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Courts may terminate parent's rights without evidentiary hearing
Ex-judge Cain cries foul as Ashleigh case appeal rejected without explanation

Attorney May L. Cain today (Friday, May 10, 2002) assailed an appeals court ruling that upholds an October 2000 order that said the State of Florida had a right to seize Ashleigh Danielle Abbott, then 3, from her father in April 1998 and opens the door for courts to terminate parental rights without evidentiary hearing.

Because the decision, dated May 8, 2002, did not include a written opinion or explanation, the ruling cannot be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, according to Cain, a former Miami-Dade County judge.

"A miscarriage of justice" is how Cain, of North Miami Beach, described the ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach. She said she is "deeply saddened."

The appeals court ruling not only upholds the 83-page order written by the Attorney General's Office and signed Oct. 12, 2000, by specially assigned Judge Daniel True Andrews in Broward County Circuit Court, but it also upholds three subsequent related orders that also are contrary to substantial case law. The most recent of those orders effectively terminated the parental rights of Ashleigh's father without an evidentiary hearing.

Ashleigh, now 7, was initially seized without just cause and placed
indefinitely in a group emergency shelter by then-Judge Kathleen Kearney, who as secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families is now under fire. Ashleigh remained three years in the Fort Lauderdale emergency shelter, during which time, according to media accounts, she was sexually molested. In January 2002, the 18th judge assigned the case released Ashleigh from state facilities and moved her in with the mentally ill child-abuser mother who had not raised her. The move was an apparent attempt to dodge a civil suit brought on Ashleigh's behalf by Karen Gievers of Tallahassee.

The appellate ruling was issued the same day that Ashleigh's father, Paul Scott Abbott of Miramar, was appearing in Miami before the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Protection, charged with looking into the disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson and systemic DCF problems.

Gov. Bush has personally met with the father regarding Ashleigh's case and, in February 2001, promised a "fresh look" into the matter. However, the meetings with the governor have only resulted in further retaliation and in the entering, by Broward Circuit Judge Dorian Damoorgian on March 29, 2001, without an evidentiary hearing, of a de facto termination of the parental rights of the father, who has not been permitted to see his only child in more than a year. At that March hearing, DCF officials and a senior assistant attorney general refused to present evidence supporting the severing of father-daughter ties, insisting that confidentiality precluded them from doing so with media and other public in the courtroom.

"The coverup in this perverse witch hunt has invaded all levels of this state, from the secretary of DCF to the Governor's Mansion to the judiciary," Paul Scott Abbott said today. "How much longer will the state get away with destroying the lives of innocent children and families? The answer is, as long as the government can ignore the law and aggressively trample those who seek to disclose gross injustices."

Ashleigh was taken from her father's care in 1998 on a petition approved by Kearney claiming her to be at "imminent risk of neglect" because the father who'd admirably singlehandedly raised her since infancy allegedly "failed to protect" Ashleigh when she returned home from a March 13, 1998, supervised visit with her mother with a swollen lip. The father had promptly reported the injury, showing authorities a videotape in which Ashleigh three times said "Mommy hit me" after returning from the visit. (Had the father "protected" Ashleigh by not permitting her to go on the supervised visit, he would have been in contempt of a family court order.)

Shortly after Kearney indefinitely ordered Ashleigh to the emergency shelter, the now-DCF-secretary issued an unconstitutional order stripping the father, a former investigative reporter, of his rights to find out anything about the DCF case worker (about whom he had obtained damaging information), about Kearney, about his own daughter and even about himself. Kearney refused to hear testimony from a law officer who would have contradicted significant material lies by DCF. Kearney also refused to view the "Mommy hit me" video and ignored dozens of letters from prominent citizens citing DCF's error in taking Ashleigh from a terrific father.

The father, a journalist and seminarian, continues the battle that, after spending $500,000, has made him bankrupt and indigent. He still has faith justice will prevail for Ashleigh, himself and other innocent children and families, so he regularly assists other victims and, is seeking passage of the Ashleigh Abbott Child Protection Act -- to protect children from an out-of-control government. He is currently assembling testimonies of scores of fellow victims for presentation to the Blue Ribbon Panel on Wednesday, May 15, at 9 a.m., at Miami-Dade Community College Wolfson Campus.

Despite state attempts to shut it down, a web site,, continues to display information about Ashleigh's case. Orlando attorney Bob Dowd has filed multimillion-dollar civil actions against the state, naming Kearney and Bush as leading defendants.
— Paul Scott Abbott available for interview and may be reached at home, 954-962-2503 or cell, 305-469-5276. He has extensive video and still photos of Ashleigh, and her room is as she left it -- except it is piled with dozens of boxes of legal paperwork.
Other contacts who may be interviewed include:
— Attorney May L. Cain, 305-956-9000, North Miami Beach;
— Attorney Karen Gievers (representing Ashleigh), 850-222-1961, Tallahassee;
— Attorney Bob Dowd, 407-830-1430 (office) or 407-539-0318 (home), Orlando.
Names and number of other victims and expert sources upon request. ###