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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
SC justice apprehensive about telecast of judicial proceedings

There is no reason to deny the right of the people to see Supreme Court justices in their black robes on television as the President of the United States delivers his yearly State of the Union speech, opined Justice Breyer of the US Supreme Court in an interview with Associated Press. However, the judge had his reservation about telecasting  judicial proceedings.

He said that he was fine with the idea of the television viewers being able to see the entire government gathered under one roof, but judicial proceedings were a different matter in this regard.

In principle, Justice Breyer very much agrees that there is no harm in allowing the people to see judicial proceedings of the Supreme Court on television because it would make the viewers privy to the fact "that the court is very serious about dealing with very difficult problems". Having said that, he also voiced his fear that the telecast might degenerate into a mere relay of "sound bites," which could be seen out of context, and may ultimately mislead the viewers. And that is primarily the reason why he said he was "taking a hesitant attitude".

Justice Breyer's apprehensions are perfectly understandable in view of the fact that judicial proceedings at the Supreme Court level involve complex questions of law, which could leave the viewers confused about the approach of the Apex Court towards certain issues.

He also warned against having criminal trials telecast, for, in his opinion, it could lead to a situation where witnesses are scared of appearing before the court to testify.

"The public has to generally accept the existence of an institution that to do its job must sometimes make decisions that are very unpopular," Justice Breyer said adding, "In addition, since we are dealing with fallible human beings and not angels, sometimes those decisions will be wrong."

UK Supreme Court supports pre-nuptial agreements

After enjoying a great deal of judicial support in the US and European courts, pre-nuptial agreements have now found British judicial endorsement as well.

The UK Supreme Court dismissing an appeal by one Nicolas Granatino, a former JPMorgan Chase banker, refused to accede to the plea that less weight be accorded to an agreement he entered into with Katrin Radmacher, a wealthy German heiress before tying the knot in 1998. The agreement provided that neither of the parties to the agreement could profit from the wealth of the other.

Lawyers in Britain have been following the case closely so as to be able to gauge the degree of importance the British courts were willing to attach to the prenuptial agreements. The ruling according to which the prenuptial agreements are valid so long as they are fair brings British judicial approach to such agreements closer to the supportive approach of the US and European courts.

Simon Bruce, Ms. Radmacher's legal representative, said in a statement, "Everybody hopes their marriage will last a lifetime. From today we are allowed to prepare for the possibility that it might not be the case."

Reacting on the judgment, Ms. Radmacher said, "I'm delighted that Britain has upheld fairness. For Nicolas and I, in our homelands - France and Germany - these agreements are entirely normal and routine."

After his divorce in 2006 from Ms. Radmacher, Mr. Granatino, who had quit his career as a banker and had become a researcher at the University of Oxford, approached the court pleading that it was on account of inadequate legal advice that he entered into the pre-nuptial agreement. Mr. Granatino was initially allowed a sum in access of £5.5 million, which brought his annual income to about $158,000 for life. The ruling was challenged by Ms. Radmacher in appeal and the court ruled, "The husband should only be granted provision for his role as the father of the two children and not for his own longterm needs." Mr. Granatino would now get about $55,500 per child per year apart from some additional money for a London house to allow him to live closer to their daughters.

Vermont SC grants custody to non-biological lesbian mother

In a custody battle involving two lesbian mothers, the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the non-biological mother awarding her the custody of the child . The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court in awarding the custody to Janet Jenkins, who was in a 'civil union' with Lisa Miller, during which Miller gave birth to a girl child, Isabella (now 7 years old).

Sometime after her daughter was born, Miller dropped lesbian lifestyle and became a Christian, and moved out to live with her daughter separately. It was then that the legal battle for custody began, and is expected to continue.

Miller is being represented by Liberty Counsel, founder, Mat Staver, says in response to the ruling, "They have invented the law as they have gone in the situation; and in fact, they have changed the law as it existed in Vermont regarding parental rights and child custody and raising constitutional issues."

The major legal issue relates to the third party intervention between natural parent and the child. Discussing the law laid down by the Supreme Court in this regard, Staver said, "According to the U.S. Supreme Court and other cases dealing with the constitutional rights of parents, you cannot have a third party intervene unless there is some significant showing of abandonment, abuse, or neglect. And there's nothing like that in this case."

The position is further complicated by the fact that the courts ruling against Miller have not hesitated in stating that she is a fit mother, which means that if the earlier rulings were to be followed, there is no reason why the custody be granted to the nonbiological mother. The organization representing Miller is considering the option of taking the matter to the US Supreme Court, and considering the issues in dispute the Supreme Court might be more than inclined to hear and bring finality to the case.


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