* Usually, bills based on extreme cases can get a bit outta hand. But there are lots of problems out there with visitation rights, with parents using children as weapons in nasty divorces. So, this may not be too unreasonable…
A bill that increases the penalties for parents who violate visitation agreements passed out of an Illinois House committee on Wednesday on a unanimous vote. The proposal now goes before the full House.
House Bill 1604 allows judges to impose fines and possible jail time if visitation is continually denied.
The so-called “Steven Watkins bill” stems from the 2008 case where Watkins was fatally shot when he went to pick up daughter Sidney, now 3, for a court-ordered visit in Ashland. Shirley Skinner, the grandmother of Watkins ‘ ex-wife, Jennifer Watkins , was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing and is serving a 70-year sentence.
Steven Watkins’ parents were granted visitation rights with Sidney, but Jennifer Watkins has not produced the girl for court-ordered visits.
* The bill does a lot more than impose fines and jail time. It grants judges a lot of new powers…
Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Provides that the court, upon finding that a party engaged in visitation abuse, may: suspend the offending party’s Illinois driving privileges pursuant to the Illinois Vehicle Code until the court has determined that there has been sufficient compliance for a sufficient period of time with the court’s order concerning visitation and that full driving privileges shall be reinstated; order that the offending party be issued a family responsibility driving permit to allow limited driving privileges for employment and medical purposes; order that an entity that issued a professional license to the offending party suspend or revoke the party’s professional license for a period of no more than 6 months; and fine the party not more than $500 for each finding of visitation abuse. Provides that a finding of visitation abuse constitutes a change in circumstances for purposes of a modification of a custody judgment. Provides that if a parent has been previously found in contempt by the court for visitation abuse, the court may further: incarcerate the offending parent one day for each day of denied visitation; or require the offending party to post a $5,000 bond subject to forfeiture for the purpose of assuring compliance with future visitation.
* By the way, an arrest warrant has been issued for Jennifer Watkins because she defied a judge’s order...
A Cass County judge has ordered the arrest of the widow of the late Steven Watkins for not allowing visits between the couple’s 3-year-old daughter and the murdered man’s parents.
The visits between Sidney Watkins and her paternal grandparents, Dale and Penny Watkins, stopped Nov. 26 because the child and mother Jennifer Watkins reportedly moved to Florida.
Jennifer Watkins did not appear Tuesday at a hearing on multiple petitions that Dale and Penny Watkins’ attorneys filed seeking she be held in contempt of court and a warrant issued for her arrest.
Jennifer Watkins’ attorneys, Michael Goldberg of Chicago and Dan Fultz of Springfield, told Judge Bob Hardwick Jr. they do not know where she is and could not provide any defense because they have been unable to communicate with her.
…Adding… This ruling may not go down well with some…
The First Amendment protects hateful protests at military funerals, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in an 8-1 decision.
“Speech is powerful,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain.”
But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”
Illinois already has a law on its books restricting the protests (which were enacted because of those idiot cultists who protest at military funerals), but there was a push this year to strengthen it…
State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, is backing legislation to discourage loud and threatening protests at funerals.
“Hateful rhetoric has no place at private ceremonies like funerals where mourners should be able to pay their final respects in peace,” said Mautino. “That right cannot be infringed, so we should do all we can to keep discouraging, despicable protests from taking place at funerals, especially when fallen soldiers are laid to rest.”
In response to demonstrations by a Kansas-based group that regularly protests the families and funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, including funerals in Illinois, in 2006 Mautino and the General Assembly passed the Let Them Rest in Peace Act — a law prohibiting anyone from protesting loudly, blocking access to and from any funeral and displaying threatening words or images 30 minutes before, during and 30 minutes after a funeral or memorial service.
Under current law, protesters cannot be within 200 feet of the entrance or exit of the cemetery or memorial facility. The law defines protesting as disorderly conduct, which includes loud protests of singing, chanting, whistling or yelling, and displaying any visual images that convey fighting words or actual or veiled threats against any other person.