The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 15 that the children of a client of Hartford attorney Benjamin Wattenmaker ’99 could not be vaccinated by the state, against the parents’ religious wishes, while the children were in temporary custody.
Though the laws on vaccinating children vary from state to state, the Connecticut justices determined unanimously that immunization did not constitute medical treatment and cited state law that the interest of parents in opting not to vaccinate their children on religious grounds outweighed “the child’s interest in being immune from certain diseases.”
The parents had lost custody of their children last year after the Department of Children and Families filed neglect allegations against them. The lower court ruling that the agency could vaccinate the children was on appeal when Wattenmaker, who contracts with the Office of the Public Defender, took the case, representing the father.
“This case establishes that parents of children in temporary custody continue to play an important role in making medical decisions for their children,” said Wattenmaker. “The court’s opinion also respects the legislature’s policy decision that all parents may exempt their children from the state’s vaccination requirement based upon their religious beliefs.”
As a former law clerk and now litigator at Feiner Wolfson LLC, Wattenmaker attributes much of his career success to Professor Joan Blum, who taught him legal writing, a skill he used most recently in preparing the brief for the vaccination case. “Professor Blum is a great teacher and was an important influence on my professional development,” he said.
To read more about the case, click here.