Our old friend Maryanne Godboldo of Detroit is back in the news. Here’s the latest (Detroit News, 12/12/11).
Oh, I know you thought that case was over and it should be. Indeed, it should never have been a case in the first place, but it’s gone on for many months now and, according to county prosecutors, it’s not over yet. Cue the Yogi Berra quotation.
Godboldo and her daughter Arianna may be this year’s poster children for outrageous state intervention into family life. If there’s a more extreme case of exactly that, I can’t recall it.
In a nutshell, Arianna was 13 when the case began. She was having mental problems and Maryanne and their pediatrician tried the girl on anti-psychotic medication. That seemed to Maryanne to only make matters worse, so she stopped the medication.
Somehow, Wayne County Child Protective Services caseworker Mia Wenk got wind of that and filled out a form order to remove Arianna from her mother’s care. In what must be the most remarkable part of the case, she went to court and got it stamped by a clerk at the court. As far as I can tell, the judge never even knew about the order that his court issued.
Let’s stop there and let the full impact of that sink in. First, Wenk decided on her own to remove the child with apparently no consultation with anyone, not a supervisor, not Godboldo, not the doctor. She then decided that the matter was an emergency, so Godboldo was never informed that a proceeding against her had begun. Wenk went to court where apparently these orders are so routinely issued that the judge wasn’t even present, no evidence was produced and a clerk “signed” the order with a rubber stamp. How much of that looks like due process of law to you?
The most outrageous aspect of the whole thing is that what was done is obviously routine for both CPS and the courts. This time they got caught, but mostly they don’t.
So, having obtained her civil order, Wenk told the police it was a criminal warrant. The police showed up at Godboldo’s residence and informed her that they were there to take her daughter away. Remember, that was the first time Godboldo had heard that any action against her was under way. Needless to say, she refused to give up her daughter, which prompted the police to take the child by force.
Apparently to cover their own wrongdoing, they arrested Godboldo, claiming she’d taken a shot at them. The only trouble with that is that there was no evidence she’d done any such thing. Apparently no bullet was ever produced, no shell casings, no holes in the walls or windows, nothing.
So Maryanne spent a few days in jail and Arianna spent two months in a mental facility where the doctors – wait for it – didn’t give her the medication Maryanne had refused to give her. And sure enough, Arianna improved. It turned out that Maryanne was doing the right thing after all.
Eventually, criminal charges were dropped and Arianna was returned to her mother’s care.
But, as is so often the case, doing the right thing as a parent isn’t good enough for CPS. And having committed no criminal wrong isn’t good enough for the county prosecutor’s office. The simple fact is that the wrongdoers in this entire case are CPS and the police. To the bureaucratic mind, that means they can never cease attempting to cast blame on someone else, i.e. in this case, Maryanne Godboldo.
But the local courts aren’t having it. Yesterday, two more judges told county prosecutors to go back where they came from. In family court, the prosecutor’s office was representing CPS that is still determined to wrest Godboldo’s daughter from her. Their latest claim is that Godboldo homeschools the girl. That of course is perfectly legal assuming it’s done right, but CPS just can’t seem to let a decent mother be a decent mother. They screwed up royally and they’re desperate to deflect blame.
And, Family Court Judge Lynne Pierce told Assistant Attorney General Deborah Carley, who complained it appears the girl has never received anything other than homeschooling her entire life, she is not barred from pursuing criminal truancy charges if she feels the parents are flouting state law that required the education of children.That’s judge-talk for “Get your lousy case out of my courtroom.”
“There may be some more evaluation to be done, but I don’t see any more need of this court’s continued involvement,” Pierce said.
Meanwhile in criminal court, a second judge ruled that a previous one had acted properly in dismissing all charges against Godboldo.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Gregory Bill ruled in the morning against claims by the prosecutor that 36th District Judge Ronald Giles committed judicial error in August when he threw out the criminal charges. Bill said Giles was correct in concluding there was insufficient evidence to order Godboldo to trial.Godboldo’s attorneys have known all along what the case is about.
“It is clear to me that he (Giles) doesn’t think the defendant shot at anybody,” Bill said, concluding if a shot was fired inside the house, it was fired at the ceiling and perhaps not by the mother.
Godboldo’s lawyers have said all along this was about parental rights to make medical decisions on behalf of their children, and the government abused its authority in obtaining an order to take the child without a court hearing.That’s about the size of it and from what I can gather, that’s how most people see the case. So what does CPS do? They make a bad situation worse. Instead of admitting that Wenk behaved wrongly, they want to cast blame on Godboldo, enhancing the perception of a public agency run amok.
Just in case anyone misses the point, county prosecutors have announced they’ll appeal the criminal court’s ruling again. Four judges have ruled against them. Now they’re going for five.
There’s a message here for all parents in the Detroit area. It’s about the use of state power. CPS is announcing loudly and clearly that parents, regardless of how fit and responsible, must obey the dictates of caseworkers, regardless of how arbitrary, abusive or outside the law. Failure to obey will become a judicial nightmare for the parent whose financial resources will never equal those of the state.
CPS lost this one fair and square. But all parents know that, when CPS comes knocking on their door, they might not be as lucky as Maryanne Godboldo.