Verdict in whistleblower’s historic case exposes the flaws of an unregulated legal system
SACRAMENTO, CA – Former family court mediator Emily Gallup prevailed today in an historic wrongful termination lawsuit against the Nevada County Superior Court (NCSC). After three days of deliberation, a Sacramento jury found NCSC guilty of retaliating against Ms. Gallup, awarding her $313,000 for the financial and emotional damages she incurred. Gallup was represented by M.Catherine Jones and George Allen in the four week trial.
“This verdict should serve as a wakeup call to family courts across America,” said Gallup. “Children cannot be treated like widgets and shoved through the family court machine. Laws protecting the best interests of children must be followed.”
Gallup alleged during the trial that her department failed to comply with the California Rules of Court. She reported that family court mediators were making recommendations about child custody without reviewing court files, gathering collateral information, or checking parents’ criminal backgrounds. She explained to jurors that domestic violence (DV) victims were routinely not offered separate mediation sessions as required by law. Trial witnesses testified that parents were subjected to a variety of coercive tactics by Judge Julie McManus and court mediators, including threats that their children might commit suicide if they failed to reach a mediated agreement.
“Children’s health and safety were being compromised,” Gallup states. “I was being told to do what I was told, and I just couldn’t do that in good conscience. I wasn’t willing to blindly follow misguided orders,” Gallup explains, “even if they came from a judge.”
It has been a long road for Gallup toward today’s decision. She originally discussed her compliance concerns with her supervisor, the family court judge, the human resources director, and the Court Executive Officer. She called the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) for help in April of 2010 but learned that the AOC was not authorized to enforce individual court’s compliance with the law. Gallup filed a grievance against her department at that time, and an arbitration hearing occurred in September of 2010. NCSC terminated Gallup in December 2010, prior to the issuance of the arbitrator’s award. The arbitrator found in Gallup’s favor, ruling that she had raised concerns in good faith, and that her efforts had been met with retaliation. In addition to awarding Gallup back pay and attorney’s fees, the arbitrator ordered an audit of the Nevada County Family Court Services Department. NCSC subsequently had the arbitration award vacated on the g rounds that the arbitrator overstepped his authority by ordering an audit.
“There is a shocking lack of oversight over the judicial system,” Gallup said.
She has joined forces with the Center for Judicial Excellence and the California Protective Parents Association to lobby for reforms that will bring accountability to the family court system. Gallup expects that problems in the family court system will persist until judges and other court officials are held accountable for following the law.
Center for Judicial Excellence
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Mill Valley, CA 94941
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