no more: George Ihlenburg.
Photo by John Whipple.
Speak a Word of This to Anyone
Hudson man breaks his silence in an attempt to see his children
Ihlenburg is fed up with the way he has been treated by one
judge in Columbia County’s Family Court system, and he is
no longer afraid to say so, even if doing so lands him in
In a complaint filed with the New York State Commission on
Judicial Conduct, Ihlenburg claimed Columbia County Family
Court Judge Paul Czajka should be recused from his case due
to a conflict of interest. Czajka has issued a gag order to
stop Ihlenburg from sharing any information about his case
with outside parties. Yet Ihlenburg believes he has something
to talk about, namely not being allowed to see his three children
after working within the system for nearly four years.
According to the complaint, Ihlenburg once was contracted
by Czajka as a plumber and was represented by him in a previous
divorce proceeding; the two men disagreed over payment for
the plumbing work. The complaint characterizes Czajka’s decisions
as following “a pattern of judicial misconduct, conflict of
interest and prejudgment.” Ihlenburg said he has received
confirmation that Czajka has received the complaint. The judge
did not return calls to comment for this story.
just reached a brick wall and have been backed into a corner,”
said Ihlenburg. “The most important issue is that my right
to freedom of speech has been denied.”
Czajka handed down the gag order on June 19 after Ihlenburg
was found in violation of an order of protection against his
ex-wife. According to Ihlenburg, his participation in a Flag
Day parade where his wife was present was considered a violation
of that order. The attorney for Ihlenburg’s ex-wife did not
return calls for comment.
Laurie Shanks, a professor at the Albany Law School, said
the use of a gag order in a case such as this was new to her.
gut reaction is that this is unusual,” said Shanks, “Most
of the time, people can talk about their family court cases
just like they can talk about any other cases, other than
to their children. But it does appear that there are some
unusual underlying facts that, without knowing, I’m hesitant
to say that [the gag order] is right or wrong.”
Czajka’s court-ordered muffling of Ihlenburg has essentially
taken away his First Amendment rights, said George Courtney
of the Fathers’ Rights Association of New York State.
judge is doing everything he can to hurt this guy,” said Courtney.
“Parent alienation syndrome is at work here, and the judge
is aiding and abetting.”
Parent alienation syndrome, a term coined by Richard A. Gardner,
former professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University,
is characterized as a child’s unjustified campaign of denigration
against a parent, resulting from “parental ‘brainwashing,’
situational factors, and the child’s own contributions.” Shanks
said she has heard of parental alienation, but without hearing
the other side of the story, can’t be sure that is the case
I was that group,” Shanks said, “I’d find a different case
than this to find that [term] is appropriate. We don’t want
to let people talk badly about the spouse to the kids, but
if that is going on here, we don’t know the answer to that.”
Trying to gain favorable status in the eye’s of the court,
Ihlenburg has taken court-ordered parenting classes with Catholic
Charities of Hudson and completed a domestic abuse intervention
program, and continues regular therapy with psychiatrist.
Even though Ihlenburg has attempted to mend his ways, he has
endured what he and others characterize as improper judicial
conduct by Czajka.
haven’t sat in on enough to make a sweeping judgment,” said
Linda Mussman, of Volunteers for an Impartial Court System.
“But my impression is that [Czajka] is not very sympathetic.
He is rather quick with his judgment, rather harsh and unusual
in his treatment.”
Mussman and her group, consisting of social workers, religious
leaders and members of the community involved in the court
system, have been gathering to discuss Columbia County’s family
court system. She said the group’s last meeting was very successful,
and a number of people shared similar complaints with Ihlenburg.
name was the primary name that came up from all factions,”
said Mussman. “It was coming from many different voices in
the room who’ve had many different experiences with [him].”
Mussman said the group would continue meeting and attending
family court proceedings to build a body of evidence to support
a demand for change in Columbia County. Mussman has said her
visits to family court have been extremely educational, although
she is not entirely pleased with what she has found.
was asked to leave George’s case because it has a gag order
over it,” said Mussman. “I thought the court system was open,
but family court can close its doors for the protection of
the children. That can be a good thing, but that is also where
corruption can be veiled.”
is the answer: Blue Carreker.
Photo by Teri Currie.
administration threatens to withdraw support from international
accord to stabilize the population and promote women’s health
health and reproductive freedom—code names for abortion? That
is what the Bush administration is saying. And unless these
two phrases are removed from a United Nations agreement on
population control, the United States will withdraw its support
from the 1994 accord.
At a U.N. conference last week, the U.S. delegation announced
that the United States would no longer support the Cairo Program
of Action unless the two terms were removed.
The Cairo Consensus, written in 1994 with the effort of 179
nations, looks to stabilize the world’s population at no more
than 9.8 billion by 2050. It urges countries to make health
care widely accessible and provide universal access to primary
education, and suggests that where abortion is legal, that
it be done in a safe manner.
Blue Carreker, spokeswoman for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood,
said the Cairo approach to population control was a huge step
forward in dealing with the issue. Rather than discuss ways
to control population through restrictions and penalties,
this agreement was one of the first of its kind to look at
education as a solution.
idea behind this,” said Carreker, “is that if you educate
women, if you allow them to go to school, and give them ways
in which they can make decisions, they will make decisions
to limit the size of their family and they will do so voluntarily
if they have access to healthcare services and have access
to birth control.”
Jeanne Head, United Nations representative for the National
and International Right to Life Committee, said that the reporting
on this issue has been sensationalized to the extreme because,
she said, the Bush administration never made any indication
that it would pull out of the Cairo accord. “They only said
that they cannot reaffirm language that can be construed to
include or promote abortion,” said Head. “The position that
they took in Bangkok on this population accord is consistent
with what they had been doing at all of these conferences.”
The Bush administration is under fierce criticism from family-planning
advocates here and abroad for what some are calling its obvious
attempt to pander to right-to-life constituents at the expense
of women around the world. Just this past July the administration
decided to withhold $34 million in previously approved aid
to the United Nations Population Fund, suggesting that the
agency worked with governments that forced women to have abortions.
And in May, during the United Nations General Assembly meeting,
the Bush administration, the Vatican and some Muslim countries
pushed for a policy to prevent teenagers from getting abortions.
The group also fought, unsuccessfully, to make abstinence
the centerpiece of sex education for unmarried teens.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right
to Life Committee, praised the Bush administration’s proposal
to withdraw from the treaty.
is a sort of code,” said Johnson, “used in some of these U.N.
documents, and groups that advocate expanded access to abortion
do construe these phrases to include abortion.”
Carreker points out that the decision of the administration
to withdraw support from the Cairo program undermines the
efforts of family planning officials in countries that have
looked to the Untied States to take the lead in issues such
lot of elements to that agreement don’t just address birth
control,” Carreker pointed out, “but have to do with general
education and getting girls and women into school and doing
sex education and providing access to a broad range of healthcare
Gotta Fight for Your Right to Third Parties
they piggybacked major-party candidates or were funded by
independently wealthy businessmen, political third parties
in New York state now depend on their grassroots for survival.
While the state Board of Elections doesn’t release certified
results until Dec. 13, unofficial Associated Press tallies
show that the Green, Libertarian, Marijuana Reform, Liberal
and Right to Life parties didn’t receive enough votes in New
York’s 2002 governor’s race to maintain official party status.
The litmus test for a third party’s validity is receiving
50,000 votes on its line. By achieving that magic number,
political parties are granted automatic ballot status throughout
elections at all levels of state government over the next
four years, making their issues visible in the voting booth.
In an election mired by low voter turnout (it is estimated
that only 39 percent of registered voters made it to the polls
on Nov. 5), the Conservative, Working Families and Independence
parties were the only third parties to make the cut. The Conservative
and WF parties did so by nominating major party candidates
Gov. George E. Pataki and H. Carl McCall, respectively, while
the Independence Party was buoyed by B. Thomas Golisano and
his ample war chest.
of the mainstream papers had it as a three-way race,” said
Mark Dunlea, vice chairman of the New York state Green Party.
“The average voter who is not politically inclined, they don’t
even know [third parties] exist. [Third parties] are forced
to compete for a small slice of the politically aware population.”
Third parties throughout the state employ different tacks
to advance their agendas and attract voters. While the Working
Families, Conservative and Independence parties use their
ballot line to attract major party candidates while holding
them accountable to a specific set of values, others, like
the Greens and Libertarians, attempt to advance their own
agendas throughout elections at every level of government.
A few, like the MRP and RTL parties, focus their entire campaigns
on reforming specific state laws.
only way medical marijuana would have gone through would have
been to create the Marijuana Reform Party,” said Thomas Leighton,
MRP gubernatorial candidate. “The people who are sick and
suffering and the issue of medical marijuana were the big
But according to one political observer, third parties having
to return to the grass roots and collect the required 15,000
signatures to appear on a ballot as an unofficial party is
a setback only in bureaucratic terms.
or not the Green Party has a line on gubernatorial election,
I don’t think it means much,” said Jeffrey Stonecash, professor
of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.
“I don’t think it means their issues are dead. They are still
a potent force to be dealt with.”