This essay was in answer to a Quora poster who asked:
"What criminal trial are you most interested in?"
I am interested in the thousands upon thousands of top-secret criminal trials taking place in the United States every day without a jury, without the right to an attorney, and without the right to confront one’s accuser. I am speaking of the horribly corrupt and illegal proceedings known as Family Court, Probate Court and Child Welfare Court.
The U.S. Constitution purports to guarantee a great number of protections for accused criminals, which together comprise the concept of “due process” (5th and 14th Amendments). Among these protections are the right against self-incrimination and double-jeopardy (5th Amendment), right to confront one’s accuser, right to an attorney, and right to a jury in a criminal trial (6th Amendment).
But what exactly is a “criminal” as opposed to a “civil” proceeding? A criminal case is one brought against the defendant by the government, while a civil case is filed by a private citizen. Right away, we can see that a Child Welfare case is criminal in nature, because it is filed and prosecuted by a County government agency, such as the Department of Child Protective Services.
But another, more important distinction must be made between criminal and civil cases - the potential remedies (i.e. penalties) against a losing defendant. In a civil case, the remedy is money, that’s it. A losing civil defendant is made to pay money in the form of damages + costs and fees. In rare instances, a civil court can order a losing party to do something specific, like return property. But essentially, a civil case is about money.
A criminal defendant, by contrast, can lose fundamental constitutional rights, such as liberty. Going to prison is a decidedly criminal punishment - a civil plaintiff is not allowed to seek incarceration as a remedy.
Another fundamental constitutional right is the right to family unity, sometimes called the right to parent. [See e.g. Troxell v. Glanville, 530 U.S. 57] Is a case in which a child can be taken away from a parent not a criminal case? Obviously it is, whether that case was brought by the government (as in a typical Child Welfare case), or brought by a private individual (as in a typical Family Law case).
Every single day in courthouses in every single county in the U.S., people are having their children taken away from them, often on a “temporary” basis, and on allegations alone. No due process. No jury. No right to confront the accuser. No right to an attorney even.
A typical temporary child custody order is one in which one parent in a divorce case makes allegations against the other parent, who is “blindsided” by the process. The other parent is then made to litigate, sometimes for years, trying to prove innocence and regain access to his/her own child.
How did we ever allow these non-jury proceedings to exist? Why did we abandon the idea of innocent until proven guilty? The short answer is that “we” didn’t. “We” had nothing to do with it. “We” are not the government. Depending on who you are who may be reading this, maybe you are the government, but I’m not, and neither are my friends, or the people served by the Family Court Anti Corruption Coalition.
If you will read the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, you will discover that a fundamental element of communism is the destruction of family bonds. The family is the enemy of the state, because a family basically doesn’t need the state.
The jury trial and the other protections for the accused were very important, and it is tragic that they were stolen from us. If you still believe in the possibility of good government (I don’t), then please see a formal document I have written titled “The Family Law Bill of Rights.”
As a Voluntaryist, I personally have no faith in political, i.e authoritarian solutions to any problems. Authority is the problem. For those of us who truly believe in freedom, read the right way my Family Law Bill of Rights can serve as a statement of just how patently evil government has become.
Few things are more evil than kidnapping children and holding them for ransom, which is exactly what the “justice” system does every single day of the week.