Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jan 2015
Source: Trentonian, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2015 The Trentonian
Author: Edward Forchion, For The Trentonian


In the past year, to my great satisfaction, the NJ family court has 
taken a beating in both the federal and state appeals courts.

In Malhan vs Malhan, five parents filed a class action lawsuit in 
federal court alleging that the NJ family court system fails to 
provide adequate "due process" rights to parents in child custody 
proceedings. Surender Malhan, the father, lost his custody rights on 
a mere two hours' notice based on a bogus accusation from the mother 
without him having an opportunity to refute his estranged wife's allegations.

"For years now, NJ family courts have been, in effect, a 
'Constitution-free zone' where family court judges have run roughshod 
over the rights of parents, children, and outsiders. To make matters 
worse, judges routinely impose gag orders to hide their actions from 
public scrutiny. In May of 2014 a decision by Federal U.S. District 
Judge William Martini made it clear that New Jersey family court 
judges may not violate fundamental constitutional rights in the name 
of 'children.' Judge Martini's decision affirmed that family courts 
are not Constitution-free zones." said Paul Clark, attorney for Malhan.

On Dec 23, 2014, the NJ appeals court made a historic mountain-moving 
decision in a NJ family court case: NJ Division of Child Protection 
vs C.W. 20-2-5337. (C.W. is a mother whose name has been concealed to 
protect the child's identity; she had her child taken away for 
admitting to using marijuana.) Not only did the NJ appeals court rule 
that C.W.'s verbal admissions about cannabis use were insufficient 
evidence for an emergency removal of her child, it also found that 
the state failed to provide any evidence that simply using cannabis 
constituted child abuse or neglect.

In today's age of the mainstreaming of marijuana and the fact that 22 
states and the District of Columbia now allow some degree of cannabis 
use, this is a common-sense ruling. But for many potheads and those 
who use marijuana medically, this is a major victory over the common 
goofy practices of the NJ family court system that have existed for 
decades. Thousands of pot-toting parents like me have had their 
parental rights negated simply for using cannabis.

While plenty of people know me for publicly resisting and not 
complying with the NJ marijuana laws, very few realize how my public 
advocacy started: I got into a child visitation case in Burlington 
County in 1996. Between my two wives I had a child out of wedlock, 
and when the relationship soured the scorned mother tried to 
eliminate me from my child's life. This was my first experience in 
any kind of court.

While we were together my marijuana smoking wasn't an issue other 
than I had to smoke outside when I was at her house. But once the 
court case started she was allowed to lie without fear of perjury 
charges. She came to court arguing that I used marijuana and claiming 
that she didn't know this until after we broke up. I was never 
allowed to refute anything.

At one point she hired a private eye to investigate me and gave the 
report to Burlington County family court Judge Gaytoes, who limited 
my visitation, and that report ended up with the Camden County Drug 
Task Force. Six months later on Nov. 24, 1997, I was arrested in 
Bellmawr for receiving a package of marijuana delivered by Fed-Ex from Arizona.

I and my opinions became known statewide when instead of taking the 
prosecution's deal to rat on others and accept a prison term, I 
fought the case with the truth about marijuana. I began publicly 
trying to reach my future jurors with a "jury nullification defense 
of truth" as a means to fight those charges. The family court used my 
public admissions to keep me from my child even though I wasn't 
convicted of anything yet. (Yeah, innocent until proven guilty didn't 
exist in family court.)

In 1999 my scorned ex came to family court and said that she was a 
Christian and I was a follower of Rastafari, so she didn't want me 
around "her daughter," and Judge Bell took my visitation. You see, 
freedom of religion in America is really "freedom of religions 
acceptable to Christians."

Family court became one bizarre accusation after another from the ex. 
These were all blatant lies that were instantly given credibility by 
the family court because I admitted to smoking marijuana.

Throughout that decade I appeared before Judges Bell, Schlesinger, 
Lihotz, Schlosser, and finally Judge Morley. All I wanted was a 
simple visitation order. I never got one. In 2006 Judge Morley even 
ordered a name change for my daughter from my last name Forchion to 
her mother's name solely because of my public advocation (free 
speech) of marijuana legalization.

Judge Morley was eventually fired by Gov. Christie in 2010 for ruling 
a Moorestown cop's sexual relations with a cow didn't constitute 
animal abuse. Yeah, for real.

In 2006 I gave up: My daughter was 12 at the time and I decided to 
stop fighting the "due processless" NJ family court and just wait 
until my daughter reached 18. I was defeated. Well she's 20 now and 
doesn't see or talk to me - years of scorned motherly influence. 
These family court judges claimed my "due process" denials were in 
the "best interests of my child," supposedly to benefit my child but 
as usual the denials just ended up doing the opposite for us.

It was irrelevant that I was publicly telling the truth about 
marijuana. The state's criminal marijuana laws are based on proven 
lies, and the judges and law enforcement officers continue to enforce 
these lies. Nothing I was saying in 1998 has changed, except that 
nearly 20 years later most of America knows the laws are lies. In 
fact, NJ passed the Medical Marijuana Compassionate Use Act in 2010, 
which recognizes marijuana's medical value and which should nullify 
our state's 2C:35 criminal laws that claim cannabis is an illegal 
Schedule 1 drug with no medical value. Gov. Christie and law 
enforcement refuse to acquiesce but as these rulings show, the courts 
are becoming cannabis friendly.

In 2007 I had another daughter and for four years her mother allowed 
visitation and I paid child support. In 2011 I lost my business, got 
sick with bone cancer, and was prosecuted by Burlington County for 1 
pound of my medicine. I couldn't pay child support, so she too 
stopped allowing me to see this daughter.

Knowing how NJ family court would treat "NJWeedman," I didn't ask the 
courts for visitation until last week. I only did it because of my 
knowledge of these two rulings in the past year. Last week I asked 
for visitation with my youngest child, and to my delight the request 
was granted.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom