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William Rehnquist on Families & Children

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. Nixon 1972)


1991: Violence Against Women Act federalizes divorce law

Biden continued through 1992 and into 1993 with hearings documenting the spreading growth of domestic and sex violence crimes against women. Then help came from an unexpected quarter. Republican Senator Hatch, who had been attending the hearings as a critical Judiciary Committee member, held hearings of his own in his state and was appalled at what he learned. Hatch became Biden's staunch ally and partner on the violence against women legislation and also the COPS program in a period when they alternated as committee chairman. Later they joined in pushing for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 against sexual predators, named after the kidnapped and murdered son of John Walsh, host of the television show "America's Most Wanted.
Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p.312-313 , Oct 5, 2010

Grandparents get no visitation rights unless parents agree.

Justice Rehnquist joined the Court's decision on TROXEL v. GRANVILLE on Jun 5, 2000:

Washington law permits “any person” to petition for visitation rights “at any time” and authorizes state superior courts to grant such rights whenever visitation may serve a child’s best interest. Petitioners Troxel petitioned for the right to visit their deceased son’s daughters. Respondent Granville, the girls’ mother, did not oppose all visitation, but objected to the amount sought by the Troxels.

Held:


(O’Connor, joined by Rehnquist, Ginsburg, and Breyer; Souter and Thomas concurring)
Washington’s breathtakingly broad statute, as applied to Granville and her family, violates her due process right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of her daughters. Because we rest our decision on the sweeping breadth of the Washington law, we do not consider the primary constitutional question. We do not, and need not, define today the precise scope of the parental due process right in the visitation context.

Dissent:

(Stevens)
The Washington law merely gives an individual--with whom a child may have an established relationship--the procedural right to ask the State to act as arbiter, through the entirely well-known best-interests standard, between the parent’s protected interests and the child’s. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.

Dissent:

(Kennedy)
In my view, it would be more appropriate to conclude that the constitutionality of the application of the best interests standard depends on more specific factors. In short, a fit parent’s right vis-à-vis a complete stranger is one thing; her right vis-à-vis another parent or a de facto parent may be another. In my view the judgment under review should be vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings.

Dissent:

(Scalia)
In my view, a right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is among the “unalienable Rights” in the Declaration of Independence.
Source: Supreme Court case 99-138 argued on Jan 12, 2000

Rape victims cannot sue their alleged attackers.

Justice Rehnquist wrote the Court's decision on UNITED STATES v. MORRISON on May 15, 2000:

The petitioner alleged that she was raped while a student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and that this attack violated [part of the Violence Against Women Act], which provides a federal civil remedy for the victims of gender-motivated violence.

Held:

(Rehnquist, joined by O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas)
The Commerce Clause does not provide Congress with authority to enact a federal civil remedy [a lawsuit]. Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which permits Congress to enforce equal protection of the laws, also does not give Congress the authority to enact [such a law. Despite] pervasive bias in various state justice systems against victims of gender-motivated violence, the 14th Amendment prohibits only state action, not private conduct.

Concurrence:

(Thomas)
The Federal Government persists in its view that the Commerce Clause has virtually no limits. Until this Court replaces its existing Commerce Clause jurisprudence, we will continue to see Congress appropriating state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.

Dissent:

(Souter, joined by Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer)
The Court says both that it leaves Commerce Clause precedent undisturbed and that the Civil Rights Remedy of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 exceeds Congress’s power under that Clause. I find the claims irreconcilable and respectfully dissent. Congress has the power to legislate with regard to activity that, in the aggregate, has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. A mountain of data assembled by Congress shows the effects of violence against women on interstate commerce. Today’s majority, however, finds no significance whatever in the state support for the Act based upon the States’ acknowledged failure to deal adequately with gender-based violence in state courts, and the belief of their own law enforcement agencies that national action is essential.
Source: Supreme Court case 99-5 argued on Jan 11, 2000

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Other Justices on Families & Children: William Rehnquist on other issues:
Samuel Alito
Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
John Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Sonia Sotomayor
Clarence Thomas

Former Justices:
David Souter
Sandra Day O'Connor
William Rehnquist
John Paul Stevens

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Page last updated: Mar 08, 2014