Family Court by Margret A. Treiber

Margret A. Treiber shares a court transcript from 2039, in which a judge is called upon to make a landmark decision in a child custody case.







                                                                                                                   : Docket No.
                                                                                                                   : X-100-88/23

Onondaga County
Syracuse, NY

PRESIDING:                         HONORABLE JOHN W. SMITH
                                          Family Court Judge

                                         For the Petitioner

                                         FREDERICK Q. ROGERS
                                         For the Respondent

                                         BRADLEY S. SIMPSON
                                         Law Guardian

                                         MARY J. BLACK
                                         Court Reporter

THE COURT: Rexnord versus Gold. Matthew Jones for the petitioner. Frederick Rogers for the respondent. Alright, this is a temporary hearing. There is only limited time to do this, so I might tell you to move forward or bring evidence immediately. We will do this without prejudice to the decision and rights you have in a plenary hearing, which will be scheduled in due course. Mr. Rexnord is the petitioner today.

MR. JONES: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Are you ready to proceed?

MR. JONES: Yes, I am, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Please begin.

MR. JONES: The first witness is Dr. Greg Paul.

THE COURT: Dr. Paul, please come forward.

PAUL GREG, called herein as a witness, having been duly sworn, testified as follows:


Q: Dr. Greg, where do you practice medicine?

A: I practice in New York, sir.

Q: Could you tell the court your credentials, please?

A: I graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2019 and University of Pennsylvania in 2028, where I specialized in pediatric medicine and child development.

Q: Do you maintain a practice in New York?

A: Yes, I do.

Q: How long have you maintained your practice?

A: From 2030 until the present, sir.

Q: Thank you. Are you familiar with the child known as Isaac or Izzy?

A: Yes, I am.

Q: Did you examine Izzy?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: When did you examine him first?

A: In February of this year.

Q: Could you be more specific?

A: Yes, February 16th, 2039.

Q: And what was the reason for the examination?

A: Izzy's former caretaker, Zeno Rexnord, was concerned that Izzy was the victim of physical and emotional neglect.

Q: Did you conduct a medical history and evaluation?

A: Yes, sir. I did.

Q: In relation to that evaluation, what were the results?

A: The medical history was incomplete. Mr. Rexnord's records were detailed but stop in August of 2038 when Mr. Gold took custody of Izzy. Izzy's overall general health was fair. There were no signs of broken bones or injury besides minor bruising on his arms. However, he was showing signs of moderate malnutrition. He weight was low and he showed signs of vitamin deficiencies.

Q: So would you say Izzy was in good or poor physical health, based on your examinations?

A: I would say that Izzy was not in good health. However, I could not classify him as being in poor health. If he continues as he is, it is possible he will be in poor health.

Q: I see. Were you able to ascertain the source of the bruising?

A: No, Mr. Rexnord suggested that Mr. Gold had been rough on the child, but the bruising was too old too for me to determine the source. The malnutrition also could have contributed to the extent of the bruising.

Q: Could there have been another medical cause of the bruising?

A: Yes, there are medical conditions that could cause this. Hemophilia, for example, is a well-known cause. ITP, leukemia and Von Willebrand are other known causes. However, tests for these conditions were negative.

Q: So this led you to test for malnutrition?

A: Yes, the boy appeared pale and thin. He also was lethargic and withdrawn.

Q: Did the tests provide conclusive evidence that Izzy was indeed suffering from malnutrition?

A: His tests showed an iron deficiency, a vitamin A deficiency and a severe vitamin D deficiency. His weight was lower than the records Mr. Rexnord provided me. Izzy's previous physician confirmed the records.

Q: So, you have medical proof that the child is being starved?

A: We see medical evidence that his nutritional needs are not being met. When we asked Izzy about his diet, he informed us that he ate what his uncle ate. When prodded for details, he admitted to living off of snacks and sugary soft drinks. I then performed more blood tests and determined that his A1C was borderline diabetic. I am surprised that he is not clinically obese from what I found in his blood work. He is also suffering from hypertension. His blood pressure was 125/85, which is high. He divulged that he does not engage in any physical activity and spends his time playing video games or browsing the freenet.

Q: So, when he is not in school, he spends all his days indoors and sedentary?

A: Actually, the child indicated that he does not attend classes. Since Mr. Gold spends his time traveling, Izzy is not in one place long enough to attend regular classes. Therefore, he is homeschooled by his uncle. His curriculum is to view educational programming for a minimum of an hour a day.

Q: What does this programming encompass?

A: Izzy indicated his educational programming consisted of pornography and cooking programming.

Q: Did you say pornography and cooking?

A: Yes. Izzy stated that Mr. Gold told him sex and cooking skills were important for keeping bitches and hoes.

Q: I see. So he eats junk food, plays games, watches pornography and cooking programs and that is the extent of his experience?

A: Well no. Izzy stated that he also attends some of his uncle's social events.

Q: What kind of social events?

A: Parties of various kinds.

Q: Could you be more descriptive?

A: Izzy stated that his uncle had what he called naked lady parties, angry fighting parties, and smoky laughing parties. He said in all three types, he was encouraged to participate. He also said that he would usually hide until the parties ended.

Q: Hide. I have no further questions for Dr. Greg.


MR. ROGERS: Yes, Your Honor.


Q: Dr. Greg, besides the word of the child, do you have any hard evidence of the events you described?

A: I do not, besides the physiological evidence.

Q: Children can have poor diets and sedentary lifestyles for a number of reasons. It does not have to be a result of pornography and drunken orgies. Did you witness any of the events you described?

A: I did not.

Q: So your statements cannot be substantiated. I have no further questions.

THE COURT: Any further questions.

MR. JONES: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Thank you, Dr. Greg. You may step down.

A: Thank you.

MR. JONES: Your Honor, I would like to call Zeno Rexnord as my next witness.

THE COURT: Please proceed. Mr. Rexnord, please step forward.

ZENO REXNORD, called herein as a witness, having been duly sworn, testified as follows:


Q: Mr. Rexnord, what is your relationship with Isaac?

A: I was his caretaker, while his parents were alive.

Q: So Izzy's parents charged you with the care and protection of young Izzy.

A: Yes, they led very busy lives and felt that Izzy required a consistent and stable supervisory companion.

Q: Did you enjoy caring for Izzy?

A: I enjoyed it very much. Izzy and I quickly developed a close relationship.

Q: How did you provide care for Izzy?

A: I provided nutritious meals. I assisted him with his school work. I drove him to sports activities which he participated in. I made certain he had sufficient rest. I washed his clothing. I inspected his toys and belongings for damage to make certain they posed no danger to his safety. I provided emotional support. I tended to minor injuries he received during his sporting events and playtime. I gave him my company when he requested I spend time with him. I made sure he was clean and healthy.

Q: Was he healthy when he was in your care?

A: Yes, all his medical records will confirm this. He was also happy.

Q: How can you prove he was happy?

A: Izzy had to undergo psychological testing as part of his admission to his private school. The tests confirmed that he felt happy and safe.

Q: Mr. Rexnord, could you tell us all why we are here today, in your words?

A: Yes. We are here because Izzy's safety and health have been compromised in the care of his uncle. His uncle is spending Izzy's inheritance on himself and neglecting Izzy's needs. I would like to resume my responsibilities of caring for Izzy. Mr. Gold rejected my offer, even when I stated I would do it for free.

Q: That seems unusual. Why did Mr. Gold refuse an offer of free childcare? Surely, he saw the value of your services.

A: He said he did not like my kind, and he wanted me as far away from Izzy as possible.

Q: Your kind? And what kind did he mean?

A: Non-biological. Mr. Gold does not like NBEs.

Q: So Mr. Gold refused your offer to care for Izzy because you are a robot. Even though he knew you had successfully cared for Izzy before he took custody of his nephew.

A: That is correct. And now I am concerned that Izzy is neglected and unhealthy.

Q: And what would you like the court to do to resolve this?

A: I would like the court to grant me guardianship of Isaac. If Mr. Gold is concerned about the inheritance, we can make arrangements for him to be financially comfortable.

Q: So you don't care about the money?

A: No, I have savings enough to provide for Izzy.

Q: Where did you get this money?

A: I invested all my earnings in the stock market. My investments were successful.

Q: Of course they were. No further questions.

THE COURT: Would you like to cross.

MR. ROGERS: Yes, I would, Your Honor.


Q: Mr. Rexnord, you stated that you were Izzy's caretaker. As this a voluntary position?

A: No, it was full-time employment.

Q: So you were hired as a childcare professional.

A: No, I was purchased as a domestic worker. Two years into my obligation, Isaac was born. His care became my primary job function.

Q: And how long was your obligation?

A: I was purchased under a five-year obligation. When it was complete, I was offered a salaried position, which I accepted.

Q: So you didn't do it strictly out of the kindness of your heart. You received a paycheck.

A: Yes, I did. However, I could have gone elsewhere for a higher salary. I stayed because of my relationship with Isaac. I care about him, very much.

Q: Do you really care about him, or are you merely programmed to care? When you were repurposed for childcare, didn't your owners simply add the caregiver subroutine into your programming?

A: They provided me the skillsets. However, after my obligation ended, it was my choice to use the skills or not.

Q: There is nothing that qualifies you more than Mr. Gold to care for Isaac. You are programmed to nurture. It is not a real feeling. Any machine can be programmed to simulate human feelings, but it's not sincere. Mr. Gold is a person, and his feelings are real. You are a machine. How can you justify your claims to be an acceptable guardian?

A: Mr. Gold's feelings are indeed sincere. They're feelings of greed and selfishness. As for my qualifications; the 2035 Sentience Fairness amendment clearly states that I am granted the same rights to pursue my happiness as any biological sentient lifeform. I intend to exercise my rights and petition the court for the custody of the child I care about. Your biased and bigoted questions will not dissuade me from my pursuit. Izzy is suffering, and I can't stand by and idly watch this happen. How do you justify defending a child abuser?

Q: No machine has ever been granted custody of a human child. It's been scientifically proven that you simply lack the ability to maintain complex emotional bonds. What makes you think you are somehow different and will be able to provide the environment that a developing child needs?

A: No matter what my shortcomings are, I will provide a superior environment to the one he is currently in.

Q: That has been yet to be proven. No further questions.

THE COURT: Any other questions?

MR. JONES: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Rexnord, you may step down. Any further witnesses.

MR. JONES: Since Mr. Gold, himself is not present. No.

MR. ROGERS: My apologies, he was unavoidably detained.

MR. JONES: I saw the police report. Very respectable guy.

THE COURT: Mr. Jones, let's keep this professional.

MR. JONES: Sorry, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Let's just get this done. Mr. Rogers, would you like to call any witnesses?

MR. ROGERS: Nope, unfortunately not.

THE COURT: Okay, then I'll make my ruling now.

MR. ROGERS: Please keep in mind that I had no witnesses to call.

THE COURT: Mr. Rogers, I'm aware that we had limited witness testimony. I'll take that into account when I make my decision.

MR. ROGERS: Thank you, Your Honor.

THE COURT: After reviewing the evidence presented, and taking into consideration the rushed nature of this hearing, the lack of witnesses, and the absence of the defendant; I have decided to rule in favor of the plaintiff. God knows, I didn't want to set any kind of precedent, but I have no choice. The child is in a poor medical state, and all the evidence supports a correlation between the decline in health and the onset of his uncle's parental custody. I have to consider the boy's best well being. Interviews with Issac, in the presence of his legal guardian, Mr. Simpson, indicate that Isaac would prefer to have Mr. Rexnord as his legal guardian. If this were a case of a human versus another human, the case would be cut and dry. Mr. Rexnord may not be human, but I am convinced that he has the child's best interest at heart. Mr. Rogers, I'll give you a few weeks to collect your witnesses and evidence. Would May 17th at 9:30am work for you?

MR. ROGERS: No, I have a divorce that day, a pretty hostile one. How about the 19th at 10am.

THE COURT: No, I'm scheduled the whole day. How about the 25th at 9:30am

MR. ROGERS: That will work.

THE COURT: Mr. Jones?

MR. JONES: That's good for me.

THE COURT: I'll schedule for the week. I have a feeling this may take a while. Is there anything else we need to cover today?

MR. JONES: No, Your Honor.

MR. ROGERS: Nothing else, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Thank you, both. This court is now in recess.


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Court Reporter


  1. Great story with an unexpected twist half way through... although I don't normally do futuristic and maybe futuristic fans would have seen it coming.
    Enjoyed the court reporting format.
    Got really anxious about the boy towards the end of the story. Glad to read the happy ending.

  2. Creative concept--using a court transcript as a narrative structure. Doing so adds to the chilling atmosphere of the story. The choice also propels the storyline, which includes authentic facts, realistic dialogue, and smartly incorporated judicial vernacular and procedures. Obviously, author Treiber knows the court system well or has done the research, which I admire. Even the medical information is spot on. I like the surprise introduced into the story (and the irony)--that a robot programmed to demonstrate compassion and empathy is more "humane" than the sociopathic, narcissistic human. The uncle's proclivities, considering he is a guardian, are despicable. The brilliant Stephen Hawking suggested that one of the greatest threats to humanity was Artificial intelligence. Ironically, this futuristic tale suggests that the greatest threat to humanity may well be ourselves. Are we becoming increasingly "robotic"? If I had to choose which caretaker to grant custody of Izzy, I would choose the robot, which is testament to the impact of this story. A finely crafted narrative that makes you ponder a dystopian future. Thank you. James Mulhern

    1. Very thorough analysis. I also found the piece quite funny.

  3. I agree with the previous comments regarding use of the transcript format, I think it was a great device for immediately hooking the reader into the flow of the hearing. Zeno is a great character, very memorable. Sad that a robot had to be the one to stand up and fight for a child's well-being. Glad the court had the guts to make the right decision, interesting to speculate whether this precedent might have unintended consequences down the road.

  4. Interesting and well executed piece epistolary fiction. Laughed at how over-the-top bad the defendant's parenting was. I also really like the theme of robotic sentience, which I hope becomes real in the near future. I was almost surprised (in a good way) at the happy ending, even though it made perfect sense. I wonder if the judge was also an AI.

  5. Good flow to the story. It was compact but impactfull.

  6. I loved this original story. The twist in the middle really surprised me. A great story.

  7. Thank you for sharing this story. As stated in the above comments, it was uniquely presented and well written.

  8. Thank you all for your kind comments! (It's making click that I'm not a robot to post this. Oh the irony!)