Abbey Rose Christine - Safe at Last!
by Edgar J.
October 26, 2001
Baby Abbey Rose Christine is on
her way home to Indiana with grandmother Teri Christine. There she
finally will meet her year-old sister, Olivia, who has been living with Teri
This stunning result issued from
a Missoula courtroom yesterday following a hearing closed to the public.
In a temporary custody ruling, Missoula County District Judge Ed McLean ruled
that the best interests of Abbey would be served by placing her with her
paternal grandmother and older sister. In passing, the judge noted that
this would also be in Olivia's best interests, demonstrating a degree of
compassion that has been singularly lacking in the way that Montana has
treated the Christine family to date.
Temporary custody is the category in
which children are "parked" in foster homes while the system decides
what to do with them; generally, the children continue officially to be wards
of the state.
In a surprise ruling, Judge McLean
also awarded temporary guardianship of Abbey to Teri Christine, thereby
surrendering jurisdiction to the Indiana court in which a permanent
guardianship now will be processed. The judge's decision effectively
ends the companion case for guardianship, filed in Montana by Teri
Christine after Abbey was born. Guardianship entitles the one so
designated to make all decisions concerning the child. Temporary
guardianship is often the precursor to permanent guardianship, which requires
a lengthy legal process.
The battle for temporary custody had
been initiated the day Abbey was born by Oregon's department of Services to
Children and Families (SCF), which took the three oldest Christine girls
from Brian and Ruth Christine in Grants Pass, Oregon, over a year ago,
alleging criminal mistreatment. SCF acted through its Montana
counterpart and surrogate, Department of Family Services (DFS), in attempting
to bring baby Abbey Rose back to Oregon, to be adopted out with her oldest
sisters, Bethany, Lidia and Miriam.
Thus ended the third in a series
of grabs by Oregon's rogue SCF agency for the Christine children.
The first time, the three oldest girls were taken, amidst allegations of child
abuse and malnutrition, to be shuttled from one foster home to another as
their parents fought to reunite the family. The allegations have never
The second grab was for Olivia, born
shortly thereafter and placed with Teri Christine in her Indiana home. A
year-long interstate legal struggle ended recently when Indiana refused
to relinquish jurisdiction over Olivia to Oregon, which pledged to adopt her
out along with the three older girls.
The third grab ended yesterday with
Judge McLean's Solomonesque ruling which rebuffed other Christine family
relatives who also sought custody at the urging of SCF, custody which would
have begun with Abbey's being handed over to Oregon officials, of course.
Believing Oregon's actions in seizing
the three older girls over a year ago to be unlawful, the Christines at that
time refused to play ball, make admissions or undergo the counseling
required by state officials. They refused the
appointment of public defenders and represented themselves, preferring to
directly challenge the validity of the agency's, then the Oregon court's,
exercise of jurisidiction. When they finally started to cooperate,
realizing that was the only way to put their family back together, SCF told
them their children were to be adopted out anyway. That led to the
alleged kidnapping and pursuit across western America, ending in Montana,
wherefrom Brian and Ruth recently were extradited back to Oregon, to face a
raft of criminal charges for taking their own girls.
Brian and Ruth Christine with their three oldest girls in happier times.
Note the emaciated, skeletal appearance of the children, proof of the
malnourishment alleged by Oregon officials. The family disharmony and
child abuse should be apparent to even the casual eye, if anything like what
Oregon says it was.
We secured yesterday's ruling, which
I believe to be a truly just result, because the judge refused to
knuckle under to a truly herculean effort by Oregon's SCF through its
surrogate, Montana's DSF.
I am barred by Montana's
confidentiality statutes from divulging more about the hearing or the filings
made in connection with it, but was allowed to submit legal memoranda to the
court and to address the court directly, by being admitted pro hac vice,
a device by which out-of-state lawyers such as myself are allowed to
participate in the company of Montana attorneys.
We had the able assistance of
Missoula attorneys Margaret Borg, Ruth's public defender appointed for the
custody proceeding, and Jim Shockley, who prepared and filed the Guardianship
papers. We are paying Mr. Shockley for his time from the funds that many
have kindly contributed to the Christine Defense Fund. I think we will have
enough left to cover the cost of attorney fees for the Indiana
guardianship proceedings, as well, so will pay for that from the fund since
we were prepared to do so in Montana. I continue to serve the Christines
pro bono, of course.
Now we turn our attention to the
Oregon courts, where a flurry of criminal and civil actions are pending
against the Christines, including parental rights termination petitions
filed in Josephine County and criminal actions lodged in both Douglas and
Josephine counties. We have had public defenders appointed for the criminal
charges and I am being associated in as the Christines' attorney on all cases
The judge in the termination
proceedings, which I answered on behalf of Brian and Ruth, has refused to
appoint public defenders because of my presence, therefore I am forced to
withdraw for the moment, so that the Christines may force such appointment.
I will then be associated back onto the cases, of course. You may
expect to receive regular reports on all these cases from me unless and until
the judges issue gag orders, which are possible, in view of the notoriety the
cases are creating.
A condition of my assuming these
cases was that I be given local legal assistance. Since offers of such
has not been forthcoming, we have been forced
to avail ourselves of public defenders. My role will continue to be the
oversight of all the cases and I will be actively involved in all of
them, of course.
may be made to the Christine Defense Fund, PO Box 1255, Sagle, Idaho 83860.
Credit card donations may be made by logging on to www.PayPal.com
(joining is free) and sending funds to email@example.com
with "Christine Defense Fund" noted in the distribution directions.
Christines, both devout Christians, welcome your prayers for their
family, as well.
"I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it
would be the truth."
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele,
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