When a spanking is OK

June 13, 2008
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When I acted up as a child, I would be threatened with a spanking. Lucky for me, my parents only delivered on the threat a couple times in my life. A stern look or grounding seemed to do the trick to curb my bad behavior. But for one Indiana mother, Sophia Willis, grounding and taking away privileges didn’t work to control her 11-year-old son’s behavior.





  After discovering he stole some of her clothing and then lied about it, she hit him several times with a belt or an electric cord. Willis was convicted of battery as a Class D felony. Willis appealed her conviction, arguing a parental discipline privilege and that she had tried other disciplinary measures, but nothing else had worked. The case made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, which reversed her conviction, finding the punishment didn’t constitute battery.  When does a parent’s discipline privilege end and abuse begin? According to the Supreme Court, as long as the parent satisfies all of the elements the parental discipline privilege defense beyond a reasonable doubt, using corporal punishment in the form of spanking on a child is legally allowed.  

However, Justice Frank Sullivan brought up an interesting point in the opinion: The courts see many cases of child abuse in which parents claim they were only disciplining their children. Requiring the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force was unreasonable or the parents’ belief was unreasonable will only require the state to spend more effort protecting children from abuse, he wrote.





   In years past, parents would think nothing of spanking their children as a form of discipline. In today’s world, spanking a child has become a gray area for parents and the courts as to when that discipline crosses the line into abuse. This opinion is supposed to address it, but as Justice Sullivan points out, it may just raise more questions as to whether a parent crossed the line in disciplining a child.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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