Kathleen Russell, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Judicial Excellence
Kathleen Russell is the Founding Executive Director of the Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE) in Marin County, California. Kathleen has shepherded the organization from a conversation in a San Rafael living room to a national force for child safety in family courts. She currently manages a growing team of dedicated child safety advocates from around the U.S. in a remote workspace.
Kathleen and colleagues Camille Cooper and Angelina Jolie co-led the two-plus year effort with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and the National Family Violence Law Center to bring Kayden’s Law into federal policy as part of the 2022 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. Kayden’s Law, or the Keeping Children Safe from Family Violence Act, creates a financial incentive for states to pass legislation that modernizes their family laws to better protect children from violence and abuse. States that pass bills that restrict the use of unsafe, ineffective, family court-ordered reunification programs and mandate ongoing DV and child abuse training for judges and court appointees, among other key child safety provisions, stand to receive up to $5M per year in federal VAWA funds over five years. CJE is proud to currently be sponsoring the nation’s first legislation in response to Kayden’s Law, Senate Bill 616, by California Senator Susan Rubio.
In 2017-18, Kathleen led the federal lobbying effort to pass H.Con.Res.72 in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with allies at DV LEAP and the California Protective Parents Association. Under her leadership, 86 members of the House co-sponsored this historic resolution, which laid the groundwork for Kayden’s Law to be introduced in 2020.
Under Kathleen’s leadership, CJE launched a National Advocacy Training Series for protective parents across the U.S. in 2021 that teaches them how to introduce and pass legislation in their states. Kathleen also recruited Ally Cable to create a youth initiative, CJE Youth Speak, for young adult survivors of family court trauma, and the organization staffs a phone line to support protective parents. CJE is also working on two preventable child homicide research reports- a national and a California-specific report- to shine a light on this crisis and compel lawmakers to sponsor needed reforms.
In California, Kathleen and CJE have been at the forefront of numerous successful legislative campaigns, including an historic audit of the state’s only judicial oversight agency, the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP). Last year, Governor Newsom signed into law and funded the creation of a new Committee to Review the Operations & Structure of the CJP, a yearlong effort that has the potential to completely reform California’s judicial discipline and oversight agency when it reports to the Governor and Legislature in March 2023.
In her early years with CJE, Kathleen organized the first White House Briefing on the Family Court Crisis in May 2010, and she addressed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women about the crisis in March 2011.
Finally, Kathleen co-directed and produced the 2008 award-winning documentary Family Court Crisis: Our Children At Risk and served as the creative director and writer for the companion photo exhibit entitled Family Court Crisis: Surviving A Broken System. She also produced the CJE video project, Kids of Divorce Speak Out.
The Center for Judicial Excellence is committed to protecting child abuse and domestic violence survivors in our nation’s family courts and to fostering accountability throughout the judicial branch. For 16 years, the Center has been a voice for vulnerable children and a catalyst for child safety. Every day, Kathleen and her team honor the lives of more than 841 children who were murdered by a divorcing or separating parent and the million-plus children who’ve been forced into violent, dangerous homes by order of a family court in the United States. CJE fights to expose systemic problems and fix the family court system so that all children can grow up in safe homes with parents who nurture and protect them.
Barry Goldstein, Pro-Bono Consulting Expert
Barry is a domestic violence author, speaker, advocate, and expert witness. He was an attorney representing victims of domestic violence for 30 years. He is the author of six books concerning domestic violence and child custody. Barry is the author of the Safe Child Act, which is a comprehensive plan based on current scientific research that can fix the broken court system and make family courts safe for children. He now provides workshops, judicial and other training regarding domestic violence, particularly related to custody issues.
Ally Toyos, Youth Initiative Founder
Ally is a student at New York University, studying Neural Science on a pre-med track. She hopes to use her personal experience with Family Bridges to advocate for other survivors of reunification camps and to bring reform to family courts through CJE Youth Speak.
Mei Harrison, Social Media Manager
Mei is a recent graduate of George Washington University who studied International Affairs and Geography. She is currently working as a data analyst in Washington, DC, and is hoping to use her advocacy and digital expertise to advance the mission of CJE. Interested in reforming the U.S. family court system and bringing awareness to the injustices of this crisis, Mei is excited to be part of the team.
Munkhtaivan “Molly” Otgonjargal, Intern
Munkhtaivan, or Molly, is a recent Graduate from Cal State University (CSU) San Marcos, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a Political Science minor. Molly graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2023. Molly came to the United States as a foreign exchange student from Mongolia in 2015, and she hopes her internship at the Center will help her decide whether she would like to pursue a Masters degree and a long-term career in the domestic violence prevention field. Her aspiration is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the inner workings of the family court system, particularly in relation to how it functions and why situations arise where children are placed in the custody of their perpetrators.
Julius Clark, Intern
Julius Clark became a CJE intern in Summer 2023 after one of his college professors at Old Dominion University mentioned CJE as a respected children’s rights organization in his classes, The Sociology of Child Welfare and Children’s Rights & The Law. Since joining CJE, Julius enjoys his role as a research assistant in tracking tragic cases of child homicide in the United States, along with his communications work on the organization’s E-newsletters.
Julius appreciates that his CJE internship allows him to gain important insights and experience with the family court system and lobbying techniques, while offering him experience working for a nonprofit organization, as he continues his education in graduate and law school. He is a dual degree student at Old Dominion University- graduating in Fall 2023- pursuing a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in World Cultural Studies, with a concentration in Children’s Rights.
Anjli Tantod, Bookkeeper
Anjli is a goal-oriented finance professional with over 20 years of financial expertise, primarily focused on formulating strategic initiatives for organizations. Through positive action and dedication to worthy causes, she is grateful to be a part of CJE’s stellar team that is doing essential work to serve and protect children’s rights.