Abuse of the Handicapped in Georgia
The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick and the needy, and the handicapped. -Hubert Humphrey
In Gwninnett County, Georgia it is business as usual for DFACS, the Juvenile Court, and even for several court-appointed attorneys. It is standard practice for the Gwinnett County Juvenile Court to deny handicapped parents the reasonable accommodations they require to participate in court hearings, to deny parents their right to be heard, and to insist that families accept less than adequate representation.
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, it is common to find court appointed attorneys actually working at odds with their clients! Why have a system in place to appoint attorneys for indigent families if those same attorneys are going to behave as if they represent DFACS? Not having any representation at all would be an improvement for some Gwinnett County families.
The Hull Family's case is a prime example of the corruption, malfeasance, and rampant discrimination in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
Craig Hull had a stroke in 2001. He uses a wheelchair and his verbal communication is inhibited by receptive and expressive aphasia, as well as by auditory processing issues. Mr. Hull communicates in writing, and has been described by his Speech Pathologist as "charming." Mr. Hull continues to manage his family's finances, and is a competent adult.
Linda Hull has been diagnosed with Aspberger's Syndrome and has suffered unspeakably at the hands of DFACS.
The Hulls have seven children. Four of those children are adults, and the younger three are detained by Gwinnett County DFACS. Sadly, with one exception, the adult children have turned their backs on their parents in pursuit of "normalcy."
Currently, Mr. and Mrs. Hull's court appointed attorney, David White, is attempting to convince the court to appoint a Guardian Ad Litum (GAL) for Mr. Hull. White refuses to communicate with Mr. Hull in writing, claiming that Mr. Hull's speech deficiencies render him "incapable of making independent decisions." Should White prevail in this blatant betrayal of his client's interests, an appointed GAL would have the authority to "voluntarily" sign away Mr. Hull's parental rights.
Of special concern is the circumstances surrounding the family's last court hearing. At issue was the family's motion for reasonable accomodations for Mr. Hull. Mrs. Hull and the Family Advocate, Dorothy Kernaghan-Baez, attempted to file supporting documents and were refused. The reason given for the refusal was, "I don't think this material is relevant, plus it's just too much." Included in this material was a report from Mr. Hull's Speech Pathologist, outlining his communication needs. This individual was not a juvenile court clerk, but was an court employee from another part of the building. This individual, does not hold the required training to perform any juvenile court functions.
When the Hull's case was called, the bailiff, Chris Holden, refused to allow Mr. and Mrs. Hull to have their Family Advocate present. She also refused to allow entry to a family friend who would have transcribed the proceedings for Mr. Hull. When Mrs. Kernaghan-Baez offered to show the bailiff the Georgia Statute authorizing the presence of support persons, Holden snapped, "I don't care what the law says!"
Mrs. Kernaghan-Baez immediately placed a call to a WSB-TV producer who is known to be friendly to Family Rights. Shortly after, the Hulls were allowed to confer with White outside the courtroom. White heard Mrs. Kernaghan-Baez describing the situation on the telephone, and began interjecting, "That's not true," each time Mrs. Kernaghan-Baez made a statement, beginning with White's claim that the clerk's office had not refused to accept the documents described above! Finally, exasperated, Mrs. Kernaghan-Baez held the phone out to White and offered him the chance to dispute her statements directly to the television producer. Since White was not interested in this opportunity, Mrs. Kernaghan-Baez returned to her call.
During this time, the Hulls were discussing the options Judge Phyllis Miller had given them:
1) Proceed pro se
2) Continue with White as their attorney
Mr. Hull was especially concerned that he and his wife were not capable of self representation. So, reluctantly, the Hulls opted to continue with White, and made it clear that they would be searching for another attorney in the interim. The Hulls returned to the court room.
Back in the court room, Judge Miller recused herself because her daughter is a friend of one of the Hull's daughters. This is the second recusal in this case. Judge Robert Rodatus was forced to recuse himself earlier this year after the Hull's were listed as potential witnesses in another family's lawsuit against Judge Rodatus.
After the hearing concluded, White was again insistent that Mr. Hull have a GAL appointed. When presented with the Speech Pathologist's report indicating Mr. Hull's comptence and his needs for adaptive communication, White simply repeated, "He's going to have a GAL."
When questioned by Zephaniah Hull, age 23, as to "Are you willing to communicate with my father?" White made several attempts to deflect the question. Finally, White admitted that he would not endeavor to have any direct communication with Mr. Hull.
To date, no judge has been assigned to the Hull's case and the matter has been continued.
The following are some potential points of contact for concerned individuals and organizations:
The Honorable K. Dawson Jackson
75 Langley Drive
Lawrenceville, Georgia 30045
phone (770) 822-8619
fax (770) 822-8616
Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG)
(this is the attorney representing DFACS)
Joseph P. Cheeley, IIIMagnolia Office Complex
1400 Buford Highway, Suite E-3
Buford, GA 30518-8726
Gwinnett County Clerk of Court
75 Langley Drive
Lawrenceville, Georgia 30045
phone (770) 822-8100
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Angela Tuck, Public Editor
Gwinnett Daily Post
Editorial Direct Line: 770-339-5850
Editorial Fax Line: 770-339-8081 Editor: Todd Clinedirect phone 770-963-9205 ext. 1300
WSB TV Channel 2
1601 West Peachtree Street N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
News Tip Line 404-897-7409
News Tip Email
Please send copies of any communications to:
Georgia Family Rights
2208 Highland Avenue
Augusta, Georgia 30904
Or email copies to:
Please only use the above email address to send the copies.
If you wish to communicate with Georgia Family Rights about this case, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 706-533-6522.
All blog entries are © Dorothy Kernaghan-Baez and no entries may be reproduced in any form absent written permission.