Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Carver County Judiciary Investigation Requested

Julianne Ortman, member of the Judiciary Committee for Senate, on April 17, 2012 has sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court asking for an immediate review of Carver County Family Court proceedings to help restore confidence in the courts.  Several other legislators have also signed onto the document.

There have been long standing issues with judicial actions in Carver County that have no explanation and violate first amendment rights.

One outstanding case is that of Lea Sage-Banken  carvercountycorruption.com.  A young mother who was divorced by her husband while she was pregnant with their third child, and was then denied access to her children with no specified reason. Current law generally has a presumption of 25% parenting time, but such was not the case in Carver County in this case.  Shortly after the birth of her third child, the court took the baby away, giving sole rights to the wealthy father.

There were no finding of fact, no abuse, alcoholism, psychological evaluations or any other charges to indicate or explain why she should be denied rights to see her children.  The outrageousness of this case, and the free speech issue, is such that most other judges and lawyers simply say it cannot happen.  And often simply no longer respond when presented documents from the case.

This case was first discussed on Speechless last year, September 22, 2011.  Here is the video of that interview.

Lea Banken then put up a blog, carvercountycorruption.wordpress.com to discuss the issues of her case and show just cause of claiming corruption in the system.  The judge in the case, Judge Richard C. Perkins, objected and issued an order to take down the blog.  Then he issued a fine of $50/day, ultimately totaling thousands of dollars.  There were a number of people involved in the blog beyond just Ms Banken.  While this seems a clear violation of free speech, stifling legitimate criticism, that blog was ultimately forced down by the judge.  Another blog, carvercountycorruption.com, was created by a group continuing the efforts to expose many more cases of unreasonable behavior in Carver County Family Court.
In testimony before the legislature, the following video shows Judge Jeff Thompson calling blogs on the internet the "vanity press of the demented".  He claims that "lazy judges, bad judges, arrogant judges," are well policed and held accountable by the board of judicial standards, and basically denies judicial corruption.  When Lea Banken testifies immediately following you can see Judge Thompson in the background reacting to her.  Minnesota State Rep Steve Simon (DFL 44A) then waves aside the claims of corruption as disgruntled litigants who simply don't like the outcome, stating a "wrong call" is not corruption.  While the distinction is a valid one, it ignores the first amendment violations and failing to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law etc that are present in the cases presented.

There are other cases in Carver County that show a similar trend of ignoring the rights of the citizens and they have also been testified to before the House and Senate committees this year.  While nothing has yet been rectified, the legislative request for investigation is a significant step forward in the effort to hold the Carver County Family Court Judiciary accountable.

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