Several glaring pieces of evidence indicate that Judge Jon Van Allsburg in Ottawa County, Michigan, is working in violation of court standards to influence the outcome of a case on which he is not the judge. The case involves his sister, Ann M., and has been covered before on this blog (see "Judge Hulsing Jails Mother Because Her Kids Refuse to See Their Father," November 11, 2011).
A few weeks ago Judge Hulsing wrote the following letter to the attorneys on Ann M.'s case: "I write to inform you of a comment that was made in my presence by a judicial colleague regarding a disputed fact in this case. The comment was, 'the kids want to see him [their father].' This comment was not solicited by me, or in response to any inquiry made by myself - as I made no inquiry. That comment was not considered, nor will it be considered, by the court in this case." The letter is not dated.
We can't know with certainty who the "judicial colleague" is that Judge Hulsing is referring to, but it is only reasonable to assume that it is Judge Van Allsburg, who happens to be Ann M.'s brother and has become an active campaigner against Ann M., speaking in favor of her ex-husband despite the children's statements to various witnesses that they are afraid of him.
I have obtained copies of numerous emails demonstrating Judge Van Allsburg's efforts to intervene in the case. An email he wrote to a relative on August 25, 2011 offers a crucial example: "I'm not surprised the kids are angry about the court ruling requiring parenting time - I don't think Ann would accept any other response from them, and they know it; therefore they're angry... Ann's anger and retaliation are the major issues at this point in the case. Doug's emotional instability and domestic violence are considered older history at this point..." From there he went on to explain what "the court has concluded" at this stage in the case. And at another point he writes, "Court employees with knowledge of this case already think Judge Hulsing is some kind of saint for the patience he's extended in this case."
There are several aspects of this email worth noting. First, Judge Van Allsburg is admitting that he is discussing the case with court employees, which appears to be an unethical effort to affect the case's outcome and strengthens the suspicion that he is the "judicial colleague" who spoke to Judge Hulsing. Ann M. has been requesting to have her case moved to a new jurisdiction because of her brother's efforts to affect the outcome of her case. With the combination of Judge Hulsing's letter and these emails by Judge Van Allsburg, there is plenty of reason to believe that there is inappropriate interference happening in the case. It isn't realistic (nor is it good ethical practice) for Judge Hulsing to claim that he won't be influenced by his colleague; Ann M.'s request for a change of venue should be granted.
Second, Judge Van Allsburg is acknowledging two major points:
1) That the father of Ann M.'s children's is a perpetrator of domestic violence, and
2) that the children are expressing their anger at being required to see him.
A mountain of research evidence has accumulated over the past twenty years showing how disturbing and harmful it is to kids to be subjected to violence towards their mothers by fathers or step-fathers. Many of these studies have also looked at the question of whether men who batter are more likely than other men to harm children directly, and the conclusion has always been yes. So it is both illogical and unscientific to conclude that these children's reluctance to visit unsupervised with their father is a product of poisoning by their mother. (And by the way, the email correspondence I obtained shows that other relatives don't share Judge Van Allsburg's conclusions at all.)
It is also important to mention that according to Ann, Judge Van Allsburg has not had contact with her two minor children -- the kids who are the subject of the litigation -- for over four years, so she does not understand how he could know what the children want. The fact that Ann's brother is siding with the alleged abuser is not at all uncommon in my experience; in fact, I wrote in considerable detail in my book Why Does He Do That? about why so many abusers succeed in recruiting one or more of the woman's relatives as allies.
Finally, I want to draw your attention to Judge Van Allsburg's statement that the court now considers the father's battering of Ann M. to be "older history." Regrettably, he may well be correct about this. Family courts commonly labor under the misconception that domestic violence perpetration has to be very recent to be relevant, despite all the research and clinical experience demonstrating that abusers do not change except through a long period of hard, serious work on themselves. The judiciary seems to be confusing domestic violence perpetration with a virus that will just go away over time. Note that in this case "the court" means Judge Hulsing, whose case this is currently; once again, Judge Van Allsburg is giving indications that he is in dialogue with Judge Hulsing about the case, since he is claiming to be reporting on Judge Hulsing's thinking.
Ann M.'s children are still refusing to see their father. She is therefore waiting in suspense to see if she is going to be jailed again, as a result of their entirely natural reactions to the serious and repeated violence that they say they have witnessed in the past.