Chants of “give us back our kids” filled the air at the corner of 4th and Market streets in Center City on Tuesday as protesters gathered to rally against Philadelphia Family Court Judge Lyris F. Younge.
The protesters, mostly parents, grandparents and their supporters, all had a common narrative: Younge allegedly violated their rights by not giving them the chance to adequately present their arguments in cases where a child or grandchild would be put into foster care.
The protests come not long after The Legal reported on Younge’s history of due process violations.
One demonstrator at Tuesday’s protest said her daughter had her children taken away by the Department of Human Services because of a heroin addiction. The demonstrator claimed her grandsons, ages 5 and 9 years old, were placed into foster care despite her assurances to Younge that she’d shelter her grandchildren in her seven-bedroom New Jersey home.
Younge allegedly refused the request because the grandmother lived across state lines.
The 9-year-old was later molested while in foster care, the grandmother claimed. Although authorities were alerted, they waited a day until moving the boy out of that foster home, she said, adding that the child was never seen by a doctor. (The grandmother’s name has been withheld because The Legal does not identify victims of sexual abuse.)
“It’s been devastating,” she said. “For six months I’ve cried and cried.”
One mother, Lisa Mothee, said she didn’t have a chance to present her side of the story in a case involving her children being moved into foster care.
“We weren’t allowed to present evidence,” Mothee said, adding that Younge is “ruining families instead of keeping them together.”
There were roughly 20 demonstrators in attendance Tuesday morning. Motorists passing by honked in support of the protesters standing in front of the Fox 29 television station.
One supporter and friend of Mothee’s, Jean Eduoard, said Younge was “re-writing the law.”
“Every citizen in America is entitled to due process,” he added.
Younge was first called out by the state Superior Court for a due process violation that occurred just days into her judicial career. Younge had prohibited a mother from returning to the courtroom after the mother had rushed out to vomit.
In January 2017, a three-judge Superior Court panel consisting of Judges Jack A. Panella, Jacqueline O. Shogan and William H. Platt agreed with the mother that keeping her from coming back into the courtroom to respond to evidence against her unfairly damaged her case. Court papers identify the mother as E.C.G.
The mother, who according to Shogan’s opinion had failed to complete drug rehabilitation and mental heath treatments, was fighting to get her daughter out of foster care.
After the mother left the courtroom claiming she was ill, Younge denied the mother’s attorney the chance to check on his client. Younge also said the mother was disrespectful by exiting the courtroom without permission, and denied her re-entry.
Younge ultimately ruled the mother could not meet the medical needs of her child, who had been born prematurely, and directed the child to remain in foster care in order to be put up for adoption.
But the Superior Court reversed Younge and vacated the case for further proceedings. Shogan, writing for panel, said court rules require a judge to warn a parent that leaving the courtroom may result in the continuation of proceedings without them, which Younge did not do.
The appeals court warned Younge to be “faithful to the law.”
“Although the trial court might well have believed that [the Department of Human Services] presented overwhelming evidence against [the] mother, the trial court violated mother’s constitutional guarantee to due process when it precluded her from the opportunity to be heard,” Shogan wrote.