Justice has many faces. Justice can be seen as an attribute of individual conduct, sometimes as a characteristic of persons, and most commonly as one of the main features of a good society. Justice is a system rewards and punishments based on the way one human being treats another. Justice sometimes slips through the hands of those who are most needing of it.
Such is the case of "Baby Richard". Baby Richard, a pseudonym for a little boy named David, was put up for adoption by his birth mother in March of 1991. The birth father was visiting his home country of Czechoslovakia for a few weeks prior to the birth of David under the guise of visiting an ailing grandmother. David's mother, Daniella, was informed by his family that he was there visiting an ex-girlfriend. Daniella packed up her belongings and moved in with her uncle.
Before the birth of David, Daniella had already decided to give up her son for adoption. After Daniella rejected many requests by the prospective adoptive parent's lawyer for information of the birth father, the courts waived the information and the adoption began to proceed.
The birth father, Otakar, was told that the baby had been still born, but he said he did not believe this. He knew when and where the baby was born. After doing nothing, the time had elapsed for him to assert his rights as the father of David.
Later, Otakar filed paper with the courts to petition for his parental rights. The courts gave him a chance to prove his willingness to take responsibility of the child and was allowed to offer support for the child, now living with the Warburton's, the adoptive parents, and also was granted rights to visit the child, neither of which he did. Later, the courts declined his request and terminated his rights as David's father.
And so it went, the case climbed from lower court to higher court, all the way up until it reached the State Supreme Court. In a remarkable and astounding 5 to 2 decision, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Otakar's rights as the legal birth father be reinstated. Not only did they maintain that there would be no "best interest" hearing on part of the child, as prescribed by law, but also that the child be immediately handed over to a man whom David had never met, which was unprecedented. This final act was carried out on April 30th, 1995, four years since the Warburton's had adopted David. The day that David was to be turned over to his biological father and Daniella, who had gotten married during the course of this court battle, a Chicago columnist, Bob Greene, was there to write the story that would change his life. He had to sit by and watch a son torn from the only family he had ever known.
Not only was this decision made by ignoring and dismissing many state and federal laws, it was made on a level above law; the fair treatment of a human being by other human beings. There have been many cases in which a biological father fought and won his rights as a biological parent, but the child was not removed from the adoptive parent's home based on the best interest of the child.
Justice McMorrow, one of the dissenting Supreme Court justices, wrote in her dissent; "In its wisdom, this court should have examined its thinking, not only in the light of statutes and precedent, but also in the light of reality and human consequences. In both lights this court has failed Baby Richard [David]." This statement by Justice McMorrow gives justice a step above law. It makes justice an attribute of individual conduct, a characteristic of persons, and one of the main features of a good society. It requires us to not only do what is right, fair, or moral, for the sake of consequences, but it asks us to do so simply for the sake of doing so as human beings ought to treat one another.
Copyright Jonelin (L.B. Jonni Taylor) ©1999