Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Pro se Problem in Family Courts - The Judicial Branch Response

September 26 a follow up email was sent to Mary Ann Lynch with the Judicial Branch regarding a conversation which took place on September 24, 2014 regarding Pro se problems. We published that email on Sunday September 28, 2014 so the public could read about the very real concerns of Pro se representation in the Family Court system. That letter/posting may be found here. There were several points that were emphasized in that letter to the Judicial Branch:

1. What should the goals for any Pro se intervention be?
2. What is the nature of Maine's Pro se problem?
3. Does having a lawyer make a difference in outcome of divorce and custody?
4. How do Pro se litigants feel about their court experience?
5. How do Family Court judges feel about their experience with Pro se litigants?
6. How does the Divorce Bar see the Pro se problem?

The points were made as some possible questions that could be asked in trying to solve the Pro se problem. They were not intended as a proposal but as a means to start a conversation about planning.

In response to that email and as a follow up to the conversation - we have the following email from the Judicial Branch.

From: Mary Ann Lynch <mary.ann.lynch@xxxxxx.maine.gov>
Sent: Sep 27, 2014 7:25 AM
To: J & M Coll <jacol1@xxxxxxxx.net>
Cc: "ddusini@xxxxxxxxxx.com", "Villa98staterep@xxxxx.com", "ddutrem1@xxxxx.com"

Subject: Re: Our 'pro Se' conversation on Wednesday

Thank you for your follow up. Your letter raises issues you did not raise in our conversation on Wednesday. For instance "defining custody-50/50" fundamentally changes the current law, that is,   "the best interest of the child standard."  I suggest this type of question is a question of what the state law should be, and the resolution lies fundamentally with the Legislature. It would a violation of the separation of powers for the court to become involved in efforts to change amend the substantive law. If your goal is to change the substantive law on family issues, you should bring these issues before the Legislature.

You also did not mention in our conversation Wednesday an audit or study to be done specifically by OPEGA. As you may know, the Court currently is reviewing the report of the Family Division Task Force. These recommendations are before the Court after a year of study and 8 public hearings conducted all around the state.  This report contains proposals and recommended changes to the court procedures governing family law matters. The Task Force report focus is on improving public service by, among other things, eliminating court events that cause unnecessary delay, and improving procedures to promote prompt and more effective resolution of family disputes. The comment period just closed, and the Court is now considering the report and the comments. It is premature to undertake another study, before the court has acted on the recommendations now before it. More fundamentally, an audit by OPEGA raises substantial separation of powers issues.

Your discussion of the significant challenges presented by people proceeding without lawyers, most likely because they cannot afford lawyers, is a subject that the Court has worked mightily over the years to address, (with proposals to the Legislature to provide civil legal services to low income Mainers and to encourage lawyers to provide free legal services. Indeed, in the next few weeks lawyers across the state will be recognized for providing free legal services to their fellow Mainers.). But the problem is not just one experienced in family matters.  It is a problem that cuts across every civil docket in our courts. Any study of the issue needs to address all civil dockets, not just family matters.  We welcome a renewed interest in this problem.

Finally, I do not think the continuing disparaging and pejorative characterization "of the divorce industry," is particularly helpful or productive.  I suspect I will be accused of stifling discussion. That is not my intent. My intent is to accord all involved with respect.

Mary Ann Lynch


If you have had issues in Family Court as a Pro se litigant we ask that you contact us at MeGALert - MeGALalert@gmail.com

6 comments:

  1. Does Mary Ann Lynch want 50-50 shared parenting? You guess! Does eh want to get rid of "child's best interest" standard? You guess! Does she/Chief Justice Saufley/Supreme Court/divorce industry want to have a legislative AUDIT of 'pro se'? You guess! Do they want to make divorce and custody "less lawyered"? You guess!

    Is Mary Ann/Chief Justice happy with the current 'pro se' situation? You guess!

    Do you agree with Mary Ann? Speak up!

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    1. Thank you for the comment to this posting.

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  2. It's almost sad to see what little insight they have. Imagine having the foxes do reviews and recommendations over and over again while expecting a different outcome. Sounds like insanity to me!

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    1. Maybe they (the judges, lawyers and others within the Divorce Industry) are in need of psychiatric services. It is to bad Dr. Collins has retired otherwise he could help these poor souls with the insanity that is the Family Court system.

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  3. Call it like it is - "Divorce Industry" - those people who profit off of divorcing families. It may be considered "disparaging" if one worked within that industry - but for those who suffer at the hands of those within this industry the title is appropriate.

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