January 4, 2013
Professor John Myers scored a pro bono victory on Dec. 18, 2012, in Sacramento Superior Court for a Mexican mother who sought the return of two young children from their father who failed to return them after their Christmas 2011 holiday visit to California.
It was Myers' second victory in three years in cases tried under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. "The State Department keeps a list of qualified family law attorneys willing to do these cases pro bono, and I'm on the list," Myers said, shrugging off the amount of work he needed to put into each case.
The Hague Abduction Convention is a 30-year-old multi-lateral treaty designed to ensure the prompt return of children who have been taken or kept in a state other than the country of their habitual residence. The law preserves the status quo child custody arrangement that existed before the abduction or wrongful retention of children under the age of 16. In many cases, it deters a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court.
Last month, Myers was able to right a wrong committed nearly a year earlier by a dual-citizenship father who figured the mother with sole custody couldn't get back into the States legally to contest custody. Myers spent more than 50 hours preparing the case — much of the time spent translating the Mexican court documents that had given her full custody. He filed a series of motions in state court and prepared a 45-page memorandum citing all the international law in his client's favor. Following a one-day hearing last month, a judge ordered the kids returned to their mother in Mexico where a federal court is expected to uphold the mother's rights.
"It was worth all the work," Myers said although admitting he hopes he doesn't get a call from the State Department in the near future.
In 2009, Myers tried a case in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, representing the mother of a young boy whose divorced father wrongfully retained the child in Sacramento following a visit, and refused to return the child to his mother in Iceland. "We won the trial," said Myers, "He was with the mom at the time here in Sacramento so we raced to the airport to get them on their way home."
A leading authority on child abuse litigation and family law, Myers is a frequent speaker at international conferences on those and related subjects, having made more than 300 presentations across the United States and in Europe since joining the McGeorge faculty in 1984.