Eight people hung posters on the Anne Arundel County Circuit Courthouse fence yesterday and gathered signatures on a petition calling for passage of a law that would set up a Family Division within circuit courts to handle divorces and child custody disputes.
Such issues are handled as part of Maryland's regular Circuit Court caseload.
In three hours yesterday morning, the demonstrators gathered about 150 signatures on petitions asking the state House Judiciary and the Senate Judicial Proceedings committees to approve bills to set up a Family Division.
Paula Linville, a Millersville mother of two, said she organized the event because she is upset with the way Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge James C. Cawood Jr. is handling her dispute with her former husband over custody of their two daughters.
Judge Cawood gave James Linville temporary custody of the children March 8, court records show. A hearing to determine permanent custody is scheduled May 8.
Ms. Linville said that since she was divorced Nov. 10, 1993, she has found many parents angry with how courts have handled their divorces and child custody matters.
She said Judge Cawood improperly granted Mr. Linville custody without listening to her side of the dispute. She complained that the judge consistently has favored her former husband in rulings and said she has heard numerous complaints that circuit judges are insensitive.
"My point is that my case isn't that unique," she said.
Judge Cawood, who has been an outspoken advocate for starting a Family Division in Maryland's Circuit Courts, declined to comment because the case still is open.
Advocates say a Family Division is needed to get more-qualified judges to decide domestic disputes.
"We need judges who are more sensitive and better trained," said Kathleen Murphy, one of the demonstrators, who lost custody of her adoptive son in 1992 after her divorce in Carroll County Circuit Court.