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VOL. 122 | NO. 101 | Friday, June 01, 2007

Anna Mae He's Foster Parents Petition U.S. Supreme Court

Associated Press

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MEMPHIS (AP) -- An American couple struggling to hold on to an 8-year-old girl they have raised since infancy are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a state-ordered reunion with her Chinese parents.

After a seven-year custody fight through the state courts, Anna Mae He is in the process of being reunited with parents Shaoqiang "Jack" and Qin Luo "Casey" He under orders from the Tennessee Supreme Court.

But now Jerry and Louise Baker, who took Anna Mae into their home when she was less than a month old, are asking the nation's highest court to get involved.

The appeal request, based on the emotional trauma the second-grader will suffer in leaving the Bakers, is a long shot and the U.S. Supreme Court has traditionally left such family law disputes to the states, said Bruce Boyer, director of the Loyola University ChildLaw Clinic in Chicago.

"The chances that they are going to seriously consider the (appeal) petition are remote," Boyer said Wednesday.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens refused last week to delay the reunion pending consideration of the Bakers' appeal request filed on May 10. The Hes have notified the court they will have no response to the request, for which there is no timetable for a decision.

In their petition, the Bakers contend the reunion order violates Anna Mae's "fundamental constitutional liberty right not to be forced by a court to suffer substantial harm."

The state Supreme Court ruled in January that the Hes put their first-born child in temporary foster care in 1999 to get medical insurance they could not afford and lost custody because of an ignorance of American law.

But the Bakers, who refused to return Anna Mae to her parents and tried to adopt her, contend the state-court order removing her from the only family she has known will destroy her emotionally.

"(Anna Mae) contends that she has been dealt with by the decision as if she were property (e.g., an animal or, worse still, a pre-Civil War slave)," says the petition filed by Larry Parrish, the Bakers' lawyer.

The state Supreme Court decision overturned a ruling by a Memphis judge who took away the Hes' parental rights in 2004 on grounds of abandonment, opening the way for the Bakers to adopt Anna Mae.

Under supervision of the Juvenile Court, the Hes began a series of meetings with their daughter in March to work toward gaining full custody, perhaps within several months.

The Bakers contend the meetings have emotionally traumatized Anna Mae, while David Siegel, the Hes' lawyer, says a court-appointed psychologist has reported no unexpected problems with the get-togethers.

The Juvenile Court has issued a gag order for all parties in the dispute, barring public discussions on the reunion progress.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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