Another judge rebuked for treatment of sexual assault case

Excerpt from the judge's statement as reported by the New York Times, 7/2/19.

Excerpt from the judge’s statement as reported by the New York Times, 7/2/19.

Judicial treatment of sexual assault cases continues to prompt scrutiny, the latest involving a New Jersey family court judge who argued that prosecutors should have considered the suspect’s college prospects and how charges would affect his life.

The New York Times reports on an appeals court’s rebuke of Monmouth County Judge James Troiano of Superior Court, who denied prosecutors’ motion to try a 16-year-old sexual assault suspect as an adult.

The judge questioned whether the incident was rape, although investigators said the boy shared a cellphone video among friends and sent a text that said, “When your first time having sex was rape.”

“The boy filmed himself penetrating her from behind, her torso exposed, her head hanging down, prosecutors said,” The New York Times reported.

The judge said “the young man came from a good family, attended an excellent school, had terrific grades and was an Eagle Scout,” according to the article.

The appeals court “cleared the way for the case to be moved from family court to a grand jury, where the teenager, identified only as G.M.C. in court documents, will be treated as an adult,” the article explained.

“In recent years, judges across the country have come under fire for the way they have handled sexual abuse cases,” The New York Times reported. “One of the most notorious was in 2016 when a judge in California sentenced a Stanford University student to six months in jail after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. After an intense public backlash, California voters recalled the judge. Judge Troiano, who is roughly 70, was one of two family court judges whom appeals courts in New Jersey have criticized in recent weeks over relatively similar issues.”

Native Americans Seeking Family Law Representation

We’ve noted before that one of the logical places to provide civil attorneys is family law, especially decisions involving child custody. It turns out that Native American tribes feel the same way and the Eureka Times Standard newspaper is reporting that “… a coalition of Native American tribes from across California are calling on the state’s top law enforcement office to begin investigating what it says are be systematic shortfalls and violations of tribal civil rights relating to the Indian Child Welfare Act.”

“Many of the tribes don’t have the ability to send their lawyers hundreds or thousands of miles to represent them in these courts, so you get really disjointed, disconnected kinds of representation,” said Yurok Tribal Court Chief Judge Abby Abinanti, one of seven co-chairs on the task force. “… We need some answers. The law is not being followed.”

The story backgrounds:”… passed by Congress in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was created in an effort to keep tribal children with tribal families and communities. The act was passed in response to the large number of tribal children — 25 to 35 percent — being removed from their homes and being placed in foster homes, adoptive homes, or other institutions like board schools, according to the report. At the time the law passed, Native American children were eight times more likely to be placed in foster care than non-Native children, with over 90 percent of the Native American foster youth being placed in non-tribal homes, according to the report. While some progress has been made, Andreas and Abinanti said these statistics have not changed significantly since 1978.”

The regulations apply to state child custody proceedings and set regulations on how these state agencies work with federally recognized tribes in cases.

Read the story here: Report states tribal child custody laws neglected on statewide level

2-Year-Old Taken From Court Found Unharmed

BREAKING NEWS: The Associated Press is citing the City News Service in reporting that the 2-year-old girl abducted Wednesday by her parents during a family court custody hearing “has been found unharmed in Arizona.” The AP explains that “… the grandmother of Mariah Salguero was granted temporary custody of the child at the court proceeding Wednesday morning. Shortly afterward, police say, the child’s parents took the girl out of the courtroom.”

More Bay Area Court Facilities Close

More court facilities are closing and more employees are losing their jobs in the Bay Area. The ongoing budget crisis is hitting Solano County Superior Court, where officials have announced cuts that include closing clerks offices, staff layoffs and shuttering the Family Law Clerk’s Office at the Solano Justice Building in Vallejo. The family law office closing means custody matters and other issues will be heard some 20 miles away in Fairfield, according to published reports.
The Reporter newspaper notes that, “… in announcing the cuts, local officials quoted California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye in her comments on the state budget’s impact on courts. ‘This is the second year of partial reinvestment in the judicial branch after five years of severe budget cuts resulting in a reduction to access to justice. And while I appreciate the work of the Governor and the Legislature in increasing branch funding, especially given the context of this budget, the state revenues, the demands and the needs – unfortunately it is not enough to provide timely, meaningful justice to the public,’ she said. 
The Reporter also quoted local officials explaining that the current-year funding shortfall leaves the Solano courts with an $830,000 deficit going into the fiscal year. Read the story here: Solano County Courts announce closures, furloughs, layoffs for coming fiscal year