Don’t blame the judge for this tragedy
Petula Dvorak’s June 2 Metro column about the death of 3-year-old Ji’Aire Lee, “Before boy’s death, a case of dad discrimination?,” appeared to be little more than Monday-morning quarterbacking.
Pleadings, such as complaints and motions, similar to what Ji’Aire’s father, James “Donnell” Lee, filed in a custody suit, are not evidence. These filings are required to put the other party on notice of the issues that will be raised in court. If a party tries to argue something not previously noted, the court generally will decline to hear the issue. Similarly, if a party does not pursue a claim, it is not the responsibility of the judge to raise the issue.
Routinely, in response to the type of questions that D.C. Superior Court Judge Peter A. Krauthamer reportedly posed to Mr. Lee, litigants respond that they have concerns about the mental health or other traits of the opposing party. When that occurs before Judge Krauthamer, there is no more patient a judge. He is not reluctant to order mental-health evaluations and home studies and to appoint guardians ad litem to represent the best interests of children.
Judge Krauthamer, a veteran of the District of Columbia Public Defender Service, certainly has not demonstrated a bias in favor of mothers over fathers in any of the cases in which I have participated before him or have otherwise observed.
As tragic as Ji’Aire’s death was, the judge is not to blame.