Sunday, December 8, 2013

Santosky v. Kramer case brief

Santosky v. Kramer case brief summary
455 U.S. 745 (1982)

The court granted certiorari on a decision from the Appellate Division, Supreme Court of New York, Third Judicial Department, which affirmed the permanent termination of petitioners' parental rights and rejected petitioners' assertion that the preponderance of the evidence standard in N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 622 was unconstitutional.

After incidents reflecting parental neglect, respondent removed petitioners' biological children from petitioners' home. Petitioners' parental rights were later terminated.


  • The court of appeals rejected petitioners' argument that the "fair preponderance of the evidence" standard in N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act. § 622 was unconstitutional. 
  • The court held that before a state could sever completely and irrevocably the rights of parents in their natural child, due process required that the state support its allegations by at least clear and convincing evidence. 
  • The court found that the "fair preponderance of the evidence" standard was inconsistent with due process because the private interest in parental rights affected was substantial and the countervailing governmental interest favoring the preponderance standard was comparatively slight. 
  • The court held that a clear and convincing evidence standard adequately conveyed to the factfinder the level of subjective certainty about his factual conclusions necessary to satisfy due process, and that determination of the precise burden equal to or greater than that standard was a matter of state law properly left to state legislatures and state courts.
The court found that a clear and convincing standard was necessary to protect petitioners' due process rights, and vacated and remanded so that a hearing could be conducted under a constitutionally proper standard.

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