The Family Court Of Injustice

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[On The Spot]

It is a known fact – fathers are more likely to get an adverse decision in a Family Court dispute.

Many good fathers find themselves getting railroaded too many times in this non-criminal venue. The court’s mission is to operate "in the best interest of the child." I would like to ask, can anyone in the Family Court show us how many families they save? I personally know of many families the courts have torn apart – the Family Court’s interest is with those who have benefited from troubled relations and children in need of a little guidance.

Darryl Brown now knows he is not an exception to the rule. Since November 2006, Brown has found himself locked in an un-winnable battle with his daughter’s mother, Arlanda Murray; the Department of Education (DOE); the New York City Corporation Council, which is the city’s Law Department; the Administration for Children Services (ACS); Lawyers for Children – a private organization funded by the state; and, Leake and Watts – a private institution in Yonkers New York being referred to as a "Residential Treatment Center," where he says his daughter is being held, beaten as punishment, and drugged for "treatment."

Here’s the irony of this story. Brown petitioned the Family Court complaining about how his daughter’s mother was treating her and filed for sole custody of the child. The mother in turn responded with her own set of tricks – making counter complaints and allegations as Brown witnessed the system turning on him. It is sad to say too many fathers have learned they do not have a friend in Family Court.

There are no winners when love is lost, followed by abusive words and very troubling allegations, which opens the door to a state system where too many functionaries are heartless. One allegation against Brown as Court records state, referring to his daughter, that he "inappropriately supervised her by bathing her – washing her arms, back and legs with a sponge when the child was fourteen." Brown denies the allegations saying his daughter was old enough to do those things for herself.

Personally, I think the word "Family Court" is a misnomer that should be replaced with "Domestic Court." There are no statistics as to how many families the court keeps together.

On July 18, 2008, in Judge Rhoda J. Cohen’s courtroom, the "Subject Child," as I will now refer to the girl, was called to testify against her father. This was a big day for the Family Court and the city’s and state’s agencies involved. This child was sworn in and directed to take a seat on the stand next to the judge. It was this day, the Subject Child told the judge her father did nothing to her, that she loved her father, and that she wanted to leave Leake and Watts and go home.

But, this was not the testimony the judge, law guardian, ASC or Corporation Council wanted to hear. According to court records, the questioning of the Subject Child appeared leading and pressed.

But the Subject Child was not under any medication this day and answered the questions the best she knew how. "…. do you remember telling him that your father would wash you?"

The Subject Child replied: "When I was little." She repeated this response numerous times.

The judge interjected: "And how old, when you say you were little?"

The Subject Child replied: "When I was a baby."

The Subject Child was then pressed again by the judge and the attorney as to how she could remember her father washing her when she was a baby? The Subject Child replied: "Because people used to tell me."

Judge Cohen now speaking to the Subject Child with a stern and controlling voice says, " …. I want to remind you that you’ve taken an oath; you swore to tell the truth in these proceedings. And that’s all I am asking you to do, is to tell the truth."

It is funny; the judge reminds a child of taking an oath, when it appears the professionals involved with this case forgot they too had taken an oath. This case has many problems.

When the Subject Child did not testify as expected, Judge Cohen moved to remove what the Subject Child had stated under oath and directed the attorney to put in evidence that which would clearly impeach the testimony she had just given. "Since the father is not represented by an attorney, these questions are improper because they are not in evidence," Judge Cohen stated, and went on to tell the attorney: "If you want to submit something into evidence to which you can refer to, I will allow you to do that."

"I would ask that the duly certified and delegated New York Presbyterian records be admitted as Petitioner’s 1," the lawyer tells Judge Cohen, who asked Brown: "Do you have any objection to the hospital records being marked in evidence?"

The Subject Child was taken to New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYPH) and while under medication she was interviewed and questioned about her father. The medication appeared to have been so strong, the Subject Child did not remember talking to anyone and stated, "I do not speak to strangers."

"I have objections to it. It doesn’t state the doses of medication she was under during the interview," Brown stated. Judge Cohen had already made up her mind and was going to admit the hospital record into evidence. "Sir, listen to me. I want to explain something. The records are not being offered----The portions of the records that discuss medication are not being put in evidence," Judge Cohen stated.

However, Brown wanted Judge Cohen to put the medication the Subject Child was on when she was being interviewed in the presence of her mother on the record. "Was it videotaped or recorded?" Brown asked of the NYPH interview.

"No, your Honor, it was just written," the attorney stated.

"Then I would object to this, your Honor," Brown stated.

"All right, then the father’s objection is overruled," Judge Cohen stated, leaving the door wide open for an appeal to be taken.

The attorneys who brought the charges against Brown discovered right in the middle of the trial and after their star witness had completed her testimony, that there was a "Conflict of interest," and asked the Judge Cohen to be excused from the case.

"The child spoke to a party who is very close to a member of someone in our office. There is a real conflict here," the attorney told the judge, presenting a great prejudice to the case. However, Judge Cohen took it in stride: "All right. So lawyer for children is relieved."

Then a Legal Aid attorney who was already sitting in the court took over the case. You have to ask yourself, when will court reform begin?

Judge Cohen had seen nothing more than a caring and maybe over protective father, Brown before her. Yet, in her mind, she saw an abuser.

The Child had been removed from her home by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) as a result of the allegations against the father. She is being deprived of parental care and deprived of education. She remains confined at Leake and Watts.

The Subject Child has made many complaints of her own to the staff at Leake and Watts and to her father alleging that she has been assaulted by staff. "He grabbed me from behind and put me in a choke hold. My neck and back is hurting and they won’t take me to the hospital," she told the father talking about an incident with a staff member at Leake and Watts.

The incident occurred weeks ago – Leake and Watts refused to get The Subject Child any medical attention because this will generate a medical record.

Telephone calls and e-mail messages I sent to the Leake and Watts media relations department requesting a response went unanswered.

On November 13th, Judge Cohen wrote in an order, The Subject Child, "has been in the custody of her mother throughout these proceedings – she has never been in the care of ACS. This fact is a lie.

It is important to note, Leake and Watts’ staff has a reputation for its criminal behavior toward the children in their care. Approximately three years ago, a counselor was having a relationship with one of the female residents and when she went absent without leave (AWOL) she lost her life on a Bronx street inside the counselor’s car after it flipped over several times.

It is not clear whether Leake and Watts notified this child’s family of her death in a timely manner, and somehow their state accreditation continues to be approved.

The Subject Child should be released from Leake and Watts, admitted to a hospital to be de-toxed of all the drugs that are being pumped into her body and a new Social Worker and Law Guardian should been appointed.

There never was any real evidence of sexual abuse or endangering the welfare of this child put before the Family Court. If so, the judge would have had Brown arrested on the spot. Yet, Judge Cohen refused to dismiss the matter before her and appeared to be practicing the law – from the bench.

The Family Court is not a Criminal Court and has a duty to identify troubled relations without trying to make one of the parties a criminal. On October 1, Murray petitioned the court for an order of protection trying to make Brown appear as a threat. She claimed being, " very fearful for her and the child’s safety." The order was dismissed October 3 by Judge Cohen.

How much does it cost the tax payer to keep cases like this on the calendar for years? Add up the dollars going to: Judges, lawyer, lawyers, guardians, social workers, case workers, doctors, infinitum.

We need to carefully examine what the Family Court means when it says, "In the best interest of the child." There wasn’t anyone in the courtroom whose greatest interest was for this child other than her father.

He just appeared at hearing after hearing being accused, berated, and castrated as a father, and never once did he give up on his daughter. Brown advocated for his daughter inside and outside of the Family Court raising issues pertaining to her wellness; housing, education and mental health – reaching out to any media who would listen.

Murray, the mother, complained about the media being present in the court and refused to answer questions pertaining to receiving monies to keep her daughter on medication and her rent being paid as part of a program. 

I reached out for a comment from Murray, but her telephone was out of service and she could not be reached.

Write a letter to the judge and ask her to dismiss this case: Honorable Judge Rhoda J. Cohen, 60 Lafayette Street, New York New York 10013 – 9th Floor, part 6.

Darryl Brown has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against the Commissioner of ACS. He is searching for an attorney to assist him in getting his and his daughter’s life back.

More to come.

Contact Winkfield for his consideration regarding covering your own story: (347) 632-2272 By mail: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423; Email: [email protected] or [email protected]; call (212) 481-7745. Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

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