Published: 31-08-2019

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Elk Grove Unified School District V. Newdow

Elk Grove Unified School District V. NewdowFacts: Michael Newdow’s daughter attended public school in California. Teachers every day lead their students in the reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Michael Newdow is an atheist and believes that the Pledge is religious indoctrination considering that it contains the words “under God” and violates the Initial Amendment. Newdow filed suit in federal district court arguing that creating students listen to the Pledge was in violation of their 1st Amendment rights.

The district court located the pledge did not violate the First Amendment (establishment Clause) and dismissed the case. Newdow appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, the mother Sandra Banning filed a motion to have her daughter removed in the lawsuit. Banning claims her daughter willingly participated in the Pledge of Allegiance and that as her mother who has “exclusive legal custody” Newdow has no right to her legal claims. The appeals court after hearing Banning’s motion decided Newdow nevertheless had a case as it was his proper under California law to expose his youngster to whatever religious views he wishes, even if they conflicted with the mother’s views.

The court of appeals located that both the school’s policy and the act of 1954 had been unconstitutional and violated the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Concern: Does a “non-custodial” parent have standing to sue on the behalf of his daughter?

Opinion (Stevens, J)No. Newdow does not have legal grounds to challenge the school’s policy and therefore, the question of constitutionality is void. Newdow may possibly only sue the school’s policy on behalf of his daughter who he does not have legal rights more than. Newdow is only has shared physical custody of his daughter while Sandra Banning has full legal custody more than their daughter. When Banning filed the motion to get rid of their daughter from the suit Newdow lost all grounds to sue on her behalf. Given that Federal courts usually do not intervene in domestic issues the subsequent very best option is to defer to what the California courts have currently decided, that Newdow has no legal custody.

Newdow does not have the grounds to sue as “next friend” and thus can not challenge the school district policy. Concurrence (Rehnquist, C.J.) The majority misinterpreted the guidelines of domestic relations exception to federal diversity jurisdiction. Federal courts are not allowed to concern divorce, alimony, or child custody lower, nevertheless, this is not a diversity case issue and the courts would not be issuing any such items. Thus, there is no conflict and the courts do have jurisdiction to hear the case. If the majority does want to defer to the state courts it should have been to the court of appeals not the district court. Even if this case was heard justly each acts had been constitutional.
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