Family CourtThank you for your March 25 editorial in...


April 06, 1995

Family Court

Thank you for your March 25 editorial in support of a family court for Maryland.

I chaired the subcommittee of the Governor's Task Force on Family Law investigating the need for such a court.

I, together with other members of the task force, traveled throughout the state listening to citizens' concerns regarding family law and the process available to them for resolving their issues.

We heard repeatedly, and without solicitation, their unhappiness with our present system.

The only opposition we heard then, and have ever heard since, has been from judges. It is unfortunate they are opposed.

The public, the state bar, the American Bar Association, mental health professionals who have studied this issue, the Maryland attorney general along with a task force convened by him, and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Gov. Parris Glendening support such a new system.

The judges themselves would be among the most important beneficiaries of a new court. Ironically, their resistance is based on their experience with the system presently in place.

It is this present system, with inadequate support staffs, an irrationally divided set of jurisdictions and over-burdened judges, many of them chronically stuck at the earliest stages of the family law learning curve, that imposes its burden not only on the litigants and the bar, but on the judges themselves.

The judges have argued that it is unreasonable to expect anyone to sit on family matters for an extended time.

Yet masters throughout Maryland and judges in family courts in other states, not to mention some few judges in Maryland, have proven that it can be done and can be a rewarding experience.

As you note in your editorial, the recent proposed legislation is sensitive to the needs of those judges who would be uncomfortable serving in these cases.

It is to the credit of the judiciary that they have, in the last few years, taken a variety of steps to improve the delivery of service to litigants in Maryland.

But so long as a family can have its issues tried at the same time in District Court, Circuit Court and Juvenile Court by three different judges who know little if anything about the activities of the other courts; so long as a family can have its issues tried before a series of judges over time, many of whom have no background in human development or family dynamics and know little of what the prior judge has done; so long as family issues must compete with the criminal court, we will continue to have a population that is poorly served.

Many other states have family courts. It is not a new or novel idea. Maryland would have one today if the judiciary had been supportive.

It is time for the legislature to act, with or without their support, to have a family division of the Circuit Court.

Stanley L. Rodbell


'Navy Wife'

The emphasis in your headline on March 24, "Lonely Navy wife makes $45,000 in 900-line calls," is all wrong.

Categorizing this individual by her husband's profession is demeaning enough.

To announce in quarter-inch letters that his profession drove her to engage in illegal activity is an insult to the many strong military spouses who successfully endure many hardships in support of their families and our country . . .

Jeanne F. Backof


School Violence

Frank Langfitt's March 9 story regarding Baltimore teachers' pleas for expanded alternative schools raises some important issues.

There was a time when the most violent incident at school was the occasional fist fight between two hot-headed kids on the playground.

Now, in many schools, teachers and students alike consider themselves lucky if no one waves a gun in their faces on any given day.

Eight-year-old children claim they need to bring guns to school in order to protect themselves from other students.

Most children attend school to study the subjects taught, not to be educated in the ways of fear and violence by their classmates.

Qualified teachers are in our schools to teach, not to be beaten, kicked and robbed by their pupils.

Concentrating on academic pursuits could hardly seem a top priority when daily faced with potentially dangerous confrontations.

Removing disruptive youths to facilities better equipped to keep them from harming others is a very attractive alternative.

In addition, the needs of these troubled children can be better met when the ability to more closely monitor behavior and insure stricter discipline is an integral part of the regimen.

And as to the complaints of the high costs of specialized alternative schools, consider the costly consequences if all eight-year-olds suddenly started bringing guns to school.

Anne Hanseth


Guns, Crime and the Constitution

Two letters March 21 touch on constitutional subjects in a way that we need to be extremely careful of.

The first is by Walter Boyd, "Wimpy Facade," where he shows his contempt for Baltimore City Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier for not implementing the "special squad of officers to seize illegal firearms."

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