Those Present: Judges Donnelly, Beach, Waldemer, Essner, Ghasedi, Zellweger, Dodson, Schroeder, Borbonus, Commissioners McKee, Cunningham, Greaves, and Terri Johnson, Ben Burkemper, Tom Weber, Joan Gilmer, and Michelle LaBeaume
Approval of Minutes from the March 27, 2018 Meeting
Motion was made to approve the minutes of the March 27, 2018 meeting. Motion seconded and passed. The minutes from the March 27, 2018 meeting were approved.
DMC Bi-Annual Report Presentation
The following non-members were present for the DMC presentation: Jacqueline Concannan and Emily Keller, attorneys from the Department of Justice, Mark Greenwald, Director of Research for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and DMC Auditor, Mark Grim, retired Judge from Berks County, Pennsylvania, Brad Wing, the Research Manager for the Family Court, Gail Murnford, Senior Associate, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, Christy Bertelson, Public Information Officer, and Judge Sherry.
Brad Wing distributed a Condensed Summary of the Second Bi-Annual DMC Report to the committee. He also provided a presentation for the Bi-Annual Report with slides that were prepared for the public presentation in Ferguson to be held that evening.
Brad collected and examined data from calendar year 2017 to identify if there is disproportionality in contact for various groups of youth coming to the juvenile office in the Family Court and whether any disproportionality found may represent something more serious that would result in disparity. The groups that were compared are the white youth (reference group) and youth of color (target group). He conducted a comparison based on rates of contact at each contact point starting at the point of referral and going through to certification.
Brad explained his findings and stated that additional data will be analyzed in the near future.
After Brad’s presentation, there was a concern that the public would need the information in a more simplified manner. Rick Gaines and Tymesha Buckner-Dobynes will be present to break down the information. There was also a suggestion to include a glossary of terms to have a better understanding of some of the terminology.
Discussion of Name Change and Birth Certificate Cases
Judge Donnelly explained that there have been cases where individuals were seeking a gender change, could prove the surgical medical procedure had occurred, and wanted to change the gender on the birth certificate. There were also cases that had litigants challenging the birth certificate because their name was not listed. Joan Gilmer pulled data and found that there were only 9 of these types of cases filed in 2017.
Judge Donnelly discussed issuing an Administrative Order that any petition that uses the words birth certificate (no matter the issue) will be filed as a Circuit or Associate Civil case and be assigned to a Family Court associate or circuit judge. This way there is no issue of whether a commissioner can hear these cases.
Judge Donnelly asked if anyone had any issues with the suggestion before issuing the Administrative Order. She feels the Family Court is in a better position to handle these cases. There were no objections.
Judge Sherry distributed a proposed Local Rule 68.9.5 regarding Entry of Judgment Upon Affidavit Requirements for adult name changes. Judge Sherry wanted the opinion of the Family Court judges and commissioners before presenting the rule to the Rules Committee again. Judge Sherry said there is no statutory authority to enter a name change by affidavit, but there is common law which allows an individual to change their name however they want.
A discussion was held. The majority of the judicial officers voted that they agreed with the proposed local rule to allow adult name changes by affidavit. Judge Sherry will take it back to the Rules Committee and inform them that the majority of the Family Court judges and commissioners recommend the approval of the proposed rule.
Report on Resource Center
Terri Johnson reported everything is going well and they are staying busy. She also stated that they are handling dissolutions by affidavit if there are no children. Judge Hilton is reviewing the proposed judgments in his spare time, and this is helping to reduce some of Terri’s backlog.
Report on Adult Abuse
Michelle LaBeaume informed the committee that another clerk is leaving at the end of the month. This will leave the office with two seasoned clerks.
There were some judicial officers that mentioned there have been times when documents have not been scanned by the court date and judge or clerk has had to call the Adult Abuse office to have them processed. It was also mentioned that the staff needs assistance. Joan and Michelle will be looking into the situation.
Commissioner Greaves mentioned that she believes there is serious abuse happening with petitioners filing multiple non-DV cases. She stated that petitioners will receive an ex parte order and not show up for the hearing resulting in a dismissal of the case. Soon thereafter, they come back and file again and obtain another ex parte, etc. The petitioner realizes they do not have to show up and can get another ex parte order to harass the other party. Since the judicial officers are familiar with their cases, Judge Donnelly recommended that the Adult Abuse clerks present the prior companion case information with the new petition to the judge/commissioner assigned to the case for consideration of the ex parte order to help reduce the possibility of harassment and misuse of the system.
Report on Domestic Relations
Tom Weber reported that the attendance at the Parent Education class has continued to increase at a dramatic rate since the revised Amended Administrative Order No. 40A was instituted. He also stated that Andrea Clark’s retirement party will be held on Friday, July 13, 2018. Tom encouraged the committee to stop by to wish her well. Flyers with the details will be distributed at a later date.
Joan Gilmer reported there are currently three division clerk vacancies, and they are working with the judges on getting them filled. In addition, there are 12 other vacancies they are working on filling. Clerks are leaving for better jobs and better pay. The hiring freeze has been lifted since six more positions have been returned back to the State as required by a directive from the Circuit Court Budget Committee (CCBC).
Joan stated that she can bring clerks in on a Court Clerk I level who would only need one year clerical experience, but would be paid at a lower salary. After they have been employed six months to a year, the salary can be raised to a Court Clerk II. A few of her sections are going to experiment with this idea and see how it will work. Joan explained that she has asked the CCBC for special project funds to help with scanning, but have been turned down on these requests. Since the CCBC did not approve the requests, Joan is using funds through the County budget to hire temporary employees through the Above All temporary agency to do quality assurance and some scanning.
Judge Donnelly informed the committee that Joan has requested the removal of the box on the standard judgment form where parties can request a decree be recorded with the Recorder of Deeds. Joan stated there is no requirement for the Clerk to process the request. Most circuit clerks have the requesting party obtain a certified copy of the judgment and pay the recorder directly. If this same procedure is implemented, this will free up clerk time.
Judge Donnelly asked the judicial officers if they had any strong objection to removing the box. There were no objections. The box will be removed. Joan will put a Notice to Attorneys in the St. Louis Countian. A suggestion was also made to place on the Court’s website.
Judge Dodson mentioned that there is no place for a notarization or for a clerk to sign on the petitions in order of protection cases. The only place they can attest to their signature is on the financial statement.
The next Family Court meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. in the Court en Banc on the 3rd Floor.
A Lunch and Learn meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. in Room 236S.