Bucking legal trends in the US Supreme Court and across the nation, one branch of the Arkansas legislature just passed a bill that would allow visitation to step-grandparents.
This comes at a time when true grandparents’ rights to visitation are generally being whittled away as encroaching into parents’ constitutional rights to raise their children as they see fit.
Opponents raise an additional argument: this is a slippery slope with no end in sight. For example, should a fifth cousin three times removed have visitation rights?
It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass the other branch of the legislature and then survive the constitutional attack that will surely follow.
At the same time as this bill wound its way through one house of the Arkansas legislature, another, just as controversial, wound its way through the other house.
The second bill to pass allows judges to appoint attorneys to cross-examine allegedly abused children on behalf of the accused abuser in criminal cases. The accused would be present in the courtroom, but would not directly question the child.
The latter bill is an effort to strike a balance between the constitutional right to confront an accuser and the policy of protecting children.
If passed by the other house, this bill will surely face constitutional attack as well, because criminal defendants assert that they have the right to represent themselves in court – whatever their motive.
All in an Arkansas legislator’s day’s work.