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Family Court Meeting Minutes – August 27, 2019

Those Present:  Judges Donnelly, Essner, Hilton, Zellweger, Dunne, Schroeder, Commissioner McKee, Commissioner Greaves, Ben Burkemper, Brad Wing, Terri Johnson, and Michelle LaBeaume

Approval of Meeting Minutes from July 23, 2019

Motion was made to approve the minutes of the July 23, 2019 meeting.  Motion seconded and passed.  The minutes from the July 23, 2019 meeting were approved.

Presentation of the DMC Report

Dr. Brad Wing, the Data Analyst, provided a powerpoint presentation of the DMC report from the data he has collected based on the responsibilities under the Department of Justice agreement.  This report is only an interim report that includes a snapshot of descriptive data and data trends ranging from referral through decision points of DYS commitment and certification; there is no complex descriptive analysis.  It also includes a section on recidivism.  The St Louis County Family Court 2018 Interim Disproportionate Minority Contact Report was previously distributed.

Brad mentioned that consistent with previous reports, the report shows that black youth tend to be overrepresented at the front end of the system, but that overrepresentation declines as youth are moved deeper into the system.  Disproportionality worsened at the referral contact point relative to 2017.  It also worsened at the secure detention contact point, although it did so by less than the increase at the referral point.  The data indicates that increases in detention admissions, length of stay, and daily population were mostly experienced by black youth.

Consistent with prior findings, when examining the disposition of referrals, referrals of black youth were twice as likely as those of white youth to be petitioned.  Black youth accounted for 78% of formal cases.  When examining adjudication, there was no indication of disproportionality of black youth in delinquency findings.

Brad stated that there will be a more complete analysis released in the spring of 2020.

Judge Donnelly anticipates this will be the last time we will need to present the data under the agreement.  However, she stated that the Family Court is still committed to continuing to analyze the data to help serve the juveniles of the Family Court.  Judge Donnelly mentioned that we may also want to start looking at data on Domestic Relations’ cases in the near future. 

DMC Implementation Plan

Ben Burkemper distributed the Proposed Plan of the Family Court of St. Louis County in Response to the First Bi-Annual Disproportionate Minority Contact Report Between the United States Department of Justice. This proposed plan was presented to the committee about 1 ½ years ago.  He also disseminated the DMC Implementation Plan for 2019. This is a follow up to the proposed plan.  This is an attempt of the Family Court to address the issues that were identified in the 2017 report.  Ben stated that he felt the most significant piece to come out of this is the dashboard that was developed. 

Brad displayed an example on the screen of a dashboard and gave an overview of how it works.  The data analysts are able to extract data out of JIS, put it in a program called Microsoft Power BI, and visualize it so it is easy, interactive and accessible.  It is a lot easier to grasp geographical patterns by seeing data on a map.  Also, it gives the ability to see patterns with visuals such as bar graphs, column graphs, etc.

Town Hall Meeting

Judge Donnelly mentioned that she would like to offer two town hall meetings to discuss the revisions to Rule 68; one over lunch and one from 3:00 to 4:00, ten days apart.  She intends on emphasizing that the last paragraph of the rule will be enforced by ordering appropriate sanctions for failure to comply.  At the last meeting, Judge Hilton suggested having a few judges put on a demonstration/skit of a settlement conference with a judge and two attorneys on non-compliance with Rule 68.  Judges Hilton and Zellweger volunteered to role play as the attorneys and Judge Schroeder as the judge.

Judge Schroeder indicated that attorneys frequently ask how much of Rule 68 do they need to comply with when modifying custody and visitation.  The exchange of documents can get rather expensive for the clients.  A discussion was held. 

The judges/commissioners decided to draft an amendment to Local Rule 68 to allow for the attorneys to file a consent motion, for good cause shown, to waive the requirement for the mandatory document exchange.  The motion would need to be signed by both parties. This would be a one-time situation before the first settlement conference.  Then, at the settlement conference and after the judge is advised of the circumstances, deadlines for the document exchange can be imposed and be indicated in the Settlement Conference Order.  Judge Donnelly mentioned that the parties can also be sanctioned for indicating TBD, TBA, or varies on financial statements since the requirement to provide the information is statutory.  She suggested this be demonstrated in the role playing at the town hall meeting to provide this information to the attorneys.

Depending on how long the Rules Committee takes to adopt the revision, the town hall meeting may need to be postponed until sometime in October.

Judge Zellweger will work on modifying the Settlement Conference Order form to include a line for a deadline to submit the Mandatory Document Exchange information under the local rule and also a line for a pre-trial conference date.

Changes to Parenting Plan Language

Judge Donnelly reported that the Parenting Plan Part A form has been revised to include a sixth sub-paragraph under Relocation on page 4 and becomes effective on August 28, 2019. The IT department should have the new version available on the court’s website by that date.  The electronic version will be distributed to the judges and commissioners.  Judge Donnelly asked to ensure the revised version is being utilized as of the effective date.

Judge Zellweger will draft a notice of the change for the attorneys that the divisions can post on their doors.

Administrative Order – Parenting Education

Judge Donnelly mentioned that she is revising Administrative Order No. 40A based on the consensus of the committee at the last meeting to standardize the two hour online University of Missouri Extension class as the program for out-of-town litigants. There will be no exemptions, but will include reasons a party may be allowed to participate in the online program offered by Mizzou (a party lives more than 100 miles away, incapacitated, or for good cause shown).

Policy on Supervised Visits

Judge Donnelly distributed a Policy Related to Supervised Visitation During a Pending Juvenile Case.  She expressed concerns about the Domestic Relations Services unit having availability to provide the supervised visits.  If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions regarding the policy, inform Judge Donnelly.

Report on Resource Center

Terri Johnson reported that they have 24 open Permanency Planning Project cases.  Four cases will be coming in and five are ready to be resolved.  The regular Resource Center is busy as usual.  The cases will eventually be going to Judge Essner, and she will need to meet with him prior to the transfer.

Report on Adult Abuse

Michelle LaBeaume reported that she received a resignation from Jen Jeudy.  She also received the folder of a prior posting for a position in the department.  There is only one applicant that can be interviewed.

Report on Domestic Relations

M.J. Crawford was not in attendance to provide a report.

Clerk Update

Joan Gilmer was not in attendance to provide a report.

Old/New Business

Judge Donnelly reported that approximately four or five months ago, Judge Reno instructed all the judges that the Supreme Court made it clear that only Court en Banc is covered by the Sunshine Law and has to post their meetings and follow all the requirements.  The previous thought was that the Family Court also had to post their meetings.  The Family Court meetings were designed to make final decisions, and the Lunch and Learn meetings were designated to sort through some of the issues.  If there are items that need to have everyone included and require minutes to be taken to reflect the decisions, then a Family Court meeting will be scheduled.  Otherwise, the issues will be discussed at a Lunch and Learn meeting.

Next Meeting

A Lunch and Learn meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 12:00 p.m., and the Family Court meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 22, 2019.  Both meetings will be held in the Court en Banc on the 3rd Floor.

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