ELYRIA — Lorain County Probate Judge James Walther on Wednesday ordered an Elyria man who owes nearly $100,000 in back child support not to have any more children for the next five years while he is on probation for failing to make child support payments to the four children he already has.
“I put this condition on for one reason and one reason alone,” Walther told Asim Taylor during the sentencing hearing. “It’s your personal responsibility to pay for these kids.”
But Taylor’s attorney, Doug Merrill, argued that Walther’s order violated Taylor’s basic rights, including his right to procreate and engage in sexual intercourse. He said the only way his client can guarantee compliance with Walther’s order, which requires Taylor “to make all reasonable efforts to avoid impregnating a woman,” is by abstaining from sex.
“The court is now stepping into his bedroom,” Merrill said.
If Taylor violates the terms of his probation, Walther said he will send him to prison for a year.
Merrill also pointed to a 2004 Ohio Supreme Court decision in which the state’s highest court struck down an order from Medina County Common Pleas Judge James Kimbler barring a defendant in a criminal nonsupport case from having any more children.
The court ruled that Kimbler’s order that Sean Talty couldn’t have any more children was overbroad because it didn’t contain a mechanism from getting out from under the order, even if Talty made good on his responsibilities to his children.
Walther’s order addresses that discrepancy, stating that if Taylor “can prove to the Court that he is able to provide support for his children he already has and is in fact supporting the children or until a change in conditions warrant,” he would lift the ban on Taylor having more kids.
When Taylor, 35, was indicted in August 2011, he was accused of owing a combined $78,922 to four children. Walther said Taylor, who pleaded guilty last year, now owes $96,115.
But Merrill argued that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. He said Taylor’s crime wasn’t having children but failing to support them.
Walther, however, said that Taylor needed to take care of the children he already has before having any more.
“This is a matter of common sense and personal responsibility,” the judge said.
“The court can’t dictate common sense and personal responsibility,” Merrill replied.
Taylor said little during the hearing, but afterward he insisted that he wasn’t a bad parent.
“I take care of my children,” he said. “I just don’t pay them through child support.”
Merrill said after the hearing that his understanding is that even though Taylor isn’t making child support payments that his client is involved in the lives of his children.
Walther said during the hearing that if Taylor was paying for his children in other ways, he needs to stop doing so and make payments thought the county’s Child Support Enforcement Agency.
Merrill said his client will appeal the anti-procreation order, which, if it survives a full legal challenge, will become far more common in sentencing hearings around Ohio. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld similar court orders.
Merrill also said that he remains concerned that if Taylor does impregnate a woman, that woman might feel pressured to have an abortion to prevent Taylor from going to prison. That could conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.