Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Read the Anna Mae He Ruling — From the Source

Posted By on Wed, Jan 24, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The custody battle between a Chinese couple and an American couple from Memphis is once again in the local and national news.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, ordered that 8-year-old Anna Mae He be returned to her natural parents, Shaoqiang and Qin Luo He. Anna Mae He, or A.M.H. as she is referred to in court documents, has been living with Jerry and Louise Baker in suburban Memphis since she was three weeks old.

The opinion overturned the rulings of a Chancery Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals, whose ruling was 114 pages long.

The case is nearly as difficult to summarize as it is to interpret. At the same time, it has provided countless sound bites and much material for feature stories, which, no matter how skillfully done, cannot do justice to such a complicated tale. However, the Supreme Court’s narrative, which is 20 pages long, is very readable and available online at the Tennessee Supreme Court’s website.

Anyone with an opinion about the case – and that means just about anyone who has followed it even casually – will find it fascinating if not compelling.

Here is an excerpt of the court’s own summary of its opinion.

“Therefore, according the parents those superior rights to the custody of their child that constitutional law mandates, only a showing of substantial harm that threatens the child’s welfare may deprive the parents of the care and custody of A.M.H. Although A.M.H. has now been with the appellees for more than seven years, six of those years elapsed after the parents’ first unsuccessful legal filing to regain custody.

Evidence that A.M.H. will be harmed from a change in custody because she has lived and bonded with the Bakers during the pendency of the litigation does not constitute the substantial harm required to prevent the parents from regaining custody.” — John Branston

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