DECEMBER 13, 1996


Dear Honorable Judges and Committee Members of the Oregon Task Force on Gender Fairness,

Thank you for taking the time to hold public meetings on this important issue. I would like to bring to your attention 5 issues concerning gender fairness and the Legal System.

First, Oregon Legal Services Corporation discriminates in its Family Law practice against males, even though males meet Legal Services income requirements. For example, since 1992 (as far back as I have gone) Legal Services has never represented any male in Benton or Linn counties. The reason for this discrimination is in Legal Services own policy to only take referrals from the local domestic violence agency (CARDV) which does not provide any services for men.
Since Legal Services is a publicly funded agency, they should be held to the highest equal access standard. I find it amazing that this kind of blatant discrimination takes place and I encourage this task force to take corrective action.

Exhibit A, Oregon Legal Services Corp., Albany Regional Office brochure and statement.
EXHIBIT B, Letter to OLSC that received no response.

Second: DADS has found gender bias in the issuance of temporary restraining orders (TRO's). Keep in mind that TRO's are needed, and please understand that we are not advocating against TRO's but are advocating against the "rubber stamping" and sanctioned abuse of TRO's. Many TRO's are issued under false pretence and as child custody orders. This issue is again amplified by Legal Services discriminatory practices.
O.R.S. 107.718 (1) states "an immediate and present danger" for the issuance of a TRO. Are these orders looked at for gender fairness?
According to domestic violence statistics in for Benton County, Females comprised 22% of all DV charges in 1994 (Exhibit C) and 14% in 1995 (Exhibit D). In addition, the latest interpersonnal violence statistics from the Oregon Health Department show that men are victims in 26% (Exhibit E) of the domestic violence cases.
DADS has not found these same percentages in the issuance of TRO's. I think it is fair to draw the conclusion that TRO's are being used against males as preemptive strikes to gain advantage before a divorce.

Third: DADS has found that DA's drop females charged with domestic violence more frequently than the standard percentage. In 1995, 50% of the females charged with domestic violence were declined for prosecution (Exhibit C). The standard percentage is 18-20%. (Exhibit G)

Fourth: there is a gender imbalance in the enforcement of divorce decrees and custody orders. DADS has found that local judges and DA's selectively enforce portions of these orders. DADS have found this by tracking the number of Custodial Interference (O.R.S. 163.245 & 163.257) charges and prosecutions and comparing it to the number of child support orders issued. In Benton County, only two cases of custodial interference were received with only one charge filed but ultimately dismissed in 1994 (Exhibit C), and four charges were filed for Custodial Interference in 1995 (Exhibit D). Comparing this figure to 10,404 support orders in Oregon 1994, and 9023 support orders in 1995. (Exhibit H)
This issue is aggravated by the fact that parents who are on public assistance and refuse visitation are able to hide behind local welfare agencies while they receive aid; The parent breaking the visitation order cannot be served because the address cannot be disclosed due to confidentiality laws. DADS has found that local judges are reluctant to order the welfare agency to serve the parent.

Fifth: local District Courts are creating their own "standards" for visitation that discriminate against non-custodial parents - usually fathers. These visitation standards are not biased on the "best interest" of the child but are biased on the convenience of the court. This standard visitation schedule usually includes every other weekend and one night during the week. These visitation schedules have never been reviewed for gender fairness or for what is in the best interest of the child. These standard go against O.R.S. (Exhibit I), and Oregon case law (Exhibit J) of frequent, reasonable, and regular visitation

Exhibit K - Benton County Standard Visitation Schedule


  1. Require Legal Services to drop the policy of Family Law referals from domestic violence agencies. Legal Services original mandate was to help the low income and the elderly . Since Legal Services is a public agency they should be required to submit yearly reports on people they serve, broken down by gender. These reports should be public information. Legal Services should also be required to make an active attempt to represent males.

  2. Education and sensitivity training for judicial officers and support staff regarding anti-father gender bias is critically needed.

    For years, fathers all over America have complained about anti-father judicial bias. When national custody outcomes are 70% sole custody with mothers and 10% with fathers, something is wrong. Perhaps the best explanation of institutional legal bias is to read the exact words of the Family Law Committee guidebook published some years ago in Minnesota:

    "Except in rare cases the father should not have the custody of the minor children of the parties. He is usually unqualified psychologically and emotionally nor does he have time and care to supervise the children. A lawyer not only does an injustice to himself but he is unfair to his client, the state and to society if he gives any encouragement to the father that he should have custody of the children."

  3. Modify Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers to reduce the tendency to over-litigate for a family law client, which increases hostilities and contentiousness.

    American lawyers are collecting over $100,000,000,000 ($100 BILLION) per year for fees from custody cases. There is significant room for positive and effective legal representation without making every issue of dispute into a conflict and charge of additional fees. Lawyers as mediators offer great hope to reduce the overzealous nature of domestic relations and return a level of civility and concern for the eventual outcome for all members of the family.

  4. In order to provide needed reforms in our domestic courts, this Task Force should support legislation to improve the accountability and responsible decision making of domestic court judges. Specific recommendations:

    1. Implement a system where the Oregon Supreme Court monitors local domestic court judges.

    2. A standardized procedure be made available for monitoring of local domestic court judges by citizen groups, with reports given to the Oregon Supreme Court for remedial action where warranted.

    3. Each domestic court judge be required to keep an independent file of all rulings relating to children in divorce, paternity, or adoption proceedings. Such file should be available for public review as an expected part of judicial accountability .

    4. That the "breadth of judicial discretion" standard be modified to require domestic court judges to issue rulings based on the preponderance of established evidence. Accountability should ensure that rulings are not predicated on hearsay or unfounded character assassination. Findings of fact and conclusions of law should be reviewed by appellate court judges to ensure that rulings are consistent with established evidence.

    You are visitor number
    Top of Page | DADS Main Page