For Chinese Association representative Jinliang Cai the delay in Monday's trial involving a Chinese couple seeking custody of their daughter from her foster parents was a huge disappointment. Not only because the couple, Jack and Casey He, have been in court proceedings on this matter for four years and haven't been granted visitation with Anna Mae since January 2001, but also because financial assistance from the association cannot continue.
"We wanted this [trial] to be started today. We feel sorry for [the Hes] but also Anna Mae, who is away from her family longer every day," he said. "How long can a person go on with this? We had a fund-raiser for [the couple] last week and raised $1,600, just enough for a psychologist's fee. But that's just one of the fees and bills that has to be paid. It's draining them."
The trial was continued indefinitely after a request by attorney Linda Holmes. Holmes' husband requires immediate surgery and his recovery could take six weeks. Holmes, who has served as legal counsel for Anna Mae's court-appointed representative, could not specify a date for her return.
Chancery Court Judge D.J. Alissandratos granted the continuance against the objections of David Siegel, the Hes' attorney, who suggested either another attorney temporarily replace Holmes or that her position remain unfilled until her return. "We feel that as long as this case is continued it hurts our clients' chances," said Richard Gordon, the Hes' co-counsel.
"It's very unfair because we asked for a continuance when our [second] daughter was very sick, and we were told that if we didn't show up we'd lose the case," said Mr. He.
In response to Holmes' continuance, Siegel requested immediate visitation for the Hes. Last Monday, the couple attended an hourlong psychologist's observation with their daughter and her guardians, Jerry and Louise Baker. According to Mr. He, Anna Mae did not recognize Jack and Casey until prodded with pictures. "She asked us why we didn't come see her," he said. Siegel's visitation request was denied.
In the meantime, Alissandratos instructed both sides to complete pretrial motions and summaries and agree what aspects of the case will be tried during the trial.
After the hearing, Siegel said he plans to file an appeal to the continuance.