Shouldn’t All Family Court Judges Be Like This?

I feel the last time we talked about a family court proceeding, it was horrible. Magistrate Patricia Doninger was caught on camera ignoring the pleas of a woman who was sexually assaulted by one of her court marshals.

It appears that Doninger has finally been relieved of her duties. With that out of the way, maybe we should focus on people who take a little more pride and concern when adjudicating family disputes.

The ideal family court judge should have one primary concern, and that is what is best for the children. Today we have a judge who intrinsically understands that “going to Disneyland” is always what’s best for the children…


We spend so much time talking about judges behaving badly; how about a nice story about a judge behaving appropriately? It looks like separated parents were squabbling over whether the mother was allowed to take the children on a vacation. You know how they do — estranged parents who hate each other and fight through their kids.

In these situations, you just want your Family Court judge to act as a reasonable arbiter who doesn’t get sucked down into the muck of bickering parents, and instead keeps his or her eye on the ball of what’s best for the kids. But in Arizona, it looks like the Family Court acts more like badass grandparents who are still young at heart. Here’s part of the Minute Entry ruling on a mother’s request to travel out of state that was opposed by the father:

The court grants the mother’s request. It also gives the father a two-week vacation of his choosing, and suggests some nice “staycation” sites in Arizona should the Dad not want to go back to Disneyland. You can read the full order on the next page.

I can’t think of a better use of Family Court resources than making sure some kids can go to Disneyland with their mommy. Well, okay, making sure that kids are removed from abusive homes is probably a better use, but Disney, that’s totally number two.

More importantly, I think it’s important that Family Court judges and magistrates not lose the ability to appreciate things like Disneyland. Clearly, when you look at the video of Patricia Doninger, you’re looking at a woman who has been jaded by the system she’s presiding over. We’ve got to keep our Family Court adjudicators fresh.

Maybe all family court personnel should go to a Disney resort every couple of years, just to remind them what it’s all about.


A version of this column originally appeared in

A version of this column originally appeared in

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