Los Angeles County wants an income-killer verdict depublished.
A couple of months ago, I read an article on Reason's website about an injustice being perpetuated by California's child welfare agencies.
In short, here's the situation. Since the welfare reform legislation of 1996, is that when the government accuses you of fathering a child, no matter how flimsy the evidence, you are one month away from having your life wrecked. Federal law gives a man 30 days to file a written challenge; if he doesn’t, he is presumed guilty. And once that steamroller of justice starts rolling, dozens of statutory lubricants help make it extremely difficult, and prohibitively expensive, to stop — even, in most cases, if there’s conclusive DNA proof that the man is not the child’s father.
In other words, if the government thinks you owe child support based on your name matching a search of the phone book and if you haven't filed a *written* challenge within 30 days, you're on the hook for child support. Doesn't matter if the mother comes into the room, looks at you, and says “Wrong guy.” Doesn't matter if your DNA doesn't match.
Why would such a system be allowed to continue? The state gets a cut. To collect the money, the county may put a garnish order on the purported father’s paycheck or place liens on his assets. If the mother has received welfare assistance after the child was born, the man will be hit with a bill to pay back the state, plus 10 percent annual interest. Now that the states also have a financial incentive — they pocket a cut of child support payments, earn performance rewards from the federal government, and enjoy the savings from reduced welfare rolls — the cash motive is stronger than ever. Abuses are inevitable under such a system.
The system got taken to court. In 1996, Manuel Navarro was ordered to pay $250 per month in child support for two boys. Disclaiming paternity, Navarro took a DNA test, which proved he wasn't the boys' father. Incredibly, a trial court acknowledged the evidence disproving Navarro's paternity, but still ordered Navarro to continue with his payments because he didn't protest his paternity in time (he was served in absentia).
At this point, an appeal has been heard by the appellate court, which sternly and unambiguously reversed the previous court's decision. The closing paragraph of the decision pretty much said it all:
“The County, a political embodiment of its citizens and inhabitants, must
always act in the public interest and for the general good. It should not enforce
child support judgments it knows to be unfounded. And in particular, it should not
ask the courts to assist it in doing so. Despite the Legislature’s clear directive that
child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County
persists in asking that we do so. We will not sully our hands by participating in an
unjust, and factually unfounded, result. We say no to the County, and we reverse.”
Justice finally triumphs, right? The Los Angeles County child-support agency, understandably loath to lose the lucrative income they've been extorting from the innocent, has asked for the appellate court ruling to be “depublished,” or omitted from official records, so no other man can use it to overturn his child-support order. The child-support agency says the June 30 appellate ruling is “creating confusion” in trial courts and that is why it should be decertified.
What a crock. You can draw your own conclusions on why LA County wants this verdict off the books.