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Federal judge rules against state on immigrant paternity case

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Sitting at the crossroads between immigration law, paternity establishment, and the controversy on how the United States handles illegal immigrants, a federal judge in Indianapolis has ordered state health officials to stop denying unmarried immigrant parents without a Social Security number the ability to file an affidavit establishing paternity.

U.S. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on Thursday granted a preliminary injunction stopping the Indiana State Department of Health from using a new policy that targets those without Social Security numbers, whether they are individuals here on working visas or those with pending immigration statuses. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in November on behalf of a group of families whose immigration status doesn’t allow them to get those numbers and as a result, deprives them of their 14th Amendment rights to have their U.S. born children get child support and related benefits of paternity.

The state used to accept affidavits even if one or both parents' Social Security numbers were missing, but in July that policy changed to require both numbers in order to validate the forms. This case, L.P., et al. v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, No. 1:10-CV-1309, follows that.

In a hearing Thursday, state register Erin Kellam, who took that job in March 2010, told Judge Pratt that she’d understood state statute to require Social Security numbers and didn’t think it was subject to interpretation.

But Judge Pratt disagreed, pointing to the state department’s “inconsistent” and “perhaps even incoherent” internal policies and how the state argued it needed that information to track a child’s parents in case child support enforcement is needed.

“This reasoning rings hollow,” she wrote. “In effect, the Commissioner is arguing that not establishing paternity at all is somehow preferable to establishing paternity if the affidavit is missing a social security number. Given that the overarching purpose of the law in this area is to establish paternity and enforce child support obligations, this justification defies common sense. Where the choice is between establishing paternity at birth without the parents’ social security numbers and not establishing paternity at all, only the former choice will further the state’s interests. At bottom, the Commissioner’s interpretation erects impenetrable roadblocks to being legitimated via paternity affidavit for Plaintiffs. Regardless of the level of scrutiny employed, Plaintiff’s stand on their Equal Protection Clause claim.”

Judge Pratt disregarded the state’s claim that plaintiffs could turn to the court system to establish paternity, instead of the affidavits.

“However, as the Court well knows, the process of navigating this sometimes maddening world is, to put it charitably, burdensome,” she wrote.

Legitimatizing children is paramount and something that is in the public interest, Judge Pratt said.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has not yet determined whether it will appeal the ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, but spokesman Bryan Corbin said the AG has 30 days to make that decision.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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