DEAR ABBY: My brother, "Rick," recently went to court to get custody of his 1-year-old son. He and the boy's mother, "Ellen," never married. Ellen took the baby out of state while Rick was at work and without his knowledge. Rick convinced her to return, then got a restraining order and filed for custody.
The judge ("Hizzoner") ruled in my brother's favor, giving him primary custody with joint legal custody.
Immediately after the hearing, Hizzoner spoke with Ellen and invited her to come to work for him as a nanny for his children. He offered her room and board, tuition for college and the use of a vehicle. Ellen accepted and moved to the town where Hizzoner lives. The arrangement did not work out. Ellen didn't like his children and was homesick, so Hizzoner paid for Ellen to return home. Yesterday, he was in town and invited Ellen to lunch.
Abby, isn't this a conflict of interest? Isn't this unethical conduct? If Rick has to go back to court, wouldn't Hizzoner have to excuse himself from the case because following the original hearing he has kept in constant contact with the defendant? -- APPALLED IN NEVADA
DEAR APPALLED: The answers to your questions are "yes," "yes" and "yes." And this whole story should be explained to whoever represents your brother at that time. Frankly, your story has raised more than a few eyebrows here in California -- and I'm sure it will in other venues as well.