The Valid Court Order (Update)

There is a supposition on the part of the public that courts, even when wrong, wouldn’t do anything completely nuts.  After all, there are appellate courts, more appellate courts, and certainly lawyers, watching them closely, and any judge who does something completely bonkers would be called out immediately.  Right?

Of course, that didn’t help Hillary Transue, but there are always exceptions.

Meet Frank Hatley.  He’s an exception too.  From AJC :

Frank Hatley has languished in a South Georgia jail for more than a year.

The reason? He failed to reimburse the state for all the public assistance his “son” received over the past two decades.

The problem? Hatley is not the biological father — and a special assistant state attorney general and a judge knew it but jailed Hatley anyway.

It’s not like Hatley didn’t try.  He did.  He tried really hard.

Even after learning he was not the father, Hatley paid thousands of dollars the state said he owed for support. After losing his job and becoming homeless, he still made payments out of his unemployment benefits.

His new lawyer says that “Hatley had paid a total of $9,524.05 in support since April 1995.”  Not good enough, apparently.  You see, Hatley was a “deadbeat dad” at the time it was determined that he wasn’t the dad at all.  While the court relieved him from future child support payments, he remained obligated to pay past due support.

The Aug. 21, 2001 order, signed by Cook County Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins, acknowledges that Hatley was not Travon’s father.

After that, Hatley paid almost $6,000. But last year he was laid off from his job unloading charcoal grills from shipping containers. He became homeless and lived in his car. Still, Hatley made some child support payments using his unemployment benefits.

By May 2008, he apparently had not paid enough. In another order prepared by Reddick and signed by Perkins, Hatley was found in contempt and jailed. When he is released, the order said, Hatley must continue making payments to the state at a rate of $250 a month.

Did anyone mention to Judge Perkins that he’s got the authority to vacate a facially erroneous order nunc pro tunc?  Or perhaps there was no point in making the suggestion, since someone has to pay the freight and better it’s Hatley than, say, the real father?

So what’s to be done about this facial fiasco?

It may be difficult for Hatley to get out from under the court order, said Atlanta family lawyer Randall Kessler, who is not associated with the case. “It’s definitely unfair,” Kessler said. “But at the same time, he’s dealing with a valid court order.”

That’s right.  It’s a valid court order.  And isn’t that all that really matter? 

Update:  Frank Hatley was released from jail by Judge Dane Perkins.

Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins ruled that Hatley was indigent and should not be jailed for not being able to make child support payments. Perkins postponed a decision on whether Hatley should have to make any more back payments on child-support for a child who is not his.
Of course, this was all true and known at the time Perkins put Hatley in jail for contempt for failure to pay child support.  There’s nothing like religion and a job well done by attorney Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

6 thoughts on “The Valid Court Order (Update)


    this is so wrong, i want to leave this country and go live somewhere else,with my famil.for shame on that judge that king solomon said that good men strive to do right in times o turmoil. we need to strike and recall the law enforcemen
    who don’t do right by the public.

  2. Bob

    Apparently the Judge Perkins was impressed by the earlier decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to force a non-father who’d been mistakenly paying child support several years to keep on paying, DNA test notwithstanding. It was mentioned that the man involved was the “only father the child had ever known.” Making sure that at least some good deeds don’t go unpunished is only one of the guiding principles of this body of feminist- and “post”-modernist- inspired judges, whose chief is said to have coached lawyers to bring the gay-marriage case that made it legal for gays to marry in Mass.

    If all traditional principles, like the importance of paternity and the non-solipsistic melding-of-opposites benefits of authentic marriage, are culturally-relative, malleable, and subject to “progressive” revision, then so are these recent decisions, in time. It’s all in the framing of the issues, and in time, they can be re-framed.

    Given the track record of the conventional wisdom of the past century or so, its bumper-crop of serial killers, mass-murders, genocides, spousal-killers, terrorists, life-long psychotherapy patients, and so on, this is hardly a time for confidence in prevailing notions of social “progress.” The dominant epistemology of Western academic conventional wisdom is one of subjectivist skepticism, and fails to compel consensus regarding the fundamentals in matters of the human spirit. Hence fundamentalism.

    The real social progress of our time comes from the implementation of 17th- and 18th-century principles of equality and toleration. The “progressive” thought of today’s celebrity intellectuals is a perversion of reason, and unfit to be guiding public policy and jurisprudence. Like every overripe paradigm, it takes methods and assumptions that were once salutary components of an intellectual fullness, and carries them to purified and absurd extremes. We can expect more of the same for the time being.

  3. Ray Medley

    This is just one example showing the workings of a legal system and not a system of justice.
    Both judge and prosecutor knew there was no justice in their actions,but smugly proceeded to prosecute and jail this man.
    Despicable, the both of them.

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