October 23, 2012

Cases of Interest to the School Community 1999–2000 Term

Parental Rights

Troxel v. Granville, No. 99-138

For Case Analysis: See Preview 188

Do parents have a fundamental constitutional right to limit visitation of their children with third persons, including their children’s grandparents?

Decision: Yes. The Court ruled 6-3 that a Washington state law providing that " any person may petition the court for visitation rights at any time” and that “the court may grant such visitation rights whenever “visitation may serve the best interest of the child” unconstitutionally infringes on parents’ fundamental right to rear their children.

From the plurality opinion by Justice O’Connor (joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer):

In an ideal world, parents might always seek to cultivate the bonds between grandparents and their grandchildren. Needless to say, however, our world is far from perfect, and in it the decision whether such an intergenerational relationship would be beneficial in any specific case is for the parent to make in the first instance. And, if a fit parent’s decision of the kind at issue here becomes subject to judicial review, the court must accord at least some special weight to the parent’s own determination.

Concurring: Justice Souter
Concurring: Justice Thomas
Dissenting: Justice Stevens
Dissenting: JusticeScalia
Dissenting: Justice Kennedy

Opinion and briefs: supreme.findlaw.com/Supreme_Court/docket/jandocket.html#99-138

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