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June 20, 2004

Fisking Michael Newdow on Fathers' Day

I was going to save this post until tomorrow, but what better day to fisk Michael Newdow than Fathers' Day?

As I wrote in my first blog post at XX Blog, everyone knows about Michael Newdow's failed challenge of the Pledge of Alliance at the Supreme Court. Here is the Supreme Court's decision. People are now learning that he has been taking his ex-girlfriend to court on numerous occasions on his failed bids to obtain joint custody.

This post is my fisking of his recent article for Slate, entitled Family courts don't solve conflict, they create it. Another windmill Newdow seeks to topple is the Best Interests of the Child Standard. Like the outcome of the Pledge case, he will lose. Unlike the Pledge case, he will lose his Best Interests challenge because his arguments lack merit.

I need to make a few important points before I begin.

Michael Newdow lost joint legal custody in February 2002. He admitted this on the Sean Hannity show. This is big, because Newdow has been boasting to the media that he has custody, when in reality, he lied. Ironically, I learned of this from a fathers' rights mailing list. The man who had posted about it (and because of him I was able to locate the Hannity show archive) is right-wing religious right, as are a lot of men in the father's rights movement. Newdow presents them with a scorching case of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, Newdow isn't saying anything different from what most of the fathers' rights advocates who support joint custody are saying. On the other hand, he's an obnoxious, argumentative, controlling liberal and atheist. He's not exactly their ideal poster boy for fathers' rights. Tom Sylvester at Femily Scholars Blog wondered why more fathers' rights activists aren't lining up to support Newdow. Newdow's atheism is probably a big reason why.

Listen to the show. It definitely takes a conservative bend, being that this is Sean Hannity of "Hannity and Colmes" (a. k. a. "Hannity Barking and Colmes Wussing Out"), so it isn't surprising that host Mark Levin would attack Newdow's atheism and his position against the Pledge. Nonetheless, Newdow not only admitted to host Mark Levin that he lost joint legal custody, he said "so what?" The point was that Newdow did not have legal standing to make his claims, even if they are right. Levin had interviewed Newdow's ex-girlfriend on an earlier date. She said that their daughter had no problem with reciting the Pledge, she has a different religious philosophy than him, and that in taking his case to through the court system he is placing her in the public eye, and she doesn't want to be used in that manner. Newdow's actions are not in her best interests if she is going to be at the center of such a public fight.

First he says to Levin it's not about his daughter, then he says it is because at age 10 she isn't old enough to make her own decisions. It's really about him. He believes that he has a right to usurp his ex-girlfriend's parental authority regarding religious training. He does have a right to discuss with his daughter his own religious philosophies, but he does not have a right to step on the mother's authority. The Supreme Court recognized what he was attempting to do and put a stop to it.

He made the ridiculous analogy that saying children reciting the Pledge is like being forced to snort crack cocaine at school. Snorting crack is illegal. Reciting the Pledge is not. One valid argument supporting the Pledge is that anyone may opt out of saying it. If you oppose the Pledge because you are an atheist, for instance, you may take a moment of silence or leave the room. Those against those two words cite peer pressure in coercing children to stay put, place their hands over their hearts, and mouth the words anyway. Both are valid arguments that I'm sure will end up in front of the Supreme Court someday. The Pledge will someday be decided on the merits of arguments for and against those two words. Michael Newdow thinks so highly of himself that he believes he will be the lawyer to bring those other arguments to court. We shall see.

Listen to this radio program. Warning: it's three barking heads snipping at each other. I happen to disagree with Hannity and Levin regarding the Constitutionality of the words "under God" in the Pledge. I don't agree with Levin that a minority opinion should not override everyone else's opinion. It that were true, we would not have civil rights laws and women would not have the right to vote. Brown vs. Board of Education definitely went against majority public opinion at the time it was decided.

The important things in all the noise in this interview are the following:

(1) Michael Newdow LOST joint legal custody, thereby he does not have standing to take this case through the court system. He has been telling the media that he had custody when in fact he had not. He lied.

(2) He is not concerned with how thrusting his daughter into the center of this maelstrom against her will can harm her.

(3) He is only concerned with himself, giving the thumbscrews to his ex-girlfriend, and basking in his 15 minutes of fame. The Supreme Court justices could see all that, so they ruled against him.


[Michael Newdow's statements are in italics. My comments are indented and in plain text.]

Family courts don't solve conflict, they create it.
By Michael Newdow

Slate
Posted Friday, June 18, 2004, at 2:39 PM PT

Custody battles. Custody wars. Custody disputes. Conflict has become so ubiquitous in family law that it is difficult for anyone not to think of it once the word "custody" is mentioned. The initial assumption is that this stems from the parties. That assumption is questionable.

To be sure, there is often (but by no means always) anger and bitterness during the breakup of a relationship. But displeasure does not necessarily breed dispute. Why do so many people who were once extraordinarily happy together end up in such deep conflict? The answer may be that the custody laws—not the people—are to blame.

    It will become very clear while reading that Newdow's essay is not about "people," but about his own dissatisfaction with the outcome of his numerous court cases, the rejection by the Supreme Court being the most important rejection of all.

Conflict arises when people believe they are being treated unfairly. And treating people unfairly is the hallmark of the family courts, where judges actually announce that they are not concerned with fairness to parents. They claim this is permissible as a result of their statutory duty to address the needs of the child, but the fact is children need their parents to be treated fairly. Especially in view of the marked limitations in accurately rating or measuring parenting abilities, each individual—absent true harm—should have an absolute right to 50 percent time with his or her children. That would instantly decrease custody conflicts.

    To accept his premise, you must accept his assessment that treating people unfairly is the hallmark of the family courts. There is no basis for that. Remember that he is not talking about all courts who have ostensibly treated people unfairly. He is talking about himself. He is stating opinion as if it were fact.
    No, conflicts do not arise when people believe they are being treated unfairly in court. The conflicts arise based on the chosen behavior of people who do not agree with a court's decision, whether that decision was fair or unfair. Just because Michael Newdow does not like a particular court's decision regarding custody of his daughter or regarding his lack of legal standing to challenge the Pledge does not mean that the court's rulings were unfair.
    The conflict between the parents is that they have an irreconcilable disagreement about what is best for their children. In these kinds of cases, a judge must step in and make the decisions for them because they are unable to do so themselves. These cases are a minority of divorces and custody cases. Most parents come to their own decisions without needing court intervention.

Let's look at a typical situation. Two people have a child and decide that one of them—rather than some outsider—should provide childcare. Which parent should that be? Often, the decision is made by default. If there is a significant disparity in earning capacity, for instance, it is likely that the lower-wage earner will stay home. In other words, Parent A—due to increased training or earning potential—sacrifices the joys of being with the child. Parent B—reciprocally—gets excess parenting pleasure.

    First off, anyone who refers to the basic nuts-and-bolts responsibilities and sacrifices taken on by a primary caregiving parent as "excess parenting pleasure" has no idea what is entailed in actually parenting a child. In using that terminology, he is minimizing the responsibility for raising his daughter that he himself has not taken on (except in his vivid imagination). In Newdow's case, he was not even married to his daughter's mother. He had accused her of raping him in order to become pregnant. That just shows exactly where the guy is coming from.
    Whether or not those decisions were made by default does not lessen the fact that both parents chose their respective parenting roles. The child has become accustomed to a set pattern of care from both parents. Newdow makes it sound as if things "just happened," when that is not the case at all. He is also ignoring the fact that primary caregiving is about attitude, responsibility, and psychologically taking on that particular role along with all of the sacrifices that go with it. He is mistaking the primary caregiving parent for the person who is spends the most time with the child. A person does not have to be a stay-at-home parent to be the primary caregiver. There are working mothers who are also the primary wage earners who are their children's primary caregivers. Primary caregiving parents make every day-to-day decision with their children's welfare in mind. They form their schedules around their children. They place their children's needs behind their own desires. They micromanage the hell out of their days because there is always another person in their care who must be considered. That Newdow equals primary caregiving with time shows just how little he understands the role, and it shows just how much disregard he has for his ex-girlfriend's role as his daughter's primary caregiver.

When the two break up, Parent A is suddenly told that this prior bargain is now set in stone. He or she must continue to work and support the child and forgo the chance at parenting equally. Why? Because the State has gotten involved, telling Parent B, "Forget Parent A! Because you were the 'primary caregiver' before, you can maintain that role. Furthermore, the less you share, the more vengeance, power, control, and money (in child support) you get. All you need to do is walk over to the family court and sign up."

    I have heard this same argument from countless fathers' rights activists. It shows just how much contempt Newdow has for a court that refuses to bow to his unreasonable demands. If his ex-girlfriend doesn't "share" on his terms, he thinks she gets "vengeance, power,control, and money (in child support)." The one trying to exercise vengeance, power, and control here is Michael Newdow by filing all of these antagonistic lawsuits. He also forgets that most parents settle out of court, understanding that it's best for the children that they remain in the care of their primary caregivers, most of whom are mothers. These parents make this choice on their own because they recognize it's good for their children. They don't blame things on the State the way Newdow does when he doesn't get his way.
    The court is concerned with the best interests of the child, not the best interests of Michael Newdow. Children benefit from stability and the presence of the primary caregiver. Even if the court were to consider 50-50 joint custody per Newdow's terms, all existing research about joint custody has shown that it has proven to be detrimental to children when they are exposed to excessive parental conflict. Newdow's contemptable treatment of his ex-girlfriend has all the hallmarks of excessive parental conflict in spades.

Parent A is then left with only two choices: accept losing the most important thing in a parent's life (i.e., the right to be with one's child), or fight to defend that basic liberty. Thus, the State exacerbates (if not actually creates) conflict by insisting that the previously agreed-upon arrangement should be maintained. "This isn't about you, Parent A," say the "experts." "It is the child we need to protect!"

    Let me remind readers again that Newdow is not talking about "parents." He is talking about himself. Like many fathers' rights activists, he believes that without his precious 50-50 joint custody that he will lose the right to be with his child. A cursory look at his own visitation shows that it not the case - he sees his daughter 10 days out of the month. That is the usual every-other-weekend, one evening or overnight per week visitation that many noncustodial parents get, and those parents have not "lost" their children. Newdow is angry that he is not getting his way.

Perhaps. But—far more likely—perhaps not. Who is this child being protected from? These were both fine parents until this stage. They both love their child, and the child loves them both in return. Why would we think that the child would be harmed by treating both parents equally?

    Another common father's rights complaint - both parents love their child equally so why should they not have "equal" custody? Because love is not enough. Children thrive on routine and they do not thrive when exposed to excessive conflict. You cannot treat both parents equally because they are not situated equally when entering the courtroom. As Newdow had admitted himself, even if it is by "default," both parents had long ago chosen their respective roles with each other's okay. Newdow's ex-girlfriend has always been their daughter's primary caregiver. Newdow wishes to erase years of established parenting practice by elevating his own status to that of his ex-girlfriend. To do so gives him authority that he did not earn. It would also give him power and control to wreck havoc with major decisions that have always been the responsibility of his daughter's mother.

Never stopping to consider that question, the State imposes a "best interests of the child" standard. While that sounds great, it is actually fraught with problems. First of all, parenthood is a fundamental constitutional right. Like free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom from illegal searches and seizures, there is a constitutionally protected freedom to nurture a child without unnecessary government involvement. Normally held to a neglect or abuse standard, parents alone decide how to care for their children, and the government becomes involved only if the children are endangered. In the family law setting, however, this different, far more intrusive "best interests" standard is introduced. This switch takes place even though there are no changes in parenting skills, and the parents have committed no wrongdoing. Government may not change the standards under which people exercise their basic rights simply because an interested party files a piece of paper.

    I'm beginning to wonder just how intelligent Michael Newdow really is. He has Ph.D.'s and is supposedly a doctor and a lawyer, so how he can make arguments like this that have been shot down numerous times in numerous courts?
    He is being disingenuous. The best interests standard is much more than the mere "freedom from abuse" standard Newdow claims it is. Yes, he is not abusive, but the California Family Code also requires that the entire two parent/child relationship be taken into consideration when making a determination about the best interest of the child. The California Family Code (section 3011) about the Best Interests of the Child stipulates that the relationship between all interested parties and the people closest to them such as new spouses is to be taken into consideration in addition to considering the health, safety, and welfare of the child. In considering the entire relationship Newdow has with his daughter and with his ex-girlfriend, considering his contemptable treatment of his ex-girlfriend and his total disregard for her primary caregiving role, the California court rightly has refused him joint custody. The Supreme Court also brought up these very points No one is denying Michael Newdow his parenthood, nor is anyone denying him an ability to teach is daughter his own philosophy about religion. What he is being denied is his desire to usurp his ex-girlfriend's parenting authority.

The second problem with the "best interests" standard is that it violates the constitutional right to equal protection of the law. Since when do we "better" the lives of one class of citizens at the expense of some other class? The "best interests of the child" standard permits the government to shatter the life of one parent—which is precisely what occurs when people are unjustly kept from their children—if it believes that will "better" the life of the child, however marginal or illusory the benefit. Note that we're not speaking here of protecting the child, which government has the absolute duty to do. We're saying that if we can keep the child from one less cough per year, we can give a parent terminal cancer. If we can take the child on one more picnic, we can deprive a parent of every future vacation. If we can give the child an extra hug, we can chase away another parent's soul mate.

    Why the alarmist language? This is as bad as fathers' rights activists gnashing their teeth over fathers being "ripped" from their children when they don't get sole or joint custody. It is up to the individual father to keep up his relationship with his child. The court only designates time and who has primary responsibility for the child. Not getting custody does not mean that dad has been cut off at the knees. Getting joint custody does not mean that dad will be a better father. It's up to dad to do the right thing, and no court in the world can force a man to be a good father.
    Once again, parents are not equally situated when they enter court. Their roles are already established, and the courts are wise to recognize that. There is a divorce industry that has financially profited from pretending that parents are "equal" when they enter court, and then forcing them to pay for parenting coordinators, custody and psychological evaluations, guardians ad litem (for the child), and parenting classes and mediation so that they may learn to "cooperate" with each other. The result has been more litigation, more expensive divorces, and wealthier lawyers and "experts" who make their living off of people's misery. This is what Newdow would lead divorcing couples too - more of the same crap, but more expensive crap.

More to the point, what in the world are the "best interests of the child"? Is it "better" for a child to have a tuna-fish sandwich or to eat at McDonald's? Tuna is healthier. McDonald's tastes better. Tuna's cheaper. McDonald's is more fun. Tuna saves on gas. McDonald's gets everyone out of the house. Who's going to value all these factors and decide what's "best"? Whether it's a trivial issue (such as lunch), or one far more important, this multiplicity of factors is involved in the thousands of decisions parents make each day. Add to the mix the impossibility of predicting how care today will impact any given child 10 years from now, and it's clear that no one can determine what is "best." The suggestion that anyone—judges, child psychologists, court-appointed evaluators, etc.—can do this is pure arrogance; arrogance for which there is not one shred of evidentiary support. In fact, it may well be that every custody decision made by these people has been the completely "wrong" one. … How would anyone ever know?

    Once again, he misses the point. The court is not supposed to judge individual parenting styles that are of no harm to the children, which is what he is talking about. He is free to feed her tuna seven days a week if he likes. He can gorge on Big Macs and fries, too. So can the girl's mother. Those are lifestyle differences that do not belong in a court of law. I found this passage interesting, though. I wonder if Newdow feels that his parenting skills are superior to that of his ex-girlfriend? Does she take their daughter to McDonalds - something he may look down upon - whereas he would serve her grilled tuna with sprigs of parsley? I fear that if Newdow ever gets the 50-50 custody he demands that he will believe that would give him veto rights over mom's lifestyle simply because he doesn't approve of it. No McDonalds ever again because HE HAS JOINT CUSTODY, and therefore what he says goes. Thank God he doesn't have that kind of power. What kind of egomaniacal, self-centered jerk are we dealing with here?

For those still insisting that the system itself isn't the cause of the conflicts, consider the way courts treat parents of different religions. Most state laws prohibit judges and "experts" from becoming involved in religious controversies. As long as there is no harm to the child (and no trashing of the other parent's views) both parents have the absolute and equal right to inculcate whatever religious beliefs they choose. Amazingly—with no incentive to fight; with no money riding on it, and with no possible religious "winner"—religious disputes between parents have
become virtually unheard of in the family courts. Imagine, though, what would happen if a "best religious interests of the child" standard were implemented and "religion support money" were given to the parent whose religion was deemed "better" for that child. Does anyone doubt for a second that litigation over religion would skyrocket?

    Does he take absolutely no responsibility at all for the problems he is having with the court system? Michael Newdow is nothing special. He's just another guy who is angry that the court will not let him have his way in his custody case. Just because he made it to the Supreme Court and may have been right about his argument over "under God" in the Pledge (I for one believe the words violate the Constitution), that does not mean that he's right about the "best interests of the child" standard. He could not be more wrong. He is wrong in the way I've heard every fathers' rights advocate be wrong about these same issues. He isn't saying anything I haven't heard before.
    Newdow does have the right to impart his religious beliefs upon his daughter. Even the Supreme Court acknowledged that. The court rulings have not interfered with his ability to instruct his daughter in his religious beliefs, or lack thereof. What the court has forbidden him to do is to usurp his ex-girlfriend's authority regarding his daughter's religious instruction. That is what he wants to do with his Supreme Court case - he wanted permission to override her primary caregiving and custodial authority. He does not have that kind of authority. He does not have the right as a "next friend" to do that, and the court that first made that decision was very right in doing so. Giving the girl's mother the final say in major decisions keeps Newdow from overriding her decisions, although it hasn't stopped him from engaging in vexatious and frivilous litigation.

The most incredible aspect of all this is that the "experts" in this field continue to tout the system's superiority with absolutely no reliable data demonstrating any efficacy whatsoever. Furthermore, they gloss over its undeniable harms. Worsening the bond between the two most important people in a child's universe, wasting extraordinary amounts of money, and decimating a parent's life are grievous injuries. Surely, there is an obligation to show a benefit in return. No one would allow a drug with such horrendous adverse effects to be put on the market without such proof. How has that been allowed in this arena?

    Hasn't he read Maccoby and Mnookin, Lamb, Amato, and other joint custody experts? All of them cite conflict in joint custody cases as harmful for children. The court is not worsening the bond between Newdow and the girl's mother. Newdow is doing that all by himself. The court has been complicit in allowing him to air his grievances, but at least it has ordered him to pay his ex-girlfriends legal fees for keeping her in court so much.

All parents—absent a finding of true harm—should have an absolute right to 50 percent custody of their children. Such a system—stripped of incentives to battle for more—would largely eliminate the harms just noted. Sure, there will be some inconvenience to the children. But children are inconvenienced all the time in intact families, and they survive just fine without the State butting in. Some kids have to get up early to milk the cows. Some have to bicycle miles to high school. Some are put in daycare. We don't make huge issues of those "difficulties" when the parents are together … why should we do so when the parents are apart? Life comes with good and bad times—that's part of growing up. Most parents—treated fairly, and left with the equality the Constitution mandates—will always be far more capable of, and dedicated to, ensuring what's "best" for their children than any combination of
judges, attorneys, and "experts." Until real evidence is provided that the benefits of the current approach outweigh its costs, we should simply value the diversity of parenting styles, respect parental rights, and stop causing conflict.

    I hardly think that a divorce, especially between parents as much at each others throats as are Newdow and his ex-girlfriend, can be compared to the inconvenience a child may feel at having to bike to school or get up early to milk cows. Who does Newdow think he is?

Michael Newdow is the California man who challenged the Pledge of Allegiance in the courts. He is a father, doctor, and a lawyer. Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty. Photograph of Michael Newdow on the Slate home page by Susan Ragan/Reuters.

    He left out one title - he is a blowhard.

Posted on June 20, 2004 at 04:28 PM | Permalink

Comments

Way to kick ass, Trish! I linked up to this in my blog. It seems to me that people on the left who support Newdow because they like his politics are doing the same thing the right did when they tried to strip Elian Gonzalez from his only living parent because he lives in Cuba.

Posted by: Amanda at Jun 20, 2004 7:05:49 PM

Loved it Trish.

Two comments; I have my doubts that Newton cares about his daughter or the pledge; it is all about his control of his daughter. I have this sneaky suspicion that if Mom was against the pledge Newton would have been insisting she say it.

Second, something about his blatherings reminded me of a converstation I had with my then 4 year old daughter. We were coming back from her school and I had bought her a treat (this was to help her acclimate to school). She wanted two. I said two if she shared. She did share; like most 4 year olds share---as in anyone have a microscope? I asked her how she would feel if I shared something that way. She immediately shouted "That woudln't be fair!!!"

Newton is trying to divide his child like a bag of candy; he has no concern for her at all. He wants he wants he wants. What she wants...well, he basically is saying to hell with her.

I hope and pray this child has good men examples in her life to counter this wretched one.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jun 21, 2004 1:50:29 AM

Michael Newdow is a fruit loop. The guy wanted no part of his daughter when she was born, then decided after a court battle over child support (with all kinds of wacko charges from him) that he wanted to play daddy. He got steamed when his ex wouldn't put her life on hold, drop everything, and follow him to Florida. (Why would she when they weren't together, and when he made it clear several times that he didn't love her?) For someone who likes to blame the courts for his custody troubles, he has been quite litigious. And for someone who's supposedly so concerned about his daughter's welfare, he's been doing an awful lot of things to disrupt her life.

I blame him for messing up the Under God case. Yeah, the courts could have faced the actual issue head on, but Newdow was so busy making it about him and his persecution complex that no one took the real issue seriously.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jun 21, 2004 9:16:58 AM

Your assessment of Newdow is right on. I am linking to it when I get back from my walk. I couldn't have done it better!

Liz

Posted by: Blondesense at Jun 21, 2004 9:21:54 AM

Umm, Newdow regained partial legal custody in September of 2003.

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1063212045712

Posted by: Reed A. Cartwright at Jun 23, 2004 8:56:03 PM

The law.com article also says this:

    The Justice Department's brief, filed last month, asserts that Newdow "has no legal right to sue as his child's next friend ... That prerogative rests exclusively with the mother, who has sole legal custody." The brief, signed by SG Olson, goes on to say, "If, as the non-custodial parent, Newdow believes the mother's educational decisions are causing harm to the child, the proper remedy is for him to resort to family court and seek a modification of the custody agreement."

    Starr's brief on Banning's behalf also stresses that "Sandra Banning has sole custody of her daughter. Accordingly, Banning, not Newdow, has the right and responsibility to decide ultimately where her daughter goes to school and what education her daughter should receive." In a footnote, Starr's brief indicates that a trust fund has been started "to help defray the costs and expenses incurred by Banning in connection with this litigation."

I understand why the Supreme Court ruled the way it did because Newdow did not have the legal right to sue as his daughter's "next friend." It's very clear that Newdow uses litigation as a battering ram against his ex-girlfriend's parenting authority, and she has sole custody, including sole legal custody. Newdow has a right to "access" school and medical records and to "consult" with his ex-girlfriend about major matters related to his daughter's education, but she has the final say. The Supremes saw all of that. However, I don't necessarily agree that the Supremes did the right thing in not hearing the merits of whether or not it is constitutional for schools to require children to recite the Pledge with the words "under God" in it. I believe that he had the right to sue about the Pledge based on his parental rights, which had not been revoked. His rights as a parent are a separate thing from his legal status regarding legal custody, next friend (or lack thereof), and his penchant for excessive litigation against his ex-girlfriend. He filed his Complaint that the words "under God" were unconstitutional under the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. He also sought injunctive relief requiring Congress and the President to remove those words from the Pledge and prohibiting California schools from leading students in reciting the Pledge. I believe he had that right as a parent with rights who disagrees with the reciting of the Pledge. The problem is that the Complaint explained that he cited himself as the "next friend" of the unnamed child in question, who happened to be his daughter. That was where he screwed up. He didn't have status as "next friend."

Who knows; the Supremes could have ruled the way they did because this is an election year. Another parent or parents without Newdow's excessive baggage will probably take those two words to the Supreme Court level in the years to come, and then the case will be decided based on its merits.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jun 24, 2004 5:45:25 AM

Interesting point, Trish. I wondered why it was so important that an actual parent sue. Don't all community members have an interest in what's going on in the schools? My sister wondered why I bothered to vote in the school board elections, I said, I pay my taxes I want a say.

Posted by: Amanda at Jun 24, 2004 1:07:40 PM

Trish,

Those briefs were filed before Newdow regained partial legal custody of the girl, and thus they were laboring under a situtation that is differnt from that that exists today. The people against Newdow argued that lack of legal custody meant that he lost "next friend" status. From the stuff I've been reading, there is nothing actually in California law that stripped Newdow of his "next friend" status. In fact, the Ninth Circuit, which would in a typical case have the final say on standing under California law because of federalism issues, already ruled that California law gave Newdow "next friend" status.

It seems very clear that SCOTUS simply manufactured an excuse to punt the issue away from this election. I bet they will say something different the next time the issue of non-custodial parents and "next friend" status comes up.

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/hamilton/20040617.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-chem15jun15,1,6824136.story

Posted by: Reed A. Cartwright at Jun 24, 2004 6:01:06 PM