Judges are supposed to rule based on a fair and impartial reading of the law, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. According to the ABA Journal, such was the case recently when a Pennsylvania appeals court said on May 4 that a Philadelphia Family Court Judge “judicially created parental alienation” and failure to provide due process.
Judge takes law into her own hands
The judge, Lyris Younge, took several unusual steps in a case brought before her because the parents had no explanation for broken ribs suffered by their child in 2016 when it was an infant. After the parents brought the child to the doctors three times for reasons of fussiness, broken ribs were discovered in an X-ray.
On the recommendation of a social worker, the judge terminated the parental rights, and then placed the child in protracted foster care despite the fact that the grandmother volunteered to take the child. The judge also refused to allow the child’s mother to be represented by two attorneys at once, and refused to allow an introduction of expert medical reports that provided possible reasons for the injury to the child. The parents suggested that an older sibling had repeatedly run into the mother’s back when she was holding the baby.
The judge nonetheless told the parents that: “Someone needed to cop to [the abuse] or I need a plausible explanation.” She went on to say that leaving child in foster care maybe gets her closer to the truth.
A history of bias and overreaching
According to the article, this was the ninth time one of Younge’s rulings had been overturned on appeal. Moreover, it was the fifth that involved an alleged due process issue. In this case, the court ruled that the judge overreached, failed to be impartial, and failed to provide due process to the parents. It reversed the refusal to place the child with its grandmother, vacated the termination of the parents’ rights, and strongly suggested that the judge recuse herself if a petition is filed.
In family court cases where the judge seems biased, it is important for parents to remember that the legal advocacy of a family law attorney can still help protect their rights, particularly when the judge does not seem to be fair and impartial.