Many, if not most of the
people on this list have been dragged, kicking and screaming, through the
shipwrecks erroneously described as courts in these perilous times. The
master mariners guiding us through these rocks and shoals are supposed to be
So how do lawyers perceive the dysfunctional entities in the imposing
edifices? And how do they fare when called to answer to the bar, instead of
plead before it?
Two stories came to me recently, one from an Arizona attorney, and another
from one in Michigan, who are faced with the same situations so many of you
Perhaps you will agree that when a system doesn't even work for its
adherents, then it is truly a disaster.
While many fine men and women serve in the halls of justice, today their good
work is overshadowed by the bizarre and disastrous rulings of those few
black-robed monsters who have made a mockery of the very name of law.
It was President John F. Kennedy who stated that: "If you make peaceful
change impossible...you make violent revolution inevitable." We must
seek peaceful means of restoring justice and respect for our Constitution if
families and our society are to survive because we cannot long continue down
the present path.
Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.,
President, Equal Justice Foundation http://www.ejfi.org/
455 Bear Creek Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906-5820
Telephone: (719) 520-1089
Facsimile: (509) 472-5275
Domestic violence against men: http://www.dvmen.org
Curriculum vitae: http://www.pcisys.net/~ccorry/CorryBook-79.htm
Personal home page: http://www.pcisys.net/~ccorry/
The Equal Justice Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.
Contributions are tax
deductible and can be made on the Web at http://www.ejfi.org/Join.htm
Justice in Family Court
following is the story of an Arizona attorney and his experience with the
family courts in that state. We hardly think his experience is unique. If
this is being done to a competent attorney one dares not think of the horrors
being visited on a father who must defend himself pro per.
I have one son who is almost 21 now and was 19 when the latest nightmare
began. He has been in his mother's custody for 10 years notwithstanding the
fact that a court psychologist put us both through a battery of tests and
concluded that her custody would present problems, but he (then only 11 years
old) wanted to be with his mother so that was the recommendation. Had I known
that an 11 year old would ultimately be making this important decision, I
would have saved the $4,000 paid to the "expert" and simply asked
my son in whose custody he wanted to be.
The predictable happened. Within two years my ex-wife accused me of molesting
my 18 year old daughter who suddenly remembered what happened to her when she
says she was 6 months old. My ex-wife sued me for her damages and this was
thrown out by reason of her failure to make a legitimate claim. I learned quickly
that if I wanted any peace in my life, I had to stay away from her. This made
it difficult for me to spend as much time with my son as I would have liked.
His mother was seldom around and I now know that she was leaving him alone
while she was out-of-town on weekends when he was 12 and 13. He became a
behavior problem in school, studied very little, and was thrown out of
several schools. He was diagnosed with a petit mal seizure condition though
no diagnostic tests were ever able to confirm it. When he was 16, this was
under control and he was authorized to get his driverís license. He has been
seizure-free now for over three years.
At the age of nineteen
years our statutes in Arizona provide that child support shall cease. The
only exception is if the adult child is disabled. I felt that at age nineteen
I could once again have an influence upon him and I was perfectly willing to
help him if he showed any desire to help himself. Three months before he
turned 19, my ex-wife brought an action in our courts saying that he was
disabled having Attention Deficit Disorder, oppositional defiant behavior,
and cognitive impairment as a result of his prior seizure disorder.
She named two psychiatrists as her witnesses, one of whom my son had not seen
in about one year. I asked for my son's medical records to prepare for
hearing. Since he was an adult (age 18 in Arizona), he could refuse to waive
his physician/patient privilege and did so. An attorney was appointed at my
cost to determine if he was capable of asserting such a privilege. He visited
my son at the 3300 square foot home that he had been occupying by himself for
over one year at that point, and said that my son was perfectly capable of
asserting the privilege and said that he understood that the failure to waive
the privilege may result in his mother losing her case since we had been
denied discovery in preparation for trial. He also told the attorneys
involved that there was nothing wrong with my son except laziness, and that
he could work like any other 19 year old. Again I was forced to pay for an
expert whose opinion was ignored and ultimately used to my disadvantage.
Rather than order the case dismissed if we were not permitted discovery to
prepare for trial, the Superior Court judge was perfectly content to force us
to trial without adequate preparation. I was faced with the irony of going to
trial without medical records to use for cross-examination because my son was
capable of understanding his rights, in a case alleging that he had a
diminished mental capacity.
Because it was obvious that this court was prepared to require us to go to
hearing without medical records, and to permit the very experts to testify
whose records we were denied, two weeks before hearing I had my son examined
by the neurologist who had been court appointed to review records had they
been ordered produced as I expected. Instead he conducted an independent
medical examination, without the benefit of past psychiatric records, at my
expense and issued a report that said there was no cognitive impairment
whatsoever. This report was submitted and a request made to permit the
neurologist to testify. The neurologist was going to be out-of-town the day
of the hearing, but could be available later. I named myself, my son, and the
court appointed above mentioned attorney as witnesses and requested
permission to call the doctor later. The judge said that he could only permit
two hours for hearing of this complicated, multi-expert witness case.
On the day set for hearing, my ex called herself, the two psychiatrists, and
one school teacher as witnesses. We cross-examined her on issues including
her taking of $70,000 from a trust account I established for my son with my
sole and separate property some 10 years before. We had discovered this while
taking my daughter's deposition in preparation for hearing two months before.
My daughter and her mother had conspired to remove this money since my
daughter was the trustee for my son. The explanation was that her mother was
entitled to recover retroactively for all birthday and Christmas gifts she
had purchased for my son during the prior 8 years, and for all vacations.
During all of that time I was paying just under $900 per month for child
support mind you. With all of her attempts to justify this taking, she could
only come up with $32,000 using rounded and estimated numbers. The remaining
$38,000 they attempted to justify as for "...depletion of natural
resources". Clearly we felt that this cross-examination was justified
since this trust account was to be for my son's education and this is why
they were bringing this action against me for continuation of child support.
My point was that if he had his own money, he did not need more from me. They
countered by saying that the money was gone since my ex had taken it two
The current treating
psychiatrist said that he could not say whether my son could be employed, but
he could take care of himself in this big home. The prior psychiatrist said
he could not be employed. Her testimony and the other witnesses', including
cross-examination, took about 1 1/2 hours. We then tried to call our
witnesses and the judge announced that he had no further time and we was
going to rule without hearing our testimony. I was flabbergasted and appalled
that this was happening under the guise of "due process". Two weeks
later he ruled that the "uncontradicted" testimony supported her
case and ordered me to pay child support retroactively increased to $1400 per
month back to the year before, $5000 for her attorney fees, and some $1500 in
unpaid medical expenses that arose out of her unwillingness to take my son to
physicians covered under my health insurance as she was ordered to do under
the divorce decree. He of course did not know that because he would not
permit me to testify. Some of those expenses were attributable to costs for
testing which she incurred in preparation for hearing and not for actual
costs of treatment.
When I objected to what was happening at hearing, the judge responded on the
record "that it probably was not fair but it was not fair that he had so
many cases either". So much for justice and due process. We moved for a
new trial and he allowed each side 5 minutes to argue that motion.
The judge said that I had wasted his time by attacking my ex with the history
of her taking money from my son's trust account. He obviously could have
cared less about the taking of the money even though it reduced my
son's ability to have the funds to care for himself. He said that he hoped that
I would appeal because if the appellate courts ordered him to hear evidence
it would mean that they would have to hire more judges and he did not think
that they would do that. It would certainly appear that I was being made
a scapegoat for a court system that felt it was being overworked.
The trial judge also said that I was not in a position to call the witnesses
that I wanted even though I was obviously sitting in the courtroom; my son
was sitting in the hall waiting to testify; and the other attorney said he would
appear upon call if it appeared that we needed him. The only witness not
there was the neurologist who had been called at the last minute when the
review of the records ordered by the judge himself was made impossible. The
judge then denied my motion for new trial and ordered me to pay another $5000
for her attorney fees by reason of the 5 minute hearing.
I have borrowed $40,000 to pay my attorney fees, hers, back support for one
year before the hearing, and the medical expenses. I had to continue to pay
$900 per month while all of this was going on through hearing, but because
the judge increased the support retroactively, I was still behind about
$6,000 when the final order was entered. This was my reward for religiously
paying my child support as previously ordered.
I have now filed an appeal, a judicial complaint, an action in probate court
to recover the $70,000 taken from the trust account, and a motion to modify
the support. I have also learned that many other fathers in this state are
suffering the same fate as I, with no time permitted to present evidence.
Most recently our State Bar magazine had an article wherein it was said that
at a recent seminar in Tucson, four visiting attorneys from ouside this state
sat in stunned silence when they learned that the Superior Court in this
state is allowing just 20 minutes to hear evidence to determine child
We need to have checks and balances on a court system that has gone berserk
and has lost sight of its purpose. We need to change laws to permit election
of judges once again and hold judges accountable for the failures of the
system. Otherwise, we will all be the victims of what was supposed to protect
us. We must WAKE UP!!
and a Michigan lawyer
Huron lawyer Mike Tindall refers to himself as both a "cynic" and
under the Fair Use provisions of 17 USC Sec. 107 for noncommercial,
Those words are particularly fitting for Tindall this year because he's made
a name for himself - and not always a complimentary one - by criticizing and
suing the Wayne County Friend of theCourt system over what he considers the
agency's bias against fathers, blatant profit motives and due process
As an attorney and divorced father, Tindall has been personally involved with
the FOC system over the past several years - including being taken to jail
for alleged nonpayment of support - and, accordingly, has witnessed its
problems. When you question Tindall about his motive for pursuing the
perceived problems, he says, "I'm a lawyer. And I happen to believe in
our legal system. What is going on in domestic-relations litigation is wrong
and I think I have a professional duty to do something about that."
Tindall currently has a handful of actions pending against the FOC, the most
notorious being the FOC's appeal of a federal declaratory judgment earlier
this year. In Tindall v. Wayne County FOC, et al., Eastern District Judge
Denise Page Hood declared certain FOC practices in Wayne County, and other
Michigan counties, unconstitutional. (See "Already-Prepared Warrants And
Orders Ruled `Unconstitutional,'" Feb. 14, 2000.) That ruling also
prompted Tindall to attempt a class-action suit against the FOC.
Counterclaims are currently underway, and an appeal looms in the future.
Though he is often attacked for criticizing the FOC, which supposedly exists
for the purpose of protecting children, Tindall considers himself to be the
true children's advocate.
"People often categorize any criticism of the FOC as just `deadbeat
dads' who don't want to pay child support," he points out. "That
has made the system almost immune from supervision. The truth is that this is
a big money business they are operating and the way they run it is hurting
Q. Here's a blunt question: Why don't you just pay the FOC [the amount of
child support it says you owe], even if it's not accurate?
A. It is a matter of principle. What the FOC is doing is wrong. They are
operating outside of the law. Worse still, they are destructive to families
while hiding behind this reputation of being family advocates. And they are
perpetuating this myth that fathers are somehow not important as parents and
don't have parental rights.
The vast majority of fathers out there love their children. During divorces,
they do whatever they can to make the best of a bad situation and fall all
over themselves to make sure their kids are taken care of.
Are there bad fathers? Of course, just as there are bad mothers. But this
tiny minority of bad fathers has been turned into a myth that the majority of
fathers are "deadbeat dads." This myth has been used to run
roughshod over the rights of fathers to be a part of their children's lives.
Children need fathers.
What we end up with is this out-of-control FOC, violating the rights of
fathers and mothers alike, and operating outside of any sort of
Q. Specifically, what is your criticism of the FOC?
A. That it is out of control and that it has turned into a system of private
administrative law, not bounded by the constitutional restraints that are
supposed to operate in courts of law.
Currently, each county's FOC is operated like its own little kingdom, like
renegades. They each create their own system and run it pretty much as they
like. These systems have become very efficient little cash machines,
generating profits rather than working for the best interests of children and
The way they do this is by ignoring the niceties of due process.
In my case, they overstated the amount of my support payments. I knew I was
paid up, so I wasn't paying much attention until they hauled me off to jail.
I found out later that some FOC employee had just upped my support. There was
no order from a judge. They just did it. In court, they admitted that they do
this all the time.
I was in a trial recently in St. Clair County and the local FOC referee got
up on the stand under oath and explained how it was the county's policy that
if a child support payer lost his job, the support payment would not be
lowered. When I asked this person to point to that policy, to explain where
it came from, the FOC referee admitted that it was just their opinion.
That's how they run the system.
In my case, I also found that the Wayne County FOC was operating as if its
employees had the authority to issue warrants and show-cause orders. Of
course, in our system only judges can adjudicate our constitutional rights by
issuing such warrants and orders. But for some reason, many judges have
allowed FOC referees to make these decisions.
In federal court, Judge [Denise Page] Hood determined that this was a
violation of my due process rights, and of the rights of all the other people
who the FOC had subjected to this treatment.
Q. What is your goal in this lawsuit?
A. To legally establish the fact that Michigan courts do not provide a fair,
or impartial, tribunal for any domestic relations litigant. Instead, they
customarily and regularly deprive litigants
of due process of law.
By doing that, I want to once again make it possible for a domestic-relations
litigant to walk in to a Michigan courtroom and have their case litigated
according to the rules.
The rules apply to everyone.
Q. Do you see yourself as a "Fathers' Rights" advocate?
A. I see myself as an advocate for children.
When the rules are applied properly, you get good decisions and that can only
work for the benefit of the kids. When they are not applied properly, you get
bad decisions and that works to the detriment of children.
Any attempt to hold the FOC accountable to its own rules and procedures is
just dismissed as the groundless complaints of disgruntled dads. That is
frightening and has caused tremendous damage to domestic litigants.
Of course, as in every other area of human interactions, there are your
minority percentage of bad actors. There is no question about that. There are
child support payers who don't pay.
But the overwhelming majority of so-called "deadbeat dads" are just
judicially created - rather than surgically created - eunuchs. These are
fathers who have been turned into geldings by virtue of a judicial attitude
that is anachronistic and has as its primary goal to make the cash register
ring for the State of Michigan.
This does not benefit mothers, it does not benefit children. It just serves
to collect cash for the State of Michigan.
There is a $200 million per year profit motive driving this system. It dances
at the string of federal money. The FIA [Family Independence Agency] yanks
the chain of the FOC and the FOC is pressured to run up these
basketball-score type statistics.
Why all this talk about so-called "deadbeat dads"? Because there is
a lot of money to be made through that myth. The current system is the most
sexually discriminatory system this country has ever seen. And it is
Q.To what degree are you willing to pursue this? At what cost?
A. At least to the successful conclusion of the federal appeal. I want to
open the courthouse door to all of these people whose constitutional rights
have been violated, the way that mine were.
At what cost? So far, I have spent about $750,000 of my own funds and
dedicated three years of my life to this fight. I've had to give up a large
part of my law practice. This has been a huge detriment to my business and my
personal financial situation.
So why do I continue? Many people ask me why I don't just walk away. I guess
I just can't. I went to school to be a lawyer. I'm the proud son of a lawyer.
I grew up believing in this system and it really upsets me to see what it has
I guess I'm not going to leave this alone until I have made my own statement:
This is not how the system is supposed to work. And not everyone is just
going to roll over and take it.
Of course, I could write the FOC a check for the $9,000 whenever I feel like
it and could get on with my life. I've had other people offer to do the same.
But for me, this isn't about money. This is about something else.'
Michael E. Tindall
Education: University of Detroit Mercy, J.D.;
John Carrol University, B.S., B.A.
Admitted to bar: 1978