Bastards No More in Louisiana

May 21, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 In the year 1967, I was a newly minted Louisiana lawyer, still wet behind the ears, but scrapping out a law practice in my newly adopted hometown of Ferriday.  One of my first cases was representing a young mother whose child was killed when a truck ran off the road and into the family driveway.  It seemed like a pretty cut and dried wrongful death case and I was waiting for the insurance lawyer to send me a settlement offer.  He called one morning and said quite bluntly: “We’re not paying nothing.  The kid was a bastard.”

 Unfortunately, his conclusion was right, at least as far as the law goes.  Not just in Louisiana, but throughout the entire country.  If you were an illegitimate child, your parents had no constitutional recognition or protection for any type of legal recovery.

 40 years ago this week, the US Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, repealed centuries of settled law by granting parental rights where children are born out of wedlock.  And it was a Louisiana case that brought about this significant change.

 Before this Louisiana decision with national repercussions, any child throughout the country born outside of marriage was fillius nullius, or the child of no one.  In fact, as reprehensible as it sounds, in early America it was a lesser crime to kill a person who had been born to an unmarried woman.  If you went into a courthouse to check on a child’s birth certificate before 1965, it was often stamped “bastard.”

 Shotgun weddings were often the norm, particularly in the white community. Many young girls were sent off to  “homes for unwed mothers,” where quiet birth was given, and many new babies put up for adoption.  The climate of tolerance did improve as the 60s wore on with the advent of birth control and changing values post-Vietnam.

 But Louisiana led the fight to the bitter end, defending its laws of what legitimacy meant.  In the state’s brief before the US Supreme Court, Louisiana officials firmly stated: “Louisiana‘s purposes… are positive ones: the encouragement of marriage as one of the most important institutions known to all, the preservation of the legitimate family as the preferred environment for socializing the child… Since marriage as an institution is fundamental to our existence as a free nation, it is the duty of… Louisiana to encourage it.  One method of encouraging marriage is granting greater rights to legitimate offspring.”

 40 years ago this week, Louisiana began the changing process.  In the years that followed, the US Supreme Court reinforced this direction, requiring nonmarital families access to public benefits and giving all children a right to financial support from their parents.  A few years later, all fathers, not just married ones, were given a constitutional right to a relationship with their children.  This seems pretty obvious today, but it was part of a major changing pattern across the country that all began right here in the Bayou state.

 The problem today is not giving legitimacy rights to children of unwed parents.  That is a settled issue.  Now, these same kids are often abandoned by their fathers.  Absent fathers are pervasive in Louisiana and throughout American culture. Father absence is pathological and severely affects the abandoned child’s capacity for self-esteem and intimacy.

  So the child gains legitimacy from one source, but looses it in another by the dad that went away.  And no judge can compel parental responsibility.  A child born out of wedlock and being raised in one or even no parent homes is a growing fact of life in Louisiana.  And the social consequences burden not just the child, but the whole community.  

 Too often, the blame for the failures of so many kids is directed at teachers, the schools and government.  But it all begins and ends at home. And no Supreme Court is going to find a solution for this enormous problem that is at the root cause of so many failures in our society today.

 How proactive should governors and presidents be in proposing new programs that require government intervention?  How far do you go in telling parents what their responsibilities are, and creating consequences for those that do not follow the rules set by government?

 A Maryland school district has ordered parents of more than 2,300 students to court next week for failure to immunize their children. The parents could face fines and jail time if they do not appear.  Is this just governmental intervention?

 Several jurisdictions are considering fining and even jailing parents whose children continue to skip school.  How about the juvenile who commits a crime at two o’clock in the morning?  Is the parent responsible for seeing that this young person meets curfew requirements?  Do you terminate a juvenile delinquent who continues to disrupt classes a regular basis?  What happens when you kick this kid out of school?  Is he back on the street heading towards much more serious crime?

 You can make a solid argument that education in general, and dealing with an underclass of kids who have little parental involvement their lives, should be the single major focus of more backward states like Louisiana that have so far to go just to catch up.  Whatever the accolades that are presently being directed towards the new governor and the legislature, their success or failure will ultimately be determined by what hard choices they make in addressing these complicated and difficult issues involving parental responsibility.  Yes, any way you cut it, it all begins at home.



 “There are no illegitimate children – only illegitimate parents. “

 ~Leon R. Yankwich

Peace and Justice.

 Jim Brown

 Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published on a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana.  You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at     Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.






Toluna: 19% of UK Respondents Think About Buying BlackBerry Torch

Wireless News August 13, 2010

Wireless News 08-13-2010 Toluna: 19% of UK Respondents Think About Buying BlackBerry Torch Type: News

Toluna PLC recently did a survey by asking the opinions of 1000 UK respondents on Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Torch, which will be launched in the US on 12th Aug and rolled out in the UK in a few months.

In a release, Toluna noted details of the survey:

Despite the fanfare created by RIM and the media around the Torch’s launch, only 22 percent of the respondents have heard about the BlackBerry Torch: among them, 19 percent have a clear intention of buying one, while 36 percent feel uncertain and about 45 percent say they will not.

RIM has worked very hard to keep its corporate users happy and at the same time has encouraged people to use the BlackBerry just as any regular smartphone. They might do it right this time: almost 60 percent are interested in personal use and a respectable 33 percent say they will consider using BlackBerry for both business and personal use. So, integrating a better browser and more social networking functions is a good idea. The reason why they like the phone seems quite obvious: while the combination of a touch screen and keyboard is a no-brainer answer (47 percent), lots of people seem to like its overall design (42 percent) and its OS 6 software that deals better with multi-tasking and social networking (34 percent), an indication that users like a BlackBerry with a real keyboard plus better and more functions. But let’s be careful, Palm Pre has the best touch screen and keyboard combination but was still doomed shortly after launch. in our site blackberry torch review web site blackberry torch review

For users having the intention to buy a BlackBerry Torch, the largest age group is the one between 16 and 34, which hardly suits the stereotype of middle-aged, suit-clad business executives.

More information: pollpageqs.aspx?pollid=851350&token=ZemAFZ3a0rk8njdOv zgoIQ percent3d percent3d

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