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Supreme Court Case Law for Families

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Victims Of Child Abuse Laws


Case Law for Families

Here are some snippets of case law that upholds the constitutional right to be a parent to one's children.

Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000). - The Supreme Court stated "We have long recognized that a parent's interests in the nurture, upbringing, companionship, care, and custody of children are generally protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See, e.g., Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399, 401 (1923); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U. S. 510, 535 (1925); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U. S. 645, 651 (1972); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U. S. 205, 232 (1972); Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U. S. 246, 255 (1978); Parham v. J. R., 442 U. S. 584, 602 (1979); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U. S. 745, 753 (1982); Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 720 (1997). As we first acknowledged in Meyer, the right of parents to "bring up children," 262 U. S., at 399, and "to control the education of their own" is protected by the Constitution, id., at 401. See also Glucksberg, supra, at 761 (Souter, J., concurring in judgment).

Santosky v. Kramer, 102 S Ct 1388; 455 US 745, (1982). - Even when blood relationships are strained, parents retain vital interest in preventing irretrievable destruction of their family life; if anything, persons faced with forced dissolution of their parental rights have more critical need for procedural protections than do those resisting state intervention into ongoing family affairs.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has a substantive component that “provides heightened protection against government interference with certain fundamental rights and liberty interests,” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720, including parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, see, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651. Pp. 5—8.

There is a presumption that fit parents act in their children’s best interests, Parham v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584, 602;  As this Court explained in Parham:

"[O]ur constitutional system long ago rejected any notion that a child is the mere creature of the State and, on the contrary, asserted that parents generally have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare [their children] for additional obligations. ... The law's concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life's difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children." 442 U. S., at 602 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

There is normally no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question fit parents’ ability to make the best decisions regarding their children, see, e.g., Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 304.

Thus, a balance must be reached between the fundamental right to the family unit and the state's interest in protecting children from abuse, especially in cases where children are removed from their homes. Miller v. City of Philadelphia, 174 F.3d 368, 373 (3d Cir.1999)

In balancing these competing interests, courts have recognized that a state has no interest in protecting children from their parents unless it has some definite and articulable evidence giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or is in imminent danger of abuse. Croft, 103 F.3d at 1126.


BROKAW v MERCER COUNTY, 235 F.3d 1000 (7th Cir 2001)(2000)
"[O]nly where a child's life is in imminent danger or where there is immediate danger of severe or irreparable injury to the child's health (and prior judicial authorization is not immediately obtainable) may an official summarily assume custody of a child from his parents.").
The Court of Appeals, Manion, Circuit Judge, held that:

  1. seizure of child from his home was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment;

  2. county sheriff and county probation officer who removed child from home were subject to individual liability;

  3. state judge who handled wardship proceedings had judicial immunity;

  4. four month separation following removal could be challenged under substantive due process clause;

  5. allegations were sufficient to state a procedural due process claim based on post-deprivation process;

  6. allegations were sufficient to state conspiracy claim under 1985; and

  7. recusal of district court judge for bias was not warranted.