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I recently partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein, president of Fathers and Families, in a campaign designed to draw attention to a serious problem in our child welfare system. When a father's former wife or partner has been found to have abused her children and has had them taken by child protective services, decent, loving fathers are often denied custody of their own children. Incredibly, children are often put into foster care rather than being returned to their fathers, even though there has not been any finding that the fathers are unfit. Our campaign called attention to the case of Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father who is battling the Florida Department of Children & Families so he can raise his little daughter, most likely in Cuba. In this "Elian Gonzalez II" case, Izquierdo has been found by a Florida court to be a fit and committed father, but he is still being denied his parental rights. One reason DCF has acted as it has is that Florida Governor Charlie Crist, like many Florida politicians, seeks the loyalty, votes, and campaign donations of the large, powerful Cuban-American community. Crist (correctly) sees defeating Izquierdo as a way to win Cuban-American votes. In Florida, sticking it to Cuba's government is a crowd-pleaser, similar to the way politicians win popularity by beating up on "deadbeat dads." We asked Florida DCF to contact us and open a dialogue on how we can address this important issue. Thousands of you have answered our call to action, and our campaign has been covered or cited in hundreds of newspapers, including by the Associated Press, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writers Group, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, and many others. DCF, to their credit, contacted us and met with Dr. Holstein in Miami recently. Our sources indicate that DCF is under pressure from the Governor's office to continue this case, despite a lack of enthusiasm from many in DCF itself. The case is currently on appeal, and may be held up for quite a while, which will delay the reunion of Izquierdo and his daughter. Fortunately, in the meantime, she spends five days per week with him. Moreover, we do believe we have begun a meaningful dialogue with DCF on the issue of fathers and the child welfare system. We are not asking for more protest calls, letters and faxes at this time, but will instead pursue our dialogue with DCF. We will keep supporters posted as to events in the Izquierdo case and with DCF, and we may again call upon you to protest in the future. Thanks to all of you who supported our campaign. To learn more about our campaign, click here.

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Below are some recent articles and items of interest from Fathers & Families' latest News Digest. Male domestic violence victims increase (East Anglian Daily Times, 11-6-07) Mills is dumped by divorce lawyers (San Francisco Chronicle, 11-9-07) Michael Jordan finally speaks about divorce (Chicago Sun-Times, 11-9-07) Becker's child custody triumph (The Sun, 11-9-07) Osmond goodbye: family shares memories of father (Deseret Morning News, 11-10-07) Ex-NBA player with at least 8 kids files for bankruptcy (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11-11-07) Cate Edwards: on the Trail for Dad (Associated Press, 11-11-07) Like father, like son for Broads (Times Online, 11-11-07) Broward residents can now go online to file for divorce, small claims (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11-12-07) Brooklyn woman stabs father of child to death (WNBC, 11-12-07) Father finally figures into her life (Fay Observer, 11-12-07)

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Background: I recently partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein and Fathers & Families in a campaign to protest Florida Department of Children & Families' actions in the "Elian Gonzalez II" case in Miami. In that case, Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father, has faced numerous obstacles to reunite with his 5-year-old daughter. In our letters and faxes to Florida DCF, we asked that they contact Dr. Holstein and meet with him to discuss the issues put forward in our protest. In the photo, Dr. Holstein shakes hands with Gilda Ferradaz, head of DCF's Miami division. Dr. Holstein met with Ferradaz, Mary Cagle, DCF's Director of Child Welfare Legal Services, and other DCF officials last week. In addition, Dr. Holstein met with embattled Cuban father Rafael Izquierdo. To learn more about our campaign, click here. Dr. Holstein and I had urged DCF to examine the Urban Institute's recent report What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies' Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers, which studied the foster care systems of four states. The report contains a shocking finding: when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers in only 15% of cases. In Ferradaz's letter below, she says that DCF will "review in detail" the Urban Institute report. Changing a misguided bureacracy's policies can be a Sisyphean effort, but, to be fair, DCF has in general responded to our campaign in a meaningful and intelligent manner. Ferradaz wrote: "Thank you for your correspondence to Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the leadership of the Department of Children and Families regarding a Miami child custody case. "Your willingness to raise your voice shows your compassion for the well-being of children in our state. As requested in your correspondence, Department of Children and Families leadership contacted Dr. Ned Holstein, President of Fathers and Families, and met with him on October 24, 2007 to hear his concerns. Dr. Holstein shared with us the report prepared by the Urban Institute which you cite in your email and we will review it in detail. Please be assured that the best interest of the child is always the primary concern of this Department. "We thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. "Gilda P. Ferradaz, Circuit Administrator"

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The article below is illustrative of the problems with the child support system in many ways: 1) I've often made the point that when we jail or threaten to jail child support debtors and they pay money to stay out of jail, this money often is not theirs but instead money they've borrowed from their family and friends. Yet inevitably whatever chest-thumping/publicity-seeking DA who's behind the latest crackdown will tell you "See? The deadbeats have the money and the threat of jail makes them pay!" In this article, a judge is admitting that threatening to

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Background: Mary Winkler--who shot her husband in the back and then refused to aid him or call 911 as he slowly bled to death for 20 minutes--walked away a free woman last month after serving a farcically brief "sentence" for her crimes. She is currently in a custody battle with Matthew Winkler's parents, who have been raising their three daughters for the last 18 months. The Winklers seek to terminate Mary Winkler's parental rights and adopt the girls. I support their position. To learn more about this horrendous injustice, see my co-authored column No child custody for husband-killer Mary Winkler (World Net Daily, 9/14/07), or click here. In the new article below, District Attorney Michael Dunavant asserts that Mary Winkler also intended to kill her three young children and herself. He says: "I would suggest to you that the evidence was clear that not only did she make up her mind that she was going to kill him when she did, but she was going to end it for her children and herself, too. "[When Winkler left the state after shooting her husband in the back in their bed, she had] less than $200 in cash, a pair of socks for her baby, a shotgun and a box of shells in a minivan. That"s it...She drove hundreds of miles to Jackson, Mississippi, spent one night, and then to Orange Beach, Alabama, and was in a hotel the next night. She was running out of money. How was she going to feed her children? How was she going to get back to Tennessee? "You know what she was going to do. She was going to kill her children and herself, and she was just going to do it at the beach instead of in Selmer, Tennessee." The full article can be seen at DA says Winkler aimed to kill kids (Jackson Sun, 11/11/07). As critical as I am of Mary Winkler, I don't find the DA's assertion terribly convincing. If Winkler really wanted to kill her children and kill herself, she could have done it in the house after she killed her husband. It's certainly possible that this is how things would have turned out in Alabama, but I hardly think we could be sure what she was going to do, as this DA implies. This might be a good example to help explain one reason (of many) why men commit more murder-suicides than women do. While in Alabama, Winkler probably thought that even if she is caught, she still has a chance to bamboozle the legal system and get off, as in fact she was able to do. By contrast, a man in her situation would know that he was doomed, that there was no chance for him to get off through the system, and would be more likely to end it all with a murder-suicide. This in no way excuses it for either gender, of course.

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Background: In my co-authored column, From a Felony to a Phone Call: Texas Prop 13 Will Allow Innocent Men to Be Jailed Without Bail (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Austin-American Statesman, 10/22/07), Mike McCormick, Executive Director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, and I criticized a Texas Proposition which drew wide support from many state newspapers. Unfortunately, our column was the only published opposition I saw, against a slew of editorials and op-eds in favor. Reflecting again the weakness of our movement, Proposition 13 passed with Texas voters by a wide margin on Tuesday. Proposition 13 is a dangerous measure which will harm innocent men by greatly eroding the rights of those accused of domestic violence. The measure grants judges the ability to hold without bail those accused of nonviolent, trivial, or accidental violations of temporary restraining orders.

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Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. Not only was Shull railroaded, but he has been the target of widely-disseminated lazy, misleading reporting by the Associated Press, the New York Post, and others. To learn more about the case, see my blog posts In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part I), Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V, or read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull here. Several dozen legal and mental health professionals who worked with Judge Shull wrote to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission earlier this year testifying to Judge Shull's good character and conduct as a judge. Below we quote from a few of them. Lana R. Mullins, MSW, on Judge Shull: "In regards to his professional behavior it has been my observations that he has researched and familiarized himself with the laws pertaining to the Juvenile Court and has worked very hard to properly administer foster care and child protective services cases. Judge Shull has demonstrated an understanding of the crisis-oriented response DSS must make in certain cases and haw made himself available for emergency hearings as needed. In my experience, Judge Shull has been fair in his decisions and above all has considered the overall safety of the children before his court." Read Ms. Mullins' full letter here. Attorney Daisy N. Compton on Judge Shull: "Since Judge Shull was appointed to the bench about four years ago I have been before him on various cases in the Scott County J&DR District Court on at least a weekly basis...On a professional level I have the highest regard for Judge Shull who has proved to me to be a good judge who has made good decisions when faces with those most difficult of family situations that we are all familiar with in the J&DR courts." "As a matter of fact, my sister, who is employed by my office part-time as a legal secretary, and I, have often commented on his most courteous of manners and demeanor as a 'perfect Southern gentleman,' to all persons in public." Read Ms. Compton's full letter here. Lee County District Court Clerk Linda Gibson on Judge Shull: "Judge Shull has been an excellent judge. He has always treated me and other Court personnel with kindness and respect. The attorneys that appear before him are treated with respect also. The litigants that appear before him are allowed to tell their side and leave the courtroom, whether they win their case or not, with the knowledge that they have been before a fair and decent judge." Read Ms. Gibson's full letter here. Retired Attorney Melanie L. Jorgensen on Judge Shull: "I am a retired attorney in Jonesville, Lee County, Virginia and have practiced law in the state courts of Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties Virginia since 1983. I served as substitute judge for many years and was appointed to serve as a Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court Judge from 1998 to 1999. "As such, I met and practiced with James Michael Shull for many years. I also practiced law before him when he began to serve as a Juvenile & Domestic Relations Judge. I limited my practice to the domestic relations area only, and I practiced before Judge Shull in Lee, Wise and Scott Counties weekly. "Judge Shull has always maintained the highest standards of conduct and decorum in courtroom. My experience in family law practice has taught me that participants' emotions can sometimes run high and reason is quickly lost. I have never witnessed any situation where he has exhibited improper behavior towards a witness. I have observed multiple incidents where he deftly and professionally defused potentially explosive confrontations of litigants." Read Ms. Jorgensen's full letter here.

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Pajamas Media advice columnist Dr. Helen Smith (pictured) is a forensic psychologist who often has an interesting perspective on gender issues. One of Helen's recent blog posts concerns false information about domestic violence being put out by the Tennessee Department of Health. Apparently the Department is putting forth the you-must-be-kidding claim that "Approximately 98% of documented domestic assaults are committed by men against women." Helen's post is below. My Efforts at Educating Officialdom So I received this card in the mail announcing the new domestic violence reporting requirements for the Tennessee Department of Health. I decided to check out their website and found it to be lacking in the recent research on the role women play in domestic violence. I also noticed that the reporting form had the word "female" listed first under "patient" and under perpetrator in the first column listed: o Husband o Ex-husband o Boyfriend o Ex-boyfriend So I sent them this letter: Division of Health Statistics/DV 4th Floor, Cordell Hull Building 425 5th Avenue North Nashville, TN37243 Dear Domestic Violence Reporting Coordinator: As a licensed psychologist, I recently received a card on the new domestic violence reporting requirements that states that licensed professionals are now required to report cases of suspected or confirmed domestic violence/abuse to the Tennessee Department of Health. I am writing out of concern after reading the information on your site and noticing that much of this information is not updated with the most recent research on domestic violence. I am a psychologist who has worked with numerous patients who have been victims of domestic violence over the years. As you may well know, domestic violence is not just perpetrated by men against women, it is also perpetrated against men by women. Many professionals do not know this and it is not apparent in your literature. For example, your information to EMS workers states: "Approximately 98% of documented domestic assaults are committed by men against women. As a result, throughout this text, we will refer to the perpetrator as 'he' and the survivor or victim as 'she' even though some domestic violence is initiated by women and some cases involve people of the same sex." Recent studies are finding that both men and women act out physically in relationships and in one recent study, women initiated violence in over 70% of cases. Here is some information from the head of the American Psychological Association: "Several studies of domestic violence have suggested that males and females in relationships have an equal likelihood of acting out physical aggression, although differing in tactics and potential for causing injury (e.g., women assailants will more likely throw something, slap, kick, bite, or punch their partner, or hit them with an object, while males will more likely beat up their partners, and choke or strangle them). In addition, data show that that intimate partner violence rates among heterosexual and gay and lesbian teens do not differ significantly." The source is here. Another recent study in the journal "Violence and Victims" found that nearly twice as many women as men perpetrated domestic violence: "The study, published in the journal Violence and Victims, also found no independent link between an individual's use of alcohol or drugs and committing domestic violence. In addition it showed that nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year, including kicking, biting or punching a partner, threatening to hit or throw something at a partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving a partner, said Herrenkohl." The source is here. Psychiatric News also reports a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that stated that men should not be overlooked as victims and that reciprocal violence leads to injury in men more often than women: "Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women. This finding surprised Whitaker and his colleagues, they admitted in their study report. As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, it was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal than nonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violence was perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violence it was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of the time) than were women (20 percent of the time). "This is important as violence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious," Whitaker and his group stressed." The source is here. In summary, I would just like to request that professionals receive information on female on male domestic violence and that your website be updated to reflect the findings of current research in the field of domestic violence. My fear is that professionals will only report male on female violence and the men and perhaps children that are victims of domestic violence will be left out of the equation to suffer on their own. Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter. Helen Smith, PhD, HSP Licensed Psychologist

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Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. To learn more about the case, see my blog posts In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part I), Part II, Part III, or Part IV, or read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull here.

In the Shull case, Tammy G. had obtained a domestic violence protection order against her husband Keith G., claiming that he had stabbed her. At the time of the G. hearing, the couple"s two young children, then ages three and five, were staying with their paternal grandmother. Keith testified that he hadn"t harmed Tammy, and that if she did have a wound, she had cut herself. Keith also testified that Tammy had committed a similar act on March 22, 2006, harming herself and then calling the police to report that Keith had attacked her.

Shull examined the wounds and found that they were four nearly identical razor blade-like slices in two sets of parallel lines spaced evenly apart--hardly the type of wounds one would receive in domestic combat, and entirely consistent with Keith"s allegations that Tammy had cut herself. Shull also examined the Wise County Sheriff"s Incident Report about Tammy G."s March allegations. According to the report, Tammy "gave a statement that she had done this to herself to get attention,' and "admitted that she had self-inflicted her wounds.'

Shull concluded that Tammy G.'s claims were false, and he ruled against her. Despite the later controversy over the case, no party in the dispute is even claiming that Shull made the wrong decision in finding that the wounds in question were self-inflicted.

In this case, Tammy G. attempted to inflict great harm on her husband and their children by falsely accusing her husband of stabbing her. Yet while the judge who worked hard to discover the truth has been relentlessly persecuted, Tammy G. faces no consequences for her false allegations. The list above is a partial list of the various crimes Tammy G. faces charges for. I have one question--why can we criminally charge her for credit card fraud but we can't charge her for attempting to defraud the court? Why can we charge her with identity theft, but we can't charge her for attempting the theft of a father's children?

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Some of you may remember several weeks ago in one of my weekly E-newsletters I asked for Texas custodial dads who receive or are supposed to receive child support. Many of you responded--so many, in fact, that the Houston FOX affiliate on whose behalf I wrote the notice told me they had to have a "cattle call" of all the dads. FOX ended up using three of the dads in the show (pictured, above right), and they spoke about their situations and their struggles. While I have no complaint about what's in the show's clip of me, the totality of my interview was more nuanced. In the interview I also pointed to the many problems with the child support system, and explained that noncustodial moms sometimes fall victim to them just like noncustodial dads often do. To watch the FOX special, which aired in Houston on Monday, November 5, click here. (Warning, it may take a moment to load.) To write Emmy Award winning reporter Melinda Spaulding, who put the special together, click here.

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I'm usually not one for crime shows, but I saw a touching episode of NCIS while on an airplane recently. It's about a father's love for his daughter, and I'm a sentimental sucker on the subject, so be forewarned before you proceed. NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is an action drama starring Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a former Marine who is now a skilled investigator. Gibbs' daughter Kelly died 15 years ago, when she was 7. In the recent episode "Requiem," Kelly's best childhood friend Maddie is in trouble and later kidnapped, and Gibbs saves her. When Kelly was little she and Gibbs made a time capsule (pictured) out of one of her lunchboxes and buried it in the front yard. When Maddie first contacts Gibbs, he digs up the time capsule from his front yard but can't bring himself to open it. At the end of the show, he takes out a picture of the two girls with their arms around each other as children and a picture of him with his arm around Maddie as an adult, puts them together, and starts to open the time capsule. To watch this final scene, click here. When it comes to the time capsule, open the letter little Kelly wrote to her dad when he was deployed to Kuwait in 1990, and also click on the dog tags. It's nice to see an accurate TV portrayal of father-daughter relationship.

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I recently stumbled across this article from last year from the Children's Rights Council's publication. It's unbelievable and, given the letters I get and the stories I hear, totally believable. Very, very sad. CRC Member Loses Child CRC member and child advocate Tim Dycus of Nebraska lost his 11-year-old daughter, Addie, to brain cancer on July 8, 2005. The day after the funeral, Tim learned that the funeral home had given cards and memorials left for the "Dycus Family" to the mother with the expectation that she share those with him. Over many months, Tim and the funeral home spent considerable effort trying to get the child's mother to share the cards left in memory of their daughter with Tim. He wanted to acknowledge and thank those people who were so gracious and compassionate to his family. Tim said that the mom refused to comply, and with her attorney, took the position that his rights to any information about Addie, including cards and memorials, terminated upon her death. They also stated that Tim was not entitled to any of Addie's clothing to keep as mementos, as they stated that Addie's personal property is the mother's exclusive property. Since Tim was divorced, he had paid more than $70,000 in child support. Tim attended almost all of Addie's school, church, and recreational events including soccer, softball, and dance, in or out of town since her birth, and continually tried to get more time with his daughters but was confined to the typical every other weekend and a few hours on Wednesday evening. In a request to the judiciary, the District Court in Adams County, Nebraska ruled for the mother. The court stated that the decision as to whether to share was up to her, stating Tim needed "to wait while the other parent processed and went through the grieving process." She then ordered Tim to pay the majority of the mother's attorney fees! Tim is also grieving.

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I debated the issue of Single Motherhood by Choice on Fox's nationally-syndicated Morning Show with Mike and Juliet yesterday. Also on the show were two single mothers by choice, including Louise Sloan, author of the new book Knocking Yourself Up, a psychologist, and 18-year-old Katrina Clark, a child of a single mother by choice. As you can imagine, I was badly outnumbered, and was the only one representing the fathers' side, which is always fun. They extended our topic over three segments, so it's lengthy as far as TV goes--to watch the video of the show, click here.

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I enjoy reading about Michigan family law attorney Mindy L. Hitchcock's various battles and victories against the anti-male family law system, and I thought I'd share this one with my readers. It involves a dad who was the victim of his ex-wife's phony, tactical-maneuver-in-divorce domestic violence restraining/personal protection order. He was almost jailed for the "crime" of visiting his little daughter's kindergarten Mindy (pictured) writes: "David and Julie had five kids during their marriage. Julie was unable to win the exclusive legal custody of her children in the divorce court, so she filed another case and persuaded the judge to issue a personal protection order. The PPO prevented David from appearing within Julie"s sight or communicating with her except by email. "Armed with this order, Julie then proceeded to make child rearing decisions without input from David. When September came, she picked a kindergarten for their youngest daughter. On the first day, David showed up to meet the headmaster, and there was his ex-wife with their daughter. Julie ran to the county prosecutor, who dragged David into court on an alleged violation of the PPO. "David had previously faced a similar 'violation' with a lawyer who advised him to simply plead guilty, so this was a second offense and he was looking at jail time. When we appeared with David at the arraignment, the judge showed that he was biased against him by volunteering to the prosecutor, 'If you had asked me to, I would have terminated his parenting time.' "Nevertheless, we decided to take the case to trial. We told the judge that Julie was using the PPO as a sword, not a shield. With a few well-placed questions we were able to establish that Julie"s goal for getting the PPO was to freeze David out of the children"s lives. "David also got a little help from the headmaster, who testified that David was never closer than 25 feet from his ex-wife and not 4 feet, as she claimed. David was exonerated of the charge, and Julie"s bad purpose was exposed. He and his ex share joint legal and joint physical custody of their children."

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Background: Recently Newsweek magazine and the British UK Guardian have written sympathetic articles about Single Motherhood by Choice--Knocking Yourself Up--Some women laugh about turkey basters replacing Mr. Right. The ongoing debate over going it alone (Newsweek, 11/5/07) and There's no shame in going solo, says mum: Career women with eyes on their biological clocks now have a 'how to' guide to single parenting, but the topic is provoking a backlash in America (U.K. Guardian, Observer, 11/4/07). Both articles focus on author/"choice mom" guru Louise Sloan, and hold me up as an example of the "vehement" backlash against single mothers by choice. To learn more, click here. Single mother by choice guru Louise Sloan, author of Knock Yourself Up, and I debated on the BBC Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan Programme on the BBC Sunday evening. To listen to the show, click here. The most important part of the show, even though it was a little off topic, was a letter from a 13-year-old boy named James which Nolan read on the air. The letter said: "My mother loves me but she stops me seeing my dad though I want to. I'm starting to hate her for this. Because she hates my dad, why should I hate him?"

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Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. To learn more about the case, see my blog posts In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part I), Part II, or Part III, or read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull here. Tim Perone of the New York Post writes the following: "A family court judge in Richmond, Va., was removed from the bench after several kangaroo-court moments, including flipping a coin to decide a custody case. James Michael Shull was unanimously stripped of his robe by the state's Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, which also found the jurist guilty of calling a teen a 'mama's boy' and a 'wuss' as well as telling a woman to marry her abusive boyfriend." I've dealt with and have been quoted (and misquoted) by plenty of lazy reporters, but this one takes the cake. The Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission did not "find" Shull "guilty" of anything alleged above. The widely-disseminated Associated Press article by Larry O'Dell that Perone cribbed from states that Shull "had appeared before the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission in 2004 for allegedly calling a teenager a 'mama's boy' and a 'wuss' and advising a woman to marry her abusive boyfriend. That complaint was dismissed..." (emphasis added). There was no finding of anything against Shull at all. The "marry her abusive boyfriend" is dubious, as I explained here. The "mama's boy" allegation is also dubious. Shull asserts that the witness that alleged that Shull called a 14-year-old boy a "wuss" was Guardian ad Litem Kristen Dean. I checked up on Dean and found that, according to the Virginia State Bar's website, the Bar "suspended Kristen Dawn Dean's law license for five years, effective on or before December 16, 2005, for misappropriating portions of a client's personal injury settlement for her own use and then taking steps to deceive and to conceal the misconduct. The board found that Ms. Dean failed to properly communicate with her client; failed to obtain a written contingency fee agreement, failed to provide an appropriate account of the client's funds; made false statements; engaged in deliberately wrongful conduct; and engaged in fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." What a great witness. Shull also asserts that the parties in the case contradicted Dean's accusations. I don't know if this is true, but the JIRC did dismiss the allegation. The New York Post also asserts that Shull "flipped a coin to decide a custody case." Not true--custody had already been decided. All that the coin toss settled was who would get the kids on Christmas, and, given the specific context of the case, Shull was right to determine this in the manner he did. To learn more about this non-incident, click here.

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Background: Newsweek magazine writer Lorraine Ali quoted from my co-authored column Rise in Out-of-Wedlock Births Is Bad News for America"s Kids (Washington Times, 12/4/06) in her recent piece Knocking Yourself Up--Some women laugh about turkey basters replacing Mr. Right. The ongoing debate over going it alone (Newsweek, 11/5/07). The piece centers around Louise Sloan, author of the new guidebook Knock Yourself Up: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom. Sloan now has a fatherless 16-month-old son. The piece favors women who decide to have fatherless children. To learn more, click here. The liberal British UK Guardian, one of the world's premier newspapers, has a new piece out extolling the virtues of single motherhood by choice--There's no shame in going solo, says mum: Career women with eyes on their biological clocks now have a 'how to' guide to single parenting, but the topic is provoking a backlash in America (U.K. Guardian, Observer, 11/4/07). The article focuses on choice mom guru Louise Sloan. Needless to say, the article sympathizes with Sloan, and holds me up as an example of the "vehement" backlash against single mothers by choice. The article says that Sloan is "shocked by the vehemence of the backlash" against her. She says: "I think that if you have reservations or shame about having become a single mother and having chosen to be an alternative family in that way, that shame is going to be transmitted to the people you speak to about it. And it's also going to come through to your child...I think that it's really important to make sure that your child feels that the way he or she came into this world was a positive and happy thing. And so you need to have that attitude yourself. Also, in speaking about it to other people, if you present it as a weird, questionable thing, you're more likely to get a negative response." The Guardian counterposes this with my comment: "To openly advocate single motherhood as a lifestyle choice is to fail to understand how powerfully children hunger for their fathers and the immense benefits reaped by the children who do have fathers in their lives. This misunderstanding is very destructive. At the core of this work is a 'you go, girl' belief that mothers can do it alone and always know best. Unfortunately, many women are choosing this lifestyle and it's our children who are suffering for it." The article also has a disturbing statistic near the bottom--one in seven birth certificates in England and Wales in 2006 had no father listed. Sloan has now joined Rosanna Hertz, author of Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice, and Peggy Drexler, author of Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men, to form a troika of feminist gurus advocating voluntary single motherhood. To read my previous critique of Hertz and her book, see my co-authored column Are Single Mothers the 'New American Family?' (World Net Daily, 9/28/06). To see my previous critique of Drexler and her book, see my columns Are Boys Really Better off Without Fathers? (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31/05) and Raising Boys Without Men: Lesbian Parents Good, Dads Bad (World Net Daily, 9/10/05).

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Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. To learn more about the case, see my blog posts In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part I) and In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part II), or read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull here. The Virginia Supreme Court's opinion criticizes Shull for "making an improper ex parte telephone call during a recess in the custody hearing to obtain information on a disputed factual matter" and that this "ex parte communication serves to illustrate again Judge Shull"s lack of concern for litigants appearing before him." Nothing could be further from the truth--Shull made the phone call out of concern for the litigants before him, principally the two young children whose placement he had to decide. Shull had to give the children either to the husband, who the wife claimed stabbed her, or the wife, who the husband claimed was a mentally-disturbed cutter. In the case, Tammy G. claimed that her husband had stabbed her and that she went to a local emergency room for treatment. Shull's violation consisted of--brace yourself--calling the local hospital to confirm that Tammy G. had been admitted. Once again, Shull is in trouble for examining the facts in the case before him--he made the call as part of his duty to protect the G. children. Shull also says that he informed everyone in the courtroom that he planned to call before he made the call. It is true that the Virginia Canons of Judicial Conduct states: "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." Shull says, "It is not uncommon for judges in the juvenile and domestic relations court to place telephone calls to ascertain the truth when resolving a factual dispute." The Virginia Lawyers Weekly article JIRC: Censure or remove J&DR judge (5/28/07) contains an interesting tidbit about this issue. The lead judge in the court where Shull heard this case, Elizabeth S. Wills, "testified that she very seldom makes such calls." "Seldom?" So Wills, who is Shull's boss and who is largely responsible for him being railroaded, admits to the Judicial Commission that she too has made the same kind of phone calls--the type of calls which Shull is in trouble for doing once and only once.

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Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. I have examined the evidence in this case and it is clear to me that Shull is being railroaded. The case provides a sad but excellent example of what can happen to judges who take their responsibilities seriously when adjudicating domestic violence claims. To learn more about the case, see my blog post In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part I) or read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull here. Both the Virginia Supreme Court's opinion and the widely-disseminated Associated Press article by Larry O'Dell ignore the most important facts in this case and criticize Shull for the "coin toss" incident. According to the AP: "According to the court, Shull admitted tossing a coin to determine which parent would have visitation with a child on Christmas. Shull said he was trying to encourage the parents to decide the issue themselves but later acknowledged that he was wrong." What happened was this--a mother and father had shared physical custody of their children, and could not agree as to who would have them on Christmas Day. Shull urged them to come to an agreement themselves, but they were unable to. Normally at this point (or actually, long before it) the judge would've just decided to give the kids to mom for Christmas, but Shull told both parents that he considered both of them to be good, loving parents and that he did not want to have to choose between them. When they were unable to decide, he decided to toss a coin to make the decision, sending a clear message that the court was not going to favor one parent over the other. I applaud Shull for this, yet, amazingly, this non-event is one of the major charges against him. Also, according to Shull, the coin toss was not objected to by either of the two parties, both of whom were represented by attorneys. Shull determined who got the 1st week of Xmas vacation the first year, with vacation to be alternated thereafter. The AP article by O'Dell also says the Virginia Supreme Court's decision was "unanimous," which sounds impressive but is factually questionable. According to Shull: "It is hard to say the opinion was 'unanimous.' The opinion was authored by Justice Keenan, but no one else signed on to it. It does not have any dissents, but in cases of this type, they sometimes do opinions in this manner to mask their differences because it's more politic."

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Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. I have examined the evidence in this case and it is clear to me that Shull is being railroaded. The case provides a sad but excellent example of what can happen to judges who take their responsibilities seriously when adjudicating domestic violence claims. Shull"s problems stem from a case which came before him on December 15, 2006. In that case, Tammy G. had obtained a domestic violence protection order against her husband Keith G., claiming that he had stabbed her. At the time of the G. hearing, the couple"s two young children, then ages three and five, were staying with their paternal grandmother. Keith testified that he hadn"t harmed Tammy, and that if she did have a wound, she had cut herself. Keith also testified that Tammy had committed a similar act on March 22, 2006, harming herself and then calling the police to report that Keith had attacked her. Shull reasoned that he had to find the truth in order to protect the children from either a father who had stabbed their mother, or a mother who is a psychologically disturbed cutter. Shull examined the wounds and found that they were four nearly identical razor blade-like slices in two sets of parallel lines spaced evenly apart--hardly the type of wounds one would receive in domestic combat, and entirely consistent with Keith"s allegations that Tammy had cut herself. Shull also examined the Wise County Sheriff"s Incident Report about Tammy G."s March allegations. According to the report, Tammy "gave a statement that she had done this to herself to get attention,' and "admitted that she had self-inflicted her wounds.' The report discusses charging Tammy with filing a false police report over the incident.Shull got in trouble because, according to the Virginia Lawyers" Weekly, Tammy and Teresa Castle, the deputy clerk, claim that, in order to inspect the wound, he directed Tammy to expose herself twice during the hearing. The Virginia Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission "summarily suspended' Shull for "a substantial and serious breach of the dignity and decorum required in a Virginia courtroom.'Shull and Daniel Fast, Keith G."s attorney, assert that Tammy had offered to lower her pants both times in order to show Shull the wounds. According to the VLW, neither side disputes that "the privacy curtains in the courtroom were pulled before G. exposed herself.'Tammy"s wound was on her right thigh, she was wearing pants, and the only way Shull could examine the wounds was to have her lower them. Perhaps Shull should have acted more cautiously. However, his need to protect the G. children by ruling correctly in this difficult, contentious case vastly outweighs Tammy"s privacy concerns. Most importantly, no party in the dispute is even claiming that Shull made the wrong decision in finding that the wounds in question were self-inflicted. Shull"s conscientious pursuit of the truth in the G. case, for which he has been removed, was admirable.To read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull, click here. The Shull case and the recent Virginia Supreme Court decision are an infuriating example of how lightly our legal system takes false accusations against men. In this case, everyone agrees that Judge Shull was placed in a very difficult situation, and that he had to make a tough call where children could have been in imminent danger. Nobody even disputes that he got it right--and yet it doesn't even matter. Both the Virginia Supreme Court's 29-page opinion and the widely-disseminated Associated Press article by Larry O'Dell ignore the most important facts in this case and are biased against Shull to a bizarre extent. In this series, I will discuss the claims against Shull. O'Dell writes: "The court said [the most 'egregious' incident] occurred when a woman was seeking a protective order against a partner who she said had stabbed her in the leg. Shull knew the woman had a history of mental problems and insisted on seeing the wound, the court said." It is unclear that Shull was in a position to decide with finality that the woman, Tammy G., had "mental problems." More importantly, even if he was, what did the Court expect Shull to do? Shull had three options: 1) Decide that since the woman is mentally ill, he's not going to subject her to a full effort to find out whether or not her husband really did stab her, but instead just give the husband the children. In other words, don't ascertain the truth, but instead turn the kids over to a man who she claims tried to kill her. 2) Decide that since the woman is mentally ill, he won't put her through a full effort to ascertain the truth, but instead give her possession of the kids. In other words, give the kids to a mentally ill woman. 3) Ignore her apparent "mental problems," and make a real effort to ascertain the truth in the case in order to protect the children. Shull did that, and it cost him his job, his reputation, and his retirement pension. In the AP article, Larry O'Dell writes that several years ago Shull had "advised a woman to marry her abusive boyfriend" and that he got in trouble with the JIRC because of it. I have not investigated this charge separately, but Shull very much disputes this account: 1) Shull disputes his alleged knowledge that relationship was "abusive." 2) Shull claims that his advice to get married occurred in a case where a woman's ex-husband had custody of their children and the woman wanted to know what she could do to improve her chances to get the kids back. Shull told her that social services would look more favorably on her situation if she were living in a more stable relationship, like being married as opposed to just living with someone. He didn't tell her she had to get married to get her kids back, he just told her it would strengthen her case. 3) Shull says that when JIRC investigated this accusation and others in 2004, his opponents' versions unraveled. He says, "These cases were dismissed not because of mercy toward a rookie judge, but because they imploded."

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Background: I recently partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein and Fathers & Families in a campaign to protest Florida Department of Children & Families' actions in the "Elian Gonzalez II" case in Miami. In that case, Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father, has faced numerous obstacles to reunite with his 5-year-old daughter. Thousands of you answered our call to action, and the campaign has been covered or cited in hundreds of newspapers. Florida DCF, to its credit, met with us. To learn more or to join our campaign, click here. I discussed our Elian Gonzalez II Campaign on the Maria Sanchez Morning Show on KKZZ AM 1590 in Ventura, CA yesterday. The audio of the interview is available--to listen, click here or on the audio button below.

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We've often discussed how women are sometimes able to get away with practically anything in family court, and the letter below is another example. Part of the reason for this problem is the family law system's anti-father bias. Part of it is the negative societal image of men and fathers, particularly divorced dads. Part of it is that courts are often so jammed that judges don't have the time to make meaningful decisions. Part of it is judges' concern--legitimate,

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Background: I recently partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein and Fathers & Families in a campaign to protest Florida Department of Children & Families' actions in the "Elian Gonzalez II" case in Miami. In that case, Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father, has faced numerous obstacles to reunite with his 5-year-old daughter. Thousands of you answered our call to action, and the campaign has been covered or cited in hundreds of newspapers. Florida DCF, to its credit, met with us last week. To learn more or to join our campaign, click here. Florida Governor Charlie Crist (pictured) has sent out the letter below to those who have joined our protest campaign. We knew, of course, that he couldn't discuss the Izquierdo case directly, but our larger concern is the child welfare system's disregard for fathers, an issue Crist's letter doesn't address. To be fair, I'll give Crist credit for responding, and also for acknowledging to the press that it has been a sizeable protest campaign. I suspect that one reason DCF has acted as it has is that Governor Crist seeks the loyalty, votes, and campaign donations of the large Cuban-American community. Crist (correctly) sees defeating Rafael Izquierdo and keeping his five-year-old girl in the US against his will as a way to win Cuban-American votes. In Florida, sticking it to Cuba's government is a crowd-pleaser, similar to the way politicians win popularity by beating up on "deadbeat dads." Crist's letter is below. Thank you for contacting Governor Charlie Crist. The Governor appreciates your concerns about the Izquierdo child custody case and asked me to respond on his behalf. Governor Crist wants to know how people feel about the many critical issues we face. Rest assured, the Governor is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children in Florida. The Department of Children and Families is charged with assisting abused and neglected children. The department does this by providing support services to children and their families, and, in some cases, by providing a place outside of the home for children to live while their family problems are resolved in the courts. Governor Crist appreciates your sharing suggestions for changes to the department"s procedures. It is our understanding the Department of Children and Families has communicated with Dr. Ned Holstein to discuss these very issues. Thank you again for contacting the Governor"s office. Please do not hesitate to write in the future to share your concerns about issues that are important to you. Sincerely, Warren Davis Office of Citizen Services

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This ad for Kohler bathroom fixtures is funny, but, as I've said many times before, the "man as idiot" theme got old a long, long time ago. On the positive side, I wish my plumber looked like that... To watch the commercial, click here or see below. To watch some other videos of "dad as idiot" TV commercials, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here. To see ads that the National Organization for Women considers to be offensive to women, click here. [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_RLXfxtouE]

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