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Thursday, February 12, 2015
I know that in many ways I am a person of privilege because I received a top rate education. And it all began with my Mom.
When I would return home from elementary school in the afternoon, my Mom would immediately insist that I sit down and do my homework right away. So while all the other kids were outside playing, I'd be working at my homework. And if I didn't do my homework properly or didn't appear to be showing sufficient enthusiasm for the task, my Mom had no problem reaching over the coffee table and slapping my face, or else giving me one of her favorite lines which was, "That's not good enough. Do it again!"
Those were the good/bad old days of the 60s. Today I was listening to the hearing on the reappointment of DCF Commissioner Joette Katz, and I can just imagine what she'd make of my mother's behavior.
Of course, my parents were teachers and so these kinds of high expectations regarding achievement were simply par for the course.
My father was a Physics Professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey who mentored considerable numbers of graduate students through to their Ph.D.s which is no easy feat. For those of you who are familiar with the process, it usually takes approximately six years to obtain a Ph.D., and it involves finding an original area of research where you can do an investigation and write up your results in a dissertation of around 100 pages or so.
The most challenging part of your Ph.D. is when you have to do a defense of your dissertation, which means that a committee of top scholars in the area of your research meet in a Committee. You are then required to stand before this Committee and field a broad range of questions that they level at you regarding the content of your dissertation and the significance of the discoveries you made in your original research. You have to stand there, on your feet, and from your memory defend criticism of your ideas from all sides by some of the most elite and challenging scholars in your department.
If you do a good job, you can then obtain approval for your dissertation and move forward to receive your Ph.D. and take your place among the self same scholars who challenged you. Notably, some people will do the original research, write up their thesis, and then refuse to defend their dissertation--a well known example of this behavior would be the poet T.S. Eliot, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. The point is that not everyone makes it because not everyone has what it takes to make it to the end.
Once I graduated from College, like many English majors I then decided to proceed with teacher training and eventually taught at a local community college here in Connecticut for 12 years.
During my teacher training, I was subjected to classroom observation by the teacher who was mentoring me. I also had my College professor come in and observe my work. Both of these individuals wrote up detailed evaluations at the end of my student teaching providing feedback regarding areas of strengths and weakness and suggesting approaches to how I could improve my teaching skills.
Eventually, I ended up before a classroom and at the end of each semester the students in my class would write up teacher evaluations responding to detailed questionnaires regarding my performance in the classroom. In addition to that, the Chairman of the Department regularly came to my classes, observed me, and then wrote up her insights regarding my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and submitted reports to the administration regarding my work.
As a teacher of these young people, and as an employee of the Community College I was held accountable for maintaining a high quality of performance as an educator. Try to be stupid or ill prepared in front of a classroom--trust me, students have no problem confronting you about that!
As a writer, I don't think you can begin to imagine the constant scrutiny that I've been subjected to from the beginning of my career. As a student, drafting and redrafting my papers was fundamental to my process; I'd receive commentary from my professors on the margins of my papers, take them home, redo them, hand them in, receive more commentary and go through the process repeatedly until I had gotten it right.
When it came to the first article I had published in "Glamour Magazine" years ago I recall having to write and rewrite the article at least fifteen times before the editor found it acceptable. And even then I remember how she called me on the very day the magazine went to the printing press saying, "We need you to rewrite the final paragraph because it isn't quite right yet. Get it to me in an hour."
I continue to face accountability and feedback from my readership on this blog who comment all the time in regard to the content of my blogs. If I make a misstatement or I am not accurate about my facts, or my argument is weak, you can be sure that someone reading my work will contact me and bring me up to speed.
If you doubt me, look at some of the comments on the website yourself. I am by no means free to shoot my mouth off. So I may not have a single editor, but I do have 100s and 100s of very earnest persons who consider themselves in charge of me, and who follow me around waiting for me to make a mistake.
Imagine my surprise then, to read this opinion piece by Attorney Norm Pattis, "Despite Accusations, Family Courts Aren't Corrupt". So let me get this straight about what he was saying.
Judge Stephen Frazzini was up for reappointment, and was undergoing a process of evaluation before a Committee to see if he met the standards for reappointment, a process very similar to a Ph.D. candidate defending his thesis, and somehow it was "disgraceful" of committee members to hold him accountable by asking him tough questions.
I have just one thing to say and that is "why?"
If you ask any taxpaying, Connecticut citizen, do you face performance evaluations at work, do you have to answer for the quality of your work, I'd bet the vast majority would answer "yes."
It is part of what's involved in being a mature, adult employee.
And yet Attorney Norm Pattis and his ilk thinks that judges and attorneys should be excused from this process?
They are too special for that? Again I ask, "why?"
You see, we have laws, and one of these laws dictates that Judges must come up for reappointment before a Committee, and when they come before that Committee they must be held accountable for their actions during their prior terms. It is supposed to be an opportunity to evaluate their performance, not just a "love-in" although the sycophancy of some members of the Judiciary Committee might make it appear so.
Ok, so Judge Stephen Frazzini "forgot to list his membership dues in a professional organization of family lawyers and judges on a disclosure form."
How conveniently Attorney Norm Pattis avoids naming this particular organization, the Association of Family and Conciliatory Courts, which family court reform advocates have repeatedly identified as packed with the names of judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, and judicial branch employees who have been identified as associated with fraudulent billing practices, cheating their clients, perverting the law and colluding together in order to siphon massive amounts of money from unwitting family court litigants, and destroying their families.
And how convenient that Judge Stephen Frazzini had a memory blank about his membership in that group and ended up providing false testimony to the Committee as a consequence. If I'd been standing before Judge Frazzini in Court and had memory loss like that while providing my testimony, I doubt he'd be that merciful!
Indeed, Attorney Norm Pattis is correct. "There is no evidence to suggest that the Justice Department has convened a task force to investigate the corruption in the Connecticut Judicial Branch." But how disgraceful that they have not after years during which litigants have regularly reported that the CT Judicial Branch is exploiting and defrauding family court litigants and violating the law. And yet nothing has been done.
I have reported on many of the details of this corruption on this website; the evidence of corruption is overwhelming. In fact, if you talk to anyone in the family court reform movement, the first thing they will show you is the documentation of the wrongdoing that happened to him or her.
So let us not go through some pretense of talking about "principled disagreement". There is no principled disagreement here, only judges and attorneys such as Attorney Norm Pattis who prefer to live in a childish fantasy land where they are considered too special to be held accountable for obeying the law the way the rest of us are.
The news is, family court reform is here to stay, and like the revelers in Nathanael Hawthorne's "Maypole of Marymount" it is time for attorneys, judges, and court personnel to grow up, rejoin civilization and restore justice and order to our Family Courts.