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by Sharon Rondeau

The seal of the County of Los Angeles contains references to the motion picture, dairy, and fishing industries as well as historical icons. In 2004, a cross was removed from the seal after the ACLU claimed that it violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. But are Constitutional protections observed in other areas of daily life?

(Oct. 26, 2012) — A hearing today regarding the youngest Henderson child, who was seized from his mother’s arms by armed policemen and a social worker on August 31, 2012 and placed in foster care, revealed that a petition for removal, which should have been signed within two days of the infant’s removal, was not signed until October 24.

Following the hearing, The Post & Email spoke with Mrs. Henderson, who said that the attorney assigned to her husband made the argument that the court could not take jurisdiction over the baby because the paperwork was not completed properly and on time, something Mrs. Henderson described as “flagrant court violations.”

“The good thing was that the judge was very vocal about saying that she didn’t care if she didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction; she was going to take over the child anyway,” Mrs. Henderson said.

The Post & Email asked Mrs. Henderson to elaborate on the documentation which was not completed in regard to her youngest child.

The petition was unsigned twice.  They refiled it but wouldn’t sign it.  It must be verified to be valid.  For a petition to be “verified,” it means that somebody has to sign it under penalty of perjury.  In other words, a social worker or an investigator or a police officer has to make a statement, and in order to use it as evidence in a court of law, there has to be an attachment of responsibility.  It’s like a notary process, but they do it departmentally because it’s government.  It’s a process whereby a witness ensures that the person is telling the truth.

The interesting part is that they finally petitioned, but nobody was willing to sign it and take ownership over the petition.  So the court kept throwing them out.

“Did they send it back and say, ‘Have somebody sign this?'”

They said, “This isn’t verified.  Send back a verified one.”  And then they’d change the petition slightly – add or subtract something here or there – and then they’d send it back through unsigned again.  This happened, I think, three times in a row.  We’re just learning of this yesterday and today because we went and got all of our minute orders and found out that they’d had a bunch of hearings that we didn’t know about and it kept saying “Petition unsigned, not verified.”  We kept saying, “What is this?” Finally, we asked somebody today – the attorney they forced on my husband, Mr. Hayes, and he said, “My personal opinion is that nobody wants to take responsibility on this one.”

“If they’re not going to take responsibility, how can they take the child away from you?”

Further than that, once the child is taken and then this happens, they have a short time frame in which they have to return him to protect people in cases just like ours so they can’t say, “Oops, well, we messed up this way, so now we’re going to try this way.”  This is why these protections are put into place.

He was taken August 31, and the petition was not signed until October 24.  Neither my attorney nor Jeffrey’s attorney had a signed copy; they said it’s still not signed.  Jeffrey’s attorney said, “You’ve got to drop this whole case and send these people home.” So we went in there and the judge said, “Oh, no, no; they just signed it.”  Our argument was not to accept the petition because it was untimely filed, and the judge said, “I’m going to allow it,” which is violating the code.

Jeffrey’s attorney’s arguments were constitutional arguments, but the judge just nixxed them.

What is your attorney’s name?

Frank Ostrov.

What is Jeffrey’s attorney’s name?

Thomas Hayes.

Did anyone say anything about returning your baby to you?

No.  But the really beautiful part about it was that the proper arguments were made and it was on the record, which is very important.  Jeffrey and I have not been able to get more than a couple of words out until this point because the judge just refuses to allow it.  The interesting part is that just a few weeks ago, we got a hold of the judicial handbook, and it has things like which codes are pertinent to the cases that she hears every day:  California Rules of Court (CRC), civil rules of court.  It’s like a general handbook on to how to proceed as a judge.  One of the things I was reading is the part where it talks about the judge’s duty to the people to allow them to speak their mind, and I thought, “Wow, it’s black and white, so many times, over and over again.  It’s in the book…I’m not making this stuff up!  So that’s what I have to go by.”

[Editor’s Note:  CRC Rule 5.534(b) states that “Unless there is a contested issue of fact or law, the proceedings must be conducted in a nonadversarial atmosphere.”  Rule 5.530 states that “all parents” are “entitled to be present.”

Rule 5.670 states:

(b) Time limit on custody, filing petition, setting hearing (§§ 311, 313)

If the social worker takes the child into custody, the social worker must immediately file a petition with the clerk of the juvenile court, and the clerk must immediately set the matter for hearing on the detention hearing calendar. A child who is detained must be released within 48 hours, excluding noncourt days, unless a petition has been filed.

Rule 5.674 states:

(b) Detention hearing; general conduct (§ 319; 42 U.S.C., § 600 et seq.)

The court must read, consider, and reference any reports submitted by the social worker and any relevant evidence submitted by any party or counsel. All detention findings and orders must be made on the record and appear in the written orders of the court.

(Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted effective July 1, 2002.)

(c) Detention hearing; examination by court (§ 319)

Subject to (d), the court must examine the child’s parent, guardian, or other person having knowledge relevant to the issue of detention and must receive any relevant evidence that the petitioner, the child, a parent, a guardian, or counsel for a party wishes to present.

(Subd (c) amended effective January 1, 2007; adopted as subd (b); previously amended and relettered effective July 1, 2002.)

(d) Detention hearing; rights of child, parent, or guardian (§§ 311, 319)

At the detention hearing, the child, the parent, and the guardian have the right to assert the privilege against self-incrimination and the right to confront and cross-examine:

(1)The preparer of a police report, probation or social worker report, or other document submitted to the court; and

(2)Any person examined by the court under (c). If the child, parent, or guardian asserts the right to cross-examine preparers of documents submitted for court consideration, the court may not consider any such report or document unless the preparer is made available for cross-examination.]

So the judge has violated procedural rules by refusing to let you speak and then allowed an unsigned petition to stand.  Why is she doing this…is this to keep your little baby in foster care?

People have asked me if it’s a personal vendetta.  If it were only that easy…It’s not a personal vendetta; I could befriend her if it were a personal vendetta.  I think it’s partly ignorance and I think partly she thinks if she allows this sort of thing, then everybody is going to want to do it.  And then the courtroom would be a place where people could just come in and talk…I do think, too, that she feels that even though things are pointed out to her, it’s her duty to do this to protect the child.  I always find that when you have trouble, it’s always best to look at things through other people’s eyes.  I really think that’s what it is, that she is trying to uphold this idea that she is personally going to take control over Americans’ lives.  It’s like a TV-sitcom melodrama; “we have to protect the baby…”  Who doesn’t want to protect the baby?

I think a lot of it is that her understanding of how this court works is not very great, believe it or not.  I think that she thinks that because it’s not a criminal court – because she’s made this comment to me specifically many times – “This is not a criminal court…”  Well, I never said that it was.  It isn’t a criminal court; it’s a civil court, and we use civil court rules.  It has an essential function; it’s actually an administrative court.  If you were to violate a business or professional code, you would have an administrative court.  There is a bunch of them.  But in any court in this country and under this Constitution, it doesn’t matter what you call it:  “Congress shall make no law…”  You can’t make a law to say that I don’t have the right to speak, that I don’t have the right to confront my accuser, that I don’t have a right to proper and fair notice of each and every hearing.  These are the things that I am afforded not by the Constitution, but those are the rights the Constitution protects.

I think that she feels as if she is in a niche that is untouchable. I think a lot of people share that view and that it needs to be busted.

Was there any discussion of returning the infant to you?

No.  The hearing today was adjudication, which means they just say whether they have jurisdiction over the baby or not.  That’s all that happened.  Of course, the judge could have returned him, but I don’t think I’m going to see any justice in this court.  It would surprise and shock me, but I would be very happy if it happened.

Are they still talking about adoption for the remaining children?

Yes, for the older six, on November 19.

What is the reason for that?

Today they said that we are now not in compliance with the case plan.

Is there any truth to that?

Jeffrey’s attorney’s argument today was, “Your Honor stated that Jeffrey and Erica Henderson had completed their case plan on the record.  So the only thing that’s changed between then and now is that they had this baby, and the department wanted to get its hands on it, and they said ‘No.’ And she said, “Well, that was six months ago.”  She didn’t say, “Yes, I said that.”  She said, “Well, they’re not in compliance now.”  The bottom line is that for her to be arguing anything is grossly unjust.  We’re just supposed to set matters of the law before her, and she is supposed to say which one applies.  She can take a side, because people do that, but then to be prosecutorial and to act maliciously on top of that and disingenously on top of that is really pretty bad.

Can either of your attorneys do anything about stopping the adoption?

Well, no.  We can only make the arguments that we make, whether it’s an attorney or us speaking.  Again, recently people have suggested, “Just go with an attorney again.”  They’ve given us one.  We can sit inside the courtroom and listen to what goes on or we can sit outside.

Do you think that it is a vendetta when the judge says that you are not in compliance with the case plan?  Is there something more behind her wanting to adopt the kids out?  What is driving her?

I couldn’t say what motivates her to do that.  Once we left, I said to my attorney, “Look, there’s got to be something I can do, man…You name it, I’ll do it.”  He said, “Why don’t you sign up for counseling again?” and I said, “Alright, I’ll sign up for counseling.” And he said, “OK, worst-case scenario:  they terminate on November 19th, you get into counseling now…”  Before they’re actually adopted, there’s a time frame in there – I think it’s 90 or 120 days.  During that time, up until the last minute when the ink dries, you can file a 388, which is a motion for continuance saying that circumstances have changed.  So he said, “You can offer that; say that you’ve gone back to counseling for three months.”

What difference would counseling make?  Does it give you a positive mark of some kind?

Yes, yes.  The courts are motivated by all of these services that they provide, and a lot of times you get people who are on the board of directors for a drug rehab or for parenting services, and there’s a lot of mixed interests there.  So it’s heavy-handed on being service-oriented.  If you take so many parenting classes and you see a therapist so many times, then you’re “better.”  So I’m going to go to Jewish Family Services; I don’t want to contract with DCFS in any way; I’ll do it independently and give them a report.

Do you think that could help the adoption process to be stopped or delayed?

I don’t know if it can help it or not, but I’m going to do it.  It doesn’t matter.

Is that all your attorney had to say…”Sign up for counseling?”

Yes.  I said, “Anything else?” and he said, “No.”

Are there any other options?

Sharon, I believe in God, and I think that’s pretty much all I have at this point.  We don’t know His ways or how He’s going to work this out.

Mrs. Henderson reported that she was never told why her unsupervised visits with her children were reverted back to “monitored” several weeks ago.  “The judge did it; it wasn’t DCFS, ” she said.

Letters can be sent to Judge Michael Nash, who Mrs. Henderson said was “the head judge there” and “was just on Channel 2 griping about the system.”  “All letters help,” she said.

His contact information is:

Senior Judge Michael Nash
Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court
201 Centre Plaza Dr.
Monterey Park, CA  91754

Mrs. Henderson corrected an error which The Post & Email made regarding foster care payments.  We had incorrectly stated that each foster family receives $40,000 upon the placement of a foster child in their home, but Mrs. Henderson clarified this evening that “The foster parent gets about $500/month per head.  What I’ve recently read is when they adjudicate a child, the county gets a federal block check for $40,000.  They get funds from the state of California, too.”

An investigative news report, while dated, supports Mrs. Henderson’s claim.  “Since the early 1980s, the number of foster children in California has gone up fivefold, and doubled in the county and nation. About one in four children will come into contact with the child welfare system before turning 18, officials say.  This has overwhelmed social workers who often don’t have time to help troubled families or monitor the care children receive in foster homes.  The hundreds of thousands of children who have cycled through the county’s system over the years are six to seven times more likely to be mistreated and three times more likely to be killed than children in the general population, government statistics reveal.”

Recent news reports depict people who have “reported abuse” and then lost custody of their children or grandchildren to the abuser by order of California’s Family Courts.  A video uploaded on October 25 depicts Family Court attorneys and judges participating in an entertainment session during which “the head of all children’s attorneys,” Dennis Smeal, is described by a narrator as “a pedophile” who “got off twice.”  The narrator states that Beal “trains children’s attorneys to steal kids and what he does is he adopts them out to Hollywood homosexual couples who can’t have children…”  Judges Nash and Downing are identified in the video.

As reported by DCFS Public Affairs Director Armand Montiel, “dependency hearings” held in Los Angeles County courts are open to members of the press, which occurred by order of Judge Michael Nash.  Nash has stated that it is “preferable” to place foster children with their own parents if possible.

Jeffrey Henderson stated that Judge Downing was “20 minutes late” to the hearing on October 25 because she was “dancing in the streets” as shown in the video.

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