Legislative Oversight of the Judiciary

Posted on January 11, 2014

5


Now Is The Time

Judges can do anything they want – violate constitutions, ignore enacted laws, disregard court rules of procedure, refuse to follow appellate court precedent – with no consequence or penalty at all. They have unlimited power. They are not accountable to anyone. Not even if they hurt children, destroy families, or alienate children from their parents. This was vividly illustrated at a hearing in Minnesota’s federal district court on January 10, 2014 in Sandra Grazzini-Rucki v. Judge David Knutson, No. 13-cv-02477 (SRN/JSM). Lori Swanson, the Minnesota Attorney General, vigorously defended Judge Knutson in this case without charge, i.e., at public expense. Her deputy argued that Judge Knutson was immune from any consequence including a suit for damages regardless of what he did – even if he violated basic civil rights.

In other words, according to Attorney General Swanson, judges are God. They are infallible. Like kings, they can do no wrong. But, is this the way it should be? Does Minnesota’s constitution fail to address this? The answer to both questions is “no.” Judges should be required to follow the Minnesota and U.S. constitutions, enacted laws, court rules of procedure, appellate precedent, and do what is right and just. They should not be allowed to ignore these standards. Legislative oversight, similar to executive oversight provided by the Legislative Auditor, will accomplish this. This should be because it will curb domestic violence, child abuse, repair our family court system, and because it is what is best for our society.

The book, Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody, edited by Barry Goldstein and Mo Hannah, states in the book’s introduction, “As one would expect of a diverse group of experts coming from many different disciplinary and practice fields, our contributors do not agree on every issue or approach. Nevertheless, they show an overwhelming consensus that the custody court system as presently constituted is broken and that the court’s failure to apply current research findings to court practices has placed the lives and well-being of thousands of children and protective mothers in jeopardy.” Thirty-two nationally recognized scholars contributed chapters to this book. One of these contributors, Erika A. Sussman, a nationally recognized attorney, wrote, “While legislatures and the general public have come to recognize domestic violence (DV) as a private and public wrong, family courts throughout the nation continue to inflict enormous injustices upon battered women and their children. In the name of ‘gender equity’ and ‘fatherhood rights’, custody courts often render decisions that ignore the substantial risks posed by battering parents, thereby jeopardizing the physical safety of survivors and their children.” Thousands, probably tens of thousands, of children and protective parents are victims of a severely dysfunctional judicial system, including many guardians ad litem (GAL), custody evaluators, and other court “experts.” Thousands of children are badly hurt and damaged by domestic violence and abusive parents, mostly fathers. These children become hurt and damaged adults. Many turn to alcohol and drugs. Some become violent resulting in massacres and murders. Our society is being poisoned by our dysfunctional judiciary. Judge accountability is the obvious solution. As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, and as history has shown many, many times, power corrupts, especially unlimited power.

Please introduce a bill – already prepared – that implements Minnesota Constitution Article VI, Section 9, which provides; ‘The legislature may also provide for the retirement, removal, or other discipline of any judge who is disabled, incompetent or guilty of conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

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