WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court today curbed states' power to help grandparents visit their grandchildren against parents' wishes, a decision that could touch every American family.
''So long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children ... there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question the ability of that parent to make the best decisions concerning the rearing of that parent's children,'' Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in the court's main opinion.
Parents' right to raise their children free from government interference generally trumps state laws aimed at giving grandparents broad rights to seek visitation, the court ruled by a 6-3 vote.
The decision invalidated a state law that allowed ''any person,'' relative or nonrelative, to win a court-ordered right to see a child any time such visitation was found to be in a child's best interest.
The court today also:
--Ruled that prosecutors could not use financial documents against Webster Hubbell, former assistant attorney general and friend of President Clinton, that Hubbell was forced to produce under a limited grant of immunity. Using the documents to prosecute a misdemeanor tax charge would violate his protection against self-incrimination under the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, the justices said.
--Turned aside a plea for enhanced privacy by refusing to limit how telephone companies use information gleaned from customers' bills in trying to sell them additional services.
--Refused to free the Three Mile Island nuclear plant's owners from lawsuits by nearly 2,000 people who say their health problems stem from the nation's worst nuclear accident in 1979.
--Set aside the lengthy prison sentences given to five Branch Davidians who survived a 1993 siege at the sect's Waco, Texas, compound. The court ruled that a federal judge misused an anti-gun law to increase their punishment.
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