(WXYZ) - When the judge dismissed the criminal charges against Maryanne Godboldo – he called the child removal order that sparked the case unconstitutional. As the Action News Investigators first showed you – the order to remove Godboldo’s child from her home was never actually reviewed by a judge.
This process is called rubber-stamping – where probation officers - NOT judges -- are literally stamping a judge’s signature onto the orders used to take children away from their parents. That means in Wayne County -- a judge is not looking at the evidence in a case before a child is removed – and court experts say that’s illegal – and it has got to stop.
“It is ridiculous to go in to remove, in this court’s opinion, somebody’s child based on this order,” said 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles.
The Action News Investigators was the first to show you the serious mistakes on the order that was used to remove Maryanne Godboldo’s daughter from her home in March - which sparked a massive police standoff. Godboldo came to the attention of Child Protective Services after she decided to stop giving her 13-year-old controversial anti-psychotic medication.
Among other errors, it appears the Child Protective Services case worker checked contradicting boxes on the order – stating that both reasonable efforts to “prevent removal of the child from the home were not made” and that they were made.
“We’re talking about a person’s constitutional rights here and to have that put up against this order, which is grossly inadequate, incorrect, the mistakes on it are numerous as identified by the protective services worker who typed it up,” said Judge Giles.
Judge Giles quashed the removal order – and said everything that stemmed from it – the police kicking in Godboldo’s door and the ensuing standoff -- were null and void.
Legal experts tell Action News – the most egregious problem with the Godboldo order is the fact that no judge reviewed the document that can change the course of a child’s life.
As part of the testimony during the civil custody proceedings in the Godboldo case a supervisor from Wayne County Juvenile court admitted on the stand that probation officers are the ones who look at CPS workers’ petitions and those probation officers rubber stamp Presiding Judge Leslie Kim-Smith’s signature onto the removal orders.
This is testimony from Godboldo’s civil custody hearing that child advocates call shocking:
Question: Are any of those probation officers attorneys?
The supervisor answered: No.
Question: Are any of those probation officers sworn referees?
“The law clearly states that orders can only be issued by judges,” Vivek Sankaran told Investigator Heather Catallo.
Sankaran is a University of Michigan Law Professor who regularly fights CPS decisions to remove children from their homes.
“These are the most important decisions that affect a family, decisions to remove a child from a parent. And to think that decisions are made without the careful oversight of a judge, without a judge reviewing the facts of a petition is really disturbing,” said Sankaran.
In fact, officials from the Michigan Supreme Court’s administrative arm had a strong statement about Wayne County’s practice of not having a judge review child removal orders.
Spokeswoman Marcia McBrien told Action News, the State Court Administrative Office “does not recommend the use of signature stamps on child removal orders. Judges are responsible for establishing procedures in their offices for the review and signing of orders. A judge should never delegate the decision to remove a child to a staff member.”
Action News did call the Presiding Judge at Juvenile Court to find out why she’s allowing probation officers to stamp her name onto child removal orders but she has not called us back.
Under the law, the procedure should involve the Judge putting CPS caseworker under oath, the case worker should present some evidence as to why the child should be removed, and then the judge physically signs the order.
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