Seventh Circuit Review


For almost a century, the Supreme Court has recognized the substantive due process right of individuals to be free from government intrusion into the control and management of their families. From its inception, however, the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence related to this constitutional right has been ambiguous, as its rhetoric has outstripped its application and explication of this fundamental liberty interest. The Court’s most recent decision on familial rights, Troxel v. Granville, also failed to provide lower courts with proper guidance as to how to apply and protect this due process right. In the context of this confused Supreme Court jurisprudence, the Seventh Circuit, in United States v. Hollingsworth, has adopted and applied a test that balances the fundamental right to familial relations against the government’s interest in protecting children from harm or abuse. This test recognizes the Supreme Court’s ambivalence toward familial rights and provides a flexible tool for courts to protect this liberty interest while ensuring the safety and well-being of children. Hollingsworth's expansive interpretation of government interest beyond preventing harm to a child to include the investigation of drug crime corresponds with the Supreme Court’s attitude toward familial rights. This case serves as a predictive measure of how the Seventh Circuit will analyze and protect future familial rights claims.

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