Questions that we hope the Judiciary Committee will ask Judge Moskowitz

Senator Dutremble

Dear Senator Dutremble:

Regarding the re-appointment of Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz

As supporters and constituents we are asking you to forward this questionnaire to the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature.

Many people watching and listening to the Judge Moskowitz re-appointment hearings on Thursday, May 7th, were amazed that members of the Judiciary Committee asked no questions of Judge Moskowitz. This was noticed by one of the many reporters in the audience. Probably most Judiciary Committee members had never appeared in the Moskowitz court, many may have never appeared in any court, so the absence of questions from the committee may have been based on a lack of personal experience.

Because of widespread concern that Judiciary Committee members can’t fully exercise their constitutional responsibility without an interrogation of any Judge that digs into questions of critical interest to the public, and because the public has been largely shut out of the re-appointment process and intimidated by Mr Tardy in an earlier hearing, we offer the following questions for Judge Moskowitz to members of the Judiciary Committee, our elected representatives. We hope they will speak for us. We don’t think they can make a grounded, intelligent, thoughtful decision without answers to these questions:

Best Interest of the Child

  1. What does the Best Interest of the Child standard mean to you?
  2. With regards to the Best Interest of the Child should a higher evidentiary standard be applied to fit parents?
  3. Should the Best Interest of the Child standard be used where termination of parental rights has already taken place?
  4. Tell us about a time when you applied the Best Interest of the Child standard to arrive at a decision even though personally, you may not have agreed with the outcome. -or- Tell us about a time when you personally felt that deviating from the Best Interest of the Child standard was appropriate. What was your thought process?

Parents

  1. How does a divorcing parent on supervised visits achieve unsupervised visits?
  1. You said that mistakes give one the opportunity to improve — how do you give that opportunity to parents in your family court matters that you deem have made “mistakes” serious enough to put them on supervised visits?
  2. How does a divorcing parent on supervised visits achieve unsupervised visits?
  3. Do parents in family matters in your court room have at least the same as parents in child protection matters?
  4. Do you view family matters as a zero sum game with one parent as the winner and one as the loser?

Process

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma. How did you handle that situation?
  2. Without mentioning names, tell us about a difficult family matter decision you have had to make? What was it, what options did you consider, and what was the outcome?
  3. What is the typical way you handle conflict in the courtroom?
  4. When a decision of yours is successfully appealed, what action if any, do you take to learn from that decision?
  5. Describe a time when you became frustrated at a pro se litigant. How did you handle that situation?
  6. What words would you use to describe your demeanor in the courtroom?
  7. Do you make decisions before hearing the case?
  8. Do you use the rules of evidence to arbitrarily exclude evidence you don’t want to hear?
  9. Do you use the rules of evidence to arbitrarily exclude evidence that doesn’t support the party you favor?
  10. Have you ever changed an order without a hearing?
  11. When the day’s testimony is over and you go back into your chambers to consider the case, what is your process for reviewing the day’s information? Do you have a system? Checklist?
  12. Are there times when you do not actually need a process after a hearing because you’ve been processing and making decisions in an ongoing way throughout the proceedings?
  13. Do you have a minimum amount of time you require of yourself for review?
  14. Because of the caseload you face, how much pressure do you feel to make decisions more quickly than you’d like?
  15. If you find yourself becoming annoyed/agitated/angry/frustrated, what steps do you take to calm yourself and stay impartial? Do you have a/what is your method for doing this? Do you ever take a recess to compose yourself?
  16. How do you keep your own personal ambitions/aspirations from interfering/influencing your decisions? i.e. What if a lawyer who could personally benefit you or your career is trying a case in your court?
  17. Along those lines, under what conditions would you recuse yourself from hearing a case?
  18. Please describe – with examples – how you view your discretionary powers. What does and doesn’t fall under “broad discretion” for you?
  19. How do you keep yourself from being more permissive or forgiving … in any small way … of a person representing him/herself when the other party has representation of a lawyer?
  20. Under what circumstances would you change an order at the bequest of one party involved in a case without requiring another hearing?
  21. Please offer a few examples of the kinds of behaviors or comments on the part of defendants or plaintiffs that would automatically prejudice you against them – in terms of considering their credibility or anything else?
  22. Under what circumstances would you allow a child to testify in open court?
  23. Please give us a sense of how frequently you feel confident and peaceful about the decisions you hand down?
  24. How often do you look back on your decisions with regret? With self-doubts? And … what do you do about it when this happens?
  1. What words would you use to describe your demeanor in the courtroom? What do you do to maintain the demeanor you aspire to?
  1. How do you determine when it’s okay to exclude evidence?
  2. What words would you use to describe your demeanor in the courtroom?

Guardian ad litem

  1. When a Guardian ad litem is assigned to a divorce/ custody how do you provide oversight and management of this court officer?
  2. Has a Guardian ad litem ever come to you to discuss a case ex parte?
  1. (Three part question – please allow an answer to first before asking the second and third):
    1. Have you ever incorporated a Guardian ad litem’s recommendations verbatim into your decision?
    1. In doing so – have you not in fact given your authority over to a Guardian ad litem?
    1. How do you know if the Guardian ad litem made a bias recommendation?
  1. Please discuss how you apply the Rules for Guardians ad litem in your courtroom. Provide an example.
  1. How do you handle attorneys and Guardians ad litem who are caught lying in the courtroom?
  1. How do you ensure that a Guardian ad litem follow the GAL Rules?
  1. What action have you taken against a Guardian ad litem who do not follow the GAL Rules?
  1. What about a Guardian ad litem who take actions not authorized by the Rules?
  1. Do you permit or exclude testimony about Guardian ad litem bias?
  1. Do you permit or exclude testimony about Guardian ad litem misconduct?
  1. Are you troubled by the perceived alliance between certain law firms and Guardians ad litem?
  1. Are you interested in testimony that demonstrates a Guardian ad litem lied in the GAL report or is that “not relevant”?
  2. Please describe your feelings about the current rules in place that govern Guardians ad litem. Are they comprehensive enough? Fair? Should they be changed?
  3. How important is it to you that Guardians ad litem strictly follow GAL rules? Are there times when it’s okay for them not to? If so, give a few examples of times when it would be okay to “bend the rules?”
  4. How do you ensure that a Guardian ad litem follow the GAL Rules?
  5. How do you know for sure if they have or haven’t followed the rules?
  6. What action have you he taken against a Guardian ad litem who does not follow the GAL Rules?
  7. When would you permit or exclude testimony about a Guardian ad litem bias and/or misconduct?
  8. Please describe your feelings about a perceived an alliance between certain law firms and Guardians ad litem?
  9. When one parent or the Guardian ad litem accuses the other parent of abuse, do you think the opinion of the Department of Health and Human Services is relevant?
  10. Are you interested in testimony that demonstrates a Guardian ad litem lied in the GAL report or is that “not relevant”?

MeGAL is working to bring about change to a badly broken Family Court and Guardian ad litem system. These questions came from concerned citizens and parents who have experienced this court. If you would like to find out more please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.