23 Feb 2012
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The United States Supreme Court has elected not to review an Alabama Supreme Court decision that had struck down Alabama’s Grandparents Visitation Act.
Alabama’s Grandparent Visitation Act was overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court in a decision that had pitted parents against grandparents. The grandparents had won visitation rights to see their two teenaged granddaughters in the lower courts only to have the case appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court where the Alabama High Court ruled that the state’s Grandparent Visitation Act violated the law. The grandparents then appealed to the Supreme Court. The decision by the United States Supreme Court not to hear the case means that the two Alabama grandparents have lost their bid to have court-ordered regular visits with their teenaged granddaughters.
The grandparent had been very close to the children until a business dispute led to the parents barring the grandparents from seeing the children. The grandparents erected signs on the girls’ bus route to declare their love and attended public softball games and other events to cheer for the girls. Eventually they sued for visitation rights. The Jefferson County Judge granted the grandparents visitation rights on Friday afternoons, Christmas afternoon, and the day before their birthdays. The Judge also gave the grandparents daily telephone rights. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals overturned the Jefferson County Judge’s decision in 2010 but left the Grandparents Visitation Act in place.
The case then moved on to the Alabama Supreme Court where the majority of the justices on the Court affirmed the Appeals Court decision in regards to the case in June 2011. Justice Tom Parker wrote the ruling for the majority of the court. Justice Parker determined that the Grandparents Visitation Act itself was illegal because it violated the due process rights of the parents. Parker wrote that the parents have sole authority to determine who their children can have contact with or not, unless the parents had previously been ruled unfit by a court. Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Justice Jim Main dissented.
The names of the teenagers, their parents, and their grandparents involved have not been released by the Courts to protect their rights and privacy. Similarly, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ has determined that it was not necessary to divulge their identities for the same reason.
The U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled against grandparent rights in 2000 in Troxel vs Granville. The court said in Troxel that: "the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children--is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. The Supreme Court said that a parent's fundamental right to the "care, custody and control of their children" was "at issue in this case." The Court struck down Washington’s grandparent visitation statute because it unconstitutionally infringed on parental rights. Troxel v. Granville was a 6 to 3 decision with O’Connor, Rehnquist, Ginsburg, Breyer, Thomas, and Souter forming the majority with Scalia, Stevens, and Kennedy dissenting.
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