Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Utah Supreme Court has reversed Warren Steed Jeffs' two convictions on charges of rape as an accomplice and ordered a new trial, saying that instructions given to jurors were erroneous.
Jeffs, the "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life after he was convicted in September 2007. He was accused of using his religious influence over his followers to coerce a 14-year-old girl into marrying her 19-year-old cousin.
In Jeffs' trial, Elissa Wall testified that she repeatedly told him at the time that she did not want to be married and was uncomfortable with sexual advances from her husband, Allen Steed. She said Jeffs advised her to pray and submit to her husband, learn to love him and bear his children, or risk losing her "eternal salvation."
Prosecutors relied on three separate portions of the law defining the circumstances under which sex is non-consensual, the opinion said. Under those portions, the victim must express a lack of consent through words or conduct, the victim must be younger than 18 years, and "the actor" must be in a position of special trust in relation to the victim.
"Jeffs argues that the instruction erroneously focused the jury on Jeffs' actions and position of special trust, rather than on Steed's, for the purpose of determining whether Wall consented," the opinion said.
The justices agreed, saying the jurors should have been asked to consider whether Steed was in a position of special trust and whether Steed lured or induced Wall into having sex.
"The state interprets the term 'actor' to mean the 'defendant,' " the opinion said. "We conclude that the state's interpretation is erroneous."
"We're thrilled," said Jeffs' defense attorney, Wally Bugden. "We're overjoyed. We're ecstatic that the Supreme Court agreed with us. ... The state just had the wrong legal theory."
Assistant Utah Attorney General Laura Dupaix told CNN affiliate KSTU that the opinion is "going to make it difficult, I think, for us to do future prosecutions in cases where some of these men in positions of power -- almost complete power, like Warren Jeffs is -- to prosecute them for forcing young girls into these marriages. I think that's really the part of this opinion that is most disappointing for us."
The justices sent the case back to the lower court for a new trial.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
FONDA -- A Montgomery County
The Cressys were issued appearance
tickets to appear in the Town of Glen Court at a later date.
Hoffman said the Cressys have since submitted a home-schooling curriculum, which he has approved.
An arrest seems a little harsh, especially on child endangerment charges. Some might suggest that the most problematic and unsafe school districts in the country should face child endangerment charges themselves.
For more on the
Thursday, January 21, 2010
We’ve previously touched on the difficulty of drawing a line between permitting parents to make certain medical decisions and having the state do so. What about tattooing children with primitive instruments? Is there something wrong with that? How is different from piercing a baby’s ears, other than the permanency of having a “mom and dad” tattoo on your arm?
CHATTOOGA COUNTY, Ga. - A Georgia couple is out of jail on bond after being arrested for tattooing six of their children.
Investigators say they put their children in danger, but they say they did nothing wrong.
Investigators said a plastic pen body with a needle made of a guitar string connected to an electric motor was used to tattoo the six children.
Read more here.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Today, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Comstock (08-1224),
which deals with a federal law that indefinitely commits those who finished
serving their sentences in
What is necessary [under this law] is two things: First, that the person in fact have engaged in sexually violent behavior or child molestation. So there is a factual predicate there. And -- and so far, the Bureau of Prisons has found that about 15,000 people whom it has reviewed meet that factual predicate. Of those, the Bureau of Prisons has certified only 105 of those, who were also found to have the kind of mental illness that made it reasonably likely that -- that they would continue to commit this -- these kinds of offenses. (Tr. 24-25).
The Supreme Court has
previously upheld a similar Kansas law in
Saturday, January 9, 2010
An astounding new report suggests that because of poverty, at
least 225,000 children in
Friday, December 18, 2009
ABC News’ show 20/20 will be featuring a segment this Friday, with a brief appearance by Dr. Richard Warshak, the foremost author and psychologist on parental alienation syndrome, aka “children brainwashed to hate a parent.”
From Dr. Warshak’s site,
I expect this show to have a major impact in educating the public about the suffering of children who have been turned against a parent, and about what can be done to help ease a child’s transition back to a rejected parent.
The segment will be anchored by 20/20 reporter Chris Cuomo. This topic, mental child abuse, is vastly misunderstood by parents, therapists, judges, and lawyers alike, so I’m excited that it will be in front of a national audience. Dr. Warshak is the foremost authority on parent-child alienation, so ABC did great in choosing to interview him.
The segment should air in the first hour of the 2 hour show (9-11pm EST). expe
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The media coverage of the Heene Family (of Wife Swap fame) continues endlessly, even more so now that the adrift balloon once suspected of carrying six-year-old Falcon Heene has been declared a hoax. Among the many questions being asked is whether Child Protective Services should investigate the Heene home. This, in turn, raises the ageless question of when the threshold for such intervention has been established, implicating the tension between intervening too frequently and failing to intervene when intervention is needed. Of course, the answer must carefully consider the very strong autonomy and privacy rights of the parents, the interests of the children (which often may be to remain free of intervention), and the very limited number of alternatives—particularly for a set of three siblings.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wisconsin parents failing to seek medical attention for their 11-year-old daughter, who subsequently died from untreated diabetes, were convicted of second-degree reckless homicide and recently sentenced to 30 days in jail each year for the next 6 years, as well as 10 years’ probation. Prosecutors said that the parents prayed instead of seeking medical treatment, even when their daughter stopped being able to walk or talk. The question of whether states should allow parents to practice only spiritual treatment is not a new one, but the debate has been renewed by this case, with many lawmakers pledging to take a fresh look at laws in this area.
Hat Tip: Elizabeth Ryznar
Monday, May 11, 2009
Children and the Law Junior Faculty Workshop
July 16 -17, 2009
The Frances Lewis Law Center
at Washington & Lee University is sponsoring a workshop for junior
scholars working on legal issues related to children. The workshop will
be held this summer on the campus of Washington & Lee in Lexington,
More info on Feminist Law Professors blog here.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Guilford County (North Carolina) has employed a multi-prong approach to family preservation, and has reduced the number of children in foster care by 31%. In this Greensboro (NC) News-Record article, county officials and national experts agree that the children who have remained with their families have avoided the unnecessary trauma of being separated from their families, and note the cost-savings of prevention programs as compared to out-of-home care.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Case Update -- Termination of Parental Rights Vacated Because Counsel Appointed for Parent Only Two Weeks Before Trial
Monday, April 6, 2009
As part of a program at New York University School of Law recently on Drugs, Pregnancy and Parenting: What the Experts in Medicine, Social Work and Law Have to Say, Dr. Deborah A. Frank, Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine presented a lecture on Prenatal Drug Exposure: What Does the Science Tell Us? She explores the social meaning of certain drugs and exposes some of the myths laden in the term "crack-addicted babies". The entire lecture is about 15 minutes and would be especially useful in child welfare classes and clinics. The video can be viewed at http://www.vimeo.com/3916613 (last visited April 6, 2009 bgf)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) has published an issue brief identifying more than $2 billion in stimulus funding available for emergency housing to prevent placement of children in foster care. Trade journal Youth Today summarizes the issue brief here.
Friday, March 13, 2009
A report prepared by University of South Florida researchers describes Florida's use of a federal waiver on expenditure of Title IV-E funds. Since October 2006, Florida has redirected monies from out-of-home care (i.e., foster care and group home placements) by expanding prevention, family preservation, and in-home and other diversionary services and supports for families involved in, or at risk of involvement in, the child welfare system. According to the data-laden report, Florida's community-based approach has resulted in improved outcomes for children with respect to safety and permanency, potentially signaling important innovations in child welfare policy and practice.
Monday, March 9, 2009
In his forthcoming article, "Child Welfare and Future Persons", Carter Dillard, Westerfield Fellow, at Loyola University, New Orleans takes on the questions raised by State v. Oakley, 629 NW2d 200 (Wis. 2001) that we find in most of our family law textbooks -- that is, when, if ever, are orders prohibiting procreation constitutional and enforceable? Here is the abstract of the article:
While ethicists have delved deep into the rights and wrongs of procreating, lawyers have had little to say about the matter, stymied by practical concerns, the tendency of the law to ignore prospective children and their interests, and the misperception that a fundamental rights boundary absolutely forbids state intervention. But recently a small door has opened in this wall between law and ethics: as courts faced with having to repeatedly remove abused and neglected children from parents adjudged unfit have issued temporary no-procreation orders. As precedent builds and the possibility of ex ante regulation of procreation and parenthood grows, a moral and legal debate is developing over what duties prospective parents owe their future children and the society with which those children will interact. But increasingly the debate is a muddle of inapposite and conflicting state probation and constitutional law in search of statutory guidance. This Article attempts to cut through it, and to state the intermediate-level principle at its core:
A prospective parent has a moral and legal duty to be fit when he or she has a child, one arising from or creating correlative claim-rights shared by the state and prospective children, and a prospective parent has no liberty to have a child until he or she is fit.
The Article then argues for codification of this principle, to be applied in cases of recurring child abuse and neglect.
Read the article on SSRN. (last visited March 9, 2009 bgf)
Friday, March 6, 2009
States require youth to leave foster care at ages that vary from 18 to 21. Abundant research shows that children who are "emancipated" directly from foster care to adulthood are at "high risk for a number of adverse outcomes during their transition to adulthood, including economic insecurity, housing instability, criminal justice involvement, and early child-bearing." Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago recently issued a report reviewing state "policies and procedures designed to support youth transitioning out of foster care." (free registration on the Chapin Hall website may be required to access the free report)
Friday, February 20, 2009
NPR's Michel Martin aired a segment this week about racial disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system, a topic addressed previously on this Blog (including in an entry dated January 27, 2009). Guests included Kristen Weber of the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Bernadette Blount, a parent advocate with New York's Child Welfare Organizing Project, and Toni Heineman, Director of A Home Within. Click on this link and then click again on "listen here" to hear the program (17 mins 26 secs.)
(last visited MIF -2-20-2009)
Thursday, February 5, 2009
According to the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the following conferences about adoption and child welfare are scheduled to occur in the next few months:
- BACW 2009 Annual Conference
Bridging the Gap for Our Children, Our Legacy
Black Administrators in Child Welfare, Inc.
March 8–10, Long Beach, CA
- Fifth Annual Conference on Childhood Grief and Traumatic Loss
Restoring Joy to Children and Families
ICAN Associates, Inc.
March 26, Los Angeles, CA
- 36th Annual New England Adoption Conference
Adoption Community of New England, Inc.
March 28, Bellingham, MA
- 17th Annual Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
Focusing on the Future: Strengthening Families and Communities
Children's Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect
March 30–April 4, Atlanta, GA
- 27th Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
National Indian Child Welfare Association
April 19–22, Reno, NV
- American Adoption Conference 30th Annual Conference
April 22–26, Cleveland, OH
- NFPA 39th Annual Education Conference
Focus on the Future . . . Love a Child
National Foster Parent Association
May 4–8, Reno, NV
- Eighth Annual National Citizen Review Panel Conference
May 20–22, Jackson Hole, WY
Monday, February 2, 2009
Completing a process begun in 2001, the Supreme Court of Ohio has adopted new rules governing the requirements for guardians ad litem in juvenile and domestic child custody cases. The new rule 48 provides that courts must enter an order appointing either a GAL or a GAL and attorney advocate for the child. The rule includes a broad range of responsibilities for Guardians ad Litem, which are mandated unless impracticable or inadvisable. These responsibilities include interviewing the parents and child and visiting the child in his or her residence. All GALs are required to file a written, final report at least seven days before a final hearing.
Read the new rule 48 here (as a word document).
The new rule follows an extensive study of the Ohio GAL system which examined GAL services provided to abused and neglected children throughout the state. The data for the study was collected through surveying guardians ad litem, juvenile/family court judges and through information contained in a sample of local court records. Many of the recommendations from that report have found their way into the new rule. Read the Ohio CASA/GAL Study Committee's Final Report: In the Interest of Abused and Neglected Children. (last visited Feb. 2, 2009 bgf)