We witnessed a chilling event the other day when a well-respected Connecticut trial court judge was almost not reappointed by a legislative committee after a bunch of self-represented parties showed up at the Capitol wearing t-shirts urging that the judge be sent home. The farce was made worse when several legislators pandered to the audience by railing on about how bad the judge was and how citizens’ rights were being infringed. What did the judge do wrong?
Well, In Connecticut, as in many other states, the family courts are being flooded by self-represented parties. Some of these folks simply cannot afford lawyers, but have too much income or assets to qualify for representation by one of the legal services programs. But others are crazy persons who no self-respecting lawyer would want to represent and who have the idea that they can do their own legal work so they would not hire a lawyer, even if one was nuts enough to take them on. They seem to be incapable of any sort of rational compromise, and pride themselves on being involved in “high conflict” divorce cases.
These parties show up every week in family court with yet another motion, petition or application, and expect the judge to abandon her or his role as a neutral and adopt a nursemaid approach, trying to talk some sense into them. In some of the most egregious cases, the litigants have filed hundreds of motions. They make it impossible for already overtaxed courts to move business, and pout and threaten and demand their rights. Heaven help the poor judge who tries to hold them to any sort of standards, or who refuses to accede to their demands.
Because these folks all seem to share common tendencies towards narcissism, histrionic personality disorder and psychopathy, they are not satisfied with making a mess of the courts. They seem to find each other on the Internet and on blogs where they rant, post the names and home addresses of judges and court personnel and blame the whole world for the mess they have made of their lives. When they are so crazy that a judge decides that their children would be better off without them and they lose parental visitation, they blame the judges and the court system instead of their own illnesses. And they show up en mas with their crazy pals when judges in their target sights are up for reappointment.
Judges are not perfect, but most work very hard to do justice. That is impossible when the courts are turned into circuses by self-reps with blogs, t-shirts and crazy notions about how the world works.