The recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Bayev and others versus Russia has implications for the Hon. Judge Randall F Pacheco who sits in the George Deukmejian courthouse in Long Beach of the Los Angeles Superior Court. In an ongoing case involving child custody of two lesbians who adopted their son from Russia Judge Pacheco took it upon himself to suggest that there was something wrong with lesbians deceiving the Russian authorities about their sexual orientation and status.
It is intuitively obvious that Russia discriminates against LGBT people. In spite of that Judge Pacheco gave credence to the horrendous laws against gay people in Russia who are prohibited from adopting children amongst other things. Discrimination against gay people is so overt that laws were passed against so-called homosexual propaganda under the pretext that promoting the rights of LGBT people could be construed as an attempt to lure children into a same-sex lifestyle. These laws have been struck down as violating not only the European Convention on Human Rights but also the Russian Constitution itself.
Underscoring the horrendous treatment of gay people in Russia are the concentration/torture camps that LGBT people are being subjected to in Chechnya. For more on this veritable pogrom against the gay community see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/world/europe/chechnya-russia-attacks-gays.html
If these prospective lesbian parents had told the truth to the Russian authorities they would never have been allowed to adopt their son. It’s long been held ever since Marbury versus Madison in 1803 that an unconstitutional law is not a law; the legal significance of an unconstitutional law or government practice is that it might as well have never existed before or after a court gets around to declaring it unconstitutional. This goes for Russia the same as it goes for the United States and certainly that’s the way Judge Pacheco should have ruled in the Long Beach Courthouse.
When it comes to family law any American judge who gives any credibility to the legal shenanigans that go on in Russia needs to be carefully scrutinized. For example in a well reported move in late January 2017 the Russian parliament voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence unless it causes substantial bodily injury or occurs more than once a year. In other words you get to beat your wife or child once a year and God knows what they mean by substantial bodily injury. Like, is it okay to just bruise them or give them a black eye just as long as you don’t break any bones?
Russian diplomatic authorities have attempted in the past to call into question the legitimacy of this adoption. Their obvious intent is to force this now 14-year-old American child to come back to Russia, because of Russia’s abhorrence of the rights of LGBT people. Judge Pacheco has effectively aided and abetted the sick and authoritarian Russian government with his words that are a part of the court record.
USA Today reported that:
Critics of the new measure warned it would encourage domestic violence and fuel crime.
“This bill would establish violence as a norm of conduct,” Communist lawmaker Yuri Sinelshchikov said during the debate.
Women’s rights lawyer Mari Davtyan told The Moscow Times
(https://themoscowtimes.com/news/they-fought-the-law-russia-edges-closer-to-decriminalizing-domestic-violence-56882) that the legislative moves are dangerous and “send a message that the state doesn’t consider familial battery fundamentally wrong anymore.”
The 14-year-old adopted from Russia, as a baby, who has now grown up to be a typical California 14-year-old youth, is thankfully now protected by article 1 section 1 of the California Constitution which states “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” If he lived in Russia however his rights to life liberty safety and happiness would all be compromised because it would be perfectly legal to subject him to domestic violence.
Enter the Trump connection
A recent development in scandals surrounding Donald Trump’s campaign having meetings with Russians linked to the Russian government and to Vladimir Putin all of a sudden has highlighted the issue of Americans who adopted children from Russia. See https://www.ft.com/content/38532856-6584-11e7-8526-7b38dcaef614?mhq5j=e1
Ostensibly, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort of the Donald Trump for Pres. campaign in a purported effort to end the ban instituted by Vladimir Putin on Americans adopting children from Russia due to the passage of the Magnitsky Act, an American law passed to sanction specific Russians involved in corruption that had been exposed by a Russian lawyer for whom the act is the named. Attorney Magnitsky died in a Russian prison beaten to death in his cell, conveniently.
In the event that the general policy of Donald Trump’s administration becomes the law of the land and the Magnitsky act is repealed, resulting in the resumption of Russian adoptions by Americans, the United States should not allow such adoptions unless and until Russia allows equal participation by LGBTI Americans. That is the only way we can be consistent with the United States Constitution and international law, not to mention common decency.
Conflicts of interest?
The judicial canons of ethics for California require that a judge not only not engage in impropriety but additionally they must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. According to the 2010 California judge’s bench guide regarding disqualification of a judge a judge should disqualify him or herself if “A person who was aware of the facts might reasonably entertain a doubt about the judge’s impartiality….”
In spite of the fact that in addition to his salary as a judge, Judge Pacheco reports receiving in excess of $100,000 per year as an educator for the Huntington Beach Union High School District on his form 700 statement of economic interests he has failed to disqualify himself from participating in this case. The appearance of impropriety involves the fact that in addition to having its own police department the high school district also uses the services of the Huntington Beach Police Department. The Huntington Beach Police Department is designated by the judge as the pickup and drop off point for the minor child, one of the mothers being a resident of Orange County. Because of that fact Huntington Beach PD officers are witnesses in this case and one of the litigants reports that Judge Pacheco in a past ruling refused to allow evidence or testimony from HP PD on issues relevant to child visitation and custody.
As a teacher for the high school district can Judge Pacheco afford to piss off police officers who he might depend on for protection and assistance in the case of an emergency at the school he teaches at? In such a situation wouldn’t a reasonable person consider this a conflict of interest, and a clear appearance of impropriety?
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