Appeal to US Supreme Court, No-fault Divorce Unconstitutional
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On November 4, 2020
A divorce defendant has submitted an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asserting that Pennsylvania’s no-fault divorce law is unconstitutional. The SCOTUS docketed the case on November 3. Pennsylvania Code §3301(d) provides a statutory cause of action granting divorces on an individualized basis, for any reason and for no reason at all. The law simply requires that the petitioner allege their marriage to be irretrievably broken, and then directs the trial court to provide its stamp of approval.
Mary’s Advocates corresponded with appellant Ryan Pankoe, via email. He says “I’ve brought a constitutional challenge against this law in order to invalidate the egregious practice of unilateral no-fault divorce. Whether a marriage is irretrievably broken is matter of opinion and viewpoint.”
He argues that the First Amendment absolutely prohibits the government from enacting laws that regulate viewpoint. The government only has constitutional authority to regulate conduct. An irretrievable breakdown of marriage is a subjective viewpoint that has nothing to do with a general standard of conduct. Ryan notes, “The Pennsylvania courts even admit their determination is based on subjective viewpoint; consequently, the no-fault law is a viewpoint-based statute.”
Ryan has taken this case to the U.S. Supreme Court because, “The no-fault divorce law converts Pennsylvania into a state-sponsor of divorce, and Pennsylvania is therefore the perpetrator in this situation.” In the absence of legal infraction or consent, the government of Pennsylvania has forced a divorce upon Ryan and his family. Compulsory divorce leaves Ryan without any recourse against the state’s total control over his private life, his property rights, his child custody rights, and even his religious freedoms. For those reasons, Ryan argues “compulsory divorce is fundamentally unjust.”
Pennsylvania has said that it cannot deny a divorce based on a party’s [religious] viewpoint without violating the Establishment Clause. Ryan argues that this logic should also apply to granting divorces. The Petition to the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately argues that Pennsylvania failed to adhere to its own reasoning by granting a divorce based solely on the Plaintiff’s (wife’s) subjective opinion that her marriage was irretrievably broken – indeed, a violation of the Establishment Clause.
The plea to U.S. Supreme Court to review Pennsylvania’s judgment is called a Petition for Writ of Certiorari (see E-filing the here).
Sept. 27, 2017 – Wife’s Complaint for Divorce
Nov. 27, 2018 – Hearing before “Master in Divorce”, attorney John Roberts
Jan. 18, 2019 – Ryan’s Motion for Summary Judgement
Feb. 15, 2019 – Plaintiff-wife’s Response
Feb. 22, 2019 – Ryan’s Reply
Feb. 27, 2019 – Ryan’s oral argument for Judge Varricchio
March 25, 2019 – Judge Varricciio’s Divorce Decree
March 25, 2019 – Judge Varricciio’s Memorandum Opinion deny Summary Judgment
April 2, 2019 – Ryan’s Notice of Appeal (less attachments)
April 24, 2019 – Ryan’s Concise Statement Reasons for appeal
May 2, 2019 – Notice to PA Attorney General
May 23, 2019 – Trial Court Opinion responding to concise statement
July 15, 2019 – Ryan’s Appellant Brief (65 pages with attachments)
Aug. 6, 2019 – Wife’s Appellee Brief from wife’s lawyer
Aug. 20, 2019 – Ryan’s Appellant Reply Brief
Aug. 20, 2019 – Ryan ask no judge be allowed who ever was a divorce lawyer
Oct. 29, 2019 – Appeal 3-judge opinion, Superior Court affirmed lower court.
Nov. 12, 2019 – Ryan’s Application for Reargument to 9-judge appeal panel
Nov. 22, 2019 – Wife’s lawyer’s request application for reargument be denied
Jan. 7, 2020 – Order from appellate Superior Court denying application for reargument
Feb. 5, 2020 – Ryan’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal Filed
Feb. 18, 2020 – Wife’s lawyer’s letter advising no response will be filed to appeal
August 10, 2020 – PA Supreme Court issued an order denying Allowance of Appeal
October 20, 2020 – Ryan’s Petition to the Supreme Court of the U.S.A.
Jan. 11, 2020 – US Supreme Court denies Petition, Court Docket # 20-590