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Consistently Poor Judgment in Judicial Appointments: No @HopeforVirginia

11 Apr

Three actions by the Virginia General Assembly show how the Virginia legislature is completely out of touch with the dysfunction in our Arlington Courts.   It also demonstrates how the process of picking judges for Arlington is not based on merit, but who you know (or are related too…just like the MAFIA).

Robin RobbThe General Assembly has unanimously voted to appoint Robin Robb to replace the departing (none too soon (Anti-)) Family Judge Esther Wiggins Lyles.   The six year appointment begins in July 2016.

Who is Robin Robb?   First off, she is the wife of Judge Benjamin Kendrick.   You know Judge Kendrick as a rough around the edges, shoots from the hip, and often ignoring the law in ruling on his cases.   He messed up a lot of families in Arlington.   A number of other very qualified candidates were under consideration, but somehow, with the support of Delegate Patrick Hope, the retired Judges wife was picked to replace Judge Wiggins.   Really!

Wait, it gets better! (Actually, gets worse).

Judge Esther WigginsDuring the session, the legislature threw Judge Wiggins a bone by passing a resolution honoring the “great fairness and wisdom” of Judge Wiggins, who served (and messed up the lives of numerous families and children) for 18 years after service in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office of Arlington.   Apparently none of those legislators ever set foot in Judge Wiggins courtroom and listened to how unfair and lacking in wisdom she was on a daily basis.   Apparently they had not read all of the testimony against Judge Wiggins and the complaints against her.   Maybe, if they had, they would have gotten rid of Judge Wiggins sooner.

Judge Varoutsos Arlington VirginiaSpeaking of getting rid of bad judges, anyone who attended the reappointment hearing last December 2015 for Judge Varoutsos would have walked away thinking that he was not going to get reappointed.  Judge Varoutsos came under heavy criticism in the lawyers surveys for entering orders lacking legal argument or erroneous argument.   But, true to form, the legislature ignored the opinions of members of the public and practitioners, and, instead, reappointed Judge Varoutsos for another six year term.

So, what is the take-away from these actions?   It is that if you want to be a judge or stay a judge in Arlington, be a dues-paying member of the Arlington Judicial Mafia (i.e., answer to the legislators who themselves or their partners often practice before you), and be as unqualified as you can be because it will only count against you and get in the way of ruling on cases the way the guys in Richmond want  you to.

Arlington deserves better quality judges.  The citizens should vote out any legislator who fails to make it their top priority.    Otherwise, there is no @HopeforVirginia

Source: Sun Gazette Arlington March 17, 2016

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Baltimore DHS Director: “Stop the Insanity;” “Kids ought to be in families.”

4 Sep

Over the years, this blog has sought to get Arlington County to rethink its approach to protecting children.   Instead of removing children from their families as a primary tool, this blog has argued that its primary tool should be to keep families together and, using other tools, solve the particular threat to the child.

In this TED talk, Molly McGrath Tierney, the Director for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, explains what is wrong with the current child welfare system and how she has worked over the past six years to change it in Baltimore.  She has led a massive reform effort to dramatically improve the impact of services to vulnerable citizens of Baltimore. Molly’s work is considered a national model for modern social services.

In this TEDx talk she advocates what this blog has been advocating.   Here are her key observations:

  1. “Kids who grew up in foster care…. You know what they want? They want to go home

  2. Now, there are over 50 child welfare agencies in the country, and the funds to underwrite them are in the billions.  There is not one among them that’s reputed to be working well.

  3. Awful things happen to children in foster care. Short term, their outcomes for important things like health and education are abysmal, and long term it just gets worse. Kids that grow up in foster care [are] overwhelmingly destined for the penitentiary, the morgue, or the child welfare system when their own kids come into foster care.

  4. the agency she runs now was once considered among the worst in the country;  during her tenure it reduced the number of children in foster care by 58%, reduced the number of kids living in orphanages by 89%, increased adoptions 59%, and increased the number of kids that left foster care for families by 47%.

  5. She did it by articulating a mission and repeated it like a broken record,  “Kids ought to be in families.”

  6. The reason child welfare isn’t working is because there are children in foster care.

  7. “Why would we do such a thing?”

    “first, it feels good to save kids. We get a great injection of adrenaline when we rush in, and our brain responds to that stimuli. Just like we do anything else that feels good, we want more of it. And when we figure out how to keep returning to that good feeling, we start thinking that, in and of itself, is success. We’re mistaking something that feels good to us for something that is actually helping other people, because if it feels so good, we must be doing the right thing.”

    Second, child welfare is an industry, and industries are self-protecting ecosystems. Think about it. The only time the federal government pays me is when I take somebody’s kid. And as soon as that kid’s in foster care, they instantly become a commodity, and the industry starts to wrap around – doctors, lawyers, judges, social workers, advocates, whole organizations. The industry is committed to this intervention, this taking other people’s children, ‘cause that’s what it needs to survive. And it’s on auto pilot, and it’s going to do whatever it has to do to stay alive.  And this industry, to stay alive, needs other people’s children. And this industry, to stay alive, needs other people’s children.”

  8. Child welfare is mostly driven by DHS workers, guardian ad litems, and family court judges soothing their own egos and wanting to feel good about themselves, rather than doing what is best for the family and child.

Read the complete comments of Molly McGrath Tierney.

Related: Listen to the Kids

Right to a Fair Trial and Being Treated as Innocent Until Proven Guilty

30 Mar

RighttoTrialOne of the basic international and constitutional rights is a right to a fair trial, and to treated as innocent until proven guilty.   Unfortunately that has not been the experience of many in Arlington courts and it jail, whether it be a high profile case like that of Michael Gardner, a person who is deaf,* or others, who have been written about from time to time in this blog.

Very unhealthy for modern society; not even fit for Neanderthals.

Read more: Deaf Immigrant Jailed 6 Weeks With No Access to Interpreter*

*: Abreham Zemedagegehu is deaf and he found himself locked up in jail by the Arlington Courts and the Arlington County Sheriff.   He knew he was in jail, but he didn’t know why.  Eventually, Abreham Zemedagegehu learned that he’d been accused of stealing an iPad — an iPad whose owner later found it. He spent the next six weeks in jail, unable to communicate with his jailers because he is deaf. He described a frightening, isolated experience in which medical procedures were performed without his consent and he feared for his safety.

On March 14, 2014, Zemedagegehu struck a plea deal, pleading guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges in exchange for time served. Zemedagegehu says he only took the deal to get of jail, and that he didn’t steal the iPad.

Zemedagegehu’s public defender filed a motion after the guilty plea seeking to have the conviction overturned, saying prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that the man who claimed his iPad was stolen actually had found it some time before the guilty plea. Prosecutors deny withholding evidence.

A judge refused to overturn the conviction, saying the appeal had been filed too late.

Given that it was Arlington, his mistreatment is not surprising — it is routine for the Arlington County judicial system.

Know Your Rights — Don’t Expect the CPS Worker to Tell You

19 May

Your Foster Care Rights Virginia

There are many procedural safeguards built into the CPS system for Virginia.  Unfortunately, they are not always properly followed.   This Virginia guide’s description almost seems foreign to the draconian way Arlington DHS operates.   They violate this guide’s rules in many of the cases we have seen.

Unfortunately, the Arlington JDR and Circuit Court’s regularly fail to enforce these requirements, so the Arlington DHS gets away with being sloppy (and dangerous to kids and their families)

So, don’t trust the Arlington CPS worker to tell you of your rights.  Read this pamphlet and get some good (independent) legal advice.  [Better yet, get your kids out of Arlington]