COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court (search) on Wednesday overturned a judge's order that a man avoid having more children while on probation for failing to pay child support.
The court ruled 5-2 in favor of Sean Talty (search), saying his sentence was too broad because it did not include a method for lifting the ban if Talty caught up with his child-support payments.
Talty, 32, has seven children by five women. He was required to make "reasonable" efforts to avoid conception during his five-year probation after being convicted of not supporting three of the children.
Providing a procedure for lifting the ban "would have been, at the very least, an easy alternative that would have better accommodated Talty's procreation rights," Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote for the court's majority.
Medina County Common Pleas Judge James L. Kimbler issued the order, which was later upheld by an appellate court in Akron. The case now returns to Kimbler for resentencing.
Prosecutors defended the lower court's order.
"This is a situation that many courts in the state of Ohio have to deal with, which is what to do with these types of individuals who continue to recklessly parent children and refuse to pay for them," assistant prosecutor James Bennett said.
A message was left seeking comment from Talty's attorney, J. Dean Carro.
At a hearing before the high court in May, prosecutors and Talty's attorney agreed that reproduction was a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.
But, having concluded that the lower court erred, the court declined to rule on the broader constitutional issue: whether that right may be curtailed for someone on probation or parole — the same way parolees may be ordered to provide urine samples for drug testing.
Justices Paul Pfeifer and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton dissented. Pfeifer said that Talty's right to reproduction could be curtailed "because he exercised the constitutional right irresponsibly."
Talty pleaded no contest in 2002 to failing to pay $38,000 in child support for three of his children with his former wife and another woman.
Since then, he has paid the court-ordered $150 weekly in back child support and avoided fathering more children, Carro has said.