Don’t blame the judge for this tragedy

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - Join the de­bate at wash­ing­ton­post. com/ localop­in­ions Alan B. Soschin, Spring­field

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.

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