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Accused of bias, judge quits adoption fight over Chinese girl
By: Woody Baird
This article originally ran in the The Tennessean on November 17, 2003. Reprinted here by request of the He family.
MEMPHIS - A judge accused of bias said late last week that he is stepping down from presiding over an American couple's attempt to adopt a Chinese girl against her parents' wishes.
The girl's natural parents, Shaoqiang He and Qin Luo, contend that Judge D.J. Alissandratos has treated them unfairly, and their complaints have drawn the attention of the Chinese Embassy.
The Hes have been barred from visiting their 4-year-old daughter, Anna Mae, for more than two years while foster parents Jerry and Louise Baker have been trying to adopt her.
The Hes, struggling with financial hardships and a criminal charge, put Anna Mae in foster care shortly after her birth in 1999.
He Case History:
He was a graduate student at the University of Memphis in 1998 when he was accused of sexually assaulting another student. He lost his scholarship, and Anna Mae was born while her father was under indictment.
He was acquitted of the criminal charge early this year but has no legal basis for staying in the United States since he is not a student.
The Hes' repeated attempts over the past three years to get the child back have failed, and they now face possible deportation before regaining custody of the girl.
Alissandratos said at a hearing that he has asked the state Supreme Court to appoint a new judge because a complaint has been filed against him.
He did not go into detail.
David Siegel, the Hes' lawyer, declined to comment, and Larry Parrish, the Bakers' lawyer, said the judge's announcement caught him by surprise.
Complaints against judges are filed with the state Court of the Judiciary and are confidential. The chief justice of the Supreme Court appoints new judges in such cases and faces no limit for doing so.
The Chinese couple accuse Alissandratos of being biased against them and in favor of the Bakers. The complaint was prepared for the Hes by Paul Li of San Francisco.
Li said from his office in California that he contacted the Hes offering help after reading news reports on the custody dispute.
The Chinese Embassy has written to the Court of the Judiciary saying it is "greatly concerned with this prolonged case and the legal interests of the Hes."
Pending before Alissandratos was a petition filed by the Bakers more than two years ago to terminate the Hes' parental rights to clear the way for an adoption.
Alissandratos has rejected requests from the Hes to visit their daughter and has often ruled against them on other pretrial matters. "Our complaint ... is also based on abuse of power," He said.
For a time after the Bakers took custody of Anna Mae, her parents were allowed regular visits.
But the Hes have seen the child only once since police escorted them from the Bakers' residence almost three years ago after an argument over conditions for visitation.
This article originally ran in the The Tennessean on November 17, 2003, reprinted here upon request of the He family.