This lesson really should not be a surprise to me. When I worked for social services in Kentucky, prior to law school, I was required to appear in court in a neighboring county one day regarding a home study. I was the supervisor of the child protection team and refused to sign off on a home study because the requesting worker ended up telling my worker a bunch of concerning information AFTER we had completed the home visits. Had we known this stuff, we would have taken a different approach.
Anyway, the judge wanted to know why I refused to approve the home study so I went to court armed with a Kentucky Revised Statute and related Kentucky Administrative Regulations that clearly said that developing a case plan with the family rather than just a home evaluation was required (I guess I was thinking a little like a laywer even then). The judge said “I don’t care about those statutes!” shortly before some mention of contempt.
I should have learned then that being a judge does not automatically equate with following the law. But, I am now learning that judges are not always concerned with pesky things like statutes and Supreme Court decisions – at least not in the family law arena. I am not just talking about the areas of family law that have waffle room built in with “best interests” standards that mean something different to everyone. I’m talking about even where the law is clear. I guess this is similar to the lesson I learned in law school that there was nothing at all objective about objective standards – in the law or in grading.
Please do not misunderstand, the vast majority of judges I have encountered do use the law as their rudder. I also interned for a judge that is now on the Kentucky Supreme Court who impressed me with his/her knowledge and application of the law.