Family Court Judge’s Bias Against Mothers

Robert J Hansen
Orange County Family Law courthouse on May 5, 2023.Photo byRobert J. Hansen

This reporter has sat in three separate family court hearings this year observing Orange County Superior Court Judge James L. Waltz from May to July and in each one, has shown an extraordinary amount of contempt and bias towards women litigants in family court.

In July, he brought one mother, Joanna McGowan, to tears by scolding her for trying to enroll her child in therapy without the consent of the father.

“You were wrong to enroll the child into therapy without my permission,” Waltz said. “I disagree with you acting unilaterally, you need to work collaboratively.”

McGowan lived in a domestic violence shelter at the time. Presumably after leaving her ex-husband, who works in law enforcement.

McGowan pleaded with judge Waltz that her child witnessed domestic abuse by the father and was confused as to why she would have to consult the person who caused the trauma (the father) with whom their child sees for therapy.

Waltz overlooked that and suggested to McGowan some therapists he knew and thought would be helpful. Odd why the therapist has to be approved by a judge.

In another case, that day in July, judge Waltz then continued monitored visits for another mother, Julie Holburn, whom Waltz accused of parental alienation when he took custody away from her in Nov. 2022.

Waltz gave custody of the two minors, who are 13 and 14, to the father, William Holburn who had been deemed a perpetrator of domestic violence in 2014 and again in 2019.

This is why Julie had a restraining order issued in 2014 and renewed in 2019 by now-retired judge Salvador Sarmiento.

However, the 2019 restraining order was vacated in 2022 by Waltz the same day he gave William full custody.

California Family Code establishes that it is not in the child’s best interest to award joint or sole legal or physical custody to a parent whom a court has found to have committed domestic violence against the other parent within the previous five years.

In other words, Waltz erred against the law when awarding William full custody of his children.

This is particularly problematic because Julie has never had any reason to not have her children, which is substantiated by over a decade of court rulings.

The children also have told their minor's counsel that they want to live with their mother which has not been conveyed to the court.

On the website,, several reviews about Waltz make claims of his bias against women going back to 2014.

Here are a few;

May 19, 2021 - “I have been with this judge for 8 years now for child custody orders. I am not surprised by all the comments on how he hates women. I know California is progressive but instead of seeing who is taking care of the child and trying to co-parent, he focuses on gender. My child's father has shown a lack of interest in anything related to taking care of his child but since he pays a lawyer and shows up to the hearings he gets a standing ovation. I do believe he does this to keep the child support cost down not because he wants to be in his child's life. I have had countless issues and orders passed with no repercussions. I have been lectured and called things that I am not. He does not read all the information provided and does not make sound decisions. I provided proof and records of any serious issues that were disregarded by the other party's counter-argument (lies) with no proof. I am being forced to deal with it and my child is paying the high price of Judge Waltz's biased decisions.”

November 4, 2022 - “If you are a woman, this man will destroy your kids for fun, enjoy watching/putting kids with their abusive father. The judge is very amused by seeing kids in danger and getting hurt. He gets off on kids in danger! Beware Beware beware he loves to ruin lives for fun people are going to be killed with the orders he makes up. Orange County CA get your act together this court is the sickening, most dangerous place for children.”

July 27, 2020 - “Let's just say this... I was in his courtroom for 5 years (10 years total with various other judges) with a narcissistic ex-husband whose sole purpose was to destroy me. As a woman, I learned very quickly to keep my mouth shut in Waltz's court. He let my ex-husband speak ad nauseam and the moment I would try to reply he would become very agitated.

After having my ex file motions 30+ times, Waltz had the nerve to turn to me and repeat what my ex had just said by saying, "Yes, at some point you need to get over this," clearly having no insight into the fact that it was my ex, not me, that kept bringing us back to court. If your ex is a narcissist and knows how to manipulate people, get prepared for a rough road ahead. The callous words spoken by Judge Waltz are burned in my brain and after 10 years in the family court system, I realize there is no real justice there.”

February 21, 2018 - “Pro Father. Against mothers! Places children in harm's way. [The] judge should be recalled from the bench. Shame on him.”

September 19, 2018 - “This judge is a disgrace to the justice system. He doesn't bother to read why you are there and he doesn't allow you to explain why you are there. He went against the order made by two different judges. I will file a complaint with the Judiciary Committee next week.”

August 12, 2014 - “Hates Women. Gave 50 % custody to a man with a known record of many arrest records. Made me pay my ex-husband 80k even though I could barely make rent. I worked two jobs, he told me to get a third or work more overtime. Now my daughters want nothing to do with their father and I still have two years to pay on a loan from my retirement. I am not sure how this man sleeps.”

August 8, 2014 - “Watched Judge waltz on several occasions demean and humiliate mothers in his courtroom whether they were working full-time & receiving no child support or on welfare. Hates women, hands over rights to "fathers" just for emitting sperm.”

From what this reporter has witnessed and these comments spanning nearly a decade, Waltz does seem to have a bias against women which is a problem that the Committee for Judicial Performance needs to investigate.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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