Update: Judge William Brogan Will Not Explain His Secrecy
POSTED: Monday, January 24, 2011 - 6:25pm
UPDATED: Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 11:06am
ALAMOGORDO - Judge William Brogan might rip a child from her mother's arms, but he doesn't want anyone to know why.
He closed a custody hearing to the public and forced the mom, who's fighting for her daughter without an attorney, to stay quiet about the case. A national advocate for freedom of information says that's outrageous.
"Our government officials shouldn't be telling people they can't talk to others about an important issue in the judicial system, David Cuillier said. That's what Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein used to do."
The mom fighting for her daughter is Rosa Caje, and the woman who wants custody is Mary Bruer. Bruer is not related to Caje or her daughter, but they once lived together for a few months. Because of that Bruer gained visitation rights of of Caje's daughter, and eventually won full custody of her. Caje spent last year fighting in court, and won back custody of her daughter in December when a court said there was no reason to take her daughter away. Bruer didn't like that ruling, and turned to Judge William Brogan to reverse it. Now he's keeping his courtroom decisions secret.
"People should be able to see what's going on in a case that, apparently, there's a lot of public interest in. We need an open transparent system so we can weigh in and evaluate whether the right thing's being done," Cuillier said.
The judge refuses to explain the secrecy. Instead he had his secretary tell us it's New Mexico law to keep the custody battle a secret. They couldn't give us a statute number, and two New Mexico Custody Attorneys we spoke with said they have never heard of such a law.
"I think it's outrageous the judge won't explain why he's taking these drastic measures. In most places in the country judges are required to explain themselves and justify sealing documents, and justify closing proceedings and certainly justify preventing someone their 1st Amendment Right to speech," Cuillier said.
Attorneys tell us that judges do have discretion to sequester hearings, but when they do it typically involves abuse. We have confirmed with the State of New Mexico that Caje, the mom, has never been investigated by the Children, Youth and Families Department. So at this point Caje could lose custody of her daughter and, if Judge Brogan has his way, we'll never know why.
ALAMOGORDO - Judge William Brogan still refuses to explain his decision to hold a custody hearing in secret.
On Friday Judge Brogan closed a hearing to the public that could decide whether an Alamogordo mom will lose custody of her daughter. The Judge also told the mom to stop talking about the case.
Rosa Caje is in jeopardy of losing custody of her daughter Olivia to a woman named Mary Bruer. Bruer has no blood relation to Caje's daughter, but an Alamogordo Family Court named Bruer the psychological grandmother of the child and eventually gave her full custody. In December a court ruled there was no reason to give Bruer custody, and the mom won the case.
Bruer turned to Judge William Brogan to reverse that decision, and now he is conducting the hearing in secret.
Tonight at 5, 6 and 10pm you'll hear what his office told us about the decision to sequester the hearing. You will also hear from someone who says what the Judge is doing is anti-American.