SANBORNTON — Michael Garner of Sanbornton, who has served as a marital master for the past 15 years — primarily in the Laconia Family Division — has been nominated to serve as a judge on the Circuit Court by Governor Maggie Hassan.
Garner, a graduate of Colgate University who earned his law degree at Cornell Law School, began his career as an assistant district attorney in Rochester, New York. From 1986 until 2000 he operated a private practice in Meredith with family and municipal law his strong suits.
As a marital master, Garner's recommendation that a ten year old daughter of divorced parents attend public school at the wish of her father but over the objections of her mother, who home schooled her child in both academic subjects and religious beliefs, sparked litigation arousing heated controversy about both home schooling and religious freedom that drew national attention. His recommendation included the finding that the girl's "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs . . . suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view." Garner's recommendation was accepted by Justice Lucinda Sadler of the Laconia Family Division and appealed by the girl's mother to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, where it was unanimously upheld. In its opinion, the Supreme Court held the issue was not about either religion or home schooling, but instead strictly about a dispute between parents with equal rights who disagreed about the education of their child. The justices concluded that " the evidence concerning daughter's experiences in her home school and public school settings, along with the evidence demonstrating the impact of her religious convictions upon her interaction with others, including her father, provide an objective basis for the trial court's decision and we cannot say that it is unreasonable."
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