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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The importance of Doe v. Sundquist

When researching adoption law, I was reading about one of the most important cases to adoptees in the fight to have our own birth records. There are others; however, I believe the Judges in this case really “got it” so I’ve dedicated this blog to the case of Doe v. Sundquist.


From 1951 to 1996, sealed adoption records were available in Tennessee only upon court order that disclosure was “in the best interest of the child or of the public.”  Tenn.Code Ann. § 36–1–131 (repealed).  

The following statute went into effect  July 1, 1996:

(A) All adoption records shall be made available to the following eligible persons:

(i) An adopted person who is twenty-one (21) years of age or older

(ii) The legal representative of [such] a person

(B) Information shall be released only to the parents, siblings, lineal descendants, or lineal ancestors, of the adopted person , and only with the express written consent [of] the adopted person


Several days before this law was to go into effect, Plaintiffs (birth parent, adoptive parents and adoption agency) filed a lawsuit and requested an injunction (to stop the law from taking effect).  The Plaintiffs stated they had a right to privacy and that the new Tennessee law violated that right. The Court disagreed and stated: