Sunday, March 22, 2009
Taking on the system makes few friends; here's a website on bad judges, attorneys in family courts; one woman's fight for simple justice for her child
Bonnie Russell was savaged in an article in Los Angeles' premiere legal journal for doing the unthinkable: speaking and fighting back against a judge and attorneys trying to wreck her daughter's life in divorce court.
The San Francisco area woman has made what happened to her an Internet cause along several websites, most recently www.USAjudges.com, and she has invited people who have experienced the same injustice to write in and complain and learn how to act.
Her site, www.familylawcourts.com , features a throrough news service on custody news and children killed during and after court battles by a parent.
The complaint part of the USAjudges website has thrown some fear into the industry, Russell tells me, and has won her appearances before law firms to speak about family court wrongs. Like cockroaches, the industry fears the light. And the industry then cannot use state judicial commissions to cover up its wrongs.
But keep your complaints direct and to the point. No one including Russell wants to hear someone drone on. And she does judicial oversight commissions are worthless. Any change must come from enough people getting enlightened and alarmed enough to demand justice.
Attorneys and judges don't like publicity. They sure don't want people coming into the courthouses and getting in the way of fees, bar association relationships and other profits.
Of course, the divorce industry must set out to discredit anyone that threatens its profits. And the Daily Journal piece -- in this most favorable of its excerpts about Russell -- is full of a "how dare she" attitude toward a citizen actually trying to defend her rights and more importantly those of her child before a judge.
These days Russell spends almost twelve hours a day in cyberspace, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to scan newspapers from around the country for family court horror stories. She lives alone, in a two-room apartment near the beach in Del Mar.
Her front door is glass, tinted so she can see out but visitors can't see in. On the wall in the entranceway hangs a large painting that her daughter made in the fourth grade. The apartment's main room is dominated by her workstation.
Her computer is surrounded by files and bookcases that hold enormous binders full of court documents and transcripts from hundreds of wounded family law litigants who have sought her help. She stores some of the documents in the room she is saving for her daughter, but that door remains closed.
Using one of her numerous email aliases, she spends much of the day doing a lot of what she calls "snooping"-logging on to message boards for family court professionals and other divorce- and custody-related sites.
Russell's Internet exploits began ... in 1999 ... . Exposing the divorce industry is now Russell's full-time job. She gets hundreds of emails a week, many of them filled with long, detailed child custody travails.
She catalogs the stories and replies with a form requesting the case number, the parties, the attorneys involved, and a simple summary of the facts. She asks those who respond to omit adjectives and superlatives.
"Long, complaining narratives only turn off the reader," she advises. She has received so many stories, in fact, that she bought a database program to keep them organized by state.
When Russell talks about her audience, it's often with a tinge of condescension and impatience. "Some people get involved in becoming professional victims," she says. "I don't want to be president of their club. I don't do support groups. I'm not into talking and sobbing and whining.
That's not action."
Russell, like many women in this nation, was put on special visitation status when she complained to the judge about the treatment of her daughter by her ex-husband. I did not know that ex-husbands had to be so protected and could not be complained about.
But she also is about defending fathers who are being treated unjustly in reverse in regards to have a meaningful and substantial role in the lives of their children --besides protecting them. She just forward me an e-mail from a friend in Pennsylvania.
Is Russell legitimate?
Anyone who takes the time she does to make judges and attorneys more accountable -- even to her own life experiences -- is doing our republic a favor. All our institutions must be challenged daily by the people who are supposed to be served, or we get messes like AIG, worthless bailouts and a financial industry that betrayed Americans and gutted their retirement savings.
But you make the call and go to her websites at www.USAjudges.com and www.familylawcourts.com, and let me know what you think.