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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ind. Decisions - "High court to tackle corporal punishment"

Jeff Parrott of the South Bend Tribune writes today about the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to grant transfer in the case of Sophia Willis v. State. (The 5/17/07 ILB entry, 5th case, included this quote from the COA opinion: "We sympathize with Willis’s argument that she is a single parent who is doing the best that she can, but we cannot condone her choice to whip her child with an extension cord to the point of causing him bruises and extended pain.")

Some quotes from today's lengthy story:

The appeals court found that the trial court can best determine what is reasonable under any given circumstances.

At the same time, the appeals court pointed to the lack of legal precedent from which to judge such cases.

"As we have noted in the past, 'there is precious little Indiana case law providing guidance as to what constitutes proper and reasonable parental discipline of children, and there are no bright-line rules,'æ" the judges wrote.

St. Joseph County Probate Judge Peter Nemeth, who handles child abuse and neglect cases, called the Supreme Court's decision to consider the case "an interesting proposition."

"That will be difficult," Nemeth said. "You almost have to look at each individual case."

Nemeth said it is similar to how then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 said that he might not be able to define hard-core pornography, or obscenity, "but I know it when I see it."

"Common sense has to prevail," Nemeth said. "I don't know if the state should be interfering in parent-child relations, but in cases where it becomes excessive, the state should step in."

Nemeth said the state's highest court could end up simply concluding that no clear statewide line should be drawn. * * *

These days, child protection agencies tend to have less tolerance for corporal punishment than was the case decades ago, Nemeth said. Their standard for intervening in a case tends to be if a mark is left on the child.

But Nemeth said his line isn't as sharp.

"It depends on the mark," he said. "A red mark, I think that can happen in the administration of legitimate corporal punishment. I think using the hand or a strap is OK."

However, a black-and-blue mark, or many red marks, crosses the line, the judge said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 28, 2007 09:50 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions