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Custody Ruling Keeps Children in Simpson's Care During Appeal

Courts: Browns' failed attempt comes amid tumult over judge's role in unrelated case that ended in a fatal rampage.

February 01, 1997|GREG HERNANDEZ and JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

FULLERTON — An Orange County Superior Court judge on Friday handed yet another legal blow to the maternal grandparents of O.J. Simpson's two youngest children, denying their request to have the pair returned to their care while they appeal the court's decision to award custody to the former football star.

And adding another twist to the Simpson legal saga, Judge Nancy Wieben Stock-- who ruled against Louis and Juditha Brown--found herself under attack for her judgment in the Simpson custody case and an unrelated case involving an Anaheim woman suspected of killing her two children and her boyfriend this week in a bloody rampage.

"Judge Nancy Wieben Stock has as much blood on her hands as does the woman who killed them," said Tammy Bruce, president of the Women's Progress Alliance in Los Angeles, as she announced plans to seek to recall Wieben Stock from office because of her rulings in the two custody cases.

Through her court clerk, Wieben Stock declined to comment on the threatened recall.

While Bruce caused a commotion outside Wieben Stock's Fullerton courtroom with an impromptu news conference Friday afternoon, attorneys for the Browns and Simpson resumed their legal wrangling over custody of Simpson's children, Sydney, 11, and Justin, 8.

The grandparents have maintained that Simpson killed their daughter, Nicole Brown Simpson, even though he was acquitted of the murder. The grandparents have argued that it would be harmful for the children to remain at their father's home in Brentwood because of alleged instances of domestic abuse against Nicole Brown Simpson, the children's mother and Simpson's ex-wife.

Wieben Stock awarded full custody of the children to Simpson in December. Her decision had been widely expected in legal circles because the law generally favors parents in such disputes. The Browns were granted visitation rights.

Attorneys for the Browns on Friday vowed to press on with their appeal.

"We're going to go" to a higher court, said lead Brown attorney Natasha Roit.

Simpson attorney Bernard A. Leckie presented declarations in court from Simpson that stated the children were doing well and prefer to remain living with their father.

"The children are the main thing of his life," Leckie said outside court, painting an upbeat and pleasant picture of Simpson's life with the children. Leckie said Simpson brings the children to and from school each day and that they are doing well academically.

Simpson did not appear in court Friday. Leckie said there was no reason for his client to be present for these particular legal arguments.

The lawyers and the Brown family emerged from the 90-minute hearing tight-lipped about what had taken place inside. But they said the judge stood by her original 11-page ruling stating that the Browns' attorneys had "failed to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that being in Simpson's custody would be harmful to the children."

The Browns were granted temporary legal custody of the children shortly after Simpson's June 1994 arrest in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.

Simpson was acquitted of those charges in October 1995 and two months later filed a petition to regain custody of the children. The Browns filed documents contesting any custody change, setting the stage for an emotional legal battle.

Simpson also awaits the verdict in a wrongful-death lawsuit in Santa Monica. In that case, Nicole Brown Simpson's estate and Goldman's family are suing Simpson, alleging that he is liable for the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman.

The Browns' custody appeal could be boosted if Simpson loses the civil case, some legal experts say.

"The Browns can file a request to modify the court's ruling--in fact, to regain custody--based on new circumstance," said attorney Saul Gelbart, who represented the Browns early on in the custody case. "If we have this new circumstance--that this man is found liable for the deaths--it gives the Browns new grounds."

Leckie, however, disagreed.

"I don't think [the civil verdict] will have any effect," he said. "They are two different issues."

Louis and Juditha Brown were joined in court Friday by their three surviving daughters, Denise, Dominique and Tanya. The family, bitterly disappointed with the judge's ruling last month, were clearly upset by the latest legal setback.

"My thoughts?" said Juditha Brown. "You don't want to hear them."

Denise Brown was more forthcoming as she lashed out at Wieben Stock.

"She doesn't have a heart," Denise Brown said of the judge.

Meanwhile, the father of the two children apparently killed by their mother Wednesday said he was furious that the judge was still on the bench.

"She absolutely should be [recalled]," Jeffrey Kyle said.

Wieben Stock decided in 1991 to award Kyle and ex-wife Marcia Amsden-Kyle joint custody of their two children, even though the judge acknowledged Amsden-Kyle had emotional problems.

Kyle called the judge's decision "a mistake I've been fighting against ever since."

But despite his anger at the judge's decision, Kyle conceded that at the time of his custody dispute he was homeless and had had several run-ins with the police and "might not have looked to be the best person to care for two children."

Times staff writer Esther Schrader contributed to this report.

* STARTING OVER

Deliberation in Simpson's civil trial began anew after juror's dismissal. A1

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