Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Judge: Courts not lax on perjury

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - A Butler County judge appeared Monday before the county commissioners to dispute allegations that domestic relations and juvenile courts are lax about perjury.

The commissioners raised the issue this month when several divorced parents complained that false testimony had cost them custody and visitation battles in Butler County's domestic relations and juvenile courts.

This controversy surfaced when the state recently removed the license of Dr. Roger Fisher, a psychologist, because of accusations that he submitted psychological evaluations in four cases without interviewing the subjects.

The commissioners sent letters to the two domestic relations judges and the two juvenile court judges asking them to respond to the perjury allegations.

They also asked them to review all cases Dr. Fisher had been involved in to see if he gave false testimony that influenced court decisions.

Domestic Relations Court Judge Sharon Kennedy said it would be impractical for the courts to sift by hand through all past cases to ferret out which ones Dr. Fisher was involved in.

She also denied perjury is a problem in domestic relations and juvenile courts.

"There is no one sitting on the bench who would allow perjury to occur unpunished when it's brought to their attention," Judge Kennedy said. "I am greatly concerned by your remarks that you questioned our integrity."

Judge Kennedy presented each of the three commissioners and County Administrator Derek Conklin with boxes of copies of court records regarding the cases of four people who had complained to the commissioners. She told them they should review the documents and decide whether to ask for an independent review.

The commissioners said they would look over the court records she provided and decide what to do next.

Judge Kennedy later handed commissioners a $1,634 bill from Bethart Printing Services of Hamilton for copies of those records.

Commissioner Mike Fox said he doesn't know if the commissioners will pay the bill, but added that he's not inclined to fight about it.

Jerome Cook, administrator for the county clerk of courts, said if the domestic relations court had asked, his office would have provided certified copies at no charge.

To help the commissioners review the information, Judge Kennedy marked where Dr. Fisher's name appears in the documents.

"There was no inappropriate action by the court," she said. "I guarantee you that I am offended if I think someone is lying in my courtroom."

Doug Songer of Hamilton is one of the parents who had told the commissioners he believed Dr. Fisher gave false testimony in his custody case. After listening to Judge Kennedy discuss his case and the other three, Mr. Songer said he still thinks false testimony seriously affected his case.

Judge Kennedy said people who believe their cases were affected by false testimony from Dr. Fisher should file motions for the courts to reopen their cases.

There are no records of Dr. Fisher's testifying in recent years in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court,said Ray Shannon, court administrator.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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