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MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 1995 (202) 514-2008

TDD (202) 514-1888



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department announced today

that the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona has
asked a U.S. District judge to reconsider his ruling that the
Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 is unconstitutional. On July
26, 1995, Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt, United States District Judge
for the District of Arizona, issued orders in United States v.
Mussari and United States v. Schroeder declaring the Child
Support Recovery Act of 1992 unconstitutional.
Attorney General Janet Reno stated that the federal
government will defend the constitutionality of the federal child
support statute. "The President and I believe this law is
constitutional. There is a federal interest in ensuring that
parents cannot escape their responsibility by moving from state
to state in an effort to avoid supporting their children. This
Administration will vigorously enforce the law. We will pursue
the most egregious cases where parents have the ability to pay.
We will not let delinquent parents thumb their noses at the law
and their children."
The Child Support Recovery Act imposes a criminal penalty
upon any person who willfully fails to pay child support to a
child who resides in another state. The statute provides for
imprisonment up to six months for the first offense and
imprisonment up to two years for each subsequent conviction.
The judge based his decision to strike down the child
support law upon United States v. Lopez, in which the Supreme
Court held the Gun-Free School Zone Act to be unconstitutional
because it did not substantially affect interstate commerce and
was an unauthorized exercise of congressional power.
In the Mussari and Schroeder cases, the Court found that the
Child Support Recovery Act is a criminal statute that, by its
terms, has nothing to do with commerce or any sort of economic
enterprise. Thus, since the Court found "no nexus between the
statute and interstate commerce," it struck down the law as
beyond the scope of congressional power under the Commerce
Clause, citing Lopez.
The U.S. Attorney's Motion to Reconsider offers Judge
Rosenblatt an opportunity to reverse or modify his decision. If
the judge fails to reverse his decision, the U.S. Attorney has
already determined that the case will be appealed to the Ninth
Currently, more than 75 cases have been filed under the
federal statute, and more than 500 cases are in the investigative
pipeline. There have been approximately twenty convictions.
Under the federal statute, cases can only be brought in
federal court when a court order has been outstanding for more
than one year and the parent owes more than $5,000. In addition,
the child and custodial parent must live in a different state
than non-custodial parent and the government must prove that the
parent has ability to pay.
In March, the House of Representatives passed legislation
proposed by President Clinton to strengthen the federal
government's role in child support enforcement. The Clinton
proposal requires states to deny drivers' and professional
licenses to deadbeat parents who refuse to pay child support.