Juvenile Courts: Great for Experts, Maybe Not for Kids. Exclusive Interview with Attorney Norm Pattis

In an op-ed piece in the New Hampshire Register, attorney Norm Pattis writes about a completely disconnected juvenile court system that has become a profit center for so-called experts but does little to get the best outcome for children who end up there. Pattis discusses the article in this report. His own experience is the basis for the piece.  Pattis is also the author of “Taking Back the Courts” and Juries and Justice.”

Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis

Pattis points out that Connecticut law makes juvenile court proceedings confidential (and this is commonplace in juvenile courts throughout the country). In cases involving child custody, “it’s very easy for parents to be given a back seat about their children’s welfare.” The state appoints experts who are supposed to advise the court using the “best interest of the child” standard.

Pattis opines that the “best interest” standard is unrealistic. “Don’t we want what’s best for kids? In fact, we don’t really know what’s best for kids.” Pattis notes that most people are raised by parents who do the best they can with what they have, and their children grow up, turning out well most of the time. Pattis notes that an increasing number of parents are locked out of the lives of their children through family court or juvenile court proceedings. Courts are then empowering experts to make decisions based on a standard that is unrealistically high. And the experts are being paid in many cases by the very parents who are being shut out of the decision-making process.

Parties in divorce cases are frequently involved in these “best interest of the child” proceedings. Pattis suggests that the common sense approach of Solomon might be more helpful than the opinions of experts in making decisions about the welfare of children in contested divorces. Pattis believes that letting juries decide these cases would be a better solution to getting the best results, and at a significant cost saving. “I’ve seen families spend tens of thousands of dollars” on experts, whose opinions have not improved things or solved any problems.

Pattis says that he has heard from people in other states that the same problems seem to occur everywhere. All of which reinforces his view that the court system needs to change by letting juries handle these cases. Pattis points out that, in a juvenile court case, the attorneys can’t ask the experts, “How are your kids doing?”

Norman Pattis is a leading New England based trial lawyer. He represents people who face powerful foes. His relentless voice levels the playing field for individuals against prosecutors in serious criminal cases, for people or families who experience catastrophic injuries against uncaring insurance giants, for victims of corporate malfeasance, and other people who face the loss of liberty or property. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled. Attorneys from California to New York refer their clients to the Pattis Law Firm, and they seek out Norm as co-counsel in challenging high stakes cases across the U.S. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

UNC Paper Classes Scandal

A  history of academic fraud was recently revealed at the University of North Carolina by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. From 1993 to 2011, student-athletes were enrolled in “paper classes” in the school’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Students were not required to attend the classes, only to turn in one paper. The classes often did not have an instructor.

The report reveals that 3,100 students enrolled in these classes. The fraud involved all the big money college sports, including football and UNC’s high-profile basketball program, which won three national championships during the period in question.

Wainstein’s report says that UNC officials overlooked obvious warning signs, like an unusually high number of independent study course enrollments in the department. No other departments were involved, according to the report. Nine university employees have been fired or are facing disciplinary proceedings.

The problem now lands in the lap of the NCAA, which is already facing a host of other problems including litigation over amateurism in collegiate athletics. Some suggest that this could be a chance at redemption for the NCAA if it imposes harsh penalties on the Tarheels.

The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

Forced Arbitration Clauses: How Companies Eliminate Due Process for Their Customers

Buried in many everyday agreements for products, services, and jobs is fine print saying that, in any customer dispute with a company, the customer must accept forced arbitration before a decision-maker picked by the company. Many believe it’s a rigged system that helps companies evade responsibility for violating anti-discrimination, consumer protection, and public health laws. Michelle Schwartz with the Alliance for Justice, discusses the problem, which is also the subject of an AFJ video documentary, “Lost in the Fine Print (2014).”

Michelle Schwartz

Michelle Schwartz

The documentary tells the stories of three everyday Americans who were forced into arbitrations. The purpose of the campaign is to educate people about the many types of contracts that include these clauses. The Alliance for Justice wants to provide ways for people to fight back against these forced arbitrations.

At present, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has the authority to ban forced arbitration in consumer financial contracts, such as credit card, bank checking account, and student loan agreements. President Obama also moved by using an executive order forbidding companies with significant federal work could not have forced arbitration for their employees.

Forced arbitration is also used in employment agreements, and these agreements can take away rights conferred on employees by federal law. For example, a forced arbitration agreement can circumvent a woman’s rights under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Sexual harassment can also be sidestepped by forced arbitration. The use of a forced arbitration clause to get around a woman’s employment rights is one of the stories in the AFJ documentary.

One study found that, when cases went into arbitration, the company won 94% of the time in forced arbitrations.

Michelle Schwartz is the Director of Justice Programs for the Alliance for Justice. Michelle Schwartz directs all of AFJ’s programs related to justice, including its highly-regarded judicial selection project, its Supreme Court analysis, and its access to justice work. Before joining AFJ, Michelle served for six years as a senior staff member for U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg from her home state of New Jersey. The media frequently call upon Michelle for her expertise on judicial nominations, the Supreme Court, and Senate procedure, and she has appeared in media outlets such as Huffington Post, Politico, Pacifica Radio, American Prospect, and The Hill. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.