Wednesday August 12th, 2009
# Stacy Phillips (family law attorney explains concepts of family law and "DISSOMASTER" program; testimony complete)
# Cynthia Nichols (Orange Co. DDA who worked the child support request from Sarah Key-Marer; testimony complete)
# Joni Dodge (social worker who investigated allegation of child abuse; testimony complete)
Once I get a seat on the train, I see a perfect example of a "bad tattoo." People never cease to amaze me as to what they think is a positive expression of their inner soul. At least I make the 8:20 am train. It appears that we are finished with the character witnesses and are starting with the "professional" witnesses which would be (I find out later) several attorneys and LA Co. Sheriff's personnel. The tattoo pattern on the young man's left arm matches the design on the whitewall of the man's bicycle. And what is this new thing I'm seeing where the men's pants, the seat of their pants is, completely off their ass? I mean, even the belt on the dropped drawers I'm looking at now is tightened on this man's body, at the top edge of his legs. How does someone WALK like that? Amazing. The full view of the man's patterned boxers is there for everyone to see.
Inside 107, over on the defense side the pretty under-eighteen girl is back in the courtroom speaking with the defense clerk. Ted is here with Patty. Ted is wearing a blue and white, square-patterned short sleeved shirt. Sarah looks lovely today in a brown and black long sleeved lace top, black skirt and black heels. Two of her friends are with her. Patty is wearing a light gray jacket with black slacks.
There is a very attractive, well dressed professional woman in a striking short sleeve orange suit. She's texting on a blackberry and I'm admiring a nice, large leather trapezoid handbag. She's wearing a solid diamond bracelet on her left wrist, and her shoulder length hair is worn in a slight flip.
There appears to be some problem locating evidence, or something, but since it isn't needed for the first witness, the jury is called in. Judge Pastor wants to get things rolling. Just as I thought, the orange suited woman is our first witness, STACY PHILLIPS.
Brown appears to be looking over at the witness. I note that she leaves her purse and leather handbag in the gallery bench row in front of me. Phillips is a family law attorney and divorce attorney. She opened her own practice over 20 years ago. She now has her own firm with 12 associates. She has won numerous awards in her career. She's a certified Family Law Specialist for ten years now. She explains her "AV" rating. A= substantive ability; V = morals. She has been an AV rated lawyer since she first applied. She's been recognized in various legal publications. As I listen to her CV, it's clear this woman is a heavy hitter. She's been recognized by many law organizations and "best of" listings. Listed as one of top women litigators by the Daily Journal for many years. Also selected by Best Lawyers, which goes through a vetting process. She's also written a book on divorce that is in it's fourth edition. She's been on TV a number of times, including recently regarding Michael Jackson. She has guest taught and lectured and numerous law schools. Her CV runs to 12 pages, and is entered as People's #86.
SP: It's probably not as up-to-date since I gave it to you several months ago.
Phillips explains to the jury the concept of family law, visitation and support payments. There is a formula in the Family Law code that is run on a special computer program. It effectuates the status of each parties income. The program takes into account all the various items that will affect child support payments. One of the factors that affect the amount of support paid is custody. The formula takes into account "time share" of parents.
SP: Joint physical custody is just a label. It doesn't mean 50-50. [...] It is a label designed (for) parents where (they are) sharing custody. [...] LEGAL CUSTODY is different and concerns the education, health and welfare of the child. (Who decides these issues.) Joint legal custody decides, where the child goes to school, the pediatrician, wither the child can get a driver's license or not, have surgery. [...] There is a difference between that and sole custody. [...] Sole legal custody means on parent can make those decisions on their own. [...] Custody decision is based on the best interest of the child. [...] The decision for "time share" is based on the best interest of the child. [...] If the parent's agree (on all of the above) the court is not involved.
Phillips states that "primary physical custody" is not a label in the Family Law Code. Divorce law has used it for years, that one parent has more time than the other.
CH: Did you review a family law file (concerning Lauren Key).
SP: Yes, I did.
CH: What is graduated visitation?
SP: I would use the term, "step up" visitation plan. [...] It's something the court or the parents can agree on as well. [...] It increases the time with the non-custodial parent.
CH: What is mediation efforts by the parties?
SP: To get a resolution without court intervention. [...] California has a requirement that mediation (occur) before the court is involved.
Phillips explains mediation. [....] The first ten visits were monitored by the mother. Phillips is asked to spell out and explain the computer program. DISSOMASTER. It's a trademarked name. It's (she believes) used by all courts in LA County and she believes by all counties in the State.
CH: Is it calculated the same now as it was in 2000?
SP: Except for the tax rate, so the resulting numbers will be different. [...] All calculations are contained in DISSOMASTER [...] as set in statute.
Judge Pastor has the witness clarify that "statute" is Family Law Code.
The witness states the amount of "time share" does have an impact on the resulting numbers.
CH: What is basic child support?
SP: That's the number that gets spit out. [...] There are potentially "add-ons." Those don't go into the calculation, the program just adds those figures on. [...] Generally child-care is split 50-50.
Add-ons would be extra curricular activities such as cub scouts, books, (dance lessons, etc.) The witness also explains arrearages.
SP: That's the amount of child support paid because it wasn't paid when supposed to be.
The witness explains the ways available to reduce child support.
1. Find out if the other side is making more money.
2. Person seeking support if their income has been reduced.
3. Paying parent, increasing the visitation time.
The decrease in income is discussed.
SP: The court could find that the reduction was done for an improper purpose. [...] Even if not earning it, still considered to be earning.
The witness gives an example. If the paying parent quits their job so as not to pay child support. The sharing of child-care expense is an add-on. (Day-care; preschool.) That's not affected by the reduction in income. The input into the DISSOMASTER program is based on the information stated in the declaration documents.
SP: Both parents are required to fill out information on the forms and sign under penalty of perjury.
To verify information, the court can use tax returns, pay stubs, loan applications. For a change, reduction in support, generally the parties must fill out updated income expense declarations.
The prosecution asked her to obtain DISSOMASTER programs for 1998, 1999 and 2000.
The next bit of testimony was very confusing I have in my notes she ran the program for the parties 1998. The result was:
$787 child support
$195 child care
$ 50 arrears
On July 22, 1999, the biological father filed a request for 32% visitation and reduction in support, (? next part) called an order to show cause. (I believe my notes states both mother and father filed updated financial documents.)
CH: If the father had 32% visitation, what would the amounts be?
People's #44, A document output from the program in 1999 is put up on the overhead screen, that included the father had 32% visitation. Phillips goes over the numbers on this form. $4246 father's wage/salary. $2564 mother? Mother declared childcare at $260.00 Father declared $15. insurance, $39. union dues. If the custody by the father was 32%, then the base child support would be:
$406 child support
$130 child care
The amount would be $536. rather than over $900, a reduction of over $400.00 a month.
In July, 22, 2000 the defendant again filed, claiming wanted 50% visitation with new (income/expense) declarations. The witness calculated the child support with DISSOMASTER based on that request. A document, People's #45 is put up on the screen.
Judge Pastor asks the jury which they like best in the lighting of the courtroom to see the documents up on the overhead screen.
The add-on child care at that time was $400. The witness states that in 2000, the DISSOMASTER would not allow you to use 50-50 custody. The closest she could come was to use the figure 49%. On this input, it lists both parents are married with new spouses. The defendant's income was listed as $3796; the mother's $1844. The defendant listed as an expense he was paying property taxes and (I believe) something about mortgage interest. The defendant also listed union dues.
The DISSOMASTER program, using those figures came out with these amounts:
$225 child support
$200 child care
So with 49% custody by the father, the payment would have been $425 a month rather than $982 a month. About $557 dollars less.
CH: How does the basic child support change as the child ages.
SP: It would not change if the child got older. [...] It would only change by previously mentioned factors. [...] Add-on's can change. They can increase or decrease. Private school, tuition is more expensive as the child gets older. [...] Child support ceases when a child reaches 18 or if 18 and still in high school, when the child completes high school.
The witness is asked about adoption.
SP: The parent who has given up the child pays no support and has given up (their) rights.
There are many questions about spousal income and how it relates to child support.
SP: New mate income is not supposed to be considered.
Although there are areas in DISSOMASTER that label a parent remarried, no matter what the current spouse's income is, it is not considered in DISSOMASTER. The income of the spouse should not affect the amount of support. That is the Family Code now, and the same back in 2000. New spouse income is not supposed to be considered for the pay spouse.
The witness verifies that California is a community property state. Ted gets up and leave the courtroom. Now there are many questions about California property laws and how they apply. The witness states that when a couple marries, they don't automatically get 1/2 of each others assets unless they sign a document declaring the co mingling of their property and signing over those assets.
There are more questions about how a house does not become joint property unless it is executed in writing and the other party is put on the deed. Now, if the non-owning spouse pays part of the mortgage or property tax from co-mingled funds, the non-owner gets a small percentage of that value.
SP: What two parties bring to the marriage, remains theirs. [...] (Let's say, instead of being a lawyer, you spend the day trading portfolios. One would say your spouse should benefit. [...] Anything earned from working (while in the marriage) is 50-50, but not passive earnings (such as real estate sales or interest income from assets). Filing a joint tax return doesn't change that.
CH: What is an ex parte order to stop visitation?
SP: It's an emergency motion. [...] Normally each side is given three weeks for the other party to reply. [...] Sometimes you can do it without notifying the other party... the next day.
Hum now asks the witness about a change in custody. A hypothetical I believe. A four-year-old child, with the father having no involvement from birth, getting full custody of the child.
SP: Assuming mom didn't agree and she's still alive, the court would have to find something very wrong with that mother (brain unconscious), something so dramatically wrong to necessitate removal of the child.
CH: Does the law require that an increase in visitation is an automatic reduction in child support?
The witness gives an example of an increase in visitation with no change in support amount can still be a win-win for both sides.
There was a bit more to her testimony, but that's all I have notes on. She testified pretty fast and some of the jargon was technical.
Harris gets up to cross and Ted is back inside the courtroom.
Harris states he has some confusion as to how income and expense is applied. (I think) he asks who decides what numbers should be input into the system. I believe the witness states the court has discretion. She explains how the court determines what income and expense number are.
SP: The court literally has the computer program on the court's desk. [...] But ultimately, the judge makes the decision if parties don't agree. [...] The court ultimately is the one who plugs in and arrives at a figure. [...] If the court deviates from the numbers, then the court must show why.
The witness states the court must give a valid reason why they have deviated from the DISSOMASTER program's figures.
Harris asks about a spouse like Donald Trump. Let's say, the mother married someone wealthy. The witness states the court is not allowed to change the support just because of a wealthy spouse. Harris asks about a "new" marriage.
SP: The length of marriage of new spouses doesn't matter.
Harris goes over the three options to lowering child support. He states that there is a 4th, if one parent chooses to adopt.
SP: Legally, on paper the paying spouse no longer has to pay support. (They) then have no rights or responsibilities.
Harris asks about arrearages.
SP: Depends on what is worked out.
If there are arrearages, they would still be due and owing. The paying parent would be responsible for them.
Harris brings up the point that the basis for reduction in support (via increased visitation) is the custodial parent's expenses would increase.
PH: When you get 50% custody you get child 50% of the time?
SP: Supposed to be.
A suited black man comes into court and goes over to the clerk's desk. Mavis smiles and greets him. He gives her a kiss on the cheek.
PH: Suppose that if Mr. Brown got 50% custody, his expenses would increase?
I believe the witness answers, "Quite a bit."
PH: Has anyone ever tried to do, go out to do, any studies as to how much it costs to take care of an average child?
The witness explains the difficulty of that study. On the other end of the spectrum, I believe she states she did (some type of) study on how much it costs to raise a wealthy 2-year-old on the West Side and it's very expensive!
I don't take much in the way of notes. Harris tries to make a big deal that the witness was under the impression the mother was not married when she filed her first declaration. The bottom line is for the DISSOMASTER program, this information is not relevant. It doesn't figure into the equation.
PH: Did anyone ask you how much Mr. Brown would be paying in expenses if he got 50-50 custody?
The break is taken at 10:40 am. There is a friendly discussion between the attorneys and the witness as to how much longer the witness will be on the stand.
Harris and Veretsian whisper. A woman with a rolling file car comes in to speak to Hum. It's something about the next witness. Veretsian and the defense clerk chat at the benches on the left side of the courtroom. I have in my notes that Harris knows that this is an "unknowable" amount for Brown. This woman is one sharp attorney. She has not been tripped up by an question thrown at her.
Ms. Benson and Detective Leslie discuss "gumbo." Judge Pastor enters from his chambers and takes the bench while reading what looks like a law reference book. There was some sort of witty exchange between the witness and Harris. She says she was trying to think of a witty comeback to Harris, but the witness says she was stumped or something to that effect. It's pleasant banter between the witness and counsel in the well. Now I think Harris and the witness are chatting about a judge....no, maybe another lawyer. It's very friendly banter.
The families from both sides enter, and the cross by Harris continues.
Harris hands the witness a document but since it's not "date stamped" she cannot say if it is a document that she's reviewed. Harris enters this document as Defense exhibit "Y." I thin it's possibly the first income and expense declaration filled out by Cameron Brown.
SP: It says "Cameron Brown" but I don' know if that's his signature.
The actual form is put on the screen. It's dated July 22, 1999. Harris goes over all the expenses on the form. His rent is $500. Harris asks the witness if the total expenses on this form are $880.
SP: That's what it says. I've not added it.
PH: You've seen people try to inflate expenses? [...] They may inflate their expenses?
I think Harris continues with, "But you've said before, there's not supposed to be a correlation?
SP: In order to do a DISSOMASTER, I didn't need his expenses.
PH: I'm not asking that. [...] Do the courts try to verify that information.
SP: No. [...] The court in and of itself, no. Although in the course of investigating, it may look at tax returns to see what the deduction was.
The witness doesn't recall seeing pay stubs or tax returns in the file.
SP: I don't recall tax returns. I"m less sure of pay stubs.
Harris asks her if she received the file directly from the LA Co. DA's office.
PH: So you just assumed that the entire file was complete?
She states that she is not allowed to go to Orange County and just look at the file herself, because it's a custody case.
More questions about Brown's income. The witness states she saw a fluctuation in his (Brown's) income but she's not sure how she gleaned that information. Income would be calculated if the paying parent also had overtime.
PH: Would the court take into consideration if the defendant wanted to work less overtime to spend time with his daughter?
SP: If the proper document(s) is put before the court. [...] The court could do that, absolutely.
Harris asks if a court facilitator is someone at the courthouse who helps people fill out these forms.
SP: Not every courthouse has that. It's not necessarily provided by the court it's a resource that's available.
PH: Expenses. If they increase, dramatically, can you go back to the court and ask for a modification?
SP: No. [...] Generally speaking, no.
The witness give an example. Say, you bought a bigger house and bigger mortgage to get lower child support. That expense would not be taken into consideration for child support.
However, if your child has special needs, autism, and there's no court ordered state aid, so you have extra expenses or a learning disabled child, you can court to have other spouse share expenses.
PH: What happens if for example your father (gets ill) and you now have to support him and your expenses go up dramatically.
SP: Court does not take it into calculations. It doesn't matter.
Now there are questions about contentious child custody cases after divorce.
PH: What you saw in the file is pretty much what you see on a daily basis?
PH: When you represent fathers, sometimes they feel like they're paying too much?
PH: Sometimes they feel like the mothers are spending too much money on frivolous things?
SP: Well, I don't know what they feel.
Now questions about fathers who care very much for their children.
PH: A "step-up" plan, (that's) to make a child be comfortable?
SP: That's the goal.
PH: You've seen.. children who don't want to go? [...] You've seen, young child, introduced to this new environment are upset; don't want to go.
SP: That's a fair statement.
Harris asks the witness about co mingling of funds.
PH: If one party owns a house then the other party starts making payments, would that be co mingling?
That's the end of cross and redirect begins.
Hum goes back to the ways to reduce child support. Adoption, by the other parties spouse.
CH: There's a fifth. The child dies. [...] And that's what happened here.
redirect ends and recross begins.
PH: The fourth option to sign a piece of paper and have the child adopted.
There's some discussion about if adoption was not offered, as well as the father could go to the other party. Harris brings up the point that the defendant did not (?) or agree to adoption.
The witness is finished and a new witness is called.
Nichols is a nicely dressed woman who might be in her late 20's to mid 30's. She conservatively dressed in a navy skirt suit. Back in 1998-1999 she was a paid law clerk in Orange County. (I don't have in my notes if she was paid by the Orange County Family Court, or where.)
Once she passed the bar, she started working (I believe for the DA) in Orange County, handling family court issues. She had various responsibilities in family court. Wage assessment; garnishment of wages sent directly to the DA's office.
(I miss the first part of what she describes as her duties. My note only says If rec welfare...)
If a custodial parent asks for assistance on child support, they establish paternity and initiate child support orders. Hum has his witness step through the process for filing for child support, and then the steps the DA's office goes through to follow through.
CN: In the process, (The DA's office) doesn't represent the custodial parent. They work for the state. They are not an interested party, just acting as enforcement agency.
The witness states a facilitator position is not allowed to give legal advice, just help fill out forms.
CN: The DA's office isn't involved in custody issues, just involved in obtaining child support.
The cases in family court verses criminal court, each case is assigned a unique case number. Once filed, the document contains a date stamp in the top right.
CH: An order to show cause is, "I want the court to address these issues?"
The family court case file is 98FL000302. In April, 1997, the mother filed for support. Initially the father denied paternity. Paternity was established. On February 11th, 1999 the defendant was ordered to pay child support.
CH: That initial amount, was that originally agreed to by all parties?
CN: I believe so, if I could take a look at the document.
Hum hands the witness People's #34.
The prosecution and the defense stipulate that the judgement was for $982.00 + $50.00 for back child support. Hum asks her if that total's a certain amount and the witness won't add on the stand in her head. Judge Pastor offers a calculator and states the amount is $1032.
JP: (To Mr. Harris) So stipulate?
PH: I'd like to see the calculator. (Courtroom laughter) So stipulate.
More documents from the child custody file are introduced. People's #35. The defendant requested 32% custody. It's dated 7-22-1999.
To me, the jury looks bored. Several in the back row are leaning back in their chairs.
On the declaration filled out by the defendant it states:
"I am requesting modification of child support. I cannot afford to pay the amount currently ordered."
The witness appeared on the case a number of times.
CH: Was the amount reduced from $1032. to $200?
That was based on testimony that Cameron Brown stated in court he was on disability and only receiving $800.00 a month.
A transcript, People's #65. This is a transcript of the hearing in which the defendant swore under oath the reason he requested a reduction in child support." ( I don't have the date of this hearing.)
The hearing was held in front of a commissioner, who represents a judge.
The defendant also filed an amended income and expense declaration, four pages dated 1-10-2000, People's #41.
CH: At the conclusion of the defendant's testimony under oath, did the judge reduce (the amount)?
CN: (He) temporarily reduced it to $250.00.
Hum presents another document, People's #42, the minutes of the court order, showing the reduction to $250.00 a month.
I look over to my left and I notice Ted is no longer in the courtroom. Patty is leaning forward in her seat. Her elbows are resting on the short wall that separates the well from the gallery. Her hands are resting on her chin. I wonder how she is comfortable in this position.
11:50 am: A spectator enters. People's exhibit #66 a 7 page transcript is entered into evidence where the defendant testified under penalty of perjury in 2000. Prior to the hearing (I believe my notes say) the pay stubs were reviewed or they emerged during the hearing. The pay received was $1110.00 or approximately 4400.00 a month.
CH: At the hearing, did the judge reinstate the original child support?
The defendant's OSC (order to show cause) motion was denied, the judge ordered to reinstate the original child support. The court's order is introduced into evidence as People's #67.
The court order also made on 3-20-2000, People's #68, fur child support. Judge vacates temporary order and reinstates original order.
Ted and Patty are whispering to each other. Judge Pastor whispers for Ms. Benson to come over to the bench.
CH: As part of the motion the judge denies, did Sarah Key-Marer file a declaration as well?
People's #2 is entered into evidence.
CH: Does that appear to be Ms. Key-Marer's response, dated 7-22-1999, to the defendant's OSC?
CH: Ms. Nichols, do you know what is a "730" exam?
CN: Yes.. It's an exam to help establish child custody. They want to now how visitation is affecting the child.
People's #36 is entered into evidence. This appears to be a letter from Ira Gorman (sp?).
PH: Objection! Lacks foundation!
JP: Is that a letter from the (custody) court file?
JP: 1220; 1280. Overruled!
CH: In the letter Mr. Gorman states the exam was not able to be performed because the defendant was unable to pay?
I copy a portion of the letter either up on the screen or spelled out in testimony
"He is unable to pay for any portion of the examination."
I believe they take the noon break because my notes now go into an issue with Alternate #2. This juror is working nights and he tells the judge (I think through a note at first) that he's falling asleep in court. He is spending considerable effort to hang in here.
JP: I very much need you to continue. I'm going to ask you to hang in there.
The juror agrees that he will go along with that.
After the juror leaves, Judge Pastor addresses counsel.
JP: He seems to have the right attitude.
Brown speaks with Harris. He's still at the defense desk and not leaving into the little detainment area. He's still chatting with Harris who's looking at papers and talking with the defendant. When Brown goes into the little room, I note that Brown doesn't even look back at his wife to give her a smile.
In the cafeteria I run in Jean Daly who brings me up to speed on Alan Jackson's latest case. It probably won't be tried until next spring. I also overhear at another table during lunch that Geargos is representing a Building & Safety superintendent who has now been arrested on sexual assault charges.
1:27 pm: Judge Pastor is back on the bench. I note that once the prosecution has cleared certain binders from their extensive collection, they go on the back tables behind them.
1:30 pm: Judge Pastor asks the witness to retake the stand. Harris comes to talk with Patty and Patty takes notes. Brown looks at the jury as they file in. Mavis is the court reporter for the afternoon session.
CH: When we left off, the defendant had filed an order to show cause (OSC) requesting 32% visitation. On 3/20/2000, that OSC was denied.
The defendant filed another OSC and reduction of child support on 7-22-2000, people's #37, 7 page document. Again it's mentioned that the statements are filed under penalty of perjury.
On page 6 of the document, there is an area that states, "issues before the court." Issue #2 is in the middle of the page.
I write down what's up on the overhead screen as fast as I can.
The modification is being requested. The substantial change in income's are: (handwritten below:)
"The current order appears to be too much, in light of my time share which is 50%.
Next presented is People's #38, the parenting agreement. The second page of the parenting agreement is signed by the judge and so ordered. Paragraph 1, subsection C, (dated 6-2000?). I believe it's in effect all of June. (June 1 through 30.) (Ah, now I remember this.) The defendant has visitation with the child alternating Wednesdays from 4:30 pm to Thursday at 4:30 pm. The defendant is to pick up the child at home. On alternating Wednesdays, the defendant is to pick up the child at 12:30 pm (from school) and return the child home by 7:00 pm.
So every other week, the defendant has the child 24 hours. Every other week, a 6.5 hour visit. That averages out to 61 hours every month, or approximately 2.5 days every four weeks.
Hum reiterates that Brown signed the 50% custody under penalty of perjury.
Another document, filed by the witnesses associate in the OC DA's office is People's #39. It answers claims in the defendant's recent order to show cause.
CH: The mother filed an opposition to the reduction in child support 6-22-00, and also asked for attorney fees?
CH: A hearing on support and visitation was scheduled for 11/30/2000?
CN: I would have to look at the file.
There's another document, response declaration to show cause or notice of motion, People's #40. This is a response by the defendant to Ms. Key-Marer's motion to collect attorney fees.
In the document the defendant states Ms. Marer is receiving more money than I do from most pay periods. The defendant says the reason is the child support was based on overtime but overtime isnt' always guaranteed to the defendant.
There's then something that addresses funeral expenses but I miss if this is something where payment is requested.
Ms. Veretsian gets up to cross.
LV: How long have you been a DA?
CN: Ten years.
LV: You wouldn't agree with another deputy district attorney just because they were a DA?
Veretsian is asking about something, from 1-2000 to 3-2000.
LV: That amount was over a year's time?
It's very confusing about this 1100.00 and what it represents. I'm not sure if Veretsian is challenging this figure as Hum's figure for the average income the defendant was getting at that time. Veretsian asks whether their client had pay stubs with him at that hearing, and were they for February, 2000.
CN: I don't know about (?)> I know the year to date (income) was (dated) 3/17.
LV: Would looking at a document or transcript refresh your recollection?
CN: It might.
LV: May I just have a moment your honor?
Veretsian can't find what she's looking for in her files. She's flipping though papers. Brown is also look through a stapled set of white papers.
LV: May I have just one more moment?
JP: Please. Let us know.
Patty and Ted both have a coughing fit at the same time but they pass quickly.
Page 4 of the transcript of 3-20 is finally found.
LV: Did that help refresh your recollection?
LV: Do you remember Mr. Brown handing a check dated February.... That check gross amount was for $1,500.
LV: At the time you questioned Mr. Brown, that was a gross amount. IT didn't include the deduction? [...] The check that you had that day in court, was dated 2-4-00? [...] You didn't have a check in your hand for January for $4400? [...] You didn't have a breakdown per month?
(All I'm getting from this is either Hum's calculations he presented with this 1100 a week amount or it was the Orange County DDA's calculations. That's never clear to me. I don't see why the defense is harping on this. It's not that significant of a discrepancy, but I guess any and all discrepancies the defense will use.)
LV: Do you know if bonuses or over time was include in all that?
LV: It doesn't offer how the defendant was paid? Weekly? Monthly?
Now there are questions about the workman's compensation.
CH: I asked how long (he was) out on workman's compensation. 78-79 days.
LV: And he told you he hand an injury, in November, 1999.
CN: I don't know the exact date.
The witness is asked to look at the transcript to review it. I start to hear the noise of a keyboard. It's Judge Pastor, typing away.
LV: On January 10, 2000 hearing, Mr. Brown stated he been injured on 11-18? [...] Assuming he was out of work 78-79 days, he would have been back to work by the end of January? [...] The Year to date amount you had was 11,000 (and change) would include the 1st through the 3-17th?
LV: That would include the portion of time that (he was) out of work and time back at work?
CN: Correct. [...] It would. In the worker's comp.
LV: At the time he would tell you was direct deposit. [...] He didn't see the amount, he only saw the amount that went into his account?
CH: Objection! Speculation!
(Okay. I have to say something about that. I've worked for big corporations where I've had "direct deposit." The company delivers to you either by mail or through inter-office delivery a earnings statement stub. There's no way that I can believe that Brown did NOT know how much his gross income was each pay period. Now, if Brown never "bothered" to look at his earnings statements, that's a whole 'nother issue.)
Veretsian is now reading directly from the transcript.
LV: "I don't know who's paying me." He said he didn't know if it was the company or workman's comp.. He said he didn't know hat the policy was. He was just told to go home until he felt better. [...] You asked him if he knew employees who were out less than 80 days got their full salary and he said, "No, I do not."
(Brown worked for AA how many years and he testified in that 2000 hearing he didn't have a clue about AA's company disability policy? The defense is bringing this out? Either Brown is totally a clueless sort or I don't believe this.)
There are more questions about what Brown said on the stand.
LV: The court asked him how much he mad per house and he answered. "I'm not sure of my earnings. It's on the check there, $19.96 per hour.
(He made 19.96 per hour to throw luggage back in 2000.)
LV: Mr. Brown filled out an income and expense report on January 10, 2000. [...] Did you look at that before testifying today?
CN: I looked at the whole file, 200+ pages.
Veretsian brings up what he wrote down for income in December, 3,200, what he made in December.
LV: During that hearing on January 10th, Mr. Brown said he thought he was going to be put on workmans' comp.
(Page 8 of the 1-10 hearing transcript.)
LV: It does not say that after the 80 days he thought he was going to be on workman's comp?
There are questions about workman's compensation and if there is a waiver you may get a lump sum.
LV: The issue was going to be revisited on 3-20-2000?
LV: Ms. Key-Mar told you child support was $300 but she filed $260. on the document? [...] IN fact what the court was telling you was Ms. Mar had misstated her amount (and it ) was incorrect?
(I write in my notes that this stuff is quite boring and I'm not going to take any notes for a while. Even if he was on workman's compensation, you really have to wonder about a defendant who worked for AA as long as he did and he testified wasn't supposedly familiar with the benefits package or who was paying him.)
Veretsian crosses the witness on Ms. Marer's income and expense declaration dated 1-10-2000. Her average income over 12 months was listed as $2,564.10 The last month , December, 1999 she wrote $1,230.78.
LV: So it wasn't just Mr. Brown who stated there was a reduction in income, Ms. Marer..... [...] Did she tell you she was working for her brother-in-law?
CH: Objection! Misstates the evidence!
CN: She stated she worked for Innovative Tempest Travel.
LV: On the same declaration, Ms. Marer stated the approximate percentage of time the mother had 100% mother; father 0%. [...] At the time of this, Brown had visitation?
CN: I don't know if he was visiting with his daughter.
LV: Someone looking at this document might assume that Mr. Brown wasn't seeing, having visitation with his daughter?
CH: Objection! Speculation!
Veretsian asks the witness about a 3-9-2000 court ordered visitation plan per the agreement of both parties. The witness examines the documents and agrees. Veretsian goes onto point out that the Comissioner only dealt with financial issues on 3-20-2000, not custody issues.
Patty Brown leaves the courtroom. The custody issues went to another court for 3-9-2000. Veretsian brings out that the minute order doesn't detail all the issues.
CN: That's all it says. Only issue he dealt with was the financial issue.
Bases on the minute order, ti says denied OSC order, but actually dealt with only the financial issues Brown was seeking.
It's a fine line of confusion. There dont' appear to be any minutes of any meeting from 3-9-200.
Veretsian is flipping through her papers again looking for something.
LV: Do you know if Mr. Brown filled out the form? [...] Do you know who filled out the form dated July, 1999?
Veretsian asks the witness to look at People's ##5.
LV: Would you say there are two different hand writings on the form?
CN: I couldn't begin to guess. There's a portion in small print and a portion in large print.
Veretsian put the exhibit on the screen. She's having difficulty using the projector. She asks a question about two different hand writings again. Hum objects and Judge Pastor sustains the objection.
LV: Do you see two different handwriting?
CN: What I see is large and small print.
I write out some of what is hand written on the document.
"Would be best served if I could help make those decisions for school, health care and religious training."
They are statements Brown made about wanting more involvement in the decision making process of Lauren's daily life. Veretsian brings out that Brown did not object to the plan that was a lot less than the 32% requested and that he didn't contest the court's ruling. He agreed to that, voluntarily.
CN: Yes. Agreed to by both parties.
Veretsian is showing the witness, People's #42. I have in my notes 3-9-2000 mater order reset to 3-9-00 for custody issue only. And reorder reset to 3-20-2000 for financial issues.
Ms. Veretsian reads over her papers and the courtroom waits.
JP: Do you need a few moments? Would this be a good time to take the afternoon break?
The afternoon break is taken and we resume at 3:00 pm.
We resume with People's #35, OSC dated 7-22-2000. Veretsian points out a special stamp on the upper right of the document that shows assistance was provided by a facilitator to help prepare the form. The witness agrees, that's what the stamp is.
People's #38, a form that's signed by another OC DDA, 7-12-2000. The OC DDA wrote that the custodial parent, stated by Sarah Key-Marer that visitation had decreased.
LV: Do you know if the court had verified this? [...] Before filing or after the filing of that document?
CN: I don't know.
LV: Mr. Hum showed you the OSC dated 6-22-2000. 50% visitation. In the same document, on page 4, Mr. Brown filled out issues before the court. Issues the court has to take ruling on. One of the requested, time share 50%. On page 4 he is asking court for it to be increased to 50%. Then on page 6, he's asking for child support to be reduced in light of that 50% request.
CH: Objection! That's not what that document says.
(I see what Veretsian is doing. She's trying to say that within this same document, Brown was asking for a reduction in support and an increase in visitation, saying the page six information is "explaining why" the reduction (re) the time share. Veretsian also points out what "appears" to be two different handwriting. She's trying to say that the way the document reads, page six was an "explanation" for reduction because of "request" for 50% custody.
I personally am not seeing what Veretsian is trying to sell the witness.)
Veretsian asks the witness if the two different handwriting on this current document is similar to the handwriting on People's #37.
CN: I can't make those similarities. I'm not comfortable doing that.
Patty leans her elbows on the short gallery wall in front of her. Directly behind her, Patty's brother Ted is doing the same type of leaning forward on the bench seat in front of him.
3:20 pm: Redirect.
Hum presents the witness with People's #35, Dated 7-22-1999. He asks the witness if a request for joint legal custody would that be in the child's best interest when the father didn't even see the child until November 2nd, 1999. Hum points out that the defendant was asking about the "child's best interest" three-and-a-half months before he even had a desire to meet his daughter.
Now a court document showing the first visit ordered 11-2-1999. 3.5 months after first OSC request by the defendant.
Hum goes back over that minute order from the court, 3-20-2000, that is a summary of the judge's decision and that it states the court denied the defendant's requests. Hum asks about statements in the OSC dated 7-22-2000. Hum also brings out that a document in the file, an associate DDA stated the defendant stated visitation had increased to 50%.
On recross Veretsian asks about that document written by a colleague. She asks the witness if she knew if her colleague's had talked to Mr. Brown.
LV: Do you know if your colleague had talked to Mr. Brown?
CN: I don't know.
LV: So you don't know if it was based on a conversation or just reading a document?
I don't get her answer but we are finally finished with this witness!
The next witness called is JONI DODGE
In June, 2000, she was a social worker in children's services working in emergency response system. Social workers on hot line screening calls. The next step in the process, a social worker goes out to investigate. She worked in this job from 1986 until she retired in 2003. She has a master's degree in social work. I believe prior to that, she worked for the LA Co. Probation Dept. for 2.5 years. The witness gives her CV and the various department she's worked in.
She states that in 2000, she did go out and do investigation into child abuse accusation.
Juror #3, I have not see take a single note. Most of the time, her arms are crossed.
CH: In June of 2000, how long were you working as an investigator?
JD: Since 1995.
CH: So about five years?
On June 23, 2000 a call came in. It originated from family court mediation, Jan Mueler (sp?). She was relaying accusations from Cameron Brown.
CH: Did you read a report prepared by Ms. Mueler, and did it contain a date that accusations (were made?)?
JP: It's received for limited purposes only.
CH: Does Ms. Mueler's report contain allegations of abuse?
Judge Pastor gives a limiting instruction.
The date of the report is 6-22-2000. Ms. Mueler is a mandated reporter, and the witness explains what that is.
CH: Mandated Reporters, are they required to make these reports regardless of whether she thinks they are true?
CH: Did you investigate whether they were substantiated?
JD: The report said that the mother kicked her (Lauren). The report said there were bruises on the child's legs. bruises on the mouth and finger bruises on the body.
CH: When you get these reports, are they assigned a priority?
JD: There are three responding levels.
1. Immediate response = 2 hour response. That is a situation that is seen or perceived as immediate danger.
2. Next Day.
3. 10 Day response. Attempt to contact is made within 10 days.
This report was classified "10 Days."
The witness verifies that certain information is given to the social worker from the "screener alert" to ensure they are aware of pertinent information. In this situation it would be a custody dispute.
CH: Why is it important for investigators to know about custody dispute?
JD: Because the court could be involved in a case and parents could be involved in custody issues and possibly conflictual relations between the parents. [...] And, to be aware of other issues of animosity and vindictiveness.
On 6-30-2000 she went to the mother's home. No one was home. She left a business card at the door and a message on the machine. She called the defendant and asked him about allegations. "Father said child said mother pushed (the child) down in the kitchen."
CH: Did Cameron Brown tell you...
JD: Father said mother said that the mother spanks her hard and grabs her on her face.
CH: Did you go to Lauren's school and interview the child (at school)?
JD: Yes. She also (?) school teachers there.
The witness observed Lauren's appearance.
JD: We look for potential neglect or look at emotional issues.
Hum asks how Lauren appeared at school.
JD: She appeared well dressed, clean well cared for and healthy.
There are a series of questions now that Hum asks the witness if she asked Lauren. She asked Lauren if her mother ever hit her. Lauren says no. She asked Lauren if her mother ever hurt her. Lauren said no. She asked Lauren if her mother ever punched her. Lauren said no. She asked Lauren if her mother ever (scratched?) her face. Lauren said no.
CH: Did you ask Lauren if her mother ever kicked her. [...] Did you ask Lauren if she ever (got) spanked.
JD: She appeared to be surprised by these questions.
The witness states she asked Lauren about Papa Cameron. She said that her father sometimes teases her and throws her in the pool and she doesn't like it.
(At the school) she spoke to Ms. Lena.
CH: Did she provide you with any information that caused you concern?
CH: (How about) for Lauren's safety and well being?
Hum asks her the question again.
DJ: For someone else, maybe but for me I would say no.
There is some testimony that Judge Pastor give a limiting instruction on, that it's not offered for the truth of the matter; not if what was told was true or not.
The witness states the (school teacher? administrator?) said the child was happy. Sometimes when the father came to pick up the child, she hid.
CH: Is that the piece of information you considered insignificant but others might?
(I believe the witness states yes.)
On July 5th, 2000, the witness interviewed the mother, Sarah, Greg (stepfather) and Josh (stepbrother). She viewed Lauren's surroundings where she lived. This was important in regards to neglect issues. The home where Lauren was living and the conditions were far above average. It was a very lovely home, well kept. There were child oriented toys. The stepbrother was in the home and they had their own rooms.
CH: You spoke with Sarah Key-Marer?
JD: Yes. [...] She said (the discipline) was "time outs) that were three minutes. She did not believe in physical discipline, and her and her husband agreed.
In the interview she asked Marer if she ever pinched, hit or (?) Lauren. Ms. Key-Marer made an appointment with the child's doctor, June 26th to look at Lauren to see if there was anything, any injuries and to see from a doctor's perspective. The witness received a copy of the doctor's letter of the exam. (I can't remember if the letter is introduced into evidence.)
She spoke with Greg. She spoke with Josh. She spoke to all of them separately.
CH: Did you ask Josh if he was pinched, hit, kicked or thrown to the floor?
JD: Yes. He said no.
CH: Based on the entirety of the investigation, was there anything inappropriate about (the mother's?) behavior, or any concern for Lauren's safety?
CH:Any concern that she was being abused?
The case was closed July 19, 2000. The witness states there are several different levels of findings.
2. unsubstantiated, inconclusive
This case was classified as unsubstantiated.
CH: Did you make a conclusion in your report?
JD: It appears the father made unfounded allegations and there are custody issues.
That's it for direct and cross begins by Harris.
Harris crosses her on how child services were notified. It wasn't because Mr. Brown called them. It was because they received a call from mediation.
PH: And all that's report to a mediator. It's not reported to the court. [...] An allegation is going to child services. [...] He went and talked to his mediator about some concerns. [...] For your knowledge, Mr. Brown didn't go to child services.
There is an argument between counsel. There's a document apparently both counsel are not familiar with or haven't seen. Hum asks to approach the bench.
Now there's question as to whether or not this document was "turned over."
PH: The report from Ms. Mueler, she turned it over to you, the referral report?
JD: Yes. [...]
PH: Ms. Mueler said, Mr. Brown had brought some pictures in?
JD: I didn't have access to any photos.
PH: He never tried to follow up or give you any info about the mother? [...] He didn't "push" the investigation?
JD: Not with me, no. [...] I don't know what his intention was, when he went to and talked with Ms. Meuler.
PH: Did you see marks?
When the witness interviewed Lauren, she did see marks in the corner of her mouth.
JD: Then Ms. Key-Marer explanation that she didn't clean her face off after she ate.
There is a question I believe about allergic reactions to foods, and the witness answers "No."
(Now Harris does something that really stretches the limits of credibility in my book.)
PH: Mr. Hum repeated the word "allegation." MR. Brown wasn't coming to child services for allegations. He was coming to the mediator with some "concerns." [...] You were provided information about bruises on legs because he was a new father and this was something he might not know?
PH: Mr. Brown didn't ever contact you again, to show you new pictures?
JD: No, he didn't.
PH: Given the short term relationship with the father, you didn't think that was particularly significant? [...] Now there is a hot line that can call, to make allegations? [...] Do you know to this day if Ms. Key-Marer called and made allegations against (Mr. Brown)?
JD: No, I do not.
PH: Did you interview Mr. Brown?
(I'm not sure if Harris asks or the witness answers these next few statements:)
He said she got allergies. One time he said it was a boo-boo. He said her mother pinched her and grabbed her in the face.
Harris reads from her report. "Mother believes the father is angry because he pays child support and visits are limited.
PH: Did you visit Mr. Brown's place?
JD: We typically interview people in county. He lived out of county. Since there were no allegations against him (it wasn't necessary).
PH: She (Sarah) told you one of her concerns was the safety of Lauren. That he took her on his boat and his motorcycle?
Cross is finished and there's no more redirect.
Testimony is finished and there is just a bit of court business.
Judge Pastor informs counsel that Juror #6 went to her doctor who wrote her a note that she needed to rest. Pastor order's back two witnesses for tomorrow. Harris tells the judge there is an explanation as to why Ms. Veretsian had to scramble looking for papers because this witness was called at the last minute by the prosecution. There were certain witnesses they agreed to take and this witness was Ms. Veretsian's but since she was called out of order or by surprise she wasn't prepared.
PH: Because it looks bad.
(For the defense and their client).
(I wholeheartedly agree with this. Her performance today was not great with this witness as far as being prepared.)
PH: She had to scramble because Ms. Johnson (sp?) could not testify.
Judge Pastor asks if there are any more 402 issues coming up with any witnesses and Hum indicates that they are out of the 402 business and the rest of the witnesses are "professional" witnesses (no more character stuff).
I agree that being unprepared doesn't look good for the defense. However I don't believe that is entirely the prosecution's fault. If it was going to be an issue, then I believe that Harris should have raised it with the judge before Hum even put the witness on. Tell Pastor that they cannot be prepared in such a short amount of time. He didn't do that.
I'm sorry my notes are so far behind on this case. I was down for several days with a fever of 102. As I'm slowly getting better, I've been swamped with real life responsibilities at home. I missed testimony on August 20th (Wilson Hayes, biomechanical expert) and August 21st. I understand that the prosecution rested it's case and the defense has called their first two witnesses today (Friday). Court will be dark until September 2nd (I believe) while Judge Pastor is on vacation. This is not necessarily a long break. There was close to a two week break in Spector for Christmas and New Years.