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Judge Joseph F. Johnston's "Very Concerning Conduct" in the Justina Pelletier Custody Case

Judges within the Massachusetts Juvenile Court system are expected to:

protect children from abuse and neglect, to promote opportunities for children to reside in a safe, stable, permanent family environment, to strengthen families...and to decide all cases fairly and impartially with dedication, integrity and professionalism.
From the information presented by The Boston Globe and other sources, Judge Joseph Johnston has not acted judiciously in the matter of Justina Pelletier. Because he had issued a gag order, Judge Johnston trusted that his rulings would remain a private affair.

In an unexpected countermove Lou and Linda Pelletier, Justina's parents, violated Judge Johnston's suppression of speech dictate and chose to go public after attempts to regain custody of their daughter failed. Because Joseph F. Johnston has life-time tenure it is unlikely that he will lose his judgeship but he is deservedly facing the court of public opinion.

The Justina Pelletier Medical Child Abuse Claim

When presented with medical child abuse allegations by Boston Children's Hospital in February 2013 Judge Johnston did not hesitate to suspend Pelletier parental rights. At dispute: whether Justina Pelletier was suffering from a psychological [Boston Children's Hospital] or medical [Tufts Medical Center] diagnosed disorder. The BCH child protection team led by Dr. Alice Newton told the court that Justina was suffering from a somatic system disorder.

If Judge Johnston or his staff had researched medical literature he would have known that the somatoform disorder cannot be diagnosed in a three-day period and that this novel mental condition is highly subject to misdiagnosis.

To further prove her point on parental medical child abuse, Dr. Newton referenced the cecostomy button surgery performed on Justina at Tufts Medical. An inquiring judge would have asked whether cecostomy button surgery is performed at BCH. Though unasked, the answer is yes.

The Dr. Flores mentioned in the previous link is Alejandro Flores, one of Justina Pelletier's former Tufts physicians. Dr. Flores' research and opinion on cecostomy surgery can be viewed here. The criticized cecostomy-button procedure is performed in hospitals throughout the country.  All one has to do is check the web.

Custody hearings based on nebulous medical opinions should require an outside advocate but Judge Johnston did not appoint a guardian ad litem until December which was 10-months into Justina's psychiatric confinement.

Juvenile Judge Joseph Johnston knew or should have known that Boston Children's Hospital had a dubious history of medical child abuse complaints before the court because that point was highlighted in The Globe articles.

Parents, e.g. the Pelletiers, are not allowed to violate judges' orders and publicize judicial actions. When they do they can expect the court's wrath.

Judge Johnston could have rescinded his decisions in view of the facts but instead continues to punish the Pelletier family. The latest threat: the state may maintain custody of Justina until her eighteen birthday. In this disposition Judge Johnston displays his irritation by stating that the
parents' public conduct is very concerning. True or false, the complaint is a ruse. The singular issue before the court is Justina Pelletier and her health has not improved while under BCH care and Judge Johnston's supervision.

By all accounts there is no evidence to support Dr. Newton's medical child abuse allegations. It is time for Judge Joseph Johnston to prove his worth and free Justina Pelletier from state custody.

References

The Boston Globe: "A medical collision with a child in the middle"

The Boston Globe: "Frustration on all fronts in struggle over child’s future"