Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Judge Right To Put Kids' Needs First

For thousands of children wasting away in Russia's state orphanages, Judge Galina Antushevich is probably a hero.

According to the authorities in her native Khabarovsk, Antushevich allowed some 20 Russian orphans to join new parents in the United States - and in the process skipped some legal procedures. No one accuses her of having done so for money or personal gain. But the law is the law, and Antushevich recently received a two-year suspended sentence from the Russian Supreme Court.

Antushevich grew upa ward of the Soviet state and experienced firsthand the neglect of the government-run orphanage system. This seems to explain why her first priority in assessing a possible adoption seemed to have been getting the children - some of them sick, most of them short on love and care - settled into new homes.

Families who wish to adopt a child - whether they are Russian or foreign - certainly ought to go through a rigorous series of checks before they are allowed to take on such a responsibility. But many officials familiar with Russia's often vacillating adoption laws criticize the procedures as unnecessarily bureaucratic.

Antushevich agreed. Consider one of her offenses: She did not legally rescind the parental rights of some biological parents who had abandoned their children. Ninety-five percent of the children in Russia's vast state orphanage system have at least one living parent, and the majority of these adults do not bother to officially give up their children; they simply abandon them. Yet the law insists that all paperwork be in order and that in each case a biological parent be located, brought to a court hearing and formally declared not a parent.

Antushevich also was convicted of not giving Russian adoptive families precedence over foreign adoptive families. But there seems to be no evidence she gave anyone a particular advantage; and she says the case against her has been built on false evidence and skewed by ugly coverage in local media.

Adoptive parents in Russia must go through a strict series of background checks before they are matched with a child. No system is foolproof, and there have been a handful of cases when an adopted child taken abroad has ended up the victim of parental abuse.

Such isolated cases generally send Russian legislators and media into a frenzy and have them demanding a ban on the "export" of children. For some reason these same patriots never pay attention to the thousands of disabled children who die malnourished and neglected in Russian internats - many of them tied to their beds. Antushevich may have bent the law, but whom do we admire more?