Patterico's Pontifications


Supporting the Troops in LA (Updated)

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 3:31 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that an LA Children’s Court Commissioner has been criticized for denying a foster teen the opportunity to enlist in the Marines under a Delayed Entry Program:

“Shawn Sage long dreamed of joining the military, and watching “Full Metal Jacket” last year really sold him on becoming a Marine.

But last fall, a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner dashed the foster teen’s hopes of early enlistment for Marine sniper duty, plus a potential $10,000 signing bonus.

In denying the Royal High School student delayed entry into the Marine Corps, Children’s Court Commissioner Marilyn Mackel reportedly told Sage and a recruiter that she didn’t approve of the Iraq war, didn’t trust recruiters and didn’t support the military.”

The judge reportedly told Shawn that she didn’t want him to fight in the war and that military recruiters “all tap dance and tell me what I want to hear.” Her court bailiff agreed, noting that his son had been a DEP enlistee in the Army and stated that “They don’t care about you. They’re just there for the numbers.”

It might surprise some but I don’t have a problem with a judge who is unwilling to let a 17-year-old make a lifetime decision like this. It’s difficult to deny Shawn’s request since he’s a foster child and (I assume) he will be aged out of the system when he’s 18. If so, he needs to plan for his future because he will be responsible for himself soon and that’s hard to do. Nevertheless, although he may not receive as generous terms or benefits, Shawn can enlist when he’s 18 and it’s fair to make him wait a year. He can still enlist at 18 but kids change quickly at that age, so he may not.

However, I think it’s wrong if the judge let her personal bias against the war influence her decision. Based on what the judge reportedly said in her ruling (and no transcript has been released, so this version is one-sided), it seems bias was the basis for her decision. If so, that seriously undermines the validity of her decision.

One side effect of this case is that a local congressman plans legislation to allow foster teens to enlist a year early with approval from their foster parents or social worker, eliminating the need for judicial approval. I hate to see decisions like this eliminate oversight from a neutral source. The problem seems to be that the judge isn’t neutral, not that the system needs changing, so this may be a case of bad facts making bad law.

In any event, there’s more to this story at the link. Let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Based on Daleyrock’s comment about the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) requirements, Stashiu3 located links that indicate 17-year-olds are not bound by a DEP enlistment. That changes things for me. If DEP is not binding, this judge’s decision seems unjust. She caused Shawn to lose valuable financial and career incentives for no apparent reason other than bias.


44 Responses to “Supporting the Troops in LA (Updated)”

  1. DRJ – I agree with your comment that a year is a long time for kids that age and they can change their minds over the course of their senior year. On the other hand, in my area, there is very intense pressure on kids to go to college and some have no interest even with good grades and test scores. I am personally familiar with several who have made the DEP decision prior to their senior year and they felt it took enormous pressure off them during the year. They still have to finish school, but they get preference in selecting an MOS and that signing bonus.

    A question I did not get a satisfactory answer to from a resruiter I spoke with, however, was what if a 17 year old recruit changed his mind and wanted to back out. I am under the impression that 17 year olds cannot enter into legally binding contracts – so what would the military’s recourse be in this instance. I was never able to get a good answer to that question.

    If the comments from the judge and bailiff were reported correctly, I also agree that attitude is abhorrent. I ran across an incident in which a psychiatrist sabotaged a recruit’s enlistment by the way he evaded and finally answered questions about the recruit’s treatment and medication history because of the doctor’s views of the war.

    It takes all kinds.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  2. Here’s her biography with “historically black college” in it if that means anything. Since the military was the path to success for lots of black kids over the past 50 years, I don’t know why that would influence her. How many young men have learned discipline and gotten the right start in life that way? I was in the Coroner’s Office yesterday and the chief tech has Marine Corps stuff all over his office. It sounds like he thinks it helped him. Not for this kid, though. Too bad.

    Mike K (f89cb3)

  3. If the judge had taken into consideration some other opinions (such as the foster parents, teachers, school counselors, or other character references) I would be more comfortable with this. Having individuals close to the boy talk about his judgment, temperament, and intelligence would seem the best way to decide if his desire to enlist at that age was reasonable.

    For the judge to justify denying the boy’s request by smearing the military only shows how lacking the judge is in both judgment and intelligence.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  4. I absolutely disagree that a social worker has the right to deny someone military service because of her own political views. I despise these social services types who think that by getting their degree they are conferred god-like powers over others. It is so typical in child services and in adult protective services. These are lunatics who do more damage to children and seniors than you could believe possible. And to think that we have judges on the bench who would agree with her is just scary. You should be calling for their jobs, not supporting their decision.

    Sara (3337ed)

  5. How close are we here? Is the kid just 17, and in his junior year? In that case, I agree with the Judge, even though it’s apparent that she let the masque slip (that at least some judicial decisions are, as some have put it, rationalizations for their own predjudices).

    OTOH, if the kid is a couple of months away from graduation and his 18th birthday, she blew it.

    My son early enlisted in December, just before the new year changed the rules for educational benefits, with our permission. His 18th birthday was less than three months away, and he was a senior.

    He turned into a lifer… but that’s another story.

    bud (46e4bf)

  6. My husband enlisted the day after h.s. graduation, he was 17 years and 2 months old. He served a total of 26 years, retired with a 75% pension and was able to walk into an engineering job with a major corporation paying a six figure salary. What are this boy’s options, being another welfare statistic?

    Sara (3337ed)

  7. Oh and I should mention that he had no hope of a college education on h.s. graduation, but thru the military he earned his bachelor’s plus enough credits from service to give him a healthy start on his Master’s.

    Sara (3337ed)

  8. Sara,

    The fact is, the boy is a minor and someone must have oversight. In most cases, it’s the natural parents. Would you object to them refusing to allow their minor child permission to enter the service early? If my son or daughter wanted to enlist in the DEP, I would sign off on it without a problem. If someone tried to force me into signing, well… then there’s a problem. So the kid has to wait a year… it’s not the end of the world (I had to wait over three years, but that’s another story).

    A foster child is no better prepared to make adult decisions than a child from a nuclear family… some are ready, some are not. They all should have some kind of oversight until they reach their majority. They’re not going to like it, but as I’ve gotten older, I understand now what I railed against then.

    There are social workers like you describe (too many actually), but they are trying to do the best they can. It’s too bad that some overstep into where they shouldn’t, but that doesn’t make them all bad. In this case, the authority was appropriate but the judgment was lacking.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  9. Stashiu – The last DEP form I looked at required a parental signature for a 17 year old only to get the school to release grades to the military, not for the enlistment.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  10. Without the actual transcript yet available, but based on the article itself, it struck me as shameful usery that a sitting judge would use a foster kid’s dream as an opportunity to grandstand. And it reinforces that it was her own personal biases that informed her decision.

    Its a tough call either way – as a foster child, he more than most could greatly benefit from the signing bonus. And yet it is a decision with no backing out.

    Dana (5a42bf)

  11. The judge should be impeached and removed from the bench.

    N. O'Brain (9056e2)

  12. What kills me is that this Judge could have simply made the ruling, and there would have likely been nary a peep about denying entry until age 18. Everyone would have been cool with that. The Judge goes and undermines her own ruling with all of the moonbattiness, and makes me question whether or not she has the requisite temperment to sit on the Bench in the first place.

    JD (626b4c)

  13. daleyrocks,

    You’re right. Because it’s not a really a binding enlistment since they can quit at any time and must be released, I can see why a parental signature wouldn’t be required. The DEP has obviously changed from what it used to be. I would have to say I don’t agree with the judge now… the reasoning or the ruling. Thanks.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  14. FWIW – the commissioner’s statement in the paper and her and the court bailiff’s actions shows that they are letting their personal convictions get in the way of letting a young man get his adult life off on a sound footing. As I would say to a young Sailor or Marine that make decisions based on their emotions, “you’re showing your ass”.

    I’ve been in for 26 years (I retire from the Navy on Wednesday, March 12th) and I’ve seen plenty of young men and women serve that came from single parent homes, abusive parents and countless other situations that would make you sick (what pisses me off is those that were sexually abused and have PTSD). Some just come in to “grow up” and find themselves, and collect some money for college or to save for the future. For someone to take that possible option from someone based on their feelings for the war is BS.

    I hope that this does not change Shawn’s mind from enlisting in the future. In my opinion, those young men and women that are serving now are our “Greatest Generation”, and I am proud to have served with them.

    fmfnavydoc (affdec)

  15. For what it’s worth, I think the magistrate (if that’s what she was?) is within her rights, and the young would-be Marine can cool his jets for a year. A year seems incredibly long at 18, but I’m confident the Marines are not going anywhere and will still be hiring a year from now.

    Of course, if we have a President Obama or Clinton (female), and they perform as, say, Carter or Clinton (male), did, then military service may be considerably less attractive an option in 3/09 than it is in 3/08. But there are a lot of weighty “ifs” in that statement. But I have plenty of horror stories from the “hollow Army” of the seventies and the over-extended, cut-back and demoralized services of the nineties.

    I also think it’s possible that bias influenced her. As I’ve indicated in other comments, I do think some “public servants” (notably lawyers but also social workers) get a heavy dose of anti-military propaganda in school and some of them take it with them into other venues — even into the military.

    But 18 year olds change. When I was 18, I was a cynical rock bassist and half-hearted college student. When I ran out of money, the only place that would hire me was “the employer of last resort.” But a funny thing happened on a short term to raise some college money (which never happened anyway — Carter-era accessions are locked out of the GI Bill). I found that I liked it and was, I’ll bedamned, good at it.

    No reason it can’t go the other way too. I suspect that the kid will still want to join up, but he just might fall on his knees thanking this dopey jurist, because he’s found a new direction in life and wants to start now and not wait out three or four years of service. You just never know.

    Finally, folks are getting pretty wound up over something that AFAIK is just a single media report. If we’ve learned anything in the last decade-plus, we’ve learned the media isn’t a gang of plaster saints. Even when they’re not lying and cheating, they’re frequently screwing up. (And I’ve been a reporter on daily deadlines. And yes, I screwed up from time to time). I’d feel better about this report if it were in the LA Times, where it’d be something like what y’all lawyers call “an admission against interest.”

    Kevin R.C. O'Brien (f50b25)

  16. If this judge would make a similar refusal to allow the ute to apply for early admission to, say, Cal-Berkeley, would this be a problem?

    This is a travesty of oversight. The lad wasn’t asking for permission to become a drug runner. He had an iron-clad opt-out. If boot camp would prove to be too tough, he leaves.

    What a load.

    Ed (8166cd)

  17. One more thing —

    They had DEP back in the Permian Era when I enlisted, too. I was only on DEP for a month. Mostly, it’s just used to smooth out the flow of trainees into classes.

    Having read the original article thoroughly again, for the benefit of any of you who don’t, the kid’s foster parents, who also have his brother as a foster child, and his social worker, all supported his bid to enlist. The magistrate is the one that threw the spanner in the gears.

    The article has extensive quotes from the young fellow and his recruiter. The judge refused to comment, but I reckon that she can’t, really, can she?

    Kevin R.C. O'Brien (f50b25)

  18. Audie Murphy was sent to an orphanage at about age 16. At 16 he tried to enlist in the Army but was turned away. At age 17, with the help of his sister, he lied about his age, enlisted in the Army, and became America’s most decorated hero of WWII.

    Too bad this judge wasn’t around to block his enlistment. Think of all the Germans that might have been alive at the end of the war except for Murphy.

    TMac (f985e6)

  19. Thanks for the heads up and the links, Daleyrocks and Stashiu. I’m updating the post.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  20. In this case, the judge did nothing but harm the foster kid by denying the advantage of delayed entry.

    That is an abuse of discretion.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  21. I enlisted in the Army when I was 17. I did not *like* the Army, because its mid-to-senior enlisted ranks were full of sub-literate idiots. But it was still GOOD for me, I was a spoiled child of affluent parents. Afterwards, I went to college, to avoid being ruled by sub-literate idiots, and then on to law school (at Georgetown University Law School). My military service has long stood me as a source of pride, even though I did not make a career of it (I am still a Government employee, by the way). I retain my pride in my military enlisted service, and I do not renounce it in any way.

    Screw the judge.

    509th Bob (056d31)

  22. DRJ– just as an extra voice: the hard-noses at Navy bootcamp HATED the guys who came in at 17, because, if they hit 18 and weren’t happy, they could just walk out. No harm, no foul, and they kept any pay they’d gotten.

    I’m honestly amazed more folks from really, really poor backgrounds don’t go into the military to get their dental and other health things done, then just leave. It wouldn’t be honorable, but it would be legal and effective.

    Foxfier (74f1c8)

  23. Good points, all. My impression from reading this article was that Shawn planned to sign up for the DEP at 17 and he would complete high school, but he would not enlist or serve until after he turned 18. If that’s true, then opting out after enlisting wasn’t an option.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  24. I’ve never heard that someone who had enlisted could just quit, even if they were still underage. If a parent does co-sign a contract, that contract is enforceable until complete. The same goes for an enlistment… if a 17-year-old enlists with signed parental approval, that contract is enforceable just as if the enlistee was 18 or older. The Navy may have historically granted Entry-level Separations (essentially Get-out-of-jail-free-cards) as a practice, but it has not been an official policy to the best of my knowledge.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  25. That said, and as DRJ points out… DEP is not an enlistment and is non-binding. An enlistment, even at age 17 is binding for anyone.

    Stashiu3 (460dc1)

  26. Just a thought….if this young man just happened to be a young woman, she could have had an abortion without the foster parents even knowing about it…she could be given birth control by the school or the health unit without the foster parents even being told….she could probably even marry without the foster parents consent…

    But, she couldn’t join the Marines….

    reff (59b2ad)

  27. Foxfier and DRJ – The way the DEP program works these days is that the recruits have to finish high school before reporting to boot camp or collecting any pay. They take their ASVB’s or whatever the acronym the vocational or aptitude test their branch of service has when they first enlist, partly to qualify for specialties, but also to generate a minimum required score for acceptance into the service. The military is also wants them to successfully graduate from high school.

    It does sound like things have change since the “permian” times.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  28. reff – Or get her ears pierced.

    JD (626b4c)

  29. Thanks, JD. I forgot that one….

    Except, maybe, she could get them pierced with only one foster parent, and not both….a memory of my wife (who I love dearly) taking my daughter at 12 to get a second piercing, completely against my wishes (and I remind them all the time that they pissed me off that day, and there has been no more piercings!!!)

    This is the “judicial activitism” that really pisses off conservatives/libertarians, because it reflects the idea that the judge can make social policy…

    Didn’t Chief Justice Roberts recently comment on just that???

    reff (59b2ad)

  30. It’s ASVAB – Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery…

    And no, it isn’t binding. It is, esentially, a promise to enter service upon becoming 18. This judge needs to be booted off the bench, and the Military should appeal the idiot’s ruling.

    As for Entry Level Seperations, they are (basicly) the norm. If you REALLY hate it when you get into boot, you can and will be sent home. You aren’t SURE to get it, but with an all-volunteer military, they are more common than not. It’s cheaper to send you home than waste time and money drumming you out later. Note that this only applies to the first 90-day or so of your time in. After that, it’s both harder and more damaging to your future to leave by other means (unless you go democrat, they appear to love that shit).

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  31. Well if she does not support the military she clearly has violated her presumed oath as a judge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. She should be fired and disbarred although honestly a good ass kicking would be sufficient.

    Of course you need to look at the incentives here. If it was not for the race hustlers and the poverty pimps many people could get out of these situations. While most 17 year olds don’t have great judgment he is looking to his future and try ing to do something for it.

    The judge just wants to keep him in the system so she can justify her job just like everybody else who works in Social Services. The only one looking out for him is him and the recruiter.

    Eric Coulson (db0a55)

  32. I saw the *Update.* if an under-age recruit wants out, then the U.S. military is better off without them. I admit that I was one of “those,” even though I had turned 18 on a range in Ft. Benning, Ga., when I was *still* interested in pursuing a career in the military. Notwithstanding all of that, I, to this day, still maintain that that my military service has served me well and good. I was a *punk* when I joined, I’m sorry to say. I was a *veteran* when I got out, I’m proud to say. I’m STILL proud to be a Veteran. To hell with the rest of the punks.

    509th Bob (056d31)

  33. FWIW with my experience some 27 years ago. My recruiter smoked dope, drank with underage girls and generally was a malcontent. Fortunately, I was 22, less influenced as some high school age kids are and still enlisted knowing that wasn’t what I wanted to be like. I made a career of it and left last year. Don’t regret one minute — for me it was the right thing.
    The judge should have let them sign up under DEP but not leave until after they turn 18. Comments about the war and the military were inappropriate and over the top.
    If it had only been about the recruiters I could maybe see a reluctance to allow a seventeen year old to sign up – most are good people but there are bad ones….

    voiceofreason2 (08fb4b)

  34. F*** Her Royal higness and the bench on which she sits!

    A proud old exJarhead! Gung HO!

    Rod Stanton (d3579e)

  35. FWIW, I was an Army recruiter for 4 years. 4 very long years.
    Enlistment in the DEP is just that-an honest-to-God enlistment. You sign the same contract and swear the same oath as any other enlistment, in the reserve component of your branch. If you are 17, you must have the signature of a parent or legal guardian to enlist, even if your entry on active duty is after you turn 18.

    Do you have to go to training? No, not really. Before you go to training, you have to be discharged from the DEP, and enlisted in your active component. Since the service can’t compel you to take an oath, if you change your mind, there really isn’t a lot the service can do. You end up getting discharged. I had a couple guys get cold feet on the day they were supposed to ship- one just needed a little encouragement and counseling, the other just couldn’t face it and ended up not going.

    XBradTC (dfc0bf)

  36. At 17, the summer before my senior year, I enlisted in the Army with my parents permission. I was in the Delayed Entry Program for a year before going to Basic Training. Because of this, I got the job specialty I wanted, Aviation Maintenance, and I was promoted a year ahead of my peers. My senior was a blast because I only had to graduate and not worry about college. The Army paid for college a few years later. It was the smartest thing I have ever done. 26 years later, I am still in the Army Reserve and a professional helicopter pilot, with a college degree. Neither would have been possible without the Army. I have seen and done things most people never dream of. Oh sure, I have been to Iraq and I’m going again in a few months for tour #2. All in all, it was the best decision my life. It makes my blood boil that some liberal bleeding heart judge would prevent a young man from joining the Marines. Sure, he can join when he turns 18, but he will miss out on the bonus and guarantee of a particular job selection which is too bad. Hang in there dude! Semper Fi!

    Spike (2c2af6)

  37. Wow Eric… That’s saying a piece…

    Though for the record, everyone else in The System support’s the kid’s desire to join the Army – Foster parents, Social Worker, siblings, everyone.

    Only the judge is a Mike Foxtrot…

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  38. Enlistment in the DEP is just that-an honest-to-God enlistment.
    Comment by XBradTC — 3/8/2008 @ 8:22 am

    It used to be. That’s what it was when I came in. They have now changed it to what was described above. They should have probably changed the name to avoid confusion, but they’re not the same programs.

    Stashiu3 (5285bb)

  39. Note to Stashiu:

    I can’t get to your website. The URL goes to a site for your webhost and I can’t figure out how to go any further.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  40. The domain is down, looks to be still up as I can get to Ace’s. DoublePlusUndead and I exchanged emails about it earlier, then Pixi Mixi sent an email saying that it would probably be at least a few hours before he could get it fixed. Pixi said we could email him if we needed to, or “simply enjoy a quiet, blog-free weekend”. (harumph!)
    Fortunately, I had made a ton of changes and added several things (like a sitemeter, which Patterico had suggested to me earlier) when I had trouble sleeping last night. They were complete, so when the domain returns, you’ll see a lot of changes (hopefully for the better).

    Stashiu3 (5285bb)

  41. How come the must idiot judges are here in california?

    krazy kagu (a97175)

  42. Oh, I should add that Pixi did apologize for the inconvenience, even though it’s not his fault. Nice of him to say the least.

    OT: I’ll know I’ve made it (somewhat anyway) when kagu or spurwing deigns to add a bit of their “colorful” wisdom in a comment at my site. Love both those guys (assuming they’re different people… and guys for that matter, lol)

    Thanks for checking in DRJ, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by.

    Stashiu3 (5285bb)

  43. Thanks, Stashiu, and I’ll see you tomorrow. I look forward to seeing your updates, too.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  44. No apparent reason? Please. Call this what it is: communism!

    Sue (5eaad2)

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