Alaska Court Opens Palin-Johnston Custody Proceedings

Bristol Palin has been trying mightily to keep her lawsuit for sole custody of her and Levi Johnston's son Tripp closed to the public. Levi wants them open, as protection, primarily, he alleges, because of Sarah Palin's interference and manipulation.

This week the Judge ruled in Levi's favor and unsealed all the documents to date. This pleading has most of them, including Levi's answer to Bristol's petition for custody in which he asks for joint custody, Bristol's petition and the orders denying closure of the proceedings and a related request they use pseudonyms instead of people's names.

The pleadings also include Bristol's request that Levi's mother be barred from unsupervised visitation because of her use of pain meds for a chronic medical problem and her felony drug conviction. [More...]

Mrs. Johnston's condition isn't specified, but apparently it's quite serious as she requires continuous infusions through a pain pump and the Department of Corrections is administering them to her. Bristol's pleadings include copies of Mrs. Johnston's court documents that state they are sealed. I wonder if she got permission to file them in the custody case.

Levi's pleadings say he has no problem with Bristol but that he believes Sarah is running the show. At one point, Bristol sought to have him held in contempt of court and asked for an arrest warrant. Apparently, someone reported Levi said he was going to fight for custody after she filed the lawsuit and got a temporary closure order. Levi says she wouldn't have done that without the urging of Sarah, as Sarah is known to play hard ball with her enemies. He argues publicly airing the proceedings will protect him.

The Court pointed out that the temporary order was not a gag order, but an order preventing the disclosure of the pleadings.

Bristol also accuses Levi of posting a tweet that referred to using marijuana, but Levi responds it was a fake, he doesn't have a twitter account.

Other pleadings are here , here, here and here.

Levi's pleadings don't contain a single harsh accusation against Bristol. Her's are filled with complaints and negative comments about him, his lifestyle, his parenting abilities and his behavior, all filed when she thought they'd be kept under seal. Hopefully opening the proceedings will prompt the whole family to keep their dirty laundry under wraps, unless it's directly related to the child.

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    Sounds like family court to me. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 06:28:20 AM EST
    I remember the final act of Mrs. Doubtfire when Daniel reminds Miranda what her lawyers said about him in court and she just sat there and let them.  Miranda replies "I was angry!".

    Yeah.  Family court should be about resolving problems, but just as often it is about sticking it to someone.  It should be no surprise to anyone.

    It should also be private (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 08:15:03 AM EST
    It should be no surprise to anyone.

    Levi doesn't need it to be public for personal protection; he just needs a good lawyer to do that. But, it would further his cause in getting tabloid interviews and tv appearances.


    Hmm... (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 06:52:29 AM EST
    Maybe Bristol wanted to keep things secret (not unheard of, by the way, in family court) in the interest of protecting her son - unlike Levi, who's been very interested in the public spotlight for himself (see Playgirl Magazine) and running around with the likes of Kathy Griffin et al.

    And if Bristol's mother is supporting her and fighting for her, well, it's what I would expect a good mother to do - whatever her politics.  Seems Levi's mother is not exactly a prime example of someone who should be caring for a baby.

    Levi is not the "good" guy as portrayed here and Bristol (read: Sarah) the "bad" guy.

    Given that Bristol is the one who (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 12:14:24 PM EST
    is making all the terrible accusations, maybe she wanted to keep it all secret so no one would come forward to dispute them.

    I wonder what Bristol would be alleging if she were not the daughter of a prominent political figure who might be seeking revenge for the less-than-flattering portrayal by Levi...maybe she would just like the two of them to come to some kind of amicable arrangement - we'll probably never know.

    I guess when all is said and done, what we are about to see played out in public is pretty high on the list of reasons why birth control should be readily available to anyone who wants it.  

    No one ever considers that the kind of parents one has are the kind of parent one is likely to be - we always think we can be and do better - and in many cases we are and we do, but we don't realize until we are the parents how much of our history has been etched in our psyche, to be played out all over again with our own children.


    Maybe it's nothing more than she is (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:14:05 PM EST
    an 18 year old teenage girl who is feeling some resentment that he's out playing Mr Hollywood while she's looking at a life where her dating pool is limited to including nice young men who also want to help her raise Levi's son.

    When all is said and done, these are still just two teenagers who took on some serious responsibility before they were ready.


    I don't know... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 08:10:02 AM EST
    just because Grandma Johnston had some problems with the law doesn't mean she is unfit to care for her grandson...if thats all it takes my old man would have been unfit to care for me...and nothing could have been further from the truth.

    Absent abuse or neglect a child deserves as many relatives in their life as they have relatives...to keep a child away from their blood is so wrong.


    Anyone with a drug problem (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 08:33:57 AM EST
    By definition, can't take care of themselves.  Ergo, they cannot take care of an infant.

    Define "drug problem"... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 08:45:00 AM EST
    I think you're assuming facts not in evidence my friend.

    Felony conviction? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 10:19:30 AM EST
    Keith Richards.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 10:24:17 AM EST
    "I never had a problem with drugs, only with policemen."

    Didn't he snort his dad's ashes? (none / 0) (#14)
    by magster on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 10:50:08 AM EST
    Not according to him... (none / 0) (#15)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 11:08:13 AM EST
    "The complete story is lost in the usual slanting! The truth of the matter is that I planted a sturdy English Oak. I took the lid off the box of ashes and he is now growing oak trees and would love me for it!!! I was trying to say how tight Bert and I were. That tight!!! I wouldn't take cocaine at this point in my life unless I wished to commit suicide."



    So, all felons should lose custody (none / 0) (#17)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 11:55:23 AM EST
    of their kids and be denied visitation?

    Obviously those in prison or jail can't care for their kids....But what about when they get out?

    The thing many forget is that many felons are "normal" people.  Not all felons have been convicted of violent felonies....



    The convicted felon is the paternal (none / 0) (#23)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:22:31 PM EST
    grandmother, not a parent.  

    True, but it doesn't really (none / 0) (#30)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:30:48 PM EST
    address the issue.  Is the standard going to be that those convicted of drug offenses are going to be automatically denied custody or visitation?

    Doesn't look like Ms. Palin is (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:39:55 PM EST
    requesting the paternal grandmother be denied any visitation with her grandson.  Request to that such visitation be monitored, i.e., not one-on-one.  And not solely based on felony drug sales conviction.  Seems certain court will order a "home study" if and when grandma returns home to determine whether grandmother should have any visitation, and, if so, on what conditions.  This is for the benefit of the child, not the child's mother or father.

    Benefit of the child? (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:56:58 PM EST
    Coulda fooled me, I thought the child was a pawn in a teenage lovers quarrel.

    Hope not, but kind of looks like it. (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 03:09:24 PM EST
    Need a firm but fair judge to shut them down.

    "monitored" is a significant (none / 0) (#37)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 03:21:08 PM EST

    My argument is still the same:  Should a drug offense automatically impair custodial or visitation rights?

    Why alcohol gets a bye on this is a good question....

    I would treat alcohol and drugs the same.  If we are going to base custody and visitation rights on substance abuse, treat all substances the same.  The idea that we should treat alcohol differently than illegal drugs just begs the question.  Both are equally impairing and destructive.

    And the line between legal and illegal drugs is becoming antiquated.  One can get all kinds of legal benzos and opioids--Xanax, Klonopin, Vicodin, OxyContin, Hydrocodone....

    So, if one tipples a wee bit much, one should expect that to come up in family court....Fair is fair....


    It often does. (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by sleepingdogs on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 03:38:50 PM EST
    Not to the same extent (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 04:21:35 PM EST
    and usually only in connection with DUI cases.....

    If you get bombed regularly, but don't get caught driving, it does not usually come up--because so many people drink, using that as a basis for curtailing custody would cut too wide a swath.

    And the State of California now takes the position that anyone over .05 is impaired.  Those arrested for alcohol-related DUI are typically charged with two, separate violations--exceeding the .08 limit and driving while impaired.  Ask Oculus.  So, you can get convicted for DUI at less than .08.  John Kerry's daughter was arrested for DUI at .06. That is not too many drinks.  

     So, if you're at .06 every once in a while, you are a danger to your kids--or so the reasoning would be if there were true parity between drugs and alcohol.


    The grandparent doesn't have (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 03:53:09 PM EST
    a God-given right to visit the child.  Court decides, after grandparent petitions for visitation rights.  Test is best interests of the child.  If there are allegations grandparent having visitation wouldn't be in best interests of the child, it is the court's job to assess the situation.  Maybe grandma is unfit, maybe she isn't.

    Lord Love a Duck (none / 0) (#42)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 04:09:51 PM EST
    I suppose I should give up asking the question....

    The issue is whether drug abuse or a drug conviction should automatically curtail visitation or custody.  

    You evade by pointing out details of the case in question....My question is broader than that--you invoke the Supreme Court custom of not ruling on cases that are not ripe or moot or not before the court or that would entail dicta.

    I'm asking a policy question here....


    Answer is no. Court has discretion (none / 0) (#43)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 04:19:20 PM EST
    to decide what is in best interests of the child, which depends on the circumstances of the case.

    It's a problem (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 10:32:55 AM EST
    When you need drugs to get through the day and someone has to administer them, and then you are convicted of attempting to sell them.

    This is not someone who takes too much aspirin.


    I need to hear more than that.. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 10:40:21 AM EST
    to declare Grandma unfit to babysit.

    In fairness, Mrs. Johnston is described (none / 0) (#12)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 10:33:15 AM EST
    as having a "chronic medical problem" that "requires continuous infusions through a pain pump" which "the Department of Corrections is administering (them) to her."  That's not a drug problem, that's a pain problem, and there's a big difference.  By your definition, a cancer patient on high doses of pain meds has a drug problem and can't be trusted to take care of him- or herself.

    There may be other reasons related to her medical condition that would make it difficult to care for a toddler, but it's still wrong to assume that anyone with a drug problem or a pain problem that requires drugs cannot take care of themselves.  I know two people who have implanted pain pumps and receive morphine through them for severe spinal/disc problems - and neither ever appears doped-up or whacked-out - the pain meds just allow them to function: it's not about getting high, it's about getting free of the pain.

    I get what you're trying to say - but I think you are making blanket assumptions as a result of the felony conviction - and have not even given any thought to the fact that the legal problems very likely originated with the pain problems.


    I assume that you would include (none / 0) (#16)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 11:52:26 AM EST
    all substance abuse.  If so, then let's include alcohol.  People who have a drinking problem should lose custody of their kids.  

    And just what is a drinking problem?


    Sherry Johnston (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 12:36:49 PM EST
    does have a medical problem - which does not explain why she was picked up with 179 80-mg OxyContin pills, and why she was videotaped making at least 3 separate sales.

    But if we're going to hint that Sarah Palin is going to be the one possibly causing trouble in this custody hearing (where she is only referred to as "grandmother" in the pleadings), then it is eminently fair (and I don't think unreasonable) for Bristol to request that Sherry Johnston's visits be supervised.


    A lady has got to make a living... (none / 0) (#24)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:29:45 PM EST
    I think you'd be surprised at how many people sell some extra pain meds to pay the bills jb, doesn't make them bad grandparents.

    I gotta get you to break this "drug dealer = bad person" thinking you're stuck in...it's as bad as the "authority figure = bad person" thinking I'm often stuck in:)


    Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:32:10 PM EST
    I think there's lots of honest ways to make a living.

    And a drug dealer may not be a bad person, per se, but not someone I'd want hanging around and caring for any kid of mine - especially because of the people they tend to attract around them. For the most part - the seedier side of life.

    But I get your point.  :)


    To each their own my friend... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:51:01 PM EST
    Drug distributor is as honest as alcohol distributor or produce distributor in my book, and from the little I know I'd leave a loved young one of mine with Grandma Johnston over Grandma Palin anyday:)

    Hopefully both are allowed unsupervised visitation...the kid will at least get a varied world-view, thats healthy.


    "Seedier side of life" (none / 0) (#29)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:28:17 PM EST
    Just who do you think buys drugs?  OxyContin?  I think buyers include people like Rush Limbaugh....Well, if he had a kid, then he should be denied visitation....

    How many people from white suburbia are buying drugs, providing a huge demand for the services of drug delaers...

    jb, if you dehumanize people--drug dealers, who often are just supplying their own prescription drug addiction, or "criminals" in jail or prison, it allows them to be treated inhumanely....


    Of course (none / 0) (#40)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 03:52:15 PM EST
    Everyone who takes drugs is just misunderstood and should be held up as pillars of the community - I forgot.  Especially when they cannot take care of themselves for now (as Ms. Johnston cannot).  She needs to get her life together before she should be left alone with a helpless infant.

    Strawman (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 04:39:08 PM EST
    I didn't say that everyone who takes drugs is just misunderstood.  Nor have I ever said that all criminal offenders are poor, misunderstood people.

    You use one of the classic, hackneyed strawmen of the Right.  It evades the question.  The point is to not to dehumanize other people.  You may need to take action to protect people from certain other people, but dehumanizing others is a standard conservative tactic--you can do anything to people who don't count.

    You assume, and your comments imply, that there are these "other" people out there--drug dealers, criminals--that are so very different from normal the people that you run into on a daily basis. Anne's comment was so right-on about her betting her last nickel that you know people with substance abuse problems without realizing it.

    If you really believe someone with a problem with Oxycontin should be denied custody or visitation, then you should do the same with people who drink too much.  Perhaps you are willing to go that far....But there are many, many people who fall into that category...  


    Strawman to your strawman argument (none / 0) (#46)
    by jbindc on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 12:35:53 PM EST
    You asked if a drug conviction (in general) should disqualify someone from visitation. I gave you a generl answer.  So please explain why my answer is bad, but you can ask a very broad question that doesn't have a black or white answer in every case.

    She probably got into selling them as (none / 0) (#33)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:50:41 PM EST
    a way of having her own supply, which STILL speaks not just to Sherry's medical problem, but her PAIN problem.

    There have been great strides made in dealing with pain, but there is still a perception that if you have to take drugs to deal with pain, you have a drug problem - or that you can't be prescribed medication in the right dosages and quantities to manage your pain, because you might develop an addiction.  Never mind that it ends up mkaing criminals of people who just want relief from debilitating pain.

    How cruel is that?

    I don't subsribe to kdog's the-drug-dealer-is-your-friend philosophy, nor do I subscribe to the I'll-take-anything-if-it-makes-me-feel-good school of thought - but people who have pain do not take drugs to get high, they take them to have what you and I have: the ability to live their lives without pain.

    I don't know Sherry Johnston or her son, or the Palins, so I don't know whether any of them are good parents or even good people.  I do know that it isn't right to condemn Sherry without having all the facts, and it isn't right to blanketly declare that "anyone" with a "drug problem" as defined by you cannot be trusted with anyone's care.

    I'd bet my last nickel that people you know - people with children or grandchildren - have drug and alochol "problems" that you don't even have a clue about because these people function well in their jobs.

    As much progress as we have made in understanding addiction, and also changing the way we treat pain, it continues to surprise me how unwilling people are to let go of their prejudices.

    There's a toddler at the center of a custody fight, and that's never good for anyone involved; of course the child's health and safety is a priority, and I will be the first to say that if Sherry Johnston's condition makes it unsafe for her to be alone with her grandson, then supervision is definitely in order.  I'm just not sure that we will ever know enough of what the truth is in this case to be confident about what we "know."


    Yes (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 03:50:18 PM EST
    But I still don't think it's unreasonable for a mother to request that visits with the so-in-pain-she-can't-move (oh, and yes, and convicted drug dealer) grandmother be supervised.

    And my guess is, if it were your young child, you would be hesitant too.  


    That's why the custody issue is (none / 0) (#34)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:56:10 PM EST
    before the court, which doesn't accept contested allegations at face value and is obligated to determine the best interest of the child.  

    I actually thought (none / 0) (#7)
    by cawaltz on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 08:48:31 AM EST
    Jeralyn had mellowed somewhat in this post. She refrains from calling Sarah names and not even one mention of evilness. ;)

    I hope the court goes with supervised visitation for Levi and his family. Levi is really young and it isn't beyond the realm of reason he might "grow up" and recognize there are far worse circumstances then having an overprotective grandma for his child.


    I understand (but do not agree with) (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by sleepingdogs on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 09:35:16 AM EST
    Levi's reasons for wanting the proceedings to be made public as possible.  Are there not mechanisms within the court to "protect his rights?"  I do not understand how the best interests of the child are benefitted by the opening of these proceedings.  I do not understand how the public's interest is served by opening these proceedings, however.  Unless voyuerism material and gossip fodder are considered a benefit to the public.  

    Divorce/Custody Proceedings (none / 0) (#22)
    by BackFromOhio on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:19:21 PM EST
    in my experience, allegations and requests to the court are more often than not pure positioning and gross exaggerations of fact. It is possible that Bristol's allegations about the paternal grandma were made as a shot across the bow to get Levi to give in on custody to protect his family. It is also plausible that he got smart and decided two can play that game, and thus the request that the proceedings be made public.  And, in my experience, the Courts do not do a good job protecting the innocent or less well positioned parties in family disputes.

    This sounds like a shot across the bow (5.00 / 3) (#26)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 01:33:21 PM EST
    "I do not feel protected against Sarah Palin in a closed proceeding," Johnston said in an affidavit. "I hope that if it is open she will stay out of it. Bristol's attorney is her attorney."

    Especially as there is no indication Sarah Palin is playing a role any larger than grandmother.  This is Levi trying to extend his 15 minutes of fame.


    In my own experience (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by sleepingdogs on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:08:39 PM EST
    posturing and wild exaggerations are not usually limited to court when a couple enters a custody proceeding--as is being demonstrated here.  And in cases of abuse, I agree the family court does a poor job of protecting the innocent.

    However, if the couple is not able to work out an arrangement between themselves, the appropriate place to bring up any possible factors or concerns with regard to custody is within the structure of family court. Is it a perfect system?  Far from it, but it's what we have until something better comes along.  I fail to understand how any speculation about strategy or motives serves any of those affected by this particular case.  I wish Bristol and Levi the best in their brewing battle and hope they are able to achieve what is best for their son.


    Apparently the mother of (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 12:25:42 PM EST
    the child is asking the court to restrict the paternal grandmother to
    visitation, i.e., not one-on-one.

    The pleadings also include Bristol's request that Levi's mother be barred from unsupervised visitation because of her use of pain meds for a chronic medical problem and her felony drug conviction.

    Seems like a reasonable request in light of the grandmother's history.  


    Alaska statute re grandparent visitation: (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 29, 2009 at 02:47:44 PM EST