Saturday, November 1, 2008

If only we could do this kind of democratic protest in Canada

We can get our signs and walk in front of the court house protesting judges but it may just serve to rile them up, especially if you still need to appear before them. They, once appointed, have little accountability other than to a body of their peers and perhaps the political minister responsible federally or provincially. The latter will usually deflect any requests by telling you to complain to the peer group.

It would be a treat to be able to "think" one could actually stop the re-appontment of a judge though. I am a dreamer! :)


Family-court judge faces public criticism

By Mary Schenk
Saturday November 1, 2008

URBANA – A Champaign County judge is under public attack for a second time in four years for the way he administers family court.

Signs urging voters not to retain Arnold Blockman appeared early this week in different cities in the 6th Judicial Circuit, where voters will decide if Blockman should serve another six years.

Blockman, of Champaign, was elected in 1996 and retained in 2002.

In a recent poll, the Illinois State Bar Association gave him the highest recommendation of the three Champaign County judges up for retention. The other judges are Thomas Difanis and Harry Clem. Voters in the six counties of the circuit will also have to weigh in on Macon County judges Katherine McCarthy and A.G. Webber.

Arunas Cepas, 52, of Champaign is one of the people urging the no-vote to retain the Democratic judge, even though his own divorce and custody case has been heard for years by Associate Judge Brian McPheters.

"(Blockman) runs family court. He heads the system," said Cepas, whose divorce case started in 2001 and remains open because of a 15-year-old son whom Cepas said he hasn't seen in 10 months.

"He's the one who has to effect change. His family court system does not enforce the laws equally," Cepas said.

Cepas and others have paid for about 250 anti-Blockman signs and a Web site – – that is critical of Blockman for his treatment of parents who don't have custody of their children.

Cepas said the group behind the effort first formed an alliance back in 2005 when the Washington, D.C.-based American Coalition for Fathers and Children funded a billboard campaign in Urbana urging Blockman to reform family court. That sparked a number of meetings and public discussion on shared parenting and family court.

Then, as now, Blockman defended his work.

"We're forced to make decisions and every decision we make, a lot of times, one person is going to be upset. All we can do is, based on whatever facts we're presented, apply the law to the facts. That's our job," he said, adding that the energies of the unhappy parents would be better expended getting the law changed.

"Some of the fathers' groups are working to get some of the law changed," Blockman said. "That makes a lot more sense than to go after an individual judge who's working in the field and applying the law that exists."

Blockman said it's "disturbing" to be criticized by Cepas since he's had nothing to do with his case. Blockman recused himself because his wife knew Cepas' ex-wife.

"Nobody likes criticism, particularly when I feel we've run a really good courtroom and it's efficient and we've had a great record in the appellate court. The criticism is really addressed to the legislation," he said.

But Cepas and another non-custodial parent, Tony Olaivar of Champaign, said Blockman and other family law judges are merely enforcing the status quo.

"The current status is to give custody to one parent, which basically means ownership and the non-custodial parent is left out of the picture completely," Cepas said.

"I would say if there was one phrase that would sum up the policy in this court is it's pro-attorney," said Olaivar, who has been through two divorces and has five children.

"The more you go into court, the more you realize that the judges and the attorneys make up all the rules. They may say this is just the system. It's the judges who make up the system. The judges are pulling your leg when they tell you they don't have any authority to interpret these laws differently," he said.

Cepas acknowledges that ousting a sitting judge is next to impossible but said he was speaking out not only for himself but other non-custodial parents who fear retribution in court if they do.

"If we don't do anything, it just keeps happening," he said.

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Anonymous said...

Fortunately, Canadians generally possess common sense - hence our lack of such pointless protest.

Michael J. Murphy said...

Since when is democratic protesting pointless? Oh I forgot - when it involves bias against fathers.

The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie