Silenced Mamas: Prominent Family Court judge consistently rules against mothers

POOR-Magazine-mamas-Tiny-Queennandi-Sandra-Thompsen-Marlon-Crump-in-FAMILY-classroom-by-PNN, Silenced Mamas: Prominent Family Court judge consistently rules against mothers, Archives 1976-2008 Local News & Views
Silenced Mamas: Prominent Family Court judge consistently rules against mothers

Join Mothers’ Day rally, “Justice fo’ da Mamaz,” Monday, May 12, 9am, 400 McAllister St.

by Marlon Crump, PNN

We’re not just members of the bar
Here in Familawt, Familawt
We’re connoisseurs of the bizarre!
Best interests of the children is our watchword
We frown upon disparagement and blame
In short there’s simply not, a more congenial spot
For ending your relationship than here
In Fam-i-lawt, Familawt.

– Sung to the tune of “Camelot,” written by David Fink

San Francisco Judge Marjorie Slabach was reportedly one of a group of judges who performed in this caricature of “Camelot” about family law. She played the part of a queen.

“As an advocate for poor mothers and families in the court system, I was shocked to witness Judge Slabach’s flagrant anti-mother and biased rulings,” said Tiny, co-founder of POOR Magazine, to a group of single mamas vigorously nodding their heads in agreement.

Tiny is just one of many poor single mamas who has witnessed the inappropriate, highly prejudiced behavior of Judge Marjorie A. Slabach in San Francisco’s Unified Family Court Division. A family law commissioner, Judge Slabach was appointed in 1997 to preside over family law cases, including child dependency and custody cases. Since then she has consistently ruled against mothers and mistreated them in court by belittling or verbally insulting them and, despite a number of complaints, she has been allowed to continue this inappropriate behavior.

POOR Magazine writer and co-founder of the F.A.M.I.L.Y. Project for the children of families struggling with poverty, Jewn Strohlin, is a mother who has directly experienced the overt prejudice of Judge Slabach. Jewn was in court regarding a restraining order in 2007. In one of the hearings, Judge Slabach said Jewn displayed “vengeful glee” and told her she had been observing her “since she walked into the courtroom.”

Judge Slabach also consistently ruled in favor of the party opposing Jewn although he failed to appear numerous times. “I found Judge Slabach to be very biased and partial to my case by her showing blatant favoritism to the opposing party,” said Jewn. “She didn’t look at the pattern of her [ex-partner’s] behavior and she continued to let him manipulate the system.”

Finally Jewn won her case after the opposing party failed once again to appear in court. Judge Slabach told her she “won by default.”

Another fellow POOR Magazine writer, poverty scholar and revolutionary poet, Kim Swan, aka Queenandi, experienced Judge Slabach’s bias and prejudice in February of 2008 during a visitation hearing regarding Kim’s 3-year-old daughter and the daughter’s father.

Kim arrived at the courthouse unaware that the court had decided to include a second hearing that day for her daughter’s father to challenge the petition of the restraining order that Kim had filed against him three weeks prior.

Kim was very upset and shocked that she was never served with a notice for this second hearing and didn’t have sufficient time to prepare for it. Kim attempted to explain to Judge Slabach the dangers of giving her daughter’s father visitation rights.

Kim asked Judge Slabach to consider that her daughter’s father had been an irresponsible parent who has brought their 3-year-old daughter around unsavory people and places and that he used to have heated disputes with her over petty things, such as grocery bills, utility bills and paying for a car seat. She spoke of his violent episodes and of the time he had come to her job to harass her in front of staff.

While Kim was speaking, Judge Slabach interrupted her with sarcasm, saying, “Why don’t you show some mental stability and be quiet!” When Kim tried to explain that her daughter was afraid of visiting with her father and always started crying and begged her mother not to go on visitation days, Judge Slabach belittled Kim and overtly ruled in the father’s favor.

Another mother, like Kim and Jewn, who has dealt with Judge Slabach’s unjust rulings is single mother Sandra Thompson. Sandra came to POOR Magazine for help with a number of legal situations, one of which was a restraining order against her ex-husband, who had been extremely violent towards her during their marriage.

Sandra appeared before Judge Slabach on Dec. 11, 2007. She was accompanied by co-founder of POOR Magazine, Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, and POOR staff reporters Bruce Allison, Joseph Bolden and Sam Drew.

Like Kim Swan, Sandra anticipated finalizing her restraining order against her ex-spouse. As soon as Sandra’s case was called, Judge Slabach changed the hearing into a child custody case. According to Tiny, Sandra’s lawyer, Ronald P. St. Clair, did not talk with Sandra throughout the entire period before the hearing commenced.

In fact, St. Clair not only didn’t meet with his client, but was actually interacting with the opposing side and San Francisco Unified School District Attorney Vicki Trapalis. Despite the ex-husband’s violent history, Slabach gave the father temporary custody of the child, as Trapalis had recommended.

Sandra was extremely shocked and devastated by Judge Slabach’s order that placed her 7-year-old son’s life in danger. Sandra later learned that her lawyer, Trapalis and her ex-spouse had agreed to an ex-parte motion, which is filed without advanced notice to the opposing side and is decided by a judge without requiring all parties to be present. Ex-parte motions are supposed to be sharply limited by the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S Constitution.

Sandra’s ex-husband filed a series of these motions throughout 2006, even forging her signature on April 3, 2006, so that a stipulated request would allow Judge Slabach to sit as a judge pro tempore (temporary judge) in a matter involving their 7-year-old son. Even more astounding, court minutes claim that Sandra was present at the April 3, 2006, hearing, although she soundly swears that she was not.

“You’re very biased and corrupt for putting my son’s life in danger of an ex-abuser. I want to move for you to recuse yourself as the judge in my custody case,” Sandra said in a recent hearing. Of course, Judge Slabach swiftly denied her request.

Justice fo’ da Mamaz on Mothers Day

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