Posted On: June 25, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Strip Search of Arizona Middle School Girl

In an 8-1 vote, the United States Supreme Court today held that Arizona school officials who in 2003 strip-searched a 13-year-old girl while looking for prescription medications went too far and violated her Fourth Amendment privacy right that protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

Acting on an unverified tip from another student, and without contacting the young girl's parents, school officials in Safford, Arizona ordered 8th-grader Savana Redding to strip down to her undergarments, and then forced her to expose her breasts and pelvic areas to determine whether she was hiding any ibuprofen pills. No pills of any kind were found.

School officials defended their actions by arguing that the strip search was necessary for student safety, school order and to combat a growing drug problem. However, Redding had never been suspected of having illegal drugs, let alone drugs that posed a great danger to other students or to herself. Moreover, the officials could have confined Redding to the principal's office until one of her parents arrived or even sent her directly home.

"Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution," wrote Justice David Souter for the majority. Had the officials merely searched her backpack, locker or outside clothes, the search would likely have been found legal instead of having been found unconstitutional.

In another part of the ruling, Souter said the school officials themselves who ordered or carried out the search were entitled to immunity from liability because of uncertainty over whether the right had been clearly established at that time. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens dissented, arguing that privacy parameters had in fact been clearly determined at that time, and that the officials should be liable. Only justice Clarence Thomas disagreed that Redding's rights had been violated.

Redding describes how she felt humiliated and violated by the explicit strip search. She said she was embarrassed, scared and on the verge of crying. As a parent myself, I was outraged when I first read about this story, and would never want my children here in California to ever have to suffer the same indignities as did Redding. I am grateful that the Court applied common sense to this case, understanding that our children are precious resources and that schools should not simply be Constitution-free zones because students are not adults. This is a win for the good guys.

More coverage is available in the NY Times and from Reuters.

For more information about California family law issues, please contact attorney Gary D. Sparks.

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Posted On: June 24, 2009

Henry VIII Divorce Petition Unveiled

It took nearly 480 years, but Henry VIII's petition to the Vatican for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon has finally been made public. (Compare that to a typical California divorce case where the documents are available to the public almost instantly.) After languishing in a drawer in the Vatican's Secret Archives until the 1920's, an Italian firm has been painstakingly reproducing the letter and now plans to produce 200 of them at a rate of three per month.

henry8.jpgHowever, at a cost of nearly $83,000 (£50,000) per copy, the price of a replica of the ancient parchment remains out of the reach of most ordinary people and be limited to museums and collectors. The parchment contains 81 wax seals and weighs in at 5-1/2 pounds (2.5 kg).

In 1530, members of England's House of Lords sent a parchment to Pope Clement VII in support of his desire for a divorce. At the time, the monarch was obsessed with producing a male heir to the British throne with Anne Boleyn, as he had been unable to do so with his wife. Boleyn was not satisfied with merely being the king's mistress and thus, one of the most famous stories about "the other woman" was born.

In the wake of the Vatican's refusal to grant Henry VIII a divorce, the English king broke with Rome and subsequently installed himself as the leader of the Church of England. To many historians, this is the most defining and important event in English history.

"This is the moment at which England ceases to be a normal European Catholic country and goes off on this strange path that leads it to the Atlantic, to the new world, to Protestantism, to Euro-skepticism," said David Starkey, a British historian and expert in the Tudor family in a recent interview with AP Television News. The story appears in the Associated Press.

For more information about California family law issues, please contact attorney Gary D. Sparks.

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Posted On: June 23, 2009

Are You Ready for Marriage?

Are you ready for marriage? Is it right for you? Do you know everything you need to know about your partner before you walk down the aisle with him or her?

As a California family law & divorce attorney, I frequently discover that the answer to these questions is a resounding, "NO." Unfortunately, far too many couples don't discover that this is the answer until sometime after the marriage begins to fail.

Of all places, Oprah.com publishes an online relationships column that asks the following questions of those who are considering tying the knot:

1) Why are you getting married?

2) Do you know and trust your partner's personal history?

3) Did you plan your marriage, instead of just your wedding?

4) Are you investing more than you can afford to lose?

5) Have you identified and communicated your needs and expectations?

For those of you who chuckle because it comes from Oprah, I'd suggest you look at these questions and seriously consider them before you make the commitment to share your life, for better or for worse, with your significant other. Trust me, if you're coming to me down the road, it most certainly was because your marriage was "for worse."

For more information about California family law issues, please contact attorney Gary D. Sparks.

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Posted On: June 22, 2009

What Moms Can Learn from Dads

Fathers who are primary parents find more time for leisure and less time for chores, and overall present their children with a healthier picture of domestic life than do mothers who are primary parents, according to column that appeared in USAToday over the weekend.

Although primary-father households are less common than primary-mother households (fathers typically provide about 40% less child care on a daily basis than mothers, and primary-father households only make up about 20% of families with young children) researchers seem to be learning that fathers tend to do things a little bit differently, and in some cases a little better, than in more traditional families.

According to the columnist, today's fathers are teaching mothers four lessons:

1) It's OK to keep a hand in the workforce.
It doesn't have to be "work or stay home."

2) You don't have to do the laundry. Domestic work
and child care can be negotiated as separate jobs.

3) Parents are people, too. Give yourself permission
to have leisure time.

4) Kids need both parents.


For more information about child custody and visitation or other California family law issues, please contact attorney Gary D. Sparks.

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