Senate approves ‘Leo’s Law’

LANSING — To help prevent future cases of children being wrongfully removed from their parents, the Michigan Senate approved “Leo’s Law” Thursday, said sponsor Sen. Rick Jones.

“The state should not be able to take a child away from their parents if there is no just cause,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Some proof of abuse or neglect should be necessary for a child to be removed from their parents.”

A notorious foster care case occurred when 7-year-old Leo Ratte attended a Detroit Tigers baseball game with his father in 2008. Leo was placed in foster care for three days and two nights when his father Christopher Ratte, a classics professor at the University of Michigan, inadvertently gave him a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not knowing it was an alcoholic drink.

Leo was placed in foster care, even though physicians from Children’s Hospital found no alcohol in his blood and determined he was fine. When his mother Claire Zimmerman tried to get her child, she was denied although there were no charges against her.

Senate Bill 320 would ensure that Michigan law meets constitutional standards as defined by several of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. The proposal has four parts:

  • Standard for emergency police removals;
  • Process for judicial officer review of emergency placement;
  • Standards for ex parte court-ordered emergency removals; and
  • Preliminary hearing pretrial placement standards.

 

“By establishing new standards for removing a child from their parents, I hope that we can avoid similar tragedies in the future,” said Jones, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 320 now advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration.