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Shotgun Divorce Opposed
August 30, 2006 permalink
An American is suing for relief over his shotgun divorce.
Whitman's CPS War
What would you do if someone threatened to take your kids away unless you dumped your significant other? If you were anything like Los Gatos resident Charlie Whitman, you'd tell them to back off. But that's been easier said than done for Whitman, who's still waging a six-year-plus legal battle against Santa Clara County for allegedly violating his First Amendment right to associate with whomever he wants. In 2000, Whitman and his fiance Kelly Lynn Tucker got entangled with the county's Child Protective Services when they sought counseling for one of Tucker's kids (to deal with an issue they say had nothing to do with their parenting skills). We'll spare you the complicated details for the time being and get to the part that swayed a federal judge: a county social worker threatened Tucker's custody of four children if she continued to see Whitman — essentially forcing her to leave him. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2004 that Whitman's First Amendment rights may very well have been violated, and now the case is headed to trial in federal district court. Whitman, who has no history of drug abuse, violence or crime, says he was baffled and hurt. Once a mild-mannered geologist, this whole mess has turned him into an outspoken advocated for CPS reform. He's now out to prove that county social workers engage in a rampant practice of telling parents who they can't hang out with. So far, he says he has 21 witnesses who've allegedly been bullied in the same way. With his attorney Bob Powell, he's seeking more people willing to testify. County Counsel Ann Ravel defends the social workers at CPS. "People are human," she said. "When there's an emphasis on protecting children, there are bound to be some decisions that maybe in hindsight aren't the best, but there isn't any evidence of a widespread problem in the department." A district court judge, however, decided there was enough evidence of a bigger problem to try the case when he denied the county's request for summary judgment in February. A court date has been set for March of next year, although Ravel says the parties might resolve the matter sooner. "We are absolutely willing to discuss a settlement," she said.
weekly magazine Metro, Silicon Valley