From: J M Coll <firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Sep 30, 2014 11:46 AM
To: Mary Ann Lynch <email@example.com
Cc: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com, "Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com" <Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com, "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com, Beth.Ashcroft@xxxxxxxxxxx.Xxxxx.gov, Governor@xxxxx.gov
Subject: Re: Our 'Pro Se' conversation on Wednesday
Mary Ann Lynch, Esq
Maine Judicial Branch
Dear Mary Ann,
Thanks for your very prompt reply to my e-mail (on a Saturday morning, no less!). It is useful to get an official Judicial Branch position so quickly.
About the content of your reply, what can I say?
Your response to my e-mail is masterful. You “defend the J.B. fort valiantly”, but in all fairness, I wasn’t intending to attack the “fort” in any way - either in our very brief phone conversation, or in my subsequent e-mail to you. The email was intended as a simple clarification (expansion) of points in our conversation that you asked for. You suggested “a proposal”, if I recall. Despite disclaimers by me that my remarks are not a "proposal", you seem to have over determined them as such. In my opinion, a position statement or an actual proposal about ‘pro se’ reform issues would need many inputs from many people - not just you or me.
The tone and focus of your reply, however, deflects attention from the serious ‘pro se’ epidemiological questions that I actually raised in the email, and that need answers to be used as “tools” for any serious problem solving. So ... let me repeat the questions:
- WHAT SHOULD THE GOALS FOR ANY ‘PRO SE’ CORRECTIVE INTERVENTION BE?
- WHAT IS THE NATURE OF MAINE’S FAMILY COURT ‘PRO SE’ PROBLEM?
- DOES HAVING A LAWYER MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN OUTCOME OF DIVORCE AND CUSTODY?
- HOW DO ‘PRO SE’ LITIGANTS FEEL ABOUT THEIR COURT EXPERIENCE?
- HOW DO FAMILY COURT JUDGES FEEL ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH ‘PRO SE’ LITIGANTS?
- HOW DOES THE DIVORCE BAR SEE THE ‘PRO SE’ PROBLEM?
I am reasonably certain that neither you nor anyone in the Maine Judicial Branch currently has answers to the above vital problem-solving questions. I am sure there are opinions and anecdotes, but no actual hard, working data.
I also suspect that these questions, and their use in data collection and subsequent use of such data in targeted problem-solving, may appear to be an unfamiliar problem-solving model to the Judiciary, its “stake holders” and to the usual problem solving ‘modus operandi’. They are a classic population-oriented, conceptual approach used since the 19th century in assessing and planning for issues in question for large, under served, at risk populations. With all due respect, I would contend that a “stake holders” committee is not a tool for solving an ever expanding epidemic of ‘pro se’ representation. Perhaps a legislative audit might be able to seek data and suggest remedies. Please, note in the previous sentence, the key word,” perhaps”! “Perhaps” you and your colleagues might wish to propose another approach to the same problems at hand.
As for your worry about “violation of the separation of powers”, I hope I don’t appear to be someone, who - in a public conversation - would (God forbid!) ask the Judicial Branch Media Counsel to violate either the US or Maine Constitution! Legislative audits of Judiciary functions have been done by other states who revere the constitution every bit as much as we Mainers do. In Maine, we have the brilliant precedent of the 2006 legislatively approved audit by OPEGA of the Judiciary’s Guardians ad litem program. As I understand it, any of the 3 branches of government may propose a bill. You/your branch of government submitted a bill in 2013 dealing with GALs, using Senator Valentino as sponsor. It was hardly a unique event! As a firm believer in our constitutions - state and federal - I think we could study the epidemiology of ‘pro se’ and how to correct it without creating a constitutional crisis! “Where there's a will, there's a way”!
The "child's best interest" question that you raise, is another item that needs serious study and correction. In my opinion and that of many others, this one concept is the root of much that is wrong about family courts. It is the heart and soul of a lawyer-directed, inter-party competition, generating all of the most malignant contention in a divorce. It is the powerful driver of “billable hours” and thereby out-of-control lawyer’s bills! It serves “No one’s best interest”, least of all the child! If it requires legislation, what’s wrong with proposing it? What’s wrong, one suspects, is that if a corrective law were passed, the family court bar would metaphorically speaking “go on food stamps”. That’s why the ‘status quo’ is so hard to change. But let it not stop us from trying!
Calling the divorce bar the “divorce industry” may offend you but is not far off the mark or disrespectful when one does a detailed, “connect the dots” study (as we have done) of how members of this powerful group operate to preserve a very lucrative, privileged ‘status quo’.
It would be helpful to get an expression of interest from you about a legislative audit of ‘pro se’. Any interest at the Judicial Branch? Or should we pursue this along other avenues?
If you have had an issue with the court system we encourage you to contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com. Or find us on Facebook.