By Susan Bassi and Fred Johnson
Attorney Matthew Phillips has initiated a federal lawsuit on behalf of nine parents who lost care, custody and control of their own children as a result of a family court case. The suit claims violations of the Fourteenth and First Amendments, including deprivation of private speech between parents and their own children, and also seeks class action certification.
The lawsuit contends “fit” parents were unjustly deprived of custody primarily due to the lack of training among California’s family court judges. The complaint alleges a deficiency in judicial training persistently results in a failure to acknowledge that parenting is an inherent and inviolable right, irrespective of divorce or custody disputes.
The lawsuit seeks to obtain monetary damages for each day that the parents were wrongfully denied custody, care, and control of their children by a family court judge’s order. Furthermore, plaintiffs are requesting injunctive relief and a mandate that judges undergo training related to fundamental parental rights.
The nine plaintiffs assert that they were indeed “fit” parents, holding no criminal records, yet were unjustly stripped of the care, custody, and control of their children during family law proceedings. They further argue a violation of their First Amendment rights when subjected to court orders mandating professionally supervised visitations that deprived them of private speech with their own children.
The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit include Jason D’Souza of Orange County, Kristina Eisenacher and Rhonda Reyna of San Mateo County, Rob Emert and Mark Fidelman of San Diego County, Jennifer Garnica and Kristen Joseph of Los Angeles County, David King of Riverside County, and Patricia Boone of Santa Clara County. All claim to have been fit parents unjustly separated from their children due to California family law proceedings.
California’s Chief Justice Patricia Guerrero is sued both in her official capacity and as the Council Chair for the Judicial Council of California for failing to ensure that family court judges receive adequate training on parental rights.
Plaintiff parents have actively used social media platforms for years to voice their grievances regarding the fairness of custody arrangements. They contend that because of a family court proceeding they not only endured the emotional anguish of losing contact with their own children, but also incurred financial harm based on exorbitant fees, fines and costs related to their custody battles. Many have been forced to pay substantial sums to professional visitation supervisors and to attorneys appointed to represent their children, otherwise known as minors counsel.
Real Cost of Professionally Supervised Visitation and Minors Counsel
Family court judges have regularly imposed orders compelling parents to pay private individuals up to $100 or more per hour to professionally supervise time one parent spends with their children during a divorce or custody case.
During these visits, a parent’s words and private speech with their own children are meticulously monitored and only English is permitted to be spoken in most cases. The visits are documented in reports available for an additional fee to the court, either parent, attorneys for the parents and where the court has appointed an attorney for the minor, the minor’s attorney as well. The lawsuit contends professionally supervised visitation is not parenting time.
As previously reported by the Davis Vanguard, parents involved in modern court proceedings also spend outrageous fees for attorneys appointed to represent their children, otherwise known as minors counsel.
One of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Patricia Boone, never married her son’s father, Wallace Edson. Boone, Edson and their son have been embroiled in family court custody battle for their child’s entire life. In 2017, Judge Cynthia Lie appointed minors counsel, Arthur Lin, to represent the “best interests” of Boone’s son.
In the five years following his appointment, Lin made proposals to the court that stripped Boone of all her “care, custody and control” of her son without any substantive trial on the merits.
Lin charged in excess of $60,000 for his legal services. Despite Boone being legally declared to have an inability to pay court costs and fees, the court nevertheless has ordered Boone to pay most of Lin’s requested fees. Adding insult to injury, Lin has been relentless in his efforts to collect fees from Boone. In the past year alone, Lin placed three liens on the home Boone inherited from her son’s grandmother in order to collect fees and costs he incurred as minors counsel.
“It was horrific enough to lose my son because of family court, but Lin continuing to charge me after his role in taking my son is just evil”, Boone said in an exclusive interview with the Vanguard. Boone is 62 years old and has two other minor children she supports as a single mother.
More recently, when Boone expressed her intention to reconnect with her son upon his turning 18, Lin urgently sought a permanent restraining order against her that would prevent her from contacting her own son for the rest of his life.
Lin requested this order on an emergency basis, which resulted in a hearing being scheduled just before Boone’s son reached the age of 18, when Lin’s appointment would expire. During the hearing on Lin’s request, Judge Jessica Delgado never required Boone’s son to testify, nor was Boone permitted to examine her son, a violation of Boone’s due process rights. Judge Delgado instead relied sole only on Lin’s assertions that his client harbored deep fear of his mother, whom he had not seen for four years. Delgado granted Lin’s request. A motion for reconsideration of those orders and the issue of payment of Lin’s fees is scheduled for later this month.
Each Plaintiff named in the federal lawsuit has similar stories of how they were deprived of “care, custody and control” of their own children in a family court proceeding.
Social Media Impact on Family Court
Social media has begun playing a more pronounced role in shedding light on the challenges children face within the modern family court system. Platforms including TikTok and Instagram have exposed abuses of some court-appointed minors counsel, reunification therapy, and private reunification camp businesses. A prominent example is 15-year-old Maya Laing and her younger brother Sebastian from Santa Cruz County, who inspired recent proposed legislation that would outlaw the use of reunification camps in connection with a family court case.
The Vanguard has previously reported on the staggering fees charged by attorneys acting as minors counsel and will address professionally supervised visitation in more detail as part of the ongoing investigative series, Tainted Trials, Tarnished Headlines, Stolen Justice.