The right to be a parent
A letter to the US Attorney General Ashcroft
|The following copy of a letter to US Attorney General Ashcroft was forwarded by Robert Palumbo, Ph.D., Psychologist (received February 5, 2003).|
|Honorable John Ashcroft|
United States Attorney General
NW Tenth Street and Constitution Ave.
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
My name is Robert Palumbo; I am a U.S. citizen, born in New York City and currently residing in Suffolk County, NY. I am a Psychologist with over twenty years experience practicing in the area of family issues.
The purpose of my letter is twofold: First, to make you aware of serious civil rights violations that are affecting thousands of children and parents in the counties of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk in New York State. Second, to request your help in putting an end to this unconstitutional nightmare. There is precedence for federal intervention as I request below.
The fundamental right of parenting, as protected by the United States Constitution [see Addendum below], and as delineated in numerous cases and decisions by the Supreme Court, is being flagrantly and pervasively violated by the Family and Supreme Courts of New York State. It is routine for these courts to terminate the custodial relationship between a parent and child even when a parent is found to be a fit custodian and an excellent parent. Denial of due process often leads to arrest without probable cause, incarceration in de facto debtors' prisons, and children growing up without the love and guidance of a parent who has been run off or jailed by this system.
I am calling for the federal government to step in as it did in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the 1950's, and Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960's. The public policy established by the Family and Supreme Courts in New York State, particularly in Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, is creating environments conducive to domestic violence, suicides and what may very well even become homicides in the near future.
As a concerned citizen, parent and mental health professional I am appalled at what is taking place and I am fearful of what will happen in the future. Among other things, I facilitate support groups for divorced and single parents and at times lecture large audiences on the subject of parenting. I have encountered many cases where the fundamental rights of children and parents are subservient to corruption, judicial incompetence and gender bias no less abhorrent than the discrimination that brought Federal intervention in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. I will not burden this letter with specific cases, but at your request I will provide supporting cases and details for each of my allegations. In addition, my claims are supported by the litigation records of thousands of men women and children who have been victims of these courts.
Children are being terribly harmed; and parents are being run off, jailed or bankrupted rather than encouraged to participate in their children's lives and encouraged to work in order to support their children.
In our country, the Court system has historically served as recourse for redress of grievances and relief from violations of fundamental rights as defined by the U.S. Constitution. When the system has broken down, as it did, for example, in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama, no longer permitting proper access to the local courts for relief and redress of grievances, thereby causing gross violations of human rights and even violence to persons, the executive branch of the federal government has been obligated to intervene on behalf of its citizens.
I am requesting that the Office of the Attorney General investigate two areas of immediate concern: First, the widespread violations of civil rights and due process as protected by the United States Constitution, by the judges of the family courts and supreme courts of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the Appellate Division, Second Department. These violations take the following forms: termination of the custodial relationship between a parent and child without a finding of unfitness or imminent harm to the child, the operation of de facto debtors' prisons without proper legal representation for those accused of failure to pay child support, the use of statutes permitting interim support orders and orders of protection [pendente lite] without the constitutionally mandated hearing [due process], mandatory arrest via Order of Protection without probable cause, and the imputing of income for the purposes of ordering child support without a sound and substantial basis for computing appropriate support assignment.
[Note: See also what Wayne Lenhardt from the Independent Lawyers Society has to say about imputing income and examples of Canadian court decisions involving imputing if income, compiled by Eeva Sodhi. —F4L]
Furthermore, the State of New York has a financial interest in support collections, and through that agency can accrue arrears that restricts a persons right to travel, terminates their licenses to drive and practice a profession, and eliminates numerous fundamental economic rights without due process. Most troubling is the complex relationship between New York State and the Federal government regarding subsidies for support collections. It appears that the State of New York actually benefits financially by increasing the number of support defaults and may, in fact, be encouraging, causing or creating said defaults. There appears to be a bureaucracy in place that depends upon the child support arrears and defaults. This bureaucracy cannot limit itself. It is unconstitutional and it must be investigated.
Second, I request that the U.S. Attorney investigate issues of corruption and cronyism in the matrimonial/divorce industry, to wit: The appointment of forensic experts and the fees charged by appointees, the appointment of law guardians and the fees paid to such appointees, the referral by judges to centers for supervised visitation which charge $50 or more for a parent to visit with their child, the sale of judgeships and the process of selection by political favoritism rather than merit, campaign contributions to judges from politically connected forensic experts and law guardians, and the churning of clients by attorneys who, supported by the public policy of NY State, will exhaust a client's life savings before concluding a case. All of these abuses are excused as being in the "best interest of the child."
The appellate process in the Second Department presents little chance of obtaining a fair hearing. While there are many well-meaning judges, most are appointed from within the department, and they are simply the same appointees at a different level. This appellate court has routinely affirmed the decisions of the lower courts despite blatant abuses, and represents no realistic recourse for relief or redress of grievances. In addition, the price of a page of transcript was recently raised from $1.375 to $4.30 per page, making it even more difficult to appeal. In short, for a majority of the people, all but those at the top of the economic ladder, there is no recourse in the courts of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties in family matters.
Attorney General Ashcroft, please see the enclosed copies of letters [April 5, 2001, by Robert Palumbo; March 7, 2001, by Helen and Salvatore Alaimo, and Open Letter by Thomas Alaimo just prior to his suicide]. Sadly, respectful, law-abiding parents are taking their own lives as a result of the abuses, the Constitutional abuses, heaped upon them by the local courts. Politically, they are blocked, just as the victims in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama were when racial segregation was at issue. Here, once again, we have segregation in the Counties of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk, but now the issue is discrimination based on gender, and segregation of children from loving and competent parents. The enclosed letter of April 5, 2001 was sent to the appropriate Administrative Judges. Nothing was done and nothing will be done to prevent this catastrophe from continuing. I beg you to use your office to prevent further violence that is sure to occur if these matters are not promptly investigated and remedied.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. If further information is required please feel free to contact me at 631-493-4723, or E-Mail at DRROBPAL@AOL.COM.
Robert Palumbo, Ph. D.
Parenting rights are God given. They are also protected by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In Troxel v. Granville, 99-138 [U.S. 06/05/2000 U.S. Supreme Court, November 1999], the Supreme Court ruled,
 The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." We have long recognized that the Amendment's Due Process Clause, like its Fifth Amendment counterpart, "guarantees more than fair process." Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 719 (1997). The Clause also includes a substantive component that "provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests." Id., at 720; see also Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 301-302 (1993).
50] The liberty interest at issue in this case -- the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children -- is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. More than 75 years ago, in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399, 401 (1923), we held that the "liberty" protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right of parents to "establish a home and bring up children" and "to control the education of their own." Two years later, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510, 534-535 (1925), we again held that the "liberty of parents and guardians" includes the right "to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control." We explained in Pierce that "[t]he child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations." Id., at 535. We returned to the subject in Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158 (1944), and again confirmed that there is a constitutional dimension to the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. "It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder." Id., at 166.
..There is a presumption that fit parents act in their children's best interests, Parham v. J. R., 442 U. S. 584, 602; there is normally no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question fit parents' ability to make the best decisions regarding their children, see, e.g., Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 304.
..This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition"); Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U. S. 246, 255 (1978) ("We have recognized on numerous occasions that the relationship between parent and child is constitutionally protected"); Parham v. J. R., 442 U. S. 584, 602 (1979) ("Our jurisprudence historically has reflected Western civilization concepts of the family as a unit with broad parental authority over minor children. Our cases have consistently followed that course"); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U. S. 745, 753 (1982) (discussing "[t]he fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child"); Glucksberg, supra, at 720 ("In a long line of cases, we have held that, in addition to the specific freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, the `liberty' specially protected by the Due Process Clause includes the righ[t] ... to direct the education and upbringing of one's children" (citing Meyer and Pierce). In light of this extensive precedent, it cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.
|April 5, 2001, an appeal by Robert Palumbo, Ph. D., addressed to appropriate Administrative Judges in NY State|
The enclosed letters from Thomas Alaimo and his parents speak eloquently to the serious civil rights crisis our local counties of Nassau and Suffolk are experiencing. The mainstream press will not publish this story; the mainstream broadcast media will not carry this story; it is about a father.
Thomas Alaimo was the victim of the divorce "inc." and the Judges, lawyers, court-appointed forensic experts, law guardians and vindictive spouses who comprise this industry. In this case Thomas Alaimo was apparently the target of the "domestic violence strategy" utilized by attorneys to gain an advantage in matrimonials. The first step is the Ex Parte Order of Protection followed by the mandatory arrest even in the absence of probable cause. Next comes the separation of the children from the dangerous spouse unless the forensic evaluator and the Judge decide to throw him [or her] a bone and allow supervised visitation or limited visitation. Both serve to humiliate, denigrate and exclude the target parent from the family. We all know the rest of the scenario, including the pendente lite, and the ultimate blackmail: capitulate or face financial ruin and the agony of prolonged litigation and permanent damage to your children.
It is obvious that this poor gentle soul, Thomas Alaimo, felt terrible despair. I say "gentle" because he was in terrible pain, inflicted upon him unjustly, and yet he did not hurt another. He did not go into the politically connected forensic evaluator and kill her, he did not hurt the Judge, rather Thomas put himself out of the misery of being deprived of his little children [3 and 5 years old], and facing the injustice of being abused by the courts indefinitely. The use of the family courts and the supreme courts to separate children from parents represents the greatest civil rights catastrophe since slavery. New York State can, and frequently does, terminate the custodial relationship between parent and child absent any finding of unfitness or imminent harm to the child.
Thomas Alaimo is not alone. I am working individually and in groups, with parents who have been similarly victimized by this system. It is devastating to be falsely accused and facing a court that substitutes conferencing and "erring on the side of caution" rather than fact finding. Emotionally, these parents are worn down by the expense, the indifference of the system and the injustice that they face. Most of all, it is abusive to the children for the court system to permit them to be alienated from a parent or be deprived of a parent's love and involvement in their lives. It simply becomes unbearable for the victimized parent to watch helpless to protect his [or her] children from this carnage.
While Thomas Alaimo hung himself, many parents [mostly, but not exclusively fathers] drive their cars into a wall, drink themselves to death or simply disappear. I understand their feelings, the pain becomes unbearable and violates the paternal/maternal instinct to defend and protect one's children. When a just and law abiding person is faced with overwhelming abuses of the legal system and the interference with parental relationships, he/she naturally thinks of escaping the terrible pain. For Thomas Alaimo, and many others violence is the only way out.
The Alaimos' letters target real abuses: forensic experts, law guardians, and lawyers who manipulate the system, causing terrible harm to the children and parents of this state while profiting enormously. Furthermore, they are right about the constitutional violations, from OPs to pendente lites, [which never seem to get a "speedy trial"] the system, including the above mentioned participants, as well as Judges and JHOs, is out of touch with what divorce litigants are experiencing. Yes, all the right words are spoken by the Administrative Judges of New York, and those who lecture at the PEACE Program and dispense justice, but those words are just politically correct sound bites that avoid dealing with the real problems, the pain and human carnage that is occurring due to the divorce industry in New York State.
Thank you for listening to me. I know there are good people in the system also and I've worked with many of them. Those of us, who have not given up, are challenging the laws and interpretations of the laws through the appeals process, the federal courts and in the legislature. But the parents and children of this country and especially this state are in a serious crisis and more disasters, as sad and tragic as Thomas Alaimo are already on their way.
I hope that the real issues will be addressed and that Thomas Alaimo will not have died in vain.
Robert Palumbo, Ph. D.
This letter was addressed to The Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti for Suffolk County, NY, USA, on March 7, 2001 _________________________
The Honorable Gail Prudenti,
We are the parents of Thomas J. Alaimo who was a victim of your court system. Our son was a 41 year old, brilliant pharmacist. He was employed at Nassau County University Medical Center for almost 15 years.
He was the father of two beautiful children ages three (3) and five (5) years old. He was married six (6) years.
He was going through a bitter divorce, which was made worse by the unscrupulous tactics of his wife's lawyer. (name deleted by NCFJ) He was tormented by the legal maneuvering committed by the court.
Our son got tired of playing the game. He was tired of a court system that would not hear him, tired of a court ordered forensic "expert" (again name deleted by NCFJ for legal purposes) who held his children hostage for money. She held up visitation with his children for four (4) months, even though he was never a threat to them. He paid her $3,000.00 dollars and she wanted more after seeing Tom, the children and his wife, Rossana, for only a few visits. She never sent a report nor appeared in court. He was trying to get full custody of his children and had proof that they were being neglected and abused by his wife. .....(deleted)....did not care and did nothing to follow up on this. She also refused to return his phone calls.
He was tired of "people who lie for a living and lawyers who sell their souls for the almighty dollar". These were his words in the suicide letter he left for us.
He searched endlessly for someone to stand up for justice on his behalf. His own lawyer sat back and joined the game of endless delays.
On February 6th or 7th 2001, he went into the woods in Suffolk County and committed suicide. He hung himself from a tree. He had mailed a letter to the police of the 4th precinct with details on where to find him. They were also part of his persecution, with false arrests and an indifference to his pleas for help during dealing with his wife.
I was there each time my son went to court - more the 20 times in less than a year - and witnessed the injustice my son and many other men like him suffered there. I look back on it now with anguish. It really was not much different than a public lynching with an innocent man begging for a hearing and crying out for mercy.
What bothered him most was the flock of hungry "vultures" standing by including his wife, her family, the lawyers, and the courts to devour what was left of him and his assets.
As parents of Tom, we are heartbroken. Our grief is beyond words. We are outraged that in our great country, such injustice can prevail.
You know the many sacrifices you have made to achieve the position you now hold. Our son made those same kinds of sacrifices, too. He wanted his children to have a financially secure future and that was being taken away from them. It is difficult to understand the humiliation he endured by being wrongfully treated as a criminal, jailed three times unjustly by his wife with the encouragement of her lawyer.
There are always unanswered questions in death by suicide. We ask ourselves, "Was there anything anyone could have done to prevent it?" everyone who knew and loved Tom, are asking the same question. We believe that Tom saw no other way out with a Court System that failed him, and that it was also a courageous act to the same system saying defiantly, "I will not allow you to abuse me any longer! I will not be here for you to drag this out a few more years and rob my children of my assets." He had heard too many horror stories of other unfortunate victims of divorce.
We have always been proud of our son and the profession he chose. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. He was a good husband and father. His children adored him and now they will grow up without their father who loved them.
We, his parents, will always have a void in our life that can never be filled.
Our son's last request was that the attached letter be published so that his unjust practice does not continue.
I hope and pray that all who read this letter do so with a compassionate heart and have the courage to make the necessary changes so that our son's senseless death will make a difference in our court system
Helen M and Salvatore J. Alaimo
OPEN LETTER FROM THEIR SON, PRIOR TO HIS SUICIDE This is an open letter to the judges and lawyers of the Judicial system, particularly in Suffolk County, NY, USA.
What you are doing for a living is immoral. Intentionally delaying trial endlessly so that judges can feed their lawyer friends pockets at hundreds of dollars as hour is wrong. The concept of mandatory arrest violates the most basic concepts of the Constitution, which you have sworn to uphold. A man is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. You cannot imagine how stressful it is to be strongly accused of a crime incarcerated, forced to come to court about a dozen times or so, while spending thousands of dollars of hard-earned money defending oneself. The concepts of the right to a speedy trial and the right to face one's accuses are flagrantly violated. Just because a person claims that they're being harassed, does not necessarily make it so, in fact, very often, the defendant is the victim. This is especially in a divorce situation where tempers are high, and each side has much anger and resentment. I have seen this occur many times in your courts....My story is hardly unique. I suggest that the accuser be present in trial each and every time the matter come to court. The plaintiff has no idea of the hell these accusations bring because they don't seem to have to appear in court, while the lawyers rub their greedy hands together each time controversy erupts. Divorce is ugly business. The dissolving of a marriage is a sad thing. It feels like a death. But the court makes if far worse. The only winners are the lawyers. What right does a person have to take away the life savings of a couple for a couple of weeks work? An order of protection prevents the couple from communication, which is especially important when children are involved. Doesn't it just make sense for a judge to hear both sides at least once early in the divorce proceedings? Or do you think justice is better served by waiting months before the chance to be heard? May God himself help you to make the right decision. Money corrupts absolutely. A person has the right to make a living but holding justice hostage for large amount of money is sinful
Thomas J. Alaimo [unfortunately now deceased]
The White Rose
Thoughts are Free
Posted 2003 02 10
2003 05 02 (added reference to Family Law Table of Contents
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College