Court to deadbeat dad: Stop having kids

Corey Curtis, 44, of Racine, Wisconsin keeps having kids — nine so far with six women. He owes $50,000 in back child support and another $40,000 in interest, the Journal Times reports.

“It’s too bad the court doesn’t have the authority to sterilize,” Racine County Circuit Court Judge Tim Boyle said at a hearing.

That’s when the prosecutor piped up that a 2001 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling found that a judge could order people not to procreate unless they keep up to date on support payments.

Then, Boyle so ordered Mr. Curtis to abstain.

The 2001 case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which had no interest in reviewing it.

It’s not the first time the original Wisconsin case was used to try to prevent pregnancy. In Texas in 2008, for example, Felicia Salazar, a 20-year old mother, was sentenced to 10 years probation for not protecting her 19-month-old daughter from abuse at the hands of her father. The judge ordered her not to get pregnant during her probation.

In the original Wisconsin case, the justices concluded the order doesn’t prevent a man from sowing constitutional oats…

Applying the relevant standard here, we find that the condition is not overly broad because it does not eliminate Oakley’s ability to exercise his constitutional right to procreate. He can satisfy the condition of probation by making efforts to support his children as required by law. Judge Hazlewood placed no limit on the number of children Oakley could have. Instead, the requirement is that Oakley acknowledge the requirements of the law and support his present and any future children. If Oakley decides to continue his present course of conduct–intentionally refusing to pay child support–he will face eight years in prison regardless of how many children he has. Furthermore, this condition will expire at the end of his term of probation. He may then decide to have more children, but of course, if he continues to intentionally refuse to support his children, the State could charge him again under § 948.22(2). Rather, because Oakley can satisfy this condition by not intentionally refusing to support his current nine children and any future children as required by the law, we find that the condition is narrowly tailored to serve the State’s compelling interest of having parents support their children. It is also narrowly tailored to serve the State’s compelling interest in rehabilitating Oakley through probation rather than prison. The alternative to probation with conditions–incarceration for eight years–would have further victimized his children. And it is undoubtedly much broader than this conditional impingement on his procreative freedom for it would deprive him of his fundamental right to be free from physical restraint. Simply stated, Judge Hazlewood preserved much of Oakley’s liberty by imposing probation with conditions rather than the more punitive option of imprisonment. See State v. Evans, 77 Wis. 2d 225, 230, 252 N.W.2d 664 (1977) (“Whether sentence ‘is withheld or imposed and stayed, a convicted person’s status as a probationer is a matter of grace or privilege and not a right’ made possible by the legislature.”)

But in a dissent, Justice Ann Bradley claimed finances as a requirement of procreation creates an unequal world…

… by allowing the right to procreate to be subjected to financial qualifications, the majority imbues a fundamental liberty interest with a sliding scale of wealth. Men and women in America are free to have children, as many as they desire. They may do so without the means to support the children and may later suffer legal consequences as a result of the inability to provide support. However, the right to have a child has never been rationed on the basis of wealth.

  • MikeB

    I’ve sent this link around to people I know. I’m torn on this issue between individual rights and legal responsibility. This is a great discussion to have.

    I wish I had something insightful to say on this but I’m still mentally kicking it around.

  • kennedy

    I find the dissent, at least the part quoted, to be a weak argument. It mentions rights, but not responsibilities. It mentions the freedoms of the parent, but not the consequences that fall on the child.

    Our society has enough wealth and generosity to help those in need. I’m uncomfortable having the court and government limit procreation, but there is a difference between help and enabling.

  • Don, the 14%er

    Perhaps Racine County Circuit Court Judge Tim Boyle should order Mr Curtis to have custody of his nine kids. Then those six women could pay him child support for a while. And Curtis would be so busy taking care of his kids, he wouldn’t have time to impregnate any more women!