MONTANA JUDGE RULES AGAINST OREGON'S SCF
Baby Abbey Rose Christine is on her way home to Indiana with grandmother Teri Christine. There she finally will meet her year-old sister, Olivia, who has been living with Teri since birth.
stunning result issued from a Missoula courtroom yesterday
following a hearing closed to the public. In a temporary custody
ruling, Missoula County District Judge Ed McLean ruled that the
best interests of Abbey would be served by placing her with her
paternal grandmother and older sister. In passing, the judge
noted that this would also be in Olivia's best interests, demonstrating
a degree of compassion that has been singularly lacking in the way
that Montana has treated the Christine family to date.
a surprise ruling, Judge McLean also awarded temporary guardianship
of Abbey to Teri Christine, thereby surrendering jurisdiction to
the Indiana court in which a permanent guardianship now will be
processed. The judge's decision effectively ends the
companion case for guardianship, filed in Montana by Teri Christine
after Abbey was born. Guardianship entitles the one so designated
to make all decisions concerning the child. Temporary guardianship
is often the precursor to permanent guardianship, which requires
a lengthy legal process.
The second grab was for Olivia, born shortly thereafter and placed with Teri Christine in her Indiana home. A year-long interstate legal struggle ended recently when Indiana refused to relinquish jurisdiction over Olivia to Oregon, which pledged to adopt her out along with the three older girls.
The third grab ended yesterday with Judge McLean's Solomonesque ruling which rebuffed other Christine family relatives who also sought custody at the urging of SCF, custody which would have begun with Abbey's being handed over to Oregon officials, of course.
Believing Oregon's actions in seizing the three older girls over
a year ago to be unlawful, the Christines at that time refused
to play ball, make admissions or undergo the counseling required
by state officials.
Brian and Ruth Christine with their three oldest girls in happier times. Note the emaciated, skeletal appearance of the children, proof of the malnourish- ment alleged by Oregon officials. The family disharmony and child abuse should be apparent to even the casual eye, if anything like what Oregon says it was.
We had the able assistance of Missoula attorneys Margaret Borg, Ruth's public defender appointed for the custody proceeding, and Jim Shockley, who prepared and filed the Guardianship papers. We are paying Mr. Shockley for his time from the funds that many have kindly contributed to the Christine Defense Fund. I think we will have enough left to cover the cost of attorney fees for the Indiana guardianship proceedings, as well, so will pay for that from the fund since we were prepared to do so in Montana. I continue to serve the Christines pro bono, of course.
Now we turn our attention to the Oregon courts, where a flurry of criminal and civil actions are pending against the Christines, including parental rights termination petitions filed in Josephine County and criminal actions lodged in both Douglas and Josephine counties. We have had public defenders appointed for the criminal charges and I am being associated in as the Christines' attorney on all cases simultaneously.
The judge in the termination proceedings, which I answered on behalf of Brian and Ruth, has refused to appoint public defenders because of my presence, therefore I am forced to withdraw for the moment, so that the Christines may force such appointment. I will then be associated back onto the cases, of course. You may expect to receive regular reports on all these cases from me unless and until the judges issue gag orders, which are possible, in view of the notoriety the cases are creating.
A condition of my assuming these cases was that I be given local legal assistance. Since offers of such has not been forthcoming, we have been forced to avail ourselves of public defenders. My role will continue to be the oversight of all the cases and I will be actively involved in all of them, of course.
The Christines, both devout Christians, welcome your prayers for their families, as well.
� 2001 Edgar J. Steele - All Rights Reserved
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"They refused the appointment of public defenders and represented themselves, preferring to directly challenge the validity of the agency's, then the Oregon court's, exercise of jurisidiction. When they finally started to cooperate, realizing that was the only way to put their family back together, SCF told them their children were to be adopted out anyway."