Senator Leno Joins a List of Sponsors for the Vanguard’s Family Court Event



Senator Leno  receives a Justice Seeker Award from the Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE) in 2009.  He is pictured with Kathleen Russell (left), who is keynote speaker on May 9.
Senator Leno receives a Justice Seeker Award from the Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE) in 2009. He is pictured with Kathleen Russell (left), who is keynote speaker on May 9.

State Senator Mark Leno, who was a critical force back in 2009 pushing for an audit of the family courts in Marin and Sacramento Counties, has joined a list of sponsors of the Vanguard Court Watch May 9 event, “Family Court Crisis: Who Will Protect the Children.”

Other sponsors include Distinguished UC Davis Professor Tilahun Yilma, Davis City Councilmember Brett Lee, Yolo County Superintendent of Public Instruct Jesse Ortiz, Davis School Board Vice President Madhavi Sunder, and West Sacramento School Board Member Norma Alcala along with her husband Carlos Alcala, Chair of the Chicano-Latino Caucus.

The event features Kathleen Russell as the keynote speakers. Ms. Russell helped to found the Center for Judicial Excellence in 2006, as a non-profit “established to improve the judiciary’s public accountability and strengthen and maintain the integrity of the courts.”

The event also features a speech from local resident Denise Hoffner, who was removed as a juror in a recent high profile criminal case that involved a custody dispute. There will be a panel discussion with Connie Valentine of the California Protective Parents Association, Distinguished UC Davis Professor Tilahun Yilma, Parent and Advocate Sue Hulsebus and Steve, a 15 year old child who has been caught in the middle of a custody fight.

Senator Leno in 2009 told the Marin Independent-Journal that the family court system has
become a service mill, a cottage industry of sorts. Maybe state law needs to be changed.”

“For many years litigants from Family Court have argued that the system needs improvement and does not adequately serve the needs of California’s children and families,” said Senator Leno.

“People are concerned the health and well-being of children might be at risk,” he added. “I’ve had mothers and fathers in tears in my office, telling me their sad stories. Minimally, we have to look into this and see what the truth is.”

According to keynote speaker Kathleen Russell, “the most basic problem in California family courts is that there is a complete lack of oversight or accountability over a burgeoning cottage industry that has sprung up there, and those working in the system are making A LOT of money with virtually no one checking on whether they are following the laws or rules of court, and they are fighting to keep it that way.”

Over the years, we have heard accounts of grave injustices within the family court system. Children in particular are vulnerable and are in need of protection, but, all too often, the court system favors those most able to afford an attorney and leaves millions of children in situations where they are in dangerous conditions.

Family court has to deal with highly emotionally-charged and high-conflict problems of divorce and child custody, which often bleeds into issues of substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse.

Tickets are on sale for $45 in advance. Sponsorships start at $100. For additional information:


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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