Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Parental Discipline Not Criminal

Not a legal profession case, but of possible interest to the parents among us, is a decision today from the Indiana Supreme Court. The court reversed a criminal conviction for battery on a child. The defendant was the child's mother. He had stolen her clothes, taken the clothes to school, and lied when confronted. After taking two days to "ponder her options" they had a long conversation. When the child repeated the lies, mother had him remove his pants and "proceeded to strike him five to seven times with either a belt or an extension cord." Some blows landed on his arm and thigh as well as his buttocks. He went to the school nurse, who contacted protective services. The mother was arrested, charged and convicted at a bench trial.

The court held that the parental privilege defense is a "complete defense" that the State did not disprove beyond a reasonable doubt. The court considered the fact that the child was eleven years old and not a "first offender." The punishment was not "unnecessarily degrading" or disproportionate to the offense. (Mike Frisch)

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What, lawyer-parents who like to hit their kids with objects should breathe a sigh of relief because they can do so with impunity in Indiana? Even most defenders of spanking generally recognize that using objects to hit your child -- particularly things like a belt or extension cord, which make the "spanking" in fact a whipping -- is abusive.

The Indiana Supreme Court's decision itself is both brainless and heartless, and your decision to post about it -- and implicitly endorse it -- here is, frankly, bizarre.

Posted by: Bobo Linq | Jun 11, 2008 1:33:49 PM

I read the post as saying that the story is "of interest" to readers, and I think you confirmed that by having a strong reaction to it and opinion about the judicial decision. I welcome your opinion. I will say that I am glad that Mike posted it and that you commented on it, and I don't think either editorial choice was bizarre. I hope you will keep reading and commenting even as you disagree with some of the stories and some of our opinions. I wouldn't read too much, though, into an editorial decision to post on a story as necessarily an endorsement of a decision or story. But again I hope my saying that does not discourage you in any way from expressing your own feelings about a story -- or about someone else's decision that is reported on, as was the case here.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Jun 11, 2008 1:50:44 PM

Mike's story seems to have been picked up at Volokh with several reader comments too.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Jun 13, 2008 6:09:44 PM

...and here is a follow-up by Jeff over at Prawfs, in which he expresses his views and notes that the Volokh post is pretty sympathetic to the opinion:

I think someone at least needs to raise the question of a constitutional right vis a vis *other* people's children at the mall and in restaurants.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Jun 14, 2008 7:46:49 AM

I don't know about the constitutional aspects, but the classic statement on this issue is "Little Jeffrey [ed. note: no relation] on the Airplane" from Bill Cosby: Himself, part of which follows:

And she had with her, little Jeffrey. Jeffrey is four years old. I know that because Jeffrey kept walking around the plane, just anybody, he says, "I'm four years old. I'm four years old. I was three, but now I'm four years old." Little Jeffrey. I remember his name, not because he said, "I'm four years old," but because Jeffrey's mother said his name all 2,500 miles of the trip. Nobody on first class could sleep because the woman -- "Jeffrey, will you get down! Jeffrey don't do that! Jeffrey, you've kicked the... Jeffrey, sit down! Jeffrey, would you please... Jeffrey, put your jacket... Don't do that! Jeffrey! Jeffrey!" And then, Jeffrey would stand up in the chair and look at the little man behind him. "I'm four years old." Nobody could sleep because Jeffrey is up. He'd get out. She'd let him run around. Jeffrey would run around with chocolate on his hands and put it on your trousers. "I'm four years old."

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jun 14, 2008 9:17:45 AM

Ha! I had a similar experience flying back from LAS/Montreal a couple weeks ago. Only this time it was three brothers with no indoor voices who did not like each other and wanted their temporarily deaf father to mediate. At some point you sort of want those 'Airplane!' passengers, including the nun, to form a queue to slug him.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Jun 15, 2008 7:28:03 AM

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