[Marxism] MIAMI: Lost record shakes up custody case (Miami Herald)
walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Aug 25 09:49:49 MDT 2007
Karen Lee Wald has prepared some exceptionally important comment on this
case which can be read at the website here. She uses different fonts and
colors to emphasize various points, so see them as they're posted:
COMMENT: I don't have time to comment in any detail on this, but when
I saw this about the "lost record" my thoughts went instantly to Nixon
and Rosemary Woods and the 18 minute gap where most people presume the
smoking gun of Nixon's responsibility for Watergate had been erased.
These cases which involve child custody and parental rights are very
important. Back in the early years of the modern women's liberation
movement historical criticism of the role of the family played a very
valuable role in raising the consciousness of women and their allies.
Such criticism has led a few people to underestimate the importance
of the family as ONE institution in society (one, NOT the ONLY one)
for raising children. During the Elian Gonzalez struggle we saw the
rightist militants in Miami, and their political allies, claim that
a six-year-old child should have the "right" to file a claim for
political asylum in the United States. They said that Elian's dad
wasn't fit to raise him since he wanted to do so in his country of
origin and birth, which is Cuba.
Here in Miami what has now become obvious is that the Florida state
government is engaging in the legal equivalent of a child kidnapping.
And as I've said before, it's for cases like this (and others) that
Jeb Bush appointed Fulgencio Batista's grandson chief justice of the
Florida supreme court.
And we STILL haven't seen hide nor hair of the MOTHER. Where is this
child's mother? Why haven't we seen or heard from her? Is she alive?
Is she dead? What does she have to say about all of this? Even if
she has mental problems, she may well be lucid enough to understand
that she has problems, and to explain what she thinks would be best
for the child, WHOSE MOTHER SHE IS. And not "birth mother", please.
Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
Los Angeles, California
Retired Child Protective Services Social Worker
Posted on Sat, Aug. 25, 2007
Lost record shakes up custody case
By CAROL MARBIN MILLER AND TERE FIGUERAS NEGRETE
Three days before a controversial trial over the fate of a 4-year-old
girl at the center of an international custody dispute, an attorney
for the Department of Children & Families dropped a bombshell Friday:
They have no records to show that the girl's mother ever agreed to
give up custody of the child.
For months, DCF and attorneys for the girl's birth father and foster
father have planned for a trial in which the state will seek to prove
that Rafael Izquierdo, the girl's Cuban father, is unfit to raise
her. The trial is expected to begin Monday.
But at a hastily called emergency hearing Friday morning before
Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen, DCF attorneys acknowledged they have no
documents to prove the girl's mother, Elena Perez, agreed to give up
custody. The girl now lives with Joe and Maria Cubas, a
Cuban-American family in Coral Gables.
The news infuriated Cohen, said sources who participated in the
hearing, which was held in secret despite an order by the Third
District Court of Appeal that proceedings in the case be open to the
public. Cohen declined to discuss the development with a reporter.
The judge presided over the emergency hearing from her North
Miami-Dade home, because she had vacated her courtroom Friday so that
another judge could meet with the parties to try to reach a
The new wrinkle shrouds the case in uncertainty.
If DCF can find no record that the mother agreed to relinquish
custody of the girl, Perez may be entitled to a trial in which child
welfare attorneys must prove she, too, is unfit. Sources say Perez's
attorneys are not prepared to go to trial Monday and may object to
the father's trial going forward.
That's because much, if not most, of the evidence to be presented
against Izquierdo involves actions by the girl's mom. DCF is arguing,
for example, that Izquierdo should have known the child was unsafe
with her mother because Perez was mentally ill, but he allowed his
daughter to emigrate to the United States with her anyway.
Attorneys for Perez do not want DCF presenting evidence against the
mother without her being there to defend herself, sources said.
But the stakes might be higher still: Ira Kurzban, Izquierdo's
attorney, said Friday that under Florida law, the state has no
jurisdiction to keep the girl from either birth parent if Perez has
not already been found unfit. Kurzban said he will ask the judge to
return the girl to Izquierdo on Monday if no records can be found
that Perez agreed that she was unfit to raise her child.
Lacking an official order, sources said, DCF was hoping to produce a
transcript of a court hearing in which Perez surrendered custody. But
at Friday's hearing, DCF attorneys acknowledged they have No[t] been
able to locate that, either.
''If there is no order of dependency [for the mother] I believe the
judge must immediately return the child to her birth father,''
Kurzban said. ``If this does not happen, we certainly intend to file
an emergency writ with the Third District Court of Appeal.''
Kevin Coyle Colbert, Perez's attorney, who was present during
Friday's emergency hearing, declined to discuss the new development
with a reporter. And a spokesman for DCF in Tallahassee, Al
Zimmerman, said the confidentiality of foster care proceedings
precluded him from discussing the case, as well.
Alan Mishael, attorney for the foster parents, said Friday that DCF's
anxiety over the missing record is unnecessary.
''What was discussed today was a clerical error that we expect the
court to rectify next week,'' Mishael said. ``[The judge] has full
authority to do so, and it will be a matter of course. . . . I'm not
losing sleep over this issue.''
The ''clerical error'' to which Mishael referred: Months ago, amid
one of the most contentious child welfare cases in Miami history, the
juvenile court clerk's office misplaced much of the official record
and has been recreating it ever since.
Mishael insists Perez did agree in court to a finding that she was
not fit to retain custody of the little girl.
''The mother did consent,'' Mishael said. ``I'm confident that the
mother entered a consent. I'm satisfied she entered a consent.''
But Perez insists she did not agree to give up her daughter.
The mother -- who had a romantic relationship with Izquierdo but
never married him -- said she agreed to give up her son, a
13-year-old half brother of the 4-year-old girl. He was adopted by
the Cubas family.
``In the case of the boy, I asked him during the last visit if he
wanted to return [to Cuba]. I told him he had family there, his
father, his grandparents. He said no, he didn't want to return. Then
I said, go ahead, give me the [adoption] papers.''
The daughter's case, she said, is markedly different: ``I never gave
up my daughter.''
Throughout the proceedings, she said, she has felt confused and
isolated. ``I'm up in the air. I haven't had anyone on my side.''
Now she says she only wants to be taken into consideration.
DCF has consistently taken the position that Perez formally agreed to
the state's dependency petition -- meaning Perez's daughter was
dependent on the state because her mother was unfit. And, in a recent
court hearing, Cohen recalled the mother's demeanor this way:
'She basically walked in here and said, 'I don't want my kids, ' ''
Cohen said. ``She let herself be beaten down by life, and she did not
want to fight for her children.''
C 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
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