Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, May 11, 2007

Case Law Development: Governor's Clemency for Women who Murder Their Batterers Must Be Respected By Board of Probation and Parole

In the culmination of a nine-year process involving a statewide coalition of law schools and advocates for battered women, two women in MIssouri were released from prison recently.  Shirley Lute, 76, has been imprisoned since 1981.  She was the oldest female inmate in a missouri prison. She was convicted of aiding her son in killing her husband, Melvin, who physically tortured and mentally tormented her. Lynda Branch, 54, was convicted of shooting her husband, Raymond, in 1986; she contends she got control of the gun only after her husband threatened to shoot her and her daughter.  Both women were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for at least 50 years, but Gov. Bob Holden commuted their terms in late 2004, just before he left office, making them immediately eligible for parole. However, the Board of Probation and Parole refused to grant them release, saying that "would depreciate the seriousness" of their crimes.

The Supreme Court ordered the board to reconsider, stating that:

The board erred in reconsidering the circumstances surrounding the women's offenses in denying them parole, as the governor already had considered these factors in deciding to commute their sentences. Because article IV, section 7 of the Missouri Constitution grants to the governor the sole authority to commute criminal sentences at his discretion, the board must follow the governor's orders. In interpreting the governor's commutations, this Court must give effect to his intent; because the governor is the sole author, only his intent is relevant. Further, the courts long have held that the governor's power to grant commutation is a mere matter of grace that the governor can exercise on the conditions and with the limitations he thinks proper. Here, both commutations explicitly stated the governor had examined the women's applications and the relevant facts in deciding to make them eligible for parole.

Read the court opinion (last visited May 11, 2007 bgf)

A group of law students from the four MIssouri law schools involved in this process wrote an article about the process.  See, Bridget B. Romero, Jennifer Collins, Carrie Johnson, Jennifer Merrigan, Lynn Perkins, Judith Sznyter, and Lisa Dale, Deconstructing The "Image" Of The Battered Woman: The Missouri Battered Women's Clemency Coalition: A Collaborative Effort In Justice For Eleven Missouri Women, 23 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 193 (2004). 

May 11, 2007 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Divorce Rate Lowest Since 1970

The New York Times reports that the national per capita divorce rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1981 and is now at its lowest level since 1970.  The article points out that experts disagree asto the cause.  Some experts say relationships are as unstable as ever -- and divorces are down primarily because more couples live together without marrying. Other researchers have documented what they call ''the divorce divide,'' contending that divorce rates are indeed falling substantively among college-educated couples but not among less-affluent, less-educated couples.

Read the article  (last visited May 11, 2007 bgf)

May 11, 2007 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sperm Donor Liable for Child Support

"A sperm donor who helped a lesbian couple conceive two children is liable for child support under a state appellate court ruling that a legal expert believes might be the first of its kind in the U.S.

A Superior Court panel last week ordered a Dauphin County judge to establish how much Carl L. Frampton Jr. would have to pay to the birth mother of the 8-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl.

"I'm unaware of any other state appellate court that has found that a child has, simultaneously, three adults who are financially obligated to the child's support and are also entitled to visitation," said New York Law School professor Arthur S. Leonard, an expert on sexuality and the law."

Associated Press Link to Article (last visited 5-10-07 NVS)

May 10, 2007 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parenting Coordination and Advanced Mediation Trainings in Chicago

"The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) is offering two training programs for professionals who work with high-conflict families in June at the Loyola Law Center in Chicago, IL.  Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D., will present Parenting Coordination: Helping High Conflict Parents Resolve Disputes, June 18-19, 2007 and Christine Coates, M.Ed., J.D. will present Advanced Issues for Family Mediators: Beyond the Forty-Hour Training, June 20-21, 2007.   

Each training program is eligible for 12 CE hours for psychologists and both trainings are pending approval by the Illinois MCLE Board for 12 CLE credits.  A block of rooms has been secured at the Seneca Hotel & Suites (Hotel Website), just a block from Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile district.  The hotel is less than a five minute walk from the Loyola Law Center.  For reservations, call (800) 800-6261 and ask for the special rate of $179 for a Deluxe Suite with King bed or $199 for a Deluxe Suite with two Queen beds per night." By AFCC

Please view the program brochure for more information at Program Brochure or contact AFCC at AFCC Website or (608) 664-3750.

May 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Former Same-Sex Partner Granted Visitation

"The Minnesota Supreme Court today affirmed a district judge's decision granting visitation rights to the former partner of a woman who adopted two children. However, the court also concluded the district judge should not have ordered one of the women to attend counseling.

Marilyn Johnson and Nancy SooHoo, a Minneapolis couple, broke up in 2003 after 22 years together. During their relationship, Johnson adopted two children from China, but records indicate the two women co-parented the children, the Supreme Court ruling said." By Nancy Yang, Pioneer Press, TwinCities,com Link to Article (last visited 5-10-07 NVS)

May 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Eighth-Grader Spells to Reunite Family

"Great spellers come in all types, from egotistical showoffs to loners who find sanctuary in the forest of words. Kunal Sah, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, is an angry speller. He lives with his uncle and aunt at the Ramada Limited Motel in this tough former railroad town in eastern Utah. Kunal is making himself into a great speller by way of unhappiness and the immense pressure he feels to reunite his family, which was blown across two continents when his parents were sent back to India last year after being denied political asylum.

He said he cried every day after his parents left, then as the spelling bee season started and he began winning — ultimately reaching the regional competition and becoming one of three students from Utah who will be going to Washington at the end of this month for the Scripps National Spelling Bee — he began to put his frustration into words. Capturing the spotlight at the bee, he said, could draw attention to his parents’ case." By Kirk Johnson, N.Y. Times

Link to Article (last visited 6-5-07 NVS)

May 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)