Magistrate Eleanore Hilow, who formerly was a county assistant prosecutor, during a hearing in 2008. Hilow’s decisions in custody cases are being questioned by attorneys, child welfare workers and appeal court judges. (Thomas Ondrey) Image Source.

By Rachel Dissell 
The Plain Dealer


A Cuyahoga County magistrate who removed a newborn from her parents last month after a mother drank marijuana-based tea for pregnancy pains chronically oversteps her legal authority in child custody cases, according to county children services workers and attorneys.

County attorneys objected to Magistrate Eleanore Hilow’s order to take Nova Sanford from her parents after her mother agreed to not use marijuana. Workers found the baby was in no danger living with her parents, Hollie and Daniel Sanford.

Attorney Joseph Jacobs, who represents the family, has asked Hilow’s boss, Juvenile Court Judge Thomas O’Malley, to overturn her order. Another hearing in the case is set for December.

“Chaotic and Tyrannical” Courtroom

Jacobs called Hilow’s courtroom “chaotic and tyrannical” and said her “unreasoned, ill-tempered and punitive decisions” were “wreaking havoc on families throughout Cuyahoga County.”

Several attorneys and guardians ad litem with cases in Hilow’s courtroom told the Plain Dealer she often makes unilateral decisions to remove children from parents or caregivers, forcing them into the county’s custody without sufficient, or any, evidence being presented during a hearing.

Those decisions are often appealed and overturned.

Attorneys say she is prone to making her own motions to remove children in custody cases, something other magistrates rarely do. The move often leaves parents and agency workers unprepared for hearings and can infringe on parents’ rights if they aren’t represented by attorneys.

Read the full story at Cleveland.com.