Congressman James Walsh and Family Law Reform details

4/13/2000 – A meeting is held with the Congressman’s local staff in Syracuse.  John Murtari and three other parents (one mother from VOCAL NY) sit down with two of his staff members (Marina Twome & Kimberly Kemp). Through the meetings they raised some concerns which were addressed as follows:

  • “This is not an issue for Congress. Family Law has traditionally been done by the States. Separation of powers…”  —  We explained this was about Civil Rights, the rights of parents and children to be together.  Very similar to slaves winning their freedom, or women winning the right to vote. They agreed that a “Civil Rights” cause should be addressed by Congress.

  • “Lower courts have already decided on this, it is an item for the Judiciary to decide” — Again we explained that in the early 1800’s, U.S. Courts had held, include the US Supreme Court, that Slaves were “property”.  In 1900’s   Courts had ruled that women did NOT have the right to vote. — again, the issue was one of Civil Rights.

  • “We haven’t had a lot of interest in this type of legislation” — NO ONE had ever been to that office in over 8 years asking about Family Law Reform, we were the first.  We told them we were going to try to create that interest by getting folks to contact their representatives.

  • “If a bill was introduced, it would be handled by the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressman Walsh isn’t on that committee — you should contact them” —  We told them that Congress Walsh was our local representative, he was the person we VOTE for to represent our interests. He could certainly introduce a Bill and contact the Judiciary committee members himself is he had a strong interest.  They said that was correct.

4/6/2000 – John Murtari speaks with Mr. Art Jutton about need for reform..   He was told that right now the House Judiciary Committee sees this as a “state issue.” John acknowledged that but also told him more and more people are beginning to see it as one of basic Civil Rights, which can only be addressed in Washington. Art suggested the group might want to contact the members of the Judiciary Committee directly. John responded by saying that could be a “complicated process.” Group members could more easily make their feelings known to their local Congressional Representative — who could then make a public statement in support of hearings and whos Washington Staff could better interact with other committees.

Art gave John the name of Virginia Carmady, the manager of the Syracuse office, and told John to call her Monday to setup a meeting. Our first goal is to encourage him to make a public statement calling for investigative hearings into the need for National Family Law Reform. We hope to make him feel a sense of “urgency” in addressing this issue.

3/28/2000 – Mary Chancellor, Kids-Right.Org public relations, talks with Mr. Art Jutton from Congressman James Walsh’s (Syracuse, NY) staf in Washington. I   introduced myself, referred to your actions in the Federal Building and the fact that you were actually in a “peaceful” protest on the same floor as Walsh’s office. I stated that we did indeed receive a letter from Congressman Walsh, and directed my attention to his statement “…no legislation on this subject will be brought before Congress this year. At that point I told Art “we want to make that happen and we want to know how to make that happen”.

His response was that we are going to have a very difficult time and the reason why is because the judiciary committee has been unwilling to address this issue because they feel very strongly that this is not a federal matter. At this time the Family Courts have been under local jurisdiction and that there is no mechanism at the Federal level to address the problem. If you were able to pass a law at the Federal level, then you would have to have in place the “system” to enforce the law. He does agree that people vary opinions vary on this. However, at the time there is no legislation to address the subject. With this I did ask that he tell me on a personal level what he thinks we should do. He suggested one of two things, 1) find someone on the judiciary committee that will become interested in the subject and be willing to sit down with our organization and figure if there is some way to make legislation work. or 2) go under our State Legislative bodies and figure out a way to make it work through the states. He suggested that some states work together through their Attorney General office and that may be one approach. Sometimes you can work it much better State by State than trying at the National level.

There was some additional discussion about how to get things started, but following is the most important information I need to share with you. Mary, “Do you know if there is anyone at your local office that is willing to just sit down and talk with John, you know right now he feel as if no one in that office really cares because no one has bothered to stop and talk to him, they have not bothered to say, “just what is going on here”, and for that reason he feels there is no support there. Art, ” I find it hard to believe that people would not speak with him, I don’t know much about his situation, however I do know (and we didn’t have anything to do with it) a local Judge there at the request of the District Attorney’s office put a hold on it that he could not come into our office. I was told by the staff in the local office today that they are going back to court in April and that the District Attorney’s office requested that we not make any further comment on this case to them until they came out of court. Hopefully, at the next court hearing things would get straightened away”. The local staff was asked by the District Attorney’s office not to speak to you or make any comments until the court hearing. It is the hope on everyone’s part that this thing will get resolved and if it does everything will be taken care of. When things are cleared up at this court session then the door will be open for you to go in and talk to one of the staff members per Art. It really sounds as if people know who you are and Art made me feel as if they really do want to talk to you.