Florence Snyder: A Valentine to Judge Carithers — thank you for being embarrassed

Duval County Circuit Judge Hugh Carithers

An unvarnished, unqualified apology is hard to find these days, so let’s take a moment to thank Duval County Circuit Judge Hugh Carithers for reminding us what it looks like.

Last month, the 1st District Court of Appeal repealed an unfortunate order of a Jacksonville-based hearing officer, and replaced it with a reminder that hearing officers do not have the authority to put people in jail for failing to pay child support.

When the Jacksonville Times-Union came calling for the view from the bench of the judges for whom the errant hearing officer works, Carithers — who heads up the family court division — did not circle the wagons. He did not hide behind flacks. There was no whining about #FakeNews and no babbling about “lessons learned.”

In a narcissistic time when hardly anybody is ever embarrassed about anything, Carithers told the T-U that “It was wrong. It was just wrong what happened to this guy. It’s embarrassing to me. It’s embarrassing to all the family judges.”

There are bigger issues here about the hiring and training of hearing officers that Jacksonville’s bench and bar will need to sort. Happily, there’s good reason to believe that the local legal community is up to the task under the watchful eye of reporters who check dockets that most newspapers ignore. Carithers did not blink at the uncomfortable truth that “this was a breakdown of the system, and the judges should’ve exercised more oversight.”  Instead of the usual plateful of empty promises to “make sure this never happens again,” Carithers served up a more modest and more credible “I’m pretty sure we’ve righted this ship. … “

At any given time, around 15,000 family court cases are on “the ship” where Carithers and his colleagues serve as captains. Litigants need and deserve judges who aren’t afraid to be embarrassed by mistakes on their watch.


Florence Snyder

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.

One comment

  • Glen Gibellina

    June 2, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Florida Family Courts among the worst in the country
    Closed doors, no video, lack of due process on and on and on

    Public Apathy and Lack of Accountability in Family Court are Damaging Our Children

    By Dr. Leon R. Koziol
    The public is generally unaware that our federal government rewards the states by the number and magnitude of support awards generated in their family courts. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that such incentive grants make the decision makers inherently biased against fathers. Support obligations are artificially hiked through such judge-created fictions as imputed income. Fathers comprise 82% of support debtors per our Census Bureau.
    Think of it! A lawyer can now charge thousands of dollars in up front fees and billable hours during protracted litigation and then double dip on the back side by getting a third of the actual support intended for the children. The state typically gets all the interest generated off these awards in addition to a custodial fee and the federal incentive money.
    Go see Divorce Corp on Netflex …..https://youtu.be/HfRDZ4iOnSo
    More money passes through family law courts than all the other courts combined. Corrupt judges have unchecked power over your personal finances and your childrens’ lives. The lawyers are likely contributing to the judge’s re-election campaign.

    These are the disturbing claims that two groups working to change America’s family court system agree upon. But they haven’t joined forces because the groups — domestic violence victim advocates and men’s rights activists — are often at odds with each other.

    “The rub is whether a parent accused of abuse is really a good parent being falsely accused,” said Joseph Sorge, who has organized an unprecedented November 15-16 conference in Virginia that brings members of both groups together. “I recognize there are bad people and molesters. These are issues that have to be dealt with.”

    Sorge wrote and directed a new documentary, Divorce Corp, that takes on the $50 billion a year divorce industry and advocates for shared parenting to be the default position of the courts.
    As always …….FOLLOW THE MONEY

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