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Some Criticisms of the Minnesota Court System
tied to Experiences Documented Here
by William McGaughey
Regarding Domestic Abuse:
1. Police officers brazenly lie when they arrest men accused of domestic abuse. They fabricate facts to put on the police reports. This happened to me in the first arrest.
2. When judges routinely order the accused perpetrator of domestic assault to have no contact with the alleged victim who is remaining in their home, this amounts to punishment of someone presumed to be innocent under the law. It does not seem to matter to judges if the accused was conducting business out of is home or, in my case, stood to have his house condemned by the city. The no-contact order remains in effect until the case is settled, either by stipulation to guilt or to determination at trial, which could be months in the future. Banishment from one’s home is a significant punishment.
3. The order that the parties have no contact whatsoever, either by direct or indirect means or through a third party, is abusive. The only conceivable reason for a no-contact order is to prevent a potential physical abuser from repeating violent behavior. How can a letter, email, or communication through a third party increase the chances of abuse? No, the main reason for this order is to prevent the parties from comparing notes and perhaps detecting abuse by the prosecutors or police.
4. The law says that domestic abuse is a crime against the state rather than against an individual who was injured. This means, in effect, that the alleged victim is not allowed to request that charges against the alleged perpetrator be dropped. The state is here intruding in personal relationships within the home and ought to do so with caution. As an institution, the family is of greater benefit to society than government. Its requirements need to be respected.
5. The police should be required to interview the accused and make a report before charges are brought against him in court.
6. In practice, domestic-abuse cases are institutionally biased against men. The domestic-abuse industry, including victim’s advocates, is designed to help women only. Police know that they are supposed to arrest the man rather than the woman where both parties were involved in violence (maybe because the man is presumed to be physically larger and more powerful). A feminist political agenda drives this area of the law.
7. Public prosecutors should not aim to prosecute a certain percentage of domestic-abuse cases brought before them or achieve a certain conviction rate.
1. Family court has reputation of fleecing the man in a marriage-dissolution case. Feminists staff the Family Court system. This needs to be reviewed.
2. Judges have way too much discretion to depart from law in rendering their opinions. Appellate courts have adopted an informal policy of reversing trial-court decisions only when the judge has clearly exercised his discretion in an abusive way. There should be limited discretion to depart from law and the appellate courts should review cases without deference to the judge. Some judges lie. They are on a power trip and think they are the law. Appellate courts should be required to exercise common sense in reviewing cases. For instance, to assign 98 percent of $325,000 in marital debt to me was not a “fair and equitable” distribution of marital property. Neither was the ruling that my wife could not speak English “even to a moderate degree” if she had worked for three and a half years on the sales floor at Target. Yet, the Court of Appeals ruled that thetrial-court judge had “discretion” to make such rulings.
3. There seems to be little restraint upon attorneys who lie. The other attorney in my case repeatedly made up facts to put in her briefs. There was no attempt by the court to determine who was telling the truth. This needs to stop. The court needs to devote some resources to investigating false accusations and punish the attorney accordingly. Both parties are not necessarily at fault.
4. The use of a “settlement conference” can be abusive because discussions taking place within that context are confidential. In my case, the “settlement conference” was clearly an extension of the trial itself and the judge would not allow me to raise issues at trial arising from it.
5. The law assumes that each party to a divorce stands alone and is not helped by another family member. In my case, my wife had transferred a large sum of money to her daughter who then used some of this money to pay her attorney fees. Mother and daughter were an economic unit yet I was not allowed to argue that that daughter’s financial resources should be taken into consideration in determining need.
6. Attorney fees are a material factor in divorce cases. I could not afford to continue with an attorney yet the judge seemed to resent the fact that I was representing myself. He sided with my wife, who could afford an attorney, in ruling that she was destitute and needed permanent spousal maintenance from me.
For a more complete list of abuses perpetrated by the judge and by the opposing attorney in my divorce trial, see Some Horrors of Minnesota Family Court.
Regarding foreclosure cases:
1. There are no legal guidelines as to permissible attorney fees if banks foreclose on a property through court action. Minnesota Statute leaves this entirely up to the judge. The party owning the property being foreclosed upon has no control over activities undertaken by the opposing attorney and yet is asked to pay for them.
2. There needs to be a limit upon the use of summary judgments in foreclosure cases and, perhaps, in cases in general. Summary judgment denies a party’s right to trial. It should be granted only in rare cases when this is a better way to resolve disputes than alternatives.
3. There seems to be no legal guideline for “reasonable” attorney fees. This is left entirely up to the judge. I think that activities that are necessary and helpful in allowing the lender to recover his money are “reasonable” and others are not.
4. Lenders should be required to negotiate with borrowers, and perhaps modify loans, even if the foreclosed property is not owner-occupied.
Regarding jury duty:
1. The Hennepin County judiciary needs to be a bit more generous in compensating jurors for their required duty both with respect to jury pay and coffee.
2. The court should undertake not to waste jurors’ time in summoning an excessive number of people to serve on juries related to need and also in considering an excessive number of people to serve on a jury. To interview twice the number of people for a 12-person jury is excessive.
3. The “voir dire” process itself is inherently flawed. There is no good reason why the attorneys should be allowed to reject jurors based upon their idea of how they might decide cases. If a jury is representative of the community, the jurors should not be filtered but taken by a computer-generated random sample of the population.
4. The innocence or guilt of an accused party should not be determined by the oratorical skills of the two attorneys although, frankly, I do not know how this can be controlled. The best antidote might be to have independent-minded, intelligent jurors who are not weeded out in the jury-selection process.
5. The jury should have access to written transcripts of audio recordings while it is deliberating a case.
Regarding murder trials:
1. The prosecution should not be allowed to offer plea bargains to prospective witnesses who are equally or more involved in a murder to convict another person because this amounts to witness tampering. The witness can freely commit perjury knowing that the county attorney will not prosecute him or her.
2. Any defendant who is convicted of murder despite DNA evidence to the contrary should be entitled to a new trial.
Some Horrors of Minnesota Family Court Perpetrated by the trial-court judge and the opposing attorney (2015) 14,779 words
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