May It Please the Court® A Weblog of Legal News & Observations
Quote of the Day - We are the people our parents warned us about. - Jimmy Buffett

The Court Says Parents Are Running Amuck

It's got to stop. At least that's what this Mom tried to do. She tried to stop her daughter's boyfriend from becoming a career criminal, and when she found out that the boyfriend had been involved with a purse-snatching, she turned him in. And testified against him.

The kicker here is that Mom listened in on her daughter's conversation with the boyfriend on an extension phone in the house. Mom used the information she gained from that conversation in her testimony that convicted the boyfriend.

But the state of Washington's Supreme Court threw out his conviction.

OK. Disclaimers here. I'm a parent. I disciplined my kids. I would have done the same thing, and a couple of times, I came pretty close.

So, I have some sympathy for Mrs. Dixon, the Mom in our story.

The Court ruled that: "[b]ased on the subjective
intentions and reasonable expectations of [the boyfriend] and [the daughter], their
conversation was a private one." And Mrs. Dixon violated Washington's privacy act when she listened in.

Privacy advocates favor the decision. According to the LA Times, "I don't think the state should be in the position of encouraging parents to act surreptitiously and eavesdrop on their children," agreed attorney Douglas Klunder, who filed [an amicus curiae] brief supporting [the boyfriend] on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. "

I disagree with both the ACLU and the Court.

The federal wiretapping act has been interpreted to except communications where a parent acts to protect the welfare of the child. Unfortunately, the Washington Supreme Court declined to pick up that interpretation. Parents are expected to act to protect their children. They need the government's support to do that. Without it, what are we left with?

Whining about the lack of parental discipline?


Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, December 12, 2004

MIPTC Home | View Weblog Archive

Back to top.