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Submission To The Law Commission On Family Court

Submission To The Law Commission On Family Court Dispute Resolution (Preliminary Paper 47)

Peter Zohrab
Acting President
New Zealand Equality Party
28 March 2002


Part I: Anti-Male Bias – the meta-issue that is also the main substantive issue

Introduction to Part I

Given the anti-male bias (see below) that permeates Preliminary Paper 47, one is tempted to boycott the written submission process entirely. The New Zealand Equality Party (NZEP) has decided not to do this, for three reasons:
1. The Men’s/Fathers’ Movement is used to experiencing anti-male bias – to the extent that we are now adept at sensing nuances and degrees of it;
2. The Law Commission has taken the trouble to hold a focus group meeting of Men’s/Fathers’ representatives and to tape-record the ensuing discussion for the purposes of their research into the issues;
3. The Law Commissioner responsible for Preliminary Paper 47, Vivienne Ulrich, took the trouble to turn up to the above meeting to meet those involved.
4. The amount of background information about the Family Court that is gathered together and clearly presented in Preliminary Paper 47 is fantastic, and needs to be applauded.

Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that, when the main target of Men’s/Fathers’ Movement protests has been anti-male bias in the Family Court, and when Preliminary Paper 47 has arguably come into being principally as a result of those protests, it is nothing short of horrendous to find that Preliminary Paper 47 itself reeks of this very same anti-male bias.

How can we explain to ourselves the co-occurrence of this bias with points 1-3 above? We can “psychologise” the issue, and partially explain it by saying that the Feminists in the Law Commission – as elsewhere -- are in denial about Men’s/Fathers’ Rights – which is undoubtedly the case. We can speculate that there is perhaps some gamesmanship involved here. We may think that Feminists in power consider it appropriate to oppress men, on the (fallacious) grounds that men used to/do oppress women. We may wonder if the person who authorized the focus-group meeting is not the same person as the author of Preliminary Paper 47.

The Western World has gone partially mad, to the extent that students are actually taught in schools and universities that women have been/are “oppressed” – when the Feminist priestesses who teach this dogma have never even examined men’s lives for evidence of equally vicious, or worse, “oppression”. The mere fact that men hold/held most of the decision-making positions is/was simply taken as proof that they oppressed women more than men – though no effort has ever been made by Feminists to prove this. The Law Commission, like most people, have been taught this dogma, so it is very hard for them to approach Men’s/Fathers’ Rights with an open mind, since the very idea runs counter to their “religious beliefs”, according to which society is male-dominated and oppresses women.


Part I (Substance)

The Paper spends just over one page of its 208 pages listing the "Problems" related to "Dissatisfaction and Disempowerment of Family Court Users." That fact is in itself symbolic -- or iconic.

The Paper says "It is difficult to unpack all the reasons for this dissatisfaction." That is certainly true. Even after writing a book on Men's Rights I am only now beginning to feel confident that I understand the basis of the problem.

The Paper mentions "an allegation of gender bias", but it does not explain what this actually consists of. I feel that this is the central issue, and that this Paper is itself flawed because of gender bias -- whether irrecoverably or not, I can't tell yet. Here is some evidence of gender bias:


1st evidence of gender bias
A woman, Vivienne Ulrich, is put in charge of a Law Commission project which results
largely from the political protests of men/fathers -- whereas the study on Women's Access to Justice (a deeply anti-male exercise), which resulted from political pressure from women, was also headed by a woman. The researchers on Vivienne Ulrich’s project are also apparently female. This Feminist Control Freak syndrome is typical of the legal system which we are attacking. I can think of some men who are more anti-male than some women, so having males doing the job would not eliminate the possibility of anti-male bias, but the fact that the Law Commission was so arrogant as to put an all-female team in charge sends a signal of contempt for the Men’s/Fathers’ Movement.

2nd evidence of gender bias
The Paper repeatedly cites research from a female -- Professor Carol Smart – who inaccurately and patronisingly ascribes the rise of the Fathers' Movement to a loss of power in the private sphere. This combination of skating over the issue of gender bias and quoting some obscure Feminist academic putting down the Fathers' Movement is deeply offensive.


3rd evidence of gender bias
Preliminary Paper 47 cites Professor Carol Smart a second time on one page (p. 55) – this time making a weak argument against father custody (the idea that fathers don't know their children very well) !

4th evidence of gender bias
Preliminary Paper 47 states (paragraph 320) that we can't solve feelings of disempowerment by users of the Family Court by means of the court processes themselves. That statement is almost a cast iron guarantee that this Review of court processes will get nowhere. You ignore totally, in this statement, the fact that it is gender bias in the Family Court itself which is the problem, and it is that which fathers want to have addressed above all.


5th evidence of gender bias
Preliminary Paper 47 refers on page 1 to the pre-1980 days when it was "deemed essential for lady petitioners to wear a hat and gloves to the High Court". That is completely irrelevant. Its only function is to demonstrate to me that you are just another of those Feminists who run our legal system, and who feel it absolutely compulsory to feel self-pity for themselves as women. It is an absolutely trivial matter whether or not women have/had to wear a hat and gloves to the High Court. Do/did men have to wear ties to the High Court ? Do you care about that ? Would you mention it ? Would you mention the fact that many men may have avoided court cases because they were killed overseas on battlefields ? Would you mention that on page one of such a Discussion Paper ?


6th evidence of gender bias

The section on Men in “Background 2” – the so-called “statistical overview” – has no hard statistics in it at all, and provides yet another opportunity for the authors of Preliminary Paper 47 to quote Carol Smart’s snide remarks about men and fathers.


Part II: Substantive Issues in Preliminary Paper 47

1. Terms of Reference

Under the Terms of Reference of the present Review, the Law Commission was requested by the Government to consider, amongst other issues, “culturally appropriate personnel and processes.”

Carol Smart’s paper “Changing Family Relationships” contains the following very important insight:

“There are cultures of marriage and divorce, and we need to understand that these may be far more influential than current policy and practice. It is a form of arrogance to assume that people are ignorant or simply need more information in order to start behaving differently.”

This is a brilliant insight, in my opinion. The Family Court has a relatively Feminist culture of marriage and divorce, and many people in Society do not. My evidence for this is the fact that “Family Court judges were more likely to think that gender bias against women is widespread but subtle than were other judges” (Helena Barwick, Janice Burns & Alison Gray: “Gender Equity in the New Zealand Judicial System: Judges’ Perceptions of Gender Issues”, p.33). This Feminist culture is more than a mere bias – it is an ideology which many of its proponents believe in fervently and zealously teach to others. It is being taught by State and Legal organizations such as the Institute of Judicial Studies, university Law Faculties, and the Law Society.

In this context, and in view of the political dominance of Feminist theory on relevant topics, men and fathers must be recognized as a minority culture within New Zealand Society. Men are numerically a minority, they are a minority in terms of the number and size of pressure-groups that act on their behalf, they are a minority in terms of the hostile Feminist culture that prevails in the Family Court system, in particular, and they are a minority according to many of the classic criteria for minority status. For example, more boys than girls leave school without qualifications, a greater proportion of men than women commit suicide and are convicted by the courts, women live longer than men, men -- but not women -- are conscripted into the frontline in wartime, and more is spent on women’s health, including visits to GPs, than on men’s health.


2. Some Aspects of Professor Carol Smart’s paper: “Changing Family Relationships”

Here I make some general, negative statements about Carol Smart’s paper being cited so unnecessarily in Preliminary Paper 47:

 This is basically not a competent paper (see below), though it does have some interesting content, as mentioned above;
 The authors of Preliminary Paper 47 seem to have been clutching at straws, and to have been willing to cite any old source that was derogatory towards men/fathers;
 To have been a presenter at a NZ Law Society Conference is not a guarantee of either competence or objectivity, but of political correctness first and foremost – to the exclusion of any need for competence;
 To be a female professor at a Western university is not a guarantee of either competence or objectivity, since male academics are mostly Feminists and/or terrified of opposing Feminists;
 To be a Professor of Sociology at a Western university is not a guarantee of either competence or objectivity – rather, it is almost a guarantee of Leftism and uninformed anti-male bias.

Carol Smart’s paper is stimulating, it makes a lot of interesting historical claims, and it is not so blatantly anti-male as works written by women in her sort of position often seem to be. However, the main point she sets out to prove is not actually substantiated by her somewhat rambling comments. This is the sense in which it is not a competent paper.

She states:

“I think that one of the keys to understanding (the need for a Men’s Movement) has been the shift in emphasis away from marriage and legally defined relationships (i.e. the Marriage Regime) towards family policy/law that is much more focused on parenthood.”

She does not actually demonstrate this. She does demonstrate that marriage has tended to be supplanted by de facto relationships in Western countries, but she does not mention issues such as relationship property, which clearly show that legally defined relationships are still very important. She seems to see children as having more rights and power than in the past, but this is really a separate issue, even if it is true.

Part of her problem lies in the fact that she states:

“The Fathers’ Movement has arisen as a result of a perceived (and real) incremental loss of power in the private sphere which was not widely felt until approximately the 1980s… There clearly was no need for a Men’s Movement before the 1980s.”

This supposed sudden need for a Men’s Movement was the fact that the first quotation (above) was supposed to explain. However, even if we agree that the Men’s Movement was negligible prior to the 1980s, that does not prove that there was no need for one before the 1980s. I would argue that there was a need for a Men’s Movement as soon as a Women’s Movement started to emerge (i.e. about 200 years ago). This submission, however, is not the place to go into the psychological and political factors which inhibited the growth of this movement before that time.

The Fathers’ Movement, in contrast to the Men’s Movement as a whole, arose not because of some loss of “power” in the private sphere, but because the contrast between what Feminism said it was about (equality) and what it was actually about (female power) began to hit men in a place that they were unable to ignore – in their ability to have contact with their children. (I put scare-quotes around the word “power”, because one way of telling a Feminist from a non-Feminist is that a Feminist always refers to men – but never to women – as having, wanting, or losing “power”.)

3. The New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has a “Women’s Consultative Group”, which has the avowed aim of “influenc(ing) decisions that affect women.” Obviously, most/all decisions affecting women also affect men, and there is no counterweight that presents the male point of view in the Law Society. I emailed the Law Society about the inappropriateness of having a Women’s Consultative Group without a male equivalent, but I received no reply.

Professional associations (including the Post Primary Teachers’ Association in the Education sector, of which I have first-hand knowledge) tend to be run by Left-Wing and anti-male activists who prevent those of dissimilar views from acquiring influence within the organization. Lawyers are pressured to join the Law Society, whose every activity, including conferences and training-courses, will necessarily be tainted by this anti-male bias.

It is impossible for men and fathers to have any confidence in lawyers and judges, because they are under the influence of the anti-male Law Society. If men and fathers have no confidence in lawyers and judges, they can have no confidence in the Legal System as a whole. This can only result in eventual, creeping revolt, expressed in some of several possible forms.

The Law Society has a Family Law section which claimed (http://www.familylaw.org.nz/media/famct190701.asp) that the Family Court is not biased. However, this is a case of a biased organization (the Law Society) claiming that another organization is not biased. This claim cannot be taken seriously, if only because of where the claim is coming from.

Again, we are up against the issue of the dominant Feminist culture, which pretends that it is oppressed, in order to justify its power.


4. Lawyers
It is important to realize that, if men and fathers cannot find any/enough lawyers to represent them adequately, they are in effect deprived of their human rights. Lawyers exist because it is very hard to get anywhere in the Legal System without them. As is well-known, men and fathers often complain about lawyers – about how expensive they are, but mainly about how anti-male they are. That is why so many fathers try to do without lawyers in the Family Court. Preliminary Paper 47 has helped me to understand how this comes about.

Lawyers have too much discretion vis-à-vis their clients, in general, and in the Family Court context, in particular. They have a duty to act in what they are pleased to see as “the client’s best interests”, they have a duty to the court not to appear “obstructive”, and they have a duty to themselves and to their own careers not to act too far outside the legal culture in which they operate.

All these “duties” can operate against lawyers’ male clients in the Family Court, as well as in other parts of the Legal System, as I have myself experienced. Largely, I expect, because of the socializing influence of the Law Society (especially at conferences and courses) and university Law faculties, lawyers operate in an anti-male, Feminist culture. Feminist anti-male lies about Domestic Violence (see my book, Sex, Lies & Feminism, which the Law Commission has bought a copy of), for example, are probably propagated as facts within this culture. This means that a male client’s assertion of Men’s/Fathers’ Rights might be undermined by his own lawyer, who would see the expression of such views as not being in the client’s best interests. A lawyer might also refrain from pushing such viewpoints him/herself, in order not to be viewed by the court as “obstructive”, and so as not to be viewed as a maverick by his/her colleagues.

One solution to this is to change the Legal culture, but it would be simpler (though no easier to achieve) to limit the amount of discretion that a lawyer has. If a client is paying a lawyer huge fees, the client should have the right to expect the lawyer to do exactly what they are instructed to do. The lawyer should explain clearly why they think that the client is acting against their own interests, if that is the case, but the lawyer should then bow to the wishes of the paying client. It is contrary to Natural Justice for a lawyer to be able to thwart a client’s wishes because of the lawyer’s own prejudices and professional culture.

Apart from “the client’s best interests”, and “the best interests of the child” (see below), another phrase that causes me grave disquiet is “power imbalance”. Preliminary Paper 47 (on page 21) states:

“The lawyer assists in rectifying any power imbalance between the parties.”

This principle should be immediately wiped from whichever documents are used to promulgate and enforce it. I do not have any concept of “power imbalances” between Family Court parties, except for the prevailing bias against fathers. Therefore I must assume that this phrase has a Feminist origin, since Feminists often talk in derogatory terms about male “power”, but never about female power. My gut feeling is this phrase must inevitably be used against fathers in ninety percent of cases, because Feminist and chivalrous lawyers (i.e. altogether about 99% of Family Court lawyers, in my estimation) are psychologically incapable of seeing a male as less powerful than a female – whatever the circumstances.

Preliminary Paper 47 (on page 22) states that lawyers who practise in the Family Court are encouraged to join the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society. This should be reversed. All lawyers should be deterred from even joining the Law Society, which practices a form of ideological “provider capture” – brainwashing lawyers along Leftist and Feminist lines, and thereby corrupting the Legal system with Leftist/Feminist prejudices. The Law Society should be stripped of any official functions within the Legal system (the same applies -- for similar reasons -- mutatis mutandis, to professional bodies in other sectors, such as the Post Primary Teachers’ Association in the Education sector).


5. The Institute of Judicial Studies

The Institute of Judicial Studies is run jointly by the judges, who have a slight majority on the Governing Board, and the Department of Courts. The Director was adamant (when I spoke to him on the phone) that Women's Refuge and Rape Crisis won't have input into educating judges, but there is plenty of scope for that to happen -- directly or indirectly -- in future, e.g. in the course of their published Strategy:

"2.6 Work with and assist co-operating groups in the development of programmes to meet the needs of the Judiciary and the overall goals of judicial education."

And, in fact, I have since availed myself of the Ombudsmen's Office and the Official Information Act, in order to extract from the Institute the information that one of the people teaching the judges "gender equity", Maria Bradshaw, has the same name as a Spokeswoman for the Women's Refuge movement, according to the webpage: http://www.massey.ac.nz/~kbirks/gender/viol/insight.htm

Not only that, but:
 Two of the three judge presenters are female;
 Three of the five non-judge presenters are female; and
 The male non-judge presenters are from the Police -- an organisation which I can testify (having been frequently harassed by them when working in the Police National Headquarters building, and having had other experiences of Police anti-male bias) has a large degree of anti-male bias. This, indeed, is built-in by their recruitment policies, which reject male applicants who only achieve the physical standards which suffice to allow entry to female applicants;
 Joy Liddicoat (a non-judge presenter) received a grant from the NZ Law Foundation to publish the "Feminist Law Review", according to: http://www.lawfoundation.org.nz/grants/research-legal.htm .

I realise that "gender equity" is a term that arose in a Feminist context, and that Feminists never apply gender equity to the process of defining that term (or, indeed, to anything else). Nevertheless, the Institute of Judicial Studies should not just be teaching judges to toe a Feminist party line, but should be interested in practising gender equity itself, and -- more importantly -- teaching judges to practise gender equity where this would benefit males, as well as where this benefits females.


6. Judges

The 1996 study “Gender Equity in the New Zealand Judicial System: Judges’ Perceptions of Gender Issues” states that Family Court judges were more likely to think that gender bias against women is “widespread but subtle” than were other judges. Since the Men’s/Fathers’ Movement finds Family Court judges to be biased against men, we may suspect that judges who assume the existence of widespread bias against women are themselves influenced by Feminist doctrine and are likely to be biased against men. This is not to say that this bias against women does not exist, but any belief in its existence is likely to arise as a result of reading Feminist research which itself is biased against men and instils, or reinforces, an anti-male mindset.

I am not against Family Court judges being specialists, but the requirement that they be “temperamentally suited” to this kind of work should be done away with, as it probably does little more, in practice, than to allow the selection panel to choose whomsoever they happen to like – e.g. a candidate who was a firm believer in Feminist doctrines, or one would tend to favour the mother.

Judges should not be allowed – let alone required – to attend courses run by the Law Society, because of the anti-male bias of this organization (see above). Any training programmes for judges on “gender awareness” should include Men’s/Fathers’ Rights Awareness.

Nothing even approaching the “one-judge-one-family” or “one-team-one-family” method of case-management should be tolerated. This is because it would be very difficult, in present circumstances, for a male litigant to convince the relevant authorities that a judge was biased against them. The justice system seems to have no real concept of gender bias against men and fathers. I am aware of allegations of severe anti-male bias having been leveled against least one judge who is using such a model, and I must therefore be highly suspicious of any case-management system that this judge is in favour of.

7. The Best Interests of the Child and the Rights of Parents

Where the correct course of action is not obvious on the basis of the principle of the best interests of the child (and I believe this would be the situation in most cases before the Family Court), I consider that the relevant principle of Natural Justice is the equal rights of both parents.


8. Counsel for the Child

I don’t agree that there should even be a “Counsel for the Child”, I don’t agree that “the best interests of the child” is a principle that can be sensibly interpreted in practice, and I don’t agree that the Counsel for the Child should be appointed by the Court, since the Court no doubt tends to appoint lawyers who have the approved, anti-male, Feminist attitudes.

Since those issues are probably outside the scope of the current review process, I will make the following suggestions:
 The Practice Note on Selection and Appointment of Counsel for the Child should make it clear that “sensitivity and awareness of gender issues” includes “sensitivity and awareness of Men’s/Fathers’ issues”.
 Any reference in the Practice Note to “personal qualities compatible with … working cooperatively with other professionals” should be struck out, because that may be used to exclude lawyers who have the gall not to be anti-male, which would put them off-side with other – mostly anti-male, professionals.
 The Best Practice Guidelines for the Counsel for the Child should be removed from the ambit of the Law Society and rewritten by a committee including both Men’s/Fathers’ representatives and Women’s representatives.
 Counsel for the Child should not have the power to override the expressed wishes of a child for the supposed reason that they are against the “best interests of the child”.
 It should be stated in relevant official documents, however, that the expressed interests of the child may be influenced by Parental Alienation – especially when one parent has been excluded from playing a normal part in his child’s life by gross abuses such as ex parte Protection Orders.
 Counsel for the Child should be barred from expressing a preference for custody by one parent over custody by the other, because such a stated preference permits the judge to “cop out” of exercising their own judgement. This is one of the main reasons why the principle of “the best interests of the child” is so flawed. Such a lawyer, who has been chosen by a Feminist Court, is free to interpret this wooly principle in a way that is consistent with their anti-male tendencies, and the judge can then wash their hands of the matter and rely on the biased guidance of this Counsel for the Child.


9. Specialist Report Writers

The selection panel for Specialist Report Writers should not include a “representative of the tangata whenua”, because there is no such thing as ‘tangata whenua’ of New Zealand as a whole, because the very concept is incoherent and a violation of human rights, the notion of “tangata whenua of New Zealand” (as opposed to hapu or iwi tangata whenua status in their own area) is racist, and it is a breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. However, I will not argue that in detail here, since this is probably not the appropriate place to do it.


10. Second Opinions

Second opinions of psychologists’ reports should be routine, and the original psychologist’s report should be released immediately upon demand by any party to Family Court proceedings. The psychologist preparing the second opinion should routinely have access to all relevant parties.


11. Information

Providing more statistical and other information is one way that the Family Court can be opened up and the potential for anti-male bias decreased. Preliminary Paper 47 should be commended for looking positively at this issue.

It is crucial that statistics about the sex of parties to Family Court proceedings be made available once again – including information about the sex of those awarded day-to-day physical custody and of those representing themselves, of those appearing repeatedly before the Court, of those seeking and obtaining Legal Aid, and of those seeking and obtaining Protection Orders ex parte and otherwise. Judge Mahoney was obviously moved to cease publication of some of these statistics by a feeling that they would create a false impression of gender bias in the Family Court. The point is that they would probably create a true impression of gender/sex bias in the Family Court !


Part III: Conclusion

The New Zealand Legal System – in fact, the World as a whole – needs to realize consciously that Feminism is a thought-system or ideology like any other. It is not just “God’s Truth”, as the New Zealand Legal System is increasingly treating it at the moment. Unless and until New Zealand adopts a written constitution which enshrines Feminism as the State Ideology, the “Diversity” which is such a buzzword these days must be applied to thought-systems, as well as to types of people. Specifically, Masculism must be taught to Judges, Lawyers, and Court Officials on an equal basis with Feminism through the Institute of Judicial Studies, the Law Society, the Department for Courts, and the Ministry of Justice. The Law Society, being a non-government body, must be deprived of the right to train legal professionals on Government-recognized courses, unless it agrees to implement this gender equity measure. All these points apply to the Family Court, as well as to other branches of the Legal System.

Bibliography

Barwick, Helena, Janice Burns and Alison Gray (1996):
“Gender Equity in the New Zealand Judicial System: Judges’ Perceptions of Gender Issues.” Judicial Working Group on Gender Equity

Law Commission (2002):
“Preliminary Paper 47: Family Court Dispute Resolution: A Discussion Paper”

Smart, Carol (2001):
“Changing Family Relationships” (Law Conference 2001, Christchurch, New Zealand, 4-8 October 2001)

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