Judge Rules Justina Pelletier to Remain in State’s Custody - Mar. 25, 2014

A Massachusetts judge ruled Tuesday that the Connecticut teen in the middle of a contentious custody battle between her parents and the state will remain in custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

The Boston Globe reported that Boston juvenile court Judge Joseph Johnson granted “permanent custody to the state DCF, leaving it up to the agency to decide if and when 15-year-old Justina Pelletier is returned to her parents’ custody. This decision was in response to a motion filed by Linda and Lou Pelletier, Justina’s parents, and her court appointed attorney for a “conditional custody” plan.

Mat Staver, attorney and founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told TheBlaze as he understands the order that was filed with the clerk Tuesday afternoon, the DCF will retain custody of Justina until May 25 at which point another hearing will be held to determine custody going forward.

“This is just completely unacceptable. The family asked us to pursue any other opportunities and appeals,” Staver said. “The family is beyond fed up.”

In response to the Globe reporting the state will retain “permanent” custody, Staver said “there’s no way they could have done that.”

“I’ll have to look into that more but I can’t imagne this is the case in this situation,” he added and noted that the motion that he formally be admitted onto the case, at the Pelletiers request, was denied by the judge.

Lou and Linda Pelletier have been fighting to regain custody of their daughter after allegations of medical child abuse 14 months ago.

Justina was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease several years ago at Tufts Medical Center and put on a treatment plan to alleviate some of her symptoms. When her parents took her to Boston Children’s Hospital last year for complications with the flu, doctors there said she had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric disorder, instead.

After Lou and Linda Pelletier disagreed with Boston Children’s treatment plan, which took Justina off some of her treatments for mitochondrial disease, and tried to take her to Tufts instead, they were accused of medical child abuse. DCF took custody of the teen on Feb. 13, 2014.

Court decisions in the Pelletier case were delayed several times in the last year, with the most movement coming in the first three months of 2014. Following another postponement on a custody ruling last week, family spokesman Rev. Patrick Mahoney said Justina was “hopeful that she would be released back to the loving arms of her family.”

Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, which is a part of the Free Justina coalition, said with each delay it seems like Justina is “being treated worse than a piece of property.”

The family also contends that Justina has not been seen by any physicians at Tufts Medical Center, which is now leading her medical team that includes physicians from other hospitals as well, after Judge Johnson put it in charge of her medical care earlier this month.

Her family has said that Justina’s health is deteriorating. Two weeks ago at the one in person visit they’re allowed each week with Justina, her parents said they noticed marks on her stomach that were worrying enough that they called them to the attention of Justina’s caretakers who took her to the emergency room the next day.

Jennifer Pelletier, Justina’s sister, said in the most recent visit with the teen that her legs were more swollen and that she lost feeling in her feet. Watch Jennifer Pelletier’s assessment of her sister’s physical state, which she called “scary,” in WTIC-TV’s report:

On Monday, the Pelletiers and their lawyers filed a contempt of court motion against DCF.

“A child’s health and welfare are hanging in the balance. We cannot continue to withhold treatment from this young girl,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel who at the request of the family has asked that the judge admit him to the case.

“DCF has abused its authority. DCF had no right to come between Justina and medical care,” Staver continued, noting hat DCF said it would not bring Justina to Tufts until after Tuesday’s decision.

Last week after the March 17 hearing, the family’s lawyers outside the Boston courthouse said they had presented a conditional custody plan that would allow Justina to return home provided certain stipulations were met. Massachusetts-based lawyer Phil Moran representing the family said at the time that DCF was opposed to this plan.

In its only public statement on the case made in February, DCF maintained that its “primary goal has always been the health and well-being of Justina.

“We want the parents to be able to work with the providers and courts to ultimately move Justina back to her home state of Connecticut,” DCF spokesman Alec Loftus said. “That is the objective, and is consistent with our previous efforts to find an appropriate placement near her home. A medical team has been identified at Tufts, the family’s provider of choice, with the clinical expertise to care for Justina.”