Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Therapeutic Side of Law

One of my apprehensions in committing to law school was the adversarial process and the impact on families and children in the judicial process.  The Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) Student Fellows Program has been instrumental in reassuring me that my pursuit of a legal career was the right decision.  Throughout this semester, my colleagues and I have learned a different side of the law grounded in Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) and the Ecology of Human Development.  TJ is a holistic approach that aims to address the legal and non-legal issues of clients while incorporating interdisciplinary methods to address the root issue(s) and providing the necessary resources to empower clients to regain ownership of their lives and problems.  The Ecology of Human Development looks at each litigant’s environment individually to customize a solution to fit their individual needs.  

These brand new concepts and programs were introduced to us through classroom discussions, guest speakers, and (my personal favorite) field trips to see these concepts in action!  From guest speakers and visits to the Unified Family Court to seminar topics dealing with Preventive Law, Court Reform in Family Law, Collaborative Law, the Juvenile Justice System, and Problem Solving Courts, the CFCC Student Fellows have been exposed to a hidden side of law that I suspect is concealed from even most practicing attorneys. 

This year also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the creation of Maryland’s Family Divisions.  While this major milestone deserves a celebration (stay tuned for a date), it is also a reason to pause, reflect, and assess the implementation of the mission and goals of the Family Division.  My CFCC project this semester was to assist in planning the fifteen year celebration, including analyzing survey results from Circuit Court Judges and Masters to learn about their attitudes and court practices with respect to addressing the needs of families and children in the family court.  The mission of the Family Division is to provide comprehensive services early on in the litigation process to improve the lives of families and children who appear before the court.  Preliminary survey results indicate that while judicial officers find it important to have and integrate interdisciplinary solutions, the implementation is lacking.  To see the concepts we’ve learned all semester being recognized and requested by the judiciary is encouraging.    

As we wrapped up this semester last Wednesday, I realized how influential this class has been to me.  This class has taught me to practice law more holistically, which not only will benefit clients but additionally will reassure me that I can make a substantial impact in the lives of my future clients.  I truly believe the experience and concepts of the CFCC Student Fellows Program should be integrated throughout the law school curriculum so that all future lawyers are trained to practice law more holistically.  Until then, I encourage my fellow students at UB Law to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity and enroll in the CFCC Student Fellows Program I to learn about the therapeutic side of law.    

Friday, November 15, 2013

Field Trip to the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center

On November 6, 2013, the Center for Families, Children and the Courts Student Fellows and professors visited the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center located at 300 North Gay Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. We were fortunate enough to receive a tour of the facility by Rudy Adams, the Center’s managing director. We first met with Mr. Adams in a conference room to learn a little about the Center itself and how the Center functions.

Mr. Adams explained that this Center is only 1 of 3 of its kind in the nation. People from all across the world have come to visit this Center to see how things are done. This Center is unique in part because it is a multi-agency facility with a combined inter-government workforce housing the following departments: Department of Human Resources (including Baltimore City’s Department of Social Services), Office of the Public Defender, Baltimore City State’s Attorneys’ Office, Community Family Resource Center, Baltimore City Circuit Court (Juvenile Division), Baltimore City Clerk of the Court Office (Division of Juvenile Clauses), Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, and Baltimore City Police Department. In addition to the aforementioned departments, there is also a detention center within the facility that provides residential housing for children in custody awaiting adjudication and disposition of delinquency cases.

I was amazed by this Center. I did not know it even existed prior to participating in the CFCC Student Fellows Program this semester. This Center is a great model for how Juvenile Justice should be handled. It was a one stop shop which seemed to make sense for an efficient handling of a case from beginning to end. Housing the multiple departments involved in these sorts of cases, all in one facility, is brilliant. Instead of having to waste time traveling or hearing back from another agency, you are only footsteps away.

Additionally, the tone of this facility was family friendly and fostered a welcoming atmosphere. There was artwork made by children in the community displayed in the hallways. There seemed to be several people within the agencies we passed on our tour who were dedicated to the Center’s mission and wanted to provide people in need with the resources available to assist them. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to tour this Center and hope to see replicates appear in other jurisdictions in the near future!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

CFCC Reflections

I became a Student Fellow with the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (“CFCC”) in the middle of August. All the Student Fellows have been participating steadily and importantly in class discussions and projects. A major focus has been to reform the family justice system. For example, different approaches such as the Ecology of Human Development and Therapeutic Jurisprudence are fused together to create a more sustainable family justice system. Working with CFCC, I learned that all families and children ought to have an effective and efficient court system.

I have taken what I have learned and continue to learn and use the skills within CFCC’s Truancy Court Program (TCP), in which I participate. I started my project with the TCP in the middle of September and have come a long way. I have had the privilege to work alongside the Honorable Yvette Bryant, Baltimore City Circuit Court Family Division, Judge-in-Charge. We pride ourselves in addressing the root causes of truant behavior and link families to needed social services or other community-based supports. Seeing the transformation of the students from week one to now week eight has been inspirational. For many of the students participating in the TCP, it is the first time someone has dedicated so much time and effort to help them succeed. Every week is a new challenge for the TCP team and for the students. We actually can see that the students are using the help and support with which they are provided. The students have been opening up more and are happy to start talking to the TCP team when they are doing well and are having a great week. Even when students have had a bad week or have missed unexcused days of school, they are starting to tell us right away and are offering solutions to their own problems so that they do not repeat the behavior. It is truly remarkable how the TCP is affecting the lives of many in a positive way. When the TCP team has to tell a student that we are disappointed in him/her, it leaves a long lasting impression. The student knows that the people across the table truly care and want to help.

There was one particular incident in which a student approached the TCP table with a parent. The parent clearly was not aware of the purpose of the TCP. As soon as the parent sat down, she had an attitude and would talk over the team members to make sure she was heard. The TCP team members began to explain one-by-one the goals we had for the student, why we were even involved in the school, and the resources we could offer. The main point we wanted to emphasize was that we were there to help. The parent began to settle down and actually listen to what the team members had to say. She grew very fond of the program and what it had to offer. The look on the parent’s face showed me that what we were doing was something special. It was as if she was asking, “Why are you taking time to help us?” She left the table with a completely different attitude and understanding. Since her first visit with us, she has attended the remainder of the TCP sessions.

Being a CFCC Student Fellow truthfully has been an amazing experience. I look forward to the discussions and the projects we explore. There have been many hands on experiences with CFCC field trips, which show the different areas of the family justice system. Some visits have included a tour of Baltimore City’s Family Division, observing Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court, and visiting Baltimore City’s Juvenile Justice Center. Each visit was very educational and an experience that I will not forget. I am proud to be a CFCC Student Fellow and look forward to continuing my Fellowship with University of Baltimore’s Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The "A "Team: An Inside Look At The Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court

On October 23, 2013 the CFCC Student Fellows visited the Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court. As we entered the court room, the first thing I noticed was a chalkboard with “The A Team” written on it.  I soon found out what that meant. When a participant remained drug-free and complied with treatment, his or her name would be written on the chalkboard as a member of “The A Team,” at which point everyone in the courtroom would give a round of applause. I was quite surprised because I had never seen something like this before.

When the clerk called the case, the Drug Court participant came to the “defendant’s” table in front of the Judge’s bench. There was one other person sitting next to the participant, and two people sitting at the “plaintiff’s” table.

I noticed the informal nature of the interaction between the Drug Court team members. The Judge was extremely friendly, even cheerful, and her positive attitude resulted in a calm atmosphere that is not usually felt in a court room. One member of the Drug Court team gave an update on how the participant had done since his/her last court appearance.  Depending on how long the participant remained drug free and complied with drug treatment, he/she would progress through several levels of the Drug Court Program, and eventually graduate.  

As I looked around the courtroom, I saw that most of the participants were middle-aged  African American men. I took note of the disparity in ethnicity and gender, which could be linked to Baltimore’s demographics.  As I watched the court administrator write the names of participants on the chalkboard, I wondered what the court did about those who did not make it on “The A Team.” We found out that those individuals still received encouragement and support.  For example, there were a couple of participants towards the end of the docket who had a negative progress report. I thought the Judge’s demeanor would change from cheerfulness to anger, but, instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see her disappointment and then encouragement.

The judge reprimanded the participant who had been caught drinking, and then handed down a sanction that did not include jail time. Instead, she ordered this individual to sit in Drug Court for two days. I later asked the judge why she gave that sanction and she explained how boring it was for someone to observe the court for an entire day.  However, this sanction served a second purpose: watching Drug Court participants succeed was a demonstration of each individual’s power to change himself or herself.  Further, the reprimanded participant had to listen to the many excuses made by people who relapse into drug and/or alcohol abuse and saw for himself or herself how ridiculous they sounded. 

When a participant did not get a good progress report, there was no applause.  However, there did not seem to be a negative vibe in the courtroom, either.  Instead, the judge would focus on the participant’s goals, motivate and encourage them to do better, and remind them that they were there to get help and the court was there to help them.

At the end of our visit, I asked who was on the Drug Court Program team.  I learned that they were the Judge, the public defender, the state’s attorney, the agent, the case manager, the clerk, the program director, the bailiffs, and the medical expert. I was surprise to see how everyone worked as a team, when I first walked into the courtroom.  In fact, I could not identify each person by his or her questions or demeanor.  I left with a good understanding of problem- solving courts and their purpose of rehabilitation instead of punishment.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Link between Truancy and the Local Bus System

With a weekly local bus ridership of 241,071, the MTA public bus system plays an oversized role in the daily lives of many Baltimore citizens1. It’s no exaggeration to say that our students’ success is dependent on the smooth running of the MTA local bus system. Without a private bus system to provide transportation to school, the students in the CFCC Truancy Court Program are at the mercy of their local bus. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a destructive issue if these same students didn’t also face other major barriers in their lives, all of which operate to prevent them from achieving consistent school success.

At our first orientation meeting at National Academy Foundation, one student expressed her frustration with the bus system. She identified the bus as being a major hurdle in getting to school on time, rattling off reasons: sometimes the bus is so full that it drives past her, it doesn’t get there on time, she has to walk six blocks each way to catch the only bus that brings her to NAF. These are not novel concerns, and she is hardly the first student to express irritation about the bus system when getting to and from school. In fact, the difficulties with the buses are a recurring theme at the TCP table and have been for many years.

Not heeding the wisdom of this ninth grader, I naively thought that my experience with the local bus would be different. The week following orientation I committed to take public transportation to the Truancy Court Program at NAF on Tuesdays from the Midtown area near University of Baltimore.

I was, of course, nervous about relying on the public bus system, especially given my lack of experience with public transportation. I didn’t have an easy time figuring out the schedule from the MTA website, so I mostly relied on Google directions and the kindness of strangers to help me find my way. There was, however, some optimism in me that I could make it work.

Imagine my excitement when, a few days after I committed to start taking public transportation, I successfully arrived at an internship placement using the #21 bus. Of course, that was a fail-proof attempt, as it didn’t much matter what time I showed up. Nonetheless, It was a huge relief to discover on that trip that the #21 bus passed NAF on its route. I had found a direct trip to NAF without having to change bus lines. How serendipitous, I thought! Plus, the entire experience was fairly pleasant and enjoyable. The day before I was scheduled to return to NAF for the Truancy Court Program, I tried the route again on my way to the internship placement. I picked up the #21 bus at the corner of Biddle and Calvert at 8:36am, boarding along with another passenger, who was standing with me.

The Tuesday morning when I was scheduled to be at NAF by 8:45am, I was at the same bus stop at the same time (8:25am) as I had been the day before. On this day, however, not only did the #21 bus not show up at the same time, it didn’t even stop. It drove right past me, even as I signaled to the driver. All I could think was that this is how our student felt when she, too, had been left at the bus stop while trying to get to school.

At this point, I knew I would be late getting to NAF, but I counted on the fact that another bus would come in 20-30 minutes. I felt confident that because it was peak hours, I would wait no more than 30 minutes for the next #21 to arrive. At 9:15am, there was no bus in sight. Even another 15 minutes of waiting didn’t help; after a total of forty-five minutes, I gave up. It was 9:30am and I knew that whenever the bus did come, I would not get to NAF in time to participate in the TCP.

Besides the embarrassment of this experience, I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness: I relied so brazenly on the public transportation system. Just as our students do every single day. I was confident that based on the previous day’s experience, I would be fine to expect a similar result the very next day. Sadly, the public transportation system in Baltimore is not a reliable mode of transportation, especially when there is an expectation of arriving at a specified time. How can our students possibly be expected to arrive to school every day on time when their means of transportation is inconsistent and unreliable? What can we tell them when they have no other means of getting to school?

To make the task of getting to and from school such a difficult challenge is to send the wrong message to our Baltimore City students. If public transportation isn’t a reliable, predictable means for them to get to elementary/middle/high school, then it won’t be a reliable means when they need it for post-secondary school, training courses, or employment opportunities. Our message through the work of the Truancy Court Program is that education is important, that it will lead to greater opportunities in life. We strive to enforce this message through our work, yet the issues with the public transportation system implicitly reinforce those insurmountable challenges that are part of the student’s macrosystem environment. Transportation is an unnecessary barrier to their success; making it better for all of Baltimore city’s citizens will mean a better future for our students, schools, and the city itself.

1 “MTA Facts and Figures.” Maryland Transit Administration. Retrieved from http://mta.maryland.gov/about-mta. Last visited October 23, 2013.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Problem-Solving Courts: A Look Into Maryland’s Drug Treatment Courts

This semester our CFCC Student Fellows Program class has learned a lot about different problem-solving courts, how they work, and what methods they use. Gray Barton, Executive Director for the Maryland Office of Problem-Solving Courts, spoke to us about different problem-solving courts that the state has implemented. He spoke specifically about drug treatment court and really explained how these courts are helping criminal defendants with addiction issues. Substance abuse is a serious problem in the United States, and Mr. Barton told us that 59.6% of the prison population are people who have been convicted of drug offenses.

After listening to Mr. Barton’s presentation, and doing a group project specifically on Family Drug Treatment Courts, I realized how important this type of problem-solving court is. Substance abuse is very complex and very difficult to deal with. It is a lifelong battle, and the addict must constantly work toward recovery. Addiction can make people do unimaginable things, such as steal, rob, and even physically harm another human being. With Maryland’s drug treatment courts, the main focus is to keep the person convicted of the crime under frequent supervision. The participant must come to regularly scheduled court reviews to monitor progress, and during the session the individual meets with a judge to discuss goals and treatment.

Along with these scheduled court reviews, there are home checks, frequent/random drug tests, and employment/education verifications. Maryland’s drug courts try to use non-adversarial methods to really help address the root of the problem behavior and give the participant the best chance at recovery. There are many different people who are a part of the participant’s team to ensure support and to provide a variety of perspectives. The focus is not simply punishment but rehabilitation.

I was very impressed with the way that Maryland is dealing with criminal defendants who have substance abuse problems. Without a specialized court, many times these people are referred to treatment centers, do not go through the necessary steps to recover, and commit the same crimes repeatedly. I think that serious intervention is needed in a lot of these cases, and it is important for there to be almost constant supervision at the beginning. Maryland drug treatment courts seem to hold the participant accountable and really work with that individual to recover and understand addiction.

This week our CFCC Student Fellows Program class is taking a field trip to observe a drug court in Baltimore City. I am really looking forward to seeing how this type of problem-solving court works in action. Being in law school, our learning is truly focused on the adversarial process. Learning about these alternative problem-solving approaches has really changed my thinking, and I believe that Maryland’s drug treatment courts will keep people from making the same mistake twice. What do you think about drug treatment courts? Or other problem-solving courts in general? Do you think that problem-solving courts are too “easy” on criminal defendants, or do you see these courts as helpful?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Incarceration Isn’t Always the Answer

The United States has the highest incarceration rates of any country in the world. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”), 1 in every 31 adults or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control. To me these numbers are upsetting. With these rates, one could reasonably think that the threat of incarceration would deter criminal activity or at least produce a deep reduction in crime. Unfortunately this is not the case. So how do we begin to fix this problem?

As a Student Fellow with the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (“CFCC”) at the University of Baltimore School of Law, I’ve become acquainted with a specialized tribunal called problem-solving courts. Despite being in my final year of law school, prior to this law school course, I had never heard about problem-solving courts. Unlike traditional courts, where prison sentences are used as a means to have criminals pay for their crimes, problem-solving courts focus on the underlying issues causing the crime. So for example, in a case where a defendant has committed a theft as a result of a drug addiction, in a problem- solving court the focus would be on how to restore this person through drug treatment. Whether the issue is substance abuse or mental illness, problem-solving courts use an integration of treatment services, close monitoring of the defendant, and collaboration with the community and other organizations to restore the defendant and strengthen the community.

While problem-solving courts are not a cure all, I believe that problem-solving courts are a step in the right direction. It is a form of therapeutic justice that should be utilized more frequently. Irrespective of our individual ideas on how to change the criminal justice system, I think we can all agree that something needs to change and soon. This sentiment is also reflected through the comprehensive review of the criminal justice system by the Department of Justice, commenced at the direction of the Attorney General earlier this year. The current rates of incarceration affect us all, and it’s an issue we should all be educated about. High incarceration rates hurt taxpayers,  affect the economy as imprisoned non-violent offenders who could be working are unable to, and  separate families. I'm not saying criminals should not be punished for their crimes, but let’s face it, the current system isn't working. If we are to begin moving forward as a community and as a nation we need to address the underlying issues surrounding crime. I encourage us all to start the discussion. How do you think we should begin to change and improve the criminal justice system?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Reflections on the Truancy Court Program

Only two sessions into the Truancy Court Program (“TCP”), I have already noticed a dramatic change in students’ attendance. While it is still early in the year, the students seem as though they want to make a genuine effort to attend school, be on time, and do well in their classes. However, one of the main goals of the TCP is to address the root causes of truant behavior. While we attempt to investigate what those causes are with each student who comes into the TCP sessions, sometimes it can be quite a challenge when the parents don’t attend sessions or don’t take an active role in their children’s’ day-to-day lives. Many parents are often oblivious to what their children are doing, especially in regard to their education. 

Upon reflection on the past two sessions at Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School’s TCP, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more we could do. Even with limited resources, how can we expand this program? I noticed that many parents don’t know how to discipline their children by setting rules and guidelines for them to follow. Some parents are simply too busy working multiple jobs to try to provide for their children. However, other parents just don’t have the basic parenting skills that can help their children succeed. One parent admitted that her children were late to school on numerous occasions, not because the children could not wake up in the morning, but because she had a difficult time waking up in the morning.

Even though our sessions are geared primarily toward the students and encouraging them to want to attend school, to set dreams and goals for themselves, I strongly believe that these are things that should begin at home. If the parents don’t encourage their children, don’t take school seriously, don’t set rules for the children, then why should the children be expected to do well? I believe we should hold sessions with only the parents. If many parents can’t take time off on Friday mornings to come to this school’s TCP session, we can discuss what other time may work to avoid scheduling conflicts. Is it reasonable to have even one session a month focused solely on the parents and geared toward assisting them to develop their parenting skills? I would like to give tips to the parents such as sample schedules they can set for their children from the time they come home from school to the time they should go to sleep. Sometimes parents leave all of their tasks for the morning, which makes the students late, so even tips such as making their lunches for the next day the night before or setting their clothes out the night before could be helpful. I believe that the root cause of most truant behavior begins with problems at home and if we can attempt to change or improve some of the parents’ behaviors, helping the students will be far simpler. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Two-Generation Approach for Workshops

How can we expect a child to succeed when the parent or caregiver is unequipped to assist the child? Children not only need assistance with homework and school projects, but also with social and emotional development.

Parents or caregivers who struggle with their own emotional, financial and/or mental problems often encounter challenges in addressing the needs of their children.  Children need a stable home and caregivers who are equipped with the skills necessary to be successful parents.   In order for children to reach their potential, it is useful to adopt a two-generation approach that focuses on a parent’s needs as well as those of the child.  By addressing  issues that affect parents, such as language barriers, financial problems, and educational need, we also help the child.

After all, how can we expect parents to help their children with homework, for instance, if they themselves cannot read?  Assisting a child without assessing the parents’ or caregivers’ needs is like putting a cast on a broken leg without resetting the bone. Eventually, the leg may heal, but it will never heal correctly.  The child’s needs  will be met best by involving his/her caregiver, as well.

So what do we do? How can we best help parents or caregivers? A two-generation focus looks at each situation separately to determine the needs of the child and caregiver.   The Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) understands the importance of parents and caregivers in the child’s life. CFCC Student Fellows are developing a parents’ workshop this fall to offer information to parents about student disabilities and where parents/caregivers can go for help within both the legal and education communities.  

What other workshop topics do you think would be helpful? Is it helpful to consider parents’ needs when addressing a child’s problems in school?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why the Unified Family Court System in Maryland is a Model for Success

Last Wednesday, the Student Fellows with the University of Baltimore Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (“CFCC”) took a “field trip” to the Baltimore City Circuit Court Family Division.  The Division’s coordinator, T. Sue German gave the Student Fellows a tour of the center and explained the role the Division plays in Baltimore City.  

Justice reform in Maryland was formally launched in January of 1998 when the judges of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, headed by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, signed Rule 16-204.  Babb, Barbara A., Maryland’s Family Divisions: Sensible Justice for Families and Children, 72 Md. L. Rev. 1124 (2013).  Thus far, the focus of much of our CFCC seminar has been on looking at law reform through different lenses.  For example, Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Preventive Law together work to create a justice system that focuses on preventing future conflicts and resolving disputes in a more “client-centered” way.

The tour was an opportunity for us as students to see how these theories play a role every day in Baltimore City’s Family Division.  While much was discussed during our visit, one fact that stood out was that from July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012 (Fiscal Year 2012), in eighty-nine percent (89%) of the cases in the Division, at least one of the litigants appeared pro se.   Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Annual Report of the Family Division Fiscal Year 2012 (Oct. 15, 2012).  Although unsure, I can imagine this is the case in most courts, as clients with family law matters are not afforded the same right to counsel as those in criminal. 

The Division has established many resources for represented and unrepresented clients and has seen tremendous success from these efforts, making Baltimore City a model for an effective “Unified  Family Court” System.  However, budget cuts impair the ability of the Division to reach its full potential.  With family law disputes making up such a large percentage of the cases in the Circuit Court system, budget cuts relate to the lack of resources available these clients.  Even in Baltimore City, where the State’s highest court has endorsed and supported the Family Division, they still struggle with budget issues.  

I pose a few reflection questions for you to think about:
  • If these efforts are proven to be successful, why are they then not being incorporated into more legal systems?
  • If justice is the goal, then why do we as a society allow so many clients to be unrepresented in family law cases, thus hindering their ability to receive the justice they deserve?
While the simplest answer is of course budget cuts, there is a lot of support showing that these models help to decrease repetitive appearances by the same clients over and over and are both more efficient and effective.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reflecting on the Unified Family Court Structure

As someone who has interned at a Family Law firm, it came as quite a shock to hear about the concept of a unified family court for the first time this semester. It seemed with all the benefits a unified family court could provide, one would think this type of court would be offered everywhere. A unified family court is a single court system composed of highly trained, specially assigned judges who preside over cases addressing the issues relating to children and families. This type of court implements a one case to one judge or one team type system.

With this system in place, a judge will be assigned to a family law case and handle all their related family legal needs. This allows one judge to become quite familiar with a case and family assigned to them. Instead of having several judges assigned to different issues, one judge would stay with the same family throughout the case. This prevents conflicting orders being issued by different judges. If more than one judge was assigned to a separate issue for a family, it would be possible for that court to issue an order that conflicts with another judge’s order. Overall, having this one judge to one case model is more efficient and personal for families in their time of need. 

However, with all the benefits a unified family court can offer, there are bound to be some flaws. In a divorce case for instance, one parent may feel like the judge is being biased against them. In a case like that, the parent would prefer to have a different judge assigned to several legal issues rather than being stuck with the same judge throughout their entire legal process. That parent may feel like the judge is out to get them and side with the other parent regardless of the issue. 

The main question comes down to: Do unified family courts have the potential to do more good or exacerbate possible harm?  What do you think?