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Supreme Court Refuses to Enter Custody Battle

July 31, 1993|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused Friday to delay a state court order requiring a 2-year-old Michigan girl to be returned to her biological parents by Monday.

The high court denied two emergency requests to lift the deadline. They were filed by Jan and Roberta DeBoer, a Michigan couple who have raised the girl since birth, and by lawyers representing the child they call Jessica.

"This is a case that touches the raw nerves of life's relationships," Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote in dissent for himself and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "While I am not sure where the ultimate legalities or equities lie, I am sure that I am not willing to wash my hands of this case at this stage, with the personal vulnerability of the child so much at risk."

Blackmun noted that the Michigan Supreme Court deferred to a decision by courts in Iowa to give custody to the biological parents, Daniel and Cara Schmidt, although the Iowa courts did not consider the child's best interests. The Schmidts live in Blairstown, Iowa.

The Schmidts' attorney, Marian Faupel, praised the decision but said she wished that the DeBoers had accepted much earlier the fact that they could not keep the child.

"This feels like a death for them," she said. Faupel said her primary concern is maintaining privacy about Monday's transfer.

Jessica has lived with the DeBoers of Ann Arbor, Mich., since a few days after she was born on Feb. 8, 1991. The Schmidts have been trying to get the girl back since she was several weeks old.

The DeBoers have managed to keep the girl through a series of appeals, first in Iowa and then in Michigan. They argued that it would be cruel to take her from the only family she has ever known.

Justice John Paul Stevens refused to grant a delay earlier this week. Lawyers for the DeBoers and for Jessica renewed their requests with Blackmun, who referred the matter to the full court.

Cara Schmidt, unmarried when the baby was born, gave her up for adoption but listed the wrong man as the father. Shortly afterward she changed her mind and told Daniel Schmidt that he was the father. They then began trying to get the baby back.

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