I pay the children’s health expenses and child support; I’ve spent six figures, and I still won’t get to see my kids for Christmas. – Stephen Warren
Rockwall – A brief requested by a visiting judge who is with leaden-footed obstinacy blocking a resolution to a knotty custody dispute gives the best explanation why a father has been unable to establish justice by seeking parental rights granted him in a 2005 jury trial divorce.
An Odessa attorney named Lane Haygood said of the man’s efforts to see his children, “…Stephen Anthony Warren’s attempts at doing the right thing were met with a stone wall of uncaring lassitude in Rockwwall County.”
At the center of the dispute is the unyielding fact that public officials, including two very crooked criminal prosecutors, sought to strip the father of all his parental rights through the false allegations that he first raped his former wife, Leslie Bird, and then committed an aggravated sexual assault of his oldest daughter. In both allegations, prosecutors sought and obtained indictments which were later dropped “in the interest of justice” when the only evidence offered was the affidavits of Ms. Bird.
When it came time to adjudicate the issue of Warren’s parental rights, Ms. Bird’s attorney, David Rohlf, did not inform the Court that the criminal complaint of aggravated sexual assault had been declined for prosecution. The judge ruled on that partial information, that all visits must be supervised, without benefit of knowing that the allegations were considered false.
To further complicate the matter, this child in 2005 made an “outcry” that “Poppy,” her maternal grandfather, subjected her to continuing sexual abuse through indecent conduct – “something bad”, a secret which if she told, he threatened her with some unnamed retaliation. It’s an allegation which the forces of law and order have almost completely ignored, declining to make a formal investigation.
Because of the unproven allegations of sexual misconduct long since dismissed, Warren is required to see his children in supervised visits at a remote visitation center in Dallas. On two occasions, Christina Coultas, an unlicensed director of FLP Family Center, allowed one of Stephen Warren’s daughters to read a prepared statement declaring neither child like or wish to see their father.
The original trial judge, Brett Hall of the 382nd District Court, has long since recused himself, and the ancillary proceedings have been handled by a series of visiting judges. Now, on January 8, it will be up to Judge Joe Leonard of neighboring Hunt County to rule on the relief sought in Haygood’s brief, to set a hearing on two issues, and to appoint an attorney to represent his children.
First, do the laws of the State of Texas allow children to sever the parent-child relationship by both statute and case law?
Secondly, may a child refuse to permit visitation?
In the first question, Haygood’s holding is that “The Court is without authority to permit a child to sever the parent-child relationship” and “cannot even entertain termination without sufficient proof of a statutory factor and the appointment of an amicus attorney.” In the brief, the attorney notes that Warren had requested appointment of an amicus attorney to represent his children repeatedly between the present and the month of June, 2015 – to no avail.
In the second, he states that “Texas law has not confronted the question of whether a child may refuse to permit visitation,” but that, in any case, “this question is not properly before the court…” A more fundamental question must first be answered, he argues. Has Leslie Bird encouraged the children to refuse visitation with their father?
“This question, and related matters, cannot be inquired into or answered until Leslie Diane Bird complies with lawful discovery requests and this Court appoints an amicus attorney for the children.” Ms. Bird and her attorneys have resisted all discovery requests for many months.
In a deposition taken on October 1, she affirmed her name only, then answered every question put to her by Cynthia Clack, Warren’s trial attorney, by saying that she refused to answer on the grounds that she would not risk incriminating herself. She even refused to acknowledge that the man with her in the conference room is Daryl Bird, her husband, who, when his turn came, repeated her performance, saying he declined to answer in an effort to keep from incriminating his wife.
Included in matters before the court are a contempt citation including 121 violations of court orders, a bill of review detailing the alleged miscarriage of justice by the Court, and the pending visitation rights questions.
If found guilty, Ms. Bird could face more than 5 years in a county jail for contempt of court.
Curiously, Christina Coultas of FLP Family Place wrote an ex parte communication to the judge to say that her organization is an improper venue for a supervised visit, after all, though it was the court-ordered place previously designated for all such visits. A check of her licensing revealed that her permit to supervise such visits lapsed in 2012, according to a legal assistant working in the Clack Law Firm.
This is a listing of previous publications in these columns regarding this affiar: