Sunday, August 5, 2012

Forced to buy Lemons at Gunpoint

When there is no oversight, no supervision and no enforceable standard for Guardians ad litem, the public is forced to buy an unknown product by the Judicial Branch, which creates (or rosters) them. More and more Guardians ad litem come out of the Judicial Branch "factory" which has no factory inspection, no test drive and no certificate of quality. To put it baldly, the Judicial Branch has no idea about whether the wheels will stay on the car when it is driven at normal speed and no "factory recall". Furthermore, the market for this product is totally controlled by the Judicial Branch. Courts can demand that couples going through a divorce and child custody battle must buy this product while providing no quality assurance.

Lemons for sale! And, no, you can never get your money back, or trade your "lemon" for a functional car. We are distressed that there is no functional system for making a complaint about Guardians ad litem who are "lemons", and we ourselves are rapidly acquiring an ever lengthening list of "consumer complaints" about "lemons" and the hair raising details behind these complaints. We are considering various ways of informing the public about "lemons".

We are gaining an increasing awareness of the Judicial Branch Guardian ad litem complaint process, as it passes through the "oversight" of  Judge Charles LaVerdiere. We feel no confidence in his process for handling serious Guardian ad litem complaints from the public. He provides only the briefest, flimsiest of instructions for complaining consumers, and there are no criteria for what might be categorical reasons for making complaints. His assessment of complaints seems opaque and secretive for someone charged by the Judicial Branch with assuring quality for the public. We sense that if the Guardian ad litem being complained about says, in effect (and without challenge), "The complaint is a lie," that is the end of the matter. The judge doesn't act like a man who wants to know more- or to look more deeply. The public complaint is taken into a dark room at the Judicial Branch and smothered! And the consumer is sent a "case dismissed" reply with no reasons for dismissal.  End of story! On this inadequate, secretive, "oversight" process, the Judicial Branch and Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute (Guardian ad litem trade organization) proudly boast, "Only two Guardian ad litem reprimands in two years; one verbal, one written!" When you lift up the rug and look under it, it is not confidence inspiring.

This raises important consumer issues for a democratic society. Should consumers be forced into using and paying for "lemons", by the courts? Guardian ad litem fees at $120.00 to $200.00 per hour (in an un-itemized Guardian ad litem bill), can run to totals that range from $12,000.00 to $19,000.00 to $34,000.00 or more. The money is not insignificant for middle class couples.  It is a hefty price especially for a "lemon" with no quality assurance and no consumer protection.  It is a further outrage When the hapless consumer who refuses to pay for a "lemon" gets hauled into court by the Guardian ad litem in attempts to force payment, garnish wages or impose a jail sentence! Are we living in 18th century Europe or 21st century America? It looks like Guardian ad litems and Maine courts want to resurrect the long gone, long abolished, hateful "debtor's prison"!

The Judicial Branch's Guardian ad litem program is beyond broken. It badly needs a total overhaul and the public needs relief and protection from the barbarism of present practices. The financial impact of Guardian ad litems on the public is devastating a form of cruelty that should be unacceptable in a civilized society.

The Guardian ad litem program should be halted until it is repaired and the Judicial Branch can guarantee the public quality assurance.

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