Welcome to my blog and the reference point in my fight against an archaic, unjust family court system in Marshall County, Alabama. I plan on posting my thoughts, items of interest, and resources I find helpful in hopes that it can be helpful to someone else. Now take a deep breath. Here I go...

Please visit http://www.alfra.org for the only organization in Alabama that promotes the concept that children need each of their fit parents.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

my plea to the Governor

October 5, 2011

State of Alabama
ATTN: Governor Robert Bentley
State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130

RE: Case Nos. 50DR2005000471, 48DR05000471, 48CS20100308; DHR Case No. 674434

Dear Governor Bentley:

As a voter of this State, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for the leadership you have displayed in regards to many issues. Thank you for standing up for the Constitution and doing your job with integrity. You can count on my vote, and that of my friends and family, in the next election. That is exactly why I am writing you this letter to ask for your help.

Almost four years ago in December 2007, the mother of my daughter walked into the Marshall County Department of Human Resources and filed an affidavit of past-due support which was notarized by Carla Clemons, a DHR child support enforcement caseworker. The mother provided Mrs. Clemons with material misrepresentations of fact intended to mislead the State which directly resulted in the misplaced affidavit. A month later, on January 9, Mrs. Clemons mailed a letter to me informing me of the mother's affidavit and giving me until January 31 to call them to dispute the claim or pay $800.00. If I did not comply, they would then take other measures to secure payments. Two days later, on January 11, Marshall County DHR officials certified the amount of $1,083.50 as past-due and issued an administrative offset against me to confiscate the alleged amount owed. The same day, they mailed me a notice of the offset that they had ordered. Both letters were mailed to my mother's house, where I had not resided in twelve years. As a result, I did not receive either letter until the night of January 18 when my daughter and I visited my mother. Earlier that same day, Mrs. Clemons had issued an administrative wage garnishment order against me to collect current support (which I had been voluntarily paying) and the alleged past due amount. At the time I was not too worried because I had paid my child support as ordered not to mention provided substantial direct support to my daughter. I never saw what was coming nor did I have an opportunity to stop it or present my case prior to their actions.

I called Mrs. Clemons on Monday January 21 as requested in the January 9 letter to inform her that I had paid my child support as ordered and had money order receipts to prove payment. During that conversation, Mrs. Clemons denied my claim that the past-due support was not owed despite my offer to provide proof of payment. As a result, I started an exhaustive search for my receipts. The receipts were scattered through many boxes, three years worth of payment receipts packed away for just such a rainy day. On February 1, another Friday night visit with Mom, I received Mrs. Clemons administrative wage garnishment order. It gave me fifteen days to request an administrative review if I disputed their claims. The order was dated January 18, yet not postmarked until four days later on January 22, which meant my fifteen days were up on Sunday, February 3.

On Monday February 4, I arrived at the annex building of the Marshall County DHR before they were open, with payment receipts in hand. When they opened the doors, I walked in and requested a meeting with Mrs. Clemons. Mrs. Clemons refused to see me or accept my copies of payment receipts. I told the lady at the front desk of the urgency of the matter due to the deadline to request a review and requested to meet with anyone on the matter which she promptly refused, and directed me to submit my request in writing. While this was going on, my daughter's mother walked in and was promptly seen by Mrs. Clemons. Once this occurred I informed the lady at the front desk that I refused to leave until I was able to meet with someone about the matter.

Larry Simmons, the Director of the annex building which houses the child support enforcement unit, eventually agreed to hear my problem. Upon explaining the situation to him, he expressed his lack of knowledge of child support issues but referred me to Emily Brookes, the Director of child support enforcement, because he saw that DHR had made an error based on my claims. I provided Mrs. Brookes with the payment receipts and explained to her that I was not behind on my child support. She promptly informed me that despite my claims and supposed proof of payments, the past-due support was owed and DHR would collect it. Mrs. Brookes refused to provide me anything in writing acknowledging that they would conduct a review in light of the provided payment receipts. She also refused to rescind both the administrative offset they were currently enforcing against me and the administrative wage garnishment order which had been submitted to my employer but had not yet been enforced.

That same day I met with J. Wayne Sellers, Director of Marshall County DHR, because I did not believe Mrs. Brookes had handled my situation correctly. He expressed a lack of knowledge similar to Mr. Simmons, and stated that he therefore sided with Mrs. Brookes and the actions of DHR. He also assured me that they would not take any money that was not due. Over the resulting next four months, Marshall County DHR confiscated $2,176.34 of my wages, Federal tax refund, and 2007 Federal economic stimulus payment. That despite the fact that on February 8, DHR admitted that there was an error in my case and reduced the past-due amount to $382.50 which was still in error. My monthly obligation was $200.00 per month at that time, or only $800.00 for those same four months. Throughout this time I called Mr. Sellers and Mrs. Brookes on at least a weekly basis and they repeatedly refused to help me. Even after the admission of error, they refused to rescind or modify the administrative offset and administrative wage garnishment order.

I spent those four months in a law library because I could not afford an attorney due to the garnishments. In early June, I informed Wayne Sellers of the Writ of Mandamus I intended to file in Circuit Court to compel them to return my wages which they unlawfully confiscated and prosecute the mother for perjury. He continued to refuse to prosecute the mother for the now proven false affidavit and said he would have to talk to his attorneys. A few days later, I started receiving the first of many refund checks issued to me by the State of Alabama. I consulted with many attorneys throughout this time, one hour at a time which was all I could afford, but they always advised me to leave the situation alone since I was beginning to get partial refund checks because all that I would accomplish in the end would be DHR raising my child support. I have never refused to pay or complained much about paying support because my mom was once a single mother so I experienced her struggles first hand, but I was suffering greatly financially as it was due to DHR's garnishments so I could ill afford additional child support obligations. I had already been forced to pay almost three times the amount I was obligated to pay not to mention the direct support I provide to my daughter. I hoped that the worst was over, and with the garnishment still in place, I did not think they could again claim I failed to make payments. I was wrong.

In September 2010, the State of Alabama and Marshall County DHR sought my incarceration based on a contempt petition for non-payment of support. How can I be held in contempt of court for non-payment when I had been under a wage garnishment order, that was being enforced, since early 2008? On the day of court, the judge rejected the State's contempt claim. However, he did increase my child support (as the attorneys originally warned would happen) and ordered me to pay an arrearage of almost $1,000.00. Yet I can prove that on that date, February 3, 2011, I had, in fact, been forced to overpay my child support obligation by almost $350.00. The Marshall County DHR's conduct is ongoing in that to this day they are assessing imaginary past-due balances on me and charging me interest based on those alleged balances. To date, I have been forced to overpay my child support by $1,350.74 that I can prove. They have repeatedly denied my claims. When will it stop? They have deprived me of my rights of property and due process repeatedly. They attempted to deprive me of my right of liberty. What's next?

This letter is to apprise you of the facts prior to taking action and to inform you that I am in the final stages of preparation to file a civil rights action against the State of Alabama and the Marshall County DHR in United States District Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless you or your office take meaningful action to grant the relief I deserve and to protect others from these types of abuses. In my complaint I show that Marshall County DHR violated my rights of due process in January and February of 2008 as defined in the U.S. Supreme Court decisions Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. (1950) and Fuentes v. Shevin (1972) which resulted in the deprivation of my property rights. These actions snowballed into the contempt claim and the attempt to deprive me of my right of liberty which was denied and only resulted in further suffering on my part. Had the Marshall County DHR originally observed my rights of due process, they would have found that there was no past-due support in January and February of 2008 and, therefore no need to take further action. As a result, I am entitled to compensatory damages and equitable relief according to the 11th Circuit Court decision in McKinney v. Pate (1994) which I fully intend to seek.

I sincerely hope that you will help me in a meaningful manner so that we may avoid the burdens of lengthy and costly litigation. However, I must request a timely response from you no later than November 5, 2011 or I will be forced to seek the relief I deserve in Federal Court. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Brad Patterson

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