- Posted July 26, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Misconduct Results in Landmark "Civil Gideon" Appeal
Sacramento - The shocking mistreatment of a 53-year-old, indigent, disabled single parent by a Sacramento, California family court judge has led to a landmark appeal to establish a constitutional right to an attorney in civil cases.
In this video, Susan Ferris describes her nightmarish family court experience, and the trauma of being separated from her daughter because of an illegal court order issued by controversial Sacramento Superior Court Judge Matthew J. Gary.
Taped between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2012, at the time of this interview, Ferris was struggling to represent herself in court because she couldn't afford to hire a lawyer. In court, she faced a veteran family law attorney, Tim Zeff, who represented her ex-husband, David Ferris.
After Judge Matthew Gary issued an unlawful order effectively terminating her parental rights, Susan joined a group of family court reform advocates fighting systemic corruption and injustice in the Sacramento County Superior Court system.
The facts of Susan's case were so shocking to the conscience that prominent San Francisco attorney James J. Brosnahan, of the international law firm Morrison and Foerster, agreed to represent her on appeal on a pro bono basis.
"This is at the point where a lot of us think it's a disgrace," Brosnahan said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. "You can't take someone's child and that person doesn't have an attorney when you do it...It's an outrage."
In March, the Sacramento Bee published a front page story about the case and Brosnahan's ultimate objective to establish a constitutional right to an attorney in certain civil cases. The nationwide "Civil Gideon" movement seeks to give civil court litigants in cases involving basic human needs the same right to a lawyer that criminal defendants have.
The constitutional right to an attorney in criminal cases was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 in Gideon v. Wainwright. The Ferris appeal has now been fully briefed by the attorneys, and is awaiting a date for oral argument in the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento.
To view the Sacramento Bee article by investigative reporter Brad Branan, visit this URL: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/26/6268552/state-considers-providing-lawyers.html
Sacramento Family Court News, an online, nonprofit journalism organization has complete coverage of the Susan Ferris case at this URL: http://sacramentocountyfamilycourtnews.blogspot.com/search/label/FERRIS%20CASE
For articles documenting the systemic corruption in Sacramento County Superior Court, visit this URL: http://sacramentocountyfamilycourtnews.blogspot.com/search/label/COLOR%20OF%20LAW%20SERIES
For articles detailing serial misconduct by Judge Matthew Gary visit this URL: http://sacramentocountyfamilycourtnews.blogspot.com/search/label/MATTHEW%20J.%20GARY