On May 15, the discovery of the body of Cali Anderson sent shockwaves throughout Northern California, as people wondered how her father and stepmother kept her decaying body stuffed in a duffle bag for at least a week.
News reports indicate Cali’s backpack was found next to an animal cage in their bathroom, along with handcuffs. Her body was emaciated. Neighbors were unaware the child was living with the couple as they never saw her.
The death of Cali Anderson alerted Family Court Advocates in Solano County, when they read the father had full custody of the five year old and the mother had been fighting for two years to see her daughter.
Tragedies like this are not uncommon in Solano County Family Court, as advocates fault the hazardous and grossly biased rulings of Retired Judges Cynda Riggins-Unger, Garry Ichikawa, and currently serving judge Christine Carringer with the failure to prevent the abuse of many litigants.
According to Cali’s mother, Leyanie Robinson, the fatal custody ruling was made by retired judge Cynda Riggins-Unger, who was the subject of several recall attempts in Solano County, due to her alleged pervasive and routine gender bias in family court rulings.
Tyler Anderson was allegedly battling an addiction to crack cocaine when he was given full custody of Cali Anderson by Judge Cynda Riggins-Unger. Socioeconomically disadvantaged Robinson was unable to wade through the complexities of the family court system to gain shared custody of Cal or fight the unjust custody ruling.
“This isn’t shocking, I’ve seen Unger give custody to many male drug addicts and males just released from jail or prison,” one advocate said. For years, advocates have been fighting to bring awareness and oversight to the Solano County Family Court system, only to be routinely dismissed as angry mothers upset with custody rulings.
But they ask: How many people have to die before someone decides to take action?
Advocates allege Cynda Riggins-Unger had a history of ruling primarily on the basis of gender. Male litigants with obscene and shocking criminal histories, including incarceration, were routinely given primary or sole custody of very young children despite drug charges, alleged current drug use and/or addiction, domestic violence charges, and other violent and dangerous offenses.
“It really didn’t matter what she [Robinson] did, In Unger’s courtroom, she didn’t stand a chance,” one advocate proclaimed.
Sacramento based ABC 10 reporter Lilia Luciano has spearheaded a two year investigative project to spotlight the judicial abuses and failures in family court and how a lack of structural oversight leads to the destruction of the lives of children and families.
Advocates are calling for structural change to the handling of family court cases, namely rules of court and judicial review of cases involving a change of custody when one of the parties to the case has a drug or criminal record or substantiated CPS reports.
Solano County advocates are gathering grassroots support for the idea of “Cali’s Law” a set of family court rules that if enacted, could possibly have prevented the death of Cali Anderson. Cali’s Law would restrict the wide judicial discretion that allowed an alleged biased judge, Cynda Riggins-Unger, to ignore potential warnings and give custody of a very young child to someone who was a substantiated risk to her safety and well-being.
“Someone should not be able to come out of jail or rehab and walk right into family court and get custody of a child,” an advocate stated “but these judges in Solano County have done this time and time again.”
When one advocate asked how many litigants knew of cases where someone recently released from jail, prison or rehab was given custody of a child, litigants began rattling names from memory. There were too many.
“We’re not looking to alienate children from parents,” one advocate stated “but handing over custody to someone who just got out of prison or rehab is insane.”
We couldn’t agree more.