The shenanigans taking place in the Tutts’ fight to defend their family against CPS continue. On Friday, August 22, the Tutts were back in the courtroom for a hearing that was supposed to decide whether they would be allowed to home school their children. However, after taking testimony from both sides, Judge Tena Callahan declined to render an official order. Attendees in the courtroom report that Judge Callahan stated she would make her decision by Monday, August 25, but at the writing of this blog post on Wednesday, August 27, no official order has been released.
It becomes more and more apparent as this case continues that home schooling is not only the underlying focus of the case but also that there are certain parties in the case who do not want what happens in the courtroom to see the public light. Consistent with reports from the content of the original January 7 hearing, court watchers at the hearing on Friday reported that CPS attorneys focused heavily on the issue of socialization and home schooling during their cross examination. In spite of ordering that THSC be able to receive a redacted copy of the court transcript from the January 7 hearing, Judge Callahan has continually delayed the release of the transcript, raising the question of whether she ever intended to release it in the first place. The Tutts’ officially retained attorney is still being denied a copy of the transcript also, making a writ of mandamus appeal even more difficult in lieu of an official record on which to base the claim.
Perhaps the most disturbing development to come out of Friday’s hearing was the deliberate and unconcealed oppression of public accountability in the courtroom. During the course of the hearing, Judge Callahan severely chastised the Tutts for their decision to speak to a local press contact about their issues with CPS. One observer reported that the judge went so far as to tell Mrs. Tutt, “You’re a big girl. If you have an issue with CPS, you take them on.” This unabashedly narrow perspective regarding the nature of interactions between CPS and Texas families is demonstrative of the root issue facing the Tutt family: a judge and a caseworker who see no substantive difference between state control of a child’s life and the parents’ control of the child’s life. This perspective is evident in the statement of the CPS-retained psychiatrist who reportedly testified that she had never seen a family or a child go through trauma as a result of the child being removed from the home and placed in foster care.
As if to underscore the desire to withhold information from the public, Judge Callahan reportedly pulled a spectator, who was there in support of the Tutts, out of the courtroom to question her on who she was, why she was there, and who she knew inside the courtroom. The judge then had the bailiff confiscate the woman’s cell phone for the duration of the hearing and informed her that even though this was a public hearing, in the future she would not allow any electronic devices inside the courtroom that had the ability to send and receive messages. It was then explained to this supporter that if she did not comply, she would be held in contempt of court and placed in jail.
Reports state that the hearing also progressed through the realm of social media when an assistant district attorney from Dallas County somehow accessed the main web page of a private group of supporters for the Tutt family and then used the list in an attempt to intimidate a witness in the case. The private group has since been shut down.
Although we have no ruling from the judge yet, the process itself speaks loudly enough. The degree to which the court and CPS have abused, disregarded, ignored, and removed the rights of the Tutt family is beyond justification on any grounds. What makes this abuse of power even more unconscionable is the fact that the last eight months have been nothing more than an attempt to justify and disguise the original, unjust removal of the children by CPS and the associate judge.
The THSC-retained attorney representing the Tutts is now working to file a writ of mandamus with the Second Court of Appeals against the judge on the claim that the court has abused its judicial discretion in rendering its current temporary orders. We hope and pray that the appeals court will agree with us that just as Judge Callahan ruled CPS’s taking of the Tutt’s children in November of 2013 was not justified, the court then had no authority to allow CPS to continue withholding some of the children from the family nor to force the children to attend public school and prohibit the Tutts from teaching them at home.