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California v. Superior Court of California

United States Supreme Court
482 U.S. 400 (1987)


Facts

After her divorce from her husband Richard, Judith Smolin remarried James Pope and moved with him and her two daughters, Jennifer and Jamie, from California to Oregon. Judith did not inform the girls’ father, Richard, that they were moving there. Richard filed suit in California state court, alleging the Popes deliberately attempted to defeat Richard’s visitation rights with the girls sought to preclude him from seeing his daughters in the course of the Popes’ moves from Oregon, to Texas, and then to Louisiana. While in Texas, the Popes obtained a decree granting full custody of the daughters to Judith. Richard was served but did not appear in the Texas proceeding. Prior to that hearing, however, Richard had obtained a California Superior Court (defendant) modification to the original custody decree and was awarded joint custody of his daughters. The Popes received notice of the hearing but did not appear in California or inform Texas of its existence. Thereafter, Richard instituted an action to find Judith in contempt and to again modify the decree to give him sole custody, which was eventually granted. This order was ignored by the Popes and Richard could not locate them. After about two years, Richard finally found the Popes in Louisiana. After securing a California warrant to obtain custody of the children, Richard and his father, Gerard Smolin, went to Louisiana and picked up the girls as they were waiting for their school bus and took them to California. Thereafter, the Popes first instituted an action in California to modify the decree awarding sole custody to Richard and then filed a kidnapping complaint against Richard and Gerard in Louisiana. The Governor of Louisiana formally notified the Governor of California (plaintiff) that Richard and Gerard were charged with “simple kidnapping” and demanded them to be delivered for trial. Then, the Smolins petitioned the California Superior Court for a writ of habeas corpus to block the extradition, which after the extradition paperwork had been completed and arrest warrants issued, was granted. California then sought a writ of mandate in the California Court of Appeal on the ground that the Superior Court had abused its discretion. The appellate court issued the writ of mandate and the Supreme Court of California reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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