Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Court hears alienation of affection suit

A Rapid City newspaper reports:
The South Dakota Supreme Court has agreed to hear a man's claim that the Pennington County state's attorney's actions violated a rarely invoked law leading to the breakup of his marriage.

The case is one of two the court has selected for oral arguments on a calendar of 23 cases. It is scheduled to be heard on Jan. 10.

Douglas Rumpca's lawsuit in May claimed that Pennington County State's Attorney Glenn Brenner's conduct was "willful, wanton or malicious" when he began a relationship with Rumpca's now ex-wife, Kellie.

Rumpca, who works for Lamar Advertising in Rapid City, cited a state law that allows a spouse to sue a third party for "alienation of affection." South Dakota is one of seven states that has such a law on its books.
A marriage was once considered a valuable thing, that was not to be destroyed lightly. Nowadays, hardly anyone thinks that there is anything wrong with a man stealing another man's wife.

A modern marriage is just a couple that has decided to live together and share some financial matters. That is the way the law views it, anyway. A marriage is as ephemeral as the moods of the parties, and means nothing more than their continuing desire to stay together. It is not a long-term commitment, and therefore the law does not recognize any harm in breaking that commitment. The trial judge ruled against the possibility of alienation of affection:
Kellie Rumpca filed for divorce in October 2009, and it was finalized in 2010, ending a 19-year marriage. In dismissing the case in May, the judge ruled Rumpca's marriage was over long before Kellie Rumpca became involved with Brenner.

"I am convinced that there is no genuine issue of fact but that Kellie did not have any affections for plaintiff (Douglas Rumpca) that were capable of being alienated," Miller said in a memo.

Rumpca also failed to demonstrate that the divorce created an emotional hardship for him, the judge said. Although Rumpca said he lost sleep and suffered from stress, he did not seek counseling or medical advice, according courtroom testimony.
Thus the only harm that the court recognizes from the divorce is cost of counseling or anti-depressant drugs. It does not recognize any other value to the marriage.

The South Dakota supreme court is probably looking for some excuse to declare this type of lawsuit unconstitional, and bring the state into conformance with all the other states that deny any lasting value to marriage.

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