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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

March 22nd, 2012 by Terry Kee
The Byron Facebook apology, which has become an international cause célèbre, ended in Domestic Relations Court on Monday of this week.  Mark Byron stopped posting the court ordered apology short of the 30 days ordered.  Judge Jon Sieve did not order jail time and considered the apologies posted enough to cover the court requirement.  (video link here)

Fathers and Families of Ohio asked the magistrate who issued this public apology, Paul Meyers, Administrative Magistrate, Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations, to recuse himself from this case. As of this writing, we have not received a response.  Judge Jon Sieve, however, ruled on the court ordered Facebook apology.

Fathers and Families of Ohio asked Magistrate Meyers to recuse himself and to apologize because in addition to the obvious infringement upon free speech, Meyers failed to recognize the overt bias and discrimination against men in the Ohio domestic court system.  In fact, he contributed to its perpetration and then made a mockery of jurisprudence.  It appeared to us that his primary objective was to publicly humiliate Mr. Byron for speaking the truth about the state of custody determination in Ohio.

It would have been an abuse of judicial power if Magistrate Meyers had simply forced Mr. Byron to write his own public apology.  But instead, he took it upon himself to pen the apology and then pressure Mr. Byron to publish it on Facebook – as if it were his own – in order to avoid 60 days in jail.  This is an egregious action for any public official to undertake. It is a core principle of American democracy that citizens are free to express their opinions concerning the courts and the legal system.

In the apology Mr. Byron was forced to post on his Facebook page, Magistrate Meyers imposed his own perception of events when he made Mr. Byron state that he had only seen his son one time in four months.  This admission was intended to harm Mr. Byron’s credibility.  Supervised visitation is not acceptable to a father who had no accusation leveled against him or history of abuse during his marriage; and the one single accusation subsequent to the split is nothing more than that – an accusation.  As we know, such accusations are common practice in divorce and custody proceedings in order to leverage one’s position.

Furthermore, by not subjecting himself and his child to the supervised visitation, Mr. Bryon reacted as many fathers in his situation would have. To an innocent victim of false accusations (The Enquirer stated that he was exonerated of criminal allegations), supervised visitation would be an extremely humiliating event. In fact, in the child’s mind, the association of a “supervisor” with a parent sends a dangerous signal – that the parent is to be feared. We believe that it was not unreasonable for Mr. Byron to want to spare his child from this association and resulting trauma.

Additionally, it is the unequivocal belief of Fathers and Families that the knowledge of prior supervised visitation will ultimately prevent a fair and impartial consideration for shared parenting, which is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, a ruling in favor of supervised visitation should not be considered lightly.  When a child’s relationship with a parent is determined by the State, the matter must be handled with the utmost care and extreme due diligence — and memorialized extensively.  Otherwise, accusations used as a tactic will continue to proliferate.  No magistrate or judge should infringe upon any person’s right to be a parent or the corresponding child’s right to have and maintain a relationship with both parents, unless it can be sufficiently demonstrated that such interference is necessary to prevent harm to the child.

We further believe that Magistrate Meyers actions have violated the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct (Canon 2), “A Judge Shall Respect and Comply with the Law and Shall Act at all Times in a Manner that Promotes Public Confidence in the Integrity and Impartiality of the Judiciary.”  The issuing of a ruling that violated Mr. Byron’s constitutional right to free speech is not in compliance with the law.

Magistrate Meyers’ response was self-serving and it was shameful.   His “remedy” was the equivalent of a public flogging and has no place in a country with a rule of law and where sentencing standards have progressed drastically from the Middle Ages.

The point is this – magistrates and judges should not infringe upon any person’s right to be a parent or the corresponding child’s right to have and maintain a relationship with both parents, unless it can be sufficiently demonstrated that in doing so, it would be in the best interest of the child.    We should require domestic court magistrates and judges to show cause and memorialize their decisions in writing when ruling on custody against the will of one or both parents.  Until that day, we have nothing more than a mockery of parental equality and fairness in custody determination proceedings.

Terry Kee
Executive Committee
Fathers and Families of Ohio

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