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Less Law / Less Interference / Less Talk -- Is More.

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From: John Murtari (
Date: Fri May 24 2002 - 15:10:27 EDT

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Good People & People of Faith,

This is more of a personal message. Many of us would really like to
see Congressional Hearings into reform starting this Fall. The first
step to making change finally happen. I really think it's possible and
would give many of us a chance to appear "before the nation" and
explain how our rights to "family" have not been protected. A new
start in American History -- the recognition and protection of the
parent/child bond.  Probably the last to be officially recognized, but
the most important of our "civil rights."

What makes something a "civil right" or a "human right"?  It's not from
a law, or from a Judge, or the state of Mississippi. It is you. 
The Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self evident..."

I hope you'll have time to read some of the related items below. We
have been looking for the participation of Moms and Dads willing to
visit Members of Congress prior to Father's day.  The response so far,
ZERO.                 http://www.AKidsRight.Org/dad2002

The rest of this message has thoughts on:
1. Less Law / Less Interference - Protection of Family Rights
2. Protection of Jury trial
3. Current News & Your Participation - make a big difference.
4. Trip to Washington - less talk is more!

As always, your feedback will be shared with others.

1. Less Law / Less Interference - Protection of Family Rights
The idea of a Family Rights Act bothers some people who don't
want "more government interference."  Many Members of Congress
don't want to interfere with "state's rights."  Here is an analogy
which may make the goal a bit clearer and one that has been
effective when speaking with staff members.

"Right now every state has their own criminal code and rules, they
were all developed independently. But, no matter what state you
live in, when you are charged with a serious crime:  You have the
right to an attorney,  a strong presumption of innocence, and
the protection of Jury.  This is because you are a citizen of
the United States and those are minimum standards."

"In the last 40 years there has been an explosion of Family Law
in all 50 states with very little thought to protections.  We
never realized that being a parent and being able to nurture your
own child is one of our most valuable civil rights.  Certainly
as valuable as the freedom we protect from criminal prosecution?"

"There is a Constitutional Lawyer, Mr. Chester Darling, who has
argued and WON cases before the US Supreme Court who holds similar
feelings and would be happy to testify before Congress to that
effect.  We would like our Member of Congress to make a public
statement calling for Congressional Hearings into reform." - more on Mr. Chester Darling.

2. Protection of Jury Trial
To make it simple and avoid adding new processes and procedures
to the existing "family courts."  We just make one "protective
presumption."  Before a judge can interfere with your relationship
with your child.  Whether that is equal time after a Divorce or
protection from Child Protective Service - the local DA has to be
ready to indict you and prosecute you for being a demonstrated threat
to the safety of your child -- and get a unanimous verdict from a
Jury.  This is NOT about being the better parent or a perfect parent or
about what "might happen" in the future.

Similar to criminal prosecution, where being held in jail without bail
triggers "speedy trial."  If the Judge feels they need to issue a
"temporary order" to separate you or limit contact between you and your
child -- you get "speedy trial" on the issues.

REMEMBER -- these are not required of you.  Just like the criminal
system you can waive your rights or make any other type of agreement.
But now, like the criminal system, parents will be able to negotiate
as "equals."  Many of us want mediation -- it works a lot better when
both sides are equals.

Many people still think this battle can be won by changing state laws
or by "hitting a home run" in a big court case. I just don't know.
There are some example new laws that talk about a "rebuttable
presumption of joint custody", "clear and convincing evidence", and
"limitations on the power of social services..."  I welcome your
feedback on this, but I have a strong feeling that without the
"protection of a jury" and "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" -- we
will not have changed things very much.  That is one procedural change
you will never see come from a Court decision, NO Judge wants to have
a jury looking over their shoulder (and many of them feel they have a
"judicial right" to interfere in family life).

The concept of "Jury" came from the people as a protection from
overreaching government. It is the "quality control" step for our
judicial system and which is sorely missing from Family Law. It is
something we can achieve through our Members of Congress or by
potentially amending the Constitution (in case a High Court decides to
overturn such legislation as interfering with judicial powers).

2. Current News & Your Participation - make a big difference.
Today I will be on the phone, following up with the staffs of
people we visited with before Mother's day:

1. Senator Specter - Pennsylvania.
2. Senator Edwards - North Carolina.
3. Senator Schumer - New York
4. Senator Clinton - New York
5. Senator Rockefeller - West Virginia
6. Senator Byrd - West Virginia
7. Congressman Hinchey - New York
8. Congressman Walsh - New York

I will simply be asking them what their response was to our petitions
for reform.  Next week, I'd like to be able to call them back and say
we have some people/groups from YOUR state who would like to talk to
you about the need for reform....can we schedule another meeting? It
would be very important to have some people from their home state
at the meetings. Can you come? Please let me know.

If you haven't had the chance to read the 'best' biography of Martin
Luther King ("Let the Trumpet Sound" by Oates), I highly recommend it.
I'd also recommend the Oates biography of Abraham Lincoln, "With
Malice Toward None."  You might also want to consider a great
Biography of Ulysses S. Grant, "Grant" by Jean Smith -- or how about
"Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation" by Smith

One hates to speak with too broad a language, but they all had a lot
in common.  They were NOT perfect.  They suffered a LOT of setbacks.
Many were considered TOO naive for the jobs.  But they all kept trying
and certainly did their jobs in good faith and to the best of their
abilities.  One might find the greatest turnaround in the life of
U.S. Grant, a West Point graduate who had reached the rank of Captain
in an Army Career he loved, developed a problem with drinking and was
forced to resign his commission.  He made numerous business attempts
which were all failures and could barely support his family.  In a
town where people knew him, he was reduced to having to chop wood and
pull it into town, selling it for firewood.  He kept his good humor
and his dignity through it all, and eventually returned to the Army
and a very good career both as General and President.

4. Trip to Washington - less talk is more!
I would like to share my thoughts on talking to Members of Congress.

Like many of you, I was initially disappointed by the short amount of
time we had to talk to Congressional aids (15-30 minutes).  I was
disappointed by the realization that most of them had not prepared at
all for their meetings with us.  I was disappointed that most of them
would probably not read much of the material we had left for them. It
bothered me for a while and then I grew calm.  I realized that in the
future only 5-10 minutes would really be necessary for now (because
they aren't really engaged in listening to us, the issue isn't
important to them right now -- probably the same way that Family Law
reform wasn't important to many of us till we got caught in the
system). I thought about this question:

How many of us think the sheer multiplication of words is going to
restore our right to be parents to our children?  In human history,
how many times has the sheer multiplication of words (made much, much
easier now by cut & paste and the Internet), every gained a people
their rights?

Obviously today we remember Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Jesus
Christ -- not for what they said, but for what they did, and for what
others did that followed them.  They didn't just talk about what they
believed in, they personally sacrificed for it.  Please don't get me
wrong, the words are important, the Word is important -- but until it
turns into action (or as the poet would say, "until the word descends
to the earth and takes on flesh"), it remains just a word.

The aid of Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (a senior member of
the Senate Judiciary Committee) didn't have a lot of time to spend
with us.  The Senator himself was kind enough to introduce himself and
say hello, but that was all he had time for.  What are they waiting for?

NonViolent Action. People who are demonstrating they are willing to
sacrifice for what they believe in. Who don't even know with certainty
they will achieve their goal.

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