Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An excellent parental-rights opinion from Judge Dillard in Georgia

Check out (MOJ-friend) Judge Stephen Dillard's excellent concurring opinion in this recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals.  The case "involv[es] the removal of three children from their parents’ custody by the Coweta County Department of Family and Children Services (“DFCS”)[.]"  This is one of those happy occasions where the Constitution of the United States (correctly understood) and the social teaching of the Church are, I think, on all fours.  Here's a bit from Judge Dillard's opinion:


. . . Juvenile courts must be mindful that in every case, regardless of any perceived authority given to them by Georgia’s Juvenile Code to interfere with a natural parent’s custodial relationship with his or her child, such authority is only authorized if it comports with the long-standing, fundamental principle that “[p]arents have a constitutional right under the United States and Georgia Constitutionsto the care and custody of their children.”

I take this opportunity, then, to remind our juvenile courts and the State that, in making any decision or taking any action that interferes with a parent-child relationship, our Juvenile Code and established case law is subordinate to and must be construed in light of the fundamental rights recognized by the federal and Georgia constitutions. As this Court has rightly recognized, “[t]he constitutional right of familial relations is not provided by government; it preexists government.” Indeed, this “cherished and sacrosanct is not a gift from the sovereign; it is our natural birthright. Fixed. Innate. Unalienable.”

I agree.  As I wrote, 17 years ago (!), in this essay, "[t]he law no more 'creates' the family than the Rule Against Perpetuities 'creates' dirt."


Garnett, Rick | Permalink