Judge backs off order that woman have no more children

Judge backs off order that woman have no more children

By Steven Kreytak
(Austin) AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Sunday, June 21, 2009

District Judge Charlie Baird

District Judge Charlie Baird


In September, state District Judge Charlie Baird ordered a defendant in his court to cease having children as a condition of her probation, raising questions from Travis County lawyers and national legal experts on whether such an order was enforceable.

On Monday, the defendant, Felicia Salazar, appeared in Baird’s court with a 2-month-old in tow, Baird said. Salazar said that she was pregnant when Baird gave her probation.

For now, Baird’s ability to enforce such an order won’t face a legal challenge because the judge did not jail Salazar for having the child. Instead, he amended her terms of probation to require parenting classes, and regular medical care for the baby. He also removed the condition that she have no more children.

“She’s remarried,” Baird said. “She seemed to be doing well.”

Salazar, 21, pleaded guilty last year to injury to a child by omission, admitting that she failed to provide protection and medical care to her then 19-month-old child in 2007. The girl suffered broken bones and other injuries when she was beaten by her father, Roberto Alvarado, who received a 15-year sentence in the case. The child, who lawyers say has recovered, was placed in foster care after Alvarado and Salazar relinquished their parental rights.

Baird sentenced Salazar to 10 years’ probation under a plea bargain she reached with prosecutors. The terms of probation were not part of the plea bargain. In addition to prohibiting procreation, Baird required Salazar to perform 100 hours of community service.

Baird said Salazar was fulfilling the terms of her probation.

When questioned in September by a reporter about the terms, Baird said Texas law gives judges wide discretion in setting terms of probation and called the baby prohibition “a reasonable condition.”

University of Michigan law professor Douglas Laycock, a former University of Texas professor who is among the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars, told the American-Statesman in September that Baird’s order was “probably not constitutional.”

Laycock said the issue has not been litigated much, “but undoubtedly there is a constitutional right to have children, and I doubt that one conviction for injury to a child is enough to forfeit that right.”

Salazar said that she holds no ill will toward the judge, who she thinks was only trying to help her.

“I’ve been blessed by God with the child I have,” she said, “and I am going to do everything I can to prove to the court and the law of the United States that I can be a good mom.”
Baird said last week that he still thinks he has the right to order someone such as Salazar to stop having children while on probation.
No formal motion to revoke Salazar’s probation was filed by prosecutors, Baird said. She appeared in court after calling Baird’s chambers to tell him about her baby.
“The only thing I want for her to be is a good mother to that child,” Baird said.

“I don’t think anything has changed as far as my authority.”

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