Who's Not Your Daddy?

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As I tried to show in my February article on government-perpetrated paternity injustice, it's absurdly easy to be declared the legal father of a child you've never met, and devilishly hard to get the declaration overturned by an unapologetic state. Here's a typical recent case:

Robert Lee Moore says he has never been to New York. The 37-year-old married father of five from Chicago says he has never dated anyone from New York. So you can imagine how stunned he was when he received a child support petition in 2000 informing him that he had been named the father of a boy born to a woman on public assistance in New York City. [?]

Moore ignored the summons ordering him to show up in court because he thought it was a "joke." Then his state income tax refund check was withheld, and officials in New York threatened to enforce the state's penalties against dead-beat dads. [?]

Marcy Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney, said because Moore didn't show up for his first court date in March 2001, he was judged to be the child's parent by default. At that point, his work records were subpoenaed and a month later, a support order was entered. Two years later, Moore requested a blood test.

But his accuser and his alleged child did not agree to genetic testing.

"We terminated the child support order," Jensen said. "But the parentage order is still in effect and is under review by our office."

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  1. In this case can he have both the child AND mother aborted?

  2. Today’s lesson: Court summons are never a joke.

  3. WTF?

    Read the last line:
    “If Moore is serious about clearing his name, he should hire a lawyer.”

    Niiice. When the system screws up, just pay to fix it yourself.

  4. Two posts down there’s a story about the ACLU fighting to get innocent people’s names off the no-fly list. Between that story, this story, the refusal to have trials for people accused of terrirism. . . .am I the only one getting the idea that when it comes to catching wrongdoers these days the government is more interested in racking up a high “body count” than in making sure they catch the actual bad guys?

  5. I misspelled “terrorism.”

  6. I thought you were just trying to make fun of how Bush says “terrorism” or “terrorists”, Jennifer. 🙂

  7. Echoing Mo, anyone who ignores a court summons should not be surprised when bad shit ensues…

  8. Echoing Mo, anyone who ignores a court summons should not be surprised when bad shit ensues…

  9. J. Alex:
    No, if I were making fun of the President’s speech I’d spell it “terrism.” As in: “We must protect ourselves from nucular terrism.”

    Nucular being what’s now known as an “embedded” joke, of course.

  10. Jennifer,

    That’s been pretty much the standard attitude of cops and prosecutors since time began. The important thing is to close the case, by any means necessary, in order to avoid public criticism and to keep the prosecutors conviction ratio at acceptable levels.

    If they gave a damn about catching the person who was actually guilty, prosecutors wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to suppress exculpatory evidence that might result in a retrial (not to mention their own acute embarassment).

    They’d rather an innocent man went to the chair, or rotted in prison for the rest of his life, so long as their own asses stay covered.

  11. The Bureaucracy Performance Bench-mark:

    Bureaucracy screws up.

    Bureaucracy refuses to admit screw-up.

    Bureaucracy finally admits screw-up but denies that screw-up is actually a bad thing.

    Bureaucracy admits screw-up is a bad thing, but that it’s what’s best “for the children.”

    Bureaucracy admits that screw-up is a completely foul travesty, creates committees to figure out a workable solution.

    Bureaucracy poorly executes bad solution to screw-up, declares a great victory for those who were wronged.

    Bureaucracy competently executes bad solution to screw-up – actually far worse than poorly executing bad solution.

    Bureaucracy is finally removed from the situation – probably by judicial mandate – and is not allowed to screw up in this particular manner anymore.

    Bureaucracy never repairs damage done by screw-up nor is forced to make reparations for screw-up.

    Bureaucracy finds new way to screw up.

    Lather, Rinse, Repeat while those the bureaucracy supposedly serves are the ones being forced to take a bath.

  12. Er.. Would this get sorted out more quickly if the ‘accused fathers’ in turn sued the mothers for ‘visitation rights’…

    “who’s that stranger?” would make for interesting evidence…

  13. I should think the falsely-accused fathers would have at least a civil case against the mothers for fraud.

  14. Papaya,
    And how much do you think this guy is gonna get off of this welfare momma? 10 bucks says every other penny she has came from some other person she’s conned.

  15. Since these men are declared de facto fathers of children they never met, perhaps they should file for joint or sole custody and see how quickly things reverse themselves.

  16. I think the thing that’s amazed and disappointed me the most since I started examining the state from a more libertarian perspective is the complete lack of any sort of official apology and restitution process. Even the language used surrounding all these cases is ‘the guy got off or got out of the charges’. Not ‘We were wrong, and got the wrong guy.’ Once you’re on their radar screen they’re going to get you for something, and if they don’t get you, yet, they’ll keep you on file until you mess up and they DO get you. Child Protective Services is great for this kind of thing. How many stories have we seen from different jurisdictions where someone makes a specious or anonymous claim of child abuse, and those accused spend the next umpteen years trying to clear their name, even after repeated findings of no abuse (yet)?

    That’s why I really think governments need to have some sort of “Apology” or “Restitution” component. While this could have the wrong effect of making other departments MORE recalcitrant (“Why should we care? If we’re wrong, the Apology department will take care of it.”), I think something along these lines should definitely be done, with some sort of assessment of the harm accrued by the false accusations, restitution made for that harm, and an official removal of that person’s name from all criminal or departmental records.

    I don’t have much hope of this happening, tho. Especially with the fighting of the bureaucratic mind that it would require.

  17. Mo, you said, “10 bucks says every other penny she has came from some other person she’s conned.”

    Allow me to add…and everything else she has came from our bloody paychecks.

  18. You can’t write an article on the system failing
    based on a case where the victim ignored the system.

    hey, DJ, I’d be inclined to agree, if I hadn’t read Matt Welch’s article, “Injustice by Default”. It’s quite probable that, even if Moore had responded to the court order, he still would have had a hell of a time getting things straight, if at all.

    Second, while I do think that it was Moore’s responsibility to respond to what he thought was too rediculous and far-fetched to be serious, I also disagree that the state should simply declare him the father if he fails to respond. Imagine if Moore had moved 3 weeks before the summons was sent out, and it arrived at a vacant residence and sat in the mailbox, all through no fault of his own. Then, the court, since they didn’t get a response, just said “oh, well, we didn’t hear from him–he must be the daddy!” That’s not right, that’s not just.

    Surely, Moore should have responded, but at the same time, the court should not simply issue judgements based on a lack of evidence or response. What if it were you? What if you moved, then one of these summons showed up at your past residence and just sat there, and the court decided to declare you the papa. And the first time you ever heard about it was when your paycheck came back cut in half. Is that a just system?

  19. ewilliam,

    They sure wouldn’t have that hard a time finding you to get the money after the summary judgement against you. This is another time for the admonition to ‘follow the money’.

  20. Highway,

    Problem is, they don’t need to find you — they just need access to your pay records.

  21. > Moore ignored the summons ordering him to show up in court

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