It’s beginning to look like a pattern of behavior for abusing a position of power to settle personal grudges, isn’t it? Via Newsweek:

Court records obtained by NEWSWEEK show that during the course of divorce hearings three years ago, Judge John Suddock heard testimony from an official of the Alaska State Troopers’ union about how Sarah Palin—then a private citizen—and members of her family, including her father and daughter, lodged up to a dozen complaints against Wooten with the state police. The union official told the judge that he had never before been asked to appear as a divorce-case witness, that the union believed family complaints against Wooten were "not job-related," and that Wooten was being "harassed" by Palin and other family members.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten’s behavior and character. "Disparaging will not be tolerated—it is a form of child abuse," the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: "Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives."…

At the heart of the continuing "Troopergate" flap is evidence that despite Judge Suddock’s warnings back in 2005 and 2006, Palin and her husband continued to make disparaging allegations against Wooten, even after she went to the statehouse. During her first security briefing with a representative of the state police, Palin and Todd were both asked whether they knew of any potential physical threats against them, according to a deposition taken from one of Palin’s top aides following her election in Nov. 2006. Both said the only threat they were aware of was posed by Wooten.

The Palins later raised allegations about Wooten with public-safety chief Monegan…

No idea what the underlying reasons for divorce were, but it is a huge concern that the family court judge warned Palin’s family — repeatedly — to stop making unfounded accusations and trying to poison the well about Wooten. Judges only put material like that on the record where they perceive a real and present problem — and those warnings could not have been more clear.

And yet Palin continued well after those multiple warnings in her first meetings with the head of the AK state police and the public safety chief after she was elected governor. Seems to me that she was fairly single-minded in her intent to continue with multiple people in authority over her former brother-in-law, despite a judge’s order to cease and desist.

My number one rule with clients going through family cases was this: the children have to come first. You can be angry and hurt, but never, ever put the kids in the middle. And it wasn’t just my rule — WV law says the interests of the child are paramount.

There are few things that send me through the roof like people in a custody battle using their children as pawns to exact revenge on their soon-to-be-ex. In my legal practice, I’ve served as guardian ad litem for children, counsel for parties in these cases, and as both a mediator and arbitrator on occasion as well.

The most consistent statement out of the mouths of children caught in the emotional turmoil was this: "I love my mom and my dad. Why can’t they both see that? Why are they trying to make me choose — it hurts."

There are certainly individuals who are abusive, and ought not have unsupervised visitations with their children. I’ve helped clients get away from relationships where their lives and the lives of their children were repeatedly threatened. I’ve litigated countless applications for restraining orders, helped drag suitcases up the stairs of the local women’s shelter. I have hugged a child clutching a teddy bear and sobbing into my shoulder, terrified that whatever parent was identified as the one to live with, the other one would stop loving the child. You name it.

But then there are the cases where one parent rushed to file for a restraining order, not because s/he was threatened but because it gave her/him temporary custody as a tactical advantage and prevented the restrained party from seeing the children as punishment. (AK law appears to allow for this, too.) The clients whose mothers would call to tell me what "that asshole did this time." (Note to adults in the audience: if you are divorcing and having your mother phone your attorney, you have bigger problems than the divorce. Just saying.) People who were willing to lie to the court under oath, and bring in friends and family to do the same — whatever it took to get custody or alimony or whatever else would screw over the other side.

The bottom line: people who are abused deserve every possible protection, and their children more so.

People who cry wolf just to get even with the other side? They are liars and cheats. They gum up the court docket, stealing valuable time from real abuse situations which need emergency hearings, and they break the law by making false statements in testimony. And this is where the judge got this spot-on, they are also abusing the children stuck in the middle of a mess they didn’t even start.

And who suffers in all of this? Children whose parents are divorcing frequently blame themselves. It is a tough, tough time for those kids who need more care and concern.

When the parents, family and friends around them get so caught up in their petty, selfish behavior, who suffers for it? Those same kids. Let this be a teaching moment: the children MUST come first. In my book, anyone who doesn’t put them first and foremost is an untrustworthy, immature and selfish asshole who would do anything, say anything to exact revenge and to hell with the consequences.

Not only would I not want these people as friends, I would never, ever want them in positions of power. If they would abuse these children that way, what wouldn’t they do to get what they wanted?

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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