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Showing posts with label EVALUATIONS OF CT BRANCH SERVICES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EVALUATIONS OF CT BRANCH SERVICES. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CHANGES TO CT PRACTICE BOOK SEC. 25-60 RE FAMILY SERVICES EVALUATIONS PUT LITIGANTS AT RISK!

PAGE 42-43 SUGGESTED PRACTICE BOOK REVISION-THIS WOULD BE ADDED TO SECTION 25-60 ON FAMILY COURT PRACTICE AND POTENTIALLY RESTRICT LITIGANTS' ACCESS TO VITAL INFORMATION NECESSARY TO ARGUE THEIR CASES!  SEE BELOW THE SUGGESTED ADDITION:


"(d) The file compiled by the Family Services Unit in the course of preparing any mediation report or conflict resolution conference report shall not be available for inspection or copying unless otherwise ordered by the judicial authority. The file compiled by the Family Services Unit in the course of preparing an evaluation or study conducted pursuant to Section 25-61 that has been completed and filed with the clerk in accordance with subsection (b) shall be available for inspection only to counsel of record, guardians ad litem, and the parties to the action to the extent permitted by any applicable authorization for release of information; and further provided that copies of documents, notes, information or other material in the file shall only be provided to such individuals if they make the request in writing and certify that it is requested for legitimate purposes of trial preparation and/or trial proceedings in the case in which the evaluation or study was filed. For purposes of this section, the word ‘‘file’’ shall include any documents, notes, information or other material retained by the Family Services Unit in any format.

(e) Any information or copies of the file disclosed pursuant to this section shall not be further disclosed unless otherwise ordered by the judicial authority or as otherwise authorized in this section." 

THE CT JUDICIAL BRANCH'S COMMENTARY ON THIS SECTION'S INCLUSION:

COMMENTARY: The changes to this section clarify what information from Family Services files compiled in connection with the reports, evaluations and studies under this section are subject to inspection and copying and by whom, to whom those copies can be provided, and for what purpose can they be requested. The changes also provide that any information or copies disclosed may not be further disclosed except as otherwise ordered or authorized.* 

*In other words you can be subjected to endless, unnecessary obstruction to your access to vital evidence in your case.  While issues of confidentiality regarding certain documents is important, I think the wording of this revision is so careless it could end up restricting family court litigants from accessing important information they need for their own cases.  If the purpose of this revision is to safeguard confidentiality, it must be rewritten to ensure that it does not inadvertently end up cutting off the parties themselves from being able to review important documents in their cases.  As it looks now, the way this revision is worded, the latter could very easily happen.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

THE CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH'S SECRET SHOPPER PROGRAM!

I will admit I am a bit of a practical joker.  And I mean it in the best way because I think people need to relax and not take themselves so seriously.  Of course, sometimes this can be a problem when I am cracking a joke that I think is particularly funny, but no one else knows the joke. 
 
I can recall one incident way back before Borders went belly up in bankruptcy.  The Borders I frequented had just renovated to add Seattle's Best Coffee to its cafĂ©.  Of course, that alone was a problem.  Seattle's best coffee in Hartford, Connecticut.  Hello, are you kidding me?  We have some of the "best" things here in Connecticut, but Seattle? Where is that exactly? 
 
So they had just made the switch, and I went and ordered something slightly more complicated from the newly hired little girl who was at the cash register.  I mean, everyone else knew me, but not this little kid, and I kind of forgot that.  So while she is fumbling around with my order, checking the newly published booklet on prices and slowly punching my order into the register, I said, "I'm a secret shopper from Seattle's Best Coffee, so you better hurry it up or I'll have to report you." 
 
Well, wouldn't you know, our cute little cashier believed me and almost had a nervous breakdown right on the spot until the other barristas calmed her down and said, "That's just Cathy, pulling your leg!"  Which of course, sort of ruined my fun. 
 
Anyway, my point in telling you this story is that in 2008 The Connecticut Judicial Branch began running a "secret shopper" program, one that is fully funded by the Judicial Branch itself.  The program, which has been reported as a rousing success, by the way, indicates that the Branch is doing a truly wonderful job of meeting the needs of the public. 
 
I guess they weren't at the task force hearings on January 9, 2014! 
 
The article on this program which appears in the website for the National Council for State Courts, in the section "Trends in State Courts" was written by Heather Collins who is reported to be a Court Planner with the Connecticut Judicial Branch.   
 
Apparently, the purpose of this program which I have been told remains operational on an ongoing basis and has considerably increased its reach is to "help judges and court staff to improve their work with the public." 
 
Of course, later in the article, Ms. Collins kind of sneaks in the fact that no judges were investigated in this program, so that's kind of cheating.  I'm not sure how the judges can improve their work if they are actually not participating in the program. 
 
The way the program works is that volunteer staff members (members of the Courthouse Observation Team--COT) who are already employed in the CT Judicial Branch, went around to various Judicial Districts sampling their services.  In other words, "volunteer branch staff members [conducted] anonymous assessments of the delivery of services to the branch staff" with the primary focus, according to Chief Justice Chase Rogers of determining whether Branch employees used "common courtesy." 
 
I suppose that means that when they hid your documents, failed to calendar your motions, and denied you modifications you were entitled to under Title II of federal ADA law, as long as they did so with common courtesy, that makes it OK!  Isn't this a little like the Mafia investigating itself?  Doesn't it smack a bit of the "self-regulating" nature of the legal profession which means that practically none of its members are ever held accountable by Statewide Grievance for even the most blatant wrongdoing?  Just wondering! 
 
The participants in the Courthouse Observation Team (COT) received a very specific checklist upon which to record their observations covering the condition of the facilities, ease of navigating around the facilities, the behavior of marshals and Clerks as well as telephone courtesy in response to inquiries.  The checklists allowed team members to respond either "yes", "no", or not applicable with room there for more detailed comments. 
 
The article stated that the purpose of this secret shopper program is "to support accountability to the public by helping to ensure that each person is treated fairly and respectfully with professionalism and integrity, which are the core values of the judicial branch." 
 
Really? 
 
I never would have guessed that in the last seven years I've been going there!  
 
Apparently, despite some initial discomfort with this program, employees at the judicial branch are delighted by it, particularly because it is reporting how great these employees are--not a big surprise.  Nine out of ten times, team members experiences were positive. 
 
Employees also feel good that even if one of their number gets fingered, the CT Judicial Branch management will not single them out.  Instead, there are meetings to improve the performance of all employees as a whole while specifically detailing what the problem had been. 
 
Finally, the article ends with prophetic words that when the public is not being treated fairly, "our governor and legislature will surely hear of it!"  Looks like the governor and the legislature is hearing a considerable amount right now and will continue to hear a good deal in the months to come. 
 
And this is the thing about self examination, about secret shopper programs conducted by inside players.  They don't work! 
 
What I find very typical here in this report is that it goes ahead and reports as a smashing success a program that the extensive public outcry in the last few years has shown to be a complete failure.  So what we are getting are more self congratulatory manipulations on the part of the CT Judicial Branch starting right from the top with Chief Justice Chase Rogers.  It is kind of like the doublespeak of 1984 transplanted to the CT Judicial Branch. 
 
Of course, we heard the same kind of nonsense from the co-chairs of the task force in these past few weeks.  We have a broken Family Court System and the co-chairs are apparently the only ones who don't know it.  Could it be because of the massive sums of money they've been making off of vulnerable family court litigants?


As I postscript, I will say that in the last year when I've gone to Court there has been a distinct improvement in general friendliness and the willingness to be helpful.  You know that thing where you ask if they have a stapler, and the clerks say "Go find one yourself!"--that has gone!  I was actually quite touched in one situation where a marshall asked me whether I'd filed that paper that goes to the Court clerk to indicate I'm ready to go before the judge.  And when I hesitated he told me how to get it and submit it.  So, ok, there are some improvements there.  But let's not get over excited here.  There is still a long way to go. 
 

For more information on this program, see the link below:

http://www.ncsc.org/sitecore/content/microsites/future-trends-2013/home/~/media/Microsites/Files/Future%20Trends%202013/06202013-Courthouse-Observations-Using-Staff-to-Gauge-Public-Service-Quality.ashx