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Domestic Violence Debate-Why some fathers kill, the tragic murder suicide that’s reignited the debate over domestic violence.

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2011/s3220581.htm

They Kill To Punish Their Wives For Leaving Them.

It’s About The Ultimate Control and Violence Over a Woman and Her Children.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Here is a story about the murder suicide tragedy that sparked discussion all around the nation about domestic violence.

Early this week, estranged father Paul Rogers killed four people, including his five-year-old daughter and himself.

These incidents aren’t common, but they do happen with a tragic regularity, and every time they prompt soul searching about why. Deborah Cornwall reports.

CINDY GAMBINO: I can’t understand what goes through a father’s mind in the terms of, “I have to kill my child to get to her.” It doesn’t have to be like that. It truly doesn’t.

DEBORAH CORNWALL, REPORTER: It was six years ago on Fathers’ Day when Robert Farquharson drove his three sons into a dam. But rather than trying to save them, he left them to drown, flagging down a passing car and heading straight to ex-wife Cindy Gambino to tell her the shocking news.

CINDY GAMBINO: You’re never ever the same person. And then I think why do fathers feel that they have to take their children’s lives in order to get back at the mother?

CAROLYN HARRIS-JOHNSON, CURTIN UNI: What would be important for him would be to actually see the result of his work, so that he would want to witness the pain on the surviving parent himself. He’d want to see it, he’d want to be there, he’d want to watch.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: It took Cindy Gambino three years to believe Robert Farquharson was actually capable of such a monstrous act, even supporting him through his first trial.

CINDY GAMBINO: I thought things were fairly amicable between us. I had no idea that he would ever harm the children. If anything, I thought he was gonna harm himself.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The discovery this week of another family murder, this time on the Gold Coast, has prompted yet another debate about what can be done to help protect mothers and children.

TIM TERIZE, QLD POLICE: It’s obvious that when these tragic events happen that we all look for answers in trying to explain why it happened. And unfortunately, rarely is there a simple explanation.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Paul Rogers had the names of his estranged partner and two children etched into his body after he separated from Tania Simpson six months ago. On Sunday night, he went on a rampage, stabbing her to death along with a family friend.

???: It would appear that both bodies have suffered some form of trauma. I can’t say anything more beyond that.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: The bodies of Rogers and his five-year-old daughter Kyla were discovered the next day in a car in northern NSW.

CAROLYN HARRIS-JOHNSON: I think what’s really driving these men is their own need to have power and control over the woman that they were in a relationship with.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Social work lecturer Carolyn Harris-Johnson has just published her findings on a 10-year study of so-called filicide killings in Australia. What she found was a clear pattern among men who kill their families. It’s not so much the custody battles that drive men to murder, she says; more than anything, they simply want to punish their wives for leaving them – in the most horrific way they can.

CAROLYN HARRIS-JOHNSON: My research showed that where these cases had occurred, there wasn’t actually an existing dispute in the courts, so what I see is that the proprietary attitude that these men have, both towards their wives and towards their children, allows them to commit the offence, because they are possessions of his, they’re not entities in their own right.

DIONNE FEHRING: Well there’s sliding doors in life. You decide which doors you’re going to take and that was the door that he chose to take on that day, was to kill the kids and himself.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Dionne Fehring’s two children were suffocated by their father Jason Dalton on Anzac Day 2004.

DIONNE FEHRING: I knew that he was capable of murdering me because of the threats he’d made against me, but I never ever thought he’d make – he would kill the kids. I don’t think anyone knew what he was capable of. I certainly didn’t. I didn’t think he would do that. And could anything have been done differently? No. He had it in his mind of what he was going to do. I don’t think anyone could have changed his mind.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: MensLine, a national counselling service, today cautioned men going through the crisis of a divorce or separation didn’t need the stigma of being regarded as potentially homicidal.

RANDAL NEWTOWN-JOHN, MENSLINE: Obviously men who are going through these situations may be feeling angry, hurt or scared, but that doesn’t mean to say they’re dangerous.

CAROLYN HARRIS-JOHNSON: So we’re talking about a very, very small group of men who have a particular and intense need to control their partner and who will never accept the finality of separation.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: But victims and experts say we now know enough about this kind of homicidal behaviour to recognise some of the red flags.

CAROLYN HARRIS-JOHNSON: Things like veiled threats to harm the children or explicit threats to harm the children or the self should be warning flags to everyone.

CINDY GAMBINO: My biggest thing is just get help. Don’t think it’s the end of the world. It’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you kill your children.

LEIGH SALES: Deborah Cornwell reporting.

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Why Fathers Kill Their Children- To Punish Their Wives For Leaving Them.

Obsessive love lost: why some fathers kill

Adele Horin

May 18, 2011

‘Please God not again’

A mother whose two children were murdered by their father seven years ago says she ‘can’t believe this keeps happening’.

 

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Several recent cases have thrown the spotlight on estranged partners who resort to drastic acts of revenge, writes Adele Horin.

Custody issues are not the main reason estranged fathers kill their children.

They kill to punish their wives for leaving them.

That is the conclusion of Australia’s foremost expert on murder-suicide, Carolyn Johnson of Curtin University.

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Paul Roger's tattoo list the names of his family members.

Paul Rogers’s tattoo list the names of his family members.

”Of the cases I studied, all the men had access to their kids and they used the access time to murder them,” said Dr Johnson, whose book Come with Daddy, explored murder-suicides after marital separation.

A police hunt for five-year-old Kyla Rogers ended on Monday night near Casino with the discovery of her body in a car beside that of her father, Paul.

Earlier, the bodies of his former partner, Tania Simpson, and a ”family friend”, Anthony Way, were found in a flat on the Gold Coast.

Robert Farquharson...accused of driving his car into a dam and drowning his three sons.

Robert Farquharson…accused of driving his car into a dam and drowning his three sons. Photo: John Woudstra

Dr Johnson said the kind of men who kill in these situations are those with a proprietorial attitude towards women and children.

They will not relinquish control, they are used to calling the shots in the family, and are often pathologically jealous. When they finally realise their wives are not coming back, they turn lethal.

”Homicide-suicide is their final act of control,” she said. ”Very often they let their wives survive to experience the extreme pain of losing their children.”

Paul Rogers was found dead in a car with his daughter Kyla.

Paul Rogers was found dead in a car with his daughter Kyla.

Several recent high-profile cases have thrown the spotlight on estranged fathers who have resorted to murder.

Last month, Arthur Freeman was jailed for 30 years for throwing his daughter Darcey, 4, to her death off the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne.

The judge concluded he had used his daughter in an attempt to hurt his former wife ”as profoundly as possible”.

Little angel...Kyla Rogers, pictured with her brother Bronnson, was found dead in a car beside the body of her father, Paul.

Little angel…Kyla Rogers, pictured with her brother Bronnson, was found dead in a car beside the body of her father, Paul.

Freeman lodged an appeal against the sentence last week.

And last year another estranged father, Robert Farquharson, was jailed for a minimum of 33 years for deliberately driving his car into a dam and drowning his three sons near Geelong.

The judge said Farquharson had resented that his estranged wife had started a new relationship.

He has lodged an appeal.

Lesley Laing, a leading expert on family violence from Sydney University, said a history of controlling and violent behaviour was behind most cases of family homicide but too many people ignored or dismissed women’s fears.

”The community reaction often is ‘what more can we do to make this man or these men feel better’ by changing family law or providing more services,” she said. Instead the focus should be on the safety of women and children.

Dr Laing recently completed research on the family law system’s response to victims of domestic violence. She also chaired a committee which has led the NSW government to establish a domestic violence death review panel. She said the way to prevent more deaths of women and children was to find better ways to protect them.

At Men’s Line, the national counselling service for men, 40 per cent of the callers are going through separation, and some are so angry they express a desire to hurt others or themselves.

”It’s a very challenging situation for counsellors,” the program leader, Randal Newton-John, said.

He said many men relied entirely on their wives for emotional support and when the relationship broke down they had nobody to turn to.

He said it was essential that men going through separation sought help early for any emotional difficulties.

For Ingrid Poulson, the death of her two children and her father at the hands of her estranged husband in 2003 was beyond her worst nightmare.

Her husband, Phithak ”Neung” Kongsom, had been violent, controlling and she had taken out an apprehended violence order, but she did not think he would ever kill the children.

Yesterday she said women had to be ”hyper-alert” to signs that men were putting the children’s welfare at risk.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/obsessive-love-lost-why-some-fathers-kill-20110517-1eri9.html#ixzz1MnyhFHhB

Divorce, Child Custody Dispute Leads FATHER to Kill his 5 year Old Daughter- “If I cant Have her- NO ONE WILL!

Custody dispute led to killings FATHER kills Daughter age 5 Kyla Rogers -then himself. http://bit.ly/lzBymD

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The brother of murdered Gold Coast mother Tania Simpson says she was the rock of their family.

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A custody dispute was at the centre of a triple homicide and suicide which included the death of five-year-old Kyla Rogers, Gold Coast police say.

Kyla was found dead alongside her father Paul Rogers on Monday night in a car near Casino in northern NSW.

Her mother, Tania Simpson, and family friend Anthony Way had been found dead in a unit in Robina on the Gold Coast about 8am (AEST) the same day.

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Tania Simpson ... "always happy".

Tania Simpson … "always happy".

Police believe Rogers stabbed Mr Way and Ms Simpson to death before abducting Kyla and taking her to northern NSW, where they died together from carbon monoxide poisoning in his car.

Kyla’s toddler brother was staying with his grandparents.

Acting superintendent Tim Trezise said a dispute over the custody of the children was at the centre of the tragedy.

Tragic ending ... Kyla Rogers.

Tragic ending … Kyla Rogers.

"Information we have received in interviewing a number of witnesses is that Mr Rogers understandably was upset and concerned about not having access to his children," he told ABC Radio.

He said the absence of a suicide note had complicated the investigation.

Queensland’s coroner will lead the investigation into the death of Kyla Rogers in the first case referred to the new family and domestic violence death review unit.

Another Dead Child Slips Through the Cracks of a Broken System: Kristina Hepp Age 4, Dies in Father’s Care

VIDEO HERE >> http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/204631/3/Kristina-Hepp-Dies-in-Fathers-Care-Jacksonville-Step-Grandparents-Left-without-Answers

 

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –  The death of a 4-year-old girl and a new lawsuit, claiming negligence against an agency contracted by the state Department of Children and Families is sparking new questions of how some cases are handled.

"There’s a lot of folks including us sitting around wondering what the hell just happened here," said Michael Gordon.

Gordon and his wife, Jamie, were step-grandparents to Kristina Hepp. "This 4-year-old child was allowed to have contact with someone that the system did not know anything about," said Helen Spohrer, an attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kristina’s estate in April 2011.

She slipped through the cracks of a broken system, Spohrer said.

Kristina was born in July 2004 to her 16-year-old mom, Elizabeth Hepp and immediately there was concern over the care of Kristina, but the DCF investigated and signed off on two people who were living with the Gordons.

"When I held her she was just so beautiful," said Jamie Gordon.

Hepp was married to the Gordons’ son, but when Kristina was nearly turning 3, Hepp was found with drugs.

DCF contracted with a private group, Partnership for Strong Families, or PSF, to manage her case. Kristina was allowed to stay with her mom, but case workers visited routinely, sometimes weekly. Hepp was ordered to take parenting classes and have routine drug screens.

She also was forced to tell the court who Kristina’s father was, something she had not disclosed before. Paternity tests confirmed it was Matthew Roland.

Roland’s criminal background dates back to 2000 and includes charges involving drugs, burglary, battery and violation of probation. "This is at age 22. This is an individual being considered to look after a child. I do not understand it," said Spohrer.

Email records show PSF was to develop a case plan to help him parent Kristina. At the same time, Hepp and her attorney requested her case be closed because, records show, they thought Hepp had successfully completed her case plan. Judge David Glant, who was monitoring the case, granted the request.

But DCF records note that Hepp’s case plan was incomplete and that Roland’s was never adopted. The record also said the reason for closing the case was not addressed in the court’s order.

"Kristina essentially lost her safety net," said Spohrer, who recently filed a lawsuit against PSF saying the agency failed to protect Kristina by not investigating Roland and following through on his case plan.

"Why not ask for more time at that hearing that day? Why not put up your hand and say we’re not ready yet, please can we please have a little more time to finish this," she said.

Once the case was closed, Kristina and her mother moved to Kentucky, but a short time later Hepp sent Kristina back to Florida to live with a relative. Roland filed a motion in family court for temporary custody.

In February 2009, 13 months after Kristina’s dependency case was closed, Glant awarded temporary custody of the 4-year-old to Roland.

According to court records, Glant said, "The mother is living in Kentucky…and is late in a pregnancy term with medical complications…(and she) has no means of supporting herself and Kristina."

Glant also noted that Roland had the, "…ability to provide for the needs and care for Kristina." 

Two months after going to live with her father, in April 2009, Kristina was dead.

The 4-year-old died a brutal death, tortured with a hair iron, beaten all over her body, according to DCF records. Roland was charged with first degree murder.

"What we had heard (at first) was that Kristina slipped and fell in the bathtub," Gordon said. "I can’t sit here and explain what went on."

Roland eventually pleaded no contest to the charge and  was sentenced to life in prison. He is now appealing the sentence.

But the Gordons still have many questions, including why Kristina’s case was closed, and why she was given to a father she hardly knew who had a lengthy criminal history.

"We do not know how this could have happened particularly given the history of Matthew Roland and what was readily available to those who had considerable resources to find out," said Spohrer.

She said Kristina slipped through the cracks when PSF did not finish its case plan for Roland.

"There should have been a home study. You need to know where is Matthew Roland living, who is living there with him, what does the home look like, can he care for a child – a 4-year-old he’s never had any relationship with  – and then visits should have been scheduled with Kristina," said Spohrer.

There was a case plan developed for Roland that went nowhere, said Shawn Salamida, CEO of Partnership for Strong Families.  "We had submitted a case plan. The jurisdiction was closed before it was accepted by the court."

Salamida said it’s normal to abandon a case plan. "Once jurisdiction closes in dependency court, we don’t have any; our services end. We don’t have any more authority or jurisdiction," he said.

"In our view, we are trying to figure out how they are connecting a child’s death which happened a year and a half after we closed the child’s case. How they are connecting that to us, considering dad went to family court to get custody of Kristina?"

Salamida said after the review of Kristina’s death, PSF had no concerns about how it did its job, but since the lawsuit, he is reviewing the matter again. So far he’s found no evidence that PSF was contacted by the family court about Roland seeking custody, he said.

"It’s more of a concern for me that the family court would award custody to the other parent without doing any background checks or without checking into dependency involvement. That’s the concern for me," said Salamida.

Glant declined a request for an interview, saying he doesn’t talk about cases. Judicial rules prohibit judges from discussing cases.

There is no centralized system in place where DCF, its partnering agencies and the courts can see a child’s case history. "I’m not aware of any central location to pull the info.  That’s where I think the gap is," said Salamida.

John Harrell, a spokesperson for DCF, declined to interview, saying it would be "inappropriate" since PSF is being sued.

The agency released a statement saying, "There is no central data base. There are many laws to insure confidentiality of school and child welfare records that our staff and other professional staff have to observe. During investigations, there are provisions to share information to safeguard children. There is no ongoing data base that tracks how children are doing that is shared."

The Gordons want the system changed so this doesn’t happen to another child. "All of them are at fault. It should be one system; when a child’s name pops up, every caseworker knows what is going on," said Jamie Gordon.

What’s ironic, the Gordons said, is that a background check was done on them before Kristina lived in their home, but it appears one was not done on Roland. They want that changed, too. "Are we angry? I’m not angry. I’m furious. We see this happen again and nothing is being done," said Michael Gordon.

The Gordons still have everything, including Kristina’s toys, her pictures, her swing set. They can’t let it go, at least not yet.

"I go there to the cemetery a lot," said Jamie Gordon.

She can often be found at Kristina’s grave. She talks to Kristina and sometimes spots a little reminder of her, a butterfly.

"That’s a sign of life. They suffer in the cocoon."

But, she said, when the suffering is over, there is beauty and that’s how she chooses to remember her little girl.

First Coast News

Parental Alienation Syndrome: It’s not A Real Disease But Some People (Abusers and Profiteers) Want it To Be. Mommy Hates Daddy and You should Too

http://www.slate.com/id/2294831/?from=rss

 

Mommy Hates Daddy, and You Should Too

The extraordinary fight over "parental alienation syndrome" and what it means for divorce cases.

By Dahlia LithwickPosted Tuesday, May 17, 2011, at 7:09 PM ET

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.The competition to get your favorite disease recognized in the bible of mental health, theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, can be as fierce as the talent contest in the Little Miss St. Paul Contest. The American Psychiatric Association is contemplating adding something called "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS) to the new edition of the DSM, scheduled to be published in May 2013, and the question has launched a national lobbying and letter-writing campaign on both sides. That angry letters and editorials might play any part in a debate about mental health and custody disputes probably tells you most of what you need to know about the validity of PAS.

What is parental alienation syndrome? William Bernet, a professor of psychiatry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and an advocate for its inclusion in the DSM-5, describes it as "a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, and rejects a relationship with the other parent, without legitimate justification."* There is no doubt that an ugly divorce can affect kids’ relationship with their parents or cause children to choose sides, often in anger. In fact, that probably happens more often than not. But Bernet and others who argue for adding PAS to the Sears, Roebuck catalogue of mental health want to see it recognized as a legitimate mental health disorder in order to "spur insurance coverage, stimulate more systematic research, lend credence to [the] charge of parental alienation in court, and raise the odds that children would get timely treatment."

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They want, in other words, to affix a name, some blame, and also a price tag on a broad range of child responses to a custody fight—some perfectly justified and some not—in the hopes of expanding its use in court.

And what’s the downside to including PAS in the DSM? Well, for one thing, with a minimum of three participants needed to diagnose it, PAS starts to look less like a mental health disorder than an epidemic. It assumes that one crazy person (the mother) brainwashes a second crazy person (the child) into telling lies about a third person (the father). Just because a lot of parents have experienced blocked visitation and unreturned phone calls doesn’t make every instance of that conduct the result of a medical "syndrome." Joan S. Meier, a professor of clinical law at George Washington University School of Law, has explained it this way: "PAS is a label that offers a particularexplanation for a breach in relationship between a child and parent, but insofar as that breach could be explained in other ways, it is not in itself a medical or psychological diagnosis so much as a particular legal hypothesis."

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The most worrisome aspect of the legal fight over parental alienation syndrome may be that it divides supporters and opponents along strict gender lines: As a rule, this is classed as a women’s sickness alleged by men. Fathers’ rights groups are not solely to blame for the fact that an entire "disease" is predicated on the notion that women are lying liars; the inventor of the syndrome can take responsibility for that. But no hypothesis so rooted in gender bias should be credited by medical science. And because evidence of PAS is so frequently offered to counter maternal allegations of abuse, the experts testifying about PAS can be aiding and abetting a system that takes children from abused mothers and hands them right back to abusive fathers. Once again, this doesn’t mean that some parents don’t alienate their children in a divorce. It means that PAS is now used to discredit women whenever they claim abuse.

Much of the blame for the biased history of PAS can be laid at the feet of its originator, Dr. Richard Gardner, who developed the theory—from his own practice and without clinical studies—of mothers who foster hatred for their children’s father as a ”powerful weapon” to grab custody for themselves. This wasn’t a theory born of objective empirical observation. It was a campaign against mothers rooted in the idea that they regularly lie and then "brainwash" their children into lying about paternal abuse. Because of Gardner’s gender-freighted conclusions, it was probably inevitable that men, in the form of fathers’ rights groups, would seize upon the battle to legitimize PAS. One of its most famous spokesmen became Alec Baldwin, who wrote practically a whole book on the subject in 2008, arguing paradoxically that corrupt judges and the courts have too much power over custody disputes and that by recognizing PAS, the courts could make the whole child-custody process more fair. (Here is Baldwin describing PAS as something women mainly do to men.)

Supporters of PAS argue largely from personal experience, and their stories are often compelling. But the theory of PAS is not recognized as valid by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association. And the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has published guidelines for custody courts clarifying that "the theory positing the existence of ‘PAS’ has been discredited by the scientific community. Any testimony that a party to a custody case suffers from the syndrome or ‘parental alienation’ should therefore be ruled inadmissible and/or stricken from the evaluation report."

Gardner’s long-term scientific credibility was not helped by some of his kookier pronouncements about incest ("intrafamilial pedophilia … is widespread and … is probably an ancient tradition"), or pedophilia ("It is of interest that of all the ancient peoples it may very well be that the Jews were the only ones who were punitive toward pedophiles."). But he still managed to become the David Barton of child-custody law, having written more than 250 books and articles, cassettes, and videotapes (often self-published) and testified as an expert in approximately 400 cases in more than 25 states.

There are a lot of websites, experts, and emotion invested in this debate. But there aren’t two empirical sides. There is science, and then there is passionate non-science. As Paul Fink, a professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association in Arlington, Va., once said of Gardner, "He invented a concept and talked as if it were proven science. It’s not."

That’s what makes the current debate over inserting PAS into the DSM-5, which has been going on for years, something of a red herring. It almost doesn’t matter. Nobody really believes it’s a scientific theory anymore, and Gardner has been all but discredited where it counts. That’s what worries Meier most of all: "Courts and experts have stopped talking about parental alienation syndrome and started talking about parental alienation," she says. "By dropping the word ‘syndrome’ they purport to just be describing a behavior; and that’s harder to challenge as inadmissible, even though Parental Alienation is used virtually identically to PAS, with virtually identical quasi-scientific claims and prescriptions."Back when it was a matter of science, opponents of PAS could advance arguments about admissibility and scientific legitimacy. Now it’s a conclusory legal term that can barely be refuted.

Even without a scientific basis, parental alienation, like climate denialism, has its own language, passions, and saliency. Right or wrong, recognized or not, most family courts now take PAS extremely seriously. Experts testify, court-appointed advocates offer diagnoses, and family-court judges regularly adopt alienation explanations as a way of rejecting abuse allegations. As Meier wrote in a 2009 article: "Despite the palpably extreme and unbalanced quality of both the PAS theory and the thinking of its author, as well as the lack of scientific basis, the theory has for over a decade become virtually ubiquitous in family courts."

The science just doesn’t matter now. Even though no appellate court has found evidence of PAS to meet the scientific standards for legal admissibility, courts admit evidence of precisely the same phenomenon all the time, and by calling it "parental alienation," they achieve the same effect: overlooking allegations of abuse by one parent in order to blame the other for "alienating" the child. In other words, whether science supports them or the DSM-5 ultimately validates them, the supporters of Richard Gardner and parental alienation may have already won. While nobody was looking, a mythical legal argument known as parental alienation may have already taken over family courts.

Correction, May 18, 2011: This article originally misidentified William Bernet as Richard. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

FL: ‘Taj Mahal’ courthouse judge must go

 http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article1170394.ece

‘Taj Mahal’ courthouse judge must go

In Print: Thursday, May 19, 2011

The arrogance, bullying and duplicity of 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Paul M. Hawkes has been well documented. Now new charges from Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission have uncovered even more evidence that Hawkes, a former political operative who orchestrated the building of the "Taj Mahal" courthouse in Tallahassee, is not fit to sit on the bench. From ordering the destruction of public records to requiring a court employee to provide legal help to his son, the JQC investigation and resulting charges reaffirm that Hawkes has no place in the judiciary.

It’s been nine months since reporting by St. Petersburg Times Senior Correspondent Lucy Morgan first shined a spotlight on the ostentatious, $50 million courthouse that was under construction in south Tallahassee. Morgan’s reporting over the next several months detailed how Hawkes and at least two other judges pressured the Legislature into appropriating the money, even as other state courts were forced to lay off staff. Morgan also recounted how Hawkes repeatedly bullied or misled state bureaucrats to ensure the building was grandiose, complete with private kitchens and bathrooms for judges.

Now a JQC investigation stemming from Morgan’s work has revealed more details of Hawkes’ horrendous conduct during his eight years on the bench. Its report recounts Hawkes’ attempt to leverage a personal trip to Indiana for himself and one of his sons from a furniture vendor. When that was stopped by the chief judge, Hawkes took out his resentment on the vendor and the court’s marshal and deputy marshal, who refused to cover it up.

The JQC found Hawkes become more emboldened once he was elected chief judge in 2009. Its report says he misled colleagues about the court’s budget and directed the deputy marshal to destroy an entire file cabinet of documents that contained historical budget information, judicial correspondence and information about the new courthouse construction. Destroying public records is a crime, and Leon State Attorney Willie Meggs should investigate.

But equally offensive is the disregard Hawkes showed for judicial process — even as he sat as chief judge of the state’s busiest appellate court. After the 1st District certified some questions in a 2005 case to the Florida Supreme Court, the JQC found Hawkes ordered his law clerk — a taxpayer-funded employee of the court – to assist Hawkes’ son in preparing a brief for the appellant who was seeking to overturn an opinion authored by Hawkes’ court.

The JQC’s investigative panel summed up Hawkes’ pattern of conduct with four adjectives, "intemperate, impatient, undignified and discourteous" and said he had "an inability to distinguish between the proper and improper use of the prestige of your judicial office." Hawkes has 20 days to respond to the charges, which his lawyer has indicated he plans to fight. He would be far better off if he resigned in hopes of maintaining his pension.

Some of Hawkes’ colleagues are also unindicted co-conspirators in this stain on the judiciary, either by aiding him or staying quiet. And the Republican-led Legislature is also to blame. Hawkes was working for the House Policy Committee in 2001 when Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature turned the selection of judges from a nonpartisan process to a de facto patronage arrangement. Bush appointed Hawkes to the bench in December 2002, so the former governor’s name should be chiseled into the palatial courthouse’s walls along with the others responsible for the monstrosity.

[Last modified: May 18, 2011 07:59 PM]

US to reach Debt Limit Today – Yet the govt continues to spends millions on fatherhood and marriage programs

 

Yet the govt continues to spends millions on fatherhood and marriage programs

http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/16/news/economy/debt_ceiling_deadline/?section=money_latest

Debt ceiling drama starts today

By Jeanne Sahadi @CNNMoney May 16, 2011: 5:18 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Monday’s the day: The federal debt will hit its legal limit and Congress doesn’t plan to do anything about it.

That leaves Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a bit of a pickle. It now falls to him to jump through hoops every day to keep the world’s largest economy from defaulting on its legal obligations.

Geithner told Congress that he estimates he has enough legal hoop-jumping tricks to cover them for another 11 weeks or so.

But then he said that’s it. If lawmakers don’t get it together by Aug. 2, the United States will no longer be able to pay its bills in full.

The rhetoric about whether to raise the ceiling and under what conditions has been loud, harsh and, at times, misleading. Exasperatingly, it’s far from over.

What is the debt ceiling exactly? It’s a cap set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can legally borrow. The cap applies to debt owed to the public (i.e., anyone who buys U.S. bonds) plus debt owed to federal government trust funds such as those for Social Security and Medicare.

The first limit was set in 1917 and set at $11.5 billion, according to the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget. Previously, Congress had to sign off every time the federal government issued debt. (Take CNNMoney’s deficit quiz)

How high is the debt limit right now? The ceiling is currently set at $14.294 trillion. As of May 12, the debt subject to that limit totaled $14.256 trillion — just $38 billion shy of the cap. But the total fluctuates up or down daily.

How is the ceiling determined? They don’t admit it, but lawmakers tacitly agree to raise the debt ceiling every time they vote for a spending hike or tax cut.

"Congress has already passed and the president has already signed legislation that increases spending or decreases revenues. Those decisions have already been made," said Susan Irving, director for federal budget issues at the Government Accountability Office.

So in reality arguing over the debt ceiling is essentially arguing over whether to pay the bills the country has already incurred.

Debt ceiling: Time to get real

But politicians who make a stink about the debt ceiling will always try to make the case that the guy who votes to raise it is a fiscal spendthrift.

And politics, of course, permeates the whole debate. Lawmakers who want to make hay of the issue for political gain may push for a small increase so the debate comes up again soon. Others may want a bigger increase so they don’t have to revisit the issue for awhile.

How many times has the ceiling been raised? Since March 1962, the debt ceiling has been raised 74 times, according to the Congressional Research Service. Ten of those times have occurred since 2001.

Expect more of the same over the next decade. Barring major changes to spending and tax policies, "Congress would repeatedly face demands to raise the debt limit," CRS wrote.

Why does Congress even bother to set a debt limit? In theory, the limit is supposed to help Congress control spending. In reality, it doesn’t.

Every time the debt limit needs to be raised, lawmakers and the president are forced to take stock of the country’s fiscal direction, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.

But the decision about how high to set the ceiling is divorced from lawmakers’ decisions to pass spending hikes and tax cuts. It’s also made after the fact, so it doesn’t do much to pull in the purse strings.

That’s why budget experts say it would be better to tie the debt limit decision to lawmakers’ legislative actions.

What happens if Treasury hits the limit? No one knows for sure since it has never happened. But the going assumption is that no good can come of it.

What happens if Congress blows the debt ceiling?

Treasury would not have authority to borrow any more money. And that can be a problem since the government borrows to make up the difference between what it spends and what it takes in. It uses that borrowed money to help fund operations and pay creditors.

Geithner’s critics say he could prevent default by simply paying the interest due to bondholders.

But since average spending — minus interest — outpaces revenue by about $118 billion a month, Geithner won’t be able to pay all the country’s bills.

That means he will have to pick and choose who to pay and who to put off every day. And there’s no guarantee that paying interest while shirking other legal obligations will protect the country from the perception of default.

Geithner said it would be akin to a homeowner who pays his mortgage but puts off his car loan, credit cards, insurance premiums and utilities. The mortgage is taken care of, but the homeowner’s credit could still be damaged.

Ultimately, if lawmakers fail to raise the ceiling this year, they will have two choices, both awful.

They could either cut spending or raise taxes by several hundred billion dollars just to get through Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. Or they could acknowledge that the country would be unable to pay what it owes in full and the United States could effectively default on some of its obligations.

0:00 / 1:34 Debt ceiling’s history lessons

The first option would be impossible to execute without serious economic repercussions.

And the second option could cripple the economy and send world markets into a tailspin.

"Not only the default but efforts to resolve it would arguably have negative repercussions on both domestic and international financial markets and economies," according to the CRS.

At a minimum, a default could hurt U.S. bonds, the dollar and investors’ portfolios. "Our bond market and stock market would crash," said former Congressional Budget Director Rudolph Penner.

Will reaching the debt ceiling cause a government shutdown? Not technically.

A government shutdown occurs if lawmakers fail to appropriate money for federal agencies and programs.

By contrast, if the debt ceiling is breached, Uncle Sam would still have revenue coming in that could be used to fund the government, Penner noted.

But if Geithner is coming up short by $118 billion every month, and lawmakers just decide to cut spending by that amount, that could effectively mean a partial government shutdown

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/161281-debate-ramps-up-as-debt-limit-looms

Debate ramps up as debt limit looms

By Peter Schroeder – 05/15/11 12:19 PM ET

The debate over raising the debt limit will gain more urgency Monday, after the federal government officially hits the $14.3 trillion ceiling.

Even though the government has the tools to stave off a default of government debts until August, lawmakers this weekend were ramping up the debate, laying out demands and issuing warnings about the $14.3 trillion debt.