In a recent October 24, 2014 editorial regarding candidates who are running for political office, The Hartford Courant lashed out against Rep. Minnie Gonzalez who is running for the third house district.
In its statement opposing Rep. Gonzalez, Hartford Courant editors justified their position as follows: "This year, as a Judiciary Committee member, she's voted against the reappointment of at least a dozen respected judges in her bitter campaign for family court reform."
Now wait just a minute--I have some serious problems with the adjectives that The Hartford Courant is throwing around here. For example, "a dozen respected judges"? Respected? Is The Hartford Courant sure about that defining word "respected"? Where did The Hartford Courant obtain its information on whether these judges were respected or not?
I would suspect they didn't investigate those facts at all. I'd suspect they just linked the word "respected" with judges the same way the rest of us join the word "Merry" with Christmas at certain times of the year. Just because words seem to go along with one another euphoniously speaking, that doesn't actually mean they do in reality. The Hartford Courant should really think about that. Many Family Court litigants had reported to the State Legislature that the judges Rep. Minnie Gonzalez criticized had violated their professional ethics and had acted arbitrarily and maliciously. Before making any statements implying the contrary, The Hartford Courant should actually investigate these accusations. I, for one, seriously doubt that it did.
Let us also consider the use of the word "bitter" in connection to the concept of the campaign for Family Court reform. Bitter for whom? As a person who played a central role in the campaign for Family Court reform let me just say right now I never found it bitter. I can think of some other adjectives such as "liberating", "Validating", "Empowering", perhaps "Inspiring"! The only people for whom the Family Court reform movement was "bitter" were the criminal elements who were being exposed--perhaps some of the "respected" Family Court judges The Hartford Courant previously mentioned.
Let me tell you about the Rep. Minnie Gonzalez I know. A few years ago, I received a phone call from Keith Harmon Snow, a well known investigative journalist who wrote about the corruption of the Connecticut Family Court System in the cogent and thoroughly researched article "A Life Sentence" which appeared online in May 2012.
He invited me to meet with Rep. Minnie Gonzalez along with several other protective mothers, the majority of whom had lost custody and, for most, all access to their children based upon fraudulent and deceitful Family Court proceedings. During the course of this meeting which lasted for at least three hours, Rep. Minnie Gonzalez listened patiently to each one of these mothers tell their story about what had happened to her. Not only did she listen but she expressed her concern and compassion for the pain and suffering these mothers had endured, while at the same time asking intelligent and probing questions to discover why the judicial system had failed them.
A few months later, we had another such meeting where additional mothers met with Rep. Minnie Gonzalez and told their stories of the pain and horror which they had endured from the abusive Connecticut Family Court system.
Since that time, I am aware that Rep. Minnie Gonzalez has literally spoken with hundreds and hundreds of victims of Connecticut Family Court abuse and corruption, both Mothers and Fathers. At a certain point, I am aware that Rep. Minnie Gonzalez offered to actually review all of the documentation that these parents had in regard to the Family Court abuses they had experienced.
In response, she received a deluge of documentation from litigants throughout the state who had written evidence of the corruption and fraud they experienced in Family Court.
As a result of so many Connecticut citizens coming to her for help in dealing with Family Court corruption, Rep. Gonzalez eventually came to the point where she devolved into the unofficial spokesperson for our movement. As she herself has stated frequently, this is not something she volunteered for, and she is unlikely to benefit from it personally. But her innate sense of justice and her fundamental opposition to corruption placed her there, no matter how reluctant she may be personally to take on such a prominent role in connection to such a difficult and problematic issue.
The Hartford Courant may object to Rep. Minnie Gonzalez opposition to some judges, or to her broad ranging critique of the Family Court system. But the editors should keep in mind that when Minnie Gonzalez spoke up, she cited direct conversations with litigants. She held up documents parents had given her which specifically showed evidence of the abuses she spoke of. She didn't just talk off the top of her head. She did her homework, she proceeded with a thorough investigation and then she confronted the legislature with the results.
That is what I would call being a highly successful, well qualified, thoroughly efficient legislator.
So what is going on with The Hartford Courant? How could it be so wrong in regard to such an important matter? Why is it wrong on Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, wrong on incompetent and arrogant Family Court judges, and soft on Connecticut Family Court injustice and corruption?
There is actually a good answer to that question.
As I understand it, the media is supposed to be "the fourth estate" which acts as a watchdog to ensure the proper conduct of the other branches of government. In the word of one expert, "Access to information from the media is essential to the health of democracy for at least two reasons. First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. Second, information serves a "checking function" by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them. In the United States, the media is often called the fourth branch of government (or "fourth estate"). That's because it monitors the political process in order to ensure that political players don't abuse the democratic process."
So why isn't The Hartford Courant, let alone other Connecticut media, playing this critical watchdog role in regard to the Connecticut Judicial Branch? Why is our Connecticut media pretty much giving the Judicial Branch a free pass to carry out whatever nonsense it cares to?
The answer is that Judges, Attorneys, and Employees of the Connecticut Judicial Branch have systematically cultivated friendships with highly placed media executives and journalists. These friendships have developed to the point where the media in Connecticut has come to believe that it has a greater obligation to defend the Connecticut Judicial Branch from all potential challengers rather than investigate and critique it on behalf of the citizens of the State of Connecticut which it has a fundamental obligation to serve.
I know that at this point you are probably curious to know how this media shift in perspective from outsider to insider took place.
What happened is that in 2007, Judge Chase T. Rogers established the Judicial-Media Committee to discuss media access to Connecticut Judicial Branch legal proceedings and records. The founding documents for this Committee state the following, "The goals of the Judicial-Media Committee are to foster and improve better understanding and relationships between the Judicial Branch and the media, both print and electronic, and to discuss and recommend resolutions of problems confronted by the media and the public in gaining access to court proceedings and documents."
If you think this sounds like the basis for a judicial branch-media mutual admiration society, I would suspect you are correct.
The bottom line is, if the media has the legal right to access to legal proceedings and documents, that would be something their lawyers would need to attend to. But instead, what actually happened is that the Connecticut Judicial Branch arranged for ongoing friendly meetings over a period of seven years sometimes at the offices of one of the media moguls and sometimes at the Judicial Branch. Clearly, these meetings were fundamentally unnecessary and intended solely for the purpose of skewing the opinions of media leadership in the direction of the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
Some of the big media names involved in this Committee are as follows: G. Claude Albert, Managing Editor, The Hartford Courant (retired); Tom Appleby, General Manager and News Director, News 12 Connecticut; Karen Florin, Staff Writer, The Day of New London; Eric Parker, Morning News Anchor, Reporter, WFSB, Channel 3; Chris Powell, Managing Editor, Journal Inquirer; Thomas Scheffey, Connecticut Law Tribune, editorial board; Nancy Schoeffler, Editor, Metro Desk, The Hartford Courant; Paul Giguere, President & CEO, Connecticut Network; Michael St. Peter, News Director, WVIT-TV Channel 30; Kirk Varner, Vice President & News Director, WTNH-TV Channel 8; Dave Ward, Assignment Editor, WFSB-TV, Channel 3; John Long, Photographer, retired from The Hartford Courant; Ken Margolfo, Assignment Manager, WTIC-TV Fox 61; Melissa Bailey, Managing Editor of the New Haven Independent.
As you can see, this is an extraordinary lineup of media industry leaders and stars many of whom for a period of seven years conducted regular meetings with judges, attorneys, and judicial branch employees and essentially cemented relationships that could not help but be wide ranging and influential.
This represents unprecedented access to opinion makers and information gatekeepers solely gathered for the benefit of the Connecticut Judicial Branch. Those of us who are working for the reform of the Connecticut Judicial Branch had nothing like such access whatsoever and, as a result, have not been able to get the media to cover our stories and work with us for fundamental reforms that the legal system desperately needs.
In essence, what this amounts to is that the Connecticut Judicial Branch used its superior power and influence and its control over information sources that the media desperately wanted access to in order to win over the media and shut down any criticism the media might raise of its fraudulent and criminal activities.
It is a strategy that is both brilliant and, at the same time, fundamentally in opposition to our nation's democratic principles.
The result is that The Hartford Courant as well as other media outlets in the State of Connecticut have reneged on their professional responsibility to speak up about the many abuses of Connecticut Family Court. Even worse, the media in Connecticut has colluded in a conspiracy to deny the wrongdoing and act as apologists for the criminal actions of Family Court judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals.
Thus, it is the Connecticut media we rightly condemn for their collusion with corruption and injustice.
In contrast, Rep. Minnie Gonzalez has alone, among the many, fought for the vulnerable, the downtrodden, and the terribly wronged victims of family court. I urge all of her supporters to do whatever they can to make sure that she is reelected for another term.