Monday, April 6, 2015

Show Me the Body! (Habeus Corpus)

A Writ of Habeus Corpus literally means "produce the body" and is used for a variety of reasons.

In our particular case, after my youngest daughter's AFC didn't bother to meet with her or talk to her for over four months, and the situation with her father was rapidly deteriorating, I filed two petitions to Family Court - a Petition for a Writ of Habeus Corpus, and a Petition for Return of a Child Wrongfully Removed (at the time, the forms were readily available on the NYS Unified Court System website).

Both of these petitions were filed with the Family Court on or around December 29, 2012. Not only were they never acknowledged formally by the judge, despite multiple court dates (January, February, March, April, May...), they were never acted upon either.

Imagine my surprise when my attorney informed me that at an "attorneys only" meeting with the replacement Family Court judge in May 2014, the judge reviewed the record and brought up the issue of the two petitions for a writ of habeus corpus. The judge informed my attorney that he was shocked that they had never been acknowledged or heard, and that failure to do so was one of the few things that a judge in NY could be fined or sued over.

However when the dispositional hearing was held in September 2014, this same judge who had raised the issue became a master at revisionist history. He stated that the "mini-hearing" that was held in February 2014 was a hearing on those petitions.

That totally contradicted the purpose of the hearing that the prior, presiding judge had stated on the record - the hearing was only to examine the visitation arrangement and not to make a ruling on custody or any of the other matters before the court.

Additionally, the February hearing was held more than a year after the petitions were filed - yet the law states that they must be heard within 72 hours of filing.

This was just one more example of how our case was a tragedy of legal errors, whether intentional or accidental, that collectively served to destroy our rights to due process and justice.

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