Monday, August 25, 2014

Murphy v. Sloan (9th Cir. - Aug. 25, 2014)

My starting disposition is to really not want parents to "kidnap" their kids from other countries and bring them back to the United States.  If they're in, say, Ireland, and going to school there, I usually think that a parent who takes the kid back to the United States to stay without the affirmative consent of the other parent has probably done something wrong.

So I was somewhat surprised at my reaction to this opinion by Judge McKeown.  Which seems to me a terrific example of an opinion that's correct on both doctrine and justice.  And which reaches a result that's contrary to my initial predisposition.  Entirely persuasively.

The opinion is a wonderful mix of legal analysis, compassion, and tact.  Classic Judge McKeown.  I was left with the definite impression that both the trial court as well as the Ninth Circuit got this one right, notwithstanding the fact that it's indisputably a difficult case in which to balance the equities.

I also noticed that the respondent in this case -- the Father -- represented himself in pro per.  You do not usually see that done.  Successfully, anyway.

But Father isn't your usual pro per.  One hint that this isn't an impoverished family is that Father at one point bought a second home in Mill Valley in order to try to make things work out.  And although Judge McKeown's opinion never mentions that Father has any connection to the law, a little digging reveals that he's not only legally sophisticated, but a partner at a not-insignificant San Francisco law firm.

Which in turn identifies one final happenstance.  Father is a partner at MoFo SF.  The trial judge -- Jon Tigar -- was a former associate at MoFo SF.  With whom I worked when I was a summer associate at . . . MoFo SF.

P.S. - I thought that Judge Tigar was an incredibly kind and talented person when I worked with him those many years ago.  You can't ask for more compassionate, smart adjudication than you're likely to get from Judges Tigar and McKeown.