Chaska Herald

Ortman requests review of county’s family court    

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012                                                                                                     

By Richard Crawford

Julianne Ortman
State Sen. Julianne Ortman is asking top court officials to undertake a comprehensive review of family court cases in the First Judicial District, especially those originating in Carver County.

In a letter dated April 17 to Lorie Skjerven Gildea, chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Sue Dosal, Minnesota State Court administrator, Ortman calls for the review to commence prior to the adjournment of the Legislature.

In her letter, Ortman, a Chanhassen Republican who serves as Senate deputy majority leader, said concerns about recent court cases have made their way to St. Paul.

“The examples and controversies now being brought to the attention of members of the Legislature have cast a shadow of injustice over our courts,” according to Ortman’s letter, “and questions as to whether there is some systemic problem. Your thorough review, investigation and report is needed before residents of my community all will again have confidence that disputes in family court are being managed in an impartial manner.”

The letter specifically asks for investigation of processes and procedures for recommending and determining child protection issues, child custody and visitation issues and child support payments.

Lea Banken, who has been involved with a recent high-visibility custody case in the county, said she was delighted when Ortman handed her a copy of the letter on April 17 at the state Capitol. Banken has been attending legislative hearings this session pushing for judicial reform.

Banken’s former husband was awarded custody of their three young children and she said it’s been “nearly impossible” to see them. Banken said she has little money in the wake of the custody battle and the court requires her to take another psychological evaluation and pay $100 per hour to visit her children. She said she’s taken two psychological evaluations in the past two years that revealed no problems.

Banken also was a founder of a website blog – called Carver County Corruption – that has included information on her case as well as others in Carver County. The blog has become a sidebar issue to her custody case as Carver County Judge Richard Perkins has attempted to have Banken take portions of the blog down.

Banken’s custody case is expected to be heard in appeals court this summer.

At a Banken court hearing on Feb. 9, state Rep. Ernie Leidiger, of Mayer, was in attendance and he has expressed concerns about freedom-of-speech issues as well as mothers’ ability to see their children. Leidiger has signed on to Ortman’s letter requesting a review of the family court system. Rep. Joe Hoppe, of Chaska, has also signed the letter as well as other legislators, according to Ortman.

Besides the Banken case, there have been several other recent custody battles in Carver County. However, Ortman’s letter doesn’t mention any specific cases.

On April 18, Ortman emphasized that her concerns don’t apply to any one person or any one case.

“As you may be aware,” Ortman’s letter said, “concerns about these issues, and perceived administrative and judicial bias, have been raised by numerous participants recently, but you may not be aware that these issues and concerns have long persisted – actually, similar concerns have been raised in my community for over a dozen years.”

Prior to being elected to the Legislature, where she has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2003, Ortman served on the Carver County Board. She has been an attorney for more than 20 years.

During her time in the Legislature, Ortman said she wasn’t aware of a similar request to have a review of specific court proceedings.

Carver County is one of seven counties in the First Judicial District. Carver County Court is a court of general jurisdiction with four resident judges who hear all types of cases including criminal, family, civil, juvenile, probate and conciliation court.

In 2011, there were more than 642 family court cases in Carver County, according to court records.

Read Julianne Ortman’s Letter Below

(Click to enlarge)

OrtmanOrtman 2

Family Court Matter                                                        

Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 8:43 pm | Updated: 10:20 am, Thu May 3, 2012.

By Richard Crawford Chanhassen Villager


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