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#FreeJustina – Judge Johnston and His Power

scales of justiceI was curious to find out some information on the judge that is handling the Justina Pelletier case in Boston, Massachusetts following his decision today to transfer Justina to foster care until a hearing scheduled for March 17, 2014.

It was very difficult to find out much information about him but I did find out some information on a Joseph F. Johnston, Jr. who I believe is the same judge.  I discovered that Joseph Johnston graduated from Fitchburg State College and attended the New England School of Law.  Judge Johnston was admitted to the State Bar of Massachusetts in 1985.  The Massachusetts court system website lists his mailing address and telephone number as follows:


Essex County Juvenile Court

Lynn Session

139 Central Avenue

Lynn, MA  01901

(781) 586-0415


No other information was given about him except that he was a Circuit Justice.  All other pertinent categories, such as education, date of birth, prior judicial offices, etc. were left blank.

bookI also discovered through my research that there was a Joseph F. Johnston, Jr. who wrote a book on January 1, 1984 titled, “The Limits of Government.”  The book expressed his views on supporting limited government.  How that jives with his viewpoint on the role of government in Justina’s case is unclear.  Perhaps his viewpoint has changed over the years.

That brings me to my issue of concern for this family.  As a licensed psychotherapist, I interact with child protective services (CPS) on a somewhat regular basis depending on my caseload.  I have clients who have been referred to me by the agency for therapy.

The typical reasons that I may see a client is that they are a parent who have had their child removed from their custody by CPS due to allegations of abuse, generally physical abuse.  I have seen a few cases in my years of practice and I know how this process works, at least in California.

CPS has enormous latitude in removing a child from the home.  They also have the ability to call in experts to collaborate their theories of abuse (physical abuse generally) and they can move quickly to seek the power of the court to award the state temporary custody on an extended basis.

While every case is different, in general, parents are given an opportunity for reunification with their child.  This could require the parents to attend programs to ensure that they have the proper skills to parent, attend anger management programs, attend therapy sessions with a licensed psychotherapist, and any other program that the state deems is appropriate to ensure the well-being of the child should it be decided that the child should be returned home.

A judge will usually support the evidence of CPS and follow their recommendations.  In addition, the judge is also free to follow the recommendations made by third parties, such as psychotherapists.

A judge may ask a psychotherapist their opinion about whether or not it is in the child’s best interests to be with their parent, the well-being of the child in the psychotherapist’s opinion, and whether the parents are participating in therapy.  There could be more questions asked by the judge, as well.

On the other hand, I have seen cases where the parents were adhering to reunification requirements only to arrive at the end of the process and have their rights as parents terminated.  The parents, in those cases, have been understandably shocked.

I must admit that most of the cases that I have seen involved allegations of physical abuse.  I have never seen a case of “medical child abuse” as have been alleged in Justina’s case.

In searching for more information on Justina’s judge, I was able to find a case from 2009, in which Judge Johnston ruled against the return of a child who allegedly had been physically abused by the father while the mother supposedly watched while the father shook the baby.  The mother’s rights were terminated and the child was placed for adoption.

The mother appealed the case in effect claiming that the judge had erred in rendering his decision.

The appellate court set forth what it looks at when reviewing whether or not a judge erred, as follows:not a judge erred, as follows:

In reviewing a trial judge’s determination that a parent is unfit, “our task is not to decide whether we, presented with the same facts, would make the same decision, but to determine whether the trial judge abused his discretion or committed a clear error of law.” Adoption of Hugo, 428 Mass. 219, 225 (1998), cert. denied sub nom. Hugo P. v. George P., 526 U.S. 1034 (1999). A decree dispensing with the need for parental consent to adoption will be sustained if it is supported by clear and convincing proof that the parent is currently unfit to further the welfare and best interest of the child. Adoption of Quentin, 424 Mass. 882, 886 (1997).

Now while the Pelletier case does not involve purported physical abuse as in the 2009 case, the judge seemingly has the power and authority to decide in any “abuse” case that parental rights should be terminated based upon the grounds that the parents are “unfit.”  As long as the judge does not abuse his/her discretion or commit a clear error there is no recourse under Massachusetts law (and in most, if not all states).

Boston Children’s Hospital we are told (see my article) has declared that Justina is a victim of “medical child abuse” and suffers from psychological issues because of her parents.  In addition, we have been told by Dr. Newton, the head of Boston Children’s child protection department, that Justina is “more impaired when she is around her mother.”  Did the judge make any errors at this point in not returning Justina to her home state of Connecticut?  That remains to be seen but since she is in his jurisdiction he probably has not committed a clear error or abused his discretion.

My point of this article, in short, is that the further along this case gets the more chances there are for this judge or any judge to rule that parental rights should be terminated.

justinaTherefore, we need to continue getting the word out about #Free Justina as quickly as possible!  We need to raise awareness of this case to anyone and everyone that will listen.

It is time for parents and everyone who cares about children to stand up and take note of what is happening in this case because tomorrow, it just might be about you and your child.

Most importantly, if we don’t get the word out it may soon be too late for Justina, according to her parents’ reports.


Note:  Susan Knowles is an author, psychotherapist and former practicing attorney.  Her latest book, a politicalFreedom's Fight fiction, is entitled, “Freedom’s Fight: A Call to Remember” available on    Her website is

The article appearing on this site is the property of Susan J. Knowles. It is protected by U.S. Copyright Laws, and is not to be downloaded or reproduced in any way without the written permission of Susan J. Knowles. Copyright 2014 Susan J. Knowles All Rights Reserved. 




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14 Comments on #FreeJustina – Judge Johnston and His Power

  1. The UN has both FB pages and Twitter page. I have left comments on both reporting children atrocities at Boston Children’s Hosp. There are other families that this has happened to according to several reports. I assume they are too scared to talk or come foreward? Taking children away from parents,making them “wards of state” and using them for experimentation and research is outrageous and needs to be reported to stop this from happening to any other family.

  2. I would imagine that if Justina appeared to be more upset around her mother, it was because she was being kept from her mom and was not getting to go home. I see know fear of her mother in the picture above. What did this facility think, Justina was going to go along with it like a lamb.

  3. Paige W. Pendleton // 25 March, 2014 at 6:05 pm //

    It is unimaginable that parents could be charged with medical abuse for following Tx ordered by a physician (at supporting medical center). Treatment approved and paid for by their insurance.

    Horrified and heartbroken for Justina and her family.

  4. What a true tragedy that so regular sounding normal people would be so callously nonchalant about the outrage of this case. Who wouldn’t be going a little crazy watching an all-powerful government taking their flesh and blood loved one away from them because they miffed the government by not acting the way it wanted them to act????? This in a country with a court system that every day returns abused and neglected children to drug-addicted squalor of a home run by 19 and 20 year old single parents under the excuse that keeping families together is the ultimate goal of a moral society!

    NO, this is not about a moral society. This is about symbol of power. IT’s about government power run amok. I remember once in Iran, where I am born, I kept asking a regime hezbollahi goon beating my girlfriend and I in the streets of Teheran because of our lax headcovering, why he was hitting us? You want to know what he said? This is about the power of the new islamic regime which we must all understand. Your wearing of the headscarf to our norms and liking is the symbol of that power, he told us. We do it because we can and we want you and everyone else witnessing in the street to understand that power and this new reality. Two years later, my family and I escaped Iran and found refuge in the USA, the land of the free and the empowered citizens. Those who fault these parents for acting “crazy” by not following the judge’s gag orders are not only a heartlessness people incapable of understanding the anguish and misery of a family confronted by a rogue “justice” system holding their child hostage, but also very negligent, careless, American citizens. God help this family.

  5. keith_indy // 26 March, 2014 at 12:17 pm //

    The reason it is so hard to find a judges information is they don’t want the wrong sort identifying judges and going after them personally.

    I believe you have the wrong Joseph F Johnston identified… (Joseph F Johnston, Jr is a whole different person I think.)

    This would fit him more:
    Circuit Justice Juvenile Court Three Center Plaza Suite 520 Boston, MA 02108 (617) 788-8542 Born: 1958 Year admitted to bar: 1985 Year appointed/elected: 2001, by Gov. Jane Swift Education: New England School of Law, 1985Fitchburg State College, 1980 Legal Employment History: Sole practitioner (1986-2001). General Character of Law Practice Prior to Judgeship: General practice; practice included representing criminal defendants and clients …

  6. Keith my article indicates that he was admitted to the bar in 1985 and graduated from Fitchburg. He is currently with the Juvenile Law Court. Not sure if he wrote the book which I indicated.

  7. Nancy dagostino // 26 March, 2014 at 7:12 pm //

    I truly believe the doctors had to come with an excuse to make Justina a ward of the state so that they could use her as a subject for drug experimentation. Why would they lock her in a psych ward? If you follow the money trail you will see that BCH receives money from the state and federal government for her extended stay, the drug companies make money off of the sale of the drugs, and the judge, I am sure is getting a kickback. My suggestion is to tie up the phone line to the governor of Massachusetts and demand that he release her. He is an elected official who will feel the heat.

  8. If you look at the names listed under Associate Justices on the left column, the name listed is Joseph “F” Johnston not Joseph P. Johnston as you indicated.

  9. Kelly Clover // 29 March, 2014 at 8:15 pm //

    I think that Lou Pelletier may have blown it when he selected Mathew Staver as his attorney. If it’s a partisan cause, fine. But this should not be a partisan cause and you don’t want an attorney who is easily identified as a partisan political figure. Getting the case bogged down in partisan politics is the last thing the Pelletier family needs.

  10. This is shameful. No one should be allowed to have this kind of power,especially when there is no evidence of parental abuse. We are becoming a more socialistic country everyday. IMPEACH and VOTE THEM OUT !!!

  11. This is a abuse of power. What happened to WE THE PEOPLE? I WOULD DIE BEFORE THIS HAPPENED TO MY SON., AND SO WOULD SOMEONE ELSE. This type of child and parental abuse must stop.. if yall dont have good lawers up there call an Alabama Lawyer ,they will gitter done.

  12. dennisbanderson // 31 March, 2014 at 12:52 am //

    This is not NAZI Germany how about if I tie you down and when youre hungry Ill spoon feed your heart to you. You slime balls who think you can get away with anything because people cant stand up for themselves. If I found Joseph Mengela I would end his life right there. Be careful.

  13. charley morash // 10 April, 2014 at 4:06 pm //

    if we can locate the Judge Johnston’s residence i think we should picket from the sidewalk or street in front of his can i help with this. i can locate bullhorns

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