested letter, keeping a certified copy, specifying the court rule to the other parent, and asking him/her to agree to one of a list of mediators. These would include ministers and other neutral and respected members of the community. Another option is to move to disqualify the mediator under MCR 2.4.11: (4) The rule for disqualification of a mediator is the same as that provided in MCR 2.003 for the disqualification of a judge. The mediator must promptly disclose any potential basis for disqualification. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules/documents/1Chapter2CivilProcedure.pdf This is what the Macomb County Friend of the Court suggests people do if they don't like “informal mediation”, but offering informal mediation, and failing to tell people that its not required, is a coercive act. Most people assume that the court is not breaking the law! Instead, Macomb County Friend of the Court should abandon internal mediators and “informal mediation”, because they don't meet the statutory requirement that the FOC offer mediation, as caseworker mediators don't meet the requirements for mediators. For more on how mediators are failing Michigan's families, see the survey results here: Michigan Child Custody Survey Report http://www.scribd.com/doc/3123830/Michigan-Child-Custody-Survey-Report
Judicial Service Officers May Violate Michigan Law and Hurt Kids
Judicial Service officers are agents for judges, acting on behalf of the judge they serve. Because I'm going to discuss behaviors that may violate law below, it's helpful to review the immunities that Judicial Service Officers have in their official capacities, and their obligations as agents of the Judge. Firstly, they're government employees, and are entitled to governmental immunity: Under the governmental immunity law applicable to this case, lower level employees were immune from tort liability when they were: (1) acting during the course of their employment and acting, or reasonably believed they were acting, within the scope of their authority; (2) acting in good faith; and (3) performing discretionary acts. A plaintiff can establish bad faith by showing malicious or intentionally unlawful conduct.
Whether an employee acted in bad faith is a question of fact generally left to the jury. Actual malice is not required to show bad faith. Rather, a deliberate indifference standard applies. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/Digest/DigestDetail?digestId=4145&mode=view#2104 5 Secondly, they're agents of the judge. Judges have absolute immunity: Judges have absolute immunity from liability for acts performed in the exercise of their judicial functions. Judicial immunity protects the finality of judgments and preserves judicial independence. That judicial immunity extends to many, one act of Judicial Service Officers, but case law can change: Judicial immunity extends to a psychologist appointed by the court to perform evaluative functions essential to the judicial process, including evaluations and recommendations concerning child custody. In this case, the defendant was thus entitled to immunity, and the trial court properly granted summary disposition. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/Digest/DigestDetail?digestId=35815&mode=view#181 315 “Judicial Service Officer” denotes that these individuals are officers of the court, serving the judge. From this idea, their judicial immunity may later be expand by case law to encompass any act. Perhaps not. Someone will have to test it if they feel that a JSO has committed an intentional tort against them not covered under normal governmental immunity. However, remember, these Judicial Service Officers are agents of the judge. In particular, this means that the judge cannot outsource violations of the judicial cannons, laws, court rules, or civil rights, any more than the judge could do that directly. Sometimes, parents who pay child support and who are behind report that Judicial Service Officers will meet with them before their contempt hearings and give them an ultimatum, saying “either come up with such and such an amount right now, or I send you before the judge and he/she will send you to jail”. If this is the case, then the judge has predetermined the outcome of the hearing before hearing any evidence. This is a violation of basic due process rights for alleged contemptors in over 100 years of jurisprudence. The US Supreme Court said in Hovey V Elliot (1897): "[Even conceding] "the statute does not limit their authority, and hence that the courts of the District of Columbia, notwithstanding the statute, are vested with those general powers to punish for contempt which have been usually exercised by courts of equity without express statutory grant , a more fundamental question yet remains to be determined,-that is, whether a court possessing plenary power to punish for contempt, unlimited by statute, has the right to summon a defendant to answer, and then, after obtaining jurisdiction by the summons, refuse to allow the party summoned to answer, or strike his answer from the files, suppress the testimony in his favor, and
condemn him without consideration thereof, and without a hearing, on the theory that he has been guilty of a contempt of court. The mere statement of this proposition would seem, in reason and conscience, to render imperative a negative answer. The fundamental [167 U.S. 409, 414] conception of a court of justice is condemnation only after hearing. To say that courts have inherent power to deny all right to defend an action, and to render decrees without any hearing whatever, is, in the very nature of things, to convert the court exercising such an authority into an instrument of wrong and oppression, and hence to strip it of that attribute of justice upon which the exercise of judicial power necessarily depends. " http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=167&invol=409 See also: http://www.scribd.com/doc/406110/Some-Thoughts-For-Parents-Facing-A-Contemptof-Court-Hearing If this were me, I would argue, with the help of my lawyer, before the judge that the fact that the judge's agent, the JSO, has presented demands without hearing evidence, has explained to me that the judge has already decided to rule against me. It is clear that the judge has already determined the outcome of this hearing before hearing any evidenced, and this violates my fourteenth amendment due process rights, which required condemnation only after after a hearing, not after a show trial, and I would read a prepared statement from Hovey V Elliot. When meeting with the JSO, I would get a record of the events. If possible, I would hire a court certified court reporter or recorder to come and report or record the proceedings. Alternatively, I would hire a secretary who knows shorthand, usually an older secretaries or retired secretary, so that he or she may to come and record the meeting to pen and paper as it happens. (This avoids issues of getting a computer or other recording device into the court building where applicable). That secretary can then type up his or her notes and can make an impeccable, impartial witness. If neither of these are possible, I would at least have a witness present who can note things on pen and paper during the meeting with the JSO. A friend is usually considered a more impartial witness than a mother or father. If the JSO refuses witnesses, etc, I can leave, and tell the judge on the record that based on the JSO's behavior, I have will not meet with him/her without a witness present. Alternatively, it may be better to stay to simply the proceedings as best I can, so that I have evidence to present to the judge on the record regarding the conduct of the JSO hearing. If the judge is going to rule against me no matter what I say, it's better to gather evidence that this is the case, than to have no evidence at all. This is similar to issues of record raised in off the record child custody hearings: Some Thoughts on Child Custody Hearings http://www.scribd.com/doc/2561734/Some-Thoughts-on-Child-Custody-Hearings I might also bring a prepared financial statement to the JSO, and a prepared receipt for entry of prepared financial statement into the record. If the JSO refuses, I can argue that the JSO has predetermined whether or not to send me to the judge to be sent to jail, and I'm not allowed to offer
evidence on my behalf. If the JSO refuses to sign a receipt, I could argue that the JSO has a cognizance of his/her guilt, and knows that what he/she is doing is fundamentally unjust and illegal. When the JSO suggests a specific monetary amount, I would pull out a prepared sheet, JSO name, date, amount, and statement that if I don't pay it, I will go before the judge and be sent to jail. Also, on there, a check marked statement “so and so was allowed to present evidence on his behalf before this demand was made (yes / no )” I would fill in the blanks and ask the JSO to sign and date the statement explaining the demands of the JSO, which are ultimately the demands of the judge, as the JSO is his/her agent. I would enter this into evidence, signed or unsigned, if signed, as evidence of prejudice or possibly extortion, or if unsigned as evidence of cognizance of guilt by the JSO. In my defense, I would argue that the JSO and judge have had prior communications, they have agreed before I appeared that I am to pay or be jailed, no matter what I have to say, and that my mere presence in the courtroom is an indication that I am to be jailed. Furthermore, the JSO, who may have shown bias or refused testimony, may have passed other information to the judge from our hearing. For those reasons, I might request to call the JSO in my own defense, or to support a motion to disqualify the judge. I would call the JSO as a witness. There are lots of potential questions to ask the JSO, but some would be: Did I appear before you on such and such a date at such and such a time in your official capacity as a Judicial Service Officer? Are you acting under the authority of Judge SoAndSo? Are you an employee of the Macomb County Friend of the Court? Did I explain that I could not afford a lawyer? Did I request that I be appointed a lawyer? Did you allow me to have a lawyer? Did you instruct me that if I fail to pay such and such by such and such a time that I would be required to appear before the judge? Did you instruct me that if I failed to pay Judge SoAndSo would jail me? Did you make any inferences to jail? Did Judge SoAndSo instruct you to say that or otherwise have knowledge that you would say such a thing? Did you allow me to present evidence before making that demand? How was this amount of SuchAndSuch computed?
Who computed it? Did Judge SoAndSo approve of this demand prior to our hearing? Were you operating based on instructions from Judge SoAndSo? Do you believe that Judge SoAndSo was aware of your demands? Did Judge SoAndSo tell you not to accept evidence? Did Judge SoAndSo tell you to deny me access to a lawyer? Did Judge SoAndSo instruct you to make this demand? (JSO is established as an agent of the judge operating under judicial authority) And Judge SoAndSo would know if I appeared here I failed to meet your demand to pay SuchAndSuch? Did you send any other communications to Judge SoAndSo regarding this case or me or anything related to this case? What typically happens when people fail to meet your demand to pay and appear before Judge SoAndSo? (e.g. Jail) Was it your expectation when making this demand that this would happen to me? So your demand was made without first allowing me a hearing? (See Hovey V Elliot – Either what happened with the JSO was a hearing or it wasn't. If it was, it was a badly botched hearing. If it wasn't, then the demand was made without a hearing) What answers did I make to you regarding your summons? Did you make any notes or files indicating my answers? (Trying to establish “Strike answers from files”) Did I offer you such and such evidence? Did you present the evidence that I offered to you to the judge? Did you tell the judge about that evidence? (Probably refused all evidence – Saying “take it to the judge” - Trying to establish
suppress evidence) Was our meeting a part of the standard contempt process? Based on your knowledge of the court system, if an alleged contemptor meets with you, and then fails to meet your demands, and goes before the judge, will t he judge take that into account when deciding whether to jail an alleged contemptor? Why don't alleged contemptors who meet the demands of the JSO appear before the Judge? (Indicates that meeting with JSO is part of the contempt process, positive outcomes, at least, are predetermined. JSO meeting includes answers not recorded, was not allowed to submit evidence, was allowed no counsel, etc) What instructions are you given in dealing with alleged contemptors at JSO hearings? Are you a neutral party in these proceedings? Have you been given instructions by your boss to get as many contemptors to pay as possible? Do you make more or less money, or is your performance judged in any way, by how many alleged contemptors pay, how much they pay, etc? How is the income of your employer related to the funds you collect? What is “the 2 for 1”? (Tite IV-D) (establishes lack of neutrality) Do you have a license to practice law? Are you a sworn judge? As a judicial officer, do you understand your duties as a judge under the Michigan Judicial Code of Conduct? How did you ensure that my fourteenth amendment due process rights were protected during our hearing? In your capacity as a judicial agent, what rights of mine were you careful to consider during my hearing? (Dunno, what's this, huh? Establishes that judge created magical court for JSO where rights don't exist). Were you acting as a psychologist during our hearing?
Were you appointed by the court to evaluate me as a psychologist during our hearing? Did you make any recommendations or were you gathering information to make future recommendations concerning child custody at our hearing? (Establishes lack of conferred judicial immunity) Did you reasonably believe that you were acting within the scope of your authority during our hearing? Did you act in good faith during our hearing? Did you disclose your conflicts of interest? Did you try to determine whether or not I was allowed a lawyer? Did you accept evidence? Did you hear my testimony? Did you do SuchAndSuch? (malicious thing) (Trying to establish bad faith – malicious conduct) Did you prevent me from leaving? Did you do SuchAndSuch? (intentionally unlawful thing) (Trying to establish intentionally unlawful conduct) What did you say when I told you about SuchAndSuch a situation? (e.g. Other child needs medication, FOC has failed to modify support obligations as circumstances warrant, I am needed to care for an ill relative who may be harmed if I'm sent to jail) (Trying to establish deliberate indifference standard). Sometimes, parents report that the Judicial Service Agent will mail a letter with this ultimatum such that the parent will receive it the day of or a day or to prior to a scheduled hearing. If this were me, I would argue that the judge, through the judge's agent, the JSO, has intentionally given me an unreasonably short period of time to respond to their requirements. From this action, its clear their bias is to jail me. Some fathers report that JSOs will not speak with them, but those same JSOs will speak with the mothers in their case. By talking to one side or the other without the other present, the judge is outsourcing ex-parte
communications to his/her agent, who can no more do than than the judge can. From Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct: "A judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties concerning a pending or impending proceeding, except as follows: [none apply]" I would probably argue that it seems as a matter of policy that the judge, through the judge's agent, only speaks to moms, and not dads, and makes decisions based on these sexist ex-parte communications, being partial to women at the expense of men. From Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct: "A judge should respect and observe the law. At all times, the conduct and manner of a judge should promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Without regard to a person's race, gender, or other protected personal characteristic, a judge should treat every person fairly, with courtesy and respect." If I were such a father, I might argue before the court that explain that I felt the court was allowing its agent, the JSO, to consistently violate of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, including telling one party that the outcome is predetermined, and having illicit ex-parte communications with the other party. It is absurd to then turn on the court recording, go on the record, and pretend like the judge has no bias, just because the judge's agent broke the Michigan Code of Judical Conduct on instructions from the judge rather than the judge breaking those code himself or herself. If I were concerned that my judge could not handle my case, I might motion for a new Judge under MCR 2.003: Grounds include: (1) The judge is personally biased or prejudiced for or against a party or attorney. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules/ Facts to support this allegation could include: The judge's agent has been engaged in ex parte communications on behalf of the judge with mom, and refuses to speak to me. The judge's agent has been rude and threatening to me, if applicable. The judge's agent has informed me that the outcome of this hearing is predetermined. (5) The judge knows that he or she, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge's spouse, parent or child wherever residing, or any other member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household, has an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding or has any other
more than de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding. http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/rules Through the Title IV-D program, and through the interest-like fines on arrears, the local court, which employs the judge, benefits financially, some of the decisions the judge makes, including custody, parenting time, and child support, could substantially impact the judge's employer, and may lead to loss of income for the judge. Sadly, this is conflict of interest exists for any judge ruling on family court matters.
Some General Concerns for any Local Michigan Friend of the Court
Other concerns about the Macomb County Friend of the Court are general concerns for any FOC, but they are worth mentioning here: The court has a financial conflict of interest that may discourage joint physical custody or the higher earning parent to obtain custody of children: http://www.scribd.com/doc/630611/A-Quick-Summary-of-Title-IVD-Funding-and-Incentives Some local FOCs may delay or deny legitimate child support modification requests: http://www.scribd.com/doc/458394/Michigan-Friend-of-the-Court-Child-Support-ModificationRequest Or refuse to respond to legitimate parenting time violations: http://www.scribd.com/doc/550881/When-the-Friend-of-the-Court-Doesnt-Respond-To-ParentingTime-Violations Or engage in troubling retaliatory practices: http://www.scribd.com/doc/454566/Racketeering-in-Michigans-Friend-of-the-Court http://www.scribd.com/doc/959159/When-Might-a-Federal-Racketeering-Lawsuit-Be-Allowable Or may operate without knowledge of problems that fatherlessnes cause for children: http://www.scribd.com/doc/425877/The-Effects-of-Divorce-and-Sole-Custody-on-ChildrenAny local FOC is under the direction of the SCAO (State Court Administrative Office) which created the troubling CSPR (or CSPER) report, and the federal dollars also extend the financial conflict of interest from the courts to the local Prosecuting Attorneys: http://www.scribd.com/doc/477791/A-Review-of-the-CSPER-Report http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/services/focb/CSPR12-06ReportAndRecommendations.pdf Some local FOCs may improperly use internal mediators. http://www.scribd.com/doc/405400/Michigan-Friend-of-the-Court-Mediator-Questions Some local FOCs may unnecessarily delay child custody rulings, damaging the parent-child bond of the parent on the wrong side of a temporary order, and risking making any temporary order a
permanent order through simple longevity: http://www.scribd.com/doc/509712/What-if-The-Court-Fails-to-Rule-Promptly-on-Custody Some local FOCs may fail to allow contemptors to speak at contempt hearings: http://www.scribd.com/doc/406110/Some-Thoughts-For-Parents-Facing-A-Contempt-of-Court-Hearing Some local FOCs may fail to properly ensure that the civil rights of parents are respected: http://www.scribd.com/doc/404652/Fiction-John-Q-Public-and-the-Friend-of-the-Court-Before-ItBegins Some local FOCs may fail to enforce parent's rights to their children's school or medical records: http://www.scribd.com/doc/458635/Considerations-for-Getting-Your-Childs-School-Records-usingFERPA Some local FOCs may incorrectly substitute a software application for the correct child support formula manual, creating an improper support obligation that may actually cause severe poverty of the paying parent, which is not consistent with Michigan law nor in the children's best interests: http://www.scribd.com/doc/962203/Should-Software-for-Child-Support-Calculations-be-Treated-AsUnreliable Or they may fail to act in the children's interest when there is clear and convincing evidence that their custodial parent isn't using the paying parent's payments to provide for the children: http://www.scribd.com/doc/1018457/Considerations-for-when-a-Parent-Spends-Child-Support-onHimselfHerself-and-the-Court-Doesnt-Care Or they may back date forms, etc, making it difficult for parents to obtain justice: http://www.scribd.com/doc/948712/Detecting-Fraud-in-Court-Filings-Postal-Meters-ColorPrintersCopiers-and-Cartridges Or they may fail to follow court rules and allow for contemporaneous recordings, or alter recordings, or unnecessarily delay transcripts, to make it more difficult for parents to obtain justice: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2257035/Contemporaneous-Recordings-for-Referee-Hearings-in-Michigan Or they may use biased custody evaluators: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2561734/Some-Thoughts-on-Child-Custody-Hearings Or Lawyers, Referees, and Judges may fail to adhere to their ethical duty to report when other lawyers, referees, and judges have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct http://www.scribd.com/doc/2618443/YOU-are-a-mandated-reporter Or mediators may fail to meet the legal expectations of parents, and judges and referees may rubber stamp caseworker recommendations. http://www.scribd.com/doc/3123830/Michigan-Child-Custody-Survey-Report Please note how to get public information from the judiciary. http://www.scribd.com/doc/3584335/How-to-Get-Public-Information-From-the-Michigan-Judiciary