In “The lost daughter” (Metro, Jan. 23), Yvonne Abraham insightfully notes that as regards the judicial decision in the case of the custody of Harmony Montgomery, “we don’t know yet what happened in the courtroom, and what exactly the judge knew.” There is always Monday morning quarterbacking in the aftermath of tragedy, but blaming and jumping to conclusions in the name of accountability is dangerous and does a disservice to how seriously these issues are addressed in juvenile courts.
The public wants the judges in these instances to explain their actions, but judges cannot ethically comment about their cases, especially care and protection hearings, which are closed to the public. Judicial decisions are informed and limited by the evidence presented at trial.
The Office of the Child Advocate is investigating what has happened in the Harmony Montgomery case, and I am confident that the Supreme Judicial Court and the Trial Court will be cooperating. I am confident that a thoughtful review of the facts that were presented at trial and the positions of the parties will promote and clarify important issues. Such issues include the requirements imposed upon judges to make findings based on clear and convincing evidence of parental fitness and issues related to the process surrounding the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.
Abraham envisions the “net a compassionate society builds to catch kids like Harmony.” A deep dive into all aspects of that net is necessary. I only hope that the inquiry is thoughtful and avoids any rush to judgment.
The writer is a retired first justice of the Middlesex Division of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court and is an instructor at the law schools of Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Boston College.