Here come the holidays, so it’s probably timely to again make some comments on child holiday visitation or “parenting time.” Many children of divorced parents will be happily splitting the holidays between their loving and cooperating parents. Other children become the focus of the annual ritual, that is, the “fight” over which parent is entitled to have the child with them for Christmas. One would think rational parents could resolve these issues, but unfortunately during the two weeks before Christmas, our court will likely see several such disputes make it on the court calendar. Some parents go so far as to retain a lawyer and bring an “emergency motion” to resolve the issue, basically asking the judge to “play Solomon.”
Over the past month the news has been filled with coverage of the NFL’s discipline of players Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice and the review of that discipline by an arbitrator. Professional athletes have contracts providing that disputes be submitted to binding arbitration, which is generally outside of the judicial system and not appealable to a court. You probably have an arbitration provision in your health insurance contract, auto insurance contract or credit card contract.
The famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost ends with “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” When it comes to criminal court, many offenders could be said to take the path often-traveled, the path from juvenile delinquency to misdemeanor offenses to gross misdemeanor offenses, and eventually to felonies and prison.
Judges are so “opinionated” because in most civil cases they are required to detail the factual basis and legal reasoning for their decision in a written opinion.
In the vast majority of criminal cases, other than pretrial motions to suppress evidence or dismiss a criminal charge or a court trial on the charge, the judge is not required to file “findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order,” the explanation for the judge’s decision.
The Department of Corrections, the state agency that is responsible for prison administration and the supervision of felons on probation, and which makes sentencing recommendations to judges, has considered and implemented alternatives to incarceration over many years. Those in prison for a definite term serve 2/3 of the sentence in prison (encouraging good behavior) and 1/3 on supervised release, if they have no disciplinary offenses in prison.
American readers love lists, so many books and magazines have lists of the top 10, or top 100, best ways to fame and fortune, lose weight, find your soulmate, etc. Check out the covers of magazines and you will see “Top 10 Ways to Fantastic Abs” or “Hundred Places to Visit Before You Die” or “50 Best Apps for Your Smartphone.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence has been much in focus in the past month because of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson incidents. Every day in every district court in Minnesota, judges hear cases involving domestic violence. It could be a hearing for an order for protection against a spouse or significant other, or a criminal charge of domestic assault, or even a juvenile delinquency petition against a minor for assaulting a household member. Domestic violence touches thousands of homes in Minnesota every day, including where you live.
Perhaps no one said that to you this past Sept. 17, the day we annually celebrate Constitution Day. However, it is an annual reminder of the importance of our constitution and the foundation it provides for the enduring magnitude of the United States. What is Constitution Day and why do we celebrate at this time?