Sunday, December 21, 2014
Points of view

Flawed court needs to be remedied

By Jonathan Bornstein

New York state has a specialized kangaroo court, a boutique court, that purports to assist families, but for the litigant on the other side of this equation — the litigant who fights for his/her role in the family — there is a massive destruction of due process, destruction of relationships between children and parent, and persecution.

New York state’s Integrated Domestic Violence courts — introduced in 2001 as a “problem-solving court” — aims to expedite the judicial process for couples and families whose situations straddle the jurisdictions of the civil, family and criminal courts. More than 40 branches presently exist.

IDV court addresses systemic domestic problems by funneling to one judge all family actions: marital discord, divorce, custody, visitation, protection orders and real violence. Integrating the criminal and civil systems, it is presumed, will improve victim safety and offender accountability.

But in my experience, the exact opposite has happened. Under the control of one judge, without a jury, the court is a self-perpetuating, understaffed bureaucracy of summary justice bent on destroying normal relations between my children and me.

I have appeared before the court 36 times and am routinely treated as a criminal. My case isn’t unique; without safeguards, IDV court can easily be used as a tool of alleged “victims,” usually mothers — but fathers too — who exploit the system to get their way.

I have no criminal history, and my case was ultimately reduced to a plea of disorderly conduct — a violation, not a crime. Nevertheless, I am now essentially a criminal, for arguing with my spouse. And my opponent continues to use the court, as one might a private investigator, to supervise my time with my children and to bring me before the IDV judge at her whim.

IDV court’s focus is on protecting complainants. If no crime against a complainant seems to exist, IDV will find one. No allegation has proved too outlandish for the court.

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