Chris and Ann’s case began in July 2018, when Chris’s in-laws filed a lawsuit asking the court to give them partial custody of his biological daughter, Ann. Soon afterward, the fiance of Ann’s late mother, a completely unrelated man, filed a lawsuit seeking the same thing.
It took two years, $250,000 and nationwide support for Chris and Ann to finally win their case at the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX).
According to the unanimous opinion from SCOTX, the lower district court’s decision to keep Chris and Ann apart wasn’t just a little bit wrong, it was completely wrong.
One Family vs. the Legal System
Chris and Ann were forced to file a special type of appeal called a mandamus. To win on a mandamus, Chris and Ann faced impossible odds. They were required to show that leaving Chris and Ann together was the only legal decision the judge could have made.
Under Texas law, judges have an enormous amount of discretion to make the decisions that they think would be best.
In Ann’s case, the facts were so clear that the district judge only had one decision she could legally make. And she ignored it.
But it gets worse: three justices from the Fort Worth Court of Appeals made the same bad decision. Three days after their appeal was filed, the justices at the appeals court released a two-sentence opinion denying Chris’s and Ann’s request for intervention and siding with the district court instead.
In other words, not only did the district judge ignore the only legal decision she was allowed to make, three justices from the Fort Worth Court of Appeals did the same thing.
High Court Unanimously Disagrees
In August 2019, Chris and Ann took their case to SCOTX. After nearly 11 months battling before the SCOTX, Chris and Ann finally won a unanimous opinion allowing them to stay together.
Those lower courts didn’t just get the case a little wrong, they got it completely wrong. So wrong that all nine justices on the Supreme Court of Texas unanimously overturned their rulings.
Let’s Fix the Problem
Electing good judges is vital. Local judges have incredible power. One bad judge can devastate an innocent family.
This is why the Texas legislature must act. Significant reforms must be passed so that bad judges are held accountable for ignoring the law and hurting children like Ann.
For years, THSC member families have pushed for these reforms. The cost for Ann to stay with her dad should not have been so high. The Legislature should ensure other families are spared that nightmare.
Stay active. Stay informed. Help to continue that fight during the 2021 Texas legislative session.