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Hahn v. State

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

March 29, 2017

RANDY R. HAHN, personally and as parent and joint legal custodian on behalf of his minor children, P.R.H., J.J.H, AND J.C.H., Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF UTAH; SEAN D. REYES, Attorney General; THE HONORABLE RYAN HARRIS, 3rd District Court Judge; THE HONORABLE KIM M. LUHN, 3rd District Court Commissioner; LIESA STOCKDALE, Director of Office of Recovery Services, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING [6] MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; GRANTING [18] MOTION TO DISMISS; GRANTING [19] MOTION TO DISMISS; AND DENYING [22] MOTION FOR CERTIFICATION

          David Nuffer United States District Judge

         This case was filed as a civil rights lawsuit by Plaintiff Randy R. Hahn, a father who entered into a stipulated divorce decree with his former spouse in New Mexico. That decree is being enforced in Utah. Mr. Hahn argues that he is entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 “to protect the fundamental rights in [his] parent-child relationship . . . .”[1] For the reasons set forth below, Mr. Hahn's case is dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Very early in the case, Mr. Hahn filed a motion for summary judgment (“6 Motion”) arguing that jurisdiction is appropriate in federal court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343; venue is appropriate in the District of Utah under 28 U.S.C. § 1391; Mr. Hahn has standing; federal abstention does not apply under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Younger, or “Domestic Relations Exceptions” rules; and governmental immunity does not apply.[2] Mr. Hahn moved for declaratory judgment that:

a. It is well established in federal judicial precedent that: i) regardless of marital status, a natural parent, who has established responsibility for his child, has an individual, fundamental right in the “care, custody, and control” of his child, and that child has a concomitant, fundamental right in the association of his parent; ii) “strict scrutiny” applies in any infringement of these rights; iii) under strict scrutiny, a state must have a “compelling governmental interest”, and state action to achieve its “compelling governmental interest” must be “necessary”, “the “least restrictive means” of alternatives available, and “narrowly tailored” to infringe on these fundamental rights; iv) the only established “compelling governmental interest” recognized in federal jurisprudence to infringe on these fundamental rights is to protect a child from “substantial harm”, including protection for a child's minimum needs; and v) the standard of evidence required to prove substantial harm to infringe these fundamental rights is by “clear and convincing evidence”.
b. Plaintiff has an individual, civil and fundamental right in the “care, custody, and control” of his children including Equal Parenting protected under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution. Equal Parenting entitles the Plaintiffs to approximately equal parenting time (“custody”), generally no less than 181 days year [sic]. Plaintiff's children have a concomitant, fundamental right to association, including Equal Parenting. Equal Parenting also entitles the Plaintiff to joint legal custody (“control”) of his children. Further, Plaintiff's fundamental parental right includes the right to determine the level of financial support (“care”) beyond the minimum needs of any of his children.
c. The rule requiring “substantial and material change” for an order modifying Plaintiffs' rights in Equal Parenting is not a compelling government interest to infringe on Plaintiffs' fundamental rights.
d. Plaintiffs have not waived nor limited any of the fundamental rights in their parent-child relationship. Plaintiffs can exercise these rights in a judicial proceeding at any time, and they may not be waived nor limited unless made “voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently”, and there must be substantive and procedural safeguards in place to protect the Plaintiffs' rights. The State of Utah currently has no or very inadequate substantive and procedural safeguards for these rights. Any state with such inadequate safeguards of these rights is suspect of undue influence by the state and other parties in regards to any waiver or limitation of those rights due to the established de juris and de facto hostile and chilling effect of the state's widespread, dominant usurpation of these rights.
e. Plaintiff is constitutionally presumed to be a fit parent. Plaintiff is constitutionally presumed to act in the best interest of his children. Plaintiff may be held to the standard of providing for the minimum needs of his children (such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, and protection from substantial harm). Plaintiff is constitutionally protected from being held to the standard of providing for his children's best interests, and he may subordinate his children's interest to his other children or his own interests so long as he provides for their minimum needs.
f. The “best interest of the child” is not a “compelling government interest” to infringe, burden, usurp, or interfere with the fundamental rights in the parent-child relationship.
g. “Clear and convincing” evidence is the standard to prove substantial harm to a child in order to infringe on these fundamental rights because of the potentially substantive burden and quasi-criminal nature of punishment on these fundamental rights in state action.
h. The only “necessary”, “narrowly tailored”, and “least restrictive means” of alternatives available for state action for any “compelling government interest” to infringe on the fundamental rights in the parent-child relationship, is a presumption of Equal Parenting, including approximately equal parenting time that can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence of substantial harm to a child.
i. Since parents are presumed to act in the best interest of their children, the court may defer to the parents' agreement to parenting time that is not approximately equal. However, such agreement, especially in the absence of substantive and procedural safeguards, is not per se a waiver of the right to assert approximately equal parenting time at any time. In the absence of agreement, the court must protect both parents and a child's right to Equal Parenting, and it may order parenting time such that the child lives with one parent for one-half of the year, and with the other parent for the other one-half of the year. It's not the state's problem nor business if the parenting-time is not in the best interest of the child so long as the parenting-time is not substantially harmful to the child, and the substantial harm must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. In a contested custody case, as a matter of law under the clear and convincing evidence standard of proof, a judicial order dividing approximately equal parenting-time for one-half of the year with one parent, and with the other parent for the other one-half the year, is no more substantially harmful to a child than any other judicial order dividing approximately equal parenting time to which both parents agree.
j. A parent has a fundamental right to joint legal custody (“control”) of his child, and in the absence of clear and convincing evidence of substantial harm to the child, there is no compelling government interest to infringe, burden, or interfere with a parent's right in the “control” of his child. In this regard, parents are partners, and neither has a superior right than the other. Thus, in the absence of the parents' agreement over substantive matters not relating to a child's minimum needs, such as membership in a religion, no parent, nor government, can dictate a child's membership in religion. For example, in the event that a religious organization admits a minor child as a member at the objection of a parent, the other parent and that organization might be subject to tortious interference in a parent-child relationship.
k. The presumption of child support is not a compelling government interest to infringe, burden, or interfere with a parent's right in the “care” of his child. So long as there is no clear and convincing evidence of substantial harm to the child, it is not the state's problem, nor business, what a child's standard of living is beyond minimum needs. Child support might be appropriate where a parent does not have the means to support a child above poverty guidelines, and the other parent has means to make up the difference without impoverishing himself.
l. There is no compelling government interest to support the presumption of a judicial officer's broad discretion to make orders that infringe, burden, or interfere with other fundamental rights in the parent-child relationship such as: freedom of association, speech, expression, religion, privacy, travel, or general search. In the absence of clear and compelling evidence of substantial harm to a child, a judicial officer does not have broad discretion to make such orders as: custody evaluations (general search and privacy issue) for “best interests” determinations; broad financial disclosures (general search and privacy issue) for purpose of child support where each parent has the means to independently support the minimum financial needs of a child; to dictate or prohibit speech, expression or association between parent and child; to dictate religious upbringing; or to burden the right to interstate travel, or to reside and work in a place of the parent's preference in this country while exercising his Equal Parental right. As in any partnership, lack of agreement between parents proscribes substantive decisions affecting a parent's joint legal control over a child.[3]

         Mr. Hahn also moved for injunctive relief to:

a. REVERSE the parts of the Utah Order[4] that:
i. prohibits Plaintiff from exercising his fundamental right to free speech and association to discuss with a child matters of the Utah Court's proceedings;
ii. denies Plaintiff of his fundamental right to equal parenting time;
iii. requires Plaintiff to pay child support above the minimum needs of the children in the absence of evidence (or even allegation) that the Respondent is incapable of independently supporting the children's minimum financial needs;
iv. requires Plaintiff to pay $1, 000 to Respondent's attorney for fees related to that attorney's attempts to violate the Plaintiffs assertion of ...

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