A letter to my elected officials…

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Like usual…it has been a while. Some might think
that because I started this blog, I really enjoy typing out every little thought goes through my head relating to this case. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is an arduous task to motivate myself to write on this blog because is a very painful subject for me. That being said, it is a very necessary undertaking to execute if any change is ever going to occur.

Below you will finds a letter to my elected representatives: Mike Thompson – 5th Congressional, Loni Hancock – CA Senate 9th, and Tony Thurmond – CA Assembly 15th. I always believed that this was where you eventually wound up, if you had grievances as deep and profound as my own. Over the coming weeks, what reaction, if any that i receive from them. I’ll keep you posted.

THE MARCH EDITION

Several people have sent me their  stories of abuse at the hands of the family court system. As Empathetic as I am to their situation, I am struck by how often these stories devolve in hateful unproductive rants that do not progress any worthwhile agenda. PLEASE….PLEASE, the more information that you can provide relating to your case, the more powerful and compelling your story of injustice will be. Who, What, Where When…Why. All of those elements will be necessary to make a driving and rational case for change.

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March 5th, 2015

RE: Case MD022782 – Los Angeles County Superior Court

To Whom It May Concern:

Tracking numbers 9405 5036 9930 0005 5170 76, 9405 5036 9930 0005 5003 06, 9405 9036 9930 0372 9464 08. I am putting into writing what I have been communicating to representatives in your respective offices. I am not going to be rehash the last 14 years of my dealings with the CA Department of Child Support Services(DCSS). If you truly want the full background on my situation and numerous complaints that I have about the DCSS, please refer to my blog, ricketsondouglas.wordpress.com. Briefly, however, I would like to focus on two incidents that happened to me in the last few months. The first occurred when the DCSS directed the CA DMV to suspend my driver’s license due to non-payment of child support. The problem is this: I was completely current in my child support payments. It took weeks to resolve and if I had not picked up on it promptly, I would have had a whole other world of problems with which to contend. The second happened on 12/26/14. The bank levies division of the LA County DCSS decided that it was an appropriate idea to drain my checking account of almost $900.00. Fortunately, although, I was able to resolve this issue, I have still not been given any sort of rational reason why they decided to do this or what legal basis they had for doing it. Also, for being legally serviced in this way, JP Morgan Chase, my bank, decided it was appropriate to charge me $75 for the experience. Nice.

While my focus has been on my experiences with the DCSS, I assure you, this is not about me. My experiences are MILD compared to the anecdotes that I have been reviewing from other non-custodial parents.

At this point, I find that I need to take my elected officials to task and communicate my profound disappointment in their responsiveness to my situation and those of other non-custodial parents dealing with the DCSS. I am told any one of a myriad of excuses for their not dealing with the failings of the agencies involved.

“Oh, there’s nothing we can do because this is a personal matter.”…or “This is not an issue we are going to be bringing up this term, sorry.”…or “This is a legal issue, you will have to deal with this through the courts.”

Well, yes, it’s a personal matter, for myself and thousands of other non-custodial parents, but that did not stop the CA state legislature from writing the statutes that govern it. It may be personal but the laws that govern it are a public concern, which makes it your concern. As far as the timing issue is concerned, well, not to be a drama queen about it, but because family court issues have often had the potential for devolving into life and death situations, it begs the question, “If not now, when? If not you, who?” And what luck! Both of my state representatives are sit on the Health Services committees. These are the committees that have some degree of oversight of the DCSS. Certainly, some reasonable inquiries could be made into how this agency performs its duties and treats the citizens that are subject to it.

Finally, as far as this being a, “legal matter” that only the courts can deal with, I am reminded of a quote by Einstein, “The problems that confront us are not going to be solved by the institutions that created them.” The family court system needs to be torn down and rebuilt in an image that in NO WAY reflects the current one. That being said, the legislature has little or no legitimate jurisdiction over how the courts conducts its role. The DCSS is entirely another matter. The lines of oversight are clear because it is a publicly funded state agency.

I would like to lay to rest any notion that the federal government has no role in policy issues concerning the DCSS. Please, follow the money. Line item 5175 in the California state budget is the budget of the DCSS. From my reading of this very rough overview of this agency’s budget for fiscal year 2015-2016, it includes $537 million in funding from the “Federal Trust Fund.” 53% of a state agency’s budget…at a minimum, seems pretty connected to me. This salient fact leads me to assert that representatives of the federal government have a responsibility to know, understand and oversee how that Federal Trust Fund money is being spent.

Before I conclude with a couple of telling anecdotes and make my final points, I want to state for the record that I do not condone violence in any form. Ultimately, on top of the pain and suffering it causes, it is an ineffective tool for resolving disputes and only causes more violence. That being said, I am compelled to relate the tragic tales of Scott Evans DeKraii and Bradley Stone.

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Scott Evans Dekraii

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Seal_Beach_shooting

The Seal Beach shooting was a mass shooting that occurred on October 12, 2011, at the Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, California. Eight people inside the salon and one person in the parking lot were shot, and only one victim survived. It was the deadliest mass killing in Orange County history.[2]…

 

Perpetrator

Scott Evans Dekraai (born October 17, 1969) divorced his wife Michelle in 2007 after four years of marriage. Court records showed that he had been engaged in a bitter custody dispute over his eight-year-old son. His personality was said to have changed after an accident on board a tugboat in February 2007, which left him with serious leg injuries. Following an incident later in 2007 involving his stepfather, a restraining order was filed against him, barring him from possessing firearms. The order lasted a year and had expired at the time of the shooting. Court documents filed in September 2008 diagnosed him with posttraumatic stress disorder. A court hearing had taken place on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, the day before the shooting, which recommended a near-equal custody arrangement.[34][35][36]

 

Bradley Stone

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/us/bradley-stone-autopsy-finds-overdose.html

 

A former Marine Corps reservist who killed his ex-wife and five members of her family in Pennsylvania this month committed suicide by overdosing on a combination of drugs used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and a recreational drug similar to ecstasy, according to his autopsy report….

Mr. Stone’s body was found Dec. 16 in a wooded area about a half-mile from his house, one day after he embarked on a 90-minute rampage across three towns in which the authorities say he variously used an ax, a machete, two knives and a gun to kill his ex-wife, Nicole Stone, 33, and five members of her family while they lay in bed. The killings occurred between 3:30 and 5 a.m.

The killings occurred in an area of Upper Hanover Township about 45 miles north of Philadelphia.

 

Mr. Stone was a Marine reservist from 2002 to 2008, and was deployed to Iraq for several months in 2008, according to a spokeswoman for the Marine Corps Forces Reserve. He served in the Individual Ready Reserve until 2011, when he was discharged. He was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Now, it would be absurd, unbalanced and unfair to assert that the interactions that these two individuals had with the family court system were THE causal factor in their commission of these tragic acts, but they were in the mix. A toxic soup like this is comprised of many ingredients. Would things have turned out differently, had these individuals had a more positive, empathic experience with their respective family court bureaucracies? Who knows? It couldn’t have hurt. Granted, the tragic events surrounding Scott Evans DeKraii and Bradley Stone are extreme outliers. But for every extreme tragedy, there are thousands of small, unheard ones that go unnoticed and unfelt. The family court system is where our most intimate selves intersect with governmental bureaucracies. After living and reading about the countless stories of people’s experiences with a callous, and uncaring family court system, I am here to state…unequivocally, that this system is BROKEN.

You’re my elected representatives. That is why I am addressing this letter to you. As I still labor under the delusion that we dwell in a civil society governed by laws and processes, you are the individuals who are in the position of doing something about this issue. I am often counseled by my friends to, “just move on.” I wish I could. When I have to worry about what episode of DCSS abuse and incompetence I will find awaiting me in my mailbox, I cannot, “move on.” When I look at my checking account and wonder whether or not my money will still be there in there in the morning, I cannot, “move on.” By my best estimates, I will be an indentured servant to the DCSS and the family courts for the next 28 months. My daughter will, “age out” of the system in the summer of 2017. I understand how this dysfunctional system operates. I can deal. What you have to worry about are the individuals who have no idea how abusive the family court industrial complex can be…particularly when the individuals involved are experiencing intense emotional distress…like when you’re going through a divorce.

The first step in dealing with dealing with any problem is recognizing that there is one. Now, the question becomes, what are you going to do about it? Remember how I opened this correspondence with the tracking numbers for these letters? Well, it’s essentially, my unsubtle way of putting you on notice that THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH THE FAMILY COURT SYSTEM IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA. You cannot feign ignorance now. I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at any of the points of contact below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Douglas O. Ricketson

751 Smith Ave

Pinole, CA 94564

ricketsondouglas@gmail.com

510-417-0923(cell)

208-441-5686(fax)

ricketsondouglas.wordpress.com

Enclosures: CD relevant court family – Case MD0022782 Los Angeles Superior Court.

Recipients: Congressman Mike Thompson – CA 5th District, State Senator Loni Hancock 9th District, Assembly Member Tony Thurmond – 15th District

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