OPINION: Family Law And Fatherhood

America’s Courts Need To Keep Families Together

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The Sandy Hook School massacre has left many people asking why. Before the shell casings cooled, the “why” debate started. Gun critics blamed the National Rifle Association. Mental Health critics blamed the lack of mental health care. Almost overlooked in the debate were headlines from The Los Angeles Times: Connecticut Shooter Was Estranged From Father. The sub headline stated that the shooter “Hadn’t seen his father in two years-despite the father’s efforts. Another headline read, “Upset by divorce? Outsider? Seeking clues in school shooter’s past.”

There are many psychological studies and statistics that prove that children who come from broken homes suffer. Too many to list here. Many others prove that children without the strong presence of fathers in their lives also suffer. Yet America allows these situations to continue.

Here in West Virginia, PutnamLIVE.com has identified two judges whose anti-fatherhood and anti-family stances are improper: Kanawha County Family Court Judge Michael J. Kelly and Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum.

In the case of Bill Henry, Kelly Michael J. Kellyrefused to return Henry’s runaway teenage daughter to him. She was staying with friends. In doing so, Kelly improperly stripped Henry’s right to be a father to his daughter. At one point the insensitive and arrogant Kelly said that “Anyone can live with anything for 19 days” but never reversed his temporary order.

judgemikekelly215In the case of PutnamLIVE.com Publisher Mark Hallburn, Kelly reduced Hallburn’s parenting time to less than 70-percent based on false allegations in a temporary custody hearing. Later, it was determined that the allegations were false and made merely on “beliefs” rather than fact. Despite numerous requests, Kelly has refused to reverse his fatally-flawed ruling and even rejected an Emergency Father’s Day visitation motion because he did not receive it 10 days before Father’s Day. Obviously Kelly does not understand the definition of “Emergency.”

When Ketchum asked for-and received Menis E. Ketchuman Emergency Father’s Day motion from Hallburn his arrogant response was to violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and order Hallburn not to contact the West Virginia Supreme Court about the case any longer. Kelly later retaliated by refusing to let Hallburn’s son travel with him out-of-state SPECIFICALLY because Hallburn complained to Ketchum who responded with the illegal order.

Kelly’s antics are nothing new. The group Men and Women Against Discrimination called for Kelly’s removal from the bench years ago after he testified that he ignored state law about parental custody. In the Hallburn case he commented that state law would not allow either parent to get primary custody-then, in his wrongful temporary ruling, gave primary custody to Dolores Halburn. Nearly a year later, because Kelly has not issued a final divorce decree, that “temporary” ruling remains in effect, denying Mark Hallburn his proper rights as a father. This is classic Kelly misconduct: Acknowledge the law, then circumvent it. He clearly does this because the West Virginia Supreme Court, including Ketchum, allow Kelly to do this.

When Ketchum handed down the Administrative Order, he violated federal constitutional law. When Kelly cited that order and retaliated against Hallburn, he also violated federal constitutional law.

justicemeniseketcumiiKelly and Ketchum claim to be highly educated men. However, their arrogance and misconduct only prove that they are fools that somehow managed to earn law degrees-then sucker voters into electing them. Kelly and Ketchum lack common decency and common sense. Therefore they have no business serving on any bench.

Some may say that removing two judges over two cases is extreme. However, there are many more people that contacted PutnamLIVE.com citing abuse by Kelly. They are simply afraid that he will retaliate against them (like he did with Hallburn) and do not want their names and cases published. This alone is grounds to remove a judge. No one should have to fear retaliation-including the loss of precious time with their children.

In fairness to the courts, there are abusive fathers. Same for mothers. Each should be kept from their children until counseling and other intervention takes place. However, neither Hallburn or Henry abused their children and too many fathers are held back from parenting simply because ignorant judges automatically award primary custody to mothers.

Complaints have been filed against both Kelly and Ketchum with the West Virginia Judicial Investigative Commission. It claims to have processes to deal with bad judges. However, those processes are broken and must be immediately replaced. The JIC has no option other than to do the following: 1) IMMEDIATELY order Kelly and Ketchum to restore every moment of lost time with their children. EVERY moment. This means rolling back the clock-which will be a huge challenge for Kelly and Ketchum-but is their problem. 2) IMMEDIATELY remove from the bench. 3) Throw them into prison for violating federal constitutional law. 4) Set down standards to make sure this does not happen again. 5) Change the way the JIC conducts business so that judges are properly supervised to make sure this does not happen again. 6) Turn over custody rulings to juries consisting of parents. 7) Order the West Virginia Supreme Court to immediately allow temporary orders to be appealed. 8) Turn over all courtroom videos to the news media for us to publish. (Redact the names of cases and digitize the images of petitioners and respondents) 9) Allow reporters into family law courtrooms to keep an eye on judges. 10) Allow the public to address the West Virginia Supreme Court justices at every hearing. 11) Transform the JIC into a civilian review board. 12) Two-year terms for all judges. 13) Recalls for all public officials-elected, appointed, and hired. This must include judges. 14) Term limits for all elected public officials-including judges.

All of these things must happen by the close of business, Friday, December 21, 2012 so that fathers can make sure their rights to be with their children are not violated on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

It’s highly unlikely that any West Virginia father will shoot up a school like the incident in Connecticut. However we simply cannot afford another Sandy Hook incident or any other problems with our children because of the courts continuing to improperly interfere with the rights of fathers to parent their children.

greenhouse GO GREEN: PutnamLIVE.com is only available online. We do not publish a paper edition in order to protect the environment. Please do not print this article unless it is necessary!

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