Carollynn Smith, the 60-year-old North Portland grandmother fighting the Department for Human Services for custody of her two youngest grandchildren, said she was "hoping for a miracle today," walking into the Multnomah County Courthouse on SW 4th this afternoon.
She didn't get one.
CONFUSION: Smith (second from left), talks with frustrated supporters after a judicial review of the state's decision to adopt her two youngest grandkids out to a white family, and cut off all contact.
Instead, Judge Nan Waller told Smith and about 20 supporters that she had the opportunity to appeal the DHS' decision in January 2007, and didn't take it. Smith, who told the Mercury three weeks ago that she has fired her attorneys, saying she did not trust them, said she was never told she had the option to appeal. Nevertheless, Waller said her hands are tied.
"There was a process for requesting a review," Waller said. "That is not before me today."
"I understand that this is an issue of great interest and concern to the city," Waller continued. "The decision of DHS in this case was to follow a different path, a decision made last January. And so that decision was made."
Proceedings were interrupted from the gallery at this point by Roger Weidner, a retired prosecutor who now claims to be fighting corruption in courts across Multnomah County, but who one person mumbled, seemed to be more of a distraction than anything else. Weidner shouted at Waller "we aren't going to tolerate this," and urged Smith and her supporters to leave. They didn't.
Instead, Smith told the judge again that she hadn't known she could appeal. "I didn't know I could appeal because the lawyer I had didn't tell me anything," she said.
Waller replied, something to the effect that she couldn't help that. Audio recording devices and photography were forbidden in the hearing, and I didn't catch what she said.
"That's what Hitler said," someone called out from the gallery, in response.
"We're done with our hearing for today," said Waller, abruptly, leaving the courtroom.
After the judge was gone, Weidner got up and started talking loudly about the constitution. Then a sheriff's deputy put his hands on a KBOO reporter for alleged un-permitted audio recording, and it looked like there might be a scuffle. Things eventually calmed down when the KBOO reporter agreed to delete the recording, if, indeed, there had been any. Meanwhile Smith, looking confused, was shepherded out of the courtroom and eventually, onto the sidewalk outside. Nobody seemed to know what was happening.
Smith said she plans to appeal the decision, but she still lacks an attorney to do so, and it's unclear what legal avenues she could pursue. In the mean time, it appears she is no closer to regaining contact with her lost grandchildren. A caseworker for the DHS told the judge that the children are "happier than they were a year ago." One of Smith's supporters said, "of course they are, when they get given all those toys."
Watching the scene unfold, one had the feeling that this is truly how injustice happens. There's an appearance of due process, even a judge. But it's chaotic. And in a piecemeal fashion, people shout at each other, there's a fleeting sense of the importance of somebody taking charge, they don't, and then eventually, everyone finds themselves on the courthouse steps, wondering whether what happened could have happened differently, but never, really, being quite so sure.