Baby Abbey Rose Christine - Safe at Last!

by Edgar J. Steele

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 since birth.

 
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 been proven.
 
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 simultaneously. 
 
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. 
 
Donations 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 donate@pclu.org with "Christine Defense Fund" noted in the distribution directions.
 
The Christines, both devout Christians, welcome your prayers for their family, as well.


-ed

"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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