With every passing day, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen becomes more impatient with her duties and more partisan in her conduct. We need hardly say to which side she is partial. She has made no secret of it since even before the formal trial got underway. Her constant refrain has been that the state will never be able to prove that Rafael Izquierdo is an unfit parent because, in effect, the state of Florida has set that threshhold so high that there really is no such thing as an "unfit parent" anymore nor can anything that a parent do short of dropping his/her child down a garbage chute constitute "abandonment." She has berated the Department of Children and Families for even presuming to believe that they could prove their case for neglect or abandonment.
What could be more conclusive proof of abandonment than signing away your parental rights so that your mentally-ill ex-girlfriend can take your daughter to a foreign country, where she has no family and knows no one, and then severing all communications with your child, even after her mother had attempted suicide, refusing even to ask for a humanitarian visa to go see her, until compelled to re-assert your parental rights by a tyrannical regime for its own purposes?
Even in the face of what is unquestionably abandonment, continuous and unapologetic, Judge Cohen refused to accept it as abandonment, not even relying on her own judgment, as she confessed, but on her apprehension that an appellate court would overrule her if she found that there was a case for abandonment because "appellate judges have construed the law so leniently that the most uninvolved and uncaring parent can get his or her children back." In short, she refuses to rule on principle and concedes everything to precedent.
Yes, a Florida circuit court gave O.J. Simpson custody of his kids after he murdered their mother (as proved civilly). Is that really the threshhold? Not even murdering your children's mother makes you an unfit parent? Isn't this the ultimate form of abandonment — murdering the one fit parent and sueing to have custody granted to a murderer (yourself)? If this is so, should it be so? If this is the "precedent," isn't it in desperate need of revision?
In a case as complicated as this one has proved to be Judge Cohen even took the DCF to task for not allowing Izquierdo to testify by phone from Cuba at the hearing, as she allows most litigants in custody cases to do. What makes Rafael Izquierdo any different from a father in Alabama? she asked. And if that wasn't bad enough, she added: "You would have handled it differently if the parent lived in Switzerland." The simple answer is that the Rule of Law is observed in Alabama (and Switzerland) and not in Cuba. No one in the government of Alabama (or Switzerland) would be telling the litigant what his answers should be to the questions asked of him. In Cuba, of course, Izquierdo's entire testimony would be scripted. In fact, there would be no guarantee that Izquierdo himself would be the one answering the questions from Cuba. In person, he made a very bad advocate for his own cause; no doubt they would have found a better one in Cuba.
But Judge Cohen is not receptive to that line of argument either. She brands any attempt to highlight the differences between a democratic and totalitarian system as "politics" and she wants none of that in her courtroom. The politics of the Castro regime — or, rather, the absence of civil society and hence politics in Cuba — does not concern her. As a good liberal she refuses to make "value judgments" and embraces the moral equivalence of those who believe that morality is universal and uniform, which is the same as to say there is no morality, because universal and uniform it has never been.
"The U.S. is reluctant to repatriate children to a communist country. Let's not mince words," Cohen recently asserted. No, she's not "mincing" her words at all. What the U.S. is supposedly reluctant to do, she shows absolutely no scrupples about doing herself. It is odd that those who want freedom for this girl (which necessarily means no repatriation to Cuba) must "mince" their words in Judge Cohen's courtroom, while those who advocate dumping the child down Castro's well need make no excuses for favoring this course.
Cohen even berated herself in open court for her "error" in consenting to the DCF request to require Izquierdo to testify in her courtroom rather than by phone from Havana. Apparently, she wanted to make her verdict based on the fewest possible facts. Izquierdo's perjurous testimony has complicated her life by actually complicating the case. The simple farmer from Cabaiguán turned out to be a highly questionable character. She would have preferred that he had remained the simple farmer. It's easier to handle stock characters than actual facts especially when these don't correspond to your preconceived notions of "justice" in this case.
It is doubtful whether even Solomon bitched as much as this woman. Even the snippets of her comments reported in The Herald would seem to leave no doubt of her extreme distaste for this case. Her real feelings may be otherwise. She seems to take great pleasure in her courtroom histrionics and comports herself like Judge Judy on a bad day every day. In a characteristic outburst Wednesday she complained: "I hate this stuff. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it." I would be more inclined to believe that she "Loves it. Loves it. Loves it." The publicity anyway and its renumerative possibilities.
The verdict, in this phase of the trial, which considers Izquierdo's competency as a parent, will come tomorrow (Friday).