parens patriae

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Parens Patriae

[Latin, Parent of the country.] A doctrine that grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf.

The parens patriae doctrine has its roots in English Common Law. In feudal times various obligations and powers, collectively referred to as the "royal prerogative," were reserved to the king. The king exercised these functions in his role of father of the country.

In the United States, the parens patriae doctrine has had its greatest application in the treatment of children, mentally ill persons, and other individuals who are legally incompetent to manage their affairs. The state is the supreme guardian of all children within its jurisdiction, and state courts have the inherent power to intervene to protect the best interests of children whose welfare is jeopardized by controversies between parents. This inherent power is generally supplemented by legislative acts that define the scope of child protection in a state.

The state, acting as parens patriae, can make decisions regarding mental health treatment on behalf of one who is mentally incompetent to make the decision on his or her own behalf, but the extent of the state's intrusion is limited to reasonable and necessary treatment.

The doctrine of parens patriae has been expanded in the United States to permit the attorney general of a state to commence litigation for the benefit of state residents for federal antitrust violations (15 U.S.C.A. § 15c). This authority is intended to further the public trust, safeguard the general and economic welfare of a state's residents, protect residents from illegal practices, and assure that the benefits of federal law are not denied to the general population.

States may also invoke parens patriae to protect interests such as the health, comfort, and welfare of the people, interstate Water Rights, and the general economy of the state. For a state to have standing to sue under the doctrine, it must be more than a nominal party without a real interest of its own and must articulate an interest apart from the interests of particular private parties.


Antitrust Law; Child Abuse; Children's Rights; Infants.

parens patriae

(paa-wrens pat-tree-eye) n. Latin for "father of his country," the term for the doctrine that the government is the ultimate guardian of all people under a disability, especially children, whose care is only "entrusted" to their parents. Under this doctrine, in a divorce action or a guardianship application the court retains jurisdiction until the child is 18 years old, and a judge may change custody, child support or other rulings affecting the child's well-being, no matter what the parents may have agreed or the court previously decided. (See: divorce, custody, child support, guardian, ward)

parens patriae

the jurisdiction of the court to assume responsibility for the welfare of those otherwise unprovided for, such as children or lunatics, regardless of whether there is statutory power.
References in periodicals archive ?
23) As one New York State Surrogate's Court judge wrote while examining an Article 17-A guardianship petition: "[J]udicial scrutiny of the exercise of the parens patriae power has been imprecise and in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, it has historically been exercised with little or no concern for due process protection[;] .
Moreover, the same police and parens patriae powers at the heart of Holmes' 8-1 majority opinion form the bedrock of, and continue to be cited by, courts in support of authority for modern public health agencies to protect us from a seemingly constant barrage of natural and manmade potential perils to our well-being.
The first is the parens patriae authority, which gives the state the power--and the responsibility--to intervene on behalf of citizens who cannot act in their own best interests.
judicial exercise of the parens patriae role existing within our
21) The very fact that the court referred to parens patriae jurisdiction-an often forgotten, ancient concept--shows how desirable the final outcome was.
Although the UN report does not offer any criticism about the minimum age of responsibility, the fact is that the new legislation potentially puts underage youth at risk of being directed to the youth/adult system under the umbrella of parens patriae.
justification for invoking parens patriae authority "would be
Without acknowledging the sensitive issues of federalism and state sovereignty that this question could have involved, the Court's opinion was straightforward: as a matter of statutory interpretation, a parens patriae action is not a mass action and is not removable to federal court under CAFA.
In her Senate resolution filed on Monday, Legarda said the government should exercise its Doctrine of Parens Patriae (parent of the nation) in filing charges against the employers, recruitment agency and other individuals responsible for Palacasi's abuse.
On appeal, Justice Saunders was asked to decide whether Justice LeBlanc erred by failing to: (i) exercise his parens patriae jurisdiction so as to take account of children's distinct vulnerability; and (ii) find that the publication of the allegedly defamatory statements was evidence in itself of a serious risk of harm.
InsideCounsel has been following this case from the beginning, both with news and opinion pieces from outside observers: Mass or morass: When claims are Cyproposed to be tried jointly' under CAFA's Cymass action' mechanism Recent DOJ and FTC actions highlight the role of remedies in antitrust matters Supreme Court case evaluates suits that represent states Supreme Court considers whether parens patriae can be removed to federal court Litigation: Examining the scope of CAFA's general public exception in parens patriae cases
While taxes are the lifeblood of the government and while it depends upon taxation to serve the people for whose benefit taxes are collected, the State, for humanitarian reasons and as parens patriae, should grant these tax reliefs," Tan said.