The magazine of the American Bar Association’s
Family Law Section
To The Editor:
My hat is off to the American Bar Association and the Editorial Board of the Family Advocate for their decision to devote an entire issue to “The Father’s Custody Case”, even though two members of your Board offered their resignations over the decision. Sadly, the magazine lacked the journalistic integrity to acknowledge the obvious legal conclusion that leapt out from every page:
GENDER BIAS AGAINST FATHERS IS SO PERVASIVE THAT OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM ROUTINELY VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHTS OF DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTION OF MOST FATHERS IN CUSTODY CASES.
Why did the magazine fail to promote an immediate end to the gender bias it freely acknowledged BUT FAILED to condemn?
Gender bias against fathers in domestic relations is so ingrained that most people fail to recognize it even when it is admitted. People who have not experienced the devastating consequences of appearing as a father in our nation’s divorce courts fail to recognize the discrimination from such bias. Imagine the horror and outrage which would have resulted if the following statements had been made about racial bias in our courts:
Many lawyers who responded to our survey believe there is no inherent bias in how they represent an African American criminal defendant versus a white defendant, but they concede that they handle African American cases differently. Like Norman Robbins of Birmingham, Michigan, many felt that generally both races come to court without any legal advantage or presumptions based on race. “However,” Robbins acknowledged, “most of our judges were raised in a white culture. We plan our presentation differently when representing an African American in order to overcome the sub-rosa inborn prejudice.”
A black man cannot simply show the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, he must prove himself innocent.
Geoff Hamilton views judicial bias in terms of the human condition. “I suspect all of us–lawyers, judges, social workers have certain unconscious biases, i.e. blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites. But, again, that may in fact be true as a general proposition.”
An African American and his attorney must convince the judge that the African American criminal defendant is a responsible citizen with a law abiding zeal that overcomes stereotypes of the African American criminal tendencies.
I only take African American criminal cases where there is a reasonable chance of winning as I have had a number of good cases in which the African American ‘wimped out’ and accepted a plea bargain. I test the African American client’s dedication to pleading innocent by asking for a bigger retainer and I have serious heart-to-heart talks with the client.
Thomas J. Jedinak of Columbus concedes that African American criminal defendants have a tougher time obtaining a not guilty verdict.
Geoff Hamilton of Honolulu, Hawaii put it more bluntly, “You start off with the proposition that the judge will presume your African American client is guilty as charged.
Other lawyers said that a few judges were openly suspicious of African American criminal
defendants pleading innocent. These courts look for ulterior motives, such as a desire to irritate the prosecutor.
A respondent who preferred to remain anonymous noted one important distinction between how he evaluated blacks and whites in child custody matters. When a black seeks custody of his or her children, he pays “more attention to the potential for violence, sexual perversions, and motives to reduce or obtain child support.”
George R. Holmes of Columbia, South Carolina, takes one giant step further. He says that the prosecutor must be “blatantly psychotic, for him not to find any Negro charged with a crime, guilty as charged”.
It is time for the domestic relations bar to take a long hard look at the unconstitutional treatment of fathers. The Family Law Section of the American Bar Association should take the lead and formally denounce the current gender bias as pervasive and unconstitutional. The National Congress for Men and Children requests the Family Advocate recommend the formation of GENDER BIAS COMMISSIONS to document the nature and extent of gender bias in all domestic relations matters. In addition, our Litigation Committee invites contributions to mount a major attack in federal court.
After our funding reaches $100,000 we will file a suit in federal court seeking to address such issues. The funds will only be spent on costs to bring the case, travel and out-of pocket expenses of attorneys and experts, data analysis and public relations; i.e. all legal and expert witnesses’ time will be donated or paid from other sources. The fund we have established is formally restricted by the Board of Directors and has been named: The National Association For the Advancement of Concerned Fathers (NAACF). All contributions are tax deductible. A complete accounting of the funds will be sent to all individuals making a donation of $100 or more and all other contributors who make a written request for an accounting.
As succinctly stated by the Editor, Arnold H. Rutkin, “limiting a mom’s or dad’s parenting to visits every other weekend or large blocks of the summer robs a child of a meaningful relationship with two parents and predisposes the child to a dysfunctional view of family life.” If the Family Advocate is dedicated to the best interest of children, it should actively pursue immediate and substantial reformation of the gender biased domestic relations policies and practices in the United States.
Phillip J. Holman, Esq.
Chair, Litigation Committee
National Congress For Men and Children